SOA Watch, June 28, 2009
A military coup has taken place in Honduras this morning (Sunday, June 28), led by School of the Americas (SOA) graduate Romeo Vasquez. In the early hours of the day, 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. 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 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 Americas...is 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
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.