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Hope: A Message to the Movement July 20, 2012

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A Letter from Theresa Cusimano, SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience

Last week I walked out of federal prison, flew home, and was greeted by my smiling parents at the airport gate. Unlike most other prisoners, I didn’t have to take a 14 hour Greyhound bus; or use my bright red, inmate ID card; nor wear my prison clothes en route. My privilege returned to me the moment of my release. Friends picked me up and drove me to the Westin hotel for a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream. Although it was July 11th and there was a heat wave burning through the country, I was still cold from my incarceration.

I entered prison because, like all of you, I believe torture is wrong and should not be a global export or a domestic product. The violence I survived during my six month stay in the five federal “holding” facilities confirmed my conviction. The United States’ Department of Justice likes to aggressively flex its muscles like a violent, bully when it comes to poor, sick and people of color. We spend our privileged fortunes on building expensive cages for them to fail in, without even providing clean drinking water. The Bureau of Prisons does not belong as a branch of the Department of Justice, but rather belongs in the Department of Defense, where torture and mass murder are their specialties. I saw no signs that the Department of Justice was in the business of holding olive branches, as their branding suggests. But they do know how to use the sharp, arrows that the eagle of their logo clutches in its left talon. I’m lucky to still be alive, their arrows nearly killed me.

My body gave out under the stress of being moved to four different facilities in two weeks’ time. My kidneys shut down without water or nutrition. My legs could no longer stand. The darkness of my 44 day seclusion, a “gift” to me from the feds on my 44th birthday, broke me. I lost hope when I was disconnected from all of you and your generous solidarity.

The strength of your collective prayers began to carry me out of the darkness of that rabbit hole. They shot me in the ass like a horse, to silence me. My eyes lost their ability to focus. They made me beg for my food and crawl, naked on concrete because I was unable to walk. You gave me hope that there are people who want to live a different way of life, centered on love. I wish to formally seek political asylum and live in your world.

As Father Roy faces excommunication from the church, and our first African American president fights for his second term…I hope you’ll show up at the November vigil or sponsor someone to attend in your place. This is our time to raise our voices. This is our time to extend our olive branches and request our country do the same. Peace is possible if we commit to nonviolence. When we surrender our fear of death, amazing things can happen. I am living proof and you are the reason I am still alive. Let us all live to rebuild peace in our worlds. See you on November 16-18. We will close the SOA. I owe you a hug.

Theresa Cusimano
SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience

On January 13, 2012, Theresa Cusimano was sentenced to 6 months in prison by Judge Stephen Hyles for her nonviolent action for crossing onto Fort Benning. She was released from Carswell Federal Medical Center on July 11. Read more about SOA Watch Prisoners of Conscience here.

Featured Vigil Speakers from Honduras and Costa Rica Denied Visas to the U.S. November 3, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Latin America.
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Act Now to bring our Latin American partners to the vigil
Featured Vigil Speakers from Honduras and Costa Rica Denied Visas to the U.S.

The two speakers named by the SOA Watch’s Latin American partners to represent them at the SOA Watch vigil (Nov. 19-21, 2010) have been denied entrance to the United States. Both Gerardo Brenes – a Costa Rican graduate of the SOA and activist with the Quaker Peace Center in San Jose, and Alejandro Ramirez – a university student and activist with the Youth Resistance movement in Honduras, had their visa applications rejected by the U.S. embassies in their countries last week.

Take Action Now!

Gerardo and Alejandro were among participants from 17 Latin American countries at the recent SOAW South-North Encuentro. They were tapped to bring the Encuentro’s major concerns about the SOA and U.S. militarization in Latin America to the gates of Ft. Benning.

Gerardo is a former Costa Rica police officer and would have been the first graduate of the SOA to speak out against the school in front of his Alma Mater. His experience of the absolute disregard for human rights in his SOA training led him to become a leading activist in pressuring his government to withdraw from the school (Click here to watch a video interview with Gerardo). Gerardo has also been a public voice in speaking out against 46 U.S. warships and thousands of marines that are scheduled to be sent to this Central American “country of peace”.

Alejandro became an active member of the Honduran Youth Resistance Movement after his country suffered a coup at the hands of two SOA graduates last year. Over 50 people – journalists, teachers, students and union leaders, have lost their lives for opposing the coup regime and its illegal successor . Alejandro is a history student at the National Autonomous University of Honduras and works with COFADEH (Committee of Family Members of Detained and Disappeared in Honduras) in their violence prevention program.


Generate Grassroots Pressure to Overturn the Visa Denial! Take Action Now:

Send a message to the U.S. State Department in Washington, San Jose and Tegucigalpa urging them to grant visitor visas to Gerardo Brenes and Alejandro Ramirez so that they can speak at the November Vigil (19-21, 2010) at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia:
1. Call State Department

a. re Gerardo Brenes of Costa Rica:
Call Jennifer Bantrump of the Costa Rica Desk of the State Department at (202) 647-3519. Sample script below.

b. re Alejandro Ramirez of Honduras

Call Gabriela Zambrano of the Honduras Desk of the State Department at 202-647-3482. Sample script below.

2. Send an email to Consul General

a. re Gerardo Brenes of Costa Rica:
Write Consul General Paul Birdsall at the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, at consultarsanjose@state.gov and copy Jennifer Bantrump of the Costa Rica Desk of the State Department at bantrumpjr@state.gov Sample script below.

b. re Alejandro Ramirez of Honduras
Write Consul General William Douglas of the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras at usahonduras@state.gov and copy Gabriela Zambrano of the Honduras Desk of the State Department at zambranomg@state.gov Sample script below.

