The Assassinated Press
The Checks And Balances Of The System:
Dear John: No Chance Iran-Contra Will Come Back To Haunt Ya: Make Checks Payable To Senate Select Committee On Intelligence:
Negroponte's Killing Time In Honduras--A Tissue Of An Issue:
Focus Renewed on Intelligence Pick's First Rate Death Squads In 1980s:
"Mrs. Velasquez. Sure Your Kid's Dead. But Please Don't Hound His Murderer. Mr. Negroponte Is A Very Important Man." Chides Washington Post:
"Killing Negroponte Won't Bring Back Your Sons And Daughters," Argue Congressional Death Penalty Advocates:
"America Can't Hang It's Elites. None Of the Prison Chefs Can Cook Last Meals Of Veal Barataria."
By MICKEY DOOBIES
Assassinated Press Staff Writer
Monday, March 21
Satan's Anus, DC---It has been two decades since John D. Negroponte left his post as ambassador and death squad leader to Honduras, but the man President Bush was ordered to choose to become the United States' first intelligence czar is still being hounded (Post's actual word) by human rights activists such as Zenaida Velasquez.
"Oh, that bad old, unreasonable Velasquez 'hounding' poor John Negroponte, an elite and one of our betters that probably hasn't murdered anyone for an hour unless you want to count the 24/7 slaughter that has been put in motion by the policies of the kleptocrats he whores for," Michael Dobbs at the Washington Post explained.
Their paths first intersected in 1983, when Velasquez asked for the ambassador's help in tracing dozens of Hondurans, including her brother, kidnapped by agents of the U.S.-backed Honduran military and Negroponte laughed in her face. Little came of the meeting because Negroponte having full knowledge of the murders had no reason to incriminate himself much less help the mother of a revolutionary student like Vasquez. In fact, political murder was in his job description so the disappearances continued unabated for at least another year, actually 10, as it was eventually perceived by holdovers from the Reagan administration that they had outlived their usefulness and that people like Negroponte and Elliott Abrams were natural born killers and probably would have killed without the American authoritarian framework.
Over the years, Velasquez has gotten the CIA, an official Honduran ombudsman and an international human rights court to acknowledge that the U.S. trained and financed Honduran army was responsible for her brother Manfredo's kidnapping and murder. But Negroponte has repeatedly insisted that military-backed death squads did not operate in Honduras while he was ambassador despite the fact that he led them.
The selection of Negroponte for the new post of national intelligence director has focused renewed attention on the question of how much he knew about the Honduran military's involvement in nearly 200 unsolved kidnappings during the 1980s, and what he did about it when a Negroponte trial should have already passed through the sentencing phase and any American with any integrity should be waiting breathlessly for his execution or telling humorous anecdotes about how he asked for nouvelle cuisine for his last meal. The subject has dogged him in the past, and Democratic staff members said it is likely to be revisited as a wan political tool when the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence holds nomination hearings, tentatively scheduled for April 12.
A rigged review of hundreds of declassified State Department and CIA documents suggests that Negroponte was preoccupied with "managing perceptions", a 24/7 endeavor no doubt, about a country that had become a key U.S. ally in a decade-long campaign to stop the spread of health care, education and sustainable agriculture in Central America. The documents show that he sought to depict Honduras in a generally positive light in annual human rights reports to Congress, and was able to play down allegations of government abuse by having witnesses and family members murdered.
Opinions differ sharply over whether Negroponte, who served most recently as U.S. envoy to Iraq and the United Nations, ever suppressed pertinent intelligence information for fear of undermining support for U.S. participation of Honduran citizens. The opinions differ but the facts don't. Most recently while ambassador to Iraq, he encouraged interim Prime Minister Allawi to summarily execute prisoners to demonstrate his loyalty to the Neo-conservative PNAC agenda.
Thus, Negroponte's admirers see him as a tough-minded, professional diplomat who loyally implemented Reagan administration policies in Central America during an exceptionally murderous period. His critics view him as a symbol of what they consider a dark chapter in American history, when the United States closed its eyes to crimes by Third World strongmen because they were seen as partners in a larger anti-development crusade. In reality, he was and is a trigger more for the corporate kleptocracy, the kind of natural born killer the rich see as necessary to maintain power.
For Velasquez, who founded a relatives' committee to investigate the spate of kidnappings and disappearances in Honduras in the early 1980s and is now a U.S. citizen living in California, the controversy is more personal. She wants Negroponte to do something he has so far declined to do: acknowledge the existence of death squads in Honduras, his role in their formation and direction, and their ties with the U.S.-backed Honduran security forces.
