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…
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.
Urgent Action: 12 human rights defenders facing years in jail in Honduras
On Saturday, February 23rd, 12 Honduran activists who have been defending the drinking water of numerous communities from a mine owned by members of Honduras’ powerful oligarchy were jailed in an extreme misuse of the justice system. This Thursday, February 28th, a hearing will be held that will determine if the 12 defenders of the Guapinol River will spend up to several years in jail while awaiting trial or not. The US-backed Honduran Public Prosecutor’s Office is pursuing charges against at least 32 defenders of the Guapinol River; many are facing serious charges that could result in decades in prison…
Update: Thanks to everyone who took action! The court ruled to dismiss the charges against the 12 Guapinol water defenders!
Guatemala: The Search for Truth and Justice Under Attack!
The search for truth with justice is under attack again in Guatemala. Currently, a proposal in congress seeks to reform the 1996 National Reconciliation Law and seeks to grant immediate amnesty to perpetrators of human rights violations during the 36-year armed conflict. The National Reconiliation Law that came about after the Peace Accords were signed and excludes amnesty for crimes against humanity – disappearance, genocide and torture – has been instrumental in paving the way for key trials that have taken place over the past several years. Between 2008 and 2018, over 30 military officials and civil defense patrols have been convicted of human rights violations, over a dozen more cases are pending, and an overwhelming number of those convicted or pending trial are School of the Americas graduates.
Take Action! No to US Coup d’état in Venezuela; Yes to Sovereignty of the People
On January 23, 2019, Juan Guaidó declared himself president of Venezuela following a phone call from the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence. In doing so, the US and Guaidó are attempting a coup d’etat to achieve Washington’s longstanding goal of removing Nicolás Maduro from the presidency of Venezuela.
President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Senator Marco Rubio, and US Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams are working hard with the Venezuelan opposition, and with other right-wing governments across the globe, to carry out a coup against this Latin American country. A recent article by Mint Press News recounted Elliott Abrams’ ominous historical role guiding disastrous US intervention in Latin America, “Abrams is notorious for overseeing the US covert policy of arming right-wing death squads during the 1980’s in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. His lead role in the Venezuelan coup has stoked fears that another blood-drenched proxy war might be on the way.”
US continues to back repressive regime in Honduras
Sunday, January 27th marked one year since US-backed Juan Orlando Hernandez was installed for a second term as president of Honduras, in the midst of massive demonstrations against widely-recognized election fraud. It was the United States that first recognized Hernandez and ensured he remained in the presidency.
A Miami Herald expose found that US-made M-4 weapons were used by the Military Police to kill 19-year old Kimberly Dayana Fonseca during last year’s demonstrations. Between 2015 and 2017, the State Department authorized companies to export over 10,000 firearms to the Honduran government. Over 35 demonstrators and bystanders were killed during the pro-democracy demonstrations. Dozens more were arrested and jailed; several demonstrators, including Edwin Espinal and Raul Alvarez, have now been imprisoned in inhumane conditions for over a year. Edwin and Raul are in a military-run maximum security prison where their health is deteriorating and they have lost over 40 pounds each.