Colombian Paramilitary Leader Confirms Collusion with U.S. Trained Colombian Generals Print
Washington, DC – Salvatore Mancuso, the former Commander of the right wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, testified Tuesday that the paramilitaries, branded "foreign terrorist organizations" by the U.S. State Department in 2001, were aided by high ranking Colombian military officers in training and logistics.

Mancuso, testifying in a closed hearing in the city of Medellin, said the Colombian state supported the paramilitaries since their creation in the 1980’s and that “paramilitaries are a state policy”.

Among the military and government officials signaled by Mancuso as collaborators are General Rito Alejo del Río, General Martín Carreño Sandoval, General Harold Bedoya Pizarro, General Fernando Landazabal, Colonel Alfonso Manosalva Flores, and the current Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos. The six men received training or served as instructors at the U.S. Army School of the Americas and have been accused by Mancuso of inciting and promoting paramilitary intervention in certain regions of Colombia.

The School of the Americas (SOA), now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), is a US tax-payer funded military training facility for Latin American security personnel located in Columbus, GA. Over 60,000 Latin American soldiers have attended the school since it’s creation in 1946, many of which have been linked to human rights violations in their home countries.

The strategy of using civilian paramilitary groups and death squads to avoid government oversight and accountability has been a common tactic of SOA/WHINSEC graduates throughout Latin America. Salvadoran SOA/WHINSEC graduate and ARENA party founder Roberto D'Aubussoin established the Death Squads that were responsible for much of the violence in El Salvador in the 1980's. General Manuel B. Lucas Garcia, who attended the school in 1965 and 1970, masterminded the creation of the Civil Defense Patrols in Guatemala. Mexico's Jose Ruben Rivas Pena, who took the SOA/WHINSEC’s elite Command and Staff Course, called for the "training and support for self-defense forces or other paramilitary organizations in Chiapas” as a response to the Zapatista uprising in 1994.

The Colombian military is the largest recipient of U.S. military funding and training in Latin America and holds over 60% of the seats available to attend courses at WHINSEC.

Legislation to investigate the SOA/WHINSEC and evaluate U.S. foreign military training in Latin America was introduced in the House of Representatives on March 27, 2007 as HR 1707, which already has broad bipartisan support in Congress.