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State Department Human Rights Reports PDF Print E-mail

Selective Omissions and SOA/WHINSEC violence: On March 11, 2008, the United States State Department released its country reports documenting human rights conditions in countries around the world, including in Latin America. These reports reveal an interesting dynamic, whereby high profile cases have been selectively omitted and the Colombia country report in particular demonstrates an attempt to influence congressional approval for Colombian aid.

For the past several years, with this year being no exception, the human rights country reports released by the State Department continue to cite graduates of the School of the Americas (SOA), now renamed WHINSEC. In the 2007 reports, eight graduates of the SOA/ WHINSEC from Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru are listed as participants in serious crimes ranging from massacres to extra-judicial killings.

The State Department Human Rights Reports for 2007 cite the following SOA/ WHINSEC graduates by name. Following each citation is a note about which courses the person attended at the SOA/WHINSEC.

COLOMBIA

Diego Leon Botero Murillo of the Fourth Brigade: convicted of murder committed in 2004. Diego Botero took the Cadet Orientation course in 1986.

Major Jorge Alberto Mora Pineda: detained for alleged role in false kidnapping and deaths of six people in August 2006. Jorge A. Pineda was a student in the C-32 Cadet Course in 1993.

Gustavo Adolph Satsoque Murillo: sentenced for aggravated homicide, attempted homicide, and torture committed in 2002. He attended an anti-drug operations course in 1996.

Francisco Chalito Gualtero: sentenced for the aggravated homicide of four people. He attended the Cadet Orientation course in 1990.

ECUADOR

Carlos Badillo: detained for 2005 killings of two people. Badillo attended the Cadet Orientation course in 1967.

PERU

Telmo Ricardo Hurtado Hurtado and Juan M. Rivera Rondón: arrested overseas, to be extradited for their role in the massacre of 69 villagers in 1985. They attended the Cadet Arms Orientation course together in 1981.

Vladimir Montesinos: 20 years of jail requested for his role in extra-judicial killings. He attended the Cadet Orientation course in 1965.

While the vast majority of cases cited in the country reports fail to reveal the names of those arrested, it comes as no surprise that many names of cited perpetrators can be traced back to the SOA/ WHINSEC.

The human rights reports, including that for Colombia, were released in advance of the Bush Administration dumping the proposed Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the lap of Congress. On April 10, 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 224 to 195 to strip “fast-track” language from the Colombia FTA that would have started a 90-day clock to rush the approval of the bill. Dozens of House Representatives spoke out about serious labor and human rights conditions in Colombia and made a historic statement by rejecting the fast-track provision of the FTA. In addition to the human rights concerns expressed by Congress, the State Department country report for Colombia flags many new ones.

In an effort to put a positive spin on the violence in Colombia, and perhaps to influence lawmakers about progress to quell the violence, the report attempts to justify progress in a few areas. The opening statement in the report for Colombia proclaims that the “[Colombian] government’s respect for human rights continued to improve,” which is directly contradicted by documentation in the human rights section of the report stating that “there were at least 238 political and unlawful killings…77 more reported in the same period in 2006.”  The opening statement attempts to attribute much of the violence in Colombia to the paramilitaries, yet the report goes on to say that pacts exist between military officers and paramilitary groups and that military personnel continue to assist and collaborate with paramilitaries with impunity.

Despite the best efforts of the State Department to carefully word their findings, their own documentation supports the conclusion that state-sponsored violence and torture on the part of Colombian military officers continue to be a widespread problem. It also reveals the likelihood that in an environment of impunity, the Colombian military can sanction crime by having the paramilitaries carry out their dirty work.

Curiously absent from the State Department’s report is the high profile case, covered by the national and international media, of the criminal investigation of the Colombian Army’s Third Brigade and their collusion with Diego Montoya, an FBI 10 most-wanted criminal and head of the Norte del Valle Cartel. Of the thirteen high-ranking officers arrested for providing security and troops for the drug cartel, over half of the officers are linked to the SOA/ WHINSEC. Colonel Quijano and Major Mora Daza taught “Peacekeeping Operations” and “Democratic Sustainment” at WHINSEC in 2003-2004, and five additional officers were rewarded with U.S. taxpayer-funded training at the ex-U.S. Army School of the Americas.

Ironically, one of WHINSEC’s public relations messages hails the importance of WHINSEC in promoting democracy and anti-drug trafficking, yet the instructors molding the minds of their students export exactly the opposite values. None of these details, or even a mention of the case, appear in the Colombia report. This selective omission of the Colombian military collaborating with an FBI 10 most-wanted criminal suggests that many other damaging scandals may be missing from the report in an effort to bolster support for the Bush Administration’s agenda for increasing military assistance to Colombia.

For more information or to join the Research Working Group, contact Pam Bowman, the Legislative and Research Coordinator for SOA Watch at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or (202) 234-3440.

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