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James Carney
Born Chicago, Illinois
Died 1983
Honduras
Cause of death during an insurgency operation in Honduras
Residence Honduras
Nationality American
Other names Father J. Guadalupe Carney
Occupation Priest
Title Father
Religion Catholic
Notes
Author of 'To Be A Revolutionary'

Father James Carney (d. 1983) was an American priest stationed in Honduras during the civil war. Fr. Carney first arrived in Honduras under the auspices of the Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus in 1961 after his ordination as a Jesuit priest. In Honduras he worked on behalf of the poor in opposition to perceived injustices, which elicited the ire of the right-wing government which quickly expelled him to neighboring Nicaragua. However, Fr. Carney (AKA Padre Guadalupe) returned to Honduras two years later, this time in the role of chaplain of a Central American Revolutionary Workers Party (PRTC)insurgent group. [1]

Conflicting versions of Father Carney's ultimate fate --

According to US Defense Attache Office reports filed at the time, based on interviews with deserters of the ill fated PRTC insurgent group, Fr. Carney (AKA by insurgents as Padre Guadalupe) joined the combatants in Nicaragua shortly before they crossed the Rio Coco River into Honduras. The rebels began an 11 day march through brutal mountainous terrain that would eventually drain them of physical energy, morale and the few food supplies they carried with them up the brutal mountain terrain of the Olancho region in Honduras. Father Carney, by accounts of the members of the group who subsequently deserted, was extremely popular and beloved by his comrades, and attempted to administered to their spiritual needs. However the atheist leader of the group, Dr. José Maria Reyes Mata, former General Secretary of the PRTC party in Honduras, prohibited Fr. Carney from giving mass after the catholic priest tried to stop Reyes Mata from publically executing one of his own insurgents for desertion. According to reports of members of the group, Fr. Carney grew increasingly despondent as he learned that many of the Honduran rebels wanted to desert and join their families in Honduras, because they had been misled when recruited. Believing they had scholarships in Cuba for training as doctors and engineers, many of the rebels found themselves forcibly indoctrinated and trained by the Cubans to be insurgents. This training was at the infamous P-11 Cuban insurgent camp located in Pinar del Rio, Cuba. Upon completion of insurgency training, the reluctant Honduran PRTC insurgents were transported to Nicaragua, participated in FSLN operations against US backed "contras", and then were organized and equipped by the Nicaraguan Sandinista (FSLN) government for infiltration into Honduras. According to captured documents, their mission was to establish regional commands to manage PRTC revolutionary cells in Honduras, and to eventually overthrow the US backed democratically elected government of Honduran President Dr. Roberto Suazo Córdova. [2]

There are two, remarkably different, versions of the events that ultimately led to the disappearance and reported death of Fr. Carney.

One version of the history represents that sometime in 1983 Carney was captured and killed by members of Honduran Army Battalion 316. This version relies in part on testimony by Florencio Cabadero, a former Honduran intelligence officer in exile in Canada, who stated that Carney was tortured and thrown to his death from a helicopter on the orders of Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, commander of the armed forces and creator of the elite Battalion 316 death squad. This view was purportedly supported by former Delta Force Sergeant Eric Haney, who was stationed in Honduras, which he described as "little more than a vast U.S. military base", at the time of Carney's death, who said "there was some talk. . .that he [Carney] did not die an easy death.... What I heard was that from the condition of his body, he was brutalized prior to his death, that the marks that were on his body had to have been inflicted while he was still alive."


The other version of events is based on official US government reporting released from declassified US Embassy, USDAO reporting. According to interviews with PRTC insurgent group members who survived the trek, including two Honduran members who claimed to be the last people to have seen Father Carney alive, Fr. Carney grew week and was left by the group alive by very weak in a hammock under triple canopy jungle. This version of events reports that the difficult trek up into the Olancho mountains took a heavy toll on the elderly Fr. Carney, despite his relatively good physical condition. They reported that Carney's physical condition worsened after a confrontation with Guerrilla group leader, Dr. Reyes Mata. According to the story told by the insurgents to US Embassy officials trying to gather information on Carney's fate, Reyes Mata was furious with Carney's pleas to spare the life of a young insurgent who was accused of attempted desertion. The young insurgent was personally executed by Reyes Mata in front of the group with a pistol shot to the head. After Fr. Carney's failed challenges to stop the execution, Reyes-Mata ordered that Carney ws not to be allowed to give catholic mass or provide spiritual counselling. Demoralized, Carney's condition deteriorated further just as Honduran Special Forces started closing in on the group. As food supplies ran out, desertions increased, and group members split up. Carney ws reported able to walk only 100 meters at a time, and ultimately,in his last sacrifice in behalf of others, he urged his companions to leave him in a hammock under triple canopy jungle, and save themselves.

His family traveled to Hondurans after receiving word of his death on September 20, 1983, but were unable to recover his body or information on his death. In 1993 his family was able to talk with a former USDAO official who had conducted many of the interviews with the former insurgents, to determine what had happened to Fr. Carney.

A confusion of reports on the events has resulted in doubts that the initial claims of the U.S and Honduran government that Carney had starved to death. Some believe this version is contradicted by statements of some members of the Honduran military.


In 1983, Gen. Gustavo Alvarez, whose portrait hangs in the School of the Americas Alumni Hall of Fame was awarded the Legion of Merit by President Ronald Reagan, ``for promoting democracy in Honduras, leading some of Carney's former colleagues to speculate that his killing had the approval of then U.S ambassador John Negroponte.[3]

Subsequent release of classified documentation, suggests the US Embassy exercised due diligence in attempting to determine the whereabouts of FR. Carney. These investigations led the US government to conclude it is probable he died in a jungle hammock.

See also

References

  1. ^ University of Detroit Mercy. Retrieved on 2009-5-15
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ National Catholic Reporter. January 24, 1997. Retrieved on 2009-5-15

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/latin_america/honduras/

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