Carney's alleged killers grads of SOA.
While details of the death of Fr. James "Guadalupe" Carney have surfaced from various sources over the years, the extensive links of his killers to the counterinsurgency school have not been reported.
The accounts of Carney's death have been largely based on testimony from Florencio Cabadero, a former Honduran intelligence officer who said the priest was tortured and then flung out of a helicopter by members of the Honduran Army's Battalion 3-16.
Caballero, a former 3-16 interrogator now in exile in Canada, said the priest's execution was ordered by Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, commander of the armed forces, who created 3-16, an elite army death squad that operated in the early 1980s.
Caballero's account, first reported in a 1987 Americas Watch report, was further detailed in interviews with Carney's family, portions of which appeared in a BBC documentary and in The Nation. Last November in Toronto, Caballero gave testimony to Honduran human rights prosecutors, who have long been seeking the release of all U.S. documents concerning Battalion 3-16 abuses.
The United States has so far refused to comply with the Honduran request, but an examination of the School of the Americas' alumni lists for Honduran officers, released under the Freedom of Information Act, shows the United States played no small role in training the alleged killers.
Alvarez and several 3-16 members whom Caballero has linked to Carney's death were trained at the school, which, in its training materials, has advocated the use of torture and assassination.
Caballero has said he was part of the intelligence unit that interrogated Carney after he was captured with a small band of rebels, whom the Honduran army crushed with the support of U.S. paratroopers.
The intelligence unit, led by Maj. Oscar Ramon Hernandez Chavez, included officer Juan Ramon Pena Paz, whose role was to issue execution orders, and Lt. Segundo Flores Murillo, a torturer who attended all interrogation sessions, according to Caballero.
School of the Americas records show that all three -- Hernandez, Pena and Flores -- are school alumni.
Caballero has said that Alvarez ordered his group, in the presence of U.S. personnel, to execute Carney after interrogating him. While not present at the interrogation, Caballero was told by Flores that Carney, after being tortured, made the sign of the cross and forgave his torturers.
Caballero said the priest was then put on a helicopter, supplied by Gen. Walter Lopez Reyes, and thrown to his death as the chopper flew over mountains near Rio Patuca. Lopez, then commander of the Air Force, had graduated from the School of the Americas just six months earlier, school records show.
Alvarez -- awarded the Legion of Merit in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan for promoting democracy -- formed Battalion 3-16 with the help of the CIA about a year after he graduated from the school in 1978, school records and human rights reports show.
U.S. Army documents declassified last September confirmed that the school used training manuals advocating the use of torture, false imprisonment, sodium pentothal and assassination.
Pentagon officials said the manuals were used at the school from 1982 to 1991 and distributed by mobile training teams all over Latin America. A former graduate has also said that years earlier, when the school was located in Panama, it demonstrated torture techniques using homeless people (see NCR, Oct. 4). The school moved to Fort Benning, Ga., in 1984.
The Honduran and U.S. governments have suggested that Carney died of starvation. While the Honduran officers returned Carney's chalice and stole to his family, it claimed not to know where his body was.
How Carney came to be a chaplain for a small band of rebels is detailed in his autobiography, To Be a Revolutionary, and a 1988 book on slain U.S. missionaries, Murdered in Central America.
Born in Chicago and raised in the Midwest, Carney served in the Army during World War II and then passed up a promising career as a civil engineer to join the Jesuits.
He began working with the poorest of the poor in Honduras, where his parishioners made 75 cents a day and lived in dirt-floor, one-room houses made of sticks and leaves.
Slowly it became evident to him that multinational corporations and local oligarchs were enriching themselves through cheap labor while crushing workers' attempts to organize. After peasants were thrown off their land, Carney became active in land reform and met with fierce opposition and death threats.
The priest's lifetime belief in pacifism was shaken in 1973 when a CIA-sponsored coup overthrew the elected Chilean president, Salvador Allende.
In 1978 Carney accused CIA and U.S. Embassy officials of buying votes to get a corrupt candidate re-elected as the head of a campesino union. The next year Carney was expelled from Honduras by the governing junta, headed by Gen. Policarpo Paz Garcia, who said Carney "embarrasses the North American government and its accredited embassy." Paz Garcia is also a graduate of the School of the Americas, records show.
Carney began working with peasants in neighboring Nicaragua, where the Sandinistas had just overthrown dictator Anastasio Somoza and had implemented medical and educational programs for the poor. In 1983 he returned to Honduras with a ragtag band of 96 rebels who hoped to replay the success of the Sandinistas. Carney decided to serve as their chaplain, in the belief that most Latin American guerrillas are poor Catholics fighting civil wars and have the same right to the sacraments as do members of brutal militaries.
Security forces quickly destroyed the rebels, many of whom surrendered and were executed despite army promises that they would not be harmed.
Thirteen years after his death, Carney remains a hem to the Honduran poor. Last September, 4,000 marched in Tocoa, demanding to know the truth about his disappearance.
While the U.S. government has released some files related to human rights abuses in Honduras, it has so far refused to declassify thousands of documents that could solve scores of disappearances and are likely to reveal U.S. complicity.
In December, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the CIA's inspector general both announced renewed investigations into the matter.
But human rights investigators aren't overly optimistic: the results of the Senate panel's 1988 probe into the CIA involvement with Battalion 3-16 was never made public, and the CIA has a poor track record investigating itself.
Cooper and Hodge are New Orleans-based writers who are completing a book on the School of the Americas.