A death squad is an armed group that carries out extrajudicial assassinations and forced disappearances of activists, dissidents and others perceived as interfering with a social or political status quo, usually in secrecy. Death squads are often associated with the violent political repression of dictatorships, totalitarian states and similar regimes, and typically have the tacit or express support of the state (see state terrorism). Death squads may comprise a secret police force, paramilitary group or official government units with members drawn from the military or the police.
Death squads can be distinguished from terrorist groups in that violence is used to maintain the status quo rather than disrupt an existing social order. Death squads may be used to eliminate political opponents or any other people deemed "undesirable" (eg. the homeless and squatters), or to retaliate against an insurgency by targeting an associated civilian population. Death squads have been used to kill whole classes of people who do not hold the ideology, religion or race of the ruling elite (see genocide).
November 19, 2006
COLUMBUS, Ga. --Thousands of demonstrators paraded, chanted and raised white crosses Sunday outside the Army's Fort Benning as they continued a 17-year-long effort to close a military school they blame for human rights abuses in Latin America.
HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT is a feature-length documentary that looks at the nature of U.S. policy in Latin America through the prism of the School of the Americas (renamed, in January of 2001, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), the controversial military school that trains Latin American soldiers in the USA.