John D. Negroponte - secret arming of Nicaragua's Contra reFri Feb 18, 2005 02:49188.8.131.52
John D. Negroponte, CFR and SKULL AND BONES - BORN IN LONDON... !
While ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85, John D. Negroponte, Bush's nominee for the United Nations, directed the secret arming of Nicaragua's Contra rebels and is accused by human rights groups of overlooking -- if not overseeing -- a CIA-backed Honduran death squad during his tenure.
John D. Negroponte - Bush UN Choice Faces a Fight
By Maggie Farley and Norman Kempster
John D. Negroponte, President Bush's nominee for U.N. ambassador, is likely to face a fierce fight for confirmation over questions about his role in the Central American wars of the 1980s.
While ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85, Negroponte directed the secret arming of Nicaragua's Contra rebels and is accused by human rights groups of overlooking -- if not overseeing -- a CIA-backed Honduran death squad during his tenure.
Although Negroponte, a career diplomat, has in previous confirmation hearings denied knowledge of systematic human rights abuses, declassified documents and disclosures by former death squad members since his last testimony in 1993 have cast doubt on whether he was telling the whole truth before Congress. Human rights groups and Democratic Party opponents are preparing for a fight, making Negroponte the first Bush administration foreign policy appointee to kindle serious opposition from Congress.
His nomination is clouded further by the sudden deportations of several former members of the death squad, which was known as Battalion 3-16. The men, who had resided for years in the United States and Canada and could have provided evidence for the hearings, were returned to Honduras within a few weeks of Negroponte's nomination being announced. But one of them, Gen. Luis Alonso Discua Elvir, who was the deputy ambassador to the United Nations until Washington revoked his visa in February, went public this month with details of U.S. support for the rogue battalion. His comments could provide fodder for Negroponte's opponents on Capitol Hill.
Members of Congress who served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the Iran-Contra investigations said Negroponte must satisfy doubts about his past performance before he can be confirmed as the face for U.S. interests around the world. ``In the 1980s, John Negroponte was at the center of a clash over deep disagreements we had about the role the United States should be playing in Central America and, more importantly, the way -- often secretive or, at best, unclear -- that our policy was being conducted,'' said Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
``New information suggesting that the U.S. Embassy in Honduras knew more about human rights violations in Honduras than was communicated to the Congress and to the public,'' he said, ``needs to be probed carefully and thoroughly examined.''
Opposing Negroponte, a key Bush appointment, will be a politically risky task. Taking him on means challenging Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who is said to have handpicked him. Powell is a close friend of Negroponte and made him his deputy national security advisor in the Reagan administration after the diplomat's Honduran stint, presumably having found nothing disqualifying in his background at the time. And Negroponte has been confirmed twice as ambassador since then, to Mexico in 1989 and to the Philippines in 1993.
Negroponte, who spent 37 years as a foreign service officer, is largely well thought of in the diplomatic corps as a man who speaks five languages but knows when to keep silent. His friends say he is brilliant and urbane, and carries out orders with a cool and quiet efficiency. Colleagues describe him as a dedicated diplomat who did the bidding of whatever administration was in office at the time -- a quality his friends see as loyalty, and his critics as amorality.
In 1981, President Reagan sent Negroponte to Honduras, which had become Washington's base for covert military operations against the leftist Sandinistas who controlled Nicaragua next door. Jack Binns, Negroponte's predecessor in Honduras, had cabled Washington several times about an alarming increase in extrajudicial executions and torture of political opponents by the Honduran government. There was no response, he said, until the day he was summoned to Washington and told by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Enders to stop reporting human rights abuses through official channels.
``He was afraid it would leak and make it more difficult for us to continue our economic and security assistance,'' said Binns, now retired. ``And it would prejudice the Contra operation, though I didn't know it at the time.'' Binns' assignment lasted only a year, ending not long after that meeting. But before he left, he compiled a briefing book for Negroponte detailing the human rights problems. Negroponte took a different approach. Under his direction, U.S. military aid to Honduras grew from $4 million to $77.4 million. He also helped orchestrate a secret deal later known as Iran-Contra to send arms through Honduras to help the Contras overthrow the Sandinista government.
