Necessary Illusions Copyright © 1989 by Noam Chomsky
Appendix IV Segment 4/23
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Arce was also among those trained at the Ilopango air base near San Salvador by Salvadoran and U.S. instructors. In Honduras, they were trained directly by the Honduran military, who had been providing the essential training and logistics from 1980 and also provided pilots for supply flights into Nicaragua. Honduran immigration authorities also assisted, helping the contras gain access to refugee camps for recruitment, sometimes by force. Miskito recruits were trained separately, by a Japanese officer. Most of the supervisors of training and aid were of Hispanic origin -- Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, South Americans, and some Spaniards. The arms were mainly from Israel, as "everyone knows," much of it captured in the 1982 Lebanon war. "Cubans in the CIA are all over the place," also deeply involved in the extensive corruption. Part of the contra financing came from drug trafficking.
The United States is a global power and is thus capable of constructing elaborate systems of terror and corruption, making use of its client and mercenary states and longstanding relations with international terrorism and criminal syndicates.
U.S. Embassy officials in Tegucigalpa, Arce continues, provided the contras with intelligence information and other aid. His contacts at the U.S. Embassy included "Robert McHorn of the CIA or Alexander Zunnerman who ostensibly is with AID but is CIA also." Arce was also in direct contact with the Tegucigalpa AID warehouse on the premises of the Electropura company. AID has admittedly served as a front for CIA terrorist operations in the past, particularly in Laos during the "clandestine war."
Arce himself had fled Nicaragua with his father, a major in Somoza's National Guard, on the day of the Sandinista victory, July 19, 1979. In 1980, he was recruited for the contras, adopting the nom de guerre "Mercenario" ("mercenary"). By January 1981, the operation had become "something serious and something big." He went on to reach the rank of comandante, becoming intelligence chief after the former chief, Ricardo Lau, was dismissed (and possibly murdered by the contras, Arce believes). Lau had become an embarrassment in early 1985 when former Salvadoran intelligence chief Roberto Santivañez implicated him in arranging the assassination of Archbishop Romero and in having played a "key role" in organizing and training death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala, as well as in political killings in Honduras. He was "a thief among thieves," Arce reports.
Not all the contras "are rented," El Mercenario continues; some have loyalties to their chiefs. They are, however, well paid by regional standards. Without a family, Arce's salary was about $500 a month.
The Honduran armed forces "participate in every operation that takes place close to the border," while also providing intelligence "on military and non-military targets in Nicaragua." The latter service is particularly important, Arce continues, because "We attack a lot of schools, health centers, and those sort of things. We have tried to make it so that the Nicaraguan government cannot provide social services for the peasants, cannot develop its project...that's the idea." Evidently, their U.S. training was successful in getting the basic idea across.
Arce also discussed the vast corruption in the contra organization from commander Enrique Bermúdez on down, and their sales of U.S. arms and supplies, "much of it...probably ending up in the hands of the guerrillas of El Salvador." In cooperation with Honduran officers, who take a cut for themselves, contras are selling assault rifles and radiocommunications equipment to the FMLN in El Salvador -- who therefore may be receiving aid from Nicaraguans after all, James LeMoyne and the Times will be happy to hear.19
Arce had far more of significance to report than Miranda, and had a more important role within the contra organization than Miranda did in Nicaragua. Furthermore, as we have seen, the contras were favored with enormous publicity, generally receiving more than the government. But in this case, there was no way to deform the testimony into a weapon for the campaign of "demonizing the Sandinistas" and mobilizing support for the terror states; on the contrary, the message was all wrong. Editors made their choices accordingly.
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19 Marcio Vargas, Mexico City, interview with Arce, Central America Information Bulletin, Dec. 21, 1988; Rubén Montedonico, El Día (Mexico City), Nov. 6, 7, 1988, reprinted in translation in Honduras Update, Nov./Dec., 1988. On Lau, see Turning the Tide, 104.