What is the SOA?

History The School of the Americas (SOA) is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 2001 renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).

It was initially established in Panama in 1946 however it was expelled from Panama in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty (article iv) and reinforced under the Treaty Concerning the Permanent Neutrality and Operation of the Panama Canal (article v). Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.” The SOA have left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned. For this reason the School of the Americas has been historically dubbed the “School of Assassins”.

Since 1946, the SOA has trained over 64,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.

SOA Changes its Name to Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation

On January 17, 2001 the School of the Americas was replaced by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. This was the result of a Department of Defense proposal included in the Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal 2001. The measure passed when the House of Representatives defeated a bi-partisan amendment to close the school and conduct a congressional investigation by a narrow ten vote margin. The amendment was sponsored by Representatives Moakley (DMA), Scarborough (R-FL), Campbell (R-CA) and McGovern (D-MA) . The following is a summary comparison of the "new" school with the School of the Americas. In a media interview last year, Georgia Senator and SOA supporter, the late Paul Coverdell, characterized the DOD proposal as "cosmetic" changes that would ensure that the SOA could continue its mission and operation. Critics of the SOA concur. The new military training school is the continuation of the SOA under a new name. It is a new name, but the same shame. The approach taken by the DOD is not grounded in any critical assessment of the training, procedures, performance, or results (consequences) of the training program it copies. Further, it ignores congressional concern and public outcry over the SOA’s past and present link to human rights atrocities. COMPARISON OF THE SOA AND THE NEW SCHOOL AUTHORITY:

School of the Americas:

"The Secretary of the Army may operate the military education and training facility known as the United States Army School of the Americas." U.S Code:

Title 10, Section 4415
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation:

Secretary of Defense authorized to "operate an education and training facility..."

Secretary of a department of the military designated as the executive agent to run school

U.S. Code: Title 10, Section 2166.
Concerns and Comparison of Authority: Currently the Secretary of the Army, who is under the direction of the Secretary of Defense, operates the SOA. With the new proposal, the Secretary of the Army, or another department of the military, will still operate the school as an agent of the Secretary of Defense. The proposal offers no substantive change to the SOA. PURPOSE and MISSION: School of the Americas:

provide "military education and training to military personnel of Central and South American countries and Caribbean countries." US Code: Title 10,

Section 4415
 

provide "military education and training to the nations of Latin America", "promote democratic values and respect for human rights; and foster

cooperation among multinational military forces." SOA Course Catalogue,

Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation:

provide "professional education and training to eligible personnel of nations of the Western Hemisphere," defined as military, law enforcement, and civilian personnel "while fostering mutual knowledge,[ ...] and promoting democratic values, respect for human rights". U.S. Code Title 10, Section

2166. Pentagon officials state this will include counter-drug operations,
peace support, and disaster relief. Concerns and Comparison of the Purpose and Mission: The purpose for the proposed new school as described varies in scope and detail from the original language that authorized the SOA. However, the current "working" mission of the SOA as reflected in the 1998/99 SOA course catalogue together with the actual day to day practice at the SOA is consistent with what is being proposed. In short there is no change in purpose between the new school and the SOA as its mission has evolved. As with the "working" mission of the SOA, the purpose stated for the new school downplays the militaristic aspects of the training offered and focuses instead on "leadership development, counter-drug operations, peace support, and disaster relief." These courses existed at the SOA but have never been well attended. The 2000 SOA Certification Report to Congress shows that in 1999 a scant 14% of SOA soldiers took the peace operations, civil/military relations and the like. Over 85% took the standard SOA fare: commando tactics, military intelligence, psychological operations, and combat training. A recent newspaper headline sums it up: "Bombs and Bullets Most Popular Classes at the US Army School of the Americas."

Nothing in the Defense Authorization Bill changes that at the new replacement school The new school allows for the training of police and civilian personnel. That practice already was in place at the SOA. Further, the new authorization allows any and all military training that has been core to the SOA, including advanced combat arms, psychological operations, military intelligence, and commando tactics. The consequence of this kind of training has been at the heart of the public and congressional controversy surrounding the SOA. It hones the skills of Latin American soldiers who then can use what they learned against their own people. For example, some of the Salvadoran soldiers cited in the UN Truth Commission report for the massacre of six Jesuit priests and their women co-workers had just returned from taking the SOA commando operations course. The Jesuit massacre by all accounts was a commandotype operation. CURRICULA School of the Americas:
 

No specific detail in original congressional authorization Practice: 8 hours human rights instruction tacked on Western Hemishpere Institute for Security Cooperation:

Includes "mandatory instruction for each student, for at least 8 hours on human rights the rule of law, due process, civilian control of the military, role of the military in a democratic society" U.S. Code Title 10, Section 2166

