“Having detained a total of about 780 prisoners from when it opened to incarcerate terror suspects, the number has now dwindled to 40 after prior administrations released many of Guantánamo’s prisoners. Under Trump, however, rather than closing, Guantánamo may very well be expanding”.
While the year is winding down, SOA Watch has been busy scheming and dreaming about building and mobilizing a strong mass movement in support of autonomy and dignity for our communities and one that categorically demands accountability for US economic, political, and military intervention.
We will be sharing our vision for 2020 in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, we wanted to reflect on and celebrate a few of the things that we accomplished together, as we seek to create a more just world, uplift our communities and the environment, and challenge all forms of US-led and supported violence! Read more here
2019 has been a year of struggle against injustice in Latin America. As long as the US-supported repression continues, the people will keep resisting. Support the work of SOA Watch – SOAWatchDonate
This December 18th, we celebrate International Migrants Day. First and foremost, SOA Watch expresses our love and solidarity with all people who are forced to flee their homelands…
This March 27th-29th, we will be working in collaboration with other organizations to facilitate a weekend of panels and action in Tucson, Arizona to further our collective work to dismantle border imperialism and all forms of US-led and supported violence that threaten the well-being and autonomy of our communities and territories.
On December 2, 2019, a Honduran court sentenced seven men for the murder of visionary Honduran social movement leader Berta Cáceres — over a full year after finding them guilty. This includes Douglas Bustillo, an SOA graduate and former head of security for the hydroelectric dam company DESA, and fellow SOA graduate Army Major Mariano Díaz. Díaz was trained by the United States not only at Ft. Benning, but also in counter-terrorism at the Inter American Air Force Academy in Texas, and was part of the the US-led war in Iraq. He was as an Army Major, instructor for Honduras’ Military Police, and head of military intelligence for Honduras’ First Battalion.
Today on International Human Rights Day, SOA Watch reiterates our deep condemnation of the brutal state violence and systematic human rights violations – murders, sexual violence, torture, and serious injuries – that the Chilean military and police are exercising against the protesting civilian population. Since October, protesters have been calling for a new Constitution and demanding that the State, led by President Sebastián Piñera’s government, end abusive neoliberal policies.
On November 10, 2019, two-time WHINSEC graduate and Commander of the Bolivian Armed Forces, General Williams Kaliman ‘suggested’ that Bolivian President Evo Morales resign. General Kaliman’s statement came after post-election protests bolstered by a false narrative of election fraud promoted by the US-dominated Organization of American States (OAS), a police mutiny, and a vicious campaign of violence by the far right-wing against members of President Morales’ political party, the Movement for Socialism (MAS). This included violent public attacks on MAS officials, burning their homes, and kidnapping family members. As a result, Morales and all three elected officials constitutionally in line to replace him — Vice-President, head of the Senate, head of the Chamber of Deputies — all resigned, citing a coup d’etat. The Mexican government sent an airplane to rescue Morales and granted him and other MAS leaders political asylum, which Morales credits with saving his life.
The United States promptly recognized Jeanine Áñez, a right-wing senator, as President of Bolivia when she declared herself as such in a Legislative session without a quorom where only minority opposition legislators were present. In fact, the Bolivian Legislative Assembly, in which MAS holds a majority, had not even accepted Morales’ resignation, as is required for it to become official. The US attempt to normalize the coup government has been paralleled in the corporate media, which has whitewashed events in Bolivia and created a narrative that legitimates Áñez as president.
As Indigenous people and others throughout Bolivia protest the coup, the US-backed de facto regime has been brutally massacring them, with approximately 30 people killed since the coup. Áñez issued a decree granting impunity from criminal prosecution to military and police forces who kill and shoot protesters, giving the military and police licence to kill. On November 15, 2019, a joint military-police operation opened fire on Indigenous demonstrators in Sacaba, killing at least 9 people and seriously injuring many, many more. On November 19, 2019, the regime again massacred demonstrators, killing at least 8 people in Senkata.
Press Release: As SOA/WHINSEC Graduates Continue Their Legacy of Destabilizing Latin America, Human Rights Activists Return to Fort Benning Where State Agents are Trained
Columbus, Georgia – This year, hundreds will gather at the gates of SOA/WHINSEC, Fort Benning, Columbus from November 15-17, as Latin America again experiences violent repression by US-trained and funded state forces. WHINSEC’s new Commandant, Colonel John Suggs, recently said “change occurred” when the SOA became WHINSEC in 2001; however, SOA Watch movement’s response is “different name, same shame.” In Bolivia, the US is implicated in a coup that led to the November 10, 2019 resignation of President Evo Morales – Morales’ resignation came after the country’s top soldier, General Williams Kaliman Romero, who trained at WHINSEC in 2003, appeared on television with other high-ranking military officials and “suggested” that Morales resign. At least 7 SOA/WHINSEC graduates are implicated in orchestrating the coup against President Morales. SOA/WHINSEC graduates are infamous for using their civilian-targeted warfare tactics to facilitate coups, torture, forced disappearances, and massacres. Over the last weeks in Chile, massive state repression of civilian protests has resulted in at least 20 deaths, thousands of people are hospitalized and forcibly detained — Chile sends the second highest number of foreign state to be trained at WHINSEC. Read more here.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Central American University (UCA) massacre. On the morning of November 16, 1989 the Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran Army, led by 19 School of the Americas (SOA) graduates, entered university grounds and brutally assassinated Elba Ramos, her 16-year old daughter, Celina Ramos, and six Jesuit priests–amongst them, Father Ignacio Ellacuría, an outspoken critic of El Salvador’s military dictatorship. The SOA Watch movement initially formed to denounce this massacre — one of the many atrocities that occurred in Central America as the United States funded civil wars and trained military at the SOA/WHINSEC. Read more…
In recent weeks, massive demonstrations have been occurring in Chile against the US-exported neoliberal economic model.The imposition of the neoliberal model in Chile occurred under the Pinochet dictatorship and was designed by the ‘Chicago Boys’, economists trained under Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago. Chile has long been uplifted as a model for the success of neoliberalism, which includes privatization of public services and goods, deregulation, and cuts to public spending in areas such as health and education. Read more here.
