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Remembering 25 Years Ago
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Remembering 25 Years Ago:
A Look Back at a National Trauma 

Twenty-five years ago Hondurans began to witness a pattern of forced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings in their country. As part of a strategy to stop the perceived tide of leftist revolution from spilling into Honduras, the Honduran military, with support from the United States, initiated a policy to eliminate people suspected of having ties to the insurgency in El Salvador or the Sandinista revolutionary government in Nicaragua or of supporting insurgent activity within Honduras.

Student leaders, trade unionists, clergy and other political and human rights activists were abducted off the street or taken from their homes, often in front of eyewitnesses. The perpetrators were frequently dressed in civilian clothes, thus enabling Honduran security forces to deny involvement. Victims who survived told stories of interrogation and torture, and those whose bodies were found showed signs of brutal abuse; many individuals simply disappeared.

Despite official denials at the time, it is now known that the Honduran military was responsible for most of these operations, the bulk of which occurred from 1981 to 1984. In addition, official sources reveal that the U.S. government knew that human rights abuses were taking place but failed to take steps to stop them—and through military funding and training, actually helped foster this climate of abuse.

In recognition of the 25 years that have passed, and in honor of the many individuals and families who have suffered, the following month-by-month list chronicles every known case of disappearance as well as other key events related to this dark era of Honduran history. For more information about the history of U.S. involvement in Honduras in the 1980s and the resulting human rights abuses, visit the History section of this Web site.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—April 1984
Honduran Armed Forces chief is replaced after a barracks coup and 4,000 Hondurans protest U.S. presence in the country.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—March 1984
Two activists are detained and disappeared.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—February 1984
U.S. Congress members oppose military buildup in Honduras; human rights groups decry Honduran abuses; a man is disappeared by Nicaraguan contra forces.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—January 1984
A university law student is killed in police custody.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—December 1983
DNI agents allegedly abduct and shoot two men, killing one, and arrest and brutally beat 16 young workers; another man is abducted by plainclothes agents; Honduras denies allegations by the Netherlands of human rights abuses.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—November 1983
U.S. Embassy's Honduras human rights report downplays abuses, and a secret letter from the head of Honduran Armed Forces acknowledges prisoners are held in a U.S-funded training center. (español)

Remembering 25 Years Ago—October 1983
Two Honduran nurses disappear; CIA is reported to be directing Contras from bases in Honduras, where human rights abuses are also alleged. (español)

Remembering 25 Years Ago—September 1983
The Honduran army executes up to 70 prisoners in an anti-insurgent operation, and an American citizen is among the victims; three Hondurans disappear in separate incidents. (español)

Remembering 25 Years Ago—August 1983
The Honduran military, with U.S. support, launches an operation against a group of insurgents, and an American priest is among the many victims; a Honduran man disappears in Tegucigalpa; Ambassador Negroponte downplays human rights violations. (español)

Remembering 25 Years Ago—July 1983
A Honduran man is detained, held in a U.S.-funded military facility and ultimately disappears, and another Honduran is temporarily detained and tortured. (español)

Remembering 25 Years Ago—June 1983
A Honduran disappears, human rights advocates voice concern to U.S. officials, an Army major threatens human rights groups, and the Honduran Congress approves a U.S. training camp that ultimately serves as a clandestine detention center.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—May 1983
A Honduran merchant disappears and a journalist is expelled.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—April 1983
A Honduran merchant, a Honduran hospital school employee and a Guatamalan man disappear.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—March 1983
Two activists are detained and tortured; a Nicaraguan woman and a Honduran man are abducted and disappeared.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—February 1983
A Salvadoran woman disappears after she is detained by Honduran soldiers; a Honduran woman disappears and her companion is found murdered.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—January 1983
A campesino disappears after being detained, and a labor union and Communist Party leader is murdered.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—December 1982
A businessman and his assistant, a union leader, and shoemaker disappear after being detained; all remain missing to this day.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—November 1982
The Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared is established.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—October 1982
The Roman Catholic bishops of Honduras speak out against disappearances.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—September 1982
A Catholic relief agency volunteer disappears.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—August 1982
A medical student and student-union leader, a maintenance workers' union leader, and a Honduran woman disappear; all remain missing.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—July 1982
A journalism professor and his wife are detained, tortured and deported; a university student disappears and his mutilated body is found years later; a teacher and union activist is disappeared and remains missing.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—June 1982
An American nurse is detained and abused; a Guatemalan doctor is disappeared and presumed murdered; two brothers and their nephew are detained and disappear, and their family members tortured for investigating the disappearances; a mechanic and a farmer disappear after being arrested, and their bodies found years later.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—May 1982
A Honduran is kidnapped and executed by a paramilitary group maintained by Honduran public security forces.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—April 1982
Honduran Army chief confirms increased presence of U.S. military advisers; six university students are abducted, detained and tortured, and two are briefly imprisoned on "antigovernment" charges.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—February 1982
A government legal adviser disappears after being detained; his tortured body is later found.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—January 1982
Four students and activists are detained and disappear; Honduras's first civilian president in almost two decades is sworn in.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—December 1981
A teacher, a university student, a lay worker and his employer, a union leader, and another man disappear after being detained; all remain missing.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—November 1981
A mechanic is disappears after being detained; President Reagan authorizes the CIA to create a paramilitary Contra force, with safe houses and training camps around Honduras.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—October 1981
A Salvadoran refugee disappears after being detained; John Negroponte is appointed as new U.S. ambassador to Honduras.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—September 1981
Five Hondurans, including two university students, disappear after being detained; Hondurans stage two large demonstrations protesting the recent disappearances and demanding justice.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—August 1981
Twenty-one individuals disappear after being arrested as part of a Honduran Army crackdown on a Salvadoran insurgent support network.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—July 1981
Two cattle business owners are detained, and their tortured bodies are found three days later; U.S. ambassador to Honduras is ordered to stop using official channels to report human rights abuses by the Honduran military.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—June 1981
A university professor and an agronomist, co-founders of the leftist People's Revolutionary Union, are abducted from the home where they are sleeping, and one is later found murdered; U.S. ambassador to Honduras reports to Washington his concern at "increasing evidence of officially sponsored/sanctioned assassinations of political targets."

Remembering 25 Years Ago—April 1981
Twelve Salvadoran refugees, a Guatemalan student and a Costa Rican disappear after being detained.

Remembering 25 Years Ago—February 1981
Two Nicaraguan men disappear, allegedly after being kidnapped by a group of Nicaraguan Contras.

MISF Media Launches 25-Year Retrospective of Honduran Rights Abuses
New Web feature looks back at the pattern of state-sponsored abuse during the 1980s