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Venezuela soa { April 12 2002 }

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April 12, 2002

for immediate release

Venezuelan Generals Backing Interim President are SOA Grads

Army Commander in Chief Efrain Vasquez and General Ramirez Poveda, two of the major military backers of a transitional government, received training at the notorious US Army School of the Americas (SOA). Vasquez attended the school from January 23rd to December 2nd, 1988, taking a course called “Command and General Staff Officer Training”. General Ramirez took a course called “Auto Maintenance Officer Training” from May 8th to August 11th, 1972.

With military backing, Pedro Carmona, president of business leaders association Fedecameras, has assumed the position of interim president.

The SOA, renamed in 2001 the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC), is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. SOA graduates are consistently involved in human rights abuses and atrocities throughout Latin America.

SOA Watch is still researching, with concern, the events in Venezuela. The involvement of SOA trained militaries follows a clear pattern in Latin America. Former Congressperson Joseph Kennedy, stated "the US Army School of the a school that has run more dictators than any other school in the history of the world." In total, the school has produced at least eleven Latin American dictators. Its graduates include, among others, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, Major General Guillermo Rodriguez (who overthrew Ecudor’s elected government and became dictator), Major General Juan Velasco (who did the same in Peru), Lieutenant General Roberto Viola and Lieutenant General Leopoldo Galtieri (responsible for Argentina’s “Dirty War”), Bolivian General Hugo Banzer Suarez (who despite murdering labor leaders and opposition politicians and sheltering a Nazi war criminal, was honored as a member of the SOA Hall of Fame in 1988), Major General Guido Vildoso (military dictator of Bolivia), Brigadier General Juan Melgar Castro (military dictator of Honduras), and José Efraín Montt (dictator of Guatemala).

In anattempt to diffuse public criticism and to disassociate the school from its reputation the Pentagon renamed the SOA in 2001 the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. SOA Watch maintains that the underlying purpose of the school, to control the economic and political systems of Latin America through aiding and influencing Latin American militaries, remains the same.

SOA Watch, founded in 1990, is a national, grassroots conscience-based group committed to human rights and the promotion of democracy. With offices in Columbus, GA, Washington DC and chapters in communities and on campuses around the country, our goal is to work in solidarity with the people of Latin America and to close the SOA/WHISC.

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