(Sample email below)


SAMPLE PHONE CALL regarding Gerardo Brenes:

Hello, my name is ______________. I am very troubled to learn that the U.S. Consulate in San Jose, Costa Rica denied a travel visa to Mr. Gerardo Brenes who was invited by the School of the Americas Watch to speak about human rights issues in Costa Rica at the annual vigil in Columbus Georgia from November 19-21, 2010. Will you call Consul General Paul Birdsall in San Jose today and ask him to immediately authorize a travel visa to Mr. Brenes so he can travel to the U.S. on to participate in this event? Thank you.

SAMPLE PHONE CALL regarding Alejandro Ramirez:
Hello, my name is ______________. I am very troubled to learn that the U.S. Consulate in Tegucigalpa, Honduras denied a travel visa to Mr. Alejandro Ramirez who was invited by the School of the Americas Watch to speak about human rights issues in Honduras at the annual vigil in Columbus Georgia from November 19-21, 2010. Will you call Consul General William Douglas in Tegucigalpa today and ask him to immediately authorize a travel visa to Mr. Ramirez so he can travel to the U.S. on to participate in this event? Thank you.

SAMPLE EMAIL regarding Gerardo Brenes

Dear Mr. Birdsall,

Last week the U.S. Consulate in San Jose denied a travel visa to Mr. Gerardo Brenes. Mr. Brenes was invited by School of the Americas Watch to speak about human rights in Costa Rica at the annual vigil in Columbus, Georgia, from November 19-21, 2010.

I understand that Mr. Brenes presented an invitation from the School of the Americas during his interview, as well as sufficient evidence that he had strong ties that would bring him back to his country.

I am deeply concerned about this visa denial, and I ask you to immediately authorize a travel visa to Mr. Brenes so that he can travel to the United States to participate in the SOAW vigil from November 19-21, 2010.

Sincerely,
[Your name and address]


SAMPLE EMAIL regarding Alejandro Ramirez

Dear Mr. Douglas,

Last week the U.S. Consulate in Tegucigalpa denied a travel visa to Mr. Alejandro Ramirez. Mr. Ramirez was invited by School of the Americas Watch to speak about human rights in Honduras at the annual vigil in Columbus, Georgia, from November 19-21, 2010.

I understand that Mr. Ramirez presented an invitation from the School of the Americas during his interview, as well as sufficient evidence that he had strong ties that would bring him back to his country.

I am deeply concerned about this visa denial, and I ask you to immediately authorize a travel visa to Mr. Ramirez so that he can travel to the United States to participate in the SOA Watch vigil from November 19-21, 2010.

Sincerely,
[Your name and address]


Stand up for justice: SOAW.org/take-action/november-vigil

U.S. Military Documents Show Colombia Base Agreement Poses Threat to Region November 7, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Latin America.
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Written by Garry Leech
Friday, 06 November 2009
Source: Colombia Journal

Leaders in South America have publicly expressed their concerns regarding the recently-signed agreement between the U.S. and Colombian governments that provides the U.S. military with long-term access to seven bases in the territory of its closest Latin American ally. Some leaders, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez in particular, have claimed that the agreement poses a threat to left-leaning South American nations. The recently released text of the base agreement and a related U.S. military document confirm that the fears of Chávez and other South American leaders are not mere paranoia. The documents make evident that U.S. military objectives extend beyond Colombia’s borders, stating that the Palenquero Air Base “provides an opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America.”

According to the agreement, increased cooperation between the United States and Colombia is crucial “in order to address common threats to peace, stability, freedom, and democracy.” The Obama administration has repeatedly rejected the concerns of South American leaders by claiming that the ten-year cooperation agreement between the two countries only permits U.S. military operations to be conducted in Colombia in order to achieve these objectives and that it poses no threat to neighboring nations. “This is about the bilateral co-operation between the United States and Colombia regarding security matters within Colombia,” explained U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Colombia’s Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez declared, “Some third countries have expressed some concern regarding the agreement. We have always said that this agreement applies exclusively to Colombia.” But nowhere in the agreement does it actually state that U.S. military operations launched from the Colombian bases are to be restricted to Colombia.

This subtle omission in the text of the agreement is crucial when taken in conjunction with another U.S. military document. In its Fiscal Year 2010 Military Construction Program budget estimate, submitted to Congress in May 2009, the U.S. Air Force requested $46 million in funding to upgrade Colombia’s Palenquero Air Base, the largest base covered under the cooperation agreement. This document makes clear that U.S. military objectives related to the use of the Colombian bases extend far beyond Colombia’s borders to those South American countries viewed as posing threats to U.S. interests.

According to the U.S. Air Force, the Palenquero base “provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded insurgencies, anti-US governments, endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters.” The term “full spectrum operations,” as the document makes clear, means that the Colombian base can be used as a launching pad not only for counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, but for any form of military operation anywhere in South America.

The document reiterates the importance of Palenquero to U.S. regional interests by stating that the air base “is essential for supporting the U.S. mission in Columbia [sic] and throughout the United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) Area of Responsibility (AOR),” which constitutes all of Latin America. It goes on to state: “The intent is to leverage existing infrastructure to the maximum extent possible, improve the U.S. ability to respond rapidly to crisis, and assure regional access and presence at minimum cost.”

The U.S. Air Force concludes by making clear that the importance of the Palenquero base goes beyond being able to conduct counter-narcotics operations and warns Congress that a failure to fund the required upgrades to the existing facilities “will severely limit the ability of USSOUTHCOM to support the U.S. Global Defense Posture (GDP) Strategy” and limit “USSOUTHCOM to four other CSLs [Cooperative Security Locations] which are restricted to supporting aerial counter narcotics missions only and two other locations that, while not mission restricted, are too distant to accommodate mission requirements in the AOR.”

