SOA Generals Charged in Colombia
Written by Sherwood Ross   

Two Colombian generals, both of whom received training at the U.S. Army's "School of The Americas" (SOA) at Ft. Benning, Ga., have been accused by Colombian authorities of crimes involving narcotics and collaborating with criminal paramilitary groups, according to a report in the June 15th issue of The Nation magazine.

Brig. Gen. Pauxelino Latorre has been charged "with laundering millions of dollars for a paramilitary drug ring, and prosecutors say they are looking into his activities as head of the Seventeenth Brigade," investigative journalist Teo Ballve reports. He notes that criminal probes repeatedly linked his unit "to illegal paramilitary groups that had brutally killed thousands" of Colombian farmers in an effort to seize their land for palm oil production.

Another general, Rito Alejo Del Rio, former 17th Brigade leader, is in jail on charges of collaborating with paramilitaries, gangs that have been responsible for widespread atrocities. He also received training at SOA.

Various firms currently engaged in palm oil development since 2002 apparently have received $75 million in US Agency for International Development money under "Plan Colombia," Ballve writes. And some of the firms appear to be tied to narco-traffickers, "in possible violation of federal law." The writer notes Colombia's paramilitaries are on the State Department's list of foreign "terrorist" organizations.

"Plan Colombia is fighting against drugs militarily at the same time it gives money to support palm, which is used by paramilitary mafias to launder money," The Nation quotes Colombian Senator Gustavo Petro, as saying. "The United States is implicitly subsidizing drug traffickers."

President Alvaro Uribe has urged Colombians to increase palm production from 750,000 to 15 million acres to cash in on the expected boom in biofuels. "Oil palm, or African palm, is one of the few aid-funded crops whose profits can match coca profits," Ballve notes. But human rights groups have long accused palm companies, notably Urapalma, of cultivating stolen lands, he adds.

Senator Patrick Leahy has attached an amendment to this year's Plan Colombia funding (for 2010) to ban palm projects that "cause the forced displacement of local people" but in the bill's current draft, Ballve says, Leahy's amendment is marked for deletion.

Urapalma submitted a grant application to the Bogota, Colombia, offices of ARD Inc., a rural development contractor based in Burlington, Vt., which The Nation reports does business in 43 countries and has received $330 million in revenue from USAID. In January, 2003, ARD began administering $41.5 million for USAID's Colombia Agribusiness Partnership Program and Urapalma was one of its beneficiaries. Urapalma has been accused of taking land illegally from Colombian peasants.

In July, 2003, just before Urapalma's USAID application, Colombia's national daily El Tiempo reported that "the African palm projects in the southern banana region of Uraba are dripping with blood, misery, and corruption." The region is where Urapalma is active.

The Nation article goes on to report that in 2003, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights singled out Urapalma for collusion with paramilitaries in these words: "Since 2001, the company Urapalma SA has initiated cultivation of the oil palm on approximately 1,500 hectares of the collective land of these communities, with the help of 'the perimetric and concentric armed protection of the Army's Seventeenth Brigade and armed civilians'", i.e., paras. One might ask, what is SOA going to do next with US taxpayers' dollars?

--Sherwood Ross formerly reported for major dailies and wire services and currently runs a public relations firm in Florida. Reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Catholic
written by Joe Walker, June 09, 2009
Joe Mojica ironically, or sarcastically cited the money laundering issue, yet conveniently ignored these Generals' alleged collaborations with our U.S. State Department's designated foreign terrorist groups operating as criminal paramilitary groups that had brutally killed thousands" of Colombian farmers in an effort to seize their land for palm oil production. He is also silent about U.S. A.I.D. $75 million possibly being funneled to narco-traffickers, "in possible violation of federal law." SOA Watch has compiled so much evidence over the years that it seems wise that the U.S. should stop funding this WHINSEC Training School for foreign Terrorists at once! Where is your outrage, Mr. Mojica?
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COCAINE
written by Big Ed, June 09, 2009
The USA HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN IMPORTING COCAINE FOR 30 YEARS. DOES EVERYONE FORGET IRAN-CONTRA-COCAINE? WHAT'S THAT?THEY DIDN'T MENTION THE COCAINE OVER & OVER AGAIN? ALL THE FBI-CIA-DEA ALL KNEW THAT THE USA GOVERNMENT WAS IMPORTING COCAINE & USING IT TO FUND THE CONTRAS AND ALL THEIR ILLEGAL SHADOW OPERATIONS.THEY STILL DO IT. THE USA HAS ALLOWED THE COCAINE CARTELS TO OPERATE & HAVE EVEN WORKED WITH THEM.THE CIA WAS THE 1ST 1 TO IMPORT CRACK COCAINE INTO LA. THEY WERE REPORTED BY MICHAEL RUPPERT WHO WAS AN LA COP WHO BUSTED THEM DOING IT.THE USA IS JUST AS CORRUPT AS ANY DRUG GANG.
THE USA also invaded panama looking for Noreiga & KILLED 4000-6000 INNOCENT CIVILIAN PANAMANIANS-MEN-WOMEN&CHILDREN.AND THEY NEVER GOT NORIEGA THAT TIME.HOW DO U EXPECT A CORRUPT BLOODTHIRSTY NATION TO CLOSE DOWN THE SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS???
I HOPE THEY DO BUT I DOUBT IT.
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The failure of the U.S. Army to deal seriously with the record of the SOA, the most intensely scrutinized aspect of US military training in Latin America, raises questions about the quality and emphas
written by Katherine McCoy, June 09, 2009
In a recent master’s thesis conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Katherine McCoy studied the question: “Does U.S. Military training help improve human rights in other countries by providing a powerful alternative example of how to be both effective and professional, or erode human rights by providing the legitimacy and resources to perpetuate abuses?” The statistical analysis was based on a sample of nearly 12,000 SOA graduates from six countries (Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru and Panama) during the period from 1960-2000. Using data on the human rights records of these graduates, the study tracked them over the 40-year period to determine what effect SOA training had on graduates? human rights records.

