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EDITORIAL A Litany of Shame “I have followed the situation in that country for thirty years, and suffered the loss of good and close friends whose lives were taken by an oppressive regime. One of those friends was a Mary knoll priest, Father William Woods, who died twenty years ago this month,” Bishop John Mc Carthy wrote to the Guatemalan Action Network of Austin last month. 1 /t saddens me that so many missionaries, peasants, and human rights advocates have had their lives taken away by violent governments throughout Latin America. It saddens me also that a great deal of the blame for the repression rests on the shoulders of the United States, for its misguided policies that have gone on now for nearly half a century, particularly in Guatemala.” The death of Father Bill Woods was not the only November anniversary related to American foreign policy in Central America. On November 15-16, the University of Central America in San Salvador was filled with “poor farmers, workers and students, with popular organizations, with mothers, fathers, and children, to commemorate, with gratitude, the martyrs of the UCA of El Salvador…,” according to a letter from the leadership of the Jesuit community in El Salvador. The martyrs are six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her young daughter, who were executed by Salvadoran soldiers in the early morning hours on November 16, 1989. And December 11 is also the fifteenth anniversary of the El Mozote Massacre in El Salvador. At El Mozote, 900 civilians almost the entire populationwere ordered to their knees then methodically shot by Salvadoran soldiers. The sole survivor was a woman who hid and watched the slaughter of the villagers, her children among them. Of the 143 bodies found at the site and identified in a forensic lab, 131 were children under the age of twelve. Three were younger than three months. On the same November night that Salvadorans gathered at the University of Central America, American protesters gathered in Columbus, Georgia, outside the gates of the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas. “One of the most evil faces of this policy has been the U.S. Army School of the Americas,” Bishop McCarthy wrote in his November 15 letter. William Woods’ killing has not been connected to the Fort Benning training facility, frequently referred to as the “School of Assassins,” but the El Mozote Massacre and the 1989 murder of the Jesuits have. Ten of the twelve . Salvadoran Army officers directly involved in the El Mozote Massacre were SOA graduates, as were nineteen of the twenty-seven Salvadoran officers directly involved in the execution of the Jesuits. In fact, the shameful list of human rights THE SHAMEFUL LIST OF HUMAN RIGHTS CRIMINALS TRAINED AT THE SCHOOL SEEMS TO GROW LONGER WITH EACH MAGAZINE STORY, UNITED NATIONS INVESTIGATION, OR FREEDOM OF IN-FORMATION ACT REQUEST. criminals trained at the school seems to grow longer with each magazine story, United Nations investigation, or Freedom of Information Act request. For a decade, human rights groups had protested the existence of the school, claiming that many of its graduates were terrorists who received their training at the expense of American taxpayers. The story finally made its way into the mainstream press three years ago in Newsweek, which discovered that claims made about the school by Maryknoll Priest Roy Bourgeois and members of School of Americas Watch, an organization he founded, were borne out in the findings of the United Nations Truth Commission’s Report on El Salvador. In “Running a ‘School for Dictators,’ the news weekly detailed numerous human rights violations perpetrated by graduates of the SOA, including the killing of nine students and a professor at Lima, Peru, in 1992by six Peruvian officers who had graduated from the Fort Benning school. The article also included a report on the Honduran death squad known as Battal ion 316; four of five senior officers were SOA graduates. And it cited a report, released by a coalition of human rights organizations, that found 105 of 246 Colombian officers who had committed human rights violations were SOA alumni. Under a photo of the schools’ commanding officer, American Army Colonel Jose Alvarez, Newsweek laid out a photo gallery of international human rights violators and drug dealers who had graduated from the SOA: Manuel Noriega, Class of ’65 and ’67, the former president of Panama now in a U.S. prison; Humberto Regalado, Class of ’84, a Honduran military chief of staff linked to Colombian drug dealers; Hugo Banzer Suarez, Class of ’61, the Bolivian president who brutally attacked dissident clerics, students and miners during the 1970s; and Roberto D’ Aubuisson, Class of ’72, the Salvadoran death squad leader who ordered the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980. New revelations about the school now seem routine. Also killed by SOA graduates in 1980, according to a documentary, Inside the School of the Assassins, were four American women from the Maryknoll community: Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, and Jean Donovan and Dorothy Kazel. The four were raped and murdered by soldiers under the command of officers trained at the SOA. And Guatemalan General Hector Gramajo, who was commended in 1992 by former SOA Commandant Jose Feliciano, faces a $47-million civil judgment in the United States for specific human rights abuses he committed during the 1980s and early ’90s, including a con , nection to the rape and torture of American nun Dianna Ortiz. Julio Roberto Alpirez, the Guatemalan asset who, according to Congressman Robert Torricelli, in 1992 killed Efrain Bamaca, the husband of Texas lawyer Jennifer Harbury, also was a former student at the SOA. 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 6, 1996