The School of the Americas

In 1983, Adolfo Guzman was sent to the School of the Americas at Fort Gullick, Panama. When he returned to San Salvador after graduating from the school, Guzman was promoted to Teniente Colonel – Lieutenant Colonel – and took over as head of operations for the infamous Atlactl Battalion.

Fort Gulick was a former United States Army base located in the Republic of Panama. It was named after Brigadier General Lawrence L. Gulick, who served in the U.S. Army during World War I and World War II. The base was operational from 1943 until it was closed in 1999 following the transfer of the Panama Canal Zone to Panamanian control.

The Army facility brought in recruits from across the Americas. In 1956, Spanish became the school’s official language, and classes stopped being taught in English.

After the Cuban revolution in 1959, the U.S. Military adopted a security policy to counter the “international communist conspiracy.” In 1961, President John F. Kennedy ordered the school to begin teaching “anti-communist” counterinsurgency. The School of the Americas began training in riot and mob control, special warfare, jungle warfare, intelligence and counterintelligence.

Over the years, the School of the Americas became a subject of controversy and criticism. Critics argued that some of the graduates of the school were involved in human rights abuses, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and disappearances, in their respective countries.

The School has a history of producing graduates who went on to become some of the worst human rights violators in the Western Hemisphere.

The notorious training facility has been condemned by human rights groups for decades.

The Cold War saw the United States back numerous bloody coups against democratically elected Latin American socialist leaders in favour of supporting, training, and arming military dictators. The coup against Salvador Allende in 1973 and U.S. support for dictator Augusto Pinochet are the most infamous examples. The School of the Americas has been given the moniker “School of the Dictators” and “School of the Assassins” as almost a dozen Latin American dictators have been graduates of the institution. Panama’s drug-dealing dictator Manuel Noriega and El Salvador’s Roberto D’Aubuisson are just two examples.

Various reports and investigations have linked graduates of the school to human rights violations committed in El Salvador, including the murders of six Jesuit priests on 16 November 1989, a crime which was the genesis for my novel A Candle for Consuela.

Public pressure in the USA calling for the closure of SOA grew when a congressional task force found those responsible for that massacre, including General Adolfo Guzman, were trained at SOA.