SOA GRADS CONTINUE TO MAKE HEADLINES THROUGHOUT THE AMERICAS
In just the first two months of 2015, we have been horrified, though not surprised, to learn of the continued repression by SOA/WHINSEC graduates against their own people. As the US continues to secure economic and political interests by utilizing military solutions to social and political problems, SOA/WHINSEC graduates continue to make headlines in countries like Honduras, Guatemala, Peru and Chile, underscoring the importance of continuing the struggle to close the SOA/WHINSEC. While some graduates have yet to be held accountable due to the high levels of impunity in their country or in the US, they are all directly responsible for committing grave human rights violations, which include murder, torture and genocide.
Lt. Pedro Barrientos Nuñez - Chile
In 2013, a Chilean Supreme Court formally requested the extradition of former Lieutenant Pedro Barrientos from the United States to Chile to stand trial for the 1973 torture and murder of folk singer Víctor Jara. Barrientos moved to the US after the Pinochet dictatorship ended in 1990. While the US government has yet to respond to this extradition request, a trial in a Florida court was set to begin on February 23. Though the trial has been postponed, Barrientos, who currently resides in Deltona, Florida, could potentially lose his US citizenship and later extradited to Chile where he would stand trial. In the US, Barrientos has been accused of immigration fraud, as he concealed his participation in human rights atrocities during the dictatorship in Chile. Joan Jara, widow of Víctor Jara, filed the case against Barrientos and has been seeking truth and justice for over 40 years.
General José Efraín Ríos Montt - Guatemala
On January 5, the retrial against SOA grad and former dictator General José Efraín Ríos Montt and José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez was set to resume following the annulment of the historic May 10, 2013 sentence condemning Ríos Montt to 80 years in prison for crimes against humanity and genocide against 1,771 Ixil Mayans. He is the first former head of state to be put on trial for genocide. On the morning of the retrial, the defense motioned for a postponement of the trial, using Ríos Montt's deteriorating health an excuse for not being able to present himself to the courtroom. Through stalling tactics by his defense, including attempts to seek amnesty, the retrial has been postponed once again despite international criticism. Ríos Montt came to power after a coup on March 23, 1982 and remained in power until August 1983. He is 88 years old.
Second Lieutenant Josué Antonio Sierra - Honduras
In January 2015, 2011 SOA/WHINSEC graduate Second Lieutenant Josué Antonio Sierra got off scot free for his role in the murder of 15-year-old Ebed Yanes despite the judges' finding that "it has been proven Josué Antonio Sierra and Felipe de Jesus also fired their weapons at young Ebed Jassiel, which makes them participants in his death". Sierra was in charge of the patrol, part of a US-vetted unit in charge of the US-donated vehicle used to chase down and kill young Ebed at a military checkpoint. Conveniently, Honduras' Public Ministry solely accused a low-ranking solidier who was not part of the US-vetted unit of murder, while accusing Sierra and Rodríguez only of abuse of authority and cover-up. Human rights organization COFADEH had previously tried to include murder charges against them but the government Special Prosecutor for Human Rights decided against it. Now, the US can conveniently report that nobody from the vetted unit, much less a WHINSEC grad, has been found guilty of murder in the case.
Click here to continue reading...
Col. Jovel Martínez - Honduras
Meanwhile, in the northern part of the country on the night of January 29, 18-year-old campesino leader Christian Alberto Martínez Pérez was riding his bike near the entrance to Paso Aguán Plantation, which is controlled by security guards for Dinant Corportation and soldiers from the Xatruch III Task Force, commanded by SOA graduate Jovel Martínez. Christian went missing, his bike found at the entrance to the Paso Aguán Plantation. Campesino and human rights organizations proceeded to search for him, finding his shirt on the Paso Aguán Plantation. Over 200 people combed the area for him, until finally on the third day of searching, he was found, blindfolded, barefoot, hands and feet tied up, left in a field. Once rescued, he told how a Dinant security guard approached him with a gun and together with a soldier put him in a vehicle, blindfolded him, and interrogated him about the leadership of the Gregorio Chávez campesino movement.
Click here to continue reading...
General Daniel Urresti Elera - Peru
Yesterday in Peru, prosecutors requested 25 years of prison for SOA gradaute, retired General Daniel Urresti Elera, related to the 1988 murder of journalist Hugo Bustíos. As head of the Intelligence Section of the Counter-subversive Military High Command Battalion at the time, Urresti is accused of masterminding the ambush and murder of Bustíos. Up until last week, Urresti was in charge of Peru's police as Minister of the Interior and also made headlines as police repression was unleashed on protests against a law that would eliminate labor benefits and rights for young workers. Twenty thousand young people took to the streets, protesting neoliberal reform.
On January 15, 2015, police unleashed tear gas and detained protesters, and violence was reported between infiltrators and police. Soon after, on January 26, Urresti publicly boasted to the media that the young people would not be able to reach Congress and sent ten thousand police to block them. Nevertheless, the Peruvian youth and social movements prevailed and Congress was forced to repeal the law. Just last week, Urresti apologized for the February 11, 2015 death of 25-year-old Ever Pérez Huaman during protests against a petroleum company in Pichanaki, Peru. Amidst mounting criticism, Urresti admitted political responsibility for the use of firearms by police during the protest, and stepped down as Minister of the Interior.
Great Article Details the Deportation and Other Judicial Proceedings Against Salvadoran SOA Grads
Two Salvadoran ex-generals and School of the Americas graduates, José Guillermo García Merino and Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, have been ordered deported by Immigration Judges in the last year. This excellent article from Trevor Bach in the Miami New Times details the history of the different types of judicial proceedings instituted against them in the U.S. and elsewhere, the crimes they have been found responsible for, their continued lack of remorse, and the unwavering fight for justice by the Salvadoran people and international allies. The ex-Defense Minister and ex-Director of the National Guard continue to evade responsibility for their heinous crimes and are appealing their deportation orders.
Read more here.
MAY 2014Damning Report Links U.S. Military Training, including SOA/WHINSEC Training, to Extrajudicial Assassinations in Colombia
The Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Colombia‐Europe‐U.S. Human Rights Observatory published a detailed, data-rich report focusing on the over 6000 extrajudicial murders committed by Colombia's military between 2000-2010, the first ten years of U.S.-funded Plan Colombia. The impunity for the "false positives" goes all the way to the top, as SOA-grad and current Army commander General Jaime Lasprilla oversaw at least 75 killings of civilians when he led a brigade in southern Huila Department in 2006–2007.
Utilizing available data and reports, author John Lindsay-Poland shows that a worrisome correlation exists between U.S. military training and human rights abuses. Colombia has for years been the number one client of the SOA/WHINSEC and is now multiplying that model by training thousands of soldiers from around the world. The importance of this report becomes even more important as policy-makers from both parties tout Plan Colombia as a "success" and model to impose on other Latin American countries, and the SOA/WHINSEC as a "reformed" institution while ignoring the facts on the ground.
EXCERPT: "Of the 25 Colombian WHINSEC instructors and graduates of the Command and General Staff course from 2001 to 2003 for which any subsequent information was available, 12 of them — 48% — had either been charged with a serious crime or commanded units whose members had reportedly committed multiple extrajudicial killings. A random sample of 25 Colombian officers from approximately the same period showed a better human rights record than the WHINSEC cohort: we identified four (16%) who subsequently led units with multiple extrajudicial executions under their command."
Read more here.
Salvadoran General/SOA Graduate Ordered Deported from U.S. for Role in 1980s Human Rights Violations; Promises to Appeal Decision
Salvadorans continue to feel the pain inflicted upon them by the brutal U.S. trained and funded military and death squads during the 1980s. One sign of justice is the recent Deportation Order issued against Gen. José Guillermo García, who was the Defense Minister during some of the worst atrocities committed in El Salvador, all of which are linked to Garcia and multiple other SOA grads in planning, execution, and cover-up.
