Anthropologists Identify Remains of Activists Who Vanished in Honduras
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ Anthropologists tentatively identified five sets of human remains Sunday as those of union leaders and other activists who disappeared during the 1980s.
They were among the 184 people who vanished without a trace during the 1980s, when Honduras was a staging area for U.S. policy against leftist rebels in El Salvador and the leftist government in Nicaragua.
The anthropologists, who belong to the Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights, are William Haglund and Clyde Snow of the United States, Stefan Schmitt of Germany and David del Pino of Chile.
In December 1984, doctors from the same organization found the remains of Nelson Mackay Chavarria, a lawyer who vanished in 1982, in a clandestine grave near the Salvadoran border.
With the Cold War over, Honduras is beginning to look into its own political murders. The exhumations are under the auspices of the independent Committee of the Families of the Missing, the Honduran Forensic Medical Association and the attorney general’s office.
A 1993 government report said there are 26 clandestine cemeteries in Honduras, where most of the disappeared may be buried. It said at least 100 current and former Honduran officers may have been involved in the disappearances after forming a death squad-type unit, Battalion 316, that had the support and advice of the United States, Argentina and the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.
However, in June the attorney general’s office said the army had destroyed the files on the 184 missing.
The Hondurans also want to question former U.S. Ambassadors Chris Arcos and John D. Negroponti, who were based there in the 1980s. Arcos is now an official with AT&T. Negroponti is U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines.
Sonia Dubon, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said the sets of bones would be reburied until lab work to fully identify them is completed, probably in February. She said foreign laboratories would test the blood DNA of the victims’ families.
``The dental and physical information available indicate that the bones are those of Gustavo Morales Funez, Rolando Vindel Gonzalez, Hans Albert Madisson Lopez and Estanilao Maradiaga Linares,″ Haglund said.
The fifth victim was identified as Carlos Alfredo Martinez, a Salvadoran who was arrested by the Honduran army in March of 1984 and accused of running guns for Salvadoran rebels.
Haglund said tests in the United States are needed to confirm the local results ``although there are coincidences between our results and the data given by the families.″
The remains of Martinez were found in an unmarked grave in a public cemetery in El Maguelar, 93 miles southeast of the capital Tegucigalpa.
The remains of Morales Funez and Vindel Gonzales were found in the same general area and those of Madisson Lopez at La Piramide, 40 miles north of the capital.
Judicial police recovered the bones of Maradiaga Linares last February in the sewer of the populous San Miguel district east of Tegucigalpa.
He was the head of the sewer and water-workers’ union and vanished after being pulled from his house May 24, 1980, by five armed men.
Morales Funez was subdirector of the National Infancy Association, which controls the state public assistance lottery, and had been head of the union for workers of that organization. Vindel Gonzalez was president of the union for workers in the government electricity monopoly.
Both vanished March 18, 1984, after being intercepted by heavily armed men.
Madisson Lopez, who was 24, was a university student. His head, arms and legs had been separated from the rest of his body. He vanished July 8, 1982 when the army arrived at the home of a journalist, Oscar Reyes Bacca, suspected by authorities of arms smuggling.
Reyes Bacca was arrested and deported to the United States, where he now lives.