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SOA Grads Arrested, Face Extradition PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Sunday, 07 February 2016 19:27

School of the Americas Graduates Responsible For 1989 Jesuit Massacre Face Extradition to Spain, Military Officers Arrested in El Salvador

North Carolina/ El Salvador – The 1989 massacre of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos, and six Jesuit priests at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador, that galvanized opposition to the U.S. relationship with Central American death squads and that sparked the movement to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas, is making headlines again.

On Friday, February 5, 2016, a U.S. judge in North Carolina cleared the way for SOA graduate and retired Salvadoran Colonel, Inocente Orlando Montano, to be extradited to face charges in Spain. Col. Inocente Orlando Montano was trained by the U.S. military at the School of the Americas in 1970.

On Saturday, February 06, 2016, El Salvador's national police force announced that four ex-soldiers, who were also involved in the massacre, were arrested at the behest of Interpol in an operation that began Friday night.

The four former military officers arrested in El Salvador are Col. Guillermo Alfredo Benavides Moreno, Sargent Tomas Zarpate Castillo, Sargent Antonio Avalos Vargas, and Corporal Angel Perez Vasquez. Avalos Vargas and Perez Vasquez attended the Small Unit Training and Management course at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1988 and 1987 respectively, before allegedly participating in the brutal 1989 massacre. El Salvador's Supreme Court is expected to rule on their extraditions to Spain in the coming days. Twelve other former Salvadoran soldiers with international warrants in connection with the UCA massacre remain at large, and it is unknown whether they are in El Salvador or have fled the country.

A United Nations Truth Commission cited 26 Salvadoran officers for the 1989 "execution-style" massacre. Nineteen of those were trained at the School of the Americas, renamed in 2001 the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). After its role in training human rights abusers came to light, Central Americans frequently dubbed the SOA the "School of Assassins.”

The SOA made headlines again in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Despite this shocking admission, and even in the face of hundreds of documented cases of human rights abuses connecting to soldiers trained at the institution, no independent investigation into the training facility has ever taken place.

Protests calling for the closure of the School of the Americas/WHINSEC have taken place around the November 16 anniversary of the San Salvador massacre since 1990. Last year over 2,000 participated in the annual demonstration at the gates of Ft. Benning, Georgia to call for the closure of the military training school, which continues to instruct Latin American soldiers, as well as to demand an end to U.S.-led militarization in the Americas that continues to fuel violence and forced migration. SOA Watch maintains that for justice to prevail, the U.S. officials who are responsible for the training of repressive foreign militaries need to be held accountable as well.



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Last Updated on Monday, 08 February 2016 02:38
 
SOA Graduates arrested in Guatemala PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Monday, 18 January 2016 20:14

Last week, eighteen former military officials were arrested on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in one of the largest mass arrests of military officers Latin America has ever seen. Twelve of them were trained at the SOA. The arrests happened one week before the January 14th inauguration of newly elected President Jimmy Morales, of the National Convergence Front (FCN).

Morales, whose party has close ties to the military, faces pressure in the face of the current developments. Morales' right hand man, Edgar Justino Ovalle Maldonado, who is also the FCN party co-founder, newly elected congressman, and retired colonel, is also facing similar charges, though he was not arrested because of his immunity as a congressman. Guatemala's Attorney General, however, has requested the Supreme Court look at the case to strip him of his immunity. Ovalle Maldonado, who is also an SOA graduate, is linked to massacres and disappearances during the 1980's.

The officers arrested last week are (see below for a list of notorious SOA graduates among those recently arrested):

  • Ismael Segura Abularach (SOA, 1976)

  • Pablo Roberto Saucedo Mérida (SOA, 1970)

  • César Augusto Ruiz Morales (SOA, 1970)

  • Manuel Antonio Callejas Callejas (SOA, 1962 & 1970)

  • Colonel Fransisco Luis Gordillo Martínez (SOA, 1961)

  • Carlos Humberto López Rodríguez (SOA, 1970)

  • Edilberto Letona Linares (SOA; 1970)

  • José Antonio Vásquez García (SOA, 1970)

  • Manuel Benedicto Lucas García (SOA, 1965)

  • Carlos Augusto Garavito Morán (SOA, 1984)

  • Luis Alberto Paredes Nájera (SOA, 1960)

  • César Augusto Cabrera Mejía (SOA, 1967)

  • Juan Ovalle Salazar

  • Gustavo Alonzo Rosales García

  • Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas

  • Raul Dahesa Oliva

  • Edgar Rolando Hernández Méndez

The arrests are linked to two cases in particular, both of which have gone before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The first case concerns the operations that occurred at the military base in Cobán. In 2012, exhumations by forensic anthropologists led to the uncovering of at least 550 victims disappeared between 1981 and 1988. The second is for the disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, a 14-year-old boy disappeared by the G-2 military intelligence forces on October 6, 1981.

A pretrial held before a District Court this week in the case of the disappearance of Marco Antonio determined that four of the former military officers accused - three of whom are SOA graduates - will go to trial, facing charges of forced disappearance and crimes against humanity. The retired officers - Fransisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, Edilberto Letona Linares, Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas, and Manuel Antonio Callejas Callejas - remain in custody pending ongoing investigations by the public prosecutors.