No restrictions on type or amount of military training

Concerns and Comparison of the Curricula: The new school includes human rights instruction, but that is not new. As the public outcry grew and congressional censure mounted, the SOA instituted first a four-hour human rights component and then upped it to eight hours in an effort to quell critics. While the eight hours of human rights training is not harmful, it is minimal and inadequate for a school that touts its mission mandate as "promoting democratic values, respect for human rights." There is no requirement that the new school seek input from noted outside human rights specialists and no provision to modify the content to address specific human rights issues in particular countries (for example, paramilitaries in Colombia). In addition, there is no attempt to evaluate or to measure the effectiveness of the training through long-term monitoring of graduates or by any other means. Although the bill is careful to minimize any mention of military training, the fact remains that, like the SOA it replaces, this is a military institution and Latin American troops will be sent there to learn military skills. The clearest proof of this is to ask how many soldiers would come to the school if it removed ALL combat-related training? We must also ask, if the primary purpose of the institution is to teach democracy and human rights, as claimed, isn't this more appropriately done in a civilian setting? BOARD OF VISITORS: School of the Americas:

No mention of a Board of Visitors (BOV) in the original congressional authorization.

 

6-member BOV Not independent oversight board

Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation:

BOV membership: 2 military officers; 1 person selected by Secretary fo State; 6 people selected by Secretary of Defense including "to the extent

practicable" members of the academic, religious and human rights
communities; chairs and ranking minority members of House and Senate Armed Services Committees included on BOV

meets at least annually to "inquire into the curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and other matters"

Reports its actions and recommendations to Secretary of Defense

U.S. Code Title 10, Section 2166
Concerns and Comparisons of the Board of Visitors: In response to congressional and public criticism, the SOA instituted a six-member Board of Visitors (BOV) that was reconstituted in 1999. The BOV has been a handpicked group of SOA proponents that, according to the 1998 SOA Certification Report to Congress, focused significant energy on PR campaigns in the media and Congress to polish the SOA’s image. Despite the illusion, the SOA’s BOV does not provide independent, outside critical review or oversight of the SOA. The authorization calls for a BOV, but gives the Secretary of Defense the broad authority to determine the composition and actual members of Board. Though provision is made for the possible inclusion of members of the human rights, religious and academic communities, these communities are not defined, nor is any selection criteria established. Furthermore, nothing mandates the inclusion of independent human rights experts, religious leaders, and other potential critics. It is up to the discretion of the Secretary of Defense to determine whether or not it is "practicable" to include them.

The Congressional make up of the Board of Visitors, limited as it is to members of the Armed Services Committees would exclude many of the school's congressional critics. The Board of Visitors proposed would – like the SOA BOV -- be primarily a handpicked group of SOA proponents. The problem persists: The new BOV does not provide for independent, outside oversight or critical review of the school. ANNUAL REPORT School of the Americas:
 

No provision in the original congressional authorization In recent years, Appropriations Committees have required report on school and "general assessment" of graduates Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation:

Within 60 days of meeting the BOV must submit to the Secretary of Defense a "written report of its action and of its views and recommendations pertaining" the new school.

By March 15 the Secretary of Defense must submit a report on the "activities of the Institute during the preceding year" to Congress U.S. Code

Title 10, Section 2166
Concerns and Comparisons of Annual Report: While the SOA authorization did not mandate an annual report, in practice, the SOA has been required recently to make a report to the Foreign Operations Committee. The new provision simply codifies the current practice, but weakens even the minimal reporting requirements that have stood for the last few years.

The Annual Report – unlike the SOA Certification Report – does not require even the minimal tracking or monitoring of recent graduates that was called for in the SOA Certification Report. The proposed Annual Report is not an analysis, critique, assessment, evaluation, appraisal or examination with recommendations from an outside, independent source. It is simply "a report" of the "activities" of the school. TRANSITION FROM US ARMY SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS: Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation:

Secretary of Defense ensures that the Secretary of the Army provides for transition from SOA into new school

The proposal calls for the repeal of original congressional authorization of the School of the Americas. Questions and Recommendation: By repealing the original congressional authorization for the SOA, the bill closes the School of the Americas on paper. Inexplicably, however, it does so with no word of analysis. Why close a school that is without fault? Why open another that is, for all intents and purposes, identical except for name? The DOD proposal to close the SOA and replace it with an SOA clone skipped over one vital step: Evaluation of the SOA model upon which it is based. The opening of the new school is not grounded in any critical assessment of the training, procedures, performance, or results (consequences) of the training program it copies. Further, it ignores congressional concern and public outcry over the SOA’s past and present link to human rights atrocities. At the very least, a thorough independent investigation and report

on the SOA are warranted before Congress can adequately consider the merits of any new proposal for an SOA-like training facility. A rigorous outside investigation of charges against the SOA is a reasonable approach to resolve the controversy over the School of the Americas or its replacement. The new school is substantially the same as the SOA it purports to replace. The issues raised by critics of the SOA are not addressed by the recently enacted changes. As the United States is pouring money, military hardware and military training into Colombia and SOA human rights abusers continue to operate with impunity in Colombia, Guatemala and elsewhere, these issues remain as crucial and immediate as ever.

