CENTRAL AMERICA
2 - Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez
2    MAXIMILIANO HERNANDEZ MARTINEZ
General of El Salvador

"It is a greater crime to kill an ant than a man," said General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez, a firm believer in the occult "for when a man dies he becomes reincamated, while an ant dies forever." The official records of Hernandez Martinez's anti-communist purge of 1932 were removed from EI Salvador's National Library, but the massacres, which left 40,000 peasants dead and wiped out the country's Indian culture, remain etched on the nation's collective memory.
A failed uprising organized by EI Salvador's Communist Party founder, Farabundo Marti, six weeks after Hernandez Martinez had seized power in a 1931 coup, sparked the General's crackdown on "communists." "Roadways and drainage ditches were littered with bodies," writes Raymond Bonner. "Hotels were raided; individuals with blond hair were dragged out and killed as suspected Russians. Men were tied thumb to thumb, then executed, tumbling into mass graves they had first been forced to dig." U.S. warships were stationed off-shore, ready to send in Marines to aid the General in case he ran into serious opposition.
Hernandez Martinez was run out of the country in 1944, but his memory was celebrated as recently as 1980, when the Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez Brigade carried out a series of death-squad assassinations of prominent Salvadoran leftists. Farabundo Marti, killed during the purge, has also left a legacy: the rebels currently fighting the U.S. backed government of El Salvador call themselves the FMLN, the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front.
7 - Anastasio Somoza, Sr. and Jr.
7    ANASTASIO SOMOZA, SR. AND JR.
Presidents of Nicaragua

The Marines invaded Nicaragua in 1912 and stayed until 1933, fighting but never defeating the revolutionary Augusto Sandino. They created the Nicaraguan National Guard and installed Anastasio Somoza Garcia in power. Then Sandino, who had signed a truce and put down his arms, was assassinated by Somoza. In 1935, General Smedley Butler, who led the Marines into Nicaragua, said: "[I was] a high class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street and for the banks. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism - I helped purify Nicaragua for [an] international banking house." President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it another way. "Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch."
Corruption, torture, and wholesale murder of dissidents continued for 45 years under two generations of Somozas, for after Somoza Garcia was gunned down in the streets in 1956, his son Anastasio Somoza Debayle took control. The Somozas plundered Nicaragua and became millionaires. The younger Somoza, "the vampire dictator," made $12 million a year buying the blood of his people and selling it abroad at a 300% mark-up, but his biggest single rip-off occurred in 1972 after an earthquake killed and wounded hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans: Somoza had his National Guard seize $30 million in international relief supplies and sold them to the highest bidder. Near the end of his reign, he aerially bombed his own capital to stay in power, but he was overthrown in 1979 by a rebel group who called themselves the Sandinistas, after the revolutionary hero his father had slain.
9 - General Efrain Rios Mont
9    GENERAL EFRAIN RIOS MONT
President of Guatemala

"A Christian has to walk around with his Bible and his machine gun," said born-again General Efrain Rios Mont, military ruler of Guatemala from March 1982 to August 1983. Rios Mont was one in a long series of dictators who ran Guatemala after the Dulles brothers and United Fruit, backed by the CIA, decided that elected President Jacob Arbenz held the country "in the grip of a Russian-controlled dictatorship" and overthrew the country's constitutional democracy in 1954. The succession of corrupt military dictators ruled Guatemala for over 30 years, one anti-communist tyrant after another receiving U.S. support, aid, and training.
After the 1982 coup that brought Rios Mont to power, U.S. Ambassador Frederic C. Chapin said Guatemala "has come out of the darkness and into the light." President Reagan claimed Mont was given "a bum rap" by human rights groups, and that he was cleaning up problems inherited from his predecessor, General Romeo Lucas Garcia. Ironically, Garcia had given $500,000 to Reagan's 1980 campaign, and his henchman, Mario Sandoval Alarcon, the "Godfather" of Central American death squads, was a guest at Reagan's first inaugural celebration. Sandoval proudly calls his National Liberation Movement "the party of organized violence."
Mont simply moved Garcia's dirty war from urban centers to the countryside "where the spirit of the Lord" guided him against "communist subversives", mostly indigenous Indians. As many as 10,000 Indians were killed and over 100,000 fled to Mexico as a result of Mont's "Christian" campaign.
10 - Roberto Suazo Cordova
10    ROBERTO SUAZO CORDOVA
President of Honduras

Honduras was the original "Banana Republic," its history inextricably intertwined with that of the U.S.-based United Fruit Company, but in 1979, when Anastasio Somoza was overthrown in Nicaragua (see card 7), Honduras got a new nickname: "The Pentagon Republic." In 1978 Honduras received $16.2 million in U.S. aid; by 1985 it was getting $231.1 million, primarily because President Suazo Cordova, working with U.S. Ambassador John Dmitri Negroponte and Honduran General Gustava Alvarez, allowed Honduras to become a training center for U.S. funded Nicaraguan contras. General Alvarez, who according to Newsweek, "doesn't care if officers are thieves, as long as they are virulent anti-communists," assisted in training programs and founded a special "hit squad," the Cobras. Victims of the Cobras were stripped, bound, thrown into pits and tortured. The Reagan Administration claimed ignorance of these human rights violations, but U.S. advisors have admitted knowledge.
Alvarez, who made enemies among his troops because he pocketed U.S. aid and because he belonged to the "Moonies", a far-right South Korean religious cult, was overthrown by the military in 1984. Suazo's ties to Alvarez cost him his bid in the next election, but death squad activity and U.S. aid to Honduras continue. Many high ranking government and military personnel during and after Suazo's term were drug traffickers, and although the U.S. government denies knowledge of this, there is evidence to the contrary. In fact, the U.S. embassy was renting space from known drug dealers.
14 - General Manuel Noriega
14    GENERAL MANUEL NORIEGA
Chief of Defense Forces, Panama

