Congressional Record:Since Ambassador Negroponte was last confirmedThu Feb 17, 2005 18:5064.140.158.171
Congressional Record: September 14, 2001 (Senate)
NOMINATION OF JOHN NEGROPONTE
Since Ambassador Negroponte was last confirmed by the Senate as
Ambassador to the Philippines in 1993, a great deal of new information
has come to light about the nature and extent of human rights abuses
during his tenure in Honduras. This information also raised questions
about the appropriateness of the U.S. Embassy's response and about
whether Ambassador Negroponte had been forthright with the Committee in
1989 when I asked him questions about these matters.
How has this new information come to light? It is the result of a
number of investigations into this subject from 1992-1998: First in
1992, Leo Valladares, the Honduran National Commissioner for the
Protection of Human Rights undertook to catalog the disappearances and
other human rights abuses that occurred in Honduras in the eighties.
That investigation is still ongoing. Prompted by the Valladares
investigation the Baltimore Sun's undertook its own year long
investigation which resulted in 1995 in a four part series detailing
human rights abuses by a special Honduran military intelligence unit,
the so called Battalion 316, and U.S. embassy links to that unit, and
knowledge thereof. In 1996, this led CIA Director John Deutch to
establish a Special Working Group within the agency to assess whether
the allegations raised by the series were valid. Finally, the CIA
Director tasked the CIA's Inspector General to resolve specific
questions raised by the Working Group as it related to the death of an
American citizen, Father James Carney, and about the CIA's relationship
with members of the Honduran military who may have committed human
rights abuses before or doing that relationship.
The picture that emerges in analyzing this new information is a
troubling one. Some of the key facts that the Committee put on public
record during yesterday's hearing thanks to the cooperation of the
State Department and CIA are the following: One, during 1980-84, the
Honduran military committed most of the hundreds of human rights abuses
reported in Honduras. These abuses were often politically motivated and
officially sanctioned; two, Honduran military units were trained by the
U.S.--members of these units have been linked to death squad activities
such as killings, disappearances, and other human rights abuses; three,
the CIA's reporting of human rights abuses was inconsistent. Reporting
inadequacies precluded CIA headquarters from understanding the scope of
human rights abuses; four, the responsibility for monitoring and taking
action against domestic subversion in Honduras was first the
responsibility of a special unit of the Public Security Forces, FUSEP;
five, at the recommendation of a joint U.S./Honduran military seminar,
this responsibility was transferred in early 1984 to a new unit (which
came to be known as Battalion 316) under the supervision of the
Military Intelligence Division of the Armed Forces General Staff; and
six, the FUSEP special unit and Battalion 316 counter terrorist tactics
included torture, rape and assassination against persons thought to be
involved in support of the Salvadoran guerrillas or part of the
Honduran leftist movement; seven, as many as 250 instances of human
rights abuses in Honduras are officially documented, including
disappearances, torture, extra judicial killings; and eight, at least
squad was known to have operated during 1980-84. This death squad was
called ELACH, The Honduran Anti-Communist Liberation Army. There is
information linking this death squad to chief of the National
Intelligence Directorate of the Honduran Public Security Forces.
When Ambassador Negroponte came before the committee in 1989 in the
context of his nomination to the position of US Ambassador to Mexico, I
asked him a number of questions related to his tenure in Honduras, two
questions dealt with human rights. Given what we know about the extent
and nature of Honduran human rights abuses, to say that Mr. Negroponte
was less than forthcoming in his responses to my questions is being
generous. I would ask that the my exchange with Ambassador Negroponte
during that hearing in printed in the Record at this point.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in
the Record, as follows:
Excerpt From Hearing Record
Senator Dodd. That Battalion 316, I said ``alleged,'' but,
in fact, was that a death squad? Was that the name of a death
squad operating either within the Honduran military or with
Ambassador Negroponte. I do not recall knowing it as the
316th Battalion. In fact, some of what I am saying now may be
based on trying to reconstruct events after having discussed
this issue with individuals long after the fact, for example,
when Mr. LeMoyne wrote his story. But I recall it to have
been an intelligence unit.
Again, I have never seen any convincing substantiation that
they were involved in death squad type activities.