In accordance with the U.S. Air Force’s stated objectives in the region, the text of the U.S.-Colombia base agreement clearly affirms that U.S. military operations will not be restricted to supporting counter-narcotics missions, as was the case with the expired agreement with Ecuador for the use of the Manta Air Base and current accords with several Central American and Caribbean nations. According to the U.S.-Colombia base agreement, its objective is “the deepened cooperation in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism, among other things.” Furthermore, according to the U.S. Air Force, “Palenquero will provide joint use capability to the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marines, and U.S. Interagency aircraft and personnel.”

In conclusion, the U.S.-Colombia base agreement does not restrict U.S. military activities to the territory of Colombia nor does it limit them to counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations. In other words, the U.S. military can use the Colombian bases to launch any type of military operation it wants against any target anywhere in South America. And in its report to Congress, the U.S. Air Force made evident the importance of Colombia’s largest air base to achieving U.S. military objectives throughout South America, including managing the threat posed by “anti-US governments.” Clearly, South American nations, particularly Venezuela and Bolivia, have ample reason to be concerned.

Undo the Coup July 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
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Published on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 by TruthDig.com by Amy Goodman
The first coup d’etat in Central America in more than a quarter-century occurred last Sunday in Honduras. Honduran soldiers roused democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya from his bed and flew him into exile in Costa Rica. The coup, led by the Honduran Gen. Romeo Vasquez, has been condemned by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the Organization of American States and all of Honduras’ immediate national neighbors. Mass protests have erupted on the streets of Honduras, with reports that elements in the military loyal to Zelaya are rebelling against the coup.The United States has a long history of domination in the hemisphere. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can chart a new course, away from the dark days of military dictatorship, repression and murder. Obama indicated such a direction when he spoke in April at the Summit of the Americas: “[A]t times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations.”

Two who know well the history of dictated U.S. terms are Dr. Juan Almendares, a medical doctor and award-winning human rights activist in Honduras, and the American clergyman Father Roy Bourgeois, a priest who for years has fought to close the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA) at Fort Benning, Ga. Both men link the coup in Honduras to the SOA.

The SOA, renamed in 2000 the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), is the U.S. military facility that trains Latin American soldiers. The SOA has trained more than 60,000 soldiers, many of whom have returned home and committed human rights abuses, torture, extrajudicial execution and massacres.

Almendares, targeted by Honduran death squads and the military, has been the victim of that training. He talked to me from Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital: “Most of this military have been trained by the School of America. … They have been guardians of the multinational business from the United States or from other countries. … The army in Honduras has links with very powerful people, very rich, wealthy people who keep the poverty in the country. We are occupied by your country.”

Born in Louisiana, Bourgeois became a Catholic priest in 1972. He worked in Bolivia and was forced out by the (SOA-trained) dictator Gen. Hugo Banzer. The assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the murders of four Catholic churchwomen in El Salvador in 1980 led him to protest where some of the killers were trained: Fort Benning’s SOA. After six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were murdered in El Salvador in 1989, Bourgeois founded SOA Watch and has built an international movement to close the SOA.

Honduran coup leader Vasquez attended the SOA in 1976 and 1984. Air Force Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, who also participated in the coup, was trained at the SOA in 1996.

Bourgeois’ SOA Watch office is just yards from the Fort Benning gates. He has been frustrated in recent years by increased secrecy at SOA/WHINSEC. He told me: “They are trying to present the school as one of democracy and transparency, but we are not able to get the names of those trained here-for over five years. However, there was a little sign of hope when the U.S. House approved an amendment to the defense authorization bill last week that would force the school to release names and ranks of people who train here.” The amendment still has to make it through the House-Senate conference committee.

Bourgeois speaks with the same urgency that he has for decades. His voice is well known at Fort Benning, where he was first arrested more than 25 years ago when he climbed a tree at night near the barracks of Salvadoran soldiers who were training there at the time.

Bourgeois blasted a recording of the voice of Romero in his last address before he was assassinated. The archbishop was speaking directly to Salvadoran soldiers in his country: “In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: Stop the repression.”

Almost 30 years later, in a country bordering Romero’s El Salvador, the U.S. has a chance to change course and support the democratic institutions of Honduras. Undo the coup.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2009 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 700 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

A Few Thoughts on the Coup in Honduras June 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
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Published on Monday, June 29, 2009 by Rebel Reports by Jeremy Scahill

There is a lot of great analysis circulating on the military coup against Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. I do not see a need to re-invent the wheel. (See here here here and here). However, a few key things jump out at me. First, we know that the coup was led by Gen. Romeo Vasquez, a graduate of the US Army School of the Americas. As we know very well from history, these “graduates” maintain ties to the US military as they climb the military career ladders in their respective countries. That is a major reason why the US trains these individuals.

Secondly, the US has a fairly significant military presence in Honduras. Joint Task Force-Bravo is located at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras. The base is home to some 550 US military personnel and more than 650 US and Honduran civilians:

They work in six different areas including the Joint Staff, Air Force Forces (612th Air Base Squadron), Army Forces, Joint Security Forces and the Medical Element. 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment, a US Army South asset, is a tenant unit also based at Soto Cano. The J-Staff provides command and control for JTF-B.

The New York Times reports that “The unit focuses on training Honduran military forces, counternarcotics operations, search and rescue, and disaster relief missions throughout Central America.”

Significantly, according to GlobalSecurity, “Soto Cano is a Honduran military installation and home of the Honduran Air Force.”

This connection to the Air Force is particularly significant given this report in NarcoNews:

The head of the Air Force, Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, studied in the School of the Americas in 1996.  The Air Force has been a central protagonist in the Honduran crisis.  When the military refused to distribute the ballot boxes for the opinion poll, the ballot boxes were stored on an Air Force base until citizens accompanied by Zelaya rescued them.  Zelaya reports that after soldiers kidnapped him, they took him to an Air Force base, where he was put on a plane and sent to Costa Rica.

