John Dimitri Negroponte has been the United States ambassador to the United Nations since September 2001. He is a career diplomat who served in the US Foreign Service from 1960 to 1997. On April 19, 2004, Negroponte was nominated by US President George W. Bush to be US ambassador to Iraq after the June 30 handover.
His appointment to the UN post was a controversial one because of his involvement in covert funding of the Contras and his covering up of human rights abuses in Honduras in the 1980s. He is seen by many as a terrorist sponsor for supporting the Contra insurgency against the left wing Sandinistas, the first ever democratically elected government of Nicaragua. He is also acused of inciting Contra attacks on civilians.
John Dimitri Negroponte was born on July 21, 1939 in London. His father was a Greek shipping magnate. He graduated from Yale University in 1960. He later served at eight different Foreign Service posts in Asia, Europe and Latin America; and he also held important positions at the State Department and the White House. From 1997 until his appointment as ambassador to the UN, Negroponte was an executive with McGraw-Hill. He speaks five languages.
From 1981 to 1985 Negroponte was US ambassador to Honduras. During his tenure, he oversaw the growth of military aid to Honduras from $4 million to $77.4 million a year. According to The New York Times, Negroponte was responsible for "carrying out the covert strategy of the Reagan administration to crush the Sandinistas government in Nicaragua." Critics say that during his ambassadorship, human rights violations in Honduras became systematic.
Negroponte supervised the creation of the El Aguacate air base, where the US trained Nicaraguan Contras and which critics say was used as a secret detention and torture center during the 1980s. In August 2001, excavations at the base discovered 185 corpses, including two Americans, who are thought to have been killed and buried at the site.
Records also show that a special intelligence unit of the Honduran armed forces, Battalion 3-16, trained by the CIA and Argentine military, kidnapped, tortured and killed hundreds of people, including US missionaries. Critics charge that Negroponte knew about these human rights violations and yet continued to collaborate with the Honduran military while lying to Congress.
In May 1982, a nun, Sister Laetitia Bordes, who had worked for ten years in El Salvador, went on a fact-finding delegation to Honduras to investigate the whereabouts of thirty Salvadoran nuns and women of faith who fled to Honduras in 1981 after Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination. Negroponte claimed the embassy knew nothing. But in a 1996 interview with the Baltimore Sun, Negroponte's predecessor, Jack Binns, said that a group of Salvadorans, among whom were the women Bordes had been looking for, were captured on April 22, 1981, and savagely tortured by the DNI, the Honduran Secret Police, and then later thrown out of helicopters alive.
In early 1984, two American mercenaries, Thomas Posey and Dana Parker, contacted Negroponte, stating they wanted to supply arms to the Contras after the U.S. Congress had banned further military aid. Documents show that Negroponte brought the two with a contact in the Honduran armed forces The operation was exposed nine months later, at which point the Reagan administration denied any US involvement, despite Negroponte's participation in the scheme. Other documents uncovered a plan of Negroponte and then-Vice President George H. W. Bush to funnel Contra aid money through the Honduran government.
During his tenure as US ambassador to Honduras, Binns, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter, made numerous complaints about human rights abuses by the Honduran military and he claimed he fully briefed Negroponte on the situation before leaving the post. When the Reagan administration came to power, Binns was replaced by Negroponte, who has consistently denied having knowledge of any wrongdoing. Later, the Honduras Commission on Human Rights accused Negroponte himself of human rights violations.
Speaking of Negroponte and other senior US officials, an ex-Honduran congressman, Efrain Diaz, told the Baltimore Sun, which in 1995 published an extensive investigation of US activities in Honduras:
- Their attitude was one of tolerance and silence. They needed Honduras to loan its territory more than they were concerned about innocent people being killed.
When President Bush announced Negroponte's appointment to the UN shortly after coming to office, it was met with widespread protest. However, the Bush administration did not back down and even went so far as to try to silence potential witnesses. On March 25, the Los Angeles Times reported on the sudden deportation from the United States of several former Honduran death squad members who could have provided damaging testimony against Negroponte in his Senate confirmation hearings. One of the deportees was General Luis Alonso Discua, founder of Battalion 3-16. In the preceding month, Washington had revoked the visa of Discua who was Honduras' Deputy Ambassador to the UN. Nonetheless, Discua went public with details of US support of Battalion 3-16.
- When John Negroponte was ambassador he looked the other way when serious atrocities were committed. One would have to wonder what kind of message the Bush administration is sending about human rights by this appointment.
- UN biography
- Honduras Documentation Project (at GWU's National Security Archive)
- John Negroponte (at Derechos.org)
- "Iran-contra men return to power"(from the Guardian)
- "A carefully crafted deception" (Baltimore Sun on Negroponte in Honduras)
- "Iran-Contra gangsters resurface in Bush administration" (World Socialist Web Site)
|United States Ambassadors to the United Nations||