Name: Colonel Alvaro Quijano Country: Colombia Dates/courses: Instructor of Peacekeeping Operations and Democratic Sustainment courses at the school from 2003 to 2004 Info: Col. Alvaro Quijano led a special counterinsurgency unit in western Colombia — a drug cartel stronghold — and he and other soldiers who attended the SOA were arrested in 2007. They were arrested for allegedly providing security for the Norte del Valle cartel's leader and most-wanted drug lord, Diego Montoya, is on the FBI’s 10 most-wanted list. Name: General Luis Bernardo Urbina Sanchez Country: Colombia Dates/courses: Command and General Staff Course, 1985 Info: Paramilitary death squad activity, 1988-89 -- Fellow SOA graduate Meneses Baez confessed to Urbina Sanchez' involvement in paramilitary death squads, which he referred to as "self-defense' groups; Disappearance, assassination, 1989 -- Implicated in the assassination of Amparo Tordecilla. Assassination, 1987 --

Implicated in the assassination of Union Patriotica member Alvaro Garces Parra. Disappearance, torture, assassination, 1987 -- Ordered the detention, torture and assassination of Mario Alexander Granados Plazas. Disappearance, 1986 -Intellectual author of the detention/disappearance of William Camacho Barajas and Orlando Garcia Gonzalez. Torture, disappearance, 1977 -- Implicated in the torture of Omaira Montoya Henao and Mauricio Trujillo, and the subsequent disappearance of Omaira Montoya. (TERRORISMO DE ESTADO EN COLOMBIA, 1992) Name: General Luis Alfonso Zapata Uribe Country: Colombia Dates/courses: Counter-insurgency, Small-Unit Infantry Tactics C-7, 1976 Info: San Jose Killings: Has commanded the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army since May 2005., whom were involved in the November 17th, 2005, killing of Arlen Salas David, a leader of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, Antioquia. The soldiers accused, along with members of the self-defense forces [paramilitaries], of the slaughter are Colonel Orlando Espinosa Beltrán, Major José Fernando Castaño López, Luitenant Alejandro Jaramillo Giraldo, Captian Sabarain Cruz Reina, Sargent Ángel María Padilla Petro, Sargent Jorge Humberto Milanés Vega, Sargent Henry Agudelo Guasmayan Ortega, Sargent Édgar Garciá Estupiñón, Sargent Darío Brango Agamez, and Captain Ricardo Bastidas Candia. Criminal proceedings against the soldiers were brought on February 26, 2009 for murder of protected persons, acts of extreme cruelty, and conspiracy as part of their participation in the February 21, 2005 massacre in which eight people, including four children, were murdered..(El Tiempo, Jan. 2010) Name: General Harold Bedoya Pizarro Country: Colombia Dates/courses: 1978-79, SOA Guest Instructor;1965, Military Intelligence Course Info: Paramilitary death squad activity, 1965 - present: "Throughout Bedoya's

entire career, 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." (Ana Carrigan, NACLA Report on the Americas, March/April 1995) Paramilitary death squad activity ("AAA"), 1978: Believed to be the founder and chief of the paramilitary death squad known as "AAA" (American Anticommunist Alliance). (TERRORISMO DE ESTADO EN COLOMBIA, 1992) Other prominent members of the AAA Paramilitary group graduated from the SOA include: Tte. Cnel. Mario Montoya Uribe (1993, SOA Guest Instructor; 1983, Tactical Officer, Cadet Arms) Maj Jorge Flores Suarez (1972, Military Intelligence Officer Course) Name: Major Alejandro de Jesus Alvarez Henao Country: Colombia Dates/courses: 1984, Joint Operations Info: Paramilitary death squad activity (MAS), 1982: Principal member of "Muerte a Secuestradores" (MAS), a paramilitary death squad responsible for numerous assassinations and disappearances. (TERRORISMO DE ESTADO EN COLOMBIA, 1992) Other prominent members of MAS Paramilitary group graduated from the SOA include: LTC Virgilio Anzola Montero (1967, Cadet Orientation Course), GEN Carlos Julio Gil Colorado (1969, 0-6), GEN Farouk Yanine Diaz (1990, Guest speaker; 1991, Guest speaker; 1969, Maintenance Orientation Course)