It is impossible to imagine that the US was not aware that the coup was in the works. In fact, this was basically confirmed by The New York Times in Monday’s paper:

As the crisis escalated, American officials began in the last few days to talk with Honduran government and military officials in an effort to head off a possible coup. A senior administration official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, said the military broke off those discussions on Sunday.

While the US has issued heavily-qualified statements critical of the coup—in the aftermath of the events in Honduras—the US could have flexed its tremendous economic muscle before the coup and told the military coup plotters to stand down. The US ties to the Honduran military and political establishment run far too deep for all of this to have gone down without at least tacit support or the turning of a blind eye by some US political or military official(s).

Here are some facts to consider: the US is the top trading partner for Honduras. The coup plotters/supporters in the Honduran Congress are supporters of the “free trade agreements” Washington has imposed on the region. The coup leaders view their actions, in part, as a rejection of Hugo Chavez’s influence in Honduras and with Zelaya and an embrace of the United States and Washington’s “vision” for the region. Obama and the US military could likely have halted this coup with a simple series of phone calls. For an interesting take on all of this, make sure to check out Nikolas Kozloff’s piece on Counterpunch, where he writes:

In November, Zelaya hailed Obama’s election in the U.S. as “a hope for the world,” but just two months later tensions began to emerge.  In an audacious letter sent personally to Obama, Zelaya accused the U.S. of “interventionism” and called on the new administration in Washington to respect the principle of non-interference in the political affairs of other nations.

Here are some independent news sources on this story:

School of the Americas Watch

NarcoNews

Eva Golinger’s Postcards from the Revolution

© 2009 Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

SOA (School of the Americas) WATCH June 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America.
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Fund the campaign to close the SOA! Donate Now.
SOA Watch News &   Updates
In this SOA Watch Email Newsletter:

  • SOA Watch Central America Delegation Report Back – FMLN takes over Presidency in El Salvador
  • New Military Base in Colombia Would Spread Pentagon Reach Throughout Latin America
  • All Out to Fort Benning, Georgia from November 20-22, 2009: Close the SOA!

    Winds of Change from the South!SOA Watch Central America Delegation Report Back – FMLN takes over Presidency in El Salvador

    Today the eyes of Latin America – and much of the world – are focused on tiny El Salvador, as representatives from over 100 countries converge for the historic presidential inauguration of FMLN´s Mauricio Funes. Funes´ inauguration marks the end of the two-decade rule of ARENA – an ultra right-wing party that was founded by SOA graduate and death squad leader Roberto DÁbuisson. The new president inherits a nation devastated by poverty and violence, but also filled with hope. The deep commitment of Funes to Monseñor Oscar Romero´s “preferencial option for the poor”, along with FMLN´s long-term dedication to ideals of economic and social justice, bring a spirit of promise to all of Central America.
    A small SOA Watch delegation recently traveled to El Salvador to dialogue with this new government about the participation of Salvadoran soldiers in the SOA/ WHINSEC. Several officials of the new government, including Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, met with the delegation and expressed an open spirit. Organizations within El Salvador echoed the plea that the new government withdraw troops from the SOA/ WHINSEC. At the May Day march, the Comadres (mothers of the disappeared) spoke of this imperative before the crowd of historic proportions. The Dean of the University of Central America (UCA) publicly stated that the continued training of troops at a school noted for teaching torture would be “intolerable”.

    The SOA Watch delegation also visited Honduras, where they met with President Manuel Zelaya, as well as the Honduran Defense Minister and Chancellor. The SOA Watch delegation was privileged to be invited to participate in an all-day meeting with the president, his cabinet, and leaders of the country´s major social movements, to discuss new directions for the country. One of the nine formal proposals brought to this important gathering included the recommendation that Honduras withdraw its troops from the SOA/ WHINSEC.

    Members of the SOA Watch movement in the U.S. are lobbying their members of Congress to sign on to H.R.2567, the bill that would suspend operations at the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) and set up a task force to investigate the connection between human rights abuses in Latin America and U.S. foreign military training. It is heartening to know that our southern counterparts are also organizing to close the school – by attrition. We are coming together – those whose tax dollars fund the school and those whose countries have been devastated by it, to close those doors of destruction, to open new doors of respect.

    Click here to read Lisa’s article about the Central America delegation.

    Support SOA Watch’s efforts in Latin America with a donation today. Click here to contribute now.


    New Military Base in Colombia Would Spread Pentagon Reach Throughout Latin America

    The Pentagon budget submitted to Congress on May 7 includes $46 million for development of a new U.S. military base in Palanquero, Colombia.

    The official justification states that the Defense Department seeks “an array of access arrangements for contingency operations, logistics, and training in Central/South America.”

    The military facility in Colombia will give the United States military increased capacity for intervention throughout most of Latin America. The plan is being advanced amid tense relations between Washington and Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and despite both a long history and recent revelations about the Colombian military’s atrocious human rights record.

    Click here to read the full article


    November 20-22, 2009: Converge on Fort Benning, Georgia – SHUT DOWN THE SOA!
    From November 20-22, 2009, thousands of progressive activists will converge at the gates of Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia for the annual vigil. In this exciting political climate, there is an air of cautious optimism that the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) will be closed during this Congress. However, we recognize that the School of the Americas has operated under both Republican and Democratic presidents and there is still a lot of work to be done! It will take more than change in the White House to change the foreign policy of violence and imperialism that the SOA/WHINSEC represents, but Washington is feeling the pressure. Now is the time to educate the public and to show lawmakers that we have had enough.

    It is never too early to begin coordinating travel plans and organizing groups to travel to Columbus. Together we can show that the people of the Americas are taking a stand against violence and torture. Let’s mobilize our communities to make our voices heard!

    Here are some valuable resources for your organizing:

    Local SOA Watch groups

    Traveling to Columbus, Georgia

    Where to Stay in and around Columbus, Georgia

    Accessibility at the November 2009 Vigil

    Information for people without U.S. citizenship

    Legal Briefing for People Considering Civil Disobedience at SOA Protest

    We need to raise $70,000 to make the November Vigil to close the School of the Americas a success. Click here to make a donation to SOA Watch today.

