|<i>Guatemala: Never Again</i> Links SOA Graduates to<br>Human Rights Abuses in Guatemala|
With the April 26, 1998 bludgeoning assassination of Guatemalan Bishop Juan Gerardi international attention has focused on human rights abuses during that country's civil war. Just days prior to his assassination, Bishop Gerardi played a key role in the release of an extensive human rights report entitled Guatemala: Never Again, which details the worst of the atrocities. The report, written by the Office of Human Rights of the Archbishop of Guatemala's Recuperation of Historical Memory (REMHI) project and which is widely viewed as critical to ending the state of impunity in Guatemala, confirms that School of the Americas graduates played a key role in planning and initiating the brutal counterinsurgency strategies used during that country's civil war.
The report consists of four volumes, only two of which are currently available. Although the two volumes mention few names of human rights violators, most of those listed are SOA graduates. SOA graduates formed the backbone of the presidential cabinets under the dictatorships of Gen. Romeo Lucas Garc?a and Gen. Efra?n Rios Montt. They were also deeply involved in the Guatemalan Intelligence Agency (D-2), in the formation of the notorious civil defense patrols, and in several of the most infamous human rights cases.
Guatemalan Intelligence Agency (D-2)
Throughout the war, the Guatemalan intelligence agency was one of the most feared instruments of government repression. According to Never Again, the D-2 was involved in systematic human rights abuses, including assassinations, extrajudicial executions, and assassinations. Declassified documents define the military intelligence agency as "Dedicated to finding and eliminating leftists by three different means: disappearing them, publicly eliminating them, or inviting them to leave the country." (Vol. 2, pp. 88-89).
Never Again lists the following SOA graduates as holding posts in the D-2: Federico Sablavarro Meza, C?sar Quinteros Alvarado, Lu?s Felipe Caballeros Meza, Harry Ponce, Francisco Edgar Dominguez L?pez, Eduardo Ochoa Barrios (Vol. 2, p.90), Francisco Ortega Menaldo (Vol. 2, p. 91), Manuel Callejas y Callejas (Vol. 2, p. 93), Domingo Velasquez Axpuac, Jos? Manuel Rivas Rios (Vol. 2, p. 111).
Creation of the Civil Defense Patrols
According to Never Again, Gen. Lucas Garc?a's brother, Benedicto Lucas Garc?a, who is an SOA graduate, was responsible for the creation of civil militias, which later became known as the Civilian Defense Patrols (or PAC for their initials in Spanish). The PACs were responsible for many human rights violations during the war, and are described in the report as "a permanent control apparatus" (Vol. 2, p. 73).
Myrna Mack Case
The 1991 assassination of Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack was one of the best-known human rights cases in Guatemala and has galvanized attempts to put an end to impunity. Two of the three military officers cited in the report are SOA graduates. They are Juan Oliva and Edgar Godoy Gait?n, who have been brought to court on charges that they were the intellectual authors of her assassination (Vol. 2, p. 77).
Another notable human rights case that occurred in 1996, nearly derailing the peace negotiations between the government and the URNG, was the Mincho case. SOA graduate Marco Tulio Espinoza was named in a preliminary United Nations report on 5/20/97 as responsible for the disappearance of Juan Jos? Rodas (alias Mincho), a member of the ORPA, who was involved in the kidnapping of Olga de Novella (Vol. 2, p.76).
Michael Devine Case
The assassination of U.S. citizen Michael Devine by Guatemalan military forces in 1990 resulted in a cutoff of U.S. aid to that country. Guatemalan President Serrano Elias ordered that charges be brought against those responsible for the assassination. However, he soon became frustrated by the evasiveness of the army and the D-2, and he blamed SOA graduate C?sar Augusto Cabrera Mej?a for being the first to block the investigation, by denying access to the relevant records (Vol. 2, p.91). Another SOA graduate, Lu?s Miranda Trejo, commanded the military base from which Captain Hugo Contreras, who was implicated in Devine’s assassination, supposedly escaped from a high security area (Vol. 2, p. 84).
Never Again also contains testimony relating to the torture in 1992 of Efra?n Bamaca, husband of U.S. citizen Jennifer Harbury. According to the testimony, SOA graduate Julio Alpirez was present during the torture sessions (Vol. 2, p. 205). Two other SOA graduates, Ismael Segura Abularcach and Col. Haroldo Ruano del Cid commanded the special forces that made use of Bamaca while he was a prisoner by forcing him to guide army patrols in their search for guerrilla arms caches (Vol. 2, p.105).
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