Name: First Lieutenant Luis Enrique Andrade Ortiz Country: Colombia Dates/courses: 1983, Cadet Arms Orientation Course Info: Massacre of a judicial commission, 1989: Believed to be the intellectual author of the paramilitary massacre of 12 officials, including 2 judges, who were investigating military/paramilitary cooperation. Assassination, 1988: Ordered the assassination of farmer Jorge Ramirez, carried out by a military/paramilitary patrol under his command. Assassination, 1988: Ordered the assassination of Jose Sanchez, also carried out

by military/paramilitary soldiers under his command. Then he had the corpse put on display for the benefit of the public. Ramirez family massacre, 1986: Andrade Ortiz was one of officers in charge of military/paramilitary soldiers who broke into the home of the Ramirez family, killed two members outright; and captured 4 others whose bodies were found later with signs of torture. (TERRORISMO DE ESTADO EN COLOMBIA, 1992) Name: General Hernan Jose Guzman Rodriguez Country: Colombia Dates/courses: 1993, SOA "Hall of Fame"; 1969, Maintenance Orientation Info: Former Commander, Colombian Army, dismissed: With five other top military officers, Guzman Rodriguez was dismissed on November 22, 1994 by President Ernesto Samper. Samper overhauled 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. (Reuters, 11/22/94) Paramilitary activity (MAS), 1987-90: Guzman Rodriguez protected and aided paramilitary death squad MAS between 1987 and 1990, when it was responsible for the deaths of at least 149 people. (TERRORISMO DE ESTADO EN COLOMBIA, 1992) Illegal detention, torture, extrajudicial execution, 1986: Guzman Rodriguez commanded the soldiers who detained, tortured, gang raped and executed Yolanda Acevedo Carvajal - then concocted the story that she committed suicide by shooting herself in the nape of her neck. (TERRORISMO DE ESTADO EN COLOMBIA, 1992) Name: Colonel Roberto Hernandez Hernandez Country: Colombia Dates/courses: 1970, Automotive Maintenance Officer; 1976, Tactical Officer, Small Unit Infantry Tactics Info: Paramilitary activity, 1980-90: Consistently implicated in paramilitary activities in association with members of the extreme right. Torture, 1990: Supervised the illegal detention and torture of 42 people, most of whom were union members and human rights workers. Trujillo massacre, 1990: Implicated in the gruesome killings in Trujillo, in which many victims were dismembered with chain saws. (TERRORISMO DE ESTADO EN COLOMBIA, 1992) Name: Major Carlos Enrique Martinez Orozco Country: Colombia Dates/courses: 1975, Guerrilla Warfare Operations Info: Massacre, 1988: Implicated in the massacre of 18 miners in Antioquia,

whose body parts washed in pieces down the river Nare. Mart?nez Orozco was subsequently promoted. Paramilitary activity, 1990: Protected a chief paramilitarist responsible for highprofile assassinations; and in June 1992 was charged in a military court for his connection to paramilitaries. (Amnesty International Report: Colombia: Political Violence: Myth and Reality; TERRORISMO DE ESTADO EN COLOMBIA, 1992) Name: General Gustavo Pardo Ariza Country: Colombia Dates/courses: 1971, Irregular Warfare Operations Info: Escape of Pablo Escobar, 1992: Pardo was one of three Army officers (two of them SOA graduates) forced into retirement upon the "escape" of Pablo Escobar from prison. Pardo was head of the Fourth Brigade in Medellin; soldiers under his command were supposed to be guarding the prison from which Escobar literally walked away. (Americas Watch Report: State of War Politcal Violence and Counterinsurgency in Colombia, 1993) Name: General Rafael Samudio Molina Country: Colombia Dates/courses: 1988, SOA "Hall of Fame"; 1970, SOA Guest Instructor Info: Massacre at the Palace of Justice, November 7, 1985: Oversaw the Army massacre at the Palace of Justice following an attempt by the M-19 to take it over. The Army under his command set the building ablaze, resulting in the needless and horrifying deaths of many of the hostages. Other hostages were killed in Army crossfire, or, as some suspect, direct assassination. Even the hostages who lived through the horrifying ordeal were not safe; some were killed before exiting the palace and others were 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. (POJ) Samudio Molina has also been implicated in paramilitary activities since 1978. (TERRORISMO DE ESTADO EN COLOMBIA, 1992) Name: General Farouk Yanine Diaz Country: Colombia Dates/courses: 1990, Guest speaker; 1991, Guest speaker; 1969, Maintenance Orientation Course Info: Urabá massacre, 1988: Implicated in the massacre of 20 banana workers in Antioqua in March 1988.

