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Reports by Country:
Honduras



Background

  • Honduran officers trained by US. The nightmare began in August 1980, when twenty-five Honduran army officers were flown to a desert air strip in the southwestern U.S. to spend six months learning interrogation techniques. In this pathbreaking report translated into English by HRW/Americas and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Honduran government for the first time accepts responsibility. Also Human Rights Watch Reports on Honduras
  • Honduras Human Rights Journey: a report from from SPAN/--Strategic Pastoral Action's human rights journey to Honduras from January 5 to January 19, 1998, including visits with human rights advocates working under death threat, and those working to improve conditions under which women live and to better health conditions. Living under death threat ... constructing alternatives .
  • School of the Americas Graduates (Notorious): Honduras

  • History of U. S. Military Interventions: HONDURAS/1903/Troops/Marines intervene in revolution. HONDURAS/1907/Troops/Marines land during war with Nicaragua. HONDURAS/1911/Troops/U.S. interests protected in civil war. HONDURAS/1912/Troops/Marines protect U.S. economic interests. HONDURAS/1919/Troops/Marines land during election campaign. HONDURAS/1924-25/Troops/Landed twice during election strife. HONDURAS/1982-90/Troops/Maneuvers help build bases near borders. S. Brian Willson, "Who are the Real Terrorists?", citing several sources including William Blum, Killing Hope: U. S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Monroe, Maine: common Courage Press, 1995

    Batallion 316
  • Death squads revived in Honduras to target criminals. TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) 1998 -- The Honduran army has revived an infamous death squad, and summary killings by police and soldiers are much more common now than in the war-torn 1980s, a human rights group charged During the 1980s, when the army mounted a counterinsurgency campaign to contain leftist.

    Discua, Gen. Luis Alonso. SOA Graduate, organized Battalion 316 in Honduras. George W. Baldwin, "To Close the SOA" Christian Social Action, 1997.

  • Death Squad Battalion Still Alive and Active in Honduras. Source: Centr-Am News, Week of June 21-27, Issue XV; Weekly News Update on the Americas Nicaragua Solidarity Network of NY * 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012 * 212-674-9499 fax: 212-674-9139 * Email to: wnu@igc.apc.org. Material provided by Peace Net: Email to:peacenet-info@igc.apc.org
    • Honduran human rights groups announced on June 21 that the infamous Military Counter-Intelligence Battalion 316, which served during the 1970s and '80s as a death squad, is still operative. The Battalion is held responsible for the deaths of at least 184 leftists during the last two decades.
    • The groups say the Battalion has killed at least 70 indigenous and community leaders during the past five years. In addition, three political assassinations between January and June of this year, which have not been cleared up, are attributed to them.
    • Ernesto Sandoval Bustillo, a human rights activist who had reported the death squad's activities, was shot to death in February of this year. Former regional president of the Human Rights Committee, Carlos Luna, and Medardo Varela, who fought for the rights of workers who were made sterile from insecticides they used on banana plantations, were both killed in May.
    • In a December Amnesty International report, the Human Rights Committee (CODEH) said that the Battalion killed 701 alleged criminals between 1990 and 1997. Ramon Custodio, president of CODEH, said "Battalion 316 is alive and is up to its old tricks...this military unit continues to do the same thing-- kill."
    • The Committee of Families of the Disappeared (COFADEH) said that between January and June there have been 49 killings of alleged criminals, 9 cases of torture, 31 people beaten and injured, 54 executions, 11 cases of abuse of authority resulting in death, 31 death threats, 114 illegal arrests, 5 house searches, 22 attacks against people and 4 against property, 4 cases of denial of justice, 7 attacks against freedom of expression and 2 against freedom of the press. They said that during the administration of former president Carlos Roberto Reina there were 701 unexplained deaths. Reina handed over the government to current president Flores Facusse in January, and has not commented on this issue (La Nacion from AP, Costa Rica, 6/22/98)
    • Human Rights Commissioner Leo Valladares Lanza charged in December 1993, when he was human rights special prosecutor, that the Honduran army's Battalion 3-16 was a death squad trained by military personnel from the US, Taiwan and Argentina. [ENH 8/9/99 from Reuters, 8/10/99 from Reuters, 8/14/99 from EFE; AP 8/12/99; El Pais (Madrid) 8/14/99 from correspondent] Weekly Americas News Update #498, 8/15/99, by Nicaragua Soliarity Network of Greater New York, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012 (212) 674-9499


