Apr 1, 1981

On Deane Hinton, Reagan’s Nominee for Ambassador to El Salvador | by Jerry Meldon | Unpublished manuscript, April 1981


A career foreign service officer who graduated from Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1952, Deane Hinton has long been identified with that group of US diplomats whose role it is to protect [deletion] US business overseas, the copper industry in particular. Prior to his first embassy leadership role, he was a major figure in the Agency for International Development (AID), whose Office of Public Safety is now recognized to have been a front for CIA collaboration with the police apparatuses of US client dictators. The major Central American hotspot of the sixties was Guatemala, one of whose exports is copper. In the peak period of the civil war that has bloodied Guatemala since the United Fruit/CIA coup of 1954, Hinton was the local AID director from 1967 to 1969. (US ambassador Mein was assassinated in 1968, escalating the reign of terror waged by the military government and its paramilitary death squads trained by the Green Berets and European neo-fascist mercenaries.) In a 1971 staff memorandum prepared for the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, the US police training program in Guatemala was described as a failure that had resulted in the US becoming “politically identified with police terrorism.”

            Having proven his worth in Guatemala, Hinton was moved in 1969 to Chile, where he remained AID chief until 1971. Part of his role there, of course, was to regularly monitor the actions of the Allende government and the Chilean Copper Corporation, and to pass on such information to Anaconda, Kennecott and other US copper companies fearful of the eventual nationalization of their vast holdings. In 1971 Hinton was named Deputy Director of the National Security Council’s Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, whose mission it was to recommend policy towards countries which expropriated the holdings of US corporations.

            It is interesting to note the parallels between the careers of Hinton and Nathaniel Davis, another Fletcher graduate who became the ambassador to Guatemala in the wake of Mein’s 1968 assassination. Davis, who gained a reputation for stuffing the pockets of grateful Guatemalan generals during the reign of terror, followed Hinton to Chile, where he became the US ambassador in 1971 and remained so until one month after the CIA-sponsored coup of September 1973.  

            In the summer of 1974 Hinton became the US ambassador to Zaire, another of the world’s major copper producers. Shortly thereafter, at the start of 1975, Kissinger also named Nathaniel Davis Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Davis replaced Donald Easum, whose removal from office followed shortly after his statement on Zambian TV that US support for “continued South African participation in the UN is continuously under/review [sic]. It is not concrete and forever.” Easum had been widely respected throughout black Africa and hailed by Zaire’s dictator Mobutu – no enemy of the US – as a “great diplomat” with “accurate knowledge of decolonization and apartheid problems”. By contrast Davis came to Africa with no background in the region’s affairs and the ominous reputation he’d gained in Latin America.

            Before long the CIA had the United States supporting South Africa’s client army in Angola’s civil war, with neighboring Zaire serving as a base for CIA operations. In a surprise move, Davis resigned his State Department post, apparently uneager to have one more Chile under his belt. Hinton, for his part, found himself expelled from Zaire in the aftermath of an alleged CIA coup attempt against Mobutu.

            Davis briefly assumed the ambassadorship of Switzerland, which evoked the vehement protests of the Swiss and Italian lefts. Any suspicions of foul play were, if anything, magnified by the simultaneous opening in Geneva of the European headquarters of Chile’s notorious secret police, DINA. Davis soon found himself relegated to foreign service burial ground at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

            Hinton, meanwhile, has avoided the limelight since 1975, first as US emissary to the Common Market, and more recently as the Assistant Secretary of State for Business and Economic Affairs. He’s ripe for action, and that, no doubt, awaits him in El Salvador.