Assassination, 1987: Implicated in the assassination of the mayor of Sabana de Torres, Alvaro Garces Parra. Paramilitary activities (MAS), 1984-85: Implicated in paramilitary activities associated with the death squad MAS. (TERRORISMO DE ESTADO EN COLOMBIA, 1992) Massacre of 19 businessmen, 1987: After an investigation that linked Yanine to this 1987 massacre, the public prosecutor’s office issued an arrest warrant for Yanine, who was at that time giving classes at the Inter-American Defense College in Washington. Upon return to Colombia, Yanine was detained, but, in a decision criticized by the U.S. State Department, among others, his case was quickly passed to a military court where he was absolved. (Colombia: Derechos humanos y derechos humanitarios, Comision Colombiana de Juristas, 1997) According to the 1998 State Department Report on Human Rights in Colombia, ―Despite the government’s attempts to bring him to justice in the civilian court system, the military prevailed, continuing the tradition of impunity for all but the lowest-ranking members of the security forces.‖ According to former SOA instructor Maj. Joseph Blair, Yanine visited the SOA as a guest speaker from 1986 to 1989 on an annual basis and was a close personal friend of US Army Col. Miguel Garcia, who was the commandant of the SOA at the time. Name: Cadete Ritoalejo del Rio Rojas Country: Colombia Dates/courses: 1967, Cadet Orientation Course Info: Paramilitary activity, 1985: Implicated in paramilitary activities, including the theft of an Army weapons shipment. (TERRORISMO DE ESTADO EN COLOMBIA, 1992) In 1999, President Pastrana sent Del Rio into retirement without explanation, at a time when he was under investigation by the federal Prosecutor’s Office for alleged human rights abuses and could face criminal charges. (Miami Herald 4/10/99)

The Risks of U.S. Aid
By Ignacio G?mez G. Members of the U.S. Congress are concerned that military aid to Colombia could be used to violate human rights, and they cite a recent incident as a case in point.

Senator Patrick Leahy, author of an amendment that bans the United States from providing aid to human rights violators, has obtained information that Colombian Col. Lino S?nchez was working on a ―military planning‖ exercise with American Green Berets at the same time that he was involved in planning the Mapirip?n Massacre. That information was developed by the Colombian federal prosecutor’s office. Leahy’s office began an inquiry into the matter last year, following an interview session with El Espectador. Information resulting from that inquiry is the origin for this report, which shows S?nchez’s relationship with U.S. special forces in 1997. This week, a discussion on a Colombia aid package was to be held at the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. Leahy, a member of the Committee, is also sponsor of a law that bans U.S. military from training human rights violators. Leahy requested a rigorous investigation of military forces to be trained, lest the Pentagon end up assisting the authors of crimes against humanity. This report, assembled by the Investigative Journalism Team of El Espectador, details a case in which such a violation has already taken place-during the Mapirip?n Massacre, on July 20, 1997. Such investigations are authorized under three agreements which force the Colombian government to maintain a human rights record on military forces ―eligible‖ for training, and which at the same time allow the State Department to veto units in which even one member is suspected of a human rights violation.

The first agreement was signed in July 1997, when Colombia-U.S. relations were at their lowest point. Then Ambassador Juan Carlos Esguerra and Undersecretary of State Barbara Larkin agreed on the final text in Washington on July 20, 1997, while in Bogot? Ernesto Samper presided over an Independence Day military parade marked by the absence of any military commander with him on the reviewing stand and by his own lack of a visa stamp in his passport to visit the United States. General Commander Harold Bedoya Pizarro, an opponent of civilian oversight of human rights violations in the military, did not attend the parade; on July 22 he declared himself in rebellion and on July 25 he was replaced by Manuel Jos? Bonett. The Inspector General of the Armed Forces and other members of the military high command had celebrated National Independence Day instead at the Army Special Forces School, built by U.S. Special Forces at Barranc?n Island on the Guaviare River. Two hours up the river, Mapirip?n was empty. Forty-nine residents of Mapirip?n had been massacred. The surviving residents of the village of 1,000 were still homeless on August 1, when the official announcement came that U.S military aid for the Colombian army was being unfrozen. The Green Berets had at least three years of experience in Barranc?n and had been conducting military planning exercises there during the two months leading up to the release of aid, announced in an agreement signed in Washington. The Colombian

forces with them for the exercises were under the command of Col. Lino S?nchez—accused today by the Colombian Federal prosecutor’s office with planning the Mapirip?n massacre with Carlos Casta?o [the leader of paramilitary forces in Colombia]. With support provided by Senator Patrick Leahy, who requested and obtained information on the case, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington, the Investigative Journalism Team from El Espectador, PIE, compiled and analyzed more than 4,500 pages of official documents in English and Spanish about the diplomatic, military and humanitarian events that took place during that Independence Day in San Jos? del Guaviare, Mapirip?n, Bogot? and Washington. Based on this information, it can be concluded that the U.S. Army Special Operations 7th Group (Green Berets) carried out ―military planning‖ training with Colonel Lino S?nchez’s troops, while he was planning a massive murder of civilians in Mapirip?n. The goal was to eradicate the FARC [Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces guerrillas] and to allow Colombia’s United Self-Defense Forces [the paramilitary forces] to seize control of the illegal economy in the southern region of the Guaviare province which, according to the State Department, produced 30 percent of the world’s coca supply. With no control U.S. Special Operation Forces, under the command of the assistant secretary of defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity

