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John Negroponte speaks at his swearing in ceremony as new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq on June 23, 2004. (Source: U.S. State Department)

THE NEGROPONTE FILE

NEGROPONTE'S CHRON FILE FROM TENURE IN HONDURAS POSTED

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 151 - Part 1

Edited by Peter Kornbluh

April 12 , 2005

[Go to Part 2]


Related Posting

The Negroponte File: Part 2

 

 

Close Relations with Honduran Military,
Contra "Special Project" Against Nicaraguan Sandinistas
Dominated Cable Traffic

Reporting on Human Rights Violations Nonexistent between 1982 and 1984

President George W. Bush nominated John Negroponte as the first Director of National Intelligence on February 17, 2005. (Source: White House)

Washington D.C., April 12, 2005 - As the Senate Intelligence Committee convenes to consider the nomination of John Negroponte to be Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Archive today posted hundreds of his cables written from the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa between late 1981 and 1984. The majority of his "chron file"- cables and memos written during his tenure as Ambassador- was obtained by the Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents were actually declassified at Negroponte's request in June 1998, after he had temporarily retired from the Foreign Service.

The 392 cables and memos record Negroponte's daily, and even hourly, activities as the powerful Ambassador to Honduras during the contra war in the early 1980s. They include dozens of cables in which the Ambassador sought to undermine regional peace efforts such as the Contadora initiative that ultimately won Costa Rican president Oscar Arias a Nobel Prize, as well as multiple reports of meetings and conversations with Honduran military officers who were instrumental in providing logistical support and infrastructure for CIA covert operations in support of the contras against Nicaragua -"our special project" as Negroponte refers to the contra war in the cable traffic. Among the records are special back channel communications with then CIA director William Casey, including a recommendation to increase the number of arms being supplied to the leading contra force, the FDN in mid 1983, and advice on how to rewrite a Presidential finding on covert operations to overthrow the Sandinistas to make it more politically palatable to an increasingly uneasy U.S. Congress.

Conspicuously absent from the cable traffic, however, is reporting on human rights atrocities that were committed by the Honduran military and its secret police unit known as Battalion 316, between 1982 and 1984, under the military leadership of General Gustavo Alvarez, Negroponte's main liaison with the Honduran government. The Honduran human rights ombudsman later found that more than 50 people disappeared at the hands of the military during those years. But Negroponte's cables reflect no protest, or even discussion of these issues during his many meetings with General Alvarez, his deputies and Honduran President Robert Suazo. Nor do the released cables contain any reporting to Washington on the human rights abuses that were taking place.

Today's posting by the National Security Archive includes the complete series of cables released under the Freedom of Information Act. The State Department released another several dozen cables from the series yesterday, and these are available in Part 2 of this posting.

 


Documents
Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

 

OVERSEEING THE CONTRA WAR


1) April 8, 1983, cable, "Venezuelan Relations with Nicaragua"

In a "roger channel" cable to Assistant Secretary of State Enders, Negroponte berates the State Department for open channel references in cable to U.S. backing for contras based in Honduras. He claims that the contras are all based now inside Nicaraguan territory and suggests that the Bureau of Intelligence and Research "circulate a piece pointing out that is precisely where they are and not rpt not in Honduras." In public statements, including letters to the New York Times and the Economist, Negroponte argues that there are no contra camps on Honduran territory.


2) July 9, 1984, cable, "General Lopez and Paz Barnica on Continued Support for the Anti-Sandinistas: Need for FDN Discretion."

In this cable Negroponte appears to concede that the contras are openly operating on Honduran territory and suggests that this is making Honduran government officials nervous. The leading contra group, the FDN, he reports, "has obviously overdone things and, if it does not want to wear out its welcome in Honduras, it will have to lower its profile to the absolute minimum. This will likely mean sacrificing public affairs activities from Honduras in order to preserve the ability to operate from here for more essential purposes." Negroponte urges the State Department to help by keeping Congressional delegations from stating that they are coming to Honduras to "meet with FDN, or visit contra camps."

3) May 13, 1983, memo, "General Alvarez Visit to Washington, May 16-17

In a back channel communication to CIA director William Casey, National Security Advisor William Clark and Assistant Secretary Thomas Enders, Negroponte begins to press for additional weapons for the contras in Honduras. He advises that this issue will be high on the agenda of the Honduran commander-in-chief, Gustavo Alvarez, when he comes to Washington. "This thing is starting to work and is building up a momentum, " he writes, sounding more like a CIA station chief than a diplomat. "It wouldn't surprise me," he predicts, "if the size of force could be doubled in next five months if we provided necessary weapons." Several months later, Negroponte recommends to the White House that the number of rifles, AK-47s, provided by the CIA to FDN personnel be increased by 3000 units. In November 1983, President Reagan authorizes Negroponte's recommendation.

