News Release

Interviews Available on Negroponte: * Meaning of “Sovereignty” * Support for Death Squads


Conteris is a Latin America human rights activist. He was detained and released in the Capitol after speaking up Tuesday at U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte’s Senate confirmation hearing on his nomination to be ambassador to Iraq. Negroponte was U.S. ambassador to Honduras during the Nicaragua Contra war in the early 1980s.

At the hearing Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) asked Negroponte if “the sovereign Iraqi government of July 1 would not have veto authority over military involvement in [a situation like] Fallujah? … If they have sovereignty, Mr. Ambassador, what does that mean? …”

Negroponte: “That is why I use the term ‘exercise of sovereignty.’ I think in the case of military activity, their forces will come under the unified command of the multinational force. That is the plan….” U.S. forces, said Negroponte, “are going to be free to operate in Iraq as they best see fit.” Situations like Fallujah would have to be the “subject of real dialogue between our military commanders, the new Iraqi government and the U.S. Mission as well.”

Conteris spoke up; objecting to such a “dialogue,” he said: “We need to support nonviolence, not the violent policies of the United States. There is no sovereignty Mr. Ambassador if the U.S. continues to exercise security. Senators, please ask the ambassador about Battalion 316. Ask him about a death squad in Honduras that he supported.” Conteris was then removed from the hearing room by the Capitol Police.

Conteris said later: “I spoke up because Negroponte at that moment was talking about sovereignty. I lived in Honduras for five years, I know the impact Negroponte’s policies had there in the early 1980s. At the time Honduras was known as the USS Honduras, basically an occupied aircraft carrier. Negroponte has been involved in subverting sovereignty in several other countries: Vietnam, the Philippines; he worked on Mexico’s adoption of NAFTA and tried to subvert Panamanian control over the canal.”

More Information

Awad is founder and chairman of Nonviolence International. He said today: “The appointment of Negroponte is likely to inflame the outrage of many Iraqis, and rightly so.” Spokesperson for the group, Wells said today: “Iraqis are increasingly united in their opposition to the pseudo-sovereignty now likely to be imposed on June 30, 2004. Imagine their ire when they learn that a notorious cheerleader for disastrous U.S. policies in Central America and Indochina will be the Pro Consul leading the occupation of their country.”
More Information

Birns is director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, which recently released the report “Negroponte: Nominee for Baghdad Embassy a Rogue for All Seasons.” Birns said today: “Negroponte’s nomination couldn’t be more controversial, largely due to his notorious tenure as U.S. ambassador to Honduras, 1981-85, when he stonewalled inquiries of how much he knew about death squads in Honduras whose targets were dissidents in the country who were opposed to their nation being used as an ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’ in the secret and illegal U.S.-sponsored Contra war against the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. More recently, as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the debate over going to war against Iraq, Negroponte pressed Secretary Powell to pressure Chile’s and Mexico’s weak-willed leaders to discharge their U.N. ambassadors over their votes against Washington’s actions. The choice of Negroponte, the arch authoritarian, to teach democracy to the Iraqis is a cruel joke, given his sordid human rights record while he served in Honduras…. The [Senate] hearings have turned out to be a celebration rather than a responsible exercise of the advise and consent responsibilities spelled out by the Constitution.”
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167