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US Immigration Judge Rules Against School of the Americas Grad

Weekly News Update on the Americas | April 20, 2014

A US immigration judge has ruled that former Salvadoran defense minister José Guillermo García Merino (1979-1983) is eligible for deportation from the US because of “clear and convincing evidence” that he “assisted or otherwise participated” in 11 acts of violence during the 1980s, including the March 1980 murder of San Salvador archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. Gen. García also helped conceal the involvement of soldiers who raped and killed four US churchwomen in December1980 and “knew or should have known” about the military’s December 1981 massacre of more than 800 civilians in the village of El Mozote, according to the 66-page decision by Immigration Judge Michael Horn in Miami. The judge ruled against García on Feb. 26, but the decision was only made public on Apr. 11 as the result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the New York Times. García’s lawyer said the general would appeal.

The decision against García comes after repeated efforts to bring him to justice in the US for war crimes committed in El Salvador. He came to the US in 1989 and was granted political asylum a year later. In May 1999 the families of the four murdered US churchwomen filed a suit (Ford et al. v. García, Vides Casanova) against García and former defense minister Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova (1983-1989) in Florida, where both generals have lived since moving to the US. A jury cleared the generals. Also in 1999 the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) brought a suit (Ramagoza Arce v. Garcia and Vides Casanova) against the generals on behalf of Salvadoran torture victims; the jury awarded the victims $54.6 million in 2002. US prosecutors began seeking the generals’ deportation in 2009, and an immigration judge cleared the way for Gen. Vides Casanova’s removal in February 2013 [see World War 4 Report 2/24/13].

Like many Salvadoran military officers, García and Vides Casanova received training at the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), which was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001 [see Update #1200]. García completed a counterinsurgency course in 1962, when the SOA was located in Panama; it is now in Fort Benning, Georgia. García and Vides Casanova were both recipients of the US Legion of Merit, an award from the US Armed Forces for meritorious service, during the 1980s. (NYT 4/12/14; SOA Watch press release 4/15/14; National Catholic Reporter 4/17/14)

The war crimes with which García and Vides Casanova are charged took place during a bloody counterinsurgency against the rebel Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN); the fighting left 70,000 people dead. The FMLN later became a legal political party under a 1992 peace accord, and it backed current president Mauricio Funes, an independent, in his 2009 campaign. A leader of the FMLN, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, won the presidency in a runoff on Mar. 9 this year and is to take office on June 1. (BBC News 3/17/14)

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Court: US must name military school grads

By Julian Pecquet – The Hill – 04/23/13

The Obama administration must release the names of graduates of a controversial training camp for the Latin American military, a federal district court has ruled.

Plaintiffs say releasing the names of attendees at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) at Fort Benning – formerly known as the U.S. Army School of the Americas – will help Congress ensure that U.S. funds aren’t used to train human-rights violators. The Defense Department argued that it would violate attendees’ privacy and create security and stigma risks.

The Obama administration “has not established that the privacy interests advanced are substantial, and has not shown through admissible evidence that the release of this information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, in light of the strong public interest in access to this information as shown on the record before the court,” ruled Phyllis Hamilton, U.S. district judge for the Northern District of California.The ruling drew immediate praise from Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), who has fought to close the school.

“The House has twice voted for the names to be restored to public disclosure, as they were for nearly 40 years prior to 2006 when they were inexplicably classified,” McGovern told The Hill in a statement. “I continue to believe that the WHINSEC should be shut down. In the meantime, I welcome the Court’s decision and I hope to see the WHINSEC return to genuine transparency immediately with the release of the names of its graduates, faculty and guest instructors.”

The decision was also applauded by the plaintiffs, School of the Americas Watch (SOA), which advocates the camp’s closure. The group was formed in 1990 after Salvadoran soldiers trained at the camp killed six Jesuit priests along with their housekeeper and her 16-year-old daughter.

“The decision by the court,” SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois said in a statement, “is [a] victory for transparency and human rights, and against government secrecy.”

The records of attendees from the camp’s opening in 1946 until 2003 were released to the SOA, but the information dried up after the group created a searchable database and alerted Congress to hundreds of examples of camp graduates engaging in human-rights abuses. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates later blocked further releases for “national security” reasons.

The School of the Americas was developed into an anti-communist counterinsurgency training program under President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Congress replaced it with the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001, whose stated goals include “promoting democratic values, respect for human rights, and knowledge and understanding of United States customs and traditions.”

April 25, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment