Bush nominees Otto Reich and Elliot Abrams had been convicted by Congress for relatively trivial aspects of policies that killed thousands and devastated the civil and political life of Central America; John Negroponte had lied about U.S. knowledge and sponsorship of grave human rights abuses in Honduras, and gotten away with it. In writing the story, I relied on extensive Nexis-Lexis research, interviews, and my experience covering the Iran-contra scandals and reporting from Central America during the wars. I cited all my sources in the pieces.
The articles, tucked away in small-circulation, independent outlets did not a wit of good in preventing Reich's appointment as the State Department's leader on Latin America, Abrams' appointment as a National Security Council director, or Negroponte's assumption of the post of U.S. ambassador to the UN.
Nor did the stories prevent Bush II from taking up where Bush I and Reagan left off. The coup in Venezuela against Hugo Chavez sports the sticky fingerprints of all three men and the modus operandi of a long line of U.S.-led cold war interventions.
But if these covert ops were tragedy, the Chavez plot was farce. The rapid unraveling of the coup suggested that the Venezuelan plotters would have done better seeking advise from Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist rather than from Reich. It soon became public that Bush officials maintained a web of connections with the conspirators and appeared to have foreknowledge of the plot. Using the same conduit Reagan used to fund the contras, the National Endowment for Democracy, the administration had funneled money to Venezuelan opposition.
According to British media, Abrams gave a nod to the plotters; Otto Reich, a former ambassador to Venezuela, met repeatedly with Pedro Carmona and other coup leaders. The day Carmona seized the presidency, Reich summoned ambassadors from Latin America and the Caribbean to his office and endorsed the new government.
Meanwhile, Negroponte was hard at work at the UN enforcing the U.S. unilateralist ultimata. He attempted to undermine the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court to try people accused of genocide, war crimes, etc. Given his history, it's easy to understand his squeamishness at the thought of accountability. Soon after the U.S. "unsigned" the ICC treaty, Negroponte threatened Security Council members with pulling U.S. observers and police from the UN's peacekeeping operations in East Timor -- unless UN (and therefore, U.S.) personnel were excluded from possible prosecution. The move failed.
Otto Reich is also back to his old tricks and cozying up to hard-right Latin American leaders. In an unusual move for such a high-ranking State Department official, he met with Alvaro Uribe less than a week after his election as president of Colombia. The hardliner and the U.S. are in sync in supporting a military solution to that nation's long-standing counterinsurgency.
An anti-Castro ideologue, Reich was quick to accuse Cuba of developing a biological warfare capacity. Before you could ask "Where's the evidence?" his own State Department published a sweeping 177-page report on global terrorism. The Miami Herald wrote that Reich, "appeared initially confused when asked why the report made no mention of Cuba's bio-weapons research."
"Is it an oversight?" asked Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND).
"I do not know who publishes that particular document," said Reich.
"It's your department that publishes it," said Dorgan. "This is a State Department publication."
It's deja vu all over again, and while the plot and dialogue are farce, the toll in lost liberties and lives is tragic. Again
-- Terry Allen
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