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    Contact us.

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    Our telephone: (202) 234 3440

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    School of the Americas (SOA Watch) May 26, 2009

    Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Latin America.
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    Fund the campaign to close the SOA! Donate Now.
    SOA Watch News &   Updates
    In this SOA Watch Email Newsletter:

  • Legislation to Suspend Operations at the School of the Americas and to Investigate its Connection to Human Rights Abuses in Latin America Introduced in Congress.
  • Colombian SOA Graduate Arrested for his Participation in Massacre
  • Believe Together: June 24th Interfaith Mobilization for Health Care for All
  • 24-Hour Vigil to End Torture on June 27, 2009 in Washington, DC
  • Father Larry Rosebaugh ¡Presente!

    Contact your Representative Now!New SOA/ WHINSEC Legislation Introduced in Congress!
    On May 21st, 2009, Representative Jim McGovern introduced HR 2567 in the House of Representatives with 42 original cosponsors! This new legislation would suspend operations at the SOA/ WHINSEC and investigate the association of torture and human rights abuses associated with the school.

    We need your help generating more cosponsors and support for HR 2567! Visit the Legislative Action Index on our website to learn more about how you can get involved and add your cosponsor as a supporter of this legislation. Use our Online Action to send an automatic email or fax to your Member of Congress or access our sample call script and the toll-free congressional switchboard phone number to make your views heard in Washington! You can also access the updated list of cosponsors at the bottom of the Legislative Action Index.

    If you haven’t already signed the petition to President Obama asking that he close the SOA/ WHINSEC by executive order, click here to sign the petition online!

    For more information, please contact the Legislative Coordinator of SOA Watch, Pam Bowman at pbowman@soaw.org or 202-234-3440.

    Click here to Send a Message to your Representative


    Colombian SOA Graduate Arrested for his Participation in Massacre
    Saturday 23 May 2009, by Prensa – Colectivo: A preventive measure of detention was issued against the former commander of the Palacé Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Jorge Alberto Amor Páez, by the specialized human rights prosecutor in the city of Calí, Juan Carlos Oliveros Corrales. This warrant confirmed Amor Páez’s participation in the massacre of 24 peasant farmers, which took place in the rural communities of Alaska, Tres Esquinas and La Habana, in the municipality of Buga in the department of Valle del Cauca, on October 10, 2001.

    Click here to read the full story


    Believe Together: June 24th Interfaith Mobilization for Health Care for All

    On June 24th, on Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C., national religious networks and chaplaincy organizations will sponsor an Interfaith Service of Witness and Prayer for Health Care for All, with echo events across the country, and with lobby visits to congressional offices on behalf of comprehensive health care reform. The event will draw attention to the moral message offered by every American faith tradition: quality, accessible, and affordable health care coverage for all, this year. Over 30 national faith-based organizations, including SOA-Watch, have endorsed this event, as have numerous regional and local religious entities. For more information, and to add the endorsement of your faith community, please visit the website: www.WeBelieveTogether.org


    24-Hour Vigil to End Torture

    For its 12th consecutive year, the Torture Abolition Survivor Support Coalition (TASSC) will hold a 24-Hour Vigil in Washington, DC, on Saturday, June 27, across from the White House. The Vigil will be attended by survivors of torture from around the world and supported by many friends and colleagues.

    Commemorating the U.N. International Day in Support Of Torture Victims and Survivors
    When: Saturday June 27, 2009
    Where: Lafayette Park, in front of the White House
    Organized by: TASSC International and Friends of TASSC


    Father Larry Rosebaugh ¡Presente!

    In sadness, we share that Fr. Larry Rosebaugh OMI was shot to death in Playa Grande, Guatemala on May 18th. He was a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He was killed by gunmen in an alleged carjacking while he and 4 other Oblates were on their way to a meeting. The gunmen escaped and did not take the van. One other Oblate, Fr. Jean Claude Nowama OMI was wounded, although not mortally.

    Larry Rosebaugh, along with Fr. Roy Bourgeois MM and Linda Ventimiglia carried out the first action at Fort Benning in 1983. After scaling a tree, they played one of Romero’s final sermons overlooking the barracks where the Salvadoran soldiers were training. Larry served 15 months in prison for the action. Many of us see this as the beginning of movement in the US.

    Since the 1960’s when Larry began protesting the Vietnam war he found him self in front of many judges and in numerous prisons for his protests against the School of the Americas, nuclear arms and war. In 1975, he was assigned to the missions in Brazil, where he spent 6 years. Returning to the US in 1981, he was a member of the Catholic Worker House community in New York City for 4 years, spent some time in El Salvador as a volunteer with Christian Volunteer Ministries, and, in 1993, was assigned to the Oblate mission in Guatemala, where he was serving when he was killed During his many years of ministry, Fr. Larry, often known as Fr. Lorenzo, was an advocate for peace and justice wherever he served. His autobiography, To Wisdom through Failure, was published in 2006. He spoke and read his new book at the 2006 November Vigil.

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    Obama’s Real Plan in Latin America April 30, 2009

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Colombia, Cuba, Latin America, Mexico, Venezuela.
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    Written by Shamus Cooke   

     

    Wednesday, 29 April 2009, www.towardfreedom.com

     

    At first glance Obama seems to have softened U.S. policy toward Latin America, especially when compared to his predecessor.  There has been no shortage of editorials praising Obama’s conciliatory approach while comparing it to FDR’s “Good Neighbor” Latin American policy.

    It’s important to remember, however, that FDR’s vision of being neighborly meant that the U.S. would merely stop direct military interventions in Latin America, while reserving the right to create and prop up dictators, arm and train unpopular regional militaries, promote economic dominance through free trade and bank loans and conspire with right-wing groups.

