ISSUE #425, MARCH 22, 1998
339 LAFAYETTE ST., NEW YORK, NY 10012 (212) 674-9499


On Mar. 4, after deliberating for less than an hour, jurors at a US 
District Court found five activists guilty of damaging Fort Benning 
property in a protest action carried out against the US military's 
School of the Americas (SOA) on Sept. 29, 1997. The SOA trains Latin 
American military officers; many of its graduates have been linked 
to human rights violations. Kathleen Rumpf and Ed Kinane of 
Syracuse, NY; Marge Eilerman of Booneville, KY; Rev. Bill Bichsel of 
Tacoma, WA; and Mary Trotochaud of Atlanta, GA, were all convicted 
of a felony charge of attempting to damage SOA's welcome sign, and 
all except Bichsel were also found guilty of a misdemeanor charge. 

The defendants said they acted as a unit when they removed the 
lettering on the welcome sign at the base's main entrance on Fort 
Benning Boulevard, and wrote "Home of School of Americas--School 
of Shame" and "SOA = Torture." Bichsel testified that he dipped his 
hand in red paint mixed with blood and placed his handprint on the 
sign; he was not convicted of the misdemeanor charge because he 
said he was helping two men scale a ladder to mount tree stands 
while his four colleagues used crowbars to remove the sign's metal 
letters and painted anti-SOA slogans. The maximum punishment for 
conviction on both charges is six years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 
Judge J. Robert Elliott is expected to hand down a sentence in several 
weeks, after a pre-sentence investigation.

In explaining his action, Bichsel told the jury: "It was a symbol to me 
that we have blood on our hands and we have to stop. We have to 
stop the killing that's going on. It's going on right now in Colombia. 
We are all complicit in this if we don't stop the killing." [Columbus 
Ledger-Enquirer 3/5/98, 3/4/98] 

On Jan. 16, Judge Elliott sentenced 22 people to six months in prison 
and a $3,000 fine each for trespassing at Fort Benning [see Update 
#417]. The 22 were among 601 people arrested during a massive 
protest against SOA last Nov. 16 [see Update #408]; they were given 
the maximum sentence because they had been arrested at the base 
in previous actions. Most are starting their prison terms this month.

On Feb. 25, Fort Benning police arrested activist John Patrick Liteky 
after he splattered the outside of the SOA headquarters with red 
paint. Authorities have charged Liteky with criminal trespass and 
"injury" to government property, Fort Benning spokespeople said. 
Both charges are misdemeanors, but the injury charge could be 
upgraded to a felony if the cost to repair the damage exceeds $1,000. 
Each misdemeanor carries a maximum six- month prison term. 
Liteky was among a group of six people with previous base arrests 
who were arrested at the Nov. 16 protest but who avoided the 
maximum sentence because federal prosecutors dropped the charges 
after failing to prove that the six had received a letter banning them 
from the base. [CLE 2/26/98] 


The Clinton administration said on Mar. 17 that the US has not sent 
military advisers to Colombia to support counterinsurgency 
operations. "I suppose everyone knows that US assistance to 
Colombia is strictly for the fight against drug trafficking," said State 
Department spokesperson James Rubin. Rubin's comment was in 
response to statements made by one of the commanders of the 
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who said that the 
US has sent to Colombia "many more advisers than what is said 
officially and their principal target is not drug traffickers but the 
guerrillas." [El Diario-La Prensa 3/18/98 from AP, quote retranslated 
from Spanish]

FARC commander Fabian Ramirez, in an interview with journalists 
from Reuters Television which was reported by local news media, 
announced that the FARC is targeting officials of the US Embassy in 
Colombia--especially those in charge of antinarcotics efforts- -as 
"military objectives." "All that about how the US is fighting drug 
trafficking in Latin America, especially in Colombia, is a sophism of 
distraction," said Ramirez. "All the aid to the Colombian army, both 
economic and military, is being directed against the guerrillas." As 
Ramirez spoke with journalists, an OV10 plane, donated by the US to 
the Colombian army, flew over the jungle to bomb the rebel camp. 
"In most of the battalions there are US army advisers helping to fight 
the guerrillas," said Ramirez. [Clarin (Buenos Aires) 3/19/98] 

