SOA Watch Chile Declassified List with Names of WHINSEC Graduates

By Pablo Ruiz, Equipo Latinoamericano of SOA Watch
 
SOAW Chile achieved an important victory; to declassify the names of over 760 Chilean soldiers who took courses at the School of the Americas/WHINSEC during the past decade.


School of the Americas Watch Chile, with the participation of other human rights organizations (La Agrupación de Familiares de Ejecutados Políticos, La Comisión Ética Contra la Tortura, La Comunidad Ecuménica Martín Luther King, La Corporación 3 y 4 Álamos and La Juventud Guevarista) used Chile’s “Transparency Law” to achieve a first victory in their home country.

The Defense Ministry, the Chilean Army, Navy, and Air Force handed over lists that include first and last names, dates, and courses attended by Chilean military personnel at SOA/WHINSEC between 2001-2015.

The declassified materials also mention the names of “invited instructors” who assisted the military school in Georgia as well as those of other high-ranking Chilean officials who are part of the WHINSEC leadership. Additionally noteworthy about the response by the military is the mention of WHINSEC personnel that travelled to Chile to instruct the “Personal Development Course for Cadets” at the Chilean Escuela  Militar. Nonetheless, what is left out is the “Combined Operations Course 2012,” held at the Academia de Guerra and organized by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Estado Mayor Conjunto ) together with the mobile team of WHINSEC.

Although the information is incomplete, the declassification still represents an important step since one of the characteristics of the SOAW movement is to monitor the behavior of the troops that receive training at the military base and for that purpose it is indispensable to know, who its graduates are.

Despite the Army not revealing the identities of Escuela Militar students and of some other officials, using the argument that this is “legally secret information,” it is an important accomplishment in the fight for more transparency and for continuing with the to demand to stop sending Chilean soldiers to the School of the Americas.

SOA graduates participated in the assassination of the singer songwriter Víctor Jara, in the car bomb attack, carried out in the middle of Washington, DC, that killed  Orlando Letelier and Ronnie Moffitt, and in the death of union leader Tucapel Jiménez; among hundreds of other cases that involved soldiers who received training in the US.

The fight for accountability in the US

It is important to remember that the lists with names of Latin American soldiers who trained at the SOA/WHINSEC after 2005 are classified and secret information in the US.
Prior to that year, from 1946-2004, the names had been declassified. This allowed SOA Watch to know that a significant number of soldiers, who committed human rights abuses, had been trained in counterinsurgency methods in the US; including courses that suggested “to use torture, blackmail, extortion and reward payments for murdered enemies.”

In April 2013, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton from the District of Northern California, responded favorably to a Freedom of Information request presented by SOAW activists Theresa Cameranesi and Judith Liteky, demanding the declassification of the names of all Latin American soldiers who received training at the so-called “School of the Assassins.”

Judge Hamilton reminded in her verdict that the Freedom of Information Act is meant to “assure a well-informed citizenry, a fundamental  thing for making a democratic society work and necessary to stop acts of corruption as well as to hold the governing body accountable to the governed.” Her verdict was immediately appealed by the lawyers of the US government and the trail continues to this day. 

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