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School of the Americas Graduates Responsible For 1989 Jesuit Massacre Face Extradition to Spain, Military Officers Arrested in El Salvador
NORTH CAROLINA/EL SALVADOR - The 1989 massacre of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos, and six Jesuit priests at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador, that galvanized opposition to the U.S. relationship with Central American death squads and that sparked the movement to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas, is making headlines again.
On Friday, February 5, 2016, a U.S. judge in North Carolina cleared the way for SOA graduate and retired Salvadoran Colonel, Inocente Orlando Montano, to be extradited to face charges in Spain. Col. Inocente Orlando Montano was trained by the U.S. military at the School of the Americas in 1970.
On Saturday, February 06, 2016, El Salvador's national police force announced that four ex-soldiers, who were also involved in the massacre, were arrested at the behest of Interpol in an operation that began Friday night.
The four former military officers arrested in El Salvador are Col. Guillermo Alfredo Benavides Moreno, Sargent Tomas Zarpate Castillo, Sargent Antonio Avalos Vargas, and Corporal Angel Perez Vasquez. Avalos Vargas and Perez Vasquez attended the Small Unit Training and Management course at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1988 and 1987 respectively, before allegedly participating in the brutal 1989 massacre. El Salvador's Supreme Court is expected to rule on their extraditions to Spain in the coming days. Twelve other former Salvadoran soldiers with international warrants in connection with the UCA massacre remain at large, and it is unknown whether they are in El Salvador or have fled the country.
A United Nations Truth Commission cited 26 Salvadoran officers for the 1989 "execution-style" massacre. Nineteen of those were trained at the School of the Americas, renamed in 2001 the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). After its role in training human rights abusers came to light, Central Americans frequently dubbed the SOA the "School of Assassins.”
The SOA made headlines again in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Despite this shocking admission, and even in the face of hundreds of documented cases of human rights abuses connecting to soldiers trained at the institution, no independent investigation into the training facility has ever taken place.
Protests calling for the closure of the School of the Americas/WHINSEC have taken place around the November 16 anniversary of the San Salvador massacre since 1990. Last year over 2,000 participated in the annual demonstration at the gates of Ft. Benning, Georgia to call for the closure of the military training school, which continues to instruct Latin American soldiers, as well as to demand an end to U.S.-led militarization in the Americas that continues to fuel violence and forced migration. SOA Watch maintains that for justice to prevail, the U.S. officials who are responsible for the training of repressive foreign militaries need to be held accountable as well.
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SOA Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the US Army School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work.