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Report Back from Paraguay PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 19:40
SOA Watch Issues Report on Paraguay's Election and Human Rights Violations in the Curuguaty Massacre

From April 17th to 22nd, an SOAW (School of the Americas Watch) delegation from the United States visited Paraguay, joining with human rights organizations of the country, in order to better understand the situation there on the ground.


The delegation visited the Paraguayan campesinos arrested in the case of the Curuguaty massacre, who are now jailed in the nearby town of Coronel Oviedo.

Eleven campesinos and six police officers died during an attempt to evict landless campesinos, which ended in a hail of bullets in Marina Cue, 250 kilometers northeast of Asuncion.   The 45 campesinos, including women and children, were surrounded by heavily armed district police, a SWAT team and a separate special forces group, plus mounted police, a helicopter with snipers, and by reported paramilitary forces – adding up to over 300 armed officers.  The police were accompanied by at least three ambulances.   The campesinos had occupied the lands that they thought were state lands and thus available for agrarian reform, alleging that these lands had been inappropriately obtained and occupied from the state by Blas Riquelme, a businessman and former Senator (now deceased).

The massacre triggered the impeachment of then-president Fernando Lugo on June 22nd, one week later.  The impeachment has been widely questioned by the international community for blatant disregard of due process.

Recently, the International Human Rights Commission of the United Nations issued a report on Paraguay, expressing its profound concern about the Curuguaty case.  “The information received shows a lack of impartiality in the investigatory process.”  The UN also expressed specific concerns about the recent homicides of Vidal Vega, a campesino leader and the central witness in the case, and of Benjamin Lezcano, general secretary of a local campesino group’s steering committee.

After the massacre, the prosecutor’s office chose to investigate only the campesinos.  There are 14 campesino men accused of criminal association, property invasion, and aggravated homicide.  They were also accused of interfering with the processing of the case.  The official investigation is based on an unidentified witness who maintains that the campesinos ambushed the police.   The jailed campesinos have resorted to hunger strikes in order to demand justice and denounce judicial irregularities.

We consider that the principle trigger for the tragedy of Curuguaty was the violation of the fundamental right to the distribution and possession of lands in an equitable manner, guaranteed under the Agrarian Reformation Act and as stipulated in article 114 of the Paraguayan Constitution.  Also contributory are the unjust social conditions under which Paraguayan campesinos live.  We note the statistic that 80% of cultivatable lands in Paraguay are in the hands of 2% of the landowners, while some 300,000 workers have no land of their own.

We cite again the case of Juana Evangalista Martinez, who lives on a small plot of borrowed land that she is unable to even cultivate.  That her husband was landless led him to make the decision to join the occupants of Marina Cue, 8 days prior to the unexpected massacre “because he wanted to feed his family”, according to his widow in words to us.

Again we cite the case of Luis Olmedo, who lives on a small plot, a site to which his family does not have title nor do they even have the space to have a garden.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 April 2013 20:20
Federal Judge Orders Release of Names of SOA/ WHINSEC Graduates PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   

BREAKING NEWS: SOA Watch scored a MAJOR VICTORY this week when we won our court case against the Pentagon! The judge ruled that the Pentagon has no grounds for its refusal to disclose the names of graduates and instructors of the SOA/WHINSEC.

This is another setback for the Pentagon, following the withdrawal announcemnents by Nicaragua and Ecuador. We are moving forward and we are winning!

The Department of Justice, which represented the Pentagon in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment on Wednesday. The Obama administration has 90 days to appeal the judge's order to release the names of SOA/ WHINSEC graduates and instructors to SOA Watch.

April Days of Action Report Back
SOA Watch rocked the house at Haydee's Restaurant on Sunday night! After a few initial days of creating cardboard cut-outs, banners, and signs, we let loose with the amazing local musical talent of Tierra Morena and Seven Jackson. We came together as a community to rock out against the oppression, share a laugh, a dance-step and build up our collective energy to chip away at the crumbling Empire! Thank you to the talented musicians, Haydee's staff and all the great SOA Watch activists - who came from Oregon, Washington, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Minnesota, Virginia and many more places - for the memorable night!
On Monday, we started out the morning with a training from the Legislative Working Group, about upcoming legislation in Congress, and how to meet with a member of Congress. Grassroots lobbying may not have the money that Pentagon lobbyists have, but they sure do have the heart! The training gave activists the tools to convey a powerful message of truth to those in power, and many took off directly to meet with their legislators. Following lunch, we prepared for the rally, and discussed possible direct action scenarios.
Later in the evening, SOA Watch activists channeled the energy of the day and that of our compañer@s from across the Americas through the streets and over to the Capitol South metro station, where a die-in representing the thousands of victims of SOA graduates and destructive US economic policies was re-enacted. Despite heavy police presence, surveillance and harassment, the die-in attracted the attention of hundreds of Capitol Hill staffers, who were encouraged to take the message to their bosses.

On Tuesday, April 9, SOA Watch activists kept up the pressure, staging another die-in and holding up signs in front of the US Capitol. Activists also unfurled a 50-foot banner along the Connecticut Avenue bridge during the evening rush hour. The banner, which hung over the Park Police training center, read "Close the SOA" and was seen by hundreds of drivers before it was cut down by police 45 minutes later.

Then on Wednesday (the 94th anniversary of the assassination of Mexican Revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata!), after more intense lobbying, thousands of people braved the 90-degree heat to demand comprehensive immigration reform. SOA Watch activists and allies joined the rally with a march through Capitol Hill that refused to stay on the sidewalks, and wove through police lines. The message was loud and clear: "Immigration's not a crime! Stop the Pentagon, now's the time!"

We are grateful to our brothers and sisters struggling for a dignified life for all immigrants, and we will continue to speak out and act out in our just struggle.


US Aids Honduran Police Despite Death Squad Fears PDF Print E-mail

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras March 23, 2013 (AP)

The U.S. State Department, which spends millions of taxpayer dollars a year on the Honduran National Police, has assured Congress that money only goes to specially vetted and trained units that don't operate under the direct supervision of a police chief once accused of extrajudicial killings and "social cleansing."

But The Associated Press has found that all police units are under the control of Director General Juan Carlos Bonilla, nicknamed the "Tiger," who in 2002 was accused of three extrajudicial killings and links to 11 more deaths and disappearances. He was tried on one killing and acquitted. The rest of the cases were never fully investigated.

Honduran law prohibits any police unit from operating outside the command of the director general, according to a top Honduran government security official, who would only speak on condition of anonymity. He said that is true in practice as well as on paper.

A Conversation with the Public Affairs Officer at WHINSEC PDF Print E-mail

A School by Any Other Name - by Craig Wiesner

Originally posted on Reach and Teach

On February 21st, 2013, I had a pleasant and informative conversation with Mr. Lee A. Rials, long-time Public Affairs Officer for WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). The conversation was initiated at Mr. Rial's request, after I had written a Tikkun Daily blog post about the school, which was formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA). For decades the school has been accused of having some responsibility for "graduates" (a term Lee and I will debate later in this post) who were later accused of committing atrocities.

I have spent time with people from Central America who were tortured, who saw their families murdered, and barely escaped death squads during the 1980's and 90's. I've spoken on a panel with one US soldier who was involved in supporting those acts. And I've spent countless hours with religious leaders and other activists who have worked for years to close WHINSEC. I have written about WHINSEC before and my latest post at Tikkun Daily caught Lee Rials' attention.

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