Conflict (whose English acronym is Solic), trained in Colombia a long time before it was decided their operations should be examined in terms of human rights. Carlos Salinas, a specialist on the subject who works for Amnesty International in Washington, asserts that training was taking place since 1962. In 1996, when the Leahy Amendment (which bans aid to military units involved in human rights violations) took effect, the State Department ruled that the record of abuses by Colombian Army personnel made most units ―ineligible‖ to receive aid. Solic continued sending trainers because, according to its legal interpretation, ―joint combined exchange training‖ (JCET) must be considered training for US forces rather than aid for the country in which it takes place. Such ―exchanges‖ (or JCET), which take place every year in more than 123 countries, was the subject of media and congressional scrutiny in 1997, when the General Accounting Office (GAO) was ordered to audit its accounts and clarify whether the training was or was not military aid. In mid 1999, the GAO published a report that concurred with the Solic legal interpretation. It also quoted an embassy report (by Curtis Kamman) which said ―the few JCETs that have taken place have been consistent with the foreign policy goals in the country (fighting drugs), but since only one or two are carried out annually, they do not have major impact in achieving those goals.‖ The official 1997 report, sent to the U.S. Congress in April 1998,

included in its list six special forces deployments in Colombia. However, on December 22, 1999, in a letter sent to Senator Leahy, Solic admitted that just between June and August of that year nine deployments had taken place in the country, only one of which was included in those previously reported. In sum, there may have been more than fourteen deployments during that year, that is, 24 percent of the total amount reported by the South Command in its area of responsibility. Except for two of them, all visits were conducted by the same training team: the Army Special Operations 7th Group, based at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Members of the unit speak Spanish without an accent and have been combat trained in the Amazon in a wide range of special skills--with or without technological support-including organization of public opinion campaigns as well as night jungle combat training. Their most recent training was for the [Colombian] 1st Counternarcotics Battalion, and future sessions will be carried out with other battalions included in the Colombia Plan. Two Plans For eight months starting in May 1997 the Green Berets’ center of operations was the Army Special Forces School, five minutes away by boat or car from the Counternarcotics Base at San Jos? del Guaviare and ―headquarters‖ for the State Department programs for the eradication of coca plantations. The name of the locale is Barranc?n; it is an island formed around a rock in the bed of the Guaviare River; from its heights the river and the Sabanas

de la Fuga, a historic ―sanctuary‖ for the Farc, can be seen. When Senator Leahy requested information on those activities, Solic’s director, Brian Sheridan, explained that the course that began on May 14 in Barranc?n dealt with ―mission planning and military decision making‖ and other specific matters related to ―light infantry.‖ Colombian reports indicate that the unit being trained was commanded by Colonel Lino S?nchez. The Counternarcotics Police Intelligence Office gave the State Department and the federal prosecutor’s office a report according to which, in those days, S?nchez pioneered a plan to introduce paramilitary forces in the sprayed areas, within the framework of U.S. programs and announced that some aid had arrived that would enable him to ―teach the guerrillas a lesson.‖ The federal prosecutor’s office discovered that on July 12, 1997, a group of fifteen men personally chosen by Carlos Casta?o Gil, flew in two planes from Urab? to San Jos? del Guaviare Airport, which is shared by the Counternarcotics Police and the garrison in which S?nchez had his office. On the Barranc?n road, Casta?o’s group joined the paramilitary forces of Casanare and Meta, and from there they went by truck to Charras, on the opposite bank of the Guaviare River, across from Mapirip?n. The boats on which they all crossed the river encounter no problem when they passed the Marine Infantry post in Barranc?n, built by the Americans and in which ―river combat‖ training took

place. The paramilitary forces, more than 100 men, remained in Mapirip?n from July 15 to 20, and were at no point challenged either by civilian or military authorities. These dates coincide with three Special Forces deployment dates mentioned in the report to the U.S. Congress, but none of those listed by Sheridan occurred during the massacre days. However, the federal prosecutor’s office and other officials say they crossed paths with U.S. military in San Jos?, when they traveled to Mapirip?n to aid the massacre survivors and open their investigation. Government files include five reports from five military commands, including General Bonett’s, mentioning the maneuvers that took place at that time in Barranc?n to celebrate the closing of a ―special forces course‖. But they only indicate the presence as guest of honor of General Jos? Mar?a Balza, Commander of the Argentinian Military Forces. El Espectador’s investigative team requested information on this point from the Colombian Army Command on December 2, 1999, but has received no response. Strategic point Five years before the massacre, the current setting for the war along the Guaviare River was only starting to take shape. In the early 90s, Mapirip?n had become one of the main coca ―cities‖,