It remains to be seen if newly sworn-in Morales, whose party is backed by the darkest structures of the Guatemalan military, will allow for these cases to run their course. The struggle for justice in Guatemala is still as much a challenge today as it was in the past. Given the recent mass mobilizations that brought down the former President and SOA-graduate Otto Pérez Molina and his Vice-President Roxana Baldetti, Morales faces a citizenry that has lost much of the fear that created a culture of silence. In a recent National Catholic Reporter article, Fr. Roy Bourgeois stated that "there will never be any justice or reconciliation until there is accountability and the perpetrators start going to prison". The people of Guatemala are hungry for justice, and they have memory on their side.

Lessons for the U.S.

History has shown us that we cannot count on the government to hold itself accountable. We know from experience that the power we need to makes the changes we so desperately need will come from us, the grassroots. Vice-President Biden, who attended President Morales' inauguration, also had a meeting with the northern triangle Presidents yesterday regarding the ill-named Alliance for Prosperity, which supposedly addresses the root causes of migration. This conversation comes at the same time that ICE is carrying out raids and deporting Central American refugees that have fled US-sponsored state violence. Instead of  actually addressing the root causes of migration by changing its destructive foreign policy in Central America, the U.S. continues to create the conditions that make people flee their home countries through violence and economic exploitation. This was the case during the dirty wars of the 1980's, and unfortunately it is the case now.

There is no question that there was absolute complicity by the U.S. during the 36-year-long armed conflict that marked Guatemala for generations to come. For Guatemalans, this is a decades-long struggle to break down the wall of impunity and the culture of silence and fear, and the steps being taken by surivors to bring cases forward have been nothing short of brave and courageous. For the U.S., what has unraveled over the past few days serves as a sobering reminder that the U.S. fully backed - covertly, directly and indirectly - the Guatemalan military through training, funding, adivising and equipping. Bill Clinton's "apology" was clearly not enough. As Guatemala continues to seek truth, justice and accountability, shouldn't the U.S. think about doing the same, and holding it's officials accountable?

SOA Watch maintains that in order for there to truly be justice, those responsible in the U.S. for the training and funding one of Latin America's most brutal conflicts must be held to account in any and all courts applicable, whether they be domestic, regional or foreign. The U.S. doesn't have to look to far to see that lessons on justice and accountability can be learned through what is happening throughout Latin America.


Notorious Grads

General Manuel Antonio Callejas Callejas - 1988 SOA Hall of Fame graduate who attended the Command and General Staff College in 1970. As former head of intelligence, he was responsible for the assassinations that occurred under former dictator General Fernando Romeo Lucas García, also an SOA graduate. He later became Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces under President Vinicio Cerezo. In 2002, the U.S. revoked his visa due to suspected ties to human rights violations, narcotrafficking and organized crime.

Colonel Fransisco Luis Gordillo Martínez - Attended the Command and General Staff College, as well as Infantry and Weapons courses in 1961. Gordillo was part of the violent 1982 coup that brought SOA graduate and former dictator, General José Efraín Ríos Montt to power.

General Manuel Benedicto Lucas García - Head of the military under former dictator and brother, General Fernando Romeo Lucas García, he attended the Command and General Staff College in 1970, as well as the Combat Intelligence course in 1965. According to the Archdiocese truth commission report Guatemala, Nunca Más, he masterminded the creation of the Civil Defense Patrols (PACs).

Ismael Segura Abularach -  Attended the Advanced Infantry Officer course in 1976, and was commander of the special forces that forced disappeared Maya guerrilla leader Efrain Bámaca to guide army patrols in their search for guerrilla arms caches.

 
▶ Terror from Rural Georgia: The Legacy of The School of the Americas PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Wednesday, 13 January 2016 14:48
Hendrik Voss
Last Updated on Thursday, 04 February 2016 04:54
 
Stop the Raids and Focus Instead on U.S. Policy towards Central America PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Sunday, 10 January 2016 21:46
Statement from U.S. and Central American Groups Working on Human Rights, Immigrant Rights, Women’s Rights, U.S. Foreign Policy and Latin America Solidarity

January 8, 2016

Over the last few days, agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been rounding up and deporting dozens of members of Central American families seeking refuge from extreme violence and dire economic conditions in their communities of origin. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has described the move as part of an effort to “secure” the U.S. border and has announced that “additional enforcement operations such as these will continue to occur as appropriate.”

These raids are the latest chapter of what can only be described as a prolonged U.S. government war on migrant families, and specifically those coming from the most dangerous and economically deprived parts of Central America.

Last Updated on Sunday, 10 January 2016 21:55
Read more...
 
Make a Tax-Deductible donation to SOA Watch PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Saturday, 26 December 2015 11:12
As we continue to struggle for Peace in a world filled with violence and injustice, please consider making a donation to the SOA Watch Educational Fund in support of our efforts towards peace and justice in the Americas. In light of the recent decision to mobilize to the U.S./Mexico border our work is cut out for us in 2016!

There is still time to make a tax-deductible donation to SOA Watch's Educational Fund in 2015! Here are several projects that this Fund supports:

  • Educational resources, such as the Map of U.S. Intervention, books, DVDs, and informational pamphlets
  • Roy's travel for the upcoming 2016 delegations
  • The salaries of our Field Organizer, Latin American Liasion and Latin American Coordinator
  • Our biannual newsletter ¡Presente!
  • SOAW Activantes ("interns") in Latin America
  • Educational speaking tours

Can you help SOA Watch continue our vital work of education, mobilization and non-violent direct action, so that together, we can continue to strengthen a new culture of Peace?

Please visit www.soaw.org/educationalfund to make your year-end tax deductible donation online! Checks and money orders can also be made payable to SOA Watch Educational Fund and mailed to our office at SOA Watch, 5525 Illinois Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20011.

Wishing you a healthy and safe New Year!

 
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