|Urgent Alert: February Massacre Linked to SOA Training|
SOA Watch Urgent Alert
May 17, 2005
February Massacre Linked to SOA Training
:::: School of the Americas Graduate Commands Brigade Accused of San Jos? de Apartad? Peace Community Murders ::::
Many of you received our email alerts with the terrible news of the massacre of eight civilians, including an SOA Watch speaker and three children, in the Colombian Peace Community of San Jos? de Apartad? in February of this year. Assassinated with his family and five others was Luis Eduardo Guerra, a founder of the community and a speaker at the November 2002 Vigil to Close the SOA.
SOA Watch has learned that the commander of the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Military, the unit accused of the massacres, is a graduate of the School of the Americas.
General H?ctor Jaime Fandi?o Rinc?n attended the ?Small-Unit Infantry Tactics? course in 1976 in order to become ?familiar with small-unit operational concepts and principles at the squad and platoon level? [to] receive training in planning and conducting small-unit tactical operations.? In December of 2004 he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.
Since the massacre, the Colombian administration of Alvaro Uribe has done little to investigate the murders. No investigation into the military or the 17th or 11th Brigade has begun. All the focus now of the government agencies intervening in the situation is to force the community members to testify at risk of their lives?instead of focusing on the military that was in the area at the time of the murders.
Police forces have flooded San Jos? against the wishes of the Peace Community, which has taken a fundamental stance against all armed actors. Since the massacre, all but five of the 100 families that formed the Peace Community have been forced to leave their homes and land.
For years, official reports from the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and even the State Department have established the collusion and collaboration between the U.S.-trained Colombian army and right-wing paramilitary forces in many war-torn regions of the country. With military support, the paramilitaries are operating as surrogate death squads and thugs.
Many of the Colombian officers cited as responsible for massacres and other human rights abuses graduated from the SOA, and the strategy of using paramilitary groups for the military's dirty work is nothing new for SOA/ WHINSEC students. Roberto D'Aubussoin established the Death Squads that were responsible for much of the violence in El Salvador in the 1980's, and Benedicto Lucas Garcia masterminded the creation of the Civil Defense Patrols in Guatemala. Mexico's Jose Ruben Rivas Pena, who took the SOA's elite Command and Staff Course, called for the "training and support for self-defense forces or other paramilitary organizations in Chiapas."
Click here to read more about the San Jos? de Apartad? case and the SOA connection.
The Peace Community of San Jos? de Apartad? continues to call for the support and solidarity of the international community. Below are steps you can take today to support their struggle for justice:
--> CONTACT YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS. Urge them to sign on to HR 1217, the bill to close the SOA/ WHINSEC. Ask them to support a new foreign policy towards Colombia, one that strengthens human rights protections, justice, and the possibility for peace in Colombia.
Click here for a sample letter/ petition to Members of Congress
Click here for more information on HR 1217, and a list of the 104 current co-sponsors
--> CONTACT THE STATE DEPARTMENT. Urge them to withhold the final certification of military assistance for Colombia until there is a transparent, impartial investigation and prosecution by civilian authorities of the authors of this massacre.
Click here for a sample letter/ petition to the State Department
--> CONTINUE TO SPREAD THE WORD IN YOUR COMMUNITY. Hold a vigil of remembrance to demand accountability. Contact your local media. Write a letter to the editor. Show a video about the SOA. Invite others in your community to travel with you to Fort Benning, Georgia this November 18-20, to close the SOA!
Tips on how to organize a Vigil: http://www.peaceincolombia.org/howvigil.htm
Media outreach tips
Videos about the SOA
Information about the Nov 18-20 Vigil to Close the SOA
5525 Illinois Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20011