because of its easy access by road from Villavicencio, its airport, and its access through jungle paths. It was also accessible to the southern part of the river that connected with the jungle region by that time already considered the world’s largest coca cultivation zone-- Miraflores and Calamar (Guaviare). In May 1992, the 5th Front of the Farc attacked Mapirip?n and burned down the local police station, which was never rebuilt. A FARC leader known as Comandante Alex arrived to solve the conflicts among the raspachines (coca leaf growers), chichipatos (cocaine basic paste buyers), prostitutes, gasoline dealers, carriers, merchants, and others. In exchange for security, the guerrillas established a 10 percent protection tax, calculated according to the amount of gasoline sold to process coca base and paste. Antonio Mar?a Barrera Calle (el compadre Cotumare, one of the village founders four decades earlier), Sina? Blanco and other gasoline sellers were forced to become tax collectors for the guerrillas. Two hours up the river, the Counternarcotics Police base in San Jos? del Guavire had already become the main site for State Department programs against coca cultivation. First the spraying and later the Marine Infantry patrols had discouraged farmers from growing coca close to the river. The cultivated plots encroached into the jungle. ―Sometimes the troops went there (to Mapirip?n), but as the guerrillas didn’t show up, they got bored and returned,‖ explained Colonel Eduardo Avila, who was assigned to the area.

Later on, the Barranc?n training camp was in full activity. ―According to the Defense Department annex office at the US Embassy in Colombia, the Army Special Forces Training School was built in 1996…(and) there’s also a small Colombian Marine (Infantry) detachment at the base…apparently built by Navy Seabees in 1994, as part of a training exercise,‖ Sheridan told Leahy. In Bogot?, however, National Planning Department found out about the school only in mid 1999, when for the first time it needed money from the Colombian government. Months before the massacre, the Municipal Unit for Technical Agriculture (Umata) director, Anselmo Trigos, had started to gather information on the farmers to carry out a plan prepared for the town by the National Plan for Alternative Development (Plante), with a budget of 800 million pesos[about $1 million]. Trigos became the target of threats and was forced to leave after the 5th and 44th Fronts of the Farc subjected him to a ―trial by the people‖ on May 18, 1997. In June, the paramilitary group led by Ren? in Aguabonita (located between San Jos? and Barranc?n) had started operations, killing seven chichipatos because they had paid ―taxes‖ to the Farc. Combined Forces On May 14, according to Sheridan, the Green Berets began a JCET whose goal was ―mission planning and military decision making‖ with ―the personnel assigned to the Special Forces School in

Barranc?n.‖ Colonel S?nchez told the federal prosecutor’s office that ―towards the end of May or beginning of June an order came down to mass troops of the 2nd Mobile Brigade in the vicinity of Barranc?n; around that time, the Division Command decided to cancel all leave and the entire effort was directed to retraining in Barranc?n.‖ The colonel (now accused of being the intellectual author of the massacre and awaiting trial) asserts he divided his time between Barranc?n and his office in the Par?s Battalion, in the southern airport zone. According to intelligence reports, confirmed in a judicial statement by Major Juan Carlos L?pez and Colonel Arturo Beltr?n (from the Counternarcotics base, in the northern part of the airport) DEA, Marine Infantry and Counternarcotics representatives visited the Mobile Brigade Commander (S?nchez) to request his collaboration in Operation Sapphire 2. S?nchez did not agree to collaborate because he had other plans. On the night of June 21, the colonel himself visited the policemen, apologized for his absence and asked about the results. Immediately he described the plan: ―He said—according to the report—―that anyway, the paramilitary fought against a very strong enemy in the region, and that at that moment, he had support to teach the guerrillas a lesson, and that the idea was to take advantage of the operation developed by Counternarcotics to introduce self-defense forces in the area, but in the last minute

some problems had turned up.‖ The policemen refused to participate in the plan and later provided details about the plan to the federal prosecutor’s office and the State Department. Two days later, on June 23, according to information provided by Sheridan, the training program for S?nchez’s troops ended. On July 24 (four days after the massacre), the American trainers contingent returned [to Barrancon]; in August two other U.S. Navy special forces units, the 4th Group of Navy Seals and the 8th Naval Unit for Special Warfare joined them, initiating an anti-drug training course with Sanchez’s troops, policemen and marines. Plan B On Saturday, July 12, at 3:05 p.m. and 3:20 p.m. respectively, an Antonov flying in from Necocl? and a a DC-3 from Los Cedros (Apartad?) landed at San Jos?. According to the federal prosecutor’s office Investigation, the 15 men selected by Casta?o, under the command of a.k.a El Percher?n, Mochacabezas [the ―beheader‖] or El Diablo, arrived on the Antonov. Their only weapons were machetes and knives. They carried with them on the DC-3 several tons of supplies and the first edition of the magazine Colombia Libre with an insert titled ―To the People of the Guaviare.‖ The insert was signed by the Guaviare Front of the United Self-Defense Forces, and threatened to kill anybody who dared to pay ―taxes‖ to the Farc. According to a report sent to Senatory Leahy by Undersecretary of State Barbara Larkin, ―the American personnel involved in the