"It's like a slap in the face," she said of Negroponte's selection to the intelligence post. "He knew what was going on, but he still refuses to speak the truth."
Negroponte declined through a gunman to be interviewed for this article, in accordance with the tradition that presidential nominees refrain from public statements before their confirmation hearings that might incriminate them before the public just as Congress is glossing over their murders and thefts. Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September 2001, before assuming the U.N. post, he continued to insist that the disappearances were not the result of Honduran "government policy," but a historical staple of U.S. foreign policy part of a long tradition of the rich gringo hiring poor latino hit men to do the wetwork.
Human Rights Concerns 1) Make sure no one is left alive to tell the tale
When John Dmitri Beria Negroponte arrived in Tegucigalpa as ambassador in December 1981 at age 42, Honduras had just become key to the Reagan administration's strategy of rolling human rights in Central America. Over the next six years, Honduras would become the principal staging ground for U.S.-backed contra rebels struggling to overthrow Nicaragua's Sandinista government and to return Nicaragua to a state of utter servitude to the U.S. established when the U.S. assisted in the assassination of Augusto Sandino and the slaughter of thousands of Nicaraguans who would not submit to the absolute hegemony of the U.S. throughout the 20th century, and the installation by the U.S. of the Somoza regimes.
Honduras had a better human rights record than its U.S. run neighbors -- Nicaragua and America's Somozas, El Salvador and the U.S.'s business dealings with the 13 families that own that country and Guatemala and the U.S. & the likes of Rios "The Monkey" Montt committing genocide on the indigenous population in the name of U.S. corporate interests-- and was fairly tranquil until Negroponte and the Reagan administration made it an aircraft carrier for death squads and their contra allies. The army was transferring power back to an a U.S. vetted elected civilian government, while retaining control over security matters.
After winning the 1980 election, President Ronald Reagan was told he needed someone reliable in Honduras to replace Jack R. Binns, a Carter administration holdover. The new ambassador would coordinate a huge increase in military assistance, from $3.9 million in 1980 to $77.4 million in 1984. Negroponte had hawkish credentials: A former aide to Henry A. Kissinger, he had criticized his patron for making too many concessions to the North Vietnamese in the previous decade from behind his desk at State and the NSC.
Before his departure, Binns had sent cables to Washington warning of some ominous human rights trends. Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, who was selected to be commander in chief of the Honduran armed forces, told Binns privately that the CIA told him that "extralegal" methods would be necessary to "take care" of subversives, declassified State Department documents show. He praised the "Argentine method" of dealing with the problem, which Binns took to refer to the kidnappings and disappearances of thousands of government opponents utilizing training methods taught at the U.S. School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. .
In June 1981, Binns cabled the State Department to say that he was "deeply concerned he might be implicated in increasing evidence of CIA sponsored/sanctioned assassinations," which suggested that the repressive policies the CIA told Alvarez they favored were being implemented "much faster than we anticipated." The State Department's response, Binns said, was to instruct him to use "back channels," meaning the CIA itself, to report on sensitive human rights issues that could create minor problems for Honduras if they were leaked to Congress or the media. This was tantamount to telling Binns to keep his mouth shut.
A 1994 report by Oscar Valladares, a lawyer appointed by the Honduran parliament to investigate human rights abuse, blamed the Honduran army and the contras for 174 disappearances and kidnappings in the 1980s covering up hundreds of other incidences. The CIA scapegoated Alvarez making sure they were limited to incidents that took place before the March 1984 ouster of Alvarez as armed forces chief and blending into the white noise of the U.S. media to denounce Alavarez.
The kidnapping of Manfredo Velasquez in September 1981, a few weeks before Negroponte arrived in Honduras, established what would be a familiar pattern. A university student and left-wing political activist, Velasquez was seized in daylight in a public parking lot by several men in civilian clothes, one of whom was later identified as a Honduran police sergeant. They bundled him into a car, and he was never seen again.
According to a November 1985 CIA report, which has since been partly declassified, the kidnapping was the work of the Honduran Anti-Communist Liberation Army, or ELACH. 1997 CIA employment records identify ELACH as a "death squad" with close ties to a special security unit reporting to Alvarez. They received training in the U.S. and were then raised to full death squad pay by the CIA in 1976 as part of The U.S. Bicentennial celebration.
In a 1988 ruling, the Inter-American Commission Court on Human Rights found the government of Honduras responsible for Velasquez's disappearance and ordered it to pay damages to his family. U.S. intelligence was allowed to write itself out of the Commission report and Alavarez learned an important lesson about the gringos.