The Army, the DoD and other supporters of the SOA, and now the WHINSEC, have argued that this school and training of this kind are essential for the professionalization and democratization of Latin American militaries. Further, they have argued that any evidence of human rights violations committed by graduates, as argued by those in opposition to the SOA/WHINSEC, do not constitute a pattern, but simply “a few bad apples.” Recognizing that those “bad apples” exist, those in support of the training of Latin American militaries have argued the following:

- “The way to do away with human rights violations is to expose foreign militaries to the modern, professional training embodied by the U.S. military.” (McCoy)

- “The more professional training a soldier has, the less likely he is to violate human rights. Similarly, the more professional training a soldier has, the greater his respect for democracy and the rule of law.” (McCoy)

“Applied to the case of the SOA, then, these arguments predict that exposure to professional training through the SOA would reduce a soldier’s chance of committing a human rights violation or engaging in other illegal behavior, and that soldiers with the greatest exposure to this type of training should have the lowest chances of committing such crimes.” (McCoy)

- The result of Katherine McCoy’s study found the opposite. First, McCoy found that graduates who took more courses were more often the perpetrators of human rights violations.

- Second, McCoy statistically analyzed the data to see if this could be explained by other factors—type of SOA training, civil wars or dictatorships in the soldiers’ home nations, the cold war period and decade attending, and the soldiers’ rank. Even after controlling for these variables through regression analysis, soldiers who took two or more courses were almost four times more likely to have committed human rights violations than soldiers who took one course. These results are highly significant “Hence when reviewing differences in rates of human rights abuses among graduates of the School of the Americas, we find that the worst offenders are students who took more than one class at the SOA…this suggests that more courses in fact result in much higher rates of abuse.” (McCoy)

- “Another key finding of this study is that, contrary to the Army’s claim that the School of the Americas has corrected past faults and that professional standards have been raised over time to promote the highest respect for human rights, there is no statistical evidence that students who attended the SOA in the 1990s were less likely to engage in human rights violations than those who graduated in the 1960s…the absence of any indicator that SOA graduates improved over time with respect to human rights raises the possibility that recent reforms have not managed to curb existing patterns of human rights violations. ” (McCoy)

These results raise serious questions about the nature and effectiveness of the training done at the SOA. Because the training provided has never been analyzed or scrutinized, and because past reforms did not result in statistical changes in human rights violations, we cannot assume that the current “reforms” have done any better. The U.S. Army, the DoD, and the U.S. Congress have failed to deal with the record of the SOA. Therefore, no “reforms” will result in significant or substantive change in the training or democratization of Latin America or Latin American militaries.
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Nothing ever changes
written by Ralou Lives, June 28, 2009
- “The way to do away with human rights violations is to expose foreign militaries to the modern, professional training embodied by the U.S. military.” (McCoy)

Abu Ghraib. Bagram. Mei Lai.

“Does U.S. Military training help improve human rights in other countries by providing a powerful alternative example of how to be both effective and professional, or erode human rights by providing the legitimacy and resources to perpetuate abuses?”

To seriously ask this question is to be seriously ignorant of decades of history. The author surely knew the truth before she ever put title to page, and anyone who doesn't will never read past the title anyway.

It never stops. It just never does. I can only blame humanity, shrug, and put my head back in the proverbial hole. Pick up a gun, fight back, or slink away. What else is there? Talking doesn't work. Photos aren't worth a word, much less a thousand. People don't care. Americans, most especially, do not care. Do not want to know. And will not stop supporting governments that overthrow elected governments and interfere in democratic processes. Americans have one question with regards to Honduras: Will this affect my abillity to get a cup of coffee?

Sad, but that's just how it is. To all the talkers out there, save your breath. No one is listening. No one cares.







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