Monday, June 29, 2009



The civilian president of Honduras was overthrown Sunday morning by generals who had been trained at the School of the Americas in Georgia.
Please call White House and State Dept to demand that the US strongly condemn the coup, as the Organizization of American States has already done, and that the US demand the reinstatement of the president.

State Department: 202-647-4000 or 1-800-877-8339
White House: Comments: 202-456-1111, Switchboard: 202-456-1414
State Dept was taking recorded comments at 5:15 Pacific Time Sunday evening.
White House number not responding, but try it -- maybe you'll have better luck.



Call the State Department and the White House
Demand that they call for the immediate reinstatement of Honduran President Zelaya.
State Department: 202-647-4000 or 1-800-877-8339
White House: Comments: 202-456-1111, Switchboard: 202-456-1414
Visit and for articles and updated information.

Military Coup in Honduras

Read updates from the Narco News Bulletin here:

A military coup has taken place in Honduras on Sunday, June 28, led by School of the Americas (SOA) graduate Romeo Vasquez. Members of the Honduran military surrounded the presidential palace and forced the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, into custody. He was immediately flown to Costa Rica.

The Honduran state television was taken off the air. The electricity supply to the capital Tegucigalpa, as well telephone and cellphone lines were cut. The people of Honduras are going into the streets. Labor unions are planning for a general strike. From Costa Rica, President Zelaya has called for a non-violent response from the people of Honduras, and for international solidarity for the Honduran democracy.

Click here to read Kristin Bricker's article School of the Americas-Trained Military Detains and Expels Democratically-Elected President Zelaya

Click here to read an article by Eva Golinger

Click here to send a message to President Barack Obama.

Photos by Miguel Yuste, El Pais.

The people of Honduras show great bravery by taking to the streets to defend their democracy and rule of law. General Romeo Vasquez, the head of the armed forces who led the military coup against the democratically elected president Zelaya, is a graduate of the notorious School of the Americas (SOA).

"The U.S. Army School of the a school that has run more dictators than any other school in the history of the world."
- Congressman Joseph Kennedy (In total, the School has produced at least eleven Latin American dictators.)

Honduras - like the rest of Latin America - has first hand experience with bloody work of School of the Americas graduates and with SOA trained military dictators:

In 1975, SOA Graduate General Juan Melgar Castro became the military dictator of Honduras. From 1980-1982 the dictatorial Honduran regime was headed by, yet another SOA graduate, Policarpo Paz Garcia, who intensified repression and murder by Battalion 3-16, one of the most feared death squads in all of Latin America (founded by Honduran SOA graduates with the help of Argentine SOA graduates).

"[I took] a course in intelligence at the school of the Americas [in which I saw] a lot of videos which showed the type of interrogation and torture they used in Vietnam. Although many people refuse to accept it, all this is organized by the U.S. government."
- José Valle, graduate of the SOA, admitted torturer, member of Battalion 316, Inside the School of Assassins, video

Click here to watch the full-length documentary about Father Roy Bourgeois, the School of the Americas and the U.S. military's involvement in teaching torture techniques

"Torturing was "a job, something I did to give food to my kids"
- Valle, Baltimore Sun, 6/11/95

"The intelligence unit, known as Battalion 316, used shock and suffocation as devices in interrogations. Prisoners often were kept naked and, when no longer useful, killed and buried in unmarked graves. Newly declassified documents and other sources show that the CIA and the U.S. Embassy knew of numerous crimes, including murder and torture, yet continued to support Battalion 316 and collaborate with its leaders."
- Baltimore Sun, 6/11/95

Battalion 316 is founded in the early eighties by General Luis Alonso Discua graduated from the SOA three times, in 1967, 1972, and 1982 while the nation is under the repressive dictatorship of SOA graduate General Policarpo Paz García, inducted into the SOA "Hall of Fame" in 1988. Also inducted in 1988 is General Humberto Regalado Hernández a four-time graduate in the late sixties and seventies who, as chief of Honduran armed forces, refuses to take action against soldiers involved in Battalion 316 death squad activity, and indeed appears to cover-up at least some of that activity.
- Americas Watch reports on Honduras, 1987 and 1994

Fresh from their own "Dirty War", Argentine SOA graduates such as Colonel Mario Davico move to Honduras in the early 1980s to teach Batalion 316 techniques such as arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, and methods of disposing of the bodies of the victims.
- Americas Watch, 1994

