HOW SOA STUDENTS HEROICALLY DEFEND THEIR RIGHT TO MURDER OTHER STUDENTS
(1) The US-supported military brutally represses peaceful means of protest, such as labor strikes, and then acts shocked when the desperately poor people resort to armed resistance.
(2) Since soldiers tend to prefer the perceived glory of conventional international warfare, SOA training focuses heavily on rewarding those who enter long jungle slugfests against their own people.
(3) When the predictable atrocities occur, on many occasions their "fellow alumni" connections to the SOA help protect them from prosecution.
(4) But it doesn’t always work flawlessly: the three top officers convicted in 1994 of the murder of nine students and a professor are SOA graduates.
The gory details …
SOA graduate Vladimiro Lenin Montesinos Torres runs the death squad known as "The Colina", a unit comprised of soldiers with murder or assault raps—in exchange for clearing their records, the soldiers perform clandestine, illegal operations such as disappearances and extrajudicial executions.
Their most famous recent "hit" takes place on July 18th, 1992. SOA graduate Commander Manuel Guzmán carries out the kidnapping of 9 university students and a professor from the Enrique Guzmán y Valle University in Lima (La Cantuta), and delivers the prisoners to a Special Operations team commanded by SOA graduate Major Martin Rivas, who along with SOA graduate Carlos Pichilingue Guevara, has them all murdered.
All of these butchers are under the command of SOA General Nicolás de Bari Hermoza Ríos, Commander of the Peruvian Army. Hermoza refuses to let the Peruvian Congress question officers involved in the murders. He also issues public threats against the commission investigating the case and parades tanks through the streets of Lima to back up his words. Later, a top governmental security adviser claims Hermoza was himself involved in the formation of the Colina death squad that carried out the murders. — Americas Watch Report, Anatomy of a Cover-Up: The Disappearances at La Cantuta, September 1993
Despite this, in 1994, five SOA graduates are sentenced to prison for the crime, including the top three officers implicated—Rivas, Guevara, and the former head of Peru's Army Directorate of Intelligence (DINTE).
The Colina, run by Rivas, is part of Peru's National Intelligence Service (SIN). Nominally, Montesinos is President Fujimori’s "advisor" to the National Intelligence Service—in fact, most agree he is the spy organization's chief. One report describes him as Fujimori’s "most trusted counselor". Four officers tortured after plotting a coup against Fujimori in November 1992 state that Montesinos took an active part in torturing them. — Americas Watch report, Human Rights in Peru: One Year after Fujimori’s Coup, 1993
How the situation came about …
Peru, early 1960s: "In Lima, the capital, whose colonial mansions enveloped by ornate wooden balconies help make it one of the most beautiful cities in the world, half of the 13 million inhabitants live in rat-infested slums. One, called El Monton, is built around, over, and in the city dump. There, when I visited it, naked children, some too young to know how to walk, competed with pigs for a few bits of food scraps accidentally discarded by the garbage men …. [The peasants] chew cocaine-producing coca leaves to still hunger pains, and average 500 calories a day. Where there is grass, the Peruvian Andes Indian eats it—and also the sheep he kills when it gets so hungry that it begins tearing another sheep’s wool off for its food. The peons who work the land of the whites average one sol (4 cents) a day, and … labor from sunup to sundown." — John Gerassi, The Great Fear in Latin America
After attempts to organize peasants into unions and stage strikes are easily and brutally put down by the police and army (with "routine" US arming and training), by 1965 several guerrilla groups have evolved in the eastern slopes of the Andes, cognizant that organizing peasants is, by itself, painfully inadequate or suicidal. By the end of the year, however, a joint Peruvian-American counter-insurgency operation has broken the back of three rebel groups, two of them in less than two months. Those guerrillas who remain alive and active are reduced to futile and impotent skirmishes over the next year or so.
"Green Berets participated … in what was the CIA’s single large-scale Latin American intervention of the post-Bay of Pigs era. This occurred in the mid-1960s, when the agency secretly came to the aid of the Peruvian government, then plagued by guerrilla troubles in its remote eastern regions. Unable to cope adequately with the insurgent movement, Lima had turned to the U.S. government for aid, which was immediately and covertly forthcoming. The agency financed the construction of what one experienced observer described as ‘a miniature Fort Bragg’ in the troubled Peruvian jungle region, complete with mess halls, classrooms, barracks, administrative buildings, parachute jump towers, amphibious landing facilities, and all the other accoutrements of paramilitary operations. Helicopters were furnished under cover of official military aid programs, and the CIA flew in arms and other combat equipment. Training was provided by the agency's Special Operations Division personnel and by Green Beret instructors on loan from the Army." — Victor Marchetti (former CIA official) and John Marks, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence
Why US training is vital …
"Many Latin American military officers would rather command elite units like jet fighter squadrons, naval flotillas, or armored brigades than slug it out with the guerrillas in long, unspectacular jungle campaigns. U.S. training programs are designed, therefore, to emphasize the importance of counterguerilla operations (and to suggest, thereby, that the United States will reward those officers who make a good showing at this kind of warfare). – Michael Klare, War Without End
As common in the Third World as it is ludicrous, the bulk of the armed forces employed to keep the peasants pacified are soldiers of peasant stock themselves. It is a measure of the ultimate cynicism of the Peruvian and American military authorities that soldiers are stationed outside their home areas to lessen their resistance when the order is given to shoot. — James Petras and Maurice Zeitlin, Latin America: Reform or Revolution?
Further cases of impunity …
On May 14, 1988, many soldiers under the command of SOA graduate General José Valdivia Duenas kill (with gunshot, bayonets, and farming tools) between 28 and 31 male residents of the hamlet Cayara. Returning four days later, the soldiers arrest many villagers, dozens of whom disappear (only 3 bodies are recovered). Duenas is subsequently promoted. — Americas Watch report, 1992
In 1968, when an elected civilian government is not to US liking, it is overthrown and SOA graduate General Juan Velasco Alvarado becomes dictator until 1975, when desperate people take to arms once again in Peru. — Washington Post, 5/19/94
On August 14th, 1985, SOA graduate Telmo Hurtado participates in an army massacre of 69 campesinos (including six children) in Accomarca, Ayacucho. Only Hurtado, at that time a lieutenant and the most junior officer involved, is convicted, although eyewitness testimony links five officers to the massacre. Hurtado is sentenced to 6 years in prison for "abuse of authority", but is freed and returns to active duty (US State Department report, cited in Latinamerica Press, 1/24/94). He has since been promoted to captain. Another SOA graduate implicated in the massacre, First Lieutenant Guillermo Paz Bustamante, is charged only with failing to report the deaths of two peasants during the massacre. The military chooses not to convict him, however, on the grounds that he "lacked time. was tired and was experiencing a very tense situation". — Americas Watch report on Peru, 12/92