Friday, March 21, 2008

Lee, there's more...

Tsk, tsk, tsk...
Lee, and I thought I was your one true love.

Second Waver directed me to Ten Percent. Thanks Second Waver. I visited that blog and found this....

Lee Rials, Earning His Keep At SOA/WHINSEC

A gentleman called Lee Rials using a US military email account left this comment on my post- School Of The Americas Watch: Turncoats Edition.

How do you suppose a facility that is open to the public every work day, is overseen by not only the military but by members of Congress and non-governmental civilians is doing all those evil things you say? You quite happily slander and libel everyone who works at the institute, because every single negative you write is a lie, and I can prove it! Come on down and see for yourself.

While that is a generous offer Lee I am troubled that you didn’t announce yourself for what you are:-
Lee A. Rials
Public Affairs Officer
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation
Ft. Benning, Geo.

You certainly do your job with enthusiasm and diligence, just what is the exchange rate on 30 pieces of silver these days?:

In mid-2002, “to counter negative political rhetoric that detracts from the mission of both WHINSEC and the Army,” the Defense Department approved a $246,000 “consistent, programmed, proactive public affairs effort in direct support of the Institute.” Dubbed WHINSEC’s “Strategic Communications Campaign Plan,” it was also ridiculed as “putting a new label on a bottle of poison” by SOA Watch communications coordinator Christy Pardew.

And I am sure you are earning your every cent, unfortunately I will not be taking up your offer because even if you paid the airfare to the US I am not traveling in US territories until habeas corpus is restored. Me and my silly insistence on human rights eh? So take these refutations from a previous response to your PR attacks-

• Salvadoran Lt. Francisco Del Cid Díaz, an SOA graduate who played an important role in the Las Hojas massacre of 1983, where he ordered the assassination of 16 civilians (United Nations Truth Commission Report on El Salvador, 1993) and was later invited to speak at WHINSEC in 2003.

• Chilean Col. Pablo Belmar, who was a guest instructor at the SOA in 1987 and who was directly implicated in the 1976 torture and murder of United Nations official Carmelo Soria (Americas Watch report, “Unfinished Business: Human Rights in Chile at the Start of the Frei Presidency,” 1994). According to former SOA instructor Maj. Joseph Blair, as a guest instructor in 1987, Belmar was responsible for teaching the human rights component.

• Colombian Gen. Farouk Yanine Díaz, a graduate and regular guest speaker at the SOA, was implicated in the massacre of 20 banana workers in Antoquia in March 1988; the assassination of the mayor of Sabana de Torres, Alvaro Garcés Parra; and in the massacre of 19 businessmen in 1987. According to the 1998 State Department report on Human Rights in Colombia, “Despite the government’s attempts to bring him to justice in the civilian court system, the military prevailed, continuing the tradition of impunity for all but the lowest-ranking members of the security forces.” According to former SOA instructor Blair, Yanine visited the SOA annually as a guest speaker from 1986-89 and was a close personal friend of U.S. Army Col. Miguel Garcia, then-commandant of the SOA.

They weren’t just students, they were lecturers! D’you think there might be just the teensy weensiest problem with the curriculum? And about the civilian staff, are they in a union? I ask because, well, some of your graduates seem to have a thing for killing union members. That could cause problems on base, oh and are there any priests or nuns on your staff, sadly again that could cause some difficulties. Perhaps you feel you are dong a good job, perhaps you have been told that your country faces terrible foes who you must do your utmost to defend against. I know the drill, got a lot of military history in my family, but you know what I learned about that mindset (regardless of debates about history or the position of your country globally, or who is in the wrong)-

Those who fight monsters should take care that they never become one. For when you stand and look long into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.

and this...

Lee Rials, It Must Be Love

Well Lee A. Rials Public Affairs Officer at SOA/WHINSEC just can’t leave me alone, what is a boy to do? Here is his latest comment-

So let me get this straight–you have no need to know what is taught at WHINSEC. Now that’s an interesting academic view. If you and your friends here remove your ideological blinders for a moment, you might actually see a truth. Have you ever bothered to read the UN Truth Commission Report on El Salvador from 1993? See what they say about Col. del Cid–it aint what you presented, that’s for sure. Anyway, I won’t even try to fool you smart guys–you’ve already let SOAW do that. Enjoy your abysmal lack of knowledge (comment about the protesters from a former Columbus, Ga, mayor).