Mr. DODD. I know there will be those who say, that it isn't terribly
important that the Honduran military committed human rights abuses more
than fifteen years ago in some cases. Moreover, in relative terms those
abuses in Honduras paled in comparison to what to else where in Central
America. My response to that is that the Senate has a duty and
responsibility to be a partner in the fashioning of U.S. foreign
policy, and the only way it can be a full partner is if we in this body
are kept fully informed. When it came to our ability to be full
partners with respect to U.S. toward Honduras or elsewhere in Central
America, I would tell you that we were unable to do that because we
were flying blind.
It gives me great pause as I ponder how to vote on this nomination to
think that someone as intelligent and capable as Ambassador Negroponte
would treat this committee and this body so cavalierly in his responses
to my questions. I wonder who he thinks he works for?
I was also troubled by Ambassador Negroponte's unwillingness to
admit, that as a consequence of other U.S. policy priorities, the U.S.
embassy, by acts of omissions ending up shading the truth about the
extent and nature of ongoing human rights abuses in the 1980s.
Moreover, in light of all the new information that I have just
mentioned, I do not know how Ambassador Negroponte can continue to
believe that it was simply ``deficiencies in the Honduran legal system
coupled with insufficient professionalism of law enforcement
authorities that ``led at times to abuses of authority by Honduran
police officials.'' And, quoting his written answer to a committee
question on this subject that, ``I did not believe then, nor do I
believe now, that these abuses were part of a deliberate government
The InterAmerican Court of Human Rights had no such reluctance in
assigning blame to the Honduran government during its adjudication of a
case brought against the Government of Honduras by the InterAmerican
Commission on Human Rights in 1987. In deciding the case of Honduran
citizen Velasquez Rodriquez the Court found that ``a practice of
disappearances carried out or tolerated by Honduran officials existed
between 1981-84.'' And, as I mentioned earlier, based upon an extensive
review of U.S. intelligence information by the CIA Working Group in
1996, the CIA is prepared to stipulate that ``during the 1980-84
period, the Honduran military committed most of the hundreds of human
rights abuses reported in Honduras. These abuses were often politically
motivated and officially sanctioned.''
Moreover, Mr. Negroponte should have been forewarned to look for
signs of government sponsored human rights abuses in light of concerns
that his predecessor Ambassador Jack Binns, a career foreign service
officer, had raised with the State Department concerning the mind set
of the architect of Honduras' domestic countersubversion program with
respect to a willingness to extrajudicial means in the context of such
programs. Ambassador Binns was speaking about General Gustavo Alvarez
who became Commander in Chief of the Honduran Armed Forces in 1982, and
who had been Commander of Honduran Public Security Forces, FUSEP, from
Based upon the Committee's review of State Department and CIA
documents, it would seem that Ambassador Negroponte knew far more about
government perpetuated human rights abuses than he chose to share with
the committee in 1989 or in Embassy contributions at the time to annual
State Department Human Rights reports. For example, a Negroponte cable
summarizing meetings between Congressman Solarz and Honduran government
officials in January 1985 makes note of a Honduran official's concerns
about future human rights abuses due to ``fears that there might still
be some ``secret operating cells'' left from the Alvarez era,'' here
referring to General Alvarez who had headed the Honduran armed forces
until he was removed in 1984 by his fellow officers.
I don't quite know the difference between a ``death squad'' and
``secret operating cells'', but since Ambassador Negroponte is
officially on record as saying that no death squads existed in Honduras
during his tenure, there must be some difference.
There are also discrepancies with respect to when he became aware of
certain cases where Honduran authorities were secretly detaining and
torturing Hondurans suspected of subversion. And how he chose to report
those cases to Washington. The case of dual national Ines Consuelo
Murillo comes most readily to mind. Her detention and torture was
described in detail on April 15, 1995 in the Baltimore Sun.
These are but a few examples. There were others which taken together,
paint a very mixed picture of whether the U.S. embassy was doing much
to discourage Honduran government practices or how comprehensively it
was collecting and reporting on such abuses. Having said that, there
were no ``smoking guns'' in the documents that have been provided to
I know that this week is not just any week. I also know that the
President is anxious to have an ambassador at the United Nations is a
high priority, particularly in light of recent events. I will not stand
in the way of the Senate moving forward with this nomination. I believe
that yesterday's decision by the Committee on Foreign Relations to put
on the public record all the additional declassified information that
it has compiled in reviewing this nomination will contribute to the
healing and reconciliation that is still ongoing in Honduras.
