As the Senate considers the nomination of John D. Negroponte to be
the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, it is important to look at
charges that, as ambassador to Honduras, Negroponte suppressed
information about the Honduran military's human rights violations. This
is a serious matter. What is the evidence?
According to a 1997 CIA inspector general's report, U.S. officials in
Honduras were aware of serious violations of human rights by the Honduran
military during the 1980s but did not adequately report this to Congress.
A heavily redacted version of the report notes particularly that the U.S.
Embassy suppressed sensitive data during Negroponte's time there.
I am especially concerned about the disappearance of two U.S.
citizens--Father James "Guadalupe" Carney and David Arturo Baez
Cruz--during Negroponte's tenure. Carney had come to Honduras in 1983 as
a chaplain to a revolutionary group, which included Baez Cruz, a
Nicaraguan American who had served in the U.S. special forces. The group
was captured by the Honduran army, and Carney "disappeared" along with
nearly all of the 96 members of the group.
U.S. officials eventually gave Carney's chalice and stole, turned up
by the Honduran army, to his relatives. But the army never explained the
circumstances of the priest's death, suggesting only that he probably
starved in the mountains. Five years later, in 1988, the New York Times
reported that a former officer of the Honduran army said he personally
had interrogated Carney. Carney's body has not been found, and the people
responsible for his death have not been identified. Whether any U.S.
agents or officials were involved in his disappearance remains an open
In a section with repeated references to the capture and execution of
Jose Maria Reyes Mata, the political leader of the group, the CIA
inspector general's report cited a source whose name has been blacked out
who "believes that the embassy country team in Honduras wanted reports on
subjects such as this to be benign to avoid Congress looking over its
Reporting murders, executions and corruption, says the source, would
"reflect negatively on Honduras and not be beneficial in carrying out
U.S. policy." The embassy seemed particularly sensitive to reports about
the operation in which the two U.S. citizens disappeared, the report
said, quoting another source as recalling "a discussion . . . circa 1983
wherein the latter indicated that unspecified individuals at the embassy
did not want information concerning human rights abuses . . . to be
disseminated because it was viewed as an internal Honduran matter." This
is corroborated by an Aug. 19, 1985, handwritten memo declassified by the
State Department: "Fr. Carney case . . . is dead. Front office does not
want the case active. . . . We aren't telling that to the family."
The CIA report cites another person whose name has been deleted as
explaining "the basis for no further reporting on the prisoner
executions--the event had been reported previously and there was concern
on the part of Negroponte that over-emphasis would create an unwarranted
human rights problem for Honduras." Among his conclusions, the CIA
inspector general states: "The ambassador was particularly sensitive
regarding the issue and was concerned that earlier CIA reporting on the
same topic might create a human rights problem for Honduras. Based on the
ambassador's reported concerns, [blacked out] actively discouraged
[blacked out] from following up the information reported by the [blacked
It was up to members of Congress to determine whether Honduras had a
human rights problem. But Negroponte denied them the facts needed for
Father Joseph E. Mulligan is a Jesuit priest from Detroit who has been working in Nicaragua since 1986.
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