From NYT: "Judge Horn found “clear and convincing evidence” that General García “assisted or otherwise participated” in 11 violent episodes that scarred the Central American country, including the 1980 murder of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero as he was saying Mass in the capital, San Salvador. The judge also found that General García helped conceal the involvement of soldiers who killed four American churchwomen later that year. He “knew or should have known” that army troops had slaughtered the villagers, including women and children, in the hamlet of El Mozote in December 1981."
Read more here.
Full Decision of Immigration Judge against García here.
National Defense University (NDU) Professor and SOA Grad Detained in Chile for Role in Multiple Murders after 1973 Coup
On January 30, well-known military and defense journalist Thomas E. Ricks reported on his Foreign Policy blog that the NDU (based in Washington, DC) had been employing an SOA graduate, Jaime García Covarrubias, whom was detained in Chile for his role in the summary executions of seven political prisoners in Temuco after the 1973 Chilean coup d'etat. 14 other ex-Chilean military men were also charged in connection with the massacre, 7 of whom are SOA grads, including Raimundo García Covarrubias, brother of Jaime. 6 of them attended the same course, Combat Arms Orientation 0-37, which was only taught to Chilean students from 1970-1973, the four years prior to the coup. 6 of the 9 that were charged with being "authors" of the homicides are SOA grads. One of them, Carlos Oviedo Arriagada, came back to SOA/WHINSEC in 2001 for Cadet Troop Leader Training.
Jaime García Covarrubias, would go on to become the head of Counter-Intelligence for Chile's infamous DINA agency, which oversaw torture and disappearances throughout the country. Disturbingly, the NDU continued to employ García Covarrubias four years after 2010 public investigations in Chile revealed the accusations against him, which included promoting sexual torture along with homicide.
Read more here.
Uruguayan SOA Graduate Arrested for Participation in Operation Condor
On August 14, Prensa Latina reported that Uruguayan Army Major Antraning Ohannessian, a 1969 graduate of the School of the Americas, was arrested for the forced disappearance of four people in 1976, as part of his role in "Operation Condor". Operation Condor, a coordinated plan of state repression against left-wing activists in the Southern Cone of South America, was largely led by SOA graduates.
Read more here.
Colombian Armed Forces Promotes SOA Graduates
On December 5, 2012, after a secret Senatorial plenary, 33 members of the Colombian Armed Forces were promoted to upper-echelon ranks. Of the twenty Army Generals promotes, all of them were graduates of the US Army's School of the Americas; some were instructors.
The list of SOA Generals in the Army is as follows:
- Ernesto Maldonado Guarnizo.
- Jaime Alfonso Lasprilla Villamizar - Also instructor at WHINSEC '03-'04. "While he was with the Ninth Brigade, troops under his command reportedly committed at least 58 extrajudicial executions, one of the highest levels in Colombia" - http://forusa.org/sites/default/files/uploads/colombiawhinsecgrads.pdf
- Juan Gilberto Valencia Hurtado.
- Miguel Ernesto Pérez Guarnizo.
- Hernán Giraldo Restrepo.
- Juan Salazar Salazar.
- Germán Giraldo Restrepo. Also studied at WHINSEC. Troops under his command of the 10th Brigade in February 2005, "killed 14-year-old Wiwa indigenous Noemí Pacheco Zabatá, who was pregnant, pulling her and her Kankuamo indigenous partner Hermes Carrillo from their beds at two in the morning and killing them. Col. Giraldo Restrepo declared publicly that they were guerrillas killed in combat. In fact, they were civilians, and the Bogota Superior Court found four Army soldiers guilty of homicide, sentencing them to more than 30 years in prison for a clear case of “false positives." - http://forusa.org/sites/default/files/uploads/colombiawhinsecgrads.pdf
- Fernando Cabrera Artunduaga.
- Ricardo Melo Quijano.
- Félix Iván Muñoz Salcedo.
- Adelmo Orlando Fajardo Hernández.
- Luís Fernando Rojas Espinosa.
- Jorge Arturo Salgado Restrepo.
- Mauricio Enrique Forero Cuervo.
- Emiro José Barrios Jiménez. Along with fellow general Navarrete Jadeth, paid a "thousand-dollar booty for the extrajudicial killings of two civilians in Manizales (Caldas), one of the cases known as 'false positives,' the killing of unarmed civilians to bolster the officers’ body counts." - http://forusa.org/blogs/susana-pimiento/colombian-army-officers-implicated-killings-be-promoted/11453
- Jorge Andrés Zuluaga López.
- Martín Fernando De Jesús Nieto Nieto.
- Jorge Enrique Navarrete Jadeth. Along with fellow general Barrios Jiménez, paid a
"thousand-dollar booty for the extrajudicial killings of two civilians
in Manizales (Caldas), one of the cases known as 'false
positives,' the killing of unarmed civilians to bolster the officers’
body counts." -
- Carlos Alfonso Rojas Tirado.
- Eduardo Vargas Martínez.
SOA-trained Graduate Leads Attack on Honduran Farmer Movement
The commander of the Honduran Army's Xatruch III Operation, Colonel Germán Alfaro Escalante, has led a propaganda campaign against farmers in Honduras' Aguan Valley, according to human rights monitoring organizations. Alfaro Escalante, a graduate of the U.S. Army's School of the Americas, has led military operations in the Aguan, where over 90 campesino activists have been murdered since the 2009 SOA graduate-led coup. Activists claim that Alfaro Escalante's claims that campesinos are being trained in Nicaragua in armed insurgency makes them targets of continued death squad and military/police activity.
Read more here.
Massachusetts Tribunal Cites SOA Graduate for 65 Executions and More Than 500 Cases of Torture
In the ongoing hearing of Salvadoran Col. Orlando Inocente Montano for immigration fraud, federal Judge Douglas Woodlock admitted expert testimony that incriminates the former Salvadoran Vice Minister of Public Security in the ordering of massacres, disappearances and torture. If sentenced to prison, Montano could face deportation to El Salvador or to Spain, the latter which has requested him and 19 others for their role in the 1989 UCA massacre. In August 2011, when Montano's other 19 colleagues were requested in extradition to Spain, they were given refuge by the Salvadoran army in a military base to avoid extradition. Montano graduated from the SOA in 1970.
Read a report in Spanish here.
US Cautioned Mexican President Against Choosing SOA Grad as Defense Minister Citing Narco Links, Corruption
The New York Times reported on February 4th that US officials cautioned Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto against choosing General Augusto Moises García Ochoa as the new Defense Minister, citing DEA concerns of the General's links to narcotrafficking, as well as allegations of graft. García Ochoa took a Jungle Operation course in 1977. A biography of García Ochoa on the blog Estado Mayor reports that he was also an instructor at the school in 1983, though he does not appear as such in the SOA Watch Database. In 1997, Mexico's Proceso magazine reported that he was among 32 officers under investigation for drug trafficking.
Former Guatemalan Dictator and SOA Graduate Efraín Ríos Montt to Face Trial for Genocide
On Monday, January 28, Guatemalan Judge Miguel Angel Gálvez announced that former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt must stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Montt took courses at the School of the Americas (SOA) three decades before coming to power in 1982. During his 14 months in office, “an estimated 70,000 unarmed civilians were killed or disappeared; hundreds of thousands were internally displaced,” Amnesty International reports. SOA graduates formed the backbone of the presidential cabinets under the dictatorships of both Montt and his predecessor, Romeo Lucas García. They were also deeply involved in the Guatemalan Intelligence Agency (D-2), in the formation of the notorious civil defense patrols, and in planning and executing “Operation Sofia,” which wiped out some 600 Mayan villages, part of a broader campaign “of genocide against groups of Mayan people,” the 1999 UN-backed truth commission concluded. Montt is the first ex-president to be charged with genocide by a Latin American court—an indication, perhaps, that the tide is turning against impunity in the region.
Learn more about SOA graduates in Guatemala here.
And read more about U.S. support for Guatemalan dictators here.
Five SOA Graduates Affiliated with the Honduran Army's 15th Battalion Linked to Various Murders and Abuses
Based on findings from a recent report from Rights Action, five high-ranking soldiers in Honduras who are linked with the 15th Infantry Battalion have been found in our SOA Graduates Database:
Raynel Funes Ponce
Selman Arriaga Orellana
Rafael Coello Moreno
German Alfaro Escalante
For more information on the specific abuses and the details of their training, click here.
