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Guatemalan Constitution Court Annuls Ríos Montt Verdict PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 21:08

Guatemala’s high court has overturned the genocide conviction of former U.S.-backed dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. In the guilty verdict delivered by Guatemalan courts on May 10, Ríos Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity in the targeted extermination of at least 1,771 indigenous Ixil Mayan people during his fifteen month rule from 1982-83.

However, in a 3-to-2 ruling Monday, May 20, the constitutional court dismissed the court proceedings going back to April 19. On that date the court suspended the trial due to disputes between judges over jurisdiction. The court presiding over the case against Ríos Montt had been influenced heavily by lobbyists which supported this powerful figure in the Guatemalan military and political sphere. One of the most influential of these was Guatemalan business association CACIF.

The Constitutional Court’s approval of the annulment is based on a technical procedure. Ríos Montt remains in a military hospital where he has been since last week’s conviction. His legal status undefined, it is likely he will be put on house arrest.

This decision serves as a reminder that the struggle for justice and reparations is never over, and therefore cannot accept delay as defeat, nor corruption as an inevitability. The very fact that this historic trial came to fruition is testament to peoples’ determination and willingness to move forward, unyielding, in stride toward a brighter tomorrow. Those in Guatemala who twenty years ago cried ¡Nunca más! have witnessed the product of their persistence, and will continue to move onward, for, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once expressed, "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."

Last Updated on Friday, 31 May 2013 15:02
Caso Cerrado... Rios Montt Found Guilty of Genocide in Guatemala! PDF Print E-mail
Efraín Ríos Montt Found Guilty of Genocide!
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards Justice.

SOA Watch celebrates the guilty verdict against the former Guatemalan dictator and School of the Americas Graduate Efraín Ríos Montt, who was sentenced to 80 years in prison. We celebrate and stand in solidarity with the Ixil Mayans, the survivors of the genocide and crimes against humanity committed under his dictatorship (1982-1983).

General Ríos Montt was the first ex-head of state to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in his home country. Doubts arose throughout the 7 weeks of harrowing trial testimony whether or not the Guatemalan justice system would be capable of withstanding dark political forces and threats of violence to deliver the only result supported by the evidence. We applaud the judge's bravery and strongly worded verdict, which has created an echo of hope throughout the Americas and the rest of the world.

SOA Watch renews the demand that justice also visit those who trained, equipped, and facilitated his genocidal regime. School of the Americas 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". This military maneuver wiped out some 600 Mayan villages, part of a broader campaign "of genocide against groups of Mayan people," as concluded by the 1999 UN-backed truth commission. Montt is the first ex-president to be found guilty of genocide by a Latin American court---it indicates that the tide is turning against impunity in the region, however, we must also hold those in the United States accountable, who trained and equipped the right-wing military dictatorships and made the genocide possible.

After a meeting with Ríos Montt in Honduras during the US-backed Dirty Wars in Central America, then-president Ronald Reagan stated that Ríos Montt was “a man of great personal integrity . . . totally dedicated to democracy”. The next day, December 6, 1982, the Kaibiles, the Guatemalan special forces which have extensive ties to the SOA, entered the village of Las Dos Erres, systematically raped the women, and killed 162 inhabitants, 67 of them children. Current President of Guatemala Otto Peréz Molina, also a graduate of the SOA, spent much of his time in military service as a member of the Kaibiles. This military unit was developed by the Guatemalan government in 1974, and its initial leader was a fellow SOA graduate by the name Pablo Nuila Hub. Also during the military career of Molina, he served as Montt's Ixil field commander, under the alias Major Tito Arias. For a more detailed SOA Watch report about the Kaibiles, click here.It was the current administration of Peréz Molina who, fearing Molina's complicity in much of the evidence brought forth in the trial against Montt, who stood to benefit from the temporary suspension of the trial. Thankfully justice prevailed and the trial resumed.

But since today represents a new dawn for the Ixil, Guatemalans and other survivors of systematic violence, we celebrate with hope in our hearts and a renewed sense of purpose. SOA Watch continues to call for the closure of the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) and for an investigation into the connections between U.S. military training and human rights abuses in Latin America. We will continue fighting in the streets, as well as our judicial and legislative branches until we also see justice for the victims of the SOA. Please contact your Member of Congress to urge them to close down the SOA: Click here.

As a commemoration to the inevitability of justice coming to light, we also point to our recent victory in the courtrooms of the United States, in which a federal judge from California has ordered that the Pentagon grant an SOA Watch request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demanding the release of the names of graduates and instructors from the SOA/WHINSEC, which we have previously been denied. Read more about the victory here.

Human rights activists throughout the Americas are calling on President Obama to shut down the School of the Americas and for Congress to cut the funding for the school and to conduct a Congressional investigation into the connection between human rights abuses in Latin America and U.S. military training. From November 22-24, we will take this message with us to the gates of Fort Benning, where Ríos Montt and scores of other human rights abusers were trained. With the strength of social movements across the Americas, we will take direct action against the focal point of several atrocities committed under the banner of US foreign policy, the School of Americas/WHINSEC.

P.S. Listen to "Guilty," by Rebel Diaz, perfect song for the occasion.

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.


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