News about the elevation of controversial figure Elliot Abrams should concern all impartial observers of the unfolding crisis in Venezuela. On Janurary 25th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made Abrams the U.S. Special Envoy to Venezuela. It is an explosive new development that is expected to have major repercussions in the escalating Venezuelan conflict.Elliott Abrams has a savage history of causing or obscuring violence in Central and South America. He has also been twice convicted of unlawfully withholding information from Congress during his time with the Reagan Administration.
His involvement in the bloody Salvadorean Civil War and in the Iran-Contra Affair is well known and well documented — Elliot Abrams is a man who has orchestrated American interventions in countries around the world. He is a career regime changer in the purest sense of the word.
DURING THE REAGAN YEARS
In 1981, Ronald Reagan hired Elliott Abrams as his Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. He was the President’s second choice for the position, but he was the one who stuck.
Reagan’s choice nominee — Ernest W. Lefever — was denied confirmation by the Senate after he stated outright that the United States should not act to promote human rights in other sovereign states.
Congress found this testimony to be sufficiently distasteful as to reject his nomination. He was, after all, vying to be the Secretary of Human Rights…
Abrams was moved into the role as a way to placate ultra-conservatives in a more palatable manner than had Lefever. The intentions of the Reagan Administration toward Central and South America were obvious —and they needed someone willing to do the really, really dirty work.
As the Assistant Secretary of Human Rights Abrams fought openly with the heads of Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch, various church groups and human rights organizations over the foreign policy goals of the Reagan White House.
He further applied the Administration’s support to the military dictatorships in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and other Central American nations fighting in the throes of leftist civil war.
The result was often brutal beyond description.
THE MASSACRE IN EL SALVADOR
It was in early 1982 that reports began to surface in U.S. papers about massacres taking place at the hands of the Salvadorean Armed Forces.
El Mozote was a small village that had previously been known to sell supplies to guerrilla fighters — the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front — as many rural villages are apt to do during war time. However, it was made clear by the townspeople this was not a place in which the rebels could find recruits — only food.
After skirmishing with nearby guerrillas, the Atlacatl Battalion entered the village on December 10th, 1981. This particular group was trained at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas with specific instruction in counter-insurgency operations. The peasants—who were given advanced notice of the government troops arrival and promised safety— decided to say in the village to avoid being mistaken for rebel fighters fleeing. Those living around the village swarmed the town. The night the Army arrived they ordered all inhabitants in doors — on penalty of being shot.
The two days that followed were absolute hell. All the villagers were assembled in the central square and the 800 men, women and children were separated into different corners of the town. Over the course of the afternoon the Battalion proceeded to interrogate, torture and then systematically execute the entire village. They spent the night there before setting the town — and the bodies — on fire.
First hand descriptions of the event were given by Rufina Amaya, the sole survivor of the massacre, who had escaped into a tree. She watched as soldiers murdered her husband and children. Her story of the terrifying ordeal is harrowing and incredibly heartbreaking. It was settled that this was credible and accurate account of the massacre by the United Nations backed Truth Commission.
The Reagan White House had a very close relationship with the Salvadorean Military— and Abrams proved to be a staunch defender. The Administration did everything it could to white-wash the multiple reports of atrocities being committed by the regime. They went into full-blown, P.R. damage control.
The White House labeled the New York Times article a gross exaggeration of the facts and the US Embassy refuted the numbers of those killed by claiming that the small population of the town couldn’t support such a high death toll.
Abrams himself wrote, it appears to be an incident that is, at least, being significantly misused, at the very best, by the guerrillas. He implied that the whole thing was made-up propaganda for the FMLN. He would say later that the results of the Reagan Administration’s foreign policy in El Salvador was a fabulous achievement.
It would become known later that the White House had knowledge of the killings from the very beginning. When pressed on the matter, Abrams withheld pertinent information from Congress about the gruesome massacre. He did this in order to secure continued support for the Administration’s rampant adventurism in Latin America.
When Congress refused to fund further US efforts — such as the campaign to destabilize the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua — Abrams helped craft the end-run around Congress to source out the funds elsewhere.
This was the beginning of the infamous Iran-Contra Affair.
With Mike Pompeo selecting Elliott Abrams for this post in Venezuela, there is now little doubt about the White House’s intentions toward the beleaguered socialist country.
Vice President Mike Pence encouraged Juan Guaidó to restore democracy just days before his declaration of war on Maduro’s government. The Trump Administration is now sending a former Reaganite strongman to Caracas.
These are not difficult dots to connect.
Abrams represents a style of American foreign policy that is decades in the past — the modern day version of the Monroe Doctrine. He is an avowed interventionist who has shown — in no uncertain terms — his utter disregard for human life or any moral boundaries. His appointment is a threat to the lives of ordinary Venezuelans.
Like so many other neo-cons, Abrams has shown his lack of concern for others and his indifference for the deadly fall-out of his actions. This is not someone to put in charge of such a delicate international affair — unless of course the intention is to break the thing to pieces.
At this point, that might very well be the case.