In the background, a murky military unit called Battalion 3-16, trained by the CIA, carried out the dirty work of making sure that communism didn't spread to Honduras -- a business that involved the torture and ``disappearing'' of at least 184 political opponents, according to a 1994 Honduran human rights report called ``The Facts Speak for Themselves.''
Negroponte testified later that he knew little about the battalion or systematic abuses, and was a champion of advancing human rights in Honduras. Embassy colleagues believe that he was personally involved, but not quite in the way he claimed. ``In Honduras, he told these guys [the death squad leaders] to cut it out, but he wasn't going to say that publicly,'' said a former official who didn't want his name used because of the sensitivity of the situation. ``This is the problem with most of Washington. You tell political bosses what they want to hear and don't let the truth get in the way of policy.''
Activists such as Honduran Human Rights Commissioner Leo Valladares have been pursuing the truth since the late 1980s, making hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests for documents.
The U.S. government has released thousands of pages to him and other petitioners over the years, but the documents are heavily redacted, blacked-out page after blacked-out page. ``They gave me thousands of pages, but they didn't give me anything,'' Valladares said. ``I trust the U.S. Senate to look at the original documents. Perhaps they will help determine if there are other American citizens who can perform better than Negroponte because they don't have a past of knowing about human rights violations and keeping silent about them.''
Human rights groups are comparing notes and Senate staffers are delving into classified documents to prepare for the contentious confirmation hearing. Negroponte has declined all interviews before the hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. REFERENCE
"There are two streams of analysis about John Negroponte," says Larry Birns, who, as director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a human rights group, has tried, unsuccessfully, to derail Negroponte's career over the years. "One is that he is a distinguished career diplomatic officer. The other is that he is a rogue, a jackanape, a bounder of the worst type."
'John Was a Winner. . . . You Just Felt That'
He was born in London on July 21, 1939. His father, Dimitri John Negroponte, was a shipping magnate. His mother, Catherine, "was one of the most beautiful women in all of Greece, blond, blue-eyed," says Anthony Lykiardopoulos, a cousin of Negroponte's who grew up with him in Manhattan. (The shipping business brought the Negropontes to America following World War II. )
Dimitri Negroponte was proud to be in America. He taught his children about life, leisure, the need to make a commitment to something. "His dad taught him how to eat, how to ski, how to be a good athlete," Lykiardopoulos says of John. "His dad would have made a sensational diplomat."
Having money meant the elder Negroponte had choices for his children. John Negroponte was sent to grade school at the tony Buckley School in Manhattan. His classmates there called him "Ponte." His intelligence impressed them mightily. "At that age," recalls Robert Harrison, a classmate at Buckley, "you can see the intelligence of someone. It hasn't got the varnish of pretension yet."
After Buckley, Negroponte went off -- like Harrison -- to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. There he joined the debating society, he played varsity soccer, he golfed, he swam, he took a prize in French. Even amid the keen young minds of Exeter, Negroponte stood out. He seemed to walk ahead of most everyone, invading the open air around him.
"Our family was very international," says Nick Negroponte, John's younger brother. "At the dinner table when people spoke, it was rare they would keep their sentence in one language. Our father spoke at least five languages fluently. John has his genes."
One of the things that made his cousin stand out, says Lykiardopoulos, was a sense of discretion, a feeling that one must handle problems privately. He recalls an outing to the beach when they were teens, and John suffered a case of sunstroke. Lykiardopoulos started making phone calls, inquiring about medical assistance. Negroponte told his cousin all he needed was sleep, but Lykiardopoulos wasn't so sure. He called Negroponte's mother. "He said, 'You've called my mother!' He was angered that someone thought he might not be able to take care of himself."
Exeter boys often had wide choices in their selection of college. Many would simply step, in their buck shoes, onto the campus of one of the Ivies. Robert Harrison chose Harvard. Negroponte chose Yale. He had shared with friends that he was interested in law. Beneath his picture in the Exeter yearbook, he contemplated -- "certainly in jest," says Harrison -- another possibility:
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