Many prisoners were executed, Valle said. He remembers one execution particularly vividly.

Late one night, on a dirt road outside Tegucigalpa, he watched as another battalion member pushed a prisoner from the car and began stabbing him, Valle said. After five thrusts, the prisoner was still alive, murmuring what sounded like a prayer.

Valle said his associate pulled a gun and shot the prisoner. They left the body by the roadside.

"It was the most horrible thing I have ever seen," he said.

In 1985, Valle decided to leave the battalion and fled to Mexico. He and his family moved to Canada a year later.

He attempts to explain his work for Battalion 316.

"If I get an order and I oppose, I'm risking my life. And what can I do?" he asked, shrugging his shoulders. "I never wanted to wash my hands of what I did. I know I have responsibility.

"I knew what I was doing," he said. "But there is a point where you go through this door and you cannot go back out through that same door.

"Either you go out dead or you go out disappeared."

A hit list recalled

JOSE BARRERA WAS ONE of Battalion 316's assassins. He keeps in his mind a list of the people he murdered.

There was Jorge Alberto Cubas Carrillo, who Barrera shot to death in December 1983 at a bar in northern Honduras. Barrera recalled that his superior gave him 600 lempiras -- the equivalent of about $300.

There was Ricardo Garcia. Barrera said that he and other members of Battalion 316 used a rope to tear off Garcia's testicles. Then they killed him. Barrera said he earned 300 lempiras and spent it at a June fair.

In August 1985, Barrera thrust a knife into the abdomen of Juan Hernandez Dominguez.

"I did it to earn merit," he said.

For five years, Barrera gained privileges and money in Battalion 316. Now 36, he is a thin man with small eyes the color of coal and thick, black eyebrows. In an interview with The Sun and in a 16-page sworn statement to the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights of Honduras (COFADEH) in 1987, Barrera admitted the murders he committed as a member of Battalion 316.

Born to a poor family and never formally educated, Barrera said he joined the army at 14 to escape poverty.

He failed many of the army's basic training courses because he could not adequately read or write. It appeared unlikely that he would climb through the ranks.

So, in April 1981, when superiors offered him the opportunity to carry a gun and make the equivalent of $250 a month, Barrera took the job.

In 1983, he underwent training at the Honduran military base at Lepaterique, where he said he was taught interrogation methods by eight U.S. and four Argentine instructors.