Old Ambassadors Never Die
Lutterbeck, Deborah, Common Cause Magazine
On September 28, just two weeks after hearing him testify, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously endorsed John Negroponte as U.S. ambassador to the Philippines. Negroponte's smooth sailing stands in stark contrast to the confirmation process he endured in 1989, when President George Bush chose him as ambassador to Mexico. That appointment stalled for months amid questions about Negroponte's role in the Iran-Contra affair.
Negroponte's numerous supporters say his diplomatic competence makes him ideal for the Philippines. Others question how one so closely tied to controversial U.S. Central American policy in the mid-1980s has found himself a high-profile appointment in the Clinton administration.
Questions about Negroponte arise largely from his tenure as U.S. ambassador to Honduras in the early '80s. Documents from Oliver North's trial in 1989 suggest that in 1985 then-Vice President Bush met with Honduran President Roberto Suazo to offer increased aid on the condition that Honduras provide backing to the Nicaraguan contras. Negroponte attended this meeting.
In 1989, when asked to comment about a news report describing the alleged quid pro quo. Negroponte said. "I am afraid it has just slipped my mind as to what it is suggested that he said in this article." He added, "I was not aware of any quid pro quo."
In fact, U.S. aid to Honduras rose from $3 million to $82 million during Negroponte's tenure as ambassador from 1981 to 1985, the period when the Reagan administration's covert war against Nicaragua's Sandinista government was being put in full gear.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee aides say Negroponte was not asked about his role in the Iran-Contra affair. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), who had closely questioned Negroponte on the matter in 1989, made no mention of it this time around. "Those issues have been resolved," he said after voting for the nomination. "He did a first-rate job in Mexico and I commend the Clinton administration for its choice of professionals. …