Well, as with most academic institutions SOA/WHINSEC should be judged on its results and the contributions its graduates make to the world, not the real estate of its buildings or the public face of its curriculum. As such SOA/WHINSEC grads do tend to let the side down on the torturing and killing front, not least the topical activities of Col. Julián Villate. Or the graduates involved in the attempted coup in Venezuela. Which does rather show although old manuals are publicly disowned, the spirit remains strong whatever you rename the place (how about ‘Happy Funland School of Hugs’?). And to be honest Fr. Roy Bourgeois (a decorated Navy veteran and catholic priest) does seem a tad more compelling a witness than your bosses at the Pentagon-

Bourgeois was born in Lutcher, Louisiana in 1938. He attended the University of Southwestern Louisiana and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in geology.
After graduation, Bourgeois entered the United States Navy and served as an officer for four years. He spent two years at sea, one year at a station in Europe, and one year in Vietnam. He received the Purple Heart during a tour of duty in Vietnam.
After military service, he entered the seminary of the Maryknoll Missionary Order. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1972 and sent to Bolivia.

1972-1975 Fr. Roy spent five years in Bolivia aiding the poor, before being arrested and deported for speaking out against Bolivian dictator General Hugo Banzer, an SOA graduate.
1980 Fr. Roy became an outspoken critic of US foreign policy in Latin America after four American churchwomen, Sister Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, Sister Ita Ford, and Sister Dorothy Kazel, were raped and killed by a death squad consisting of soldiers from the Salvadoran National Guard.
1990 Fr. Roy founded the School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch), an organization that seeks to close the School of the Americas, renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001, through nonviolent protest.
1998 Fr. Roy testified before a Spanish judge seeking the extradition of Chile’s ex-dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

Not to mention former instructor Major Joseph A. Blair -

“I sat next to Major Victor Thiess who created and taught the entire course, which included seven torture manuals and 382 hours of instruction,” Blair recalls. “He taught primarily using manuals which we used during the Vietnam War in our intelligence-gathering techniques. The techniques included murder, assassination, torture, extortion, false imprisonment.”

The school’s torture lessons live on. “Once you learn it in the school, you retain it for life,” Blair says. “There is no message from the U.S. Army that’s going to say: `What we told you was a good technique ten years ago is no longer a good technique. You should stop doing it.’”

“When I was there, a general who was an officer in the dictatorship of General Pinochet of Chile taught about four hours of human rights,” he says. “It was a joke for fifty or sixty Latin American officers to sit in a class and have someone from Chile preach to them about how they should be concerned about human rights in their own country. That four hours has now been expanded to twelve where they sit in a class and discuss the My Lai Massacre, the Geneva Convention, and the Hague convention.”

Now about that UN truth commission report, let’s just see what it says shall we (a bit long so I’ve highlighted some relevant bits, but please read it all and make up your own mind)-




On 22 February 1983, members of the Jaguar Battalion, under the command of Captain Carlos Alfonso Figueroa Morales, participated in an operation in Las Hojas canton, San Antonio del Monte Municipality, Department of Sonsonate. Soldiers arrested 16 peasants, took them to the Cuyuapa river and shot and killed them at point-blank range.

The accused have consistently maintained that this was a clash with terrorists. An investigation by the Ministry of Defence concluded that no members of the armed forces were responsible for the incident.

The judicial proceedings were dismissed by the Supreme Court of Justice under the 1987 Amnesty Act. In 1992, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accused the Government of El Salvador of failing in its duty to investigate and punish those responsible for violations of the American Convention on Human Rights.

On the basis of various degrees of evidence, the Commission finds the following:

1. Colonel Elmer González Araujo, then Commander of Military Detachment No. 6 at Sonsonate, Major Oscar León Linares and Captain Carlos Alfonso Figueroa Morales (deceased) planned the operation in Las Hojas canton for the purpose of arresting and eliminating alleged subversives.

The orders of execution were transmitted to the actual perpetrators by then Second Lieutenants Carlos Sasso Landaverry and Francisco del Cid Díaz.

3. Colonel Gonzáles Araujo, Major León Linares and Captain Carlos Alfonso Figueroa Morales learnt immediately of the massacre, but covered it up.

4. Colonel Napoleón Alvarado, who conducted the Ministry of Defence investigation, also covered up the massacre and obstructed the judicial investigation.

5. The Commission on the Truth recommends that the Government of El Salvador comply fully with the resolution of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in this case.


