School of Americas Graduates Implicated in Bogotá Bombings

News from Colombia | on: Tuesday, 29 January 2008

A director of Colombian military intelligence and another officer implicated in a series of false attacks and a bombing that killed a civilian and injured 19 soldiers in Bogotá in 2006, attended the US Army School of the Americas, an examination of records shows.

Colonel Horacio Arbelaez, former director of the Army's Joint Intelligence Center; Major Javier Efrén Hermida Benavides; and Captain Luis Eduardo Barrero, are all being investigated for orchestrating placement of bombs in a Bogota shopping mall and other sites in July 2006, on the eve of President Uribe's inauguration for his second term. At the time of the bombing and false attacks, they were attributed to guerrillas of the FARC. In most cases, the bombs were not detonated, but were denounced by the accused officers and deactivated to demonstrate the FARC threat and show military intelligence was doing its work.

Hermida took two courses at the School of the Americas, including a three-month military intelligence intensive in 2000, while Arbelaez took an infantry course at the School in 1981. A statistical study by sociologist Katherine McCoy found that the more courses Latin American officers took at the School, the more likely they were to commit abuses. (Latin American Perspectives, 2005, http://lap.sagepub.com)

In addition, the Army Joint Intelligence Center that Arbelaez directed receives US aid, according to a State Department list of units vetted to receive assistance.

The officers reportedly collaborated with a FARC deserter on placing the bombs, according to tapes, videos and documents. Hermida, who claims his innocence, told a Colombian radio station that the operation at the shopping mall was carried out with knowledge of high military officials.

Hermida and Barrero also face criminal charges for the false attacks.

Arbelaez, who is now Colombia's defence attaché in Israel, was previously head of intelligence for the Army's 18th Brigade. That brigade, based in oil-rich Arauca state, has received extensive assistance and in-country training from US Special Forces.

Press reports identified Hermida and Barrero as belonging to the Army's 13th Brigade, part of which receives US assistance, as well as to a regional military intelligence centre that also receives US aid.

This article originally appeared on the website of 'SOA Watch' (www.soaw.org)



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