You can read the Rights Action executive summary and full report about the 15th Batallion here
Four Chilean SOA Graduates Charged with the 1973 Murder of Folk Singer Victor Jara
On Friday, December 27, Chilean Judge Miguel Vásquez charged two Chilean officials, Pedro Barrientos and Hugo Sanchez, in the 1973 murder of Chilean Folk singer Victor Jara; six others were charged as accomplices. Four of the eight took courses at the School of the Americas. Pedro Barrientos, the second-in-command of the National Stadium which was turned into a open-air prison following the September 11th US-sponsored coup, and Raúl Jofré took the same Officers' Orientation course in 1968; Edwin Dimter Bianchi took a Combat Arms Orientation course in 1970; and Jorge Smith Gumucio took a Combat Arms Orientation course in 1972. Pedro Barrientos resides in Daytona Beach, FL.
Victor Jara was one of the Pinochet regime's first victims.
Read more here.
SOA Grad Ordered Cover-Up in Honduran Youth's Killing
In Honduras, 15 year-old Ebed Yanes was shot in the back of the head by US-vetted Honduran Army soldiers pertaining to Honduras' 1st Battalion. Soldiers were instructed not to talk about the case. The first to fire at Ebed was squad leader Josue Sierra, who took a Cadet Arms orientation at SOA/WHINSEC in 2011. Lieutenant Colonel Reynel Funes, who ordered the cover-up was vetted and trained by the US at the School of the Americas. Also, Lt. Colonel Jeremias Arevalo Molina, the Honduran Army spokeman who claimed the cover-up never happened, was trained at the SOA.
Read Alberto Arce's AP article published here in the Huffington Post, as well as here.
Former Head of Paraguayan Armed Forces and SOA Instructor Defends "Express Coup" Against Lugo
Paraguayan General Bernardino Soto Estigarribia, instructor at the SOA from 1986-1989, was interviewed by journalist Johannes Wilm, saying that the constitutional coup that removed President Fernando Lugo in June 2012 was necessary to stop "19th century communism".
View the interview in Spanish here
Death Squads, Then and Now
"Washington found an ally in General Álvarez Martinez, an SOA graduate who, while head of the national police in 1981, informed CIA Director William J. Casey that Honduras would gladly serve as a training ground for anti-Sandinista forces. Martinez was chief of the armed forces from 1982 to 1984, and founded the Battalion 3-16 death squad, which was later implicated in the disappearances of dozens of Hondurans, according to a 1993 report by the National Commission on Human Rights in Honduras."
Read Liz Scherffius' article here.
Colombian General Rito Alejo del Rio, trained at the SOA, sentenced to 25 years for murder
The 1997 "Operation Genesis" - the Colombian army- and paramilitary-led operation to attack the guerrilla in the Urabá region of Colombia - left thousands displaced. Campesino Marino López Mena was caught by the paramilitaries and beheaded as a signal to his community. SOA-trained General Rito Alejo del Río was sentenced on August 24, 2012, to 25 years for co-authoring the murder, and for his coordination with paramilitaries in the region. Del Río was known as the "Pacifier of Urabá" and has been closely linked to the build-up of paramilitaries in the northwest region of Colombia.
Read more here.
Leer un informe de Justicia Y Paz aquí
SOA-trained Mexican Army Colonel to Be Tried in Civilian Court for Cover Up
For his role in the cover up of the May, 2011 torture and murder of 26 year-old engineer Jethro Sánchez Santana, in Veracruz, the Mexican Supreme Court decided that Army Colonel and SOA graduate José Guadalupe Arias Agredano (of Mexico's 21st Infantry Batallion) should be tried in civilian courts. If the court rules the same way in at least five cases, it could lead to all soldiers accused of crimes against civilians to be tried in civilian courts. According to the Jornada Morelos, military prosecutors have opened up at least 5,000 cases involving crimes against civilians from 2007 until April 2012, with only 38 soldiers being convicted.
Read more here.
What Happened?: Evaluating the Records of Colombian WHINSEC Graduates
By John Lindsay-Poland, Fellowship of Reconciliation
In June 2012, Ambassador John Maisto asked the commander of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), until 2001 known as the School of the Americas, whether any graduates of WHINSEC have been accused of human rights violations. The school’s commander, Col. Glen Huber, said there have been none that they knew of.
There is extensive information available on Colombian military officers and Army human rights violations, thus providing an important test case for
the WHINSEC commander’s claim. Who were these 29 Colombian military instructors and command students, and what were their human rights records before and after spending a year at WHINSEC?
Read John Lindsay-Poland's brief on Colombian SOA/WHINSEC graduates since 2001. Updated version: http://www.soaw.org/docs/ColombiaWHINSECgrads.pdf
Argentina: SOA-trained dictator Jorge Videla and former General Reynaldo Bignone Convicted for Kidnapping
On July 5, two leaders of the former Argentina military dictatorship, Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone were convicted and sentenced to 50 and 15 years, respectively, for their roles in the kidnapping and theft of dozens of babies of executed and disappeared political prisoners during the dictatorship that lasted from 1976-1983. Jorge Videla was trained at the SOA, as many of the other Argentine dictators were. Human rights groups in Argentina estimate that under the military junta that murdered over 30,000 people, more than 500 children were born in captivity, and raised by security officers' families after their parents were killed.
Read more from the National Security Archive.
SOA Violence Against Protestors in Peru
At least 5 protestors in the Cajamarca region of Peru have been killed by Peruvian police during protestsa against the Conga mine, a project of Denver-based Newmont Mining Corporation. The police respond to the Minister of the Interior, Wilver Calle Girón, a former military general and graduate of the SOA. Likewise, the appointment of former military officer and SOA graduate, Oscar Valdés Dancuart, to the position of Primer Minister was seen as a signal that the Humala government "would take a tough line against anyone who protested against the Conga mine project." Humala's own training at the SOA was seen as a stain on his record during his campaigning.
Read an article by Michael Baney here.
SOA-trained Colombian Generals Appear in Colombian Narcotrafficker's Diary for Alleged Payments
Colombian investigators are looking at a diary of the former head of the Norte del Valle drug cartel, alias "El Chupeta", arrested in Brazil and extradited to the US in 2007. Many top military officials, politicians, paramilitaries and guerrilla leaders are named in the diary, which had been held by Colombian Police since 2006, but only handed over to investigators in March 2012. Colombia Reports put a list of the Military officials named and SOA Watch has added the courses that the Army heads completed at the School of the Americas (shown after their names, if they took a course):
- General Luis Felipe Paredes Cadena (retired) – Small Unit Infantry Tactics C-7, Jan 1976
Former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman
$102,500 per month
- General Jaime Calderon Valenzuela (retired) – Small Unit Inf Tactics C-7, Jan 1976; Training course for Leaders, Jan 1998
Former commander of the Army's 7th Brigade
$60,000 per month
- General Gomez Vergara (retired) – Cadet Branch orientation, 1983
Former commander of the Army's 3rd Brigade
$135,000 per month
- General Gabriel Ramon Diaz (retired) – Operaciones de Comandos OE-4 1980; also named in Human Rights Watch's 2001 report, “The Sixth Division”, as leading the 24th Brigade in Putumayo that worked closely with AUC paramilitaries
Former commander of the Army's 2rd Brigade
$35,000 per month
- General Jorge Ardila Silva (retired) - Small Unit Infantry Tactics, Aug 1976
Former commander of the Army's counter-narcotics Brigade
- General Daniel Castiblanco (retired)
Bogota's former Police Commissioner
$45,000 per month
- Admiral Jose Alfonso Diaz (retired)
Navy Rear Admiral
$55,0000 per month
- Admiral Carlos Humberto Pineda Gallo (retired)
Former second in command of the Navy
$75,000 per month
- Admiral Juan Aldana Torres (retired)
- Admiral Ivan Aguilar Valle (retired)
Additionally, according to John Lindsay-Poland of the Fellowship of Reconciliation "two of the generals (Ardila Silva and Paredes Cadena) commanded the counter-narcotics brigade in southern Colombia in 2005-2006, heavily supported by the United States at the time of the narco-payments they were apparently receiving from Chupeta's organization."