    And although Obama’s policy towards Latin America has a similar subversive feeling to it, many of FDR’s methods of dominance are closed to him.  Decades of U.S. “good neighbor” policy in Latin America resulted in a continuous string of U.S. backed military coups, broken-debtor economies, and consequently, a hemisphere-wide revolt.

    Many of the heads of states that Obama mingled with at the Summit of the Americas came to power because of social movements born out of opposition to U.S. foreign policy.  The utter hatred of U.S. dominance in the region is so intense that any attempt by Obama to reassert U.S. authority would result in a backlash, and Obama knows it.

    Bush had to learn this the hard way, when his pathetic attempt to tame the region led to a humiliation at the 2005 Summit, where for the first time Latin American countries defeated yet another U.S. attempt to use the Organization of American States (O.A.S.), as a tool for U.S. foreign policy.

    But while Obama humbly discussed hemispheric issues on an “equal footing” with his Latin American counterparts at the recent Summit of Americas, he has subtly signaled that U.S. foreign policy will be business as usual.

    The least subtle sign that Obama is toeing the line of previous U.S. governments — both Republican and Democrat — is his stance on Cuba.   Obama has postured as being a progressive when it comes to Cuba by relaxing some travel and financial restrictions, while leaving the much more important issue, the economic embargo, firmly in place.

    When it comes to the embargo, the U.S. is completely unpopular and isolated in the hemisphere.  The U.S. two-party system, however, just can’t let the matter go.

    The purpose of the embargo is not to pressure Cuba into being more democratic: this lie can be easily refuted by the numerous dictators the U.S. has supported in the hemisphere, not to mention dictators the U.S. is currently propping up all over the Middle East and elsewhere.

    The real purpose behind the embargo is what Cuba represents. To the entire hemisphere, Cuba remains a solid source of pride.  Defeating the U.S. Bay of Pigs invasion while remaining fiercely independent in a region dominated by U.S. corporations and past government interventions has made Cuba an inspiration to millions of Latin Americans.  This profound break from U.S. dominance — in its “own backyard” no less — is not so easily forgiven.

    There is also a deeper reason for not removing the embargo.  The foundation of the Cuban economy is arranged in such a way that it threatens the most basic philosophic principle shared by the two-party system: the market economy (capitalism).

    And although the “fight against communism” may seem like a dusty relic from the cold war era, the current crisis of world capitalism is again posing the question:  is there another way to organize society?

    Even with Cuba’s immense lack of resources and technology (further aggravated by the U.S. embargo), the achievements made in healthcare, education, and other fields are enough to convince many in the region that there are aspects of the Cuban economy — most notably the concept of producing to meet the needs of all Cubans and NOT for private profit — worth repeating.

    Hugo Chavez has been the Latin American leader most inspired by the Cuban economy.  Chavez has made important steps toward breaking from the capitalist economic model and has insisted that socialism is “the way forward” — and much of the hemisphere agrees.

    This is the sole reason that Obama continues the Bush-era hostility towards Chavez.  Obama, it is true, has been less blunt about his feelings towards Chavez, though he has publicly stated that Chavez “exports terrorism” and is an “obstacle to progress.”  Both accusations are, at best, petty lies.  Chavez drew the correct conclusion of the comments by saying:

    “He [Obama] said I’m an obstacle for progress in Latin America; therefore, it must be removed, this obstacle, right?”

    It’s important to point out that, while Obama was “listening and learning” at the Summit of Americas, the man he appointed to coordinate the summit, Jeffrey Davidow, was busily spewing anti-Venezuelan venom in the media.

    This disinformation is necessary because of the “threat” that Chavez represents.  The threat here is against U.S. corporations in Venezuela, who feel, correctly, that they are in danger of being taken over by the Venezuelan government, to be used for social needs in the country instead of private profit.  Obama, like his predecessor, believes that such an act would be against “U.S. strategic interests,” thus linking the private profit of mega-corporations acting in a foreign country to the general interests of the United States.

    In fact, this belief that the U.S. government must protect and promote U.S. corporations acting abroad is the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy, not only in Latin America, but the world.

    Prior to the revolutionary upsurges that shook off U.S. puppet governments in the region, Latin America was used exclusively by U.S. corporations to extract raw materials at rock bottom prices, using cheap labor to reap super profits, while the entire region was dominated by U.S. banks.

    Things have since changed dramatically.  Latin American countries have taken over industries that were privatized by U.S. corporations, while both Chinese and European companies have been given the green light to invest to an extent that U.S. corporations are being pushed aside.

    To Obama and the rest of the two-party system, this is unacceptable.  The need to reassert U.S. corporate control in the hemisphere is high on the list of Obama’s priorities, but he’s going about it in a strategic way, following the path paved by Bush.

    After realizing that the U.S. was unable to control the region by more forceful methods (especially because of two losing wars in the Middle East), Bush wisely chose to fall back a distance and fortify his position.  The lone footholds available to Bush in Latin America were, unsurprisingly, the only two far-right governments in the region: Colombia and Mexico.

    Bush sought to strengthen U.S. influence in both governments by implementing Plan Colombia first, and the Meridia Initiative second (also known as Plan Mexico).  Both programs allow for huge sums of U.S. taxpayer dollars to be funneled to these unpopular governments for the purpose of bolstering their military and police, organizations that in both countries have atrocious human rights records.

    In effect, the diplomatic relationship with these strong U.S. “allies” — coupled with the financial and military aide, acts to prop up both governments, which possibly would have fallen otherwise (Bush was quick to recognize Mexico’s new President, Calderon, despite evidence of large-scale voter fraud).   Both relationships were legitimized by the typical rhetoric: the U.S. was helping Colombia and Mexico fight against “narco-terrorists.”

