Alfonso Chardy, journalist who helped expose Iran-contra affair, dies at 72 | EUROtoday

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Alfonso Chardy, a Miami Herald journalist who anchored Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting that helped expose the Iran-contra affair, a covert Reagan administration community to assist rebels in Nicaragua that introduced riveting televised hearings in Congress, died April 9 at a hospital in Miami. He was 72.

The trigger was a coronary heart assault, mentioned his spouse, Siobhan Morrissey.

During a greater than four-decade profession, Mr. Chardy coated the Middle East because the Herald’s Jerusalem-based bureau chief from 1989 to 1990 and was a part of three different Pulitzer-winning groups on the paper, together with protection of a Cuban boy, Elián González, who was returned to the island in 2000 after a raid by immigration brokers in Miami and a months-long courtroom battle that turned a take a look at of U.S. asylum guidelines.

Assigned to comply with Latin American affairs in Washington in 1982, Mr. Chardy constructed a repute as a dogged chronicler of U.S. policymaking in a area locked in Cold War proxy battles. In Nicaragua, the place leftist Sandinista guerrillas seized energy in 1979, Washington’s cash and help had flowed to anti-Sandinista rebels often called contras.

Congress later restricted contra army help after which imposed a maintain in late 1984. Hints of attainable secret workarounds started to achieve Mr. Chardy, whose final identify was Chardi however was as soon as misspelled by an editor in his native Mexico and adopted as his byline. Mr. Chardy started tapping his sources in Washington and with the rebels.

In 1985, he reported {that a} then little-known National Security Council adviser, Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, had promised the contras that President Ronald Reagan would by no means abandon them. About the identical time, a Beirut newspaper, al-Shiraa, broke tales about back-channel U.S. arms gross sales to Iran — then locked in a battle with Iraq — for the discharge of hostages held by Iranian-allied teams in Lebanon.

Mr. Chardy’s sources informed him that North was concerned within the arms shipments that reached Iran. “The minute I noticed Oliver North’s identify raised in reference to the arms gross sales, I mentioned to myself, ‘This is going to lead to the contras,” he wrote in an essay in a 1991 book, “Winning Pulitzers,” by Karen Rothmyer.

Mr. Chardy and the Herald team started to piece together an audacious and illegal U.S. scheme: secretly selling missiles and other weapons to Iran through indirect sources, in violation of an arms embargo, and funneling most of the revenue from the sales to contras.

On Oct. 28, 1986, Mr. Chardy’s byline was on a Herald story that ran throughout the highest of the entrance web page. “With President Reagan’s blessing,” wrote Mr. Chardy, “U.S. officials knitted a worldwide support network stretching from South Korea to Saudi Arabia over the last three years that kept the Nicaraguan rebels alive after Congress curbed and then banned Contra aid, according to administration and rebel officials.”

The piece opened a scramble among the many Washington press corps for extra particulars. Then a bombshell: Attorney General Edwin Meese III introduced in November 1986 that $28 million from the Iran arm gross sales ended up with the contras. Soon, North was fired from the NSC.

A narrative by Mr. Chardy on Nov. 27, 1986, citing sources in Congress and with the contras, mentioned Reagan had beforehand licensed North “to find alternative sources of financial aid for the Nicaraguan rebels after Congress moved to bar CIA aid to them.”

On Dec. 11, 1986, a narrative by Mr. Chardy and Herald colleague Sam Dillon described a Boeing 707 cargo aircraft that ferried weapons to the Middle East certain for Iran and returned to Central America “laden with Soviet-made arms for the Nicaraguan rebels.”

Mr. Chardy’s reporting uncovered hyperlinks to different obscure officers concerned in aiding the contras, together with Robert Owen, an NSC advisor who was North’s go-between with the rebels.

A report in February 1987 by the Tower Commission — an investigative panel created by Reagan and led by a former senator from Texas, John Tower (R) — blamed Reagan for free oversight that allowed the key contra program to function underneath North and others, utilizing middlemen for the Iran weapons gross sales corresponding to Saudi arms supplier Adnan Khashoggi.

In a nationally televised tackle on March 4, 1987, Reagan acknowledged that he was conscious of the arms-for-hostages offers however denied figuring out about cash diversions to the contras earlier than Meese’s disclosures. The subsequent month, the Miami Herald was awarded a Pulitzer for nationwide reporting. (The New York Times additionally acquired a nationwide reporting Pulitzer for protection into the 1986 area shuttle Challenger explosion.)

The fallout from Iran-contra was nonetheless not over. Joint hearings by House and Senate choose committees opened in May 1987, bringing extra revelations about Iran-contra throughout three months of questioning that have been broadcast stay.

In testimony in early July 1987, North admitted he lied to Congress throughout earlier questioning in regards to the Iran-contra community and mentioned he diverted funds to the rebels with the data of superiors together with the nationwide safety adviser, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter. Fawn Hall, North’s secretary, was given immunity from prosecution in trade for her testimony about shredding paperwork and different acts.

“You’ve also admitted you altered some of the documents in which you clearly describe your role,” North was requested by George Van Cleve, the deputy counsel for House Republicans.

“Can you assure this committee that you are not here now lying to protect your commander in chief?” Van Cleve requested later within the testimony.

“I am not lying to protect anybody, Counsel. I came here to tell the truth,” North replied. “I told you that I was going to tell it to you — the good, the bad and the ugly. Some of it has been ugly for me.”

North was convicted in 1989 of obstructing an investigation and destroying proof. The conviction was overturned on attraction in 1991. Poindexter was convicted of conspiracy, perjury and different counts, however he was additionally cleared on attraction. Dozens of different officers confronted prices associated to Iran-contra, together with Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, however almost all have been pardoned in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush, who had been Reagan’s vice chairman.

Alfonso Nieto Chardi was born on April 14, 1951, in Mexico City. His father was an accountant, and his mom tended to the house.

He discovered English by means of programs and listening to the radio. He served within the military for six months after which labored as a proofreader and translator on the English-language Mexico City News, the place an editor as soon as rendered his identify as Chardy. He credited the scholar protests in Mexico in 1968 and the Mexico City Olympics that yr for his curiosity in journalism as he watched overseas reporters pour into the Mexican capital.

He joined the Associated Press in Mexico City in 1974 and later was an AP correspondent in Buenos Aires and Bogotá. He later freelanced in Central America, together with for United Press International, and was in Nicaragua amid celebrations after Sandinista forces overthrew the president, Anastasio Somoza.

Mr. Chardy joined the Miami Herald in 1980, first overlaying the Mariel boatlift from Cuba when greater than 120,0000 folks fled by sea looking for to achieve Florida. He was a part of Pulitzer-winning groups in 1993 for public service within the protection of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew; in 1999 for investigative reporting into voter fraud that helped overturn a Miami mayoral election; and in 2001 for breaking information within the Elián González case.

He retired in 2017 after a number of years with the Herald’s Spanish-language sister publication, El Nuevo Herald. He lived in Key Biscayne along with his spouse, a journalist whom he married in 1994. Other survivors embody 5 nephews and two nieces.

In recounting the Iran-contra reporting, Mr. Chardy mentioned the contras have been indispensable in filling within the gaps.

“They exposed Oliver North. They exposed Rob Owen,” he wrote. “They exposed all the principal people.”