Finally I would say a word of caution to other career foreign service
officers, particularly junior officers, that they not consider this
nominee's lack of candor before the committee as a model to be
emulated. A United States Ambassador is a representative of the United
States Government and ultimately works for the American people. That
means that our ambassadors have an obligation to be truthful and
forthcoming in relations with Congress as we are the people's
representatives. If they are under instruction to withhold information
as a matter of policy they should say so. Then, we can take it up with
their superiors if we choose to do so. In my estimation, Mr. Negroponte
did neither in his dealings with the Congress. I am deeply saddened to
come to that judgement. Having said that Ambassador Negroponte has had
a distinguished career and on balance has discharged his
responsibilities ably and honorably. For that reason, I intend to give
him the benefit of the doubt in light of how extremely polarized
relations between the Congress and the Executive were over U.S. policy
in Central America when he was serving as Ambassador in Honduras. I
will therefore support his nomination to the position of the U.S.
Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
John Negroponte Not a U.S. Citizen
About John Negroponte - Biography and Controversies
OVERVIEW - About John Negroponte - Biography and Controversies - John Dimitri Negroponte was born on July 21, 1939 in London. His father was a Greek shipping magnate. He graduated from Yale University in 1960. He later served at eight different Foreign Service posts in Asia, Europe and Latin America; and he also held important positions at the State Department and the White House. From 1997 until his appointment as ambassador to the UN, Negroponte was an executive with McGraw-Hill. He speaks five languages.
John Dimitri Negroponte has been the United States ambassador to the United Nations since September 2001. He is a career diplomat who served in the US Foreign Service from 1960 to 1997. On April 19, 2004, Negroponte was nominated by US president George W. Bush to be US ambassador to Iraq after the June 30 handover.
His appointment to the UN post was a controversial one because of his involvement in covert funding of the Contras and his covering up of human rights abuses in Honduras in the 1980s. He is seen by many as a terrorist sponsor for supporting the Contra insurgency against the left wing Sandinistas, the first ever democratically elected government of Nicaragua. He is also acused of inciting Contra attacks on civilians.
From 1981 to 1985 Negroponte was US ambassador to Honduras. During his tenure, he oversaw the growth of military aid to Honduras from $4 million to $77.4 million a year. According to The New York Times, Negroponte was responsible for "carrying out the covert strategy of the Reagan administration to crush the Sandinistas government in Nicaragua." Critics say that during his ambassadorship, human rights violations in Honduras became systematic.
Negroponte supervised the creation of the El Aguacate air base, where the US trained Nicaraguan Contras and which critics say was used as a secret detention and torture center during the 1980s. In August 2001, excavations at the base discovered 185 corpses, including two Americans, who are thought to have been killed and buried at the site.
Records also show that a special intelligence unit of the Honduran armed forces, Battalion 3-16, trained by the CIA and Argentine military, kidnapped, tortured and killed hundreds of people, including US missionaries. Critics charge that Negroponte knew about these human rights violations and yet continued to collaborate with the Honduran military while lying to Congress.
In May 1982, a nun, Sister Laetitia Bordes, who had worked for ten years in El Salvador, went on a fact-finding delegation to Honduras to investigate the whereabouts of thirty Salvadoran nuns and women of faith who fled to Honduras in 1981 after Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination. Negroponte claimed the embassy knew nothing. But in a 1996 interview with the Baltimore Sun, Negroponte's predecessor, Jack Binns, said that a group of Salvadorans, among whom were the women Bordes had been looking for, were captured on April 22, 1981, and savagely tortured by the DNI, the Honduran Secret Police, and then later thrown out of helicopters alive.
In early 1984, two American mercenaries, Thomas Posey and Dana Parker, contacted Negroponte, stating they wanted to supply arms to the Contras after the U.S. Congress had banned further military aid. Documents show that Negroponte brought the two with a contact in the Honduran armed forces The operation was exposed nine months later, at which point the Reagan administr
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