Ex-chief of Ecuadoran Military Intelligence Unit, an SOA Graduate, Taken to Court
Former head of the Ecuadoran Military Unit, Colonel Mario Pazimiño Silva, has been questioned for his public statements and Twitter messages that may have foiled an attempt by the Ecuadoran Police to bring down a drug trafficking gang. Pazmiño Silva graduated with honors from the School of the Americas in 1985, after taking a course in Military Intelligence. In 2001, Pazmiño was accused by fellow officer Jorge Brito as being the author of "Legion Blanca," an ultraright group dedicated to threatening journalists, human rights activists and social leaders. The Ecuadoran Defense Ministry has also accused Pazmiño of working for the CIA, after an investigation into the 2008 bombing of Ecuadoran territory by the Colombian military.
New Honduran Police Chief is an SOA Grad
After the abduction and murder of journalist Alfredo Villatoro earlier in the month (since the June 2009 SOA-led coup, Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism), Honduran Chief of Police Ricardo Ramírez del Cid was replaced with Juan Carlos "El Tigre" Bonilla. Bonilla took a course at the SOA in 1992. His announcement was made by another SOA-trained military official, Pompeyo Bonilla Reyes, who was appointed as Minister of Security in September of 2011. According to the Weekly News Update on the Americas, Bonilla is "a graduate of the carabineros police academy in Chile who was accused in 2002 of belonging to “Los Magnificos,” a group of former and active Honduran police agents said to have carried out extrajudicial executions of suspected gang members. He was acquitted when the prosecutor quit the case. During recent assignments in Copán and Olancho departments, he reportedly exposed police agents who were collaborating with drug traffickers, and this may be why he has been chosen to clean up the police department."
Guatemala Sentences SOA-trained Soldier to 6,060 Years for Dos Erres Massacre
Following on the heels of an earlier conviction in the case of the 1982 Dos Erres massacre, SOA-trained Pedro Pimentel Ríos was sentenced to 6,060 years for his role in the killings of 201 people. After his participation in the massacre, Ríos left to become an instructor at the School of the Americas.
Read more here and here.
Guatemala, Ríos Montt and the SOA
Article written by Nick Alexandrov
“During the 14 months of Ríos Montt’s rule, an estimated 70,000 unarmed civilians were killed or ‘disappeared;’ hundreds of thousands were internally displaced,” according to Amnesty International. In the summer of 1982, he launched “Operation Sofia,” which destroyed 600 Mayan villages.
José Efraín Rios Montt was a graduate of the School of the Americas. Read more here.
Salvadoran Colonel and SOA-graduate Inocente Orlando Montano Morales Implicated in Jesuit Killings Pleads Not Guilty to Fraud, Perjury
A notorious graduate of the U.S. Army's School of the Americas -- a Salvadoran colonel implicated in the 1989 assassinations of six Jesuit priests -- is fighting criminal charges for allegedly lying on immigration papers that have allowed him to live quietly in the United States for the last 10 years.
Read more here.
Update September 2012: read an article about Inocente Montano by Nick Alexandrov here.
SOA Graduate Sentenced to 19 Years for "False Positive" Scandal in Colombia
Colonel Luis Fernando Borja, SOA class of '86, was sentenced to 19 years for his participation in 50 extrajudicial killings, known in Colombia as the "False Positives" scandal. Young men were lured by the army with the promise of jobs, killed in remote areas of the country and passed as guerrilla fighters killed in combat.
Read more here.
El Salvador's Public Security Cabinet Replaced with SOA Grads
This article originally appeared on the CISPES website here.
Four-time SOA grad Francisco Ramón Salinas Rivera was named as the new director of El Salvador's National Civil Police on Jnauary 23. This follows the appointment of then Defense Minister and SOA graduate David Mungía Payés as Public Security Minister last November, and deputy director of the State Intelligence Organization (like the FBI) and SOA graduate Colonel Simon Molina Montoya . Possibly violating El Salvador's peace accords, these appointments also represent the further militarization of civilian duties under the increased "War on Drugs".
Read more here.
Honduran "Coup General" and SOA Graduate Romeo Vásquez Velásquez to run for President in 2013
Despite his leading the 2009 coup which subverted democracy in Honduras, General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez has announced that he will run for president in the country's 2013 elections, under his Patriotic Alliance of Honduras party. The 2009 coup touched off a wave of killings - many attributed to the Honduran armed forces - which has left over 460 dead, 59 alone in 2011. Of the coup, SOA-trained Honduran Army Attorney Col. Herberth Inestroza stated in an interview with The Miami Herald that “[it] would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That's impossible.'' Inestroza also confirmed that the decision for the coup was made by the military.
SOA Grad Otto Pérez Molina Wins the Guatemalan Presidency
Implicated in numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity, SOA trained Otto Perez Molina has won the presidency of Guatemala under the slogan of "Iron Fist".
Read more at the National Security Archive blog.
Four of 6 Generals Tied to the 2009 Honduran Coup Were Trained at the SOA
The Honduran Supreme Court voted 12-3 to reject abuse of authority charges against now-retired Generals Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, Luis Prince Suazo, Venancio Cervantes, Miguel Garcia, Juan Pablo Rodriguez and Carlos Cuellar. The charges stem from the 2009 coup in which the democratically-elected president, Manuel Zelaya, was overthrown and flown to Costa Rica.
As a result of the case, SOA Watch has been able to determine that of these six generals officially linked to the orchestration of the coup, 4 were trained at the notorious School of the Americas. These are Generals Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, Luis Prince Suazo, Miguel Angel García and Carlos Cuellar.
Read more here.
Connecting the Dots: Colombian Army Officers and Civilian Killings
By John Lindsay-Poland, Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), October 24, 2011
"...In March 2006, then-president Álvaro Uribe was resting at his ranch when Major Oscar Acuña, commander of the anti-kidnapping unit, reportedly ordered the killing of five civilians... Acuña received training at the School of the Americas, not once but twice, in 1992 and 1995, including a course in leadership and counter-drug operations."
Read more here.
Arrests Issued for Guatemalan Military High Command
On October 11th, authorities issued arrest warrants for former Guatemalan Minister of Defense and former President Oscar Humberto Mejía Víctores, and former military intelligence officials José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez and Luis Enrique Mendoza García.
The Public Prosecutor seeks to press charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for massacres that occurred between 1982 and 1983 in the Ixil region, during which time all three were members of Efraín Ríos Montt's military high command. Mendoza Garcia is also a graduate of the School of the Americas.
Read more here.
SOA-grad-founded Guatemalan Kaibiles sentenced to 6,000 years for Dos Erres Massacre
"This court unanimously resolves that the accused: Daniel Martínez, Manuel Pop, Reyes Collin and Carlos Carías, committed the crime of murder against the inhabitants of Dos Erres. For that crime they must serve a 30 year sentence for each of the people killed, which amounts to a total of 6,060 years…in Carías’ case, six more years will be added for the crime of aggravated robbery,” said Judge Patricia Bustamante.
Colombian SOA/WHINSEC Instructor Sentenced for "False Positives"
Major Mauricio Ordoñez Galindo was sentenced to 46 years in prison for the killing of four civilians in Cali (Colombia) in January 2007. Ordoñez was the highest ranking official of the 9 army personnel sentenced for this crime. As head of the GAULA anti-kidnapping unit in Cali, his unit killed Edinson Yimel Villanueva Santa, Nelson Antonio Mosquera Osorio, Edwin Antonio Alvarán and Fabio Andrés Carmona Burbano, and then presented them as kidnappers killed in combat.
From December 2001 to December 2002, Mauricio Ordoñez Galindo served as an instructor at SOA/WHINSEC for the Cadet Leadership Development Course and the Cadet Troup Leader Training Course.
