by Nefer Munoz
(IPS) SAN JOSE --
rights organizations in Honduras expressed surprise and anger when they learned of the new United States ambassador-designate to the United Nations, John Negroponte, who they say is tied to past acts of repression and torture.
"It has been a shock because we believe Negroponte was the link between the policies of the Pentagon and the Honduran military personnel who violated human rights here," Andres Pavon, head of the Honduran Human Rights Defense Committee, told IPS.
President George W. Bush named Negroponte last week as the country's new representative to the UN, despite the diplomat's apparently dark past.
Human rights organizations accuse Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s, of concealing the Honduran army's assassinations, kidnappings and torture from a congressional inquiry.
The diplomat, who must still obtain congressional approval before beginning work at the UN, represented the United States in Honduras during a critical time, when Washington financed what were known as the "Contras" in their fight against the Sandinista-led government of Nicaragua.
The largely Nicaraguan Contras, with some 15,000 troops, were based across the border in Honduras and launched their attacks from there. The Honduran military, meanwhile, internally applied the "anti-terrorist law" enacted by the Roberto Suazo Cordova government (1982-1986).
Pavon stated that a figure as dubious as Negroponte should not even be considered for a post in the world's highest diplomatic body.
"This Thursday (Mar. 15) we are sending a document of protest to the United States embassy in Tegucigalpa," Pavon announced.
He added that his organization possesses testimony from the top Honduran military brass that implicates Negroponte in the repression occurred in the 1980s.
human rights groups in Honduras maintain that the military here received training from the CIA and that Negroponte was directly involved in arranging it.
But Bush asserted that the controversial diplomat will be "a key member of my administration's foreign policy team."
In addition, White House spokesman Richard Boucher listed Negroponte among the most important U.S. diplomats.
Boucher affirmed that the ambassador-designate would respond to questions and would clear up any doubt about his past in Honduras. The Senate will also thoroughly question Negroponte before granting approval for him to serve as the U.S. representative before the UN.
"This designation is a slap in the face for the Honduran people," Berta Oliva de Nativi, director of the Committee of Families of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras told IPS.
De Nativi asserted that Negroponte, as ambassador to Honduras, allowed political persecution to take place and that he decided whether political dissidents would live or die.
Human rights groups here report that 184 people were "disappeared" by the military's repressive forces in the 1980s.
De Nativi told IPS that delegates from numerous civil society groups are meeting this week to draft a public letter of protest that will be sent to the United States government.
Following his controversial presence in Honduras, Negroponte served as a diplomat in Mexico and in the Philippines, and was a member of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration.
The British-born Negroponte is currently working in the private sector as vice president at a major publishing company.
In 1997, the Clinton administration considered him for the ambassador post in Greece, but Negroponte decided to abandon the diplomatic ranks. Analysts believe that if his designation is ratified this time, it will mark a victorious return to public service.
The Honduran National Human Rights Commissioner, Leo Valladares, stated that the much-questioned Negroponte performed his job in Honduras and was simply following orders.
Valladares pointed out that during Negroponte's term in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran army created the 3-16 battalion, a squadron dedicated to carrying out political persecution and torture.
"It is nearly impossible that Negroponte did not know about those human rights violations," said the constitutionally ranked official, who is the equivalent of a People's Defender or Ombudsman.
Negroponte "kept quiet" about the assassinations and disappearances in Honduras, said Valladares, and such a precedent surely casts doubt on his competence to serve at the UN.
March 19, 2001 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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