UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

June 29, 2009

HONDURAS COUP LEADER TRAINED AT NOTORIOUS U.S. SCHOOL

Democratic Underground - The crisis in Honduras began when the military refused to distribute ballot boxes for the opinion poll in a new Constitution. President Zelaya fired the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Romeo Orlando Vasquez Velasquez, who refused to step down. The heads of all branches of the Honduran armed forces quit in solidarity with Vasquez. Vasquez, however, refused to step down, bolstered by support in Congress and a Supreme Court ruling that reinstated him. Vasquez remains in control of the armed forces.

Vasquez, along with other military leaders, graduated from the United States' infamous School of the Americas. According to a School of the Americas Watch database compiled from information obtained from the US government, Vasquez studied in the SOA at least twice: once in 1976 and again in 1984.

The head of the Air Force, Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, studied in the School of the Americas in 1996. The Air Force has been a central protagonist in the Honduran crisis. When the military refused to distribute the ballot boxes for the opinion poll, the ballot boxes were stored on an Air Force base until citizens accompanied by Zelaya rescued them. Zelaya reports that after soldiers kidnapped him, they took him to an Air Force base, where he was put on a plane and sent to Costa Rica.

Congressman Joseph Kennedy stated, "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."

According to School of the Americas Watch, "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)."

Honduran Gen. Humberto Regalado Hernandez was inducted into the SOA's Hall of Fame. School of the Americas Watch notes that he was a four-time graduate. . . .

School of the Americas Watch points out that this is not the first time the SOA has been involved in Latin American coups. "In April 2002, the democratically elected Chavez government of Venezuela was briefly overthrown, and the School of the Americas-trained Efrain Vasquez Velasco, ex-army commander, and Gen. Ramirez Poveda, were key players in the coup attempt."

According to School of the Americas Watch, "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."

SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS WATCH

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