Bush nominates Contra veterans
June 27, 2001
The Bush administration is resuscitating the careers of U.S. officials who oversaw the Contra war in Nicaragua.
In March, President George W. Bush nominated Otto Reich, a former state department official during the Reagan administration, for assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere.
Reich's job during the Reagan administration was to create public support in the United States for the Nicaraguan anti-Sandinista rebels, also known as the Contras.
Earlier this month, Bush nominated John D. Negroponte for U.N. ambassador and before that, Elliot Abrams for a post at the National Security Council.
If their nominations are approved, it could mean a troubling period for Latin America and human rights.
As ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, Negroponte worked closely with top Honduran military officials during the U.S. government's bloody and covert war on communism in Latin America that cost thousands of lives. He led a zealous campaign against leftist movements in the region and ignored human-rights abuses committed by the U.S.-trained Honduran military.
A CIA inquiry found that Negroponte's office did not properly report serious rights violations in Honduras to Washington during his tenure. He has denied knowledge of human-rights abuses, according to the New York Times.
What's even more troubling is the pending nomination of Elliot Abrams to the National Security Council -- a post that requires no senate confirmation. When U.S. journalists reported that an elite, U.S.-trained military unit had massacred hundreds of villagers in El Mozote, El Salvador, on Dec. 11, 1981, Abrams, a former assistant secretary of state for Latin America during the Reagan years, told Congress that the story was propaganda. But the massacre has since been confirmed.
In 1993, a U.N. commission attributed 85 percent of the abuses and murders in El Salvador to the Reagan administration-funded right-wing military and its allies. Yet, while in office, Abrams declared that the "administration's record on El Salvador is one of fabulous achievement," according to a recent article in The Nation.
Abrams was even more brazen about U.S. policy to aid the Contras against the Nicaraguan government. He eventually pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of lying to Congress about the Reagan administration's Contra program. Former President Bush included Abrams in his lame-duck pardons.
If the nominations of Reich, Negroponte and Abrams are approved, we could see U.S. foreign policy shift back toward Cold-War zealotry. Such policy approaches would be perilous and could prove costly, not just in dollars but in human lives.
Bernardo Ruiz is a free-lance writer and documentary producer living in New York City. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.