U.S. Army School Instructors Jailed for Involvement in Colombian Drug Cartel Print
Washington, D.C. - A criminal investigation into the Colombian Army’s Third Brigade has prompted the arrest of thirteen high ranking officers accused of providing security and mobilizing troops for Diego Montoya (alias “Don Diego”), the leader of the Norte del Valle Cartel and one of the FBI’s 10 most-wanted criminals.

Two former instructors at the ex-U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA) - now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) - are among the thirteen. Colonel Quijano, a former commander of Colombia’s Special Forces, and Major Mora Daza, taught Peacekeeping Operations and Democratic Sustainment at WHINSEC in 2003-2004.

Colonel Javier Escobar Matinez, Major Javier Isaza Muñoz, Major William E. Ortegon, General Hernando Perez Molina and retired Major Juan Carlos Agudelo received training at the U.S. Army School of the Americas as part of a U.S. funded assistance program to Colombia in the fight against outlaw paramilitaries and drug cartels. All five are now under arrest for collaborating with the drug cartels they were trained to fight against.

“This case, when contextualized in a long history of graduates committing human rights abuses, exposes the lie that the SOA/WHINSEC supports democracy and is contributing positively to the “war on drugs” in the hemisphere,” said the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School of the Americas Watch, a nonprofit human rights organization which has been working to close and investigate the school since 1990. “The truth is that it is an institution used to prop up regimes in alignment with U.S. economic interests at any cost,” he added.

The SOA/ WHINSEC is a U.S. tax-payer funded military training facility for Latin American security personnel located at Ft. Benning, Georgia. The institution was catapulted into the headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Despite this shocking admission and hundreds of documented human rights abuses connected to soldiers trained at the school, no independent investigation into the training facility has ever taken place.

In 2006, Colombian military officers from the Third Brigade ambushed an elite, U.S.-trained anti-drug squad in the Valle town of Jamundí, killing ten policemen. The officer who ordered the attack, Colonel Bayron Carvajal, now under arrest, also attended courses at the School of the Americas.

On June 21, 2007 the McGovern/Lewis amendment to the FY 2008 Foreign Appropriations bill that would have prohibited funding for the SOA/WHINSEC lost by a margin of only six votes. 203 members of Congress voted in favor of the amendment to cut the funding for the school quoting its connection to human rights abuses throughout Latin America.