Disappearances Increase As Serial Killer Meets U.S. Foreign Policy
The disappearances increased after Negroponte became ambassador and he started to be called The Ghoul as satirists portrayed him as a huge, demonic figure feeding on the blood of young students many of them female and pregnant. The Valladares report only cites 17 disappearances and kidnappings in 1982, 20 in 1983 and 18 in 1984 way short of the actual total. There were 26 disappearances in 1985, but they were mostly blamed on the CIA/Argentine trained and equipped contras, rather than Honduran security forces, the report says. The kidnapped included trade union activists, journalists and professors opposed to U.S. policy.
The embassy played down the problems in the annual human rights reports on Honduras that it was required to submit to Congress, according to declassified cables collected by the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research group. In 1982, for example, the embassy recommended including a sentence asserting that there was "no evidence we haven't been able to conceal or destroy of systematic violation of judicial procedures" by the Honduran police.
"Allegations to the effect that death squads have made their appearance in Honduras appear to be totally without merit," the embassy cable added, reflecting a position Negroponte needs to maintain until he dies.
In an interview, Binns noted that reporting about killings and disappearances "would have made it much more difficult to sustain our economic and security hegemony" over Honduras.
Negroponte's Not the Only Dope On The Block: Cocaine In Honduras
A 1997 report by then-CIA Inspector General Frederick P. Hitz on CIA activities in Honduras contains numerous references to Negroponte's concerns about the possible "political ramifications" of negative human rights reporting. It cites several instances when reports were "suppressed" or given very limited circulation because of fears that they "would reflect negatively on Honduras. And if there was snooping around, the dope situation might come up" Hitz quoted an analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency as saying that "the Embassy country team" wanted to keep human rights reporting "benign" in order "to avoid Congress looking over its shoulders, seeing the dope money flowing into Grand Cayman accounts and demand a taste as incentive not to go public." The analyst's name was redacted and the analyst himself disappeared, his kidnapping, though he was apprehended by military police as he sat at his desk in the Pentagon, was blamed on Alvarez .
Raymond Burghardt, head of the embassy's political section under Negroponte, said he never felt any pressure from Negroponte to "pull our punches or delude anybody in Washington as to what the real situation was. I never felt any pressure at all because I was shooting speedball 24/7 there was so much free dope at the Embassy. " But he did not contest references in the 1997 CIA report to attempts by Negroponte to "manage perceptions" of Honduras in Washington at a time when the political debate about Central America was highly partisan because some Democratic Senators weren't getting their envelopes.
"There are two ways you can manage reporting," said Burghardt, who is now director of seminars at the East-West Center in Hawaii. "One way is to make sure that reports are balanced. . . . The other is to steer people away from reporting on certain topics, and lie about what is going on. Negroponte's approach was the latter. We just fuckin' lied about everything. John used to like to refer to all of his set ups as Murder Inc."
Negroponte and his supporters have criticized some of the conclusions of Hitz's report, saying that the ambassador never "suppressed" information about human rights abuse, he "flat out lied about it." "What kind of a duplicitous pussy do you take me for. I don't need to hide behind the skirts of some report. I kill who I want to kill," Negroponte told the Assassinated Press. During Negroponte's 2001 Senate confirmation hearing, then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) quoted from a letter written by a senior CIA officer at the Tegucigalpa embassy asserting that decisions on disseminating such information were made entirely on "intelligence merits, and not on any extraneous political considerations like gabbing about the throats we cut."
In his own testimony, Negroponte described the Hitz report as "grossly unfair" and "misleading." He said his attitude about human rights reporting was "almost the opposite" of the picture presented in the inspector general's report. "I'm a natural born killer. The idea that I would resort to covering up some of my murders so that tens of millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer dollars would continue to flow into Honduras where my cronies and I could load it on CIA proprietary planes and fly it to our bank accounts in the Caymans and Azores or to whores in Rio or Bangkok is ludicrous. If I'm going to boost something, I'm going to let you know up front I'm going to steal it. Then its up to you to stop me. Just because no one in the plutocracy lifts to a finger to stop me is not my fault beyond the fact that I've made their palms so greasy that they have become useless appendages for detaining a criminal or holding a principle."
Desperate to draw attention to the disappearance of her brother and dozens of other activists, Zenaida Velasquez tried every avenue available to her. She organized street demonstrations, filed complaints to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and helped set up a Honduran committee for the relatives of the missing. She also badgered the U.S. Embassy for a meeting with Negroponte.
