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This Thursday We Visit Negroponte

My good friend Malachy found two articles to explain why many of us are protesting against Negroponte.

Back in the early days of the Bush-Cheney Administration before nation-building, terrorist color code warnings, and the War Time President, the nomination and subsequent bi-partisan confirmation of John Negroponte as US Ambassador to the UN sailed through as effortlessly as many other of Bush's official acts in the post-911 world. I came upon two pieces written back in early 2001 by two people who know of Negroponte's role in the disappearences, torture, and war crimes in war-torn Central America in the 1980's. Reading these two pieces should serve us well in understanding why DAWN will protest Negroponte on Thursday, June 22 at 7pm. Please join us (meet on street level at the Woodley Park Metro).
NEW RIPPLES IN AN EVIL STORY, 7/01
by Sister Laetitia Bordes, s.h. John D. Negroponte, President Bush's nominee as the next ambassador to the United Nations? My ears perked up. I turned up the volume on the radio. I began listening more attentively. Yes, I had heard correctly. Bush was nominating Negroponte, the man who gave the CIA backed Honduran death squads open field when he was ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985.
My mind went back to May 1982 and I saw myself facing Negroponte in his office at the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa. I had gone to Honduras on a fact-finding delegation. We were looking for answers. Thirty-two women had fled the death squads of El Salvador after the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980 to take refuge in Honduras. One of them had been Romero's secretary. Some months after their arrival, these women were forcibly taken from their living quarters in Tegucigalpa, pushed into a van and disappeared. Our delegation was in Honduras to find out what had happened to these women.
John Negroponte listened to us as we exposed the facts. There had been eyewitnesses to the capture and we were well read on the documentation that previous delegations had gathered. Negroponte denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of these women. He insisted that the US Embassy did not interfere in the affairs of the Honduran government and it would be to our advantage to discuss the matter with the latter. Facts, however, reveal quite the contrary. During Negroponte's tenure, US military aid to Honduras grew from $4 million to $77.4 million; the US launched a covert war against Nicaragua and mined its harbors, and the US trained Honduran military to support the Contras.
John Negroponte worked closely with General Alvarez, Chief of the Armed Forces in Honduras, to enable the training of Honduran soldiers in psychological warfare, sabotage, and many types of human rights violations, including torture and kidnapping. Honduran and Salvadoran military were sent to the School of the Americas to receive training in counter-insurgency directed against people of their own country. The CIA created the infamous Honduran Intelligence Battalion 3-16 that was responsible for the murder of many Sandinistas. General Luis Alonso Discua Elvir, a graduate of the School of the Americas, was a founder and commander of Battalion 3-16. In 1982, the US negotiated access to airfields in Honduras and established a regional military training center for Central American forces, principally directed at improving fighting forces of the Salvadoran military.
In 1994, the Honduran Rights Commission outlined the torture and disappearance of at least 184 political opponents.
It also specifically accused John Negroponte of a number of human rights violations. Yet, back in his office that day in 1982, John Negroponte assured us that he had no idea what had happened to the women we were looking for. I had to wait 13 years to find out. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun in1996 Jack Binns, Negroponte's predecessor as US ambassador in Honduras, told how a group of Salvadorans, among whom were the women we had been looking for, were captured on April 22, 1981 and savagely tortured by the DNI, the Honduran Secret Police, before being placed in helicopters of the Salvadoran military. After take off from the airport in Tegucigalpa, the victims were thrown out of the helicopters. Binns told the Baltimore Sun that the North American authorities were well aware of what had happened and that it was a grave violation of human rights. But it was seen as part of Ronald Reagan's counterinsurgency policy.
Now in 2001, I'm seeing new ripples in this story.
Since President Bush made it known that he intended to nominate John Negroponte, other people have suddenly been "disappearing", so to speak. In an article published in the Los Angeles Times on March 25 Maggie Farley and Norman Kempster reported on the sudden deportation of several former Honduran death squad members from the United States. These men could have provided shattering testimony against Negroponte in the forthcoming Senate hearings. One of these recent deportees just happens to be General Luis Alonso Discua, founder of Battalion 3-16. In February, Washington revoked the visa of Discua who was Deputy Ambassador to the UN. Since then, Discua has gone public with details of US support of Battalion 3-16.
