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Honduran Military to Open Records to Civilian Investigators

June 14, 1995

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ The Honduran military promised Wednesday to open its records to civilian investigators examining the fates of 184 suspected leftists who disappeared in the 1980s.

``Respect of the law is fundamental, and nobody is above the law _ not even the armed forces,″ said spokesman Col. Napoleon Santos Aguilar.

``Thus the armed forces will open all of its files in the case when the responsible authorities consider it necessary to ask for the information.″

He declined to comment on an alleged role in the disappearances and tortures of suspected leftists by the U.S. State Department and the CIA.

A 1993 Honduran government report said members of Battalion 316, a counterinsurgency organization that is blamed for the disappearances, were CIA-trained.

The Sun of Baltimore said in a weekend article that the State Department and the CIA knew of the battalion’s activities and did not stop them.

In the 1980s, Honduras was the American staging ground for its efforts supporting rightist rebels trying to topple the leftist Sandinista government in neighboring Nicaragua.

It also was a supply and intelligence point for American support of the El Salvador government in its fight against leftist rebels, and American policy deemed it essential to keep Honduras in friendly hands.

The battalion was officially formed in 1984 under the command of Gen. Luis Alonso Discua, the current head of the Honduran military, although it is thought to have been in operation since about 1982. Discua led it for only about two months.

It was disbanded in 1987.

The president of Honduras’ independent Human Rights Commission, Ramon Custodio, asked the military Wednesday to open its records and asked Vice President Gen. Walter Lopez Reyes and Discua to explain any participation they had in the disappearances.

Lopez Reyes headed the military from 1984 to 1986, during which about 22 people were listed as having disappeared.

Santos Aguilar said the armed forces ``will not permit any of its officers to be jailed just because of pressure from local human rights organizations.″ He said any officer would testify when called but that courts must act only on concrete evidence.

The Honduran press in December published a 1984 memo from Lopez Reyes to subordinates recommending a cover-up policy when it came to missing leftists. It said members of the military must be protected and that the interests of the armed forces must prevail.

Discua denied Wednesday ever ordering the kidnapping or assassination of anyone, saying he was ``very Catholic, and I don’t do what I don’t want to do.″

Honduras said Tuesday it will investigate the activities of two former American ambassadors in Honduras during the 1980′s, current and former CIA agents and more than 100 Honduran military officers.

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