Necessary Illusions Copyright © 1989 by Noam Chomsky
Appendix IV Segment 14/23
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LeMoyne's zeal in applauding the encouraging developments in El Salvador as contrasted with repressive Nicaragua was sometimes excessive even by Times standards. Thus he reported the plans of the "rebel civilian officials" Rubén Zamora and Guillermo Ungo to return to El Salvador, where they hoped to survive by wearing bullet-proof vests, constantly changing residence, and carefully restricting their movements. "The two men's planned return," Le-Moyne stated, "is in sharp contrast to the situation in neighboring Nicaragua, where the ruling Sandinistas have said they will jail any rebel leader who tries to return to carry out political activities." Five days earlier, Stephen Kinzer had reported President Ortega's statement that "any contras who stop fighting," including contra leader Adolfo Calero and military commander Enrique Bermúdez, "would be allowed to participate fully in Nicaraguan political life." He quoted Ortega as saying:

A cease-fire is the immediate objective, but if the contras accept it, they can join political dialogue with other parties in Nicaragua. If Calero and Bermúdez accept this, they will be free to walk the streets of Managua, hold demonstrations and join the conservative party or whichever party they choose. No one will have to sign anything. By disarming, they will automatically receive amnesty.84

Unreported are the facts about Fernando Chamorro, Adolfo Majano, Horacio Arce, and others, or the Salvadoran government reaction when guerrilla commander Mario Aguiñada Carranza announced his intention to return to the country to take part in its political life. The government announced that it would bar his entry, and the army added that he would be captured and tried in the courts for his crimes.85 The situation in the two countries is precisely the opposite of what LeMoyne conveys, as he can hardly fail to know.

Comparison of Zamora and Ungo with Bermúdez and Calero is a bit odd to begin with. Both Zamora (a left Christian Democrat86) and Ungo (a social democrat who shared the 1972 ticket with Duarte) fled from El Salvador in fear for their lives as their associates and relatives were assassinated. Among the victims was Rubén Zamora's brother, the Christian Democrat Attorney-General Mario Zamora. Two weeks after his associate was assassinated by a death squad, Duarte joined the junta, where he proceeded to legitimize the slaughter. Zamora and Ungo have maintained a political association with the Salvadoran guerrillas, most of whom were also driven to the hills by state terror. In contrast, Bermúdez is the contra military commander, formerly an officer of Somoza's National Guard; and Calero, at the right wing of the CIA-run "civilian directorate," is an avowed advocate of terror who had been excluded from visiting Costa Rica on these grounds. Furthermore, there is no comparison between the indigenous guerrillas in El Salvador and the U.S. proxy forces attacking Nicaragua. A closer comparison to Zamora and Ungo would be the internal opposition in Nicaragua, who have always been free to take part in political life if they choose, and face harassment but not state terror of the Washington-Duarte style. No hint of these truisms will be found in the Times, or, to my knowledge, elsewhere in the mainstream, with the rarest of exceptions.

The official story throughout has been that Duarte represents the "moderate center," unable to control the "violence by both ultrarightists and by the Marxist guerrillas" (James LeMoyne); an accompanying photo shows New York Mayor Edward Koch being greeted by Duarte's Defense Minister, General Vides Casanova, who presided over much of the slaughter. A Times editorial noted the Anaya assassination -- as a proof of Duarte's "courage" in "defying" the death squads. Buried in a news story, the same day, is the fact that the killers were using sophisticated weapons available only to the "right-wing death squads" -- that is, the assassination squads of Duarte's security forces.87

Honduras made virtually no pretense of observing the Esquipulas Accord. The human rights violations that had become a serious problem as the United States converted it into a military base in the 1980s increased further after the Accord was signed. Ramón Custodio, president of the Commission for Defense of Human Rights in Central America and the Honduran Human Rights Commission (CODEH), reported in late October 1987 that killings by the security forces are becoming "more blatant," citing examples. As the first three-month period of the Accord passed, he stated at an international news conference that the worsening human rights situation deteriorated further in Honduras after the Accord was signed, and in El Salvador and Guatemala as well. These and other reports on growing human rights violations after the signing of the Accord were published in Canada and Mexico, but omitted from the Times through the August-January period.88

CODEH reported 263 judicial executions in Honduras in 1987, 144 more than in 1986, attributing 107 to the security forces, along with an increase in torture and illegal arrests. Honduran journalist Manuel Torres Calderón reported that economic decline in this U.S. dependency had "forced the state to intervene in the economy even more heavily than its much maligned neighbor, Nicaragua." Capital flight had reached such a level that "money leaves the country as fast as it comes in," a Honduran banker observed. Half the population has no access to health services and more than a million Hondurans live in overcrowded shantytowns, despite extensive U.S. aid and no guerrilla threat or foreign attack. Neither the increasing human rights violations nor the impact of U.S.-influenced economic management were on the media agenda.89

Also largely off the agenda is the hostility towards the contras in Honduras, not only among the thousands of peasants expelled from their homes in "contraland" in the south. Wire services reported that the conservative newspaper La Prensa, "which publishes several contra-inspired pages of information on Nicaragua, said an opinion poll carried out before the latest [March 1988] crisis erupted showed that 88.5 percent of Hondurans wanted the contras expelled." Such facts received little notice. Similarly, the media have been unable to discover the protest of the National Union of Campesinos in Honduras over contra recruitment among impoverished Honduran peasants with bribes of $500, an enormous sum by their standards, published in the major Honduran daily El Tiempo. Such facts, though plainly important and newsworthy, must be suppressed, because they are not conducive to the portrayal of the sturdy peasants of Nicaragua organizing to resist Sandinista depredations.90

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84 LeMoyne, NYT, Nov. 21; Stephen Kinzer, NYT, Nov. 16, 1987. LeMoyne duly noted the risks that Zamora and Ungo faced from "extreme leftists and rightists" who "enforce their views with bullets and bloodshed," concealing the fact that the major risk by far has always been the behavior of the state security services and their associates. The "terror of left and right" technique is a common literary device to conceal the terror of the "centrists" whom the U.S. supports.

85 El Norte (Mexico), July 17, 1988; Central America NewsPak.

86 His party is the Social Christian Popular Movement. For his assessment of the current situation, with no "functioning democracy" or even "a democratic opening," see COHA's Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Aug. 31, 1988.

87 LeMoyne, photo, NYT, Nov. 4, 1987; NYT, October 28, 1987.

88 For further information, see references of note 64.

89 Central America Report, July 15, 1988; Latinamerica Press (Peru), July 21, 1988, datelined Tegucigalpa.

90 Reuter and AP, Toronto Globe and Mail, March 23; Pamela Constable, Boston Globe, March 20, 1988. El Tiempo, July 14, 1987.