Bolivian SOA Grad Jailed for Cocaine Trafficking
General René Sanabria, head of Bolivia's anti-drug unit until 2009, was sentenced to 14 years for cocaine trafficking, in a Miami court. General Sanabria was trained at the US Army's School of the Americas, in a Psychological Operations Course in 1993.
Read more here.
Salvadoran SOA Grad Implicated in the 1989 Murder of Elba and Celina Ramos and 6 Jesuit Priests Arrested
Inocente Orlando Montano, a former Colonel in the El Salvadoran army and graduate of the School of the Americas, was arrested on August 23 in Massachussetts. A Spanish court indicted him, along with 19 other Salvadoran troops, for the murders of Elba and Celina Ramos, and 6 Jesuit priests in the November 1989 massacre at the University of Central America.
Two SOA Grads Sentenced in Bolivia's "Black October" Case
Four former generals and an admiral were sentenced to between 10 and 15 years in prison. The former generals, Roberto Claros Flores, Juan Veliz Herrera, Jose Ovaldo Quiroga and Gonzalo Alberto Rocabado, and Adm Luis Alberto Aranda Granados were jailed over what has become known as the "Black October case".
General Juan Veliz Herrera and Gonzálo Alberto Rocabado were trained at the US Army's School of the Americas.
Read more here.
Seven Peruvian Soldiers Accused of Authorship of 1985 Accomarca Massacre Trained at the SOA
On August 15th, proceedings started in the trial of Peruvian soldiers indicted in the 1985 Accomarca Massacre in Perú. Seven of those are SOA grads. Below is the break down of the names of those 7 graduates and the charges against them.
Accused of being intellectual authors of the crime ("autores mediatos del delito asesinato"):
Nelson Gonzales Feria
Carlos Darío Pastor Delgado Medina
Manuel Enrique Aparicio Saldaña
José Daniel Williams Zapata
Ricardo Sotero Navarro
Accused of being intellectual author of murder as well as author of kidnapping and forced disappearance ("autor mediato del delito asesinato y autor de secuestro y desaparición forzada"):
Helber Alejandro Gálvez Fernández
Accused of being coauthor of the crime of murder ("coautor del delito asesinato"):
Telmo Ricardo Hurtado Hurtado
USOC/FOR Report Shows Connection Between SOA-Trained Commanders and Extrajudicial Executions in Colombia
The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the U.S. Office on Colombia released a groundbreaking report entitled Military Assistance and Human Rights: Colombia, U.S. Accountability, and Global Implications, which exposes serious problems with the implementation of U.S. foreign military training. An executive summary of the report can be accessed here.
Once again, detailed research continues to uncover the connections between SOA/ WHINSEC graduates and instructors with extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations.
Read more here.
SOA-trained "Butcher of the Andes" Sent Back to Perú
Peruvian ex-army officer, Telmo Hurtado, trained at the SOA, is alleged to have taken part in the "Accomarca Massacre" in August 1985, when army units entered a village and killed dozens of residents. He was arrested in Miami Beach (Florida) in 2007, and will appear before a Peruvian court that will decide where he will be held while prosecutors prepare the case.
Read more here.
SOA Instructor Extradited to Guatemala
Pedro Pimentel Rios is the fourth former Kaibil discovered to be living in the U.S. and targeted by ICE as part of its fledgling Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center. Just one month after the massacre, the former solider began working as an instructor at the notorious School of the Americas, then based in Panama.
Read more here.
Member of Mexican Zetas Drug Cartel Arrested; Claims Recruited from Fort Benning
One of the original seven members of Los Zetas, Jesús Enrique Rejón Aguilar, aka El Mamito, was captured in Mexico. Rejón Aguilar was also known as Zeta 7. He helped the then Gulf Drug Cartel leader Osiel Cardenas recruit the original Mexican special forces soldiers trained at Fort Benning, Georgia to become the most dangerous criminal organization in Mexico.
Read more here.
BREAKING NEWS: First arrest for genocide in Guatemala! SOA-trained general Héctor Mario López Fuentes goes to trial
"After ten long years of struggle, we join the Association for Justice and Reconciliation and the Center for Human Rights Legal Action in applauding the arrest of [SOA-trained] General Héctor Mario López Fuentes, marking the first arrest in the case against genocide in Guatemala. The initial hearing against López Fuentes will be held this coming Monday.
"At this moment NISGUA, The Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala, wants to share with you the words of the AJR and CALDH as they announce this historic advance in the pursuit of justice in Guatemala. NISGUA links people in the U.S. and Guatemala in the grassroots global struggle for justice, human dignity and respect for the Earth. Formed at the height of Guatemala's war in 1981, NISGUA's network today is comprised of thousands of people across the U.S. who demand justice for genocidal crimes of the past, push to change current U.S. policies, challenge corporate-led development in Guatemala, and advocate for grassroots alternatives:
'On June 17th, General Héctor Mario López Fuentes was captured in Guatemala City, twenty-nine years after having initiated the execution of Plan Victoria 82, developed by the Army Chief of Staff and Efraín Ríos Montt’s de facto government. He is accused of having perpetrated genocide against the Maya Ixil people in the years 1982-83...' "
Read more here!
Ex-Death Squad Leader Speaks About Dirty War Tactics Learned at the School of the Americas
Peru's "dirty war" against leftist insurgents dated to before Alberto Fujimori's 1990-2000 presidency, a defense witness and former death squad member said Friday at the trial of the former leader on charges of human rights abuses.
"Many (military) officers are now human rights defenders, but earlier they kept quiet. There were abuses before Fujimori,” former intelligence agent Angel Sauni told the court.
Sauni, a self confessed member of the Colina Group, a team of select army intelligence operatives accused of killing 25 people in two massacres in 1991 and 1992, said the strategy used against the leftist Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement came directly from teachings and manuals of the "School of the Americas."
This notorious former military school in Panama has been held responsible for many of the human rights abuses committed by South American military forces in their war against leftist insurgencies during the 1970s and 1980s.
Fujimori, 69, is accused of ordering the Colina Group massacres and of authorizing the 1992 abduction of a prominent journalist and a businessman critical of his regime.
He faces up to 30 years in prison and a 33 million dollar fine if found guilty.
Sauni said the School of Americas's dirty war tactics were "customary" in the Peruvian army, but insisted that abuses committed by the military "are isolated actions that do not reflect institutional behavior."
A lawyer for the victims of the Colina Group massacres, instead, blamed the "institutional policy of the military" prior to Fujimori for the murders.
"We have to prove that Fujimori is criminally responsible for the (murders) because he upheld that institutional policy," David Rivera told reporters. (AFP)
Read more -SOA Graduates in the News
SOA Grad Convicted for Murder of Narcotics Police
Lt. Byron Carvajal, together with fourteen other Colombian soldiers, face up to 60 years in prison for the murder of ten elite counternarcotics police agents.
Byron Carvajal attended the School of the Americas for Weapons Orientation as a cadet in 1985
Cali, Colombia (AP) - A cashiered army lieutenant colonel and 14 soldiers were convicted Monday of murdering 10 elite counternarcotics police agents in an ambush that showed how deeply drug corruption threatens Colombia's security forces.
Lt. Col. Byron Carvajal and his soldiers face prison sentences of up to 60 years. Prosecutors want Judge Edmundo Lopez to impose the maximum.
The convictions came despite numerous attempts to subvert the trial, including a prosecutor's offer to help the defense in exchange for more than $400,000, senior police officials and prosecutors familiar with the case told The Associated Press.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing investigations, said the bribe was never paid and the prosecutor who sought it had been removed from the case before he made the offer.
Carvajal was convicted of ordering the May 22, 2006, ambush in the town of Jamundi, where an informant told police they would find at least 220 pounds of cocaine at a psychiatric center. When police pulled up, the soldiers cut them down with 420 bullets and seven grenades. No drugs were found.
Carvajal, who was not at the scene, said his soldiers believed they were surprising leftist rebels. The other defendants refused to testify to avoid incriminating themselves.
Defense attorney Eugenio Vergara said the defendants would appeal after April 21 sentencing.