The return

One year after he enters the SOA Hall of Fame, fellow officers accuse Regalado Hernández of misappropriating millions of dollars in U.S. military aid. Officers contend that equipment provided through U.S. military assistance was regularly sold to unit commanders by Regalado, who then deposited the money in a "special account". Military assistance supplies sold by Regalado ranged from batteries to tires to gasoline. Meanwhile, the Reagan administration in 1988, the year Regalado is inducted into the SOA Hall of Fame suspects Regalado of providing protection to Colombian drug traffickers living in Honduras. Regalado's half-brother (SOA graduate Rigoberto Regalado Lara, convicted and imprisoned in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges) tells authorities that his supplier was a close friend of General Regalado Hernández.
- New York Times, 10/15/89

In 1983, several key members of Battalion 316 somehow find time in their busy schedules of organizing death squad activity for renewed training at the SOA, including Lieutenant Colonel Luis Alonso Villatoro Villeda (trained in "Administration", then commander of Battalion 316 from 1986-1988), Second Lieutenant Ramón Mejia (in charge of transporting kidnap victims from various parts of Honduras to Tegucigalpa, one of the two officers most involved in torture, interrogation and murder) and General Walter López Reyes.
- Americas Watch, 1987 and 1994

Colonel Juan López Grijalva, another three-time graduate of the SOA in Battalion 316, returns to the SOA as a guest lecturer in both 1991 and 1992.

In April 2002, the democratically elected Chavez government of Venezuela was briefly overthrown and the School of the Americas trained militaries Efrain Vasquez Velasco, ex-army commander, and Gen. Ramirez Poveda, were key players in the coup attempt.

Over its 58 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counter-insurgency techniques, sniper skills, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Colombia, with over 10,000 troops trained at the school, is the SOA's largest customer. Colombia currently has the worst human rights record in Latin America. .

House of Representatives Votes to Force the Pentagon to Release Information to SOA Watch

Click here to see the results!

Thanks to your efforts and hard work in defense of human rights, the culture of secrecy and lack of accountability surrounding DefenseDepartment policies suffered a blow today when the U.S. House of Representatives approved the McGovern-Sestak-Bishop (GA)-Lewis (GA) amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010. (Click here to tell the Senate to follow their lead!)

The amendment forces the public release of names, rank, country of origin, courses and dates of attendance of WHINSEC's graduates and instructors to the public. The amendment was approved with a 224 to 190 vote! This is a major victory for the international human rights community! You spoke up and now we are one step closer to transparency and to closing the SOA/ WHINSEC!

But it's not over...

In order for this amendment to become law, the text of the amendment has to be approved by a joint House and Senate conference committee. We need you to sustain intense pressure on the Senate for the next few weeks to make sure this amendment is approved by the conference committee!

Click here to send a letter to your Senator asking that they work for passage of this language!

We will continue to update you on our progress for ensuring this language becomes law, so please continue to visit the Legislative Action Index and learn how to stay plugged into our legislative campaigns over the summer and leading up to the November Vigil.

Also, please consider making a contribution to SOA Watch to support our legislative campaign in the U.S. Senate. Your support will help make this campaign a success!

Congress to Vote on Amendment to Force the SOA/ WHINSEC to Release the Names of Graduates and Instructors.

Click here to send an email and fax to your Representative. Call Congress NOW!

SOA Watch has received confirmation that Congress will vote on an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would require that the School of the Americas/ WHINSEC to release the names, ranks, country of origin, courses and dates attended of students and instructors at the institute.

The amendment will be offered by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA), Representative Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and Representative John Lewis (D-GA) and we expect the vote to happen on Wednesday, June 24.

For the past few years, despite the WHINSEC PR machine proclaiming an open and transparent school, the WHINSEC has been unwilling to provide information about the students and instructors. The Pentagon secrecy took effect after research revealed that the SOA/ WHINSEC continues to train known human rights abusers, and that instructors have been involved in numerous crimes. Freedom of Information Act requests since FY 2005 have all been denied, proof of WHINSEC's unwillingness to submit to oversight from the public whose tax-payer dollars help fund the school.

