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Rubio Defends Elliott Abrams, Who Covered Up Genocides and Massacres

Rubio Defends Elliott Abrams, Who Covered Up Genocides and MassacresEXPAND
Photos by Gage Skidmore / Flickr
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It is a fact that Elliott Abrams, America's special envoy to Venezuela, covered up at least one Latin American genocide. In the 1980s, Guatemalan Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt's U.S.-backed forces slaughtered 1,771 indigenous Mayan people whom Montt's forces fraudulently claimed were supporting "left-wing" guerrillas. According to two-time George Polk Award-winning reporter Allan Nairn, Montt's forces wiped out 662 rural villages. His soldiers decapitated some people, crucified others, and ripped out the fingernails of at least one baby. In 2013, a Guatemalan court convicted Ríos Montt of genocide and crimes against humanity.

But throughout the '80s, Abrams defended Montt, claiming he had “brought considerable progress" to Guatemala. In 1983, Abrams told a public TV station Americans "think that kind of progress needs to be rewarded and encouraged."

This is, amazingly, not the only act of mass rape, dismemberment, and slaughter Abrams has defended. Now that Abrams is fomenting regime change in yet another Latin American nation, Democratic Minnesota U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar yesterday brought up the various acts of slaughter that Abrams has defended in the past. Omar also recalled the time Abrams was convicted for lying to Congress about sending illegal arms shipments to the Contra fighters in Nicaragua.

This brings us to Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who — rather than offering an apology for Abrams' horrid and unspeakable action — instead decided to attack Omar online for bringing up American war crimes:

In a just world, Rubio would not be allowed to make a statement like the one above without enduring massive public scorn. He implied it was "un-American" for Omar to mention the misery that Abrams helped deliver to Central America. (Calling her "un-American" also smacks of racism.) And he claimed she was somehow an "apologist" for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's regime, which is also patently false.

Instead, Omar simply brought up the very true fact that Abrams' main job during Ronald Reagan's presidency was funding right-wing death squads to "promote democracy" in Central and South America. In many cases, citizens had revolted against the region's majority-white, America-friendly dictators and landowners of the past.

(In a few cases, the U.S. even openly backed coups against democratically elected leaders: In 1954, the CIA helped right-wing leaders overthrow the democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz, who was conveniently labeled a communist "threat" after he tried to take over the United Fruit Company, a brutal American firm that abused Latin-American workers and, in some cases, massacred them. United Fruit later changed its name to the Chiquita Banana Company due to all the bad press from the murders. The coup and ensuing civil war set the stage for Abrams' actions in Guatemala.)

Abrams' political life has been dedicated to siding with right-wing death squads.

Take, for instance, the El Mozote massacre: In December 1981, a U.S.-trained death squad marched through El Salvador. Its members raped and murdered as many as 700 defenseless people. The soldiers later bragged about raping kids as young as ten years old. One witness claimed he'd seen a soldier chuck a toddler into the air and "catch" the kid using the spear of his bayonet. Abrams then famously went to work: He dismissed news reports about the incident as "not credible." (Investigators later found buried skeletons of children at the massacre site, among other evidence.)

The Reagan administration then went to work smearing one of the original reporters who broke the story, the New York Times' Raymond Bonner. Abrams helped browbeat the Times into demoting Bonner.

Abrams backed similar ventures in Honduras and Nicaragua. In fact, Congress enacted a law banning the Reagan administration from funding the Contras, many of whom ditched their homeland for Miami. Abrams (with the help of current National Security Adviser John Bolton) then helped the movie-star president's staff devise a secret plan to sell arms to Iran and then use that money to fund the Contras illegally. Abrams was convicted of lying to Congress over the Iran-Contra affair. He'd withheld information about an arms sale he was trying to strike with the sultan of Brunei. George H.W. Bush later pardoned Abrams.

Abrams is unapologetic for what he's done. Speaking with Omar this week, he reiterated his actions in El Salvador were, in fact, a "fabulous achievement." He has, laughably, been appointed to a series of "pro-democracy" professorships, board positions, and think-tank posts despite his criminal conviction and advocacy for violence.

It is a travesty that Abrams is in charge of yet another Latin American regime-change operation. He is no expert on human rights. A lawmaker who attacks someone for noting Abrams' crimes isn't being "un-American," Mr. Rubio. Abrams should be described as inhumane.

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