Carvajal claimed innocence even after the verdict, insisting he "had no motive whatsoever to order the murder of these agents."
He and former Lt. Harrison Castro described themselves as wronged patriots: "I've fought so that all you people here today can be free," Castro told the court.
Prosecutors didn't present evidence about suspected motives. Top army officials initially called it tragic "friendly fire." Senior police officials told the AP they believe the soldiers were protecting a major drug trafficker.
One thing is clear, chief prosecutor Mario Iguaran told the AP: "It was a massacre related to organized criminals."
Mafias have long tried to infiltrate security forces, but Colombia's soldiers rarely kill colleagues in the service of drug lords. While witnesses linked Carvajal to Wilson Figueroa, a drug trafficker captured last year in Cali, those ties were not explained.
Colombia has received some $700 million in U.S. foreign aid annually since 2000, much of it for counternarcotics operations.
The slain agents, some of whom trained in the United States, belonged to the most elite unit of Colombia's judicial investigative police, working closely with DEA agents to seize cocaine and arrest traffickers, said Nicolas Munoz, the agency's deputy director.
Most died of shots to the head, neck and chest. In the midst of the fusillade, some managed distress calls, and Gen. Carlos Sanchez issued a radio order to the troops: "Stop. Stop please. Stop, they're police."
Police got off just 30 shots. Not a single soldier was wounded. The courtroom, filled with relatives of the slain officers, was silent as the verdict was read.
School of Americas Graduates Implicated in Bogotá Bombings
(by John Lindsay-Poland)
A director of Colombian military intelligence and another officer implicated in a series of false attacks and a bombing that killed a civilian and injured 19 soldiers in Bogotá in 2006, attended the US Army School of the Americas, an examination of records shows.
The Colombian Public Ministry is investigating Colonel Horacio Arbelaez, former director of the Army’s Joint Intelligence Center; Major Javier Efrén Hermida Benavides; and Captain Luis Eduardo Barrero for orchestrating placement of bombs in a Bogota shopping mall and other sites in July 2006, on the eve of President Uribe’s inauguration for his second term. At the time of the bombing and false attacks, they were attributed to guerrillas of the FARC. In most cases, the bombs were not detonated, but were denounced by the accused officers and deactivated to demonstrate the FARC threat and show military intelligence was doing its work.
(Photo: Maj. Hermida and Capt. Barrero)
Hermida took two courses at the School of the Americas, including a three-month military intelligence intensive in 2000, while Arbelaez took an infantry course at the School in 1981. A statistical study by sociologist Katherine McCoy found that the more courses Latin American officers took at the School, the more likely they were to commit abuses. (Latin American Perspectives, 2005, http://lap.sagepub.com )
In addition, the Army Joint Intelligence Center that Arbelaez directed receives US aid, according to a State Department list of units vetted to receive assistance.
The officers reportedly collaborated with a FARC deserter on placing the bombs, according to tapes, videos and documents. Hermida, who claims his innocence, told a Colombian radio station that the operation at the shopping mall was carried out with knowledge of high military officials.
Hermida and Barrero also face criminal charges for the false attacks, five of which had been united into one case by the Prosecutor General’s office.
Arbelaez, who is now Colombia’s defense attaché in Israel, was previously head of intelligence for the Army’s 18th Brigade. That brigade, based in oil-rich Arauca state, has received extensive assistance and in-country training from US Special Forces.
Press reports identified Hermida and Barrero as belonging to the Army’s 13th Brigade part of which receives US assistance, as well as to a regional military intelligence center that also receives US aid.
SOA/WHINSEC Instructors Jailed for Involvement in Colombian Drug Cartel
After barely averting a cut in funding by a six vote margin in Congress and becoming a focus of widespread criticism for its lack of transparency, the SOA/WHINSEC is once again making headlines due to crimes committed by its graduates.
(Photo: Diego Leon Montoya Sanchez, alias "Don Diego")
A recent criminal investigation into the Colombian Army’s Third Brigade, has prompted the arrest of thirteen high ranking officers accused of providing security and mobilizing troops for Diego Montoya (alias “Don Diego”), the leader of the Norte del Valle Cartel and one of the FBI’s 10 most-wanted criminals.
Two former instructors of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC) are among the thirteen. Colonel Quijano, a former commander of Colombia’s Special Forces, and Major Mora Daza, taught “peacekeeping operations” and “democratic sustainment” at WHINSEC in 2003-2004.
Over HALF of the thirteen military officials implicated in the drug cartel protection ring attended the U.S. Army School of the Americas and/or its successor institute, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
Colonel Javier Escobar Matinez, Major Javier Isaza Muñoz, Major William E. Ortegon, General Hernando Perez Molina and retired Major Juan Carlos Agudelo received training at the U.S. Army School of the Americas as part of a U.S. funded assistance program to Colombia in the fight against outlaw paramilitaries and drug cartels. All five are now under arrest for collaborating with the drug cartels they were trained to fight against.
In 2006, Colombian military officers from the Third Brigade ambushed an elite, U.S.-trained anti-drug squad in the Valle town of Jamundí, killing ten policemen. The officer who ordered the attack, Colonel Bayron Carvajal, now under arrest, also attended courses at the School of the Americas.
These events serve as a sad reminder of the consequences of the SOA/WHINSEC’s policies, or lack thereof, regarding the tracking of its students and evaluating the actual results of the training it provides. The school claims to be a tool for furthering democratic values and human rights in the Western Hemisphere yet the facts show that a significant number of its graduates have consistently engaged in human rights violations and criminal activity.
Colombia ranks number one as the largest recipient of military aid in the hemisphere, with an estimated $584 million dollars for 2007, and fifth in the world after countries in the Middle East. It is also the SOA/WHINSEC's biggest client, with over 10,000 graduates. Not surprisingly, it also holds the worst human rights record and is the most violent country in the region, with an estimated 15 deaths per day in military-related violence.
- Read more about this breaking news!
Chilean SOA Graduate Fails to Report to Prison
Retired General Raul Eduardo Iturriaga Neumann failed to report to fulfill his 5 year sentence in a Chilean prison on June 12, 2007. He is now considered a fugitive and an arrest warrant has been issued on his behalf. Initially, his family members claimed to not know his whereabouts but he later issued a videotaped statement declaring that he would not go to prison nor would he turn himself in to the authorities over a “human rights” case.
This was the first sentence for “Don Elias” as he was known within the “Brigada Puren”. The former Chief of the Exterior Department of the DINA (Chilean military intelligence agency) was sentenced for his involvement in the disappearance of 21-year old left wing militant Luis Dagoberto San Martin. On June 23, 1995, a court in Rome condemned Raúl Eduardo Iturriaga Neumann “in absentia” to 20 years' imprisonment for coordinating the assassination attempt against Christian Democrat politician and former Vice-President Bernardo Leighton. He and his wife, Ana Fresno, were shot and seriously wounded on September 1975 in Rome. He is also a suspect in plotting the assassination of General Carlos Prats and his wife Sofia Cuthbert in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
General Iturriaga Neumann attended the School of the Americas in Panama in 1965 for a Basic Airborne Course before participating in the 1973 military coup to overthrow the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. He then become one of the founding members of the notorious DINA (Direccion Nacional de Inteligencia), General Pinochet's military inteligence unit which carried out the assassinations, kidnappings and disappearances of key political dissidents of the military regime.
As Chief of Exterior for the DINA, Iturriaga Neumann played a significant role in Operation Condor together with other high profile SOA graduates from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. In his book, "The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents" (The New Press, 2004), investigative reporter John Dinges claims that the School of the Americas, then located in Panama, provided material and logistical support to facilitate communications between the military intelligence agencies involved in the operations to target political dissidents abroad.
General Iturriaga was scheduled to enter the Cordillera Penitentiary on June 12, 2007 where other former military officers who were involved in human rights violations during the military dictatorship (1973-1990) are detained. Among the detainees are Gen. Miguel Contreras, Gen. Miguel Krassnoff, Pedro Espinoza, Col. Maximiliano Ferrer Lima, Col. Marcelo Moren Brito, Carlos López Tapia, and Fernando Lauriani Maturana. General Miguel Krassnoff and Brigadier Fernando Lauriani are also SOA graduates; Krassnoff attended the SOA for an “Urban Counter-Insurgency” course in 1974 and Lauriani attended in 1971 for “Combat Arms Orientation 0-37”.