    Chiquita/United Fruit

    In May 1998, "Mike Gallagher had written a series on a company, Chiquita Brands International, which under its old name of United Fruit was synonymous with predatory corporate imperialism." He was then "savaged by his colleagues; disowned by his newspaper, the Cincinnati Enquirer; and facing ferocious assault in the courts." He is charged with "having stolen Chiquita's in-house voice mails. (He insists he was given them by a whistleblower.)" Attention to this, however, obscured that "Gallagher had convincingly charged the company with serious crimes that included use of chemicals that had injured and killed Honduran workers; use of goon squads and army units to evict villagers and intimidate workers; ownership titles designed to conceal illegal corporate control; possible implication in drug running. Chiquita's only shot was to distract attention by hollering about voice mail, which in fact revealed Chiquita executives discussing cover-ups to Gallagher's questions. The tactic worked splendidly. Reporters and pooh-bahs from journalism schools and departments of ethics went charging off on the matter of journalistic propriety without pausing to ask whether this "impropriety" might be overshadowed by such improprieties as poisoning a worker with organophosphates, which, according to a Honduran coroner, caused the death of Greddy Mauricio Valerin Bustos from internal bleeding and brain damage. Only later did Douglas Frantz of the New York Times go back to the series and point out the gravity and apparent substance of the charges. By then, the moment was lost. Chiquita CEO Carl Lindner, one of the nastiest pieces of work on the US corporate-political scene, had his victory. As Larry Birns and Anna Marie Busch of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs put it, Gallagher is accused of stealing tapes; Lindner, meanwhile, hijacked US foreign policy, handing over $500,000 to the Democratic National Committee the morning after the White House went to the World Trade Organization to complain about Chiquita's lack of access to European markets. Alexander Cockburn, "The Press Devours Its Own"

    Release of U. S. documents regarding disappearances in Honduras
  • in 1983 Father James Carney, as well as many others, disappeared in the Honduras. The Winter 1997-98 issue of Challenge, the magazine of EPICA, presented an excellent summary of a hunger strike and vigil at the US embassy in Honduras last fall intended to call attention to the fact that the U. S. has not complied with requests from the Honduras government for information about these disappearances that the U. S. Government has. Fr. Joseph Mulligan, SJ, and others are beginning to discuss plans for a major public campaign in the Spring of 1999, after the new Congress is seated and requests ideas and suggestions. Email to epica@igc.apc.org

  • U. S. Resistance to Release of Documents
    • Source: Mark Matthews, "Republicans Kill Bill to Open Files on Rights Abuses", The Baltimore Sun, Thursday, Sept 3, 1998, p. 21A
    • Sept 3, 1998: "Senate Republicans, aligned with U.S. intelligence agencies, beat back efforts yesterday to force disclosure of information held by U.S. agencies on cases of kidnapping, torture and murder by U.S.-backed security forces in Honduras and Guatemala during the Cold War...Voting along party lines, the Senate killed legislation that would have given the administration four months to declassify documents sought for years by human rights investigators in Honduras and Guatemala and by Americans who were victims of abuses there...The White House, which has repeatedly pledged to find and release documents shedding light on Central America's dark past, stood on the sidelines. The Central Intelligence Agency had come out strongly against similar legislation pending in the House...Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, a Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, quoted the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, as calling the bill "woefully inadequate" in protecting American national security.
    • Ramon Custodio, president of the independent Honduran Committee for the Defense of Human Rights say it differently..."You have the truth and your country hides it. That leads to impunity [for human rights violators] in Honduras," he said last night in a telephone interview. "The system of your country has two standards. One where people respect the law and another where people don't have even the smallest respect for the law."
    • Kate Doyle, a foreign policy analyst at the National Security Archive, a library of declassified documents, said the administration has revealed less about Honduras than about Guatemala...This is because there has been less public pressure for documents on Honduras and also because the material is more sensitive, she said: "The involvement of the United States in Honduras was more profound, more compliicitous. The United States was right down in these, up to its eyebrows with the Honduran military."
    • Yesterday's 50-43 vote came on an amendment to a foreign aid appropriation bill. Similar legislation is pending in the House. Supporters held out little hope of its passing both houses this year, although they were cheered that the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, voted for it....The only Republican supporter was Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords.
    • The vote followed years of attempts by the Hondurans to get at the truth about more than 180 people who disappeared in the country in the 1980s when a CIA-trained unit known as Battalion 316 was kidnappings, torturing and murdering suspected leftists...During that period, the country was used by the United States as a staging ground for an American-backed effort to topple the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua...The bill killed yesterday would also have assisted efforts by the Clarification Commission in Guatemala to compile a historical record of three decades of human rights abuses.
    • Supporters of the legislation, led by Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, a Democrat, said it would help Latin American countries better understand their pasts and cement democratic institutions. Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat, co-sponsored the Dodd bill. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, also a democrat, supported it..."The conflicts that plagued these countries cost the lives of thousands of people," Dodd said. Disclosure of still-secret documents would help bring the perpetrators of the crimes to justice, he said.
    • Opponents, including Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby, a Republican of Alabama, said the bill would give foreign organizations the right to "compel disclosure" of sensitive information and, if unsatisfied, take defense and foreign-policy organizations to court.
    • But Dodd and other supporters of the bill said it would also provide long-sought answers to Americans who had suffered as a result of the conflicts in Central America...Three of the most prominent American cases involve Jennifer Harbury, a Baltimore-born widow of a guerrilla who was killed in Guatemala; a Catholic nun, Dianna Ortiz, who was raped and tortured in Guatemala in 1989; and human rights worker Meredith Larson, who suffered stab wounds in Guatemala the same year...Dodd highlighted the Ortiz case, saying the nun's life had "never been the same" since she was brutally attacked while working in rural Guatemala...As she sought to pressure the government to disclose what it knew about her case, Dodd said, she has been treated by some officials "as a perpetrator of some crime or involved in nefarious behavior." But the 111 cigarette burns on her back testify to the contrary, Dodd said...In a letter to Dodd, Ortiz said, "It's true that government agencies have released documents to me. They consist of such public items as articles written by the press, human rights reports from the U.S. embassy in Guatemala, documents relating to cases other than my own and letters written to members of Congress. I've also received blank sheets of white paper."...Dodd asked, "It is wrong for American citizens to request material on who brutalized them?"
    Sept 3, 1998. U. S. Senate -- Republicans, aligned with U.S. intelligence agencies, beat back efforts yesterday to force disclosure of information held by U.S. agencies on cases of kidnapping, torture and murder by U.S.-backed security forces in Honduras and Guatemala during the Cold War...more at Honduras Source: Mark Matthews, "Republicans Kill Bill to Open Files on Rights Abuses", The Baltimore Sun, Thursday, Sept 3, 1998, p. 21A


