At 5 a.m. on Saturday, July 18th, Alberth Sneider Centeno, Suami Aparicio Mejía García, Gerardo Rochez Cálix, and Milton Joel Martínez Álvarez, all from the Garifuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz in Honduras, as well as a fifth person from Belize, were forcibly removed from their homes by more than ten heavily armed men. Sneider Centeno, pictured above in the yellow shirt, was the elected President of the Garifuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz in Honduras and a leader with the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH). Read more here…
Watch the SOA Watch Webinar with Nina Lakhani, author of ‘Who Killed Berta Cáceres?’ here.
On June 23, 2020, the U.S. deported Emmanuel ‘Toto’ Constant, a notorious Haitian death squad leader who was on CIA payroll, to Haiti, after years of protecting him from accountability. Constant led the brutal paramilitary group FRAPH, which killed, tortured, and raped Aristide supporters in Haiti in the years following the 1991 military coup.
As the Center for Constitutional Rights details, Constant ‘was a leader of FRAPH during Haiti’s 1991-1994 military rule, which claimed the lives of an estimated 5000 Haitians and orchestrated a systematic campaign of rape and other torture, arson and executions against the residents of the poorest communities in Haiti.’ During a significant period of this time, Constant was on CIA payroll. Read more here…
When it comes to the U.S. government, no one should confuse agency size for the likelihood of accountability. For example, U.S. Border Patrol is the Department of Homeland Security’s largest federal law enforcement agency, yet has operated with little oversight and almost complete impunity. Nearly a century old, Border Patrol was created under the Department of Labor in 1924 to enforce xenophobic laws. Rooted in systemic oppression, the agency has fostered a culture of brutality amongst its agents since its inception. It needs to be abolished. Read more here…
Join us on Saturday, July 11, 2020 at 4pm EDT/1pm PDT for an online conversation with Nina Lakhani, author of the recently released book ‘Who Killed Berta Cáceres?: Dams, Death Squads, and an Indigenous Defender’s Battle for the Planet.’ To join us, please register here.
‘Who Killed Berta Cáceres?’ paints a picture of Berta’s extraordinary life, investigates her murder, and puts both into their broader and necessary context. In the book, Lakhani examines the role of US-backed special forces, militarization, and the use of counterinsurgency, interweaving this analysis with anecdotes from Berta’s life. This pays a fitting tribute to Berta Cáceres herself, who had a remarkable ability to analyze structural oppression and global and regional policies and make them relevant to people’s lives. Read more here…
Join SOAW, Justice for Muslims Collective, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Witness Against Torture for a webinar titled ‘Torture IS an American Value: A Conversation with Survivors of Torture.‘
Friday, June 26 at 1pm EDT. Register here.
In Spain last week, a trial began for the November 16, 1989 murders in El Salvador of Jesuit priests Ignacio Ellacuría, Amando López, Joaquín López y López, Ignacio Martín-Baró, Segundo Montes, and Juan Ramón Moreno as well as their housekeeper Elba Ramos and her daughter Celina Ramos. Read more here…
With COVID-19 spreading like wildfire through packed detention centers, the U.S. government is not only endangering the lives of detained migrants but also exporting COVID-19 to Latin America and the Caribbean through deportations. Instead of heeding the collective call to #FreeThemAll, the U.S. government has repeatedly deported people with active cases of COVID-19 to their home countries, causing further spread of the pandemic. Read more here…
SOA Watch stands in solidarity with the protests taking place across the country to demand justice for the state-sanctioned murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and overturn a racist system that murders and criminalizes Black people.
The forced disappearance of people, practiced by the Security Forces in Latin America, or by paramilitary groups, operating under their protection, was a harsh reality experienced and lived by thousands and thousands of relatives of disappeared detainees who continue to ask themselves Where are they? On the other hand, unfortunately, forced disappearances continue to be recorded in recent years.