Update: After 52 days on the run, Iturriaga Neumann was arrested on August 2nd, 2007 in the coastal city of Vina del Mar in Chile. He is currently serving a five year sentence in prison.
Peruvian SOA Graduates Arrested by ICE
Retired Peruvian military officers Telmo Hurtado and Juan Rivera Rondon were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in Florida and Baltimore respectively, in violation of U.S. immigration laws this past week.
Hurtado and Rivera stand accused for the August 14, 1985 massacre of 69 children, women and men in the village of Accomarca, in the southeastern region of Ayacucho, Peru. Both are facing a 2006 extradition order by a Peruvian court for leading the four military brigades which executed the 69 civilians.
Telmo Hurtado and Juan Rivera Rondon attended Arms Orientation courses at the U.S. Army School of the Americas from 1981-1982 during the height of military repression. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that investigated the political violence in Peru during the 1980's, the armed forces killed and "disappeared" more than 7,250 civilians who were not involved in the conflict.
Read More About this Breaking News...
Read More About Telmo Hurtado and Juan Rivera Rondon
CIA Cites Colombian SOA Instructor Montoya Uribe for Paramilitary Connection
A recent Los Angeles Times article reported that a CIA report linked Colombia's top ranking military officer General Mario Montoya to Colombia's right wing paramilitaries.
Colombia's paramilitaries, considered terrorist organizations by the U.S. government, are financed by drug trafficking and have long been suspected of collaboration with the Colombian military and key government leaders and politicians.
General Mario Montoya attended the School of the Americas as student in 1983 and as an instructor in 1993. The CIA report states that Montoya and a paramilitary group jointly planned and conducted a military operation in 2002 to eliminate Marxist guerrillas from poor areas around Medellin where at least 14 people were killed and dozens more disappeared.
Read the Complete Los Angeles Times article
Read More About General Montoya
Read a Compelling Article on Plan Colombia by Linda Panetta
Ex-Chilean military officer Enrique Sandoval has confessed to the murder of the first underage victim of the military dictatorship in Chile, fourteen year old Carlos Fari?a Oyarce. The confession comes as part of a trial led by Judge Zepeda. Enrique Sandoval and Com. Lopez Almarza have been convicted for kidnapping and murder and could face prison sentences.
Carlos Fari?a Oyarce was kidnapped from his home in La Pincoya on October 13, 1973 and was killed execution style by three bullets to the head; his body was then burned and buried in an undisclosed location becoming one of Chile?s many disappeared and one of the 79 underage children who fell victim to the brutal regime led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. His body was found during an excavation in the West end of Santiago on July 30th, 2000.
A few months prior to the murder and the military coup of September 11, 1973, Enrique Sandoval had attended the Schools of the Americas, then located in Panama.
His reputation landed him a post at Villa Grimaldi, one of the dictatorships most notorious detention and torture centers, where he commandeered the Agrupacion Condor of the Brigada Caupolican whose duties included search and seize missions. In 1977, he became part of the CNI (Central Nacional de Inteligencia), Pinochet?s secret police whose mission was to ?neutralize? opposition leaders and political dissidents. In August 1981, Sandoval shot and killed Lisandro Sandoval Torres, a member of MIR (Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionario).
Enrique Erasmo Sandoval Arancibia (aka ?Pete el Negro?): attended the School of the Americas in Panama for ?Combat Arms Orientation 0-37? from January 8th to February 9th, 1973.)
A Guatemalan court ordered the capture of four military officials wanted by Spain for alleged involvement in the disappearance of Spanish priests in Guatemala and a fire at the Spanish Embassy that killed 36 people during the country's civil war, a judge said Tuesday.
Judge Morelia Rios, who issued the arrest warrants, said the soldiers are wanted on charges of homicide, terrorism and kidnapping.
The case stems from 1999 charges levied in Spanish courts by Guatemalan Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu against five ex-military officials and three ex-government officials. Menchu's father died in the embassy fire, which also killed three Spanish citizens.
The Spanish government is expected to send a formal extradition request in the next several days. Guatemalan authorities issued the arrest order out of concern that the military officials would try to flee.
Warrants were issued for then-Defense Minister Angel Anibal Guevara; for German Chupina, head of the feared National Police from 1978-1982; for former dictator and army Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia; and for Pedro Garcia Arredondo, former leader of an elite unit known as Commando 6.
Guevara turned himself in hours after being informed of the warrants, and was then transferred to a prison. His lawyers said they would appeal.
Angel Anibal Guevara: Attended the SOA throughout 1950-51 and took courses in Basic Weapons, Infantry Tacticts, Communications, Heavy Weapons, Automotive and Engineer Basic.
Germ?n Chupina Barahona: Attended the SOA in 1960 (July 18 ? Sept. 23) for a General Supply Officer?s course.
Read more about this case.
Former Salvadoran army officer Gonzalo Guevara Cerritos, convicted for the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, a housekeeper and her 14-year-old daughter, was arrested by federal agents on October 18 in Los Angeles, California.
Gonzalo Guevara Cerritos, a sub-lieutenant in the notorious Atlacatl Battalion, took part in the November 16, 1989 massacre at the Central American University (UCA) in San Salvador. Less than a year before the brutal killings, Guevara Cerritos received military training at the U.S. Army School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia.
In 1991, a jury in El Salvador convicted Guevara Cerritos for instigation and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism. The convicted terrorist escaped with minor consequences, being released in 1993 after less than two years of house arrest.
According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, Guevara Cerritos entered the country illegally in January 2005.
Read more about this case.
Telmo Hurtado is facing an extradition request from Peru?s Supreme Court for his responsibility in the Aug. 14, 1985 massacre of 74 children, women and men in the Andean highlands village of Accomarca, in the southeastern region of Ayacucho.
Military court records that contain Hurtado?s testimony prove his involvement in the massacre beyond a reasonable doubt: The officer brought the children (ranging in age from 1 to 8 years) together with a group of women and old men in one of the houses in the village. "I ordered the assault group under my charge to open fire, while I threw a hand grenade inside (the house) with the intention of eliminating anyone who might be merely injured. I took the decision to eliminate the injured because there were too many of them," said Hurtado.
"Yes, I set the house on fire and we stayed there until the fire consumed everything, and made sure that only ashes and blackened bones were left. Then we picked up the shell casings and any other evidence showing that we had been there," reads the document.
According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that investigated the political violence, the armed forces killed and "disappeared" more than 7,250 civilians who were not involved in the conflict, many of whom were indigenous people.
Hurtado escaped Peru on Dec. 28, 2002, fleeing first to Colombia and then to the United States, just when authorities in Peru decided to reopen the investigation into the massacre.
In 2006, Interpol (the international police agency) located Hurtado in the state of Florida, where he lives with his family, and the court handling the case initiated extradition proceedings.
Telmo Hurtado : Attended the ?Weapons Orientation? course at the School of the Americas from October 6th to November 5th, 1982.
Juan Veliz Herrera, Bolivia?s former Military Chief of Staff, is currently facing charges of torture, murder, and violation of the constitution for his responsibility in the death of 67 civilians in El Alto Bolivia during the ?Gas Wars? of September-October 2003.
General Juan Veliz Herrera: Attended the SOA in 1970 for the ?Small Unit Warfare? course.
Gonzalo Rocabado Mercado, Bolivia?s former Commander in Chief, is currently facing charges of torture, murder, and violation of the constitution for his responsibility in the death of 67 civilians in El Alto Bolivia during the ?Gas Wars? of September-October 2003.
General Gonzalo Rocabado Mercado: Attended the SOA in 1969 for the ?Small Unit Warfare? course.
Vladimiro Motesinos, Peru?s former Chief of Intelligence, was sentended to six years for using government money to fund former President Alberto Fujimori's 2000 re-election campaign. The sentence will be served concurrently with Montesinos' 15-year prison sentence for various corruption convictions.
