Whether its named the School of the Americas (SOA) or the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation (WHISC), the historical record of rights abuses remains the same
Recent changes of power in Honduras have revealed the finishing touches of another coup by graduates of the School of the Americas (SOA), now known as the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation" (WHISC).
Among the culprits are General Fredy Santiago Diaz Zelaya - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces; Vice Admiral Rigoberto Espinoza - Second in Command of the Honduran Armed Forces; Hector Orando Caballero Espinoza - Commander of the Honduran Navy; and General Julian Pacheco - Head of the Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence [Presente!, Spring 2014].
They fall under the leadership of Juan Orlando Hernandez, "sworn" in as President of Honduras in January 2014, aided by a wave of militarism in the capital, Tegucigalpa. Hernandez ultimately owes his fate to the 2009 military coup that overthrew elected-President Manual Zalaya, and the takeover of the branches of government, paving the way for Hernandez' current position of power.
Of course, Honduras is not an aberration when it comes to the SOA/WHISC. The School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) has continuously followed the actions and behavior of SOA/WHISC graduates in their respective home countries. Since 1989, SOAW has held annual vigils in front of Fort Benning, Georgia, where the school is located, for those killed by SOA/WHISC's counterinsurgency tactics.
Murder, torture, rape, disappearances, extortion, intimidation, etc. have been trademarks of the school, which is nicknamed the School of Assassins.
SOA/WHISC is operating as a U.S. Department of Defense institute [Wallace and Houston, the San Francisco Chronicle]. Since 1946, the SOA/WHISC has consistently trained military and police personnel for threats, or "threats," against the unequal balance of power between the United States and Latin American countries. Training included anti-communist indoctrination during the Cold War.
But today, THE threat is what the military/corporate/government establishment calls terrorism.
There are some familiar names among the school's graduates: Bolivia's Hugo Banzer Suarez, El Salvador's Roberto D' Aubuisson, Guatemala's Efrain Rios Mont (who was on trial for crimes against humanity) and Otto Perez Molina, and Panama's Manuel Noriega.
Since 1946, the graduates of various countries number as follows: Argentina - 931, Bolivia - 4,049, Brazil - 355, Chile - 2,405, Colombia - 8,679, Costa Rica - 2,376, Dominican Republic - 2,330, Ecuador - 2,356, El Salvador - 6,776, Guatemala - 1,676, Honduras - 3,691, Nicaragua - 4,693, Panama - 4,235, Paraguay - 1,084, Peru - 3,997, Uruguay - 931, and Venezuela - 3,250 [Third World Traveler, School of the Americas: School of Assassins].
Resistance against SOA/WHISC continues. Besides SOA Watch's actions, five Latin American nations have have at one time or another refused to send their respective military and police personnel to the school in the last decade: Venezuela, Argentina, Costa Rica, Bolivia and Ecuador. In 2005, the McGovern/Lewis bill was introduced to the U.S. Armed Services committee to abolish the school. It failed by only six votes. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs supported the bill ["Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation," Council on Hemispheric Affairs].
Despite this latest coup in Honduras, there is a legacy of resistance in Latin America against the handiwork of the School of the Assassins. And it's not going away anytime soon.
David Starr writes on various social and political issues, both national and international.