US Army School of the Americas Graduate Arrested for Murder of Guatemalan Bishop Print
WASHINGTON, DC -- SOA-trained Guatemalan Col. Byron Disrael Lima Estrada was arrested, along with his son, January 21 for the 1998 murder of Roman Catholic Bishop Juan Gerardi. According to a declassified US Defense Intelligence Agency biographic sketch, Lima Estrada took Military Police training at the US Army School of the Americas (SOA) now located at Ft. Benning, GA. Lima Estrada went on to head the infamous D-2 (G-2) Military Intelligence agency at the height of the genocide campaign in Guatemala?s civil war.

Bishop Gerardi was bludgeoned to death in his home two days after he released a human rights report that implicated the D-2 in human rights atrocities committed during the war. The report, "Guatemala: Never Again," based on thousands of testimonies collected by the archbishop?s office, provided a chilling catalog of the mechanisms of violence. In a chapter titled "D-2: The Very Name of Fear," the report severely criticizes the military intelligence agency headed by Lima Estrada from 1983-85. It cited the D-2 for playing a "central role in the conduct of military operations, in massacres, extra-judicial executions, forced disappearances and torture."

The arrest of Lima Estrada will add to the mounting evidence against the US Army School of the Americas. The SOA has come under increasing criticism by groups in the United States and Latin America who cite numerous human rights and US State Department reports that link SOA graduates to atrocities in Latin America. The 78,000- member Leadership Conference of Catholic nuns and the 13-million member AFL-CIO are two of the spectrum of organizations that have called for the closing of the infamous US Army school. In commemoration of another SOA-linked assassination in El Salvador, over 10,000 human rights activists gathered to protest the Ft. Benning combat training school last November. Twenty-three now face six month prison sentences for their nonviolent protest.

In July 1999 the US Congress voted 230-197 to cut funds to the SOA. The measure failed in the conference committee, but another vote is expected this year. Rep. Joseph Moakley (MA) and Sen. Richard Durbin (IL) have introduced companion bills calling for the SOA?s closing. The arrest in Guatemala will bolster their efforts and counter Pentagon and Congressional supporters who argue that SOA atrocities are a thing of the past.