A New Jersey member of Congress charged Wednesday that the Clinton Administration knew that a Guatemalan leftist leader and an American hotel manager were killed by order of a Guatemalan officer paid by the CIA and covered up the information.
Rep. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an angry letter to President Clinton that the CIA knew about the killings for years, but that the Administration deliberately misled the leftist leader's American wife as well as members of Congress.
The White House denied any cover-up, saying it learned the details of the deaths only this year and insisting that it moved quickly to inform Jennifer Harbury, the U.S. lawyer who was married to Guatemalan guerrilla leader Efrain Bamaca Velazquez.
Harbury has staged several hunger strikes to press her demand for information about her husband and has met at least twice with Clinton's national security adviser, Anthony Lake. Lake assured her that the U.S. government is doing everything it can to pressure Guatemala's military-dominated government for action on the case, officials said.
Bamaca, the commander of a guerrilla group fighting the regime, disappeared in 1992. U.S. officials have said for more than a year that they believe he died in army custody, but say they only received clear confirmation of that in January.
In his letter to Clinton, Torricelli asked for a Justice Department investigation of the CIA's role in Bamaca's death, as well as the death of Michael DeVine, an American hotel operator killed in Guatemala in a separate incident in 1990.
Torricelli charged that both killings were ordered by Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, a Guatemalan army officer whom he described as "under contract to the CIA." He said Alpirez was "on the payroll at the time of the murders."
"The CIA had direct information about the deaths of both individuals at the time of the murders, and there never has been any question about what occurred," Torricelli's letter said, according to the Associated Press. "That information was contained in U.S. government cables and extensive internal memoranda.
"The State Department and the National Security Agency have known the U.S. government has been complicitous in these murders and continues to mislead the American people," he said.
He demanded that Clinton fire any government officials with knowledge of the killings.
White House spokesman Calvin Mitchell and other officials refused to comment on Torricelli's charge that the Guatemalan officer was a paid agent of the CIA.