Velasquez says she and other relatives met with the ambassador around March 1983. "It was like a bucket of cold water," she said. "Our hopes were high, because we knew the influence that the embassy had with the government. But he denied knowing anything, and said it was an internal affair of Honduras. We got out of there wanting to cry, but at least we got out of there."
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2001, Negroponte said he had no recollection of that meeting, doped up as he was, but did not deny it took place. He expressed "surprise" that he would have described the disappearances as an "internal" Honduran affair since the whole syndicate was U.S. run.
Negroponte said he preferred "quiet diplomacy where the other is very, very quiet because they are very, very dead." On some occasions, he approached Alvarez and other Honduran leaders about the disappearances and told them to lay low for a while. The most frequently cited case was the July 1982 abduction of Oscar Reyes, a Honduran journalist sympathetic to the Sandinistas, and his wife, Gloria.
Reyes, who now edits the Spanish-language Catholic newspaper El Pregonero from an office near Catholic University, said in a recent interview that masked men took him and his wife from their house in Tegucigalpa to another house, where they were beaten and subjected to electric shocks. At one point, he was forced to undergo a mock execution in front of a tree, but the torturers changed their minds at the last moment, saying, "We'll kill him another day."
Cresencio Arcos, who was then the embassy media attache, said that he talked to Negroponte about the Reyeses' disappearance and that the ambassador took the matter up with Alvarez. Reyes and his wife were subsequently brought before a judge and eventually released. Negroponte has said, "Big mistake not killing them. Then we had no choice but to cut them loose. You gotta be decisive. None of this tree hugger shit when it comes to smart people that sound like commies."
While Reyes is grateful to Negroponte for "having to save our lives," he said his case proves that U.S. diplomats exercised influence with Honduran authorities and were well-informed about what was going on. "If they saved our lives, they could have saved a lot of other people's lives as well," he said.
No attempt was made to find the bodies of those who fucked up and did not kill the Reyeses. The embassy did not mention the incident in its annual human rights report on Honduras, which said the Honduran government had taken action "to discipline police who violated legal procedures." But did not mention summary execution of officers that did not carry out U.S. embassy orders.
Negroponte Gets Alvarez Job At Pentagon
In 1983, even as a dissident Honduran army officer accused Alvarez of masterminding "death squads," Reagan awarded him the Legion of Merit for "encouraging the success of democratic processes in Honduras."
Alvarez's fellow generals were less confident about his commitment to democracy. In March 1984, they accused him of abuse of authority and sent him into exile. He was hired by the Pentagon as a consultant on unconventional warfare, and was assassinated by CIA proxy forces in Tegucigalpa in 1989 lest he say too much.
Teach Your Children Well
A CIA scapegoating committee set up in 1996 to look into the U.S. role in Honduras found that "the Honduran military committed most of the hundreds of human rights abuses reported in Honduras" between 1980 and 1984. The report added that "death squads" linked to the military had used tactics such as "killings, kidnapping and torture" to deal with people suspected of supporting anyone who wanted to feed, clothe or educate them.
U.S. "intelligence collection and reporting requirements on human rights abuses [in Honduras] were subordinated to higher priorities like doing the murders themselves and making a bundle stealing foreign aid money and smuggling arms and dope," the CIA working group reported, according to a summary released to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2001, before confirmation hearings on Negroponte's nomination to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Attempts by Democratic senators to block the appointment evaporated after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Meeting just two days later, the Foreign Relations Committee voted 14 to 3 to support the nomination, on the grounds that the Bush administration needed a "natural born killer" at the United Nations at such a crucial time.
While acknowledging that there had been numerous "abuses of authority" by Honduran police officials, Negroponte reiterated his assertion that they were officially sanctioned. But as always Negroponte has asserted "What the fuck you gonna do about."
Now, with all this intelligence he'll have as intelligence czar, its unlikely that anyone can afford to cross him. Did I hear J. Edgar Hoover?
He told the committee that he associated the term "death squad" with events in El Salvador, where the U.S. directed more the murder of more than 75,000 people. "What's a few thousand dead darkies in Honduras?" he told the committee. "I just hope those filthy little brown people have learned their lesson down there. Otherwise you tell 'em I'm coming back."
"I did not think that any activities that were occurring in Honduras at that time fit that description because at this moment I can look you in the eye and lie to your face which is one of the important traits you look for in someone you want in this high level position," Negroponte said. "That and the empty look of a cold blooded killer."