Negroponte: Human rights free zone

Preventing the world from condemning Israeli brutality is par for the course for top US official John Negroponte.

Negroponte is accused of turning a blind eye to rights abuses
Negroponte is accused of turning a blind eye to rights abuses

The American ambassador to the UN, who vetoed a resolution on Tuesday demanding Israel not harm the Palestinian president, is well-known for his callous disregard for human rights.

Justifying his country’s decision to protect the Israelis, Negroponte said the resolution should have condemned acts of “terrorism” by Palestinian resistance groups.

But those with long memories will find his pontificating hard to stomach.

After all, this is the man who stands accused of overseeing the funding of gruesome death squads during his tenure as American ambassador to Honduras.

Career diplomat

Born in London in 1939, Negroponte is the son of a Greek-American shipping magnate.

After studying and graduating from Yale he entered the Foreign Service in 1960, beginning a long career as a diplomat.

His foreign service duty spans nearly four decades and includes eight postings on several continents. 

From 1971 to 1973, Negroponte was the officer-in-charge for Vietnam at the National Security Council under Henry Kissinger.

His first overseas assignment was to the US embassy in Saigon in the mid-1960s, and since the 1980s he has been ambassador to Honduras, Mexico, and the Philippines.

Darker side 

Negroponte vetoed Tuesday’s UNresolution censuring Israel

Negroponte vetoed Tuesday’s UN
resolution censuring Israel

Negroponte also speaks four foreign languages – Vietnamese, Greek, French, and Spanish.

But this impressive CV conceals a darker side.

He is known for both doggedly defending US interests overseas and for making sure human rights don’t get in the way.

These qualities were much in evidence when he was ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985.  

During his ambassadorship, human rights violations became systematic.

The infamous Battalion 316, trained by the CIA and Argentine military, kidnapped, tortured and killed hundreds of people.

Torture centres

Nevertheless, US military aid to Honduras during these years skyrocketed from $3.9 million to $77.4 million.

Much of this largesse went to ensure the Honduran army’s loyalty in the battle against political leftists throughout Central America.

Negroponte also supervised the creation of the El Aguacate air base, where the US trained Nicaraguan army Contras.

The base was used as a secret detention and torture centre.

In August 2001 excavations at the base discovered the corpses of the 185 people, including two Americans.

Cover up

But despite this appalling record, the American embassy’s annual human rights reports covered up the truth.

Former official Rick Chidester, who served under Negroponte, said he was ordered to remove all mention of torture and executions from the draft of his 1982 report on the human rights situation in Honduras. 

But even today Negroponte remains unrepentant, arguing that given the political realities his hands were tied.

In a recent interview he said: “Some of these regimes, to the outside observer, may not have been as savoury as Americans would have liked… But with the turmoil that was there, it was perhaps not possible to do that.”

After remaining out of the spotlight for much of the 1990s Negroponte next hit the headlines when George Bush appointed him as America’s ambassador to the United Nations in 2001. 


“Some of these regimes, to the outside observer, may not have been as savoury as Americans would have liked … But with the turmoil that was there, it was perhaps not possible to do that.”

John Negroponte on his time in Central America

Human rights groups, especially in Latin America, reacted with outrage.

They argued his appointment was ill-considered given that one of his responsibilities would be to berate countries for human rights violations.

His appointment was also coupled with Bush’s decision to downgrade the United Nations ambassadorship position by depriving it of cabinet rank.

This decision justifiably raised concerns the Republican White House would become hostile to the UN and seek to denigrate and defund the international organisation.

Appalling record

John Negroponte’s defence of his country’s decision to veto the resolution censuring Israel will not have surprised many in Latin America.

In fact, in the grand scale of things it is by no means the worst thing he has ever been party to.

But many would argue that, given his record, he should never have been allowed to occupy such a position of responsibility in the first place.

Source : Al Jazeera

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