The June 28 coup in Honduras was carried out by the School of the
Americas (SOA) graduates Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, the head of the
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Honduran military and by Gen. Luis
Prince Suazo, the head of the Air Force. The leadership of SOA graduates
in the coup follows a pattern of anti-democratic actions by graduates
of the SOA (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security
Cooperation, WHINSEC). The Pentagon claim -- that the institute instills
respect for democracy and civilian leadership while teaching combat
skills to Latin American soldiers -- has once again been disproved by
the actions of the institute's graduates.
SOA-trained Honduran Army Attorney Col. Herberth Inestroza justified the
military coup and stated in an interview with The Miami Herald “It
would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship
with a leftist government. That's impossible.'' Inestroza also confirmed
that the decision for the coup was made by the military. Another SOA
graduate, retired General Daniel López Carballo, told CNN that the coup
was warranted because Venezuelan President Chávez would be running
Honduras by proxy if the military had not acted.
The crisis in Honduras began when the military refused to distribute
ballot boxes for a nonbonding opinion poll that was supposed to
determine whether or not a majority of Hondurans desire to enter into a
process to modify their constitution. President Zelaya fired the head
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, SOA graduate General Romeo Vasquez
Velasquez. The heads of all branches of the Honduran armed forces quit
in solidarity with Vasquez. Vasquez, however, refused to step down,
bolstered by a Supreme Court ruling that reinstated him. Vasquez
remains in control of the armed forces.
Vasquez, along with other military leaders, graduated from the United
States' infamous SOA. According to information that SOA Watch obtained
from the US government through a Freedom of Information Act request,
Vasquez studied in the SOA at least twice: once in 1976 and again in
The head of the Air Force, General Luis Javier Prince Suazo, studied in
the School of the Americas in 1996. The Air Force has been a central
protagonist in the Honduran coup. When the military refused to
distribute the ballot boxes for the opinion poll, the ballot boxes were
stored on an Air Force base until citizens accompanied by Zelaya rescued
them. Zelaya reports that after soldiers kidnapped him, they took him
to an Air Force base, where he was put on a plane and sent to Costa
Former Representative Joe Kennedy stated, "The School of the
Americas...is a school that has run more dictators than any other school
in the history of the world."
The SOA has a long history in Honduras: In 1975, SOA graduate General
Juan Melgar Castro became the military dictator of Honduras. From
1980-1982 the dictatorial regime was headed by yet another SOA graduate,
Policarpo Paz Garcia, who intensified repression by Battalion 3-16, one
of the most feared death squads in the Americas.
Honduran Gen. Humberto Regalado Hernandez, who was inducted into the
SOA's Hall of Fame, was a four-time graduate. As head of the armed
forces, he refused to take action against soldiers involved in the
Battalion 3-16 death squad.
This is not the first time the SOA has been involved in Latin American
coups. In April 2002, the democratically elected Chavez government of
Venezuela was briefly overthrown, and the SOA-trained soldiers Efrain
Vasquez Velasco, ex-army commander, and Gen. Ramirez Poveda, were key
players in the coup attempt.
The school graduated at least eleven Latin American dictators, among
· Argentine Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, who seized power in a bloody coup,
bringing down another SOA grad, Gen. Roberto Viola, who came to power
during Argentina’s Dirty War.
· Guatemalan dictator Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, who seized power in a coup
in 1982 and conducted a scorched earth campaign against the Mayan
· Panamanian dictators Gen. Omar Torrijos, who overthrew a civilian
government in a 1968 coup, and Gen. Manuel Noriega, a five-time SOA
graduate, who ruled the country and dealt in drugs while on the CIA
· Ecuadoran dictator Gen. Guillermo Rodriguez, who overthrew the elected
civilian government in 1972.
· Bolivian dictators Gen. Hugo Banzer Suarez, who seized power in a
violent coup in 1971, and Gen. Guido Vildoso Calderon, who grabbed power
· Peruvian strongman Gen. Juan Velasco Alvarado, who in 1968 toppled the
elected civilian government.
Over its 58 years, the SOA/WHINSEC has trained over 60,000 Latin
American soldiers in counter-insurgency techniques, sniper skills,
commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and
interrogation tactics. Human Rights groups are calling for the closure
of the institute. Rep. Jim McGovern has introduced H.R. 2567 in the
House of Representatives, which calls for the suspension of operation of
the school and a Congressional investigation into the connection
between human rights abuses in Latin America and U.S. military training.