U.S. activists for the defense of human rights recently had a surprising success when, in April 2013, Federal Judge J. Phyllis Hamilton from the Northern California District ruled that the Pentagon had no reason whatsoever for denying disclosing the names of the trainers and trainees of the repudiated School of the Americas, now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC).
The SOA/WHINSEC was established in Panama in 1946 and later moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1984. The SOA has always been identified as a “base for the destabilization of Latin America” and known in Latin America as “The School for Assassins”. History confirms these concepts and the reasons why the U.S. government has always tried to keep a low profile for this infamous military institution.
The Latin Americans tortured, raped, murdered, missing, massacred or forced into exile from their countries by the military trained at the SOA/WHINSEC number in the hundreds of thousands. Those trained in the center stand out as hunters of leaders: students, workers, peasants, educators or religious persons, as well as of any person who fights for, or defends, the rights of the dispossessed.
The school has always been connected with the formation of the dreadful death squads, and the torturers and military dictators in the continent. In the school’s more than sixty years of existence SOA/WHINSEC has trained around 60,000 Latin American soldiers and policemen in combat techniques, military intelligence, command tactics and torture techniques. An average of one thousand graduates comes out of their classrooms each year to continue leaving their trail of blood and torment in the countries where they “do their work”.
Today, the Pentagon is maneuvering strongly to reverse Judge Hamilton’s ruling, so they can continue keeping secret the names of SOA/WHINSEC graduates and instructors.
The decision of the U.S. government to appeal the judicial ruling aimed at impeding the secrecy of SOA/WHINSEC activities, contradicts previous affirmations by President Obama who said his administration would be the most transparent in the history of the United States.
SOA/WATCH, an NGO that in 2004 published a compilation with the names, courses, ranks, countries of origin and dates on which every soldier and instructor attended SOA/WHINSEC has played a remarkable role in watching, unmasking and publicly condemning the hateful School of the .
SOA/WATCH had access to that information because their NGO accreditation to Congress made the data offered by the School to the legislators available to them as well. But ever since and because of this, the School has refused to continue revealing information about students and professors in their courses.
In 1996, SOA/WATCH revealed the contents of the training manuals used in the School. In these it becomes evident that the Pentagon condones methods of extortion, torture techniques and extrajudicial executions.
Hundreds of SOA/WHINSEC students have been involved in human right violations and the formation of death squads. Eleven Latin American dictators including Jorge Videla from Argentine, Hugo Banzer from Bolivia and General Efrén Ríos Montt from Guatemala, attended the School. SOA graduates took part in the attempted coup d’état in Venezuela in 2002, and the coup d’état in Honduras in 2009; and they continue being involved in repression in Colombia, Honduras, Mexico and Latin America.
The case will now go to the Ninth Circuit of the Court of Appeals of the United States with jurisdiction over the Northern District of California. SOA/Watch will defend the value of transparency and the right of the public to know the truth beyond the secrecy the Pentagon wants to impose.
SOA/Watch has called for a vigil, from November 22 to 24, outside Fort Benning, Georgia, where the School is located. The organization has declared it will continue taking this struggle for justice and transparency to the halls of Congress and will pursue it along the judicial system to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
We must change the culture of secrecy, violence and domination, and create a culture of justice and peace to make impossible the existence of places like the School of the Americas, declared the founder of SOA Watch, Father Roy Bourgeois.
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann http://www.walterlippmann.com/docs3887.html