The U.S. command post for covert Latin American operations is located in the Canal Zone where a series of figurehead presidents, some backed by General Manual Noriega, have involved Panama in U.S. intelligence operations. Noriega first met with then CIA Director George Bush in 1976 while Noriega was collecting $100 thousand a year as a CIA asset.Their friendly relationship persisted even after Noriegas' drug dealing was revealed by a 1975 DEA investigation. During the Reagan era, Noriega collaborated with Oliver North on covert actions against Nicaragua, training contras and providing a trans-shipment point for CIA supported operations that flew weapons to the contras and cocaine into the U.S.
Eventually Noriega refused to participate in further anti-Sandinista actions. In 1987, a Miami grand jury indicted him for drug-tradicking and the CIA tried to destabilize his regime. Noriega wamed Bush that he had information which could change the course of the 1988 U.S. elections and the CIA backed off, but when Noriega "annulled" Panama's 1989 elections, citing CIA interference, Bush renewed attempts to unseat his one-time ally. Critics called Bush's failure to support an abortive 1989 coup "indecisive," but his response to that criticism, the December 1989 invasion of Panama, led to world condemnation. Noriega eventually surrendered to face U.S. drug charges, but under the guise of apprehending one drug dealer, the invasion led to over 1,000 Panamanian deaths and installed a regime with similar close links to drugs, plus a willingness to alter Panama Canal treaties to suit U.S. interests.
15 - Vinicio Cerezo
15    VINICIO CEREZO
President of Guatemala

According to Amnesty Intemational, "arbitrary arrest, torture, 'disappearance' and political killings were everyday realities" for Guatemalans during decades of U.S. financed military dictatorship. In January 1986, Christian Democrat leader Vinicio Cerezo was elected President and said he had "the political will to respect the rights of man," but it didn't take long to find out that his political will was irrelevant in the face of Guatemala's well-oiled military machine. Hopes for change were dashed when Cerezo announced he would not nullify the "self-amnesty law" declared on the eve of his election by General Oscar Mejia Victores, establishing amnesty for all past military offenses committed from General Efrain Rios Mont's coup in 1982 (see card 9) through the 1986 elections.
Although Ronald Reagan's State Department asserted "there has not been a single clear-cut case of political killing," within months of Cerezo's inauguration opposition leaders attributed 56 murders to security forces and death squads, while Americas Watch claimed that "throughout 1986, violent killings were reported in the Guatemalan press at the rate of 100 per month." Altogether, Americas Watch says, tens of thousands were killed and 400 rural villages were destroyed by government death squads during Reagan's term in office.
Colonel D'Jalma Dominguez, former army spokesman, explains: "For convenience sake a civilian government is preferable, such as the one we have now. If anything goes wrong, only the Christian Democrats will get the blame. Its better to remain outsde: The real power will not be lost." 
16 - Alfredo Cristiani
16    ALFREDO CRISTIANI
President of El Salvador

General Hernandez Martinez's 1932 anti-communist purge (see card 2), was carried out on behalf of EI Salvador's rich coffee oligarchy, the so-called "Fourteen Families." New president Alfredo Cristiani is a member of those same "Fourteen Families" and his ARENA party is linked to brutalities surpassing Hernandez Martinez's. Cristiani, former leader of a motorcycle gang, the "Bad Boys," is a perfect figure-head: photogenic, moderate-sounding, schooled in Washington D.C., and indebted to the military for power. As puppet president, he yields to ARENA founder Roberto D'Aubuisson, whom former U.S. Ambassador Robert White calls a "pathological killer."
D'Aubuisson, a former cashiered Army Major with ties to Jesse Helms arid the U.S. right, studied unconventional warfare in the U.S. and Taiwan. He once told European joumalists, "You Germans were very intelligent. You realized that the Jews were responsible for the spread of communism, so you killed them." According to D'Aubuisson, "the Christian Democrats [Ex- President Jose Napoleon Duarte's party] are communists," but Jesuit priests are "the worst scum" of all. U.S. State Department cables indicate D'Aubuisson "planned and ordered the assassination of the late Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero." It is believed he was behind the White Warriors Union (UGB), whose slogan was "Be patriotic - kill a priest." In 1989 six priests were slain and Cristiani soon admitted his U.S. trained soldiers had committed the murders. Yet, although assassinations of priests are notable, 70,000 other civilians have been killed by the Salvadoran military and the death squads since 1980.

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Text © 1990 Dennis Bernstein & Laura Sydell.Art © 1990 Bill Sienkiewicz
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