Access to information regarding SOA/ WHINSEC graduates of previous years has been a valuable asset to human rights organizations who have been able to identify Latin American military officers and police that have committed human rights abuses or engaged in criminal activity in their home countries after attending the school as instructors or students.

SOA Watch supports the release of this important information at all U.S. military training facilities in the spirit of openness, transparency, and the public's "right to know." We see gaining access to the names of SOA/ WHINSEC graduates and instructors as a crucial step towards closing the SOA/ WHINSEC for good.

We expect a close vote and it is crucial for the success of this amendment that you contact your Representative TODAY and TOMORROW!


Be sure to click the "Send a Fax" box to have the fax sent.


Call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or toll free at 1-800-473-6711

Ask to speak with the military legislative assistant. Here is a suggested message for you to convey:

    "Hello, My name is __________, and as your constituent, I urge you to vote YES on the McGovern-Sestak-Bishop (GA)-Lewis (GA) amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill.

    The amendment would release the names, country of origin, rank and dates of attendance at WHINSEC for graduates and instructors. This amendment is supported by Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Congressman Ike Skelton.

    As you may know the School of the Americas, renamed WHINSEC, has a notorious history linked to serious crimes and human rights abuses throughout Latin America. In the past few years under WHINSEC, known human rights abusers have attended the school and WHINSEC instructors have been arrested in Colombia for returning home and aiding the drug cartels. None of this information would be known if the basic information about enrollment at WHINSEC were not disclosed. This information is vital to the work of Congress and human rights organizations who seek protection of human rights and promoting transparency, however all FOIA requests for this information are now being denied.

    What is WHINSEC hiding?! Voting YES on the McGovern-Sestak-Bishop (GA)-Lewis (GA) amendment is a vote FOR human rights and FOR transparency. I urge your boss to vote YES!!!

New SOA/ WHINSEC legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives! Check out the Legislative Action Index for more information...

Click here to sign the petition to Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega.

Click here to download petition forms - Click here to sign the petition online

What better time than now...
Join the Upcoming SOA Watch Delegations to Latin America!

May 31 - June 10, 2009: PARAGUAY
The delegation to Paraguay will focus on the hope arising from the recent election of Fernando Lugo.

June 17-26, 2009: VENEZUELA
The Venezuela delegation will look at what´s working and what isn´t in the Bolivarian revolution.

July 8-18, 2009: Hope Arising from the South - Retreat in Venezuela.

August 14-24, 2009: BOLIVIA
The Bolivia delegation will focus on the hope and challenges of a new constitution.

October 9-18, 2009: CHILE
The Chile delegation will focus on efforts to bring justice to Chile after the brutal Pinochet regime as well as the struggles of the Mapuche people to maintain their culture and traditions.

November 28 - December 6: COLOMBIA We will visit the Uraba region of Colombia and will make the connection between companies like U.S. based Chiquita Brands and the SOA/ WHINSEC training.

No one ever comes back... unchanged!

About the School of the Americas / Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation

The US Army School of Americas (SOA), based in Fort Benning, Georgia, trains Latin American security personnel in combat, counter-insurgency, and counter-narcotics. SOA graduates are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manualsused at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Among the SOA's nearly 60,000 graduates are notorious dictators Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia. Lower-level SOA graduates have participated in human rights abuses that include the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the El Mozote Massacre of 900 civilians. (See Grads in the News).

In an attempt to deflect public criticism and disassociate the school from its dubious reputation, the SOA was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001. The name change was a result of a Department of Defense proposal included in the Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal 2001, at a time when SOA opponents were poised to win a congressional vote on legislation that would have dismantled the school. The name-change measure passed when the House of Representatives defeated a bi-partisan amendment to close the SOA and conduct a congressional investigation by a narrow ten-vote margin. (See Talking Points,Critique of New School, Vote Roll Call.)

In a media interview, Georgia Senator and SOA supporter the late Paul Coverdell characterized the DOD proposal as a "cosmetic" change that would ensure that the SOA could continue its mission and operation. Critics of the SOA concur.

SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots movement that works through creative protest and resistance, legislative and media work to stand in solidarity with the people of Latin America, to close the SOA/WHINSEC and to change oppressive U.S. foreign policy that institutions like the SOA represent. We are grateful to our sisters and brothers throughout Latin America and the the Caribbean for their inspiration and the invitation to join them in their struggle for economic and social justice.

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