Human Rights Groups Call for Respect for Havana Peace Accords, Moratorium on Forced Eradication Program in Colombia
Early in May, the “We are Abya Yala-We are One America” platform organized a virtual discussion on “Pandemic, Migration and Solidarities”, moderated by Sneither Cifuentes. Three voices, three women, were able to share their analysis, their struggle, their hopes in the midst of this context of pandemic, injustice, and at the same time solidarity among peoples. Read more here…
Please join us to ask Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, Eloy Mayor Joel Belloc and Florence Mayor Tara Walters to urge ICE Field Office Director Enrique Lucero to release #LaPalma32 and all migrants currently detained in different facilities throughout Arizona, and pressure Governor Ducey to release people in Arizona prisons. Your support is also necessary to ask Mayors Belloc and Walters to not renew the contract with ICE for the detention centers in their communities. Read more here…
In the midst of a global COVID-19 pandemic, the panelists will talk about the realities their communities are facing; how this global crisis is impacting forced migration; and the ways in which communities are organizing, resisting, and engaging in solidarity to survive. We will also reflect on how this global crisis is exposing structural injustice and inequality faced by our communities. Read more here…
This March 24, in the midst of the worldwide COVID-19 crisis, we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Monsignor Óscar Romero and remember the 75,000 individuals assassinated with US support during El Salvador’s civil war. Today also marks the 44th anniversary of the military coup in Argentina.
“This March 18 was the one year anniversary of theassassination of indigenous leader Sergio Rojas Ortiz, leader of the Bribri people in the territory of Salitre. Less than one year after his murder, on February 24, 2020, Jehry Rivera Rivera, a member of the Bröran indigenous people from the Térraba territory was also assassinated. These murders are the most violent expression of the resistance indigenous people in the Puntarenas department face from non-indigenous people and communities who are illegally occupying indigenous lands…”
To All The Women Who Organize, Resist, and Fight – SOA WatchThis March 8, on International Women’s Day, SOA Watch commemorates and celebrates the women who throughout Abya Yala resist and struggle against the structural violence patriarchal culture and the neoliberal system impose on our lives, our bodies, and that continues to generate violence against so many women.
In Costa Rica, Indigenous Rights Leaders are being Murdered: ENOUGH!
US-led and supported state violence throughout the Americas results in the forced disappearance, forced migration, torture, murder, and devastation of our communities. We know that while our communities are under attack, it is our responsibility to organize, resist, and fight back. To further our goal of dismantling border imperialism and ending all forms of US-led and supported violence, we are working in collaboration with Stop US Arms to Mexico, No More Deaths, Alliance for Global Justice, Justice for José Antonio Coalition, and others to facilitate a Training Day and Action Convergence: End Root Causes of Forced Migration in Tucson, Arizona, March 27th-29th, 2020.
“Having detained a total of about 780 prisoners from when it opened to incarcerate terror suspects, the number has now dwindled to 40 after prior administrations released many of Guantánamo’s prisoners. Under Trump, however, rather than closing, Guantánamo may very well be expanding”.
While the year is winding down, SOA Watch has been busy scheming and dreaming about building and mobilizing a strong mass movement in support of autonomy and dignity for our communities and one that categorically demands accountability for US economic, political, and military intervention.
We will be sharing our vision for 2020 in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, we wanted to reflect on and celebrate a few of the things that we accomplished together, as we seek to create a more just world, uplift our communities and the environment, and challenge all forms of US-led and supported violence! Read more here
2019 has been a year of struggle against injustice in Latin America. As long as the US-supported repression continues, the people will keep resisting. Support the work of SOA Watch – SOAWatchDonate
This December 18th, we celebrate International Migrants Day. First and foremost, SOA Watch expresses our love and solidarity with all people who are forced to flee their homelands…
This March 27th-29th, we will be working in collaboration with other organizations to facilitate a weekend of panels and action in Tucson, Arizona to further our collective work to dismantle border imperialism and all forms of US-led and supported violence that threaten the well-being and autonomy of our communities and territories.
On December 2, 2019, a Honduran court sentenced seven men for the murder of visionary Honduran social movement leader Berta Cáceres — over a full year after finding them guilty. This includes Douglas Bustillo, an SOA graduate and former head of security for the hydroelectric dam company DESA, and fellow SOA graduate Army Major Mariano Díaz. Díaz was trained by the United States not only at Ft. Benning, but also in counter-terrorism at the Inter American Air Force Academy in Texas, and was part of the the US-led war in Iraq. He was as an Army Major, instructor for Honduras’ Military Police, and head of military intelligence for Honduras’ First Battalion.
Today on International Human Rights Day, SOA Watch reiterates our deep condemnation of the brutal state violence and systematic human rights violations – murders, sexual violence, torture, and serious injuries – that the Chilean military and police are exercising against the protesting civilian population. Since October, protesters have been calling for a new Constitution and demanding that the State, led by President Sebastián Piñera’s government, end abusive neoliberal policies.
