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By pam chamberlain & chip berlet By pam chamberlain & chip berlet
George h. Beres
Eleanor J. Bader
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Linder and Negroponte In Nicaragua
A pril 28 held special meaning for Ben Linder’s family members in Oregon, for me, and for those at the University of Oregon who helped dedicate a campus auditorium in his name. It is the date of his murder while trying to help peasants in Nicaragua during the Iran-Contra conflict in the 1980s.
It has resonated even more in recent years with the 2005 Bush appointment to high position of the man who has a basic responsibility for Ben’s Linder’s death—John Negroponte. Recently placed in charge of the new federal post of Intelligence, Negroponte served in two earlier high-profile positions under Bush—U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, then ambas- sador to Iraq.
Implementing covert actions is not new to Negroponte. He is as ready to advance government policies—often secret—under Bush as he was two decades earlier under Reagan. At the height of the Iran- Contra scandal, Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras, a position from which he served as facilitator for Reagan policies in Central America.
As Reagan’s “point-man,” Negroponte expedited covert arms- for-hostages dealings that involved the U.S. and Iran. Linder was a minor player in the overall picture. But he was in the way and, in 1987, was targeted, along with countless others, by the Contras whose orders were funneled to them by Negroponte.
Charges of Negroponte’s complicity with Reagan are based on evidence that he made possible torture and death squads and circumvented Congress and the Constitution. Marc Lacey of the New York Times wrote in 2004: “Inquiry by the CIA several years ago found serious rights violations in Honduras not properly reported to Washington during Negroponte’s tenure. Most of the CIA report is blacked out. Parts that remained unclassified raise questions about Negroponte’s actions, but provide no answers.”
Reporters Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson of the Baltimore Sun published a report about substantiated evidence from various sources who said Negroponte knew of Honduran human rights crimes. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Honduras told them Negroponte oversaw U.S. training camp expansion where Contra terrorists detained, tortured, and executed suspected dissidents.
The Bush administration is adept at hiding or doing away with incriminating data and people. A Los Angeles Times article by Maggie Farley and Norman Kempster told of the sudden deportation from the U.S. of former Honduran death squad members who could have given testimony against Negroponte in Senate hearings leading to his UN appointment.
The Toronto Star wrote that Negroponte’s predecessor in Honduras, Jack Binns, made public his concerns about human rights abuses by the Honduran military and gave Negroponte a full briefing on the abuses. Binns was direct in his criticism: “Negroponte denies having been told anything. He is an exquisitely dangerous man whose Honduras role is eerily similar to the Bush administration’s stance in Iraq. Negroponte represented the U.S. during one of the most corrupt periods of its foreign policy under Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. With courage, he could have challenged what was happening.” Negroponte challenged nothing.
Ben Linder was 27-years-old when, as he built a small dam (weir) to measure water flow in a stream for a project to bring electricity to a nearby village, he was assassinated by Contra rebels. The circumstances of Ben’s death, like many others at the hands of U.S.-armed Contras, were not revealed.
Ben attended the University of Washington where in 1983 he got a degree in mechanical engineering. After working in the capital of Managua for the Nicaragua Energy Institute, he chose to go inland to build a rural electric source. It was dangerous. Rebels from neighboring Honduras would terrorize the area during the day, then return to Honduras—to the protection of Negroponte.
His father, David, said Ben went to Nicaragua to provide “appropriate technology”—small hydroelectric plants to help people make revolutionary changes in their lives. As he interacted with Nicaraguans, Linder became known as the clown who rides a unicycle, something he did in costume to entertain children. Before David’s death, he and Ben’s mother, Elisabeth, traveled the nation to lecture about the wrongful death of their son. The hydroelectric plant in San Jose de Bocay where Ben was killed was completed in 1993. His parents raised money to help complete other hydro plants and water purification systems in the area.
When he chose to go to Nicaragua, Linder told his father: “I wonder if we can count on the fingers of one hand engineers going to Third World countries where they hope to make life better.”
I think it would take more than one hand—covered with blood—to tally Reagan’s accomplices and their successors, who continue such work under George Bush.
George Beres was on the committee that dedicated the Ben Linder Auditorium at the University of Oregon.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
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BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
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ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
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CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
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NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
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GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
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IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
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LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
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ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
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