4) May 26, 1983, cable, "Adolfo Calero"

Negroponte exchanges "roger channel" cables with the U.S. ambassador to Managua, Anthony Quainton, who has written to complain that the Ambassador to Honduras has invited the leader of the contra force known as the FDN to dinner at his house. In his telegram of May 23, Negroponte explains that he "met his first real live Nicaraguan exile activist; has his own home no less; and with customary and traditional sense of hospitality offered him dinner." Ambassador Quainton responds to what he calls Negroponte's "gastronomic diplomacy in Tegucigalpa." He notes that "I have my doubts about a dinner at the [embassy] residence for a man who is in the business of overthrowing a neighboring government." Perhaps, Quainton adds, "I should wine and dine Ruben Zamora et al [political leaders of the Salvadoran guerrillas] in order to maintain parity."

5) September 20, 1983, memo, "Follow-Up on Consultations"

After visiting Washington in mid September, Negroponte reports to Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs, Langhorne Motley, on visits with Congressmen and with CIA officials. He states that the CIA head of the Western Hemisphere division, Duane "Dewey" Clarridge, has shown him a draft of the new Presidential finding authorizing covert operations to support the contra war. "It focused almost exclusively on interdiction," Negroponte complains. "I sincerely believe that case can be made that the more complete the finding the broader the likely Congressional support." Eight days later, when President Reagan signs the final draft of the finding, it has been expanded beyond to the scope of interdicting arms allegedly going from Nicaragua to El Salvador to include promoting "meaningful negotiations and constructive, verifiable agreement with [Nicaragua's] neighbors on peace in the region."


ON NEGOTIATIONS

6) May 19, 1982, Cable, on Regional Negotiations

Negroponte argues that there is no negotiated settlement that will meet U.S. goals, even if the Sandinista government agrees to an accord that would curtail its support for other insurgencies. "We can visualize no such negotiated arrangement capable of ensuring that Nicaragua would not come back to cause trouble to its neighbors some other day," he writes, opposing any agreement that leaves the revolutionary government in place. "Indeed, such a negotiated outcome would be a Trojan horse not unlike the 1962 Cuban missile arrangement which facilitated consolidation of the Cuban revolution." This cable acknowledged the "political importance" of being "forthcoming" in negotiations over Nicaragua, but established the bottom line Negroponte reiterated throughout his tenure as ambassador: that the U.S. should prevent any peace accord that enabled the Sandinistas to remain in power.

7) May 21, 1983, Memo, "Contadora Process: Next Steps"

In a memorandum sent through a special back channel to CIA director William Casey and the State Department and NSC, Negroponte argues that the outcome of regional peace talks could lead to "effectively shutting down our special project," also known as the contra war. He asks if Washington is "falling prey to the Mexican/Nicaraguan salami slicer?"

8) October 24, 1983, Cable, "Contadora Developments: The Slippery Slope?"

As the Contadora peace process led by Venezuela and Mexico picked up steam in 1983, Negroponte presents the argument that Contadora was only advancing Nicaraguan interests. "Our side is in disarray," he cables Washington. "The sooner we recognize it and come up with a comprehensive strategy for dealing with the situation the better."

9) November 15, 1983, Cable, "Contadora Tactics: Poor Omens for Central America"

In yet another cable pressing the State Department to intervene to stop the momentum of the peace process in Central America, Negroponte admits that "No one will accuse this embassy of inconsistency in its skepticism towards the course on which the Contadora four are embarked." Contadora, he warns, could paint USG, Honduras and possibly El Salvador into a corner whereby we are accused of obstructing regional peace." Negroponte recommends that U.S. officials move to influence Contadora "towards a fundamental different approach." Eventually, U.S. officials manage to undercut an peace initiative put forth by Mexico and the peace process collapses.


CLOSE TIES TO HONDURAN MILITARY LEADERS


10) October 13, 1983, Cable, "General Alvarez on the Democratic Process"

Negroponte reports on what he sees as the Honduran top military commander's "commitment to constitutional government" and appears to laud his dedication to democracy. General Gustavo Alvarez, to whom the Honduran human rights ombudsman and other investigators have assigned responsibility for the death squad activity of the Honduran secret police Battalion 316 in the early 1980s, was Negroponte's key contact in the Honduran military on the contra war and for covert and overt U.S. use of Honduran military facilities. Five months after Negroponte wrote this cable, Alvarez was ousted as commander-in-chief because of his "authoritarian tendencies" and exiled to a diplomatic posting in South America.


THE COMPLETE NEGROPONTE FILE
As received from the State Department under the Freedom of Information Act

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