On August 30, 2019, the Due Process of Law Foundation, Guatemala Human Rights Commission, International Platform Against Impunity, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and School of the Americas Watch released a report which profiles Roberto David Castillo and related companies. Castillo is a former Honduran military intelligence official, former government official, and businessman charged with the murder of internationally recognized Indigenous and social movement leader Berta Cáceres. The report brings together information that implicates Castillo in a pattern of human rights violations and corruption to benefit companies with which he was associated.
Evidence suggests that the murder of Berta Cáceres was part of a pattern of violence, corruption, intimidation, malicious prosecution and impunity orchestrated by Castillo and others at DESA, who appear to have functioned as a criminal structure. Evidence admitted in the first trial for the murder of Berta Cáceres suggests that Castillo and his associates and employees enlisted the support of key agencies of the Honduran government, using improper influence in the Ministry of Security, police, military and the Honduran judiciary, seemingly to advance efforts to intimidate, persecute, and neutralize Berta Cáceres and COPINH’s opposition to the Agua Zarca project. The report also sheds light on the role of international actors, including development banks and investors. Read the report here.
In July 2019, an Italian appeals court sentenced 24 former officials from Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay to life in prison for their roles in Operation Condor — a brutal and extremely deadly US-backed operation in the 1970s and 1980s that targeted leftists, activists, social movement leaders, and others who spoke out. Operation Condor kidnapped, tortured, disappeared and/or murdered tens of thousands of people across South America. 5 of the 24 former officials from South American dictatorships sentenced by the Italian court were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas.
Declassified documents posted by the National Security Archive illustrate why it is vitally important to hold the United States responsible for its support of Operation Condor. A six page cable from the US Embassy in Argentina to the State Department in 1980 reported that the Argentine military would not stop using disappearance as a preferred tactic and attempted to explain why. A CIA intelligence report describes how the dynamiting of the bodies of 30 people executed in Argentina in 1976, scattering their remains widely, was meant to intimidate other so-called militants into being quiet just months after the military coup. Another CIA report describes how Operation Condor targeted officials with Amnesty International and other human rights groups and planned overseas missions in Europe to ‘liquidate’ ‘targets’. There will not be true justice until the US government is also held to account for its role in financing, training, and supporting Operation Condor’s atrocities throughout the Southern Cone. Read more here.
Since late April, teachers, doctors, and medical workers in Honduras have been demonstrating against the privatization of education and medical services. The demonstrations in defense of public education and health services have grown into massive and ongoing national mobilizations demanding the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
US-backed economic policies – such as privatization policies promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – are at the heart of the current crisis in Honduras. Furthermore, it is US political, economic, and military backing of the Hernandez regime that enables him to maintain his grip on power. Honduran social movement leader Carlos H Reyes recently said, ”The United States government is too brazen in the case of Honduras, throwing a lifeline to a dying regime. If it were not for them, the regime would have already fallen.” With massive demonstrations ongoing against the regime, the US Embassy in Honduras recently announced the arrival of nearly 300 US Marines and others with the US Southern Command’s rapid response force to Honduras and surrounding countries. The US Marines will conduct ‘training and security cooperation’ with the Honduran security forces, which routinely fire live bullets at teachers and other civilians during demonstrations.
SOA Watch condemns the shameful proposal to lock up immigrant children at Ft. Benning
The Trump administration is considering locking up immigrant children at Ft Benning, one of the very locations responsible for the conditions that cause them to flee their home countries in the first place. Representatives from the Departments of Defense and Health & Human Services visited Ft. Benning on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 to consider the site as part of a disturbing plan to detain up to 5,000 unaccompanied immigrant children on US military bases. Ft. Benning’s School of the Americas (SOA) trained some of the worst human rights abusers from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, including military officials who went on to carry out brutal massacres, murders, disappearances and coups. The training of Latin American militaries at Ft. Benning continues today. In 2018, Ft. Benning’s SOA-WHINSEC trained 130 members of the Honduran security forces, which have been firing live bullets at civilians during recent demonstrations against the US-backed regime.
US policies and US military training create the conditions that lead refugees to flee for their lives. Now children fleeing Central America could be cruelly locked up at the same military base where the US has trained those who have terrorized the homelands. This is shameful.
Representative Hank Johnson and 43 representatives have reintroduced the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, H.R. 1945, in the current legislative session of the House of Representatives. The bill would suspend US military and security aid to Honduras until important human rights conditions are met, including justice for the murder of Berta Cáceres, the killings of over 100 small farmers in the Aguan Valley, the murders of demonstrators who were killed by security forces while opposing election fraud last year, and more.