    The full implication of these relationships was revealed when, on March 1st 2008, the Colombian military bombed a FARC base in Ecuador without warning (the U.S. and Colombia view the FARC as a terrorist organization).  The Latin American countries organized in the “Rio Group” denounced the raid, and the region became instantly destabilized (both Bush and Obama supported the bombing).

    The conclusion that many in the region have drawn — most notably Chavez — is that the U.S. is using Colombia and Mexico as a counterbalance to the loss of influence in the region.  By building powerful armies in both countries, the potential to intervene in the affairs of other countries in the region is greatly enhanced.

    Obama has been quick to put his political weight firmly behind Colombia and Mexico.  While singing the praises of Plan Colombia, Obama made a special trip to Mexico before the Summit of the Americas to strengthen his alliance with Felipe Calderon, promising more U.S. assistance in Mexico’s “drug war.”

    What these actions make clear is that Obama is continuing the age old game of U.S. imperialism in Latin America, though less directly than previous administrations.  Obama’s attempt at “good neighbor” politics in the region will inevitably be restricted by the nagging demands of “U.S. strategic interests,” i.e., the demands of U.S. corporations to dominate the markets, cheap labor, and raw materials of Latin America.  And while it is one thing to smile for the camera and shake the hands of Latin American leaders at the Summit of the Americas, U.S. corporations will demand that Obama be pro-active in helping them reassert themselves in the region, requiring all the intrigue and maneuvering of the past.

    Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org).  He can be reached at shamuscook@yahoo.com

    “SOA 6″ Sentenced to Federal Prison for Nonviolent Direct Action to Close the SOA/ WHINSEC January 26, 2009

    Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Latin America.
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    North and South, the People Say, Close the SOA! Donate
    SOA Watch News &   Updates
    “SOA 6″ Sentenced to Federal Prison for Nonviolent Direct Action to Close the SOA/ WHINSEC
    Today, on January 26, six human rights advocates appeared in a federal courthouse in Georgia. The “SOA 6,” ranging in age from 21 to 68, were found “guilty” of carrying the protest against the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) onto the Fort Benning military base. The six were among the thousands who gathered on November 22 and 23, 2008 outside the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia to demand a change in U.S. policy towards Latin America and the closure of the SOA/WHINSEC.

    The “SOA 6″ spoke out clearly and powerful in court today. They made a compelling case for the closure of the school and creation of a culture of justice and peace, where there is no place for the SOA mindset that promotes military “solutions” to social and economic problems. The six spent the weekend preparing for their trials with a team of lawyers, legal workers and volunteers, and today they stood up for all of us working for a more just world.

    The “SOA 6″:
    Father Luis Barrios, 56, from North Bergen, NJ, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison and a $250 fine
    Theresa Cusimano, 40, Denver, Colorado, found guilty and awaiting sentencing
    Kristin Holm, from Chicago, Illinois, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison and a $250 fine
    Sr. Diane Pinchot, OSU, 63, from Cleveland, Ohio, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison
    Al Simmons, 64, from Richmond, Virginia, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison
    Louis Wolf, 68, from Washington, DC, found guilty and awaiting sentencing

    Support the “SOA 6″


    Fr. Luis Barrios

    Father Luis Barrios is the Chairperson of the Department of Latin American & Latina/o Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice-City University of New York and a Board Certified Forensic Examiner with the American College of Forensic Examiners. He is also an Associate Priest at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Manhattan, New York City. Fr. Barrios, as well is a Board Member of Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizing-Pastor for Peace. Professor Barrios is a columnist with El Diario La Prensa and has been honored with the Media Award-2006-GLAAD as an Outstanding Spanish Language Newspaper Columnist and was nominated again in the year 2008. He teaches courses on gangs, criminal justice, cultural criminology, forensic psychology, US foreign policy in Latin America, Puerto Rican Studies, race and ethnicity, and Latina/os Studies.

    Click here to read Fr. Luis Barrios’ trial statement


    Theresa Cusimano

    Theresa M. Cusimano, J.D., served as a public interest advocate for twenty years. Her Italian/Irish passion for social justice has led her to work with: the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops on immigration and refugee issues, the federal Department of Education on the Americans with Disabilities Act and more recently with Colorado Campus Compact to support college campus engagement in community problem solving. Cusimano was born in New York, raised outside of Philadelphia and has the joy of living in the Rocky Mountain state of Colorado. She is both honored and extremely humbled to have participated in nonviolent civil disobedience with her five co-defendants who together, face trial on Monday, January 26th.


    Kristin Holm
    On November 23rd, 2008, Kristin Holm, a first year student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), along with five others, entered the base of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation’s (WHINSEC).

    Kristin is the third seminary student from Chicago to stand trial for civil disobedience at the WHINSEC vigil in the past five years. The others are Elizabeth Deligio, CTU, 2005; and Le Anne Clausen, CTS, 2008.


    Sister Diane Therese Pinchot, OSF

    Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, second oldest of six children, Diane Pinchot entered the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland after graduating from Villa Angela High School in 1963. She graduated from Ursuline College with a BA in Art Education in 1968 and has been teaching since. Her assignments have included Saint Ann’s School in Cleveland Heights, Lake Catholic High School in Mentor, Beaumont School in Cleveland Heights and, for the last 26 years, Ursuline College in Pepper Pike. After completing several degrees — an MALS at Wesleyan University in Conn. concentrating in metals and a terminal degree an MFA in Ceramic Sculpture in 1990 at Ohio University — the Diocesan Cleveland Mission Team in El Salvador in 1992 asked her to come and help design and build an altar on the spot where the Churchwomen were found in a shallow grave after they were raped and killed. This significant action slowly changed Diane’s life and over time the Central American martyrs, especially Dorothy Kazel, a member of the Ursuline community, inspired her to become more active in social justice groups within the community and other national organizations. Her artwork has also reflected this transformation, becoming more narrative and engaging the viewer to question the meaning behind the form. She has exhibited her work internationally, nationally and regionally and has come to realize the sacred connection of justice and art making especially when it is grounded in Peace and Love.