Given the history of John Negroponte in Central America, it is indeed horrifying to think that he should be chosen to represent our country at the United Nations, an organization founded to ensure that the human rights of all people receive the highest respect. How many of our Senators, I wonder, let alone the US public, know who John Negroponte really is? ###
Is Negroponte Clean Enough for the U.N.? 4/8/01 Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2001
By FRANK DEL OLMO We're eyeball to eyeball with the Chinese, talking tough to the Russians and not talking to North Korea at all. It's back to the Cold War.
Call me parochial, but what has me shivering after a brief but chilly visit to Washington is how the Bush administration is reviving the old U.S.-Soviet standoff in a part of the world where I spent my crazy youth as a correspondent: Central America. And if you loved how the Bushies tossed those alleged Russian spies out of the country, wait until you see what's for dessert. Warmed over Contras!
Or, to be more precise, a warmed-over Contra paymaster, John D. Negroponte, who has been nominated to be ambassador to the United Nations.
You remember the Contras--the CIA-funded guerrillas who waged a futile war to overthrow the revolutionary Sandinista government in Nicaragua, until the Nicaraguan people simply voted the Sandinistas out of power. Even those poor Central Americans, it turned out, know how democracy works. But more on the Contras later.
It is no longer news that most of the men (doesn't National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice know any women she can suggest for some of these jobs?) President Bush wants to put in key positions on his foreign policy team are Cold Warriors from the days of presidents Reagan and Bush the First. But some of the guys being hauled out of cold storage have worrisome histories that Congress needs to revisit before punching their tickets. We can start with Negroponte.
During his 37-year career with the State Department, Negroponte has held several sensitive embassy jobs in Asia (Vietnam, during the war, and the Philippines in the 1990s) and Latin America (Mexico, in the years leading up to the North American Free Trade Agreement, and Honduras, during the start of the Contra war against neighboring Nicaragua). It is Negroponte's tenure in Honduras, from 1981 to 1985, that the Senate needs to consider.
I traveled all over Central America in those days, knew Negroponte and members of his staff and have no illusions about anyone who was involved in those brush-fire wars. Some ugly things were done on both sides in the name of national security--from assassinations to wholesale massacres. It was quite literally a bloody mess, and Negroponte was in it up to his elbows.
Just how deep we don't know because Negroponte's involvement in covert U.S. activities in Honduras has never been fully investigated by Congress, even when the Mexican government protested Negroponte's 1989 appointment to run the U.S. Embassy there. Former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari wanted NAFTA so badly that he probably would have accepted any U.S. ambassador. Knowing that, Congress stamped Negroponte's passport after some token questions about Honduras.
Since then, however, much more has become public, largely because of an excellent, but insufficiently recognized, series of articles published by the Baltimore Sun in 1995. Through interviews with former Honduran soldiers and some of the people they kidnapped and tortured, the articles laid out in gruesome detail the activities of a CIA-funded death squad run by the Honduran military during the Contra war.
Those articles also made a credible case that Negroponte knew about the Honduran death squad, officially known as Battalion 316, and other covert operations taking place under his nose, and he ignored them. Worse, he may have lied to Congress about what he knew.
The Sun documents the fact that embassy staffers knew about human rights violations and duly reported them to their superiors in the embassy (including Negroponte) and Washington. Yet their annual human-rights reports to Congress did not reflect what they knew was going on all around them. In just one of the less egregious cases (no one was killed), the 1982 year-end report to Congress asserted there had been "no incident of official interference with the media" that year.
Yet in June 1982, Negroponte had personally intervened with the Hondurans to free a prominent journalist, Oscar Reyes, who had been arrested and tortured by Battalion 316 for a week. The ambassador did so at the behest of his embassy's press spokesman, who warned Negroponte: "We cannot let this guy get hurt. . . . It would be a disaster for our policy."
The Sun series should be reread by every member of the Senate before Negroponte comes before them for confirmation later this spring. Better yet, the Foreign Affairs Committee should move beyond what one gutsy newspaper did and thoroughly review any and all still-classified documents that might shed light on just what Negroponte knew about Battalion 316 and the wider Contra war, and when he knew it.
Negroponte is, after all, the guy Bush wants in New York to lecture the Chinese and Cubans about human rights. We ought to be sure they won't have reason to laugh in his face when he does.
- - -
Frank Del Olmo Is an Associate Editor of The Times
Los Angeles Times

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