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Forgetting the general.

Pity Honduras. It's bad enough that our foreign policy has rendered this otherwise mineral-and land-rich nation a virtual banana republic. But must our major media continually misrepresent and distort news about this battered country?

Even our comic books have been unkind to it. Ariel Dorfman's How to Read Donald Duck notes that Donald's mythical South American retreat, dubbed "Hondorica" in the funny papers, shows the Hondurans as a happy, trusting bunch of children, easily hood, winked or placated. The Hondoricans are surrounded, in Dorfman's words, a permanent fount of riches an treasures for which they h

So when Donald thwarts a Hondorican revolution (when he's not averting uprisings, he's handing out bars of soap), the happy natives show their thanks by showering the imperialist water fowl with bananas and gold bullion, both of which they have aplenty and neither of which they seem to miss.

Honduras still gets no respect, especially in the U.S. press. The New Year's eve edition of the New York Times carried a page-seven story off the AP wire entitled: "Honduras to Open Files on Killings." The second paragraph, a veritable Gordian knot of AP double, speak, read:

The announcement {that the

Honduran military will open its

secret files on political killings in

the 1980s} came a day after the

release of a report by the government

human rights commission

accusing Argentine military advisers

and right-wing Nicaraguan

rebels of helping the United

States--trained Honduran troops

kill leftists in the 1980s.

The key word here is trained. The Argentines and Nicaraguans help, but the United States only trains. The facts are otherwise.

This most recent AP misrepresentation brought to mind another AP story written several years earlier about Honduras' de facto former leader. For years our man in Honduras was Colonel (later General) Gustavo Alvarez Martinez. When Alvarez was shot to death in January 1989, the Associated Press described him in alternately glowing and muted terms. The AP writer called him a "passionate anti-communist" but neglected to point out that Alvarez had spent years hobnobbing with the fascists and ultraright terrorists who made up the membership rosters of the World Anti-Communist League and its affiliated organization, the Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation (CAL).

AP also claimed that Alvarez had led a "counterinsurgency campaign" against. guerrillas and other suspected subversives but neglected to point out that he was most famous for stream, lining Honduras' death squads and uniting them under his control. Alvarez gathered together the National Front for the Defense of Democracy, the Honduran Anti-Communist Movement (MACHO), and the Anti-Communist Combat Army--death squads all--and combined them with several governmental forces, including Fuerzas de Seguridad Publica (FUSEP), Departmento Nacional de Investigaciones (DIN), and Tropas Especiales para Selva y Nocturnas (TESON).

After Alvarez's reorganization of the security forces, there wasn't a whit of difference left between the state's internal defense forces and that country's right-wing terrorists. They were one and the same, and the United States government knew it.

Through the dizzying early days of U.S. funding for the Nicaraguan contras, Alvarez thrived. He had spent years studying in Argentina, Panama, Peru, and the United States; spoke English fluently; and was even on the payroll of Standard Fruit, working for them as a union buster. When Ronald Reagan's ambassador to Honduras, John Negroponte, arrived in that country, he and Alvarez became fast friends. Together, Negroponte and Alvarez rode rough, shod over the elected civilian president, Roberto Suazo Cordova, using him to wrest agreements and concessions from a weak congress. And with the help of then-CIA director William Casey, Alvarez and Negroponte turned Honduras into a virtual staging ground for contra incursions into neighboring Nicaragua. Over time, according to the Washington Office on Latin America, Alvarez began using the contras in his own "private" security force, dubbed Battalion 3-16.

In May 1983, the Honduran congress issued the notorious Decree 33, which declared anyone a "terrorist" who distributed political literature, associated with foreigners, joined groups deemed subversive by the government, damaged property or destroyed documents. The government simply codified what had been a common understanding, as such "terrorists" had long been the targets of Alvarez's forces, who wantonly murdered upwards of 500 people over the course of a few years (not 100, as the Times reported back in 1989).

But Alvarez's heavy-handed ways with his own military led to his ouster as Honduras' acting dictator in 1984, Shortly thereafter, the unindicted war criminal went to work as a "special consultant" to the Rand Corporation. With the help of Nestor Sanchez of the Department of Defense, Alvarez landed a job working with Rand's top anti-terrorism expert, Brian Jenkins--a ubiquitous talking head after last year's World Trade Center bombing.

Still, a cushy consulting job in Santa Monica wasn't quite enough for the deposed generalissimo. During Alvarez's Rand stint, the FBI discovered and broke up a drug-financed, Miami-based plot to kill Honduran President Suazo Cordova and restore the jilted general to power. Clearly, Alvarez Martinez and his cronies were knee-deep in the cocaine trade as well--a little fact reported by Christopher Dickey in his deeply disturbing book, With the Contras.

So, to return to the Times' and AP's most recent revision of Honduras in the early eighties, one must read passages like this with some suspicion: "The rights commission's report blamed Honduran counterintelligence units trained by Americans and Argentines and backed by the contras for the torture and killings of leftists in the 1980s, when much of Central America was engulfed in civil wars." While the wire story mentions Alvarez and Battalion 3-16, claiming that the commission's report "blamed much of the wrongdoing on Intelligence Batallion 3-16" (sic), it neglects to mention that Honduras' woes were manufactured in, and fully funded by, our own government working in cahoots with yet another wanna-be dictator.
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Title Annotation:Ex Umbris; former Honduran leader Gustavo Alvarez Martinez
Author:O'Sullivan, Gerry
Publication:The Humanist
Date:Mar 1, 1994
Previous Article:Fathers have rights, too.
Next Article:Inman's friends and other enemies.

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