    Click here to read Sister Diane Therese Pinchot’s trial statement.


    Al Simmons

    I’ m a 64 year old pre-school teacher who retired last year. I was a teacher and director in pre-school programs in Richmond, VA. I have been married for 32 years to Marcia Deckinson.

    We enjoy birding, camping, scrabble, reading, silliness and each other.

    I’m a Vietnam Veteran from 1968 and it was then that’d realized there had to be a better way. The past forthy years I’ve been involved in peace, social and economic justice, gay rights, woman’s rights and death penalty issues.

    As I had said often to my four year olds in pre-school “Don’t hurt- use words”. I have been saying that, in various ways, to my government for many years.

    Read Al Simmons’ bio information


    Louis Wolf

    Born October 31, 1940 in Dresher, Pennsylvania (then some 30 miles outside of Philadelphia), and grew up on a farm there. Attended Goddard College in Vermont (1958-63), graduated BA in 1963.

    Spent one year (1961) in Denmark in work-study program. Job Training Officer (1964) with Flanner House, Indianapolis. Alternative service as a conscientious objector to military service in Laos (1964-67) building wells, water-seal latrines, and a school.

    Did postgraduate studies (1967-72) at the University of the Philippines, College of Agriculture. Freelance correspondent in the Philippines.(1969-72) with Dispatch News Service International and American Report. Freelance writer and researcher in London (1972-77) with Transnational Research Associates International.

    Co-founder and research director (1978-2005) of CovertAction Information Bulletin renamed CovertAction Quarterly, Washington, DC. Staff member (2007-present), Rock Creek Free Press, Bethesda, MD. Co-editor of two books, “Dirty Work: The CIA in Western Europe” (1978) and “Dirty Work II: The CIA in Africa” (1980). Have traveled throughout the Third World.

    Read Luis trial statement

    Converge on Washington, DC in February 2009

    Make Your Voice Heard: Ensure True Change in Latin America Policy

    Join grassroots activists and organizers for a series of events calling for a new Latin America policy and opposing militarization.

    SOA Watch is working with other Latin America Solidarity and social justice groups on a series of events from February 15-17, 2009 to push the U.S. Congress and the White House to close the School of the Americas and to bring real change to U.S. Latin America policy.

    Schedule of Events

    Saturday, February 14
    7pm Meet and Greet at the SOA Watch office

    Sunday, February 15
    9am – 4:30pm SOA Watch Encuentro / Strategy Meeting
    dinner break 4:30pm – 6:00pm
    6:00pm – 9:00pm Anti-Militarization Program
    organized in cooperation with the Latin America Solidarity Coalition (LASC) and the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA)

    Monday, February 16
    9:00am – 11:00am Grassroots Lobby Training
    1:00pm – 4:00pm Arts and Action Workshop
    Lobby Visits and Street Theater on Capitol Hill

    Tuesday, February 17
    Lobbying on Capitol Hill

    Click Here to Register
    for the February 15-17 Events


    Winter/ Spring 2009 Issue of ¡Presente! Out Now:
    Winter 2009
    We appreciate your interest! You are subscribed to this list as rogerholla@easynet.net.ec.

    Click here to unsubscribe, or reply to this email with “unsubscribe” in the subject line.

    Contact us.

    Our mailing address is:
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    Our telephone:
    (202) 234 3440

    Donate to Support the Campaign to Shut Down the SOA/WHINSEC


    Ecuadorian Commission Alleges C.I.A. Infiltration of Ecuadorian Police and Military November 1, 2008

    Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Latin America.
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    An Ecuadorian government agency, the Commission to Invistage Police and Military Intelligence Services (Comisión para la Investigación de los Servicios de Inteligencia Militares y Policiales) has issued a report accusing the United States government of illegal interference with its internal security (El Universo, Guayaquil, November 1, 2008).

     

    The Commission’s report has been backed by Ecuador’s Minister of Defence, Javier Ponce, who has called for an investigation to determine those responsible for turning information over to the C.I.A.  Ponce further supports the Commission’s eleven recommendations, which include the restructuring of the nation’s intelligence apparatus.  He also has called for the dismissal from Ecuador’s intelligence service those who were directly involved with the actions of Colonel Mario Pazmiño.  Colonel Pazmiño, former Director of Ecuador’s intelligence service, was accused of withholding from the government intelligence about Franklin Aisalla, an Ecuadorian with alleged connection with the Colombia guerrilla army, FARC (Aisalla was killed earlier this year along with 15 others in a Colombian military raid on a FARC camp within Ecuador’s territory where they successfully assassinated FARC number two leader, Raúl Reyes).  It is assumed that he had passed this information on to the C.I.A.

     

    The Commission’s report alleges that the Ecuadorian Police’s Special Investigations Unit (Unidad de Investigaciones Especiales  – UIES) is financed and controlled by the U.S Ambassador to Ecuador and that Ecuadorian military officers acted in the interest of the United States in order to conceal information, make evidence disappear, and confuse the government with respect to the Colombian incursion into Ecuador’s territory in March.

     

    Ecuador’s National Police Commander, Jaime Hurtado, has denied that his organization turns over information to the C.I.A., and admits only that a collaboration does exist between the Ecuadorian National Police and foreign authorities, especially with respect to anti-drug investigations.  He added that he had no information about Ecuadorian police turning over information [to the United States], but should such evidence come to light, he would take the proper steps against those responsible.

     

    Heather Hodges, the United States Ambassador to Ecuador has refused to comment on matters of intelligence, but she did add that the U.S. has and will continue to work with the Ecuadorian Police and Military on matters of mutual security.

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