counternarcotics programs in San Jos? remember having seen an unusual number of Army personnel at the airport on the day in question.‖ A paramilitary deserter said S?nchez was in charge of flight coordination and unloading. Six months after the massacre, Ren? C?rdenas was captured at the Aguabonita gas station, where according to witnesses against him, he had met up with the occupants of the plane and other paramilitary, sending them by road to Charras. From there, they had to cross the river to reach Mapirip?n. Ren? recruited two boatmen, one of whom did not have proper identification; since they had to pass through the Navy checkpoint in Barranc?n (site for other U.S. training) Ren? talked to the guards and arranged the crossing. On the afternoon of the 14th, a group of strangers burst into Charras, forced all the townspeople from their homes and led them to the main square, where they passed out the magazines and pamphlets. In the days leading up to the 14th, the Mapirip?n mayor and his family had left for Villavicencio. The Umata director, the registrar, and the family and spokesman of Farc Commander Alex, who had started ―working‖ for the Guaviare Front of the United Self-defense Forces, also had left, almost without being noticed. The siege On July 15, at dawn, more than 100 paramilitary surrounded Mapirip?n. The only authority in town was Judge Leonardo Iv?n

Cort?s Novoa. The judge went to his office to report what was going on. The paramilitary blocked his entry. The judge, taking necessary precautions, went off in search of a working telephone. At around 2:30 p.m. he found a phone in service at the Hotel Moserrate; he called the commander of the Joaqu?n Par?s Battalion, describing the situation in the village and the possible presence of Carlos Casta?o in Mapirip?n. The Colonel wrote an ―urgent information‖ memorandum to General Jaime Humberto Usc?tegui, Commander of the 7th Brigade in Villavicencio. He recommended ―a quick and immediate airlift to Mapirip?n with personnel and equipment from the Mobile Brigade Number 2 (three battalions in Barranc?n and 3 helicopters).‖ Usc?tegui, also charged in the legal proceedings, says he did not receive such a report. According to the judge, 27 people were captured on the morning of the 15th. They were all taken to see Mochacabezas, who had settled in the butcher yard of the municipal slaughterhouse. Among the first victims was Cotumare. He was tortured all day long and his screams froze the jungle air throughout that first night. ―Don’t let me die in such a miserable way,‖ witnesses recalled hearing him shout amid his cries. These were the first victims of the 49 people (4.9 percent of the estimated population of Mapirip?n) who Carlos Casta?o acknowledged being killed in the operation.

The paramilitary siege lasted until July 20, when the International Committee of the Red Cross, also alerted by the judge, sent a plane to Mapirip?n to rescue the judge and his neighbors. As the Red Cross personnel raced to the airport, Mochacabezas added a parting touch—he tossed a dead dog into the crowd. It was the local teacher’s dog and Mochabezas had strangled it in his own hands. Tension between civilians and the military The office of the President received news of the massacre on July 22. The report arrived shortly after Gen. Bedoya’s revolt, followed by his appeal for other members of the armed forces to join him. Amid the tense situation, the president’s adviser on human rights, Luis Manuel Lasso, organized a trip from Bogot? to Mapirip?n with the members of the federal prosecutor’s office. Their plan was to go to San Jos? on a Police aircraft and from there a military helicopter, which would carry them to the massacre site. They completed the San Jos? leg of the journey, but the military helicopter didn’t arrive. ―The two available helicopters were busy during ceremonies at Barranc?n, where officials were on hand for the end of the U.S. Special Forces training course and the visit of the Argentinian Army Chief of Staff,‖ explained General Bonett on July 24, the same day he replaced Bedoya. Although Sheridan’s letter does not mention any U.S. military presence in Barranc?n during the massacre days, the federal

prosecutor’s office investigation chief believed the opposite. According to the lead federal prosecutor’s report, the military said the helicopters were being used ―in a social gathering with military personnel from the U.S. Embassy.‖ The incident escalated when, at the presidential adviser’s request, the Army IV Division commander, General Agust?n Ardila Duarte was summoned, and he ―ridiculed the presidential advisor and paid more attention to the American guests than to the investigative mission.‖ All week long, according to military flight reports at San Jos? Airport, Army Command and Inspection representatives and Brigade and Division Commanders ―with their entourage‖ visited Barranc?n. According to the JCET reports to the U.S. Congress, three courses ended between July 20 and 28 in Colombia, but the Solic does not acknowledge any of them ended during the National Independence Day commemoration.

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