On November 10, 2019, two-time WHINSEC graduate and Commander of the Bolivian Armed Forces, General Williams Kaliman ‘suggested’ that Bolivian President Evo Morales resign. General Kaliman’s statement came after post-election protests bolstered by a false narrative of election fraud promoted by the US-dominated Organization of American States (OAS), a police mutiny, and a vicious campaign of violence by the far right-wing against members of President Morales’ political party, the Movement for Socialism (MAS). This included violent public attacks on MAS officials, burning their homes, and kidnapping family members. As a result, Morales and all three elected officials constitutionally in line to replace him — Vice-President, head of the Senate, head of the Chamber of Deputies — all resigned, citing a coup d’etat. The Mexican government sent an airplane to rescue Morales and granted him and other MAS leaders political asylum, which Morales credits with saving his life.
The United States promptly recognized Jeanine Áñez, a right-wing senator, as President of Bolivia when she declared herself as such in a Legislative session without a quorom where only minority opposition legislators were present. In fact, the Bolivian Legislative Assembly, in which MAS holds a majority, had not even accepted Morales’ resignation, as is required for it to become official. The US attempt to normalize the coup government has been paralleled in the corporate media, which has whitewashed events in Bolivia and created a narrative that legitimates Áñez as president.
As Indigenous people and others throughout Bolivia protest the coup, the US-backed de facto regime has been brutally massacring them, with approximately 30 people killed since the coup. Áñez issued a decree granting impunity from criminal prosecution to military and police forces who kill and shoot protesters, giving the military and police licence to kill. On November 15, 2019, a joint military-police operation opened fire on Indigenous demonstrators in Sacaba, killing at least 9 people and seriously injuring many, many more. On November 19, 2019, the regime again massacred demonstrators, killing at least 8 people in Senkata.
Press Release: As SOA/WHINSEC Graduates Continue Their Legacy of Destabilizing Latin America, Human Rights Activists Return to Fort Benning Where State Agents are Trained
Columbus, Georgia – This year, hundreds will gather at the gates of SOA/WHINSEC, Fort Benning, Columbus from November 15-17, as Latin America again experiences violent repression by US-trained and funded state forces. WHINSEC’s new Commandant, Colonel John Suggs, recently said “change occurred” when the SOA became WHINSEC in 2001; however, SOA Watch movement’s response is “different name, same shame.” In Bolivia, the US is implicated in a coup that led to the November 10, 2019 resignation of President Evo Morales – Morales’ resignation came after the country’s top soldier, General Williams Kaliman Romero, who trained at WHINSEC in 2003, appeared on television with other high-ranking military officials and “suggested” that Morales resign. At least 7 SOA/WHINSEC graduates are implicated in orchestrating the coup against President Morales. SOA/WHINSEC graduates are infamous for using their civilian-targeted warfare tactics to facilitate coups, torture, forced disappearances, and massacres. Over the last weeks in Chile, massive state repression of civilian protests has resulted in at least 20 deaths, thousands of people are hospitalized and forcibly detained — Chile sends the second highest number of foreign state to be trained at WHINSEC. Read more here.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Central American University (UCA) massacre. On the morning of November 16, 1989 the Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran Army, led by 19 School of the Americas (SOA) graduates, entered university grounds and brutally assassinated Elba Ramos, her 16-year old daughter, Celina Ramos, and six Jesuit priests–amongst them, Father Ignacio Ellacuría, an outspoken critic of El Salvador’s military dictatorship. The SOA Watch movement initially formed to denounce this massacre — one of the many atrocities that occurred in Central America as the United States funded civil wars and trained military at the SOA/WHINSEC. Read more…
In recent weeks, massive demonstrations have been occurring in Chile against the US-exported neoliberal economic model.The imposition of the neoliberal model in Chile occurred under the Pinochet dictatorship and was designed by the ‘Chicago Boys’, economists trained under Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago. Chile has long been uplifted as a model for the success of neoliberalism, which includes privatization of public services and goods, deregulation, and cuts to public spending in areas such as health and education. Read more here.
On August 30, 2019, the Due Process of Law Foundation, Guatemala Human Rights Commission, International Platform Against Impunity, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and School of the Americas Watch released a report which profiles Roberto David Castillo and related companies. Castillo is a former Honduran military intelligence official, former government official, and businessman charged with the murder of internationally recognized Indigenous and social movement leader Berta Cáceres. The report brings together information that implicates Castillo in a pattern of human rights violations and corruption to benefit companies with which he was associated.