Vladimiro Montesinos attended the ?Cadet Orientation? course at the SOA in 1965.
Former military captain Luis Alfredo Maurente faces an extradition request from Uruguay?s Justice Department for his involvement in the clandestine ?Automotores Orletti? detention center, which operated in Buenos Aires, Argetina during the 1970?s. Maurente was part of the Defense Intelligence Services and, together with three other ex-military officers, faces charges for the disappearances of close to 100 Uruguayan and Argentinean citizens, kidnapping and illicit association.
Captain Luis Alfredo Maurente: Attended the School of the Americas (SOA) in 1969 and 1976 to attend the ?C-1? and ?Military Intelligence 0-11? courses respectively.
Read more about this case.
Those responsible for the detention, torture and death of chilean folk singer and activist Victor Jara benefited from impunity during the remaining 17 years of dictatorship and from the Amnesty Law decreed by the Military Junta before Chile?s return to Democracy. In December 2004, Chilean judge Juan Carlos Urrutia prosecuted the then retired Lieutenant-Colonel, Mario Manriquez Bravo for the murder of Victor Jara. Lt. Bravo was the highest commanding officer in charge at the National Stadium during 1973, but the identity of the Jara's actual killer remained unknown.
In recent months, and after various testimonies from ex-prisoners, Victor Jara?s alleged killer was identified as Edwin Dimter Bianchi. A Chilean military officer with a bad reputation (he was also known as ?El Loco Dimter?) who in 1970 attended the School of the Americas (SOA), then located in Panama, and completed a one month course in ?Combat Arms Orientation?. Shortly after his stint at the SOA, Dimter participated in the failed coup attempt against Salvador Allende in June of 1973 known as the ?Tanquetazo? led by a rouge military brigade. Dimter and his fellow conspirators were arrested and then set free shortly after the successful coup of September 11, 1973. Upon his release, he was assigned to serve in the Estadio Chile.
Survivors of the detention center have testified that on his arrival at the stadium he was full of spite and vengeful due to his recent imprisonment under the Unidad Popular and quickly gained a reputation as a sadist. Due to his good looks and arrogant swagger he received the nickname ?The Prince?. An ex-prisoner, Chilean attorney Boris Navia, described ?the Prince?s? modus operandi: ?He would make rounds through the different levels of the Stadium screaming insults and intimidating prisoners. He would show up unexpectedly in a section of the Stadium and the prisoners had to remain silent in his presence. He behaved like a frustrated stage actor. He always carried a leather club and when he walked through the rows of prisoners who were waiting to be brought into the stadium and had been on their knees for hours and hours with their hands on their heads he would hit and insult them?. In another episode described by ex prisoners, ?The Prince?, ordered another soldier to kill a prisoner by beating him with his rifle after he tripped and stumbled over his legs. According to testimonies such as these, Dimter was directly involved in the beating and death of Victor Jara.
Read more about this case.
UPDATE 3/25/05: SOA Graduate Commands Brigade Accused of Massacre of Civilians in Colombia
On February 21-22, 2005, eight members of the San Jos? de Apartad? Peace Community in Urab?, Colombia?including three young children?were brutally massacred. Witnesses identified the killers as members of the Colombian military, and peace community members saw the army?s 17th and 11th Brigades in the area around the time of the murders. General H?ctor Jaime Fandi?o Rinc?n is the commander of the 17th Brigade of the Colombian army. Fandi?o Rinc?n is a graduate of the notorious School of the Americas.
Take action! Click here for more information about the massacre and the SOA connection -- and find out what actions you can take today to demand accountability.
Former Honduran military intelligence chief Col. Juan Lopez Grijalba, is facing trial in US federal court early in 2005. Six plaintiffs, five of whom reside in the United States, allege that Lopez Grijalba is responsible for the torture, disappearance, and extrajudicial killing of Honduran civilians during the 1980s. After heading the Direccion Nacional de Inteligencia(DNI), the primary operations division of the military-controlled national police force, Lopez Grijalba then became the armed forces chief of intelligence in 1982. Lopez Grijalba was an SOA student on four separate occasions between 1963 and 1975. After the existence of the murderous Battalion 3-16 became public and Lopez Grijalba was implicated in its activities, he was still invited to speak at the School of the Americas in 1991 and 1992. Lopez Grijalba moved to the Miami area in 1998 where he lived until immigration officials arrested him in 2002.
An October 22, 2003 article in The Brownsville Herald (TX) reported that the notorious Gulf Drug Cartel has hired 31 ex-Mexican soldiers to be part of its hired assassin force, The Zetas. According to the Mexican secretary of defense, at least 1/3 of these deserters were trained at the SOA as part of the elite Special Air Mobile Force Group. Their highly specialized and dangerous weapons, training, and intelligence capabilities are now being used to increase the availability of the drugs and terrorize the region. The Mexican attorney general’s office implicates them in dozens of shootouts, kidnappings and executions of police officers.
In April 2002 two SOA graduates, Army Commander in Chief Efrain Vasquez and General Ramirez Poveda, helped lead a failed coup in Venezuela. Additionally, Otto Reich, who was named to the "new" school’s Board of Visitors, met with the generals in the months preceding the coup. During the coup Reich advised business leader Pedro Carmona, who subsequently seized the presidency.
From El Salvador
In 1983, Colonel Francisco del Cid Diaz (then a 2nd Lieutenant) commanded a unit that forcibly removed 16 residents from the Los Hojas cooperative of the Asociaci?n Nacional de Ind?genas, bound and beat them, shot all 16 at point-blank range and threw their bodies in the Cuyuapa River. This is a very well known, very high profile and notorious massacre, and cited in the annual State Department Human Rights Country Reports throughout the 1980s. The case was also investigated by, and included in the final report of, the El Salvador Truth Commission established under the Salvadoran Peace Accords.
The El Salvador Supreme Court granted amnesty to all defendants, but in 1992 the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights stated that there was substantial evidence that Col. del Cid Diaz and the other ranking officer present gave the orders to execute, and recommended that the Salvadoran government bring them to justice. Instead of facing justice, we find that Col. del Cid Diaz was at the WHINSEC in 2003, and was also enrolled in SOA in 1988 and 1991.
In 1997 Captain Filmann Urzagaste Rodriguez was one of those responsible for the kidnapping and torture of Waldo Albarracin, then the director of the Popular Assembly for Human Rights in Bolivia and now the Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman). In 1999 the Bolivian Chamber of Deputies Commission in charge of investigating the case passed it, together with all the evidence, to the ordinary courts for investigation and prosecution. The case was also the subject of a well-known petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (that has not yet been acted upon). In 2002, Urzagaste Rodriguez, now a Major, took a 49-week officer training course at the WHINSEC.
Three Colombian police officers under investigation for personal use of counter-narcotics funds took courses at the WHINSEC at nearly the same time as the investigation. In June 2002 the Colombian Attorney General's office, at the request of the U.S. Government, opened a "disciplinary" investigation into alleged activities of corruption by members of the Colombian National Police, including Captain Dario Sierro Chapeta, Lt. Col. Francisco Patino Fonseca, and Captain Luis Benavides Guancha. The first two attended the WHINSEC in 2002, and Benavides Guancha was there for 18 weeks in 2003. (It is yet to be determined if the charges against the 3 were brought before, during, or after acceptance at the WHINSEC.)
Human rights abuses and problems with civil-military relations are not a thing of the past in Latin America, and many are well documented. The fact that students with known human rights violations and problems of corruption are attending an institution that that boasts about the "meticulous screening process" that all students pass to ensure they are "law-abiding citizens" undermines the claim that the WHINSEC "teaches" respect for human rights, or that it is serious about claiming to train "only personnel of unquestionable character." To the contrary, these cases can be interpreted as the WHINSEC’s --or more seriously the U.S. military-- rewarding of human rights violators with the honor of studying in the United States.
SOA/WHINSEC Grads in the News 2002-2004 (pdf)
For more information see the updated