The Associated Press
August 28, 2001
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Forensic experts found the remains of three people at a former air base near the Honduras-Nicaragua border that was used as a training ground for U.S.-backed Contra rebels.
The discovery was made late Monday after six hours of digging at the El Aguacate air base, where the federal prosecutor’s office expects to find the remains of 80 of 185 leftists the army killed between 1979 and 1990.
The United States built the base in 1984 as a training center for the Contras, who were fighting the leftist Sandinista regime in neighboring Nicaragua during the 1980s. The base is located near the border of the two countries, about 80 miles east of Tegucigalpa.
It was turned over to the Honduran military before being abandoned in 1994.
Human rights groups say at least some of the 185 people officially listed as missing during the Honduran government campaign against leftists were tortured and buried at the base.
Among the missing were two U.S. citizens: Jesuit priest-turned-guerrilla James Carney and former Green Beret David Valle Cruz.
Carney, then 53, was expelled from Honduras on allegations that he encouraged a peasant revolt against the military government. He quit the Jesuits a few months before he was captured.
Authorities said they would not be able to confirm the victims’ identities until they had conducted laboratory analyses of the remains.
Family members of a late Contra fighter, Francisco Javier Guzman Davila, say one of the bodies is his. Guzman died when his plane was forced down by Sandinistas, said his brother, Dennis Manuel, who also fought with the Contras.
Found with the second set of remains was a glass jar and a paper with what appeared to be the victim’s name written on it, said attorney general spokesman Melvin Duarte. Duarte did not release the name. He said the victim is believed to have died in a Contra-operated hospital at El Aguacate.
A third set of remains was found buried in two sacks. Prosecutors believe the victim was killed at a different location, then dismembered and buried at the air base site.
Digging began Monday and is expected to continue for 20 more days.
Laboratory tests will be conducted for 10 days after that.