The massacre

In the early morning of 22 February 1983, Captain Carlos Alfonso Figueroa Morales, commanding the Jaguar Battalion based in Military Detachment No. 6 at Sonsonate, mobilized three units from there belonging to the first company. One unit was under the command of Second Lieutenant Carlos Sasso Landaverry, one under the command of Second Lieutenant Cadet Francisco del Cid Díaz and the third under the command of Sergeant José Reyes Pérez Ponce. 207

At about 6 a.m., a unit entered the Las Hojas cooperative of the Asociación Nacional de Indígenas (ANIS). With the help of members of the local civil defence unit, who had scarves tied around their faces to conceal their identities, they arrested seven members of the cooperative. The soldiers had a list of alleged subversives and several members of the civil defence unit pointed out the people whose names were on the list. They were dragged from their houses, beaten and bound, then taken from the cooperative along the road towards the Cuyuapa river.

The members of the cooperative arrested were Gerardo Cruz Sandoval (34 years), 208 José Guido García (21 years), 209 Benito Pérez Zetino (35 years), 210 Pedro Pérez Zetino (24 years), 211 Marcelino Sánchez Viscarra (80 years), 212 Juan Bautista Mártir Pérez (75 years) 213 and Héctor Manuel Márquez (60 years). 214

Another unit of about 40 soldiers entered the San Antonio farm in Agua Santa canton, near the Las Hojas cooperative, arrested a number of people and took them also towards the Cuyuapa river. 215 The people arrested there included Antonio Mejía Alvarado, 216 Romelio Mejía Alvarado, 217 Lorenzo Mejía Carabante, 218 Ricardo García Elena (19 years), 219 Francisco Alemán Mejía (36 years), 220 Leonardo López Morales (22 years), 221 Alfredo Ayala 222 and Martín Mejía Castillo. 223

When the leader of ANIS, Adrián Esquino, was informed of the arrest of the members of the cooperative, he went immediately, at 7 a.m., to speak to Colonel Elmer González Araujo, 224 Commander of Military Detachment No. 6 at Sonsonate. Colonel González Araujo told him he knew nothing about the arrest of the members of the ANIS cooperative, but that he knew that a number of subversives with the surname Mejía had been captured.

Later that morning, a group of ANIS members found 16 bodies on the banks of the Cuyuapa river; there were marks that showed that their hands had been tied, their faces were disfigured by bullets and they had all been shot at point-blank range in the forehead or behind the ear.
That same day, 22 February, Roberto Rogelio Magaña, the justice of the peace and experts examined the bodies. Alfredo Ayala’s body still had “… his arms and forearms behind his back with the thumbs tied together with a piece of string …”. 225 The other victims also showed signs of having had their thumbs tied together and had been riddled with bullets at point-blank range.

The official version

The operation was discussed and decided upon the previous day by Colonel González Araujo, Major Oscar León Linares, the commanding officer of the Battalion, and Captain Figueroa Morales, the Chief of S-2. According to their version, they were informed of the presence of subversives and the purpose of the operation was to search the area.

Later, Captain Figueroa Morales said that during the operation he heard shots coming from up ahead. 226 When he arrived at the Cuyuapa river, the two Second Lieutenants informed him that there had been a clash with guerrillas. They found a number of bodies there, but none of them were bound. 227

Although in several depositions soldiers alleged that there had been a clash with guerrillas, none of them admitted to having witnessed such a clash and all of them said that they had only heard it.

After the clash, Captain Figueroa Morales made a report to Colonel González Araujo. 228 Major León Linares also received reports on arriving at the Detachment at about 8 a.m.

The investigations

Three investigations followed. President Magaña ordered the newly established governmental Human Rights Commission to investigate the case. Thus, before the case went to the Attorney General’s Office, family members were interviewed and a first account of the incident was drawn up.

The Minister of Defence, General José Guillermo García Merino, entrusted Colonel Napoleón Alvarado with investigating the case. Statements were taken from several witnesses as part of the investigation, but not from the two Second Lieutenants, Cid Díaz and Sasso Landaverry, who were in Morazán. 229 According to the testimony of Captain Figueroa Morales, it was they who had headed the unit which took part in the alleged clash.

In April 1983, Colonal Alvarado determined that no proof had been found of the guilt of any member of the armed forces and that the deaths had occurred in a clash. He also expressed the view that the investigation by the Human Rights Commission had been biased. He added that the case had been politicized by enemies of the armed forces and that “… the armed forces cannot take any responsibility for what may happen to Mr. Adrián Esquino Lisco, since he … it would appear, is protecting guerrilla elements within the association he heads”. 230

The judicial investigation followed a different course. In March 1984, on the basis of a recommendation by the Office of the Attorney General,231 the preventive detention of seven civil defence members and other members of the military escort was ordered, but the order did not extend to soldiers.232 However, in December 1984, the judge of Sonsonate First Criminal Court ordered a stay of proceedings and in July 1985, the criminal court approved the case’s dismissal. It also determined that the law on complicity could not be applied to civil defence members without any proof as to the main perpetrators. It had been established only that the escorts had assisted the army in the arrest. However, the court did not indicate who the immediate perpetrators were.233