Evidence suggests that the murder of Berta Cáceres was part of a pattern of violence, corruption, intimidation, malicious prosecution and impunity orchestrated by Castillo and others at DESA, who appear to have functioned as a criminal structure. Evidence admitted in the first trial for the murder of Berta Cáceres suggests that Castillo and his associates and employees enlisted the support of key agencies of the Honduran government, using improper influence in the Ministry of Security, police, military and the Honduran judiciary, seemingly to advance efforts to intimidate, persecute, and neutralize Berta Cáceres and COPINH’s opposition to the Agua Zarca project. The report also sheds light on the role of international actors, including development banks and investors. Read the report here.
In July 2019, an Italian appeals court sentenced 24 former officials from Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay to life in prison for their roles in Operation Condor — a brutal and extremely deadly US-backed operation in the 1970s and 1980s that targeted leftists, activists, social movement leaders, and others who spoke out. Operation Condor kidnapped, tortured, disappeared and/or murdered tens of thousands of people across South America. 5 of the 24 former officials from South American dictatorships sentenced by the Italian court were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas.
Declassified documents posted by the National Security Archive illustrate why it is vitally important to hold the United States responsible for its support of Operation Condor. A six page cable from the US Embassy in Argentina to the State Department in 1980 reported that the Argentine military would not stop using disappearance as a preferred tactic and attempted to explain why. A CIA intelligence report describes how the dynamiting of the bodies of 30 people executed in Argentina in 1976, scattering their remains widely, was meant to intimidate other so-called militants into being quiet just months after the military coup. Another CIA report describes how Operation Condor targeted officials with Amnesty International and other human rights groups and planned overseas missions in Europe to ‘liquidate’ ‘targets’. There will not be true justice until the US government is also held to account for its role in financing, training, and supporting Operation Condor’s atrocities throughout the Southern Cone. Read more here.
Since late April, teachers, doctors, and medical workers in Honduras have been demonstrating against the privatization of education and medical services. The demonstrations in defense of public education and health services have grown into massive and ongoing national mobilizations demanding the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
US-backed economic policies – such as privatization policies promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – are at the heart of the current crisis in Honduras. Furthermore, it is US political, economic, and military backing of the Hernandez regime that enables him to maintain his grip on power. Honduran social movement leader Carlos H Reyes recently said, ”The United States government is too brazen in the case of Honduras, throwing a lifeline to a dying regime. If it were not for them, the regime would have already fallen.” With massive demonstrations ongoing against the regime, the US Embassy in Honduras recently announced the arrival of nearly 300 US Marines and others with the US Southern Command’s rapid response force to Honduras and surrounding countries. The US Marines will conduct ‘training and security cooperation’ with the Honduran security forces, which routinely fire live bullets at teachers and other civilians during demonstrations.
SOA Watch condemns the shameful proposal to lock up immigrant children at Ft. Benning
The Trump administration is considering locking up immigrant children at Ft Benning, one of the very locations responsible for the conditions that cause them to flee their home countries in the first place. Representatives from the Departments of Defense and Health & Human Services visited Ft. Benning on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 to consider the site as part of a disturbing plan to detain up to 5,000 unaccompanied immigrant children on US military bases. Ft. Benning’s School of the Americas (SOA) trained some of the worst human rights abusers from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, including military officials who went on to carry out brutal massacres, murders, disappearances and coups. The training of Latin American militaries at Ft. Benning continues today. In 2018, Ft. Benning’s SOA-WHINSEC trained 130 members of the Honduran security forces, which have been firing live bullets at civilians during recent demonstrations against the US-backed regime.
US policies and US military training create the conditions that lead refugees to flee for their lives. Now children fleeing Central America could be cruelly locked up at the same military base where the US has trained those who have terrorized the homelands. This is shameful.
Representative Hank Johnson and 43 representatives have reintroduced the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, H.R. 1945, in the current legislative session of the House of Representatives. The bill would suspend US military and security aid to Honduras until important human rights conditions are met, including justice for the murder of Berta Cáceres, the killings of over 100 small farmers in the Aguan Valley, the murders of demonstrators who were killed by security forces while opposing election fraud last year, and more.