Known Human Rights Abusers Continue to be Trained at the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) Print

Washington DC - Despite the U.S. Army's claim that Latin American soldiers and police undergo a stringent vetting process before receiving military training at the controversial Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), the successor institute to the School of the Americas (SOA), new research reveals that a number of students with well documented histories of human rights abuses in their home countries have recently attended the institution. These students were Colonel Francisco del Cid Díaz of El Salvador, Major Filmann Urzagaste Rodriguez of Bolivia, and three Colombian police officers Captain Dario Sierro Chapeta, Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Patino Fonseca, and Captain Luis Benavides.

  • In a well known and high profile case, Col. Francisco del Cid Diaz was investigated by the 1992 U.N. mandated El Salvadorian Truth Commission as having bound, beat, and shot 16 residents from the Los Hojas cooperative of the Asociacion Nacional de Indigenas** (see note below). Despite record of this massacre in the State Department Human Rights Record Country Reports, Col. del Cid Diaz attended WHINSEC in 2003.

  • While a captain, Urzagaste Rodriguez was one of those responsible for the kidnap and torture of Waldo Albarracin, then the director of the Popular Assembly for Human Rights in Bolivia. The now Major took a 49-week officer training course at WHINSEC in 2002.

  • The three Colombian police officers were under investigation for personal use of counter-narcotics funds at the same time they attended the WHINSEC in 2002-03.

    These cases undermine the claim that WHINSEC "teaches" respect for human rights and could be interpreted as WHINSEC, or more seriously the Pentagon, rewarding human rights violators with the honor of studying in the United States. Additional research provides startling findings about the effects on the human rights records of students who attended courses at the SOA. Katherine McCoy, as part of an MS in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducted a statistical study of nearly 12,000 SOA students from six countries. She concluded that the more classes a student took at the SOA, the more likely he was to commit human rights abuses in his country of origin. The study also found that the reforms to the school's curriculum over the last 40-year period do not appear to have been successful in curbing the abuse rate of graduates. Given this fact, the question naturally arises: how effective are current reforms in curbing similar abuses?

    Furthermore, none of the fundamental issues raised around the need to close the SOA have been addressed in the renamed WHINSEC -- not its training methods, not its lack of oversight, not the school's record of graduating human rights abusers. The Latin America Military Training Review Act of 2003 (HR 1258), sponsored by Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), calls for the closure of WHINSEC and a full assessment of all Defense Department training in Latin America. "I am deeply disturbed by the recent revelations that known human rights abusers have been chosen to receive U.S. taxpayer-paid training at the WHINSEC," stated Rep. McGovern, Congressional sponsor of HR 1258. "Coupled with other information -- like Katherine McCoy's ground-breaking statistical study on how training at the school affects a graduate's human rights record and the continuing poor record of more recent graduates -- I remain more convinced than ever that the WHINSEC needs to be shut down. Our brave men and women in uniform do not need this unnecessary and unwelcome stain upon their own honorable record and traditions."

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    **After hearing of attempts to discredit this statement, SOA Watch would like to provide more detailed clarity about the case in question. According to the 1993 UN Truth Commission report del Cid Díaz was among many members of the National Guard, and specifically the Jaguar Battalion, investigated for the Las Hojas Massacre. It was found that, "There is substantial evidence that the orders of execution were transmitted to the actual perpetrators by then Second Lieutenants Carlos Sasso Landaverry and Francisco del Cid Díaz." (6/8/04)