As to the dismissal of the case against Captain Figueroa Morales and Major Léon Linares, the court affirmed that there was not enough evidence to bring charges against them.234

In July 1986, through the intervention of the United States Embassy and with new evidence that soldiers had been involved, criminal proceedings were reopened against a number of defendants, including Colonel González Araujo, Major León Linares and Captain Figueroa Morales. 235

In March 1987, however, the judge of the Court of First Instance again dismissed the case;236 in august, the appeal court revoked his decision and ordered the case brought to trial.237

Colonel González Araujo then filed a remedy of habeas corpus with the Supreme Court, when it was not yet certain that the National Assembly would approve the Amnesty Act (27 October 1987).238 In July 1988, the Supreme Court held that the Amnesty Act should apply to the Las Hojas case, and dismissed the case against all the defendants.239

Resolution of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the application of the 1987 Amnesty Act in the Las Hojas case

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received a petition in 1989240 denouncing the application of the 1987 Amnesty Act as a violation of the obligation of the Government of El Salvador to investigate and punish the violations of the rights of the Las Hojas victims and to make reparation for the injury caused.241 On 24 September 1992, the Commission issued a resolution in which it determined that the amnesty decree adopted after the order to arrest officers of the armed forces had legally foreclosed the possibility of an effective investigation, the prosecution of the culprits and appropriate compensation for the victims.242

The Commission stated that the Government of El Salvador had failed in its obligation to guarantee the free and full exercise of human rights and fundamental guarantees for all persons under its jurisdiction.243 It further recommended that the Government of El Salvador should: (1) conduct an exhaustive, rapid, complete and impartial investigation of the facts in order to identify all the victims and the culprits and bring the latter to justice; (2) take the necessary steps to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in future; (3) make reparation for the consequences of the situation and pay fair compensation to the victims’ families.244

The Commission gave the Government of El Salvador three months in which to implement its recommendations, i.e., up to 24 December 1992. So far, no action has been taken to comply with the Commission’s recommendations.


The Commission finds the following:

1. There is substantial evidence that Colonel Elmer González Araujo, then Commander of Military Detachment No. 6 at Sonsonate, Major Oscar León Linares and Captain Figueroa Morales (deceased) planned the operation in Las Hojas canton for the purpose of arresting and eliminating alleged subversives.

2. There is full evidence that Captain Figueroa Morales, as captain of the Jaguar Battalion, was in command of the operation. Also, that during the operation, 16 peasants were arrested, bound and summarily executed, and that there was no clash with guerrillas.

3. There is substantial evidence that the orders of execution were transmitted to the actual perpetrators by then Second Lieutenants Carlos Sasso Landaverry and Francisco del Cid Díaz.

4. There is substantial evidence that Colonel González Araujo, Major León Linares and Captain Figueroa Morales, learnt immediately of the massacre but covered it up.

5. There is sufficient evidence that Colonel Napoleón Alvarado, who conducted the Ministry of Defence investigation, also covered up the massacre and later obstructed the judicial investigation.

6. The Commission on the Truth recommends that the Government of El Salvador comply fully with the resolution of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in this case.

Lee? You may not be much into unsolicited advice. But I'll give you some anyways. I think you should rethink that career in public relations cuz your little visits are making believers out of people all over the place. I know this to be true cuz you've made a believer out of me.

Before your visit, my understanding of SOAW was vague and theoretical. I knew they were doing something important, but I was content to just post their link and leave it at that.

But last night after I read your words, as I lay in bed with visions of your well armed and trained murderous peeps dancing in my head, I thought about people who lie down to sleep and know that they will not wake in their own beds or that their children will be murdered or the wimmin they know raped.

I'm thinking about your brief comment left on my blog and about the fact that contact from one of in some countries is synonymous with impending disappearance, torture and death.

I'm still fearful, wondering what exactly I've decided to tangle with and what the ramifications will be for me in the months and years ahead.

But Lee? I'm one stubborn anti-authoritarian mutha and I really hate feeling intimidated. So now because of your visit, I'll be paying closer attention to SOAW and pitching in when and where I can. Sometime later on today I'll ask them to put me on their emailing list(s). And you need to realize that I'm don't read mail I get from anyone's email list, anymore. But I'll read SOAW's.

So, thanks Lee.

if what you're reading here grips you, holds you, fascinates you, provokes you, emboldens you, pushes you, galvanizes you, discomfits you, tickles you, enrages you so much that you find yourself returning again and again...then link me.

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