|SOA-Trained Colombian Military Cited by New State Department & Human Rights Watch Reports|
The just-released Human Rights Watch Report on Colombia cites seven SOA-trained Colombian military for recent human rights atrocities and for support of paramilitary forces. The report entitled, "The Ties That Bind: Colombia & Military – Paramilitary Links" was issued February 23, 2000. It documents the involvement of SOA grads in kidnapping, murder, massacres, and setting up paramilitary groups. Likewise, the 1999 US State Department Report on Human Rights – as in previous years – links SOA graduates to current atrocities in Colombia.
Colombia has sent over 10,000 soldiers to train at the SOA – more than any other country. Although human rights violations officially attributed to the Colombian military have decreased, the Human Rights Watch and State Department reports establish the collusion and collaboration between the military and the paramilitary forces. With military support, the paramilitaries have begun operating as surrogate death squads and thugs.
SOA Grads Cited in ReportsMajor David Hern?ndez Rojas and Captain Diego Fino Rodriguez, cited by the US State Department Human Rights Report (SDHRR) for the March 14, 1999 murder of Alex Lopera, Antioqua peace commissioner and former Vice Minister for Youth. The two SOA grads along with other members of the 4th Counter-guerrilla Battalion killed Alex Lopera and two others as they tried to deliver ransom for a kidnapping victim. They set up a military roadblock, detained and killed the victims, stole the ransom money, and then pushed the victims and the vehicle into a deep crevice.
According to Human Rights Watch Report (HRWR) sworn testimony, Hern?ndez Rojas instructed the soldiers how to testify during a subsequent investigation and threatened to kill anyone who informed on him. All six were being prosecuted at the end of 1999 although Hern?ndez Rojas escaped and remains at large. The Colombian press reports that he now works with the paramilitary group, ACCU.
(Hern?ndez Rojas attended the SOA Psychological Operations course in 1991 and the Cadet Orientation for Combat Weapons in 1985. Fino Rodriguez attended the Cadet Orientation C-34 (Mechanized) in 1989.)
Major Jes?s Mar?a Clavijo Clavijo and Major ?lvaro Cort?s Morillo, cited by the HRWR as members of the Fourth Brigade linked in 1999 to paramilitary groups through cell phone and beeper communications and regular meetings on military bases. In sworn testimony, a former Fourth Brigade soldier implicated Clavijo in the paramilitary killings in February 1999 near El Carmen de Atrato, Choc and in "legalizing" corpses delivered by paramilitaries for a bounty. This witness told investigators that "… everywhere Clavijo went, there were disappearances, murders, and wherever he was there was always a flood of reports of abuses."
Clavijo has been promoted to colonel and commands a battalion recently linked to an increase in paramilitary activity and direct attacks on civilians. In January 2000, the Peasant Association of the Cimitarra River reported that Clavijo’s men were attacking civilians along the Cimitarra River as part of "drug operations".
(Clavijo took the SOA Orientation and Weapons for Cadets (C-3) Program in 1981 and Cort?s Morillo took the same course in 1984.)
Brig. Gen. Jaime Ernesto Canal Alb?n, Commander of the Third Brigade, cited by the HRWR for setting up a "paramilitary" force in southern Colombia in 1999 and providing it with weapons and intelligence.
(Canal Alb?n attended the SOA cadet orientation C-3 course in 1980.)
Gen. Carlos Ospina Ovalle, former commander of the Fourth Brigade, cited by the HRWR with "extensive evidence of pervasive ties" between the Fourth Brigade and paramilitary groups involved in human rights abuses, including evidence of continued illegal activity throughout 1998 and 1999. While under the command of Ospina Ovalle, the Fourth Brigade -- along with paramilitary groups -- is also implicated in the 1997 massacre in El Aro.
(Ospina Ovalle attended the SOA cadet orientation course in 1967.)
Col. Jorge Plazas Acevedo, chief of intelligence for the Thirteenth Brigade, was indicted for heading a gang responsible for planning and carrying out a series of kidnappings and murders while head of the intelligence unit. The atrocities included the 1998 kidnapping and murder of Israeli businessman, Benjamin Khourari. Plazas Acevado was retired by the Army in July 1999, and his case is now before a civilian court. (HRWR & SDHRR)
(Plazas Acevedo attended the SOA Small Unit Infantry Tactics course in 1977.)
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