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Updated 10/02/2008

Remembering 25 Years Ago—August 1983

(español)

Aug. 1

Two deserters from the Central American Revolutionary Workers Party (PRTC), a leftist guerrilla force considered at the time to be a significant security threat, turn themselves in to the Honduran army, revealing that a 96-member Honduran branch of the PRTC had entered Honduras from Nicaragua and was operating in Olancho Province. The Honduran military immediately launches Operation Patuca to locate and capture the guerrillas in the remote, mountainous region. U.S. forces are present for the operation through mid-August, although the Pentagon describes them as participating in a "simulated counterinsurgency operation."

Among the PRTC force, which crossed into Honduras in mid-July, is American Jesuit priest James Francis Carney, who is serving as chaplain to the group. The Honduran army quickly defeats the insurgents during August and September. Most of its members are killed, captured, desert or die of starvation; according to various accounts included in a 1997 CIA Inspector General's report, as many as 70 guerrillas are executed. U.S. military advisers assist Honduran intelligence agents in the debriefing of deserters and captives.

Sources

“In Search of Hidden Truths. An Interim Report on Declassification by the National Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras.” Leo Valladares Lanza and Susan C. Peacock.

 "Excerpts from 'Selected Issues Relating to CIA Activities in Honduras in the 1980s.'” U.S. CIA, Office of the Inspector General; Aug. 27, 1997.


Early to mid-August

Marco Antonio Marín Aguilar, a 19-year-old Honduran student and member of the PRTC insurgents (see above), disappears after being captured by Honduran military and intelligence forces in Olancho Province. According to a Honduran military report, in October 1983 Col. Oscar Hernández Chávez transfers Marín Aguilar to secret detention at the U.S.-funded Regional Military Training Center, where he is held along with other "disappeared" individuals. (See June 1983 edition.) His whereabouts remain unknown.

Sources

“Honduras: The Facts Speak for Themselves.” The Preliminary Report of the National Commissioner for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras. Human Rights Watch; July 1994

"Informe Especial." Fuerzas Armada de Honduras, Centro Regional de Entrenamiento Militar (CREM). Nov. 30, 1984.


Aug. 10

Victor Manuel Ramos, Honduran, disappears after being detained in Tegucigalpa's Central Park by armed men who identify themselves agents of the National Investigations Directorate. In September 1983, Cap. Ciro Pablo Fernández transfers Ramos to secret detention detention at the U.S.-funded Regional Military Training Center, where he is held along with other "disappeared" individuals. (See June 1983 http://www.mayispeakfreely.org/index.php?gSec=doc&doc_id=294 edition.) His whereabouts remain unknown.

Source

Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras Web site, Desaparecidos en 1983, Victor Manuel Ramos.


Aug. 12

An op-ed by U.S. Ambassador to Honduras John Negroponte, titled "Honduras is well worth saving," appears in the Los Angeles Times. In it, Negroponte acknowledges the existence of human-rights abuses in the country, but plays down the severity of the situation and denies any deliberate government role. "If there is a soft spot in Honduras' otherwise positive political record, it is in human rights. There have been arbitrary arrests and credible allegations of some disappearances… [but] there is no indication that the infrequent human-rights violations that do occur are part of deliberate government policy," he writes. The events of this and recent months, however, appear to contradict the ambassador's assertions.

Learn more about Negroponte (now U.S. deputy secretary of state) and his human rights record here.

Source

"Honduras is well worth saving: it is a liberal democracy surrounded by the region's turmoil." John D. Negroponte. Los Angeles Times; Aug. 12, 1983.


Aug. 30

The Rev. James Francis Carney (see above, Aug. 1) is last reportedly seen alive on this date, according to captured members of the PRTC insurgent force who say the priest, about 65 years of age, had become progressively weaker and malnourished during their march through the mountains. What ultimately became of Carney remains unknown. The most widely accepted scenario, at least on an official level, is that he died of severe malnutrition. However, another possibility—one publicly acknowledged by the CIA in 1997—is that Carney was captured and killed by the Honduran military, and perhaps tortured and dismembered. Adding credence to this possibility, Lucas Aguilera of the Christian Democrat Party in Honduras testifies in 2002 that he had seen Carney alive in military detention in Olancho, and in November 2002 former U.S. Army Delta Force member Eric Haney, who says he participated in the Olancho operation, states that Carney was killed during the operation and, according to a CIA agent he spoke with, "… he was brutalized prior to his death … the marks that were on his body had to have been inflicted while he was still alive." 

For more information, read the full case history on Father Carney.

Sources

“In Search of Hidden Truths. An Interim Report on Declassification by the National Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras.” Leo Valladares Lanza and Susan C. Peacock.

"Excerpts from 'Selected Issues Relating to CIA Activities in Honduras in the 1980s.'” U.S. CIA, Office of the Inspector General; Aug. 27, 1997. 

"U.S. Soldier Kills Former Green Beret & Admits Priest Was 'Brutalized'." Joseph Mulligan. Witness Magazine; Jan. 28, 2004.

"Opinion: Dear CBS, Did 'The Unit' Kill U.S. Citizen Father James Carney, Too?" Joseph E. Mulligan. May I Speak Freely; June 9, 2006.

"Ex-Green Beret's Sandinista story emerges 20 years later." Juan O. Tamayo. The Miami Herald; Sept. 3, 2003. 

"CIA Stipulations to Facts Regarding Honduran Military Activities and U.S. Intelligence in Honduras in the 1980s." Excerpt from the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination of John D. Negroponte to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (S. Hrg. 107-781); Sept. 13, 2001.


To read past editions, go to the Remembering 25 Years Ago archive.