SOA Grads Responsible For UCA Massacre Face Extradition, Military Officers Arrested in El Salvador
The 1989 massacre of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos, and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador, that galvanized opposition to the U.S. relationship with Central American death squads and that sparked the movement to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas, is making headlines again. On February 5, 2016, a U.S. judge in North Carolina cleared the way for SOA graduate and retired Salvadoran Colonel, Inocente Orlando Montano, to be extradited to face charges in Spain. Col.Montano was trained by the U.S. military at the School of the Americas in 1970.

On February 6, 2016, El Salvador’s police announced that four ex-soldiers, who were also involved in the massacre, were arrested at the behest of Interpol in an operation that began the night before.

The four former military officers arrested in El Salvador are Col. Guillermo Alfredo Benavides Moreno, Sargent Tomás Zarpate Castillo, Sargent Ramiro Ávalos Vargas, and Corporal Angel Perez Vasquez. Avalos Vargas and Ángel Pérez Vásquez attended the Small Unit Training and Management course at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1988 and 1987 respectively, before participating in the brutal 1989 massacre. Image El Salvador’s Supreme Court is expected to rule on their extraditions to Spain. Twelve other former Salvadoran soldiers with international warrants in connection with the UCA massacre remain at large, and it is unknown whether they are in El Salvador or have fled the country.

We celebrate the arrests of the perpetrators in El Salvador, and the decision to grant the extradition of SOA graduate Inocente Orlando Montano to stand trial in Spain. SOA Watch also maintains that the U.S. officials who conspired with the Salvadoran military, and who are responsible for the training and funding of the death squads must be held to account as well.

The journey of SOA Watch is closely tied to the lives of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos, and Jesuit priest dissidents Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín-Baró, Segundo Montes, Juan Ramón Moreno, Joaquín López y López, and Amando López. The first SOA Watch vigil took place in 1990 on the anniversary of the massacre. We have been accompanied by the many who became ancestors before their time, drawing from their courage and continuing their resistance. We have been uplifted, educated, inspired, and humbled by the movements of the Americas as we have fought together against coups, trade agreements, environmental devastation, military training, and human rights violations.

Along the way our sacred story, the story of Celina, Elba and the Jesuits has deepened and broadened. It has become the story of the torture survivor, the displaced campesino, the threatened union worker, the refugee and the migrant. The stories of all those who suffer at the hands of the school has taught us that the School of the Americas is more than just a tool of war. The School of the Americas is a tool of domination that engulfs economies, electoral processes, resources, and communities. It fractures, breaks, steals and sends its victims on long journeys to the borders that scar the lands of North and South.

The martyrs teach us the power of solidarity. They remind us that the beloved community emerges from a struggle that has no guarantees and is nourished by a desire that dares to name its vision. Today, the people of the Americas are facing a crisis – a migrant crisis – whose root cause traces back to the SOA. A deepening of solidarity calls us to journey to the border and journey with the migrants.

As a social movement organization with roots on both sides of the border, we ask you to join us, as we broaden the path we have journeyed, to include the School and the border. Come with us to the U.S./Mexico border from October 7-10, 2016.

Let’s build our collective imagination as an antidote to empire in our voices, our songs, our direct action, our legislation, our Vigil, our Puppetistas and our hearts.
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