Despite Rubin's comments, US and Colombian officials have become 
increasingly frank about the use of US antinarcotics aid against 
Colombia's leftist rebels, under the pretext that the rebels are 
"narcoguerrillas," engaged in drug trafficking [see Update #403]. 
While this strategy is being talked about as new, in fact US officials 
have known since at least 1994 that antinarcotics aid and training to 
Colombia may be used in counterinsurgency efforts. In a memo dated 
Apr. 8, 1994, from the US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) of the 
Department of Defense, Staff Judge Advocate Warren D. Hall III 
noted that "USSOUTHCOM is vulnerable to criticism because of the 
similarities inherent in the counter- drug (CD) and counter-
insurgency efforts in Colombia." The memo points out that US 
counter-drug training and equipment can be used in 
counterinsurgency missions. Hall concludes that "it is unrealistic to 
expect the military to limit use of the equipment to operations 
against narcotraffickers." [DOD USSOUTHCOM "Memorandum for CINC" 
4/8/94] In a Dec. 29, 1997 letter sent to the Washington Post, 
Amnesty International's Carlos Salinas refers to Hall's memo and 
adds that in Colombia "no military units are dedicated exclusively to 
counternarcotics activities." [Fax of original letter to WP, 12/29/97] 

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is planning to 
increase its support operations for the Colombian police as a 
consequence of the conditioned certification approved by the US for 
Colombia's anti-drug war [see Update #422], announced Col. 
Leonardo Gallego, director of Colombia's anti-narcotics police force, 
on Mar. 2, moments after returning from a trip to the US. Colombian 
authorities are currently getting help from the DEA in such areas as 
exchange of intelligence information, training for National Police 
agents and provision of equipment that improves efficiency. [El 
Colombiano 3/3/98]

ISSN#: 1084-922X. The Weekly News Update on the Americas is 
published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater 
New York. A one-year subscription (52 issues) is $25. To subscribe, 
send a check or money order for US $25 payable to Nicaragua 
Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012. 
Please specify if you want the electronic or print version: they are 
identical in content, but the electronic version is delivered directly to 
your email address; the print version is sent via first class mail. For 
more information about electronic subscriptions, contact 
wnu@igc.apc.org. Back issues and source materials are available on 

If you are accessing this Update for free on electronic newsgroups, 
we would appreciate any financial support you can contribute. We 
are a small, all-volunteer organization funded solely through 
subscriptions and contributions. Please also help spread the word 
about the Update. If you know someone who might be interested in 
subscribing, send their email (or regular mail) address to 
 and request a free one-month trial subscription to 
the Weekly News Update on the Americas. 

Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any 
information from them, but please credit us as "Weekly News Update 
on the Americas," and include our full contact information so that 
people will know how to find us. Send us a copy of any publication 
where we are cited or reprinted. We also welcome your comments 
and ideas: send them to us at the street address above or via e-mail 


1996 INDEX OUT NOW!!! ANNUAL UPDATE INDEX available for each 
year from 1991 through 1996. Ascii text versions free to subscribers 
via electronic mail. Send your request to  (specify 
which year or years you want--each is over 100kb). Each index will 
be sent as a separate text message (not an attached file) unless you 
request otherwise.

STILL AVAILABLE: "Immigration in the USA One Year After 
Proposition 187," a Weekly News Update on the Americas special 
report, dated March 1996, accompanied by a resource list and 
organizing leaflet. Ascii text version free to subscribers via email. 
Send your request to  

1996 SOURCE LIST STILL AVAILABLE: A list of sources commonly-
used in the Weekly News Update on the Americas, along with 
abbreviations and contact information. Free to subscribers. Send your 
request to 
Weekly News Update on the Americas * Nicaragua Solidarity 
Network of NY 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012 * 212-674-
9499 fax: 212-674-9139 
http://home.earthlink.net/~dbwilson/wnuhome.html *