    El AguacateMass Graves and Torture Chambers Found at Contra Base.

  • Honduran special prosecutor for human rights Sara Ponce reported on Aug. 12 1999 that investigators had found three mass graves and three secret prisons cells at the former military base at El Aguacate near the Nicaraguan border in the eastern department of Olancho. "In the middle of overgrown brush at El Aguacate, we found six sites with tombs and metal cells where we believe the army tortured, killed and buried its victims," Ponce told the Associated Press news service. Ponce said the freestanding cells are big enough to hold two or three people each. On Aug. 13, Ponce reported that experts had found traces of blood in at least one of the cells, which according to local media was used by the contras. Ponce said that the base also contains a mass grave, 500 meters wide, thought to be a contra cemetery; AP notes that it may hold victims executed by the contras. The prosecutor said she suspected that there are more than 48 mass graves in the area; she charged that the military has removed soil from some parts of the base, probably to destroy evidence. Weekly Americas News Update #498, 8/15/99, by Nicaragua Soliarity Network of Greater New York, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012 (212) 674-9499

  • Ponce's office is investigating the 184 disappearances attributed to the Honduran army during the 1980s: the disappeared include 105 Honduran leftists, 39 Nicaraguans, 28 Salvadorans, five Costa Ricans, four Guatemalans, the US national Father James Francis Carney ("Guadalupe"), an Ecuadoran and a Venezuelan. [AP 8/12/99; El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 8/14/99 from EFE; La Prensa (Honduras) 8/13/99] Weekly Americas News Update #498, 8/15/99, by Nicaragua Soliarity Network of Greater New York, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012 (212) 674-9499

  • US forces built El Aguacate in 1983 for use by the Honduran military, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the US-backed Nicaraguan contras, who were seeking to overthrow the Nicaraguan government led by the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). The base was in operation until 1990. Weekly Americas News Update #498, 8/15/99, by Nicaragua Soliarity Network of Greater New York, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012 (212) 674-9499

  • The investigation of the former base was ordered after an unregistered grave was found there on Aug. 3. Honduran Defense Minister Edgardo Dumas confirmed on Aug. 10 that "there are a great number of remains" in the region, but attributed them to the presence of a hospital in the area, suggesting that people who died in the hospital were buried there. [La Nacion (Costa Rica) 8/9/99 from AP] Dozens of campesinos invaded part of the base on May 27 of this year; they charged that the military had refused to comply with a National Agrarian Institute (INA) decision granting them the land. On Jan. 5 Honduran authorities discovered a huge illegal arms depot on another military base, near San Pedro Sula in the north. Weekly Americas News Update #498, 8/15/99, by Nicaragua Soliarity Network of Greater New York, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012 (212) 674-9499






    Virtual Truth Commission: Telling the Truth for a Better America
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    Titles "Virtual Truth Commission" and "Telling the Truth for a Better America" © 1998, Jackson H. Day. All Rights Reserved.
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    Updated August 19, 1999
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