Archived: Honduras: Torture cells, graves at US-Contra base

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Rich Winkel

May 10, 2004, 7:09:25 PM5/10/04
From: (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Honduras authorities find torture cells, graves at U.S.-built base
Date: 1999/08/14
Message-ID: <Atjt3.9344$>

/** reg.honduras: 92.0 **/
** Topic: Honduras authorities find torture cells, graves at U.S.-built base **
** Written 4:12 AM Aug 13, 1999 by in cdp:reg.honduras **

Honduras authorities find torture cells, graves at U.S.-built base

August 12, 1999 Web posted at: 10:42 p.m. EDT (0242 GMT)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) -- A U.S.-built military base in Honduras
contains cramped metal cells apparently used to torture and kill political
prisoners, a top Honduran official said Thursday.

The cells -- along with dozens of possible grave sites -- were discovered
this week at El Aguacate air base in eastern Honduras, which the United
States built for Nicaraguan Contra rebels in the 1980s. Authorities had
announced the discovery of the first grave site containing unidentified
human remains earlier this month.

"In the middle of overgrown brush at El Aguacate, we found six sites with
tombs and metal cells where we believe the army tortured, killed and buried
its victims," Sandra Ponce, Honduras' attorney general for human rights,
told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from the base.

The freestanding cells, which Ponce said are big enough to hold two or
three people each, appear to further challenge claims by Honduran army
officials that "nothing is hidden" at the base, 80 miles (130 kms) east of
the capital, Tegucigalpa.

"We suspect there are more than 48 graves in the area, holding the remains
of an undetermined number of people buried there in the 1980s by the
military," Ponce said.

Reporters will not be given access to the site until forensic experts from
the United States and Germany have examined it.

One of the apparent grave sites measures 500 yards (meters) in length, and
may hold victims of executions by the Contras, a rebel force the United
States created and trained to fight the leftist Sandinista government of
Nicaragua from across the border in Honduras in the 1980s.

But Ponce said her investigation is limited for now to the 184
disappearances attributed to the Honduran army, which include 105 Honduran
leftists, 39 Nicaraguans, 28 Salvadorans, five Costa Ricans, four
Guatemalans, an American, an Ecuadorian and a Venezuelan.

"Starting next week, we'll dig there to look for more evidence," Ponce
said. "In other areas of the base, it looks like dirt has been moved by the
army, possibly to destroy evidence."

Among the graves could be the remains of American priest-turned-guerrilla
James Francis Carney, who disappeared in 1982, Human Rights Commissioner
Leo Valladares said. Authorities had announced the discovery of Carney's
remains in May, but later said they had been mistaken.

Valladares has blamed the armed forces for operating a death squad trained
by military personnel from the United States, Taiwan, Nicaragua and Argentina.

El Aguacate air base was built by U.S. forces in 1983 and staffed by the
Contras and Honduran army troops.

In July, provincial military chief Col. Leonel Pavon denied reports of
clandestine graves at the base, saying "nothing is hidden in El Aguacate
... and any authority can prove what I say."

The armed forces governed Honduras for almost 20 years after ousting three
civilian presidents in 1957, 1963 and 1972. They abandoned power in 1982,
although they still hold great influence in the country.

Last month, President Carlos Flores Facusse fired four top military
officials in an attempt to quell a power struggle in the military, but
emphatically denied media reports of an attempted coup.

Rev. Wes Rehberg, Ph.D.-- Strategic Pastoral Action (SPAN)
Rushville United Methodist Church
24 North Main St., PO Box 98
Rushville, NY 14544 USA
+716-554-6644 phone & fax;
+716-554-6534 church phone,
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without profit or payment and is for non-profit research and
education purposes only.

** End of text from cdp:reg.honduras **

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