The School of the Americas, the CIA and the US-Condoned Cancer of Torture Continue to Spread in Latin America, Including Mexico
Sunday, 10 June 2012 07:46 By Mark Karlin, Truthout | News Analysis
The husband of Jennifer Harbury was tortured to death, over a two year period, by the Guatemalan military with the full knowledge of the CIA. (Photo: Mark Karlin)This is the seventh article in Truthout’s series looking at US immigration and Mexican border policies through a social justice lens. Mark Karlin, editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout, visited the border region recently to file these reports.
Jennifer Harbury Married an Armed Populist Leader, Who Was Tortured and Executed in Guatemala With CIA Involvement
By academic pedigree and personal background, Jennifer Harbury should be among the ruling elite in the US. She is a graduate of Cornell and Harvard Law School, in fact receiving her law degree from Harvard just a few years before Barack Obama. Instead of following the path of most of her classmates to money and power, she became a legal aid attorney in Texas.
As part of her interest in human rights, she traveled to Guatemala in the early ’90s to write a book, “Bridge to Courage: Life Stories of Guatemalan Compañeros & Compañeras.” It was at that time she met, fell in love with and married Everardo (Efraín Bámaca Velásquez), who was a commandante in the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity Front. He was fighting against the US-backed military and government, which was committing genocide against the indigenous population and the poor (ending in more than 200,000 dead – and countless more tortured, but released).
In 1992, Everardo was captured by the Guatemalan military. Harbury demanded to know the whereabouts of her husband and held a hunger strike in front of the Clinton White House, which was covered by the media and made into a national story by “60 Minutes.” Harbury’s request was simple: she wanted the State Department or CIA to tell her what had happened to her husband. But both agencies didn’t acknowledge they knew of his whereabouts.
In an interview with Truthout, Harbury recounted:
After a year of trying to find out what had really happened to him, a young prisoner escaped from the army torture program and reported that Everardo was alive and being severely tortured. After my third hunger strike to save his life, in March 1995, then New Jersey Senator Toricelli disclosed that official US documents indicated that he had been killed by Guatemalan officers on the CIA payroll.
After receiving many files at last through the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act], it became clear that the State Department and the CIA had known where Everardo was and that he was in the hands of our own CIA liaisons or assets, since the week of his capture. They also knew approximately 300 other secret prisoners of war were suffering the same fate. The files show that all these prisoners were tortured to death, thrown down wells, out of helicopters, etc., yet the truth was only revealed to us in 1995. By then all were dead. We could have saved them.
Harbury’s Husband Was Kept in a Body Cast to Make His Torture Easier
In fact, Everardo, Harbury discovered, was kept in a body cast to keep him constrained while he was tortured for more than two years before being executed, all the time with the full knowledge and likely operational involvement of the CIA.
And then there is, of course, the legacy of the infamous School of the Americas (now renamed the euphemistic Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation: WHINSEC). It has been accused of teaching torture, which was confirmed in a US government admission during the Clinton administration. Although now, under its new WHINSEC name, it claims to no longer offer such instruction.
Of the School of the Americas, Harbury told BuzzFlash in a 2005 interview:
Very simply, the School of the Americas is a US military institution that has given training and education to high-level military officials from across Latin America for 40 years now. The students who they have trained and educated, in huge numbers, turned out to have been the worst human rights violators in the Western Hemisphere, bar none. We’re talking about high-level people under Pinochet. We’re talking about eight to twelve of my husband’s torturers. We’re talking about people involved in massacre upon massacre within El Salvador, including people that were highly implicated in the murder of Monsignor Romero and the Maryknoll church women, etc.
The Current President of Guatemala Was Trained at the School of the Americas
he current president of Guatemala, Otto Fernando Pérez Molina, was trained at the School of the Americas and is accused of helping to oversee the Guatemalan military genocide and torture. Pérez was head of the Guatemalan military intelligence at the time of Everardo’s capture, and Harbury has sought to have him charged with human rights’ violations. There is also the allegation that Pérez participated in 1998 in the planning of the assassination of a Guatemalan bishop, who campaigned for human rights accountability.
Harbury points out that US agents are often reported, by survivors, of being in the torture chambers, outed by their American accents in Spanish or by their speaking in English. This was the case of Sister Dianna Ortiz, who was abducted in Guatemala in 1989 for speaking out on behalf of the poor. She was gang raped, forced to kill another prisoner with a knife, used as a human ash tray and was the subject of further barbaric acts of torture. Ortiz also recalls an American serving as a consultant while she was being tortured.
Torture, Killing and Disappearance in the Southern Cone Countries in the ’80s
During the period of military dictatorships in the Southern Cone nations of South America, the US – particularly under Reagan – supported regimes such as Argentina and Chile, which had the two highest numbers of disappeared individuals, tortured dissenters and those killed. More than 30,000 were disappeared in Argentina by the military, tortured and presumed killed (some of them dropped alive – while drugged – from planes and helicopters into the Rio De La Plata between Argentina and Uruguay, bound with weights on their legs).
In Chile where a minimum of 3,000 disappeared (los desaparecidos), the “National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture Report,” in 2004, confirmed a minimum of 35,000 tortured in Chile after the Allende overthrow, which some critics of the commission argue is a low-ball estimate.
During the period of the US-backed Operation Condor, figures conforming to the UN definition of torture put the number as high as 300,000 or more tortured in the Southern Cone nations overall, under the brutal military regimes of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay, among other nations that carried out gestapo-like torture and elimination of persons deemed a threat to the state.