HOW THE SOA SHELTERS SOLDIERS
WHO FACE TRIAL AT HOME,
AND STAFFS THE FAKE "WAR ON DRUGS" AND OTHER ABUSES, TO THIS DAY
(1) The SOA is used as a shelter for military officers facing criminal investigations in their homeland.
(2) The US pays SOA graduates to murder civilians, lying to the public that the aid goes to the "War on Drugs"—e.g., prison guards trained at the SOA close their eyes while drug kingpins walk out of jail.
(3) As everywhere, the "War on Guerrillas" is also used as a pretext for murdering civilians, Supreme Court justices, etc.—e.g., one SOA graduate is honored in the school’s "Hall of Fame" after ordering the killing of Supreme Court justices taken hostage by guerrillas.
The gory details…
The SOA is used as a shelter for military officers facing criminal investigations in their homeland. In 1992, Lieutenant Colonel Victor Bernal Castaño is enrolled at the SOA to avoid having to answer to investigators about the Fusagasugá massacre of a peasant family, according to the Colombian legislature. The SOA enrolls him in its longest and most prestigious course, the Command and General Staff College, and makes him "Jefe del Curso," (Chief of Course). This after he has already been implicated in the 1989 disappearance of campesina Sandra Vélez, and known to protect and aid death squads. — Miami Herald, 9/9/92; Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report, 1992
In another example from the early 1990s, Lieutenant Colonel Luis Felipe Becerra Bohórquez attends the U.S. Army School of the Americas while a warrant is out for his arrest for his leading role in the 1988 massacre of 20 banana workers at Urabá. The SOA claims Becerra Bohórquez was never "formally enrolled" in officer training there, but according to Colombian government records the Colombian Army sent him to the SOA to avoid arrest. In 1993, after his extended shelter at the SOA and his return to Colombia, he leads another massacre, this time murdering 13 civilians at Riofrío. In November 1993, under intense international pressure, Colombia dismisses Becerra from the military. — Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report, 1992; Americas Watch report on Colombia, 1993; Commission of Non-Governmental Organizations Report, 10/5/93
This is a long-standing role of the SOA. For instance, in 1982 First Lieutenant Germán Espinoza Rubio, who had already graduated from the SOA in 1976, is faced with an investigation into his role in assassinating several campesinos. He is spirited away to the SOA for a course in "Patrol Operations", and when the danger of the truth has passed, he promptly "drops" the course and returns home. — Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report, 1992
The phony "War on Drugs" …
In 1991, two Colombian generals thank the US Congress for $40.3 million in "anti-narcotics aid", which they say will be used (illegally) in counterinsurgency campaigns in northeastern Colombia, where narcotics are neither grown nor processed. Both are members of the SOA’s "Hall of Fame": General José Nelson Mejía Henao inducted in 1989, and General Luis Eduardo Roca Malchel inducted in 1991, after being known for war crimes, including torture as recently as June 1988. — The Progressive, 5/92
In August, 1992, three Army officers are forced into early retirement after drug kingpin Pablo Escobar "escapes" from prison, where he has been living in grand style. Two are SOA graduates: Lieutenant Colonel Manuel José Espitia Sotelo, commander of the military police battalion guarding the prison, had graduated only months before, and General Gustavo Pardo Ariza, head of the Fourth Brigade in Medellin, commanded soldiers who were supposed to be guarding the prison from which Escobar literally walked away. — Americas Watch report on Colombia, 1993
On November 22nd, 1994, five top military officers are dismissed by President Ernesto Samper, who overhauls the military leadership in the hopes of decreasing corruption and drug trafficking in the armed forces, and improving the human rights record of the military. At least three are generals who graduated from the SOA, and one is a member of the School’s "Hall of Fame" inducted just the year before, in 1993: General Hernán José Guzmán Rodríguez, Commander of the Colombian Army, who had also been known to protect and aid paramilitary death squads between 1987 and 1990, and before that had been known to command the soldiers who detained, tortured, gang-raped, and executed Yolanda Acevedo Carvajal—and then had concocted the story that she committed suicide by shooting herself in the nape of her neck. — Reuters, 11/22/94; Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report, 1992
The phony "War on Guerillas" …
On July 24th, 1997, SOA graduate and guest instructor General Harold Bedoya Pizarro is fired from his position as chief of the armed forces by President Samper. Defense Minister Gilberto Echeverri suggests the dismissal is because of Bedoya's unwillingness to commit to improving the military's poor human rights record. — Reuters, 7/27/97
"Throughout Bedoya's entire career [1965 to the present], he has been implicated with the sponsorship and organization of a network of paramilitary organizations. Bedoya, who has never undergone any investigation for his involvement in the massacres of non-combatants or other dirty-war crimes, is an articulate proponent of the continued ‘legal’ involvement of local populations in counterinsurgency operations." — NACLA Report on the Americas, March/April 1995
On February 12, 1992, SOA graduate Captain Gilberto lbarra forces 3 peasant children to walk in front of his patrol to detonate mines and spring ambushes. Two are killed; one is seriously wounded. — U.S. Committee for Refugees report, 1993
From 1988-1991, at least 107 citizens of the village of Trujillo are tortured and murdered. An eyewitness says Major Alirio Antonio Urueña Juramillo (an SOA graduate) tortured prisoners (including elderly women) with water hoses, stuffed them into coffee sacks, and chopped them to pieces with a chainsaw. The eyewitness is soon disappeared; Major Urueña is promoted to Colonel. After intense international outcry, Urueña is dismissed from the Army in February 1995. Associated Press, 2/7/95; Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report, 1992
Also implicated in the Trujillo chainsaw massacre is SOA graduate Colonel Roberto Hernández, who during the same period (1990) supervises the illegal detention and torture of 42 people, most of whom are union members and human rights workers. Throughout the 1980s, Hernández is implicated in numerous extreme-right death squad activities. — Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report, 1992
In 1990, SOA graduate First Lieutenant Pedro Nei Acosta Gaiviso orders the massacre of 11 campesinos, has his men dress the corpses like guerrilla forces, and then dismisses the killings as an armed confrontation between the Army and guerrillas. — Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report, 1992
The massacre at the Palace of Justice…
Even in actions with some direct effect against armed insurgents, SOA graduates callously obliterate civilians. (No accident: the same can be said for the soldiers of their US paymaster and mentor, invading and/or bombing Nagasaki, Vietnam, Cambodia, Panama, Iraq, and hundreds of other places.)
On November 7, 1985, SOA graduate General Rafael Samudio Molina oversees the Army massacre at the Palace of Justice following an attempt by the M-19 to take it over. The Army under his command sets the building ablaze, resulting in the needless and horrifying deaths of many of the hostages. Other hostages are killed in Army crossfire, or, as some suspect, direct assassination. Even the hostages who live through the horrifying ordeal are not safe; some are killed before exiting the palace and others are arrested and disappeared immediately upon leaving the building. Taped conversations between Samudio Molina and his commanders in the building establish that at no time did Samudio Molina act as an agent of the civilian government, but rather used the situation to prove the brutality of the Colombian military and to eliminate individuals, including Supreme Court justices, who were not staunch enough allies of the Colombian Army. — Ana Carrigan, The Palace of Justice: A Colombian Traged y
Less than 3 years later, in 1988, this butcher is inducted into the SOA "Hall of Fame", for future soldiers to emulate.