Military Coup in Honduras

The School of Coups is at it again...

Tegucigalpa, Honduras - On June 28, 2009, graduates of the School of the Americas overthrew the democratically-elected government of Honduras.

SOA General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez
In a well-planned operation, 200 masked soldiers under the command of General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez stormed the presidential palace in the middle of the night. The soldiers grabbed President Zelaya from his bed, forced him onto an airplane and flew him into exile. The state television was taken off the air. Electricity to the capital, Tegucigalpa, was cut, as were telephone lines and cell phone service.

The leadership of SOA graduates in the coup follows a pattern of anti-democratic actions by graduates of the school (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, WHINSEC), a U.S. military training facility for Latin American soldiers.

The Pentagon’s claim that the institute instills respect for democracy and civilian leadership, while teaching military combat skills, 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.’’

ImageThe crisis in Honduras began when the military refused to distribute ballot boxes for a referendum to determine whether or not a majority of Hondurans want to enter a process to modify their constitution.  In response, President Zelaya fired the head of the military, SOA graduate General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez. The heads of all branches of the armed forces then quit in solidarity with Vásquez.  Vásquez, however, refused to step down, bolstered by a Court ruling that reinstated him. Vásquez remains in control of the armed forces.

Vásquez Velásquez, along with Honduran Air Force, General Luis Prince Suazo and other coup leaders, graduated from the SOA. Records show that Vásquez Velásquez took a basic combat arms course at SOA in 1976 and another course on small military units in 1984, while Prince Suazo took a 1996 course on joint operations.

The SOA and Honduras

The SOA has a long and shameful 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 grad, Policarpo Paz García, who intensified repression by Battalion 3-16, one of the most feared death squads in the Americas.

Honduran General 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 a Latin American coup. In 2002 when the democratically elected Chávez government of Venezuela was briefly overthrown, the key players in the coup attempt were graduates of the SOA. The SOA has trained at least 11 Latin American dictators.

Resistance & Repression

Honduran social movements are resisting the regime and engaging in daily pro-democracy protests, strikes and civil disobedience. Thousands of farmers, women, indigenous people, teachers, students, unionists and ordinary citizens have united in the National Front of Resistance against the Coup. The Honduran military has responded with curfews, suppression of critical media, brutal repression and even murder.
Since June 28, SOA Watch has been in constant communication with pro-democracy organizers in Honduras. We organized meetings for Honduran social movement activists with the State Department and Members of Congress in Washington, DC and also organized street protests and online actions to build grassroots pressure.
After calls from our partners in Honduras for international support, seven SOA Watch activists joined the social movements on the ground for two weeks in July.

SOA/ WHINSEC training of the Honduran coup army continues
The outcome of the struggle between the military coup and the anti-coup resistance will have far-reaching consequences for all of the Americas. Join the resistance!

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