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Updated 06/02/2008

Remembering 25 Years Ago—June 1983

June 1
José Eloy Torres Barahona, Honduran, disappears after being detained in the Tepeyac neighborhood of San Pedro Sula by unidentified agents dressed in civilian clothes.

“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

June 13
The Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared writes an open letter to Richard Stone, President Reagan's special envoy to Central America, complaining that the Honduran military is holding dissidents in clandestine jails. The letter, which is published in the major Honduran daily El Tiempo, says, "More than 40 people have been illegally arrested and tortured. Some have never been heard from since their arrest." The U.S. government never responds.

“A carefully crafted deception.” (Fourth of a four-part series.) Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson. The Baltimore Sun; June 18, 1995.

June 21
Maj. Juan Blas Salazar Mesa, head of the National Investigations Directorate of the Honduran Public Security Force, makes public statements attacking the Honduran Human Rights Commission. In his reported statements, Salazar accuses the commission of discrediting and working to destabilize the government. Referencing the case of Ines Murillo and other individuals who were initially detained-disappeared but subsequently charged with participating in terrorist activities, he claims that the commission "speaks only in favor of alleged and proven guerrillas and couldn't care less when honest citizens are illegally detained or kidnapped and often have to be rescued at the cost of casualties to security men." He says these actions prove that Honduran human rights groups are focused on "giving a bad name to Honduras' democracy" for "unpatriotic purposes that should be condemned by honest citizens." He adds that the police do not have to guarantee the rights of "those who attack our country."

Unclassified Telegram #192219 from the U.S. Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. to the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa.

The Honduran National Congress authorizes the establishment of a U.S.-funded and -staffed training camp near Puerto Castilla, on the Caribbean coast 150 miles north of Tegucigalpa. U.S. military advisers at the camp, known as the Regional Military Training Center (Spanish acronym, CREM), will provide counterinsurgency training to Salvadoran and Honduran soldiers. The Congress initially opposed the plan because Honduran Armed Forces chief Gen. Alvarez Martínez had not sought Congressional approval, as mandated by the Constitution, before authorizing foreign troops on Honduran soil. However, Congress ultimately gives its approval after a semantic compromise in which it is agreed that the Salvadoran soldiers will be referred to as "students." Operations begin with the arrival of 120 Green Berets to train an anticipated 2,400 Salvadoran soldiers and 1,400 Hondurans. Ultimately, CREM also operates as a clandestine detention center, where at least 20 individuals are held. (The remains of at least one detainee is eventually discovered in an unmarked burial site.)

"Honduras approves a U.S. training camp." New York Times; June 22, 1983.

"Base plan raises Honduran tension." New York Times; June 26, 1983.

"Military base at Puerto Castilla, Honduras." Central America Historical Institute, Vol. 2, No. 18; Aug. 9, 1983.

“Honduras: still waiting for justice.” Amnesty International; March 31, 1998

June 26
The New York Times reports an increase in police surveillance activities due in part to concerns about potential leftist subversion in Honduras. According to a European diplomat, the situation is ''more tense'' than at any time since the country's return to democracy the previous year. Furthermore, a Honduran professional is reported as saying that, after a spate of unexplained abductions, ''people are not saying what they think.''

"Base plan raises Honduran tension." The New York Times; June 26, 1983.

June 28
Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Elliot Abrams meets with Ramon Custodio, president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH), to discuss the human rights situation in Honduras. According to Abrams' description of the meeting in a cable to the ambassador to Honduras, John Negroponte, Custodio and Abrams discuss the ongoing problem of disappearances, prolonged illegal detentions and the Honduran authorities' practice of responding to writs of habeas corpus by denying that the individual is in custody. Abrams notes in his cable that while "Honduras' overall human rights record is so much better than that of most of its Central American neighbors... if the matter of illegal detentions is becoming common practice, I would find it to be a subject of concern."

Abrams also expresses concern over the "direct attack" by Maj. Juan Blas Salazar Mesa, saying "Salazar's remarks, if reported accurately, are most alarming in that they constitute an open invitation for any 'patriotic' Honduran citizen to attack the commission [CODEH]. Some may interpret Salazar's remarks as condoning physical attacks against commission members."

Abrams suggests that Negroponte "raise with appropriate [Honduran government] officials our concern over the practice of illegal detentions and alleged disappearances, pointing out that failure to abide by their own constitutional guarantees not only undermines respect for the law in Honduras but also opens up Honduras for criticism in the U.S. Congress and by other parties who are sincerely interested in seeing that Honduras' new democratic government succeeds." He also recommends that Negroponte "express our serious concern about the attack on the commission made by Blas Salazar, pointing out the irresponsibility of the attack and the dangerous climate his remarks may have created for members of the commission." It is not known whether Negroponte followed up on any of Abrams' suggestions.

Confidential Telegram #185712 from the U.S. Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. to the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa.