“Like many of its graduates, this school continues to operate with impunity,” said Carlos Mauricio, torture survivor and plaintiff in a successful lawsuit against two Salvadoran Generals living in the US. “Shutting down the SOA would send a strong human rights message to Latin America and the world.”
The School of the Americas at Ft. Benning will be the site of a vigil on November 20-21st. The School of the Americas (SOA) is a US Army training school that trains soldiers and military personnel from Latin American countries in subjects like counter-insurgency, infantry tactics, military intelligence, counter-narcotics operations, and commando operations. This training is funded by US taxpayers, and all of the training is conducted in Spanish. According to the SOA itself, more than 60,000 members of Latin American militaries have attended the SOA since its inception in 1946. On January 17, 2001 the SOA’s name changed to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC), as a result of a Department of Defense proposal included in the Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal 2001. The measure passed when the House of Representatives defeated a bi-partisan amendment to close the school and conduct a congressional investigation by a narrow ten vote margin. In a media interview last year, Georgia Senator and SOA supporter, the late Paul Coverdell, characterized the DOD proposal as “cosmetic” changes that would ensure that the SOA could continue its mission and operation. Critics of the SOA concur.
Among the SOA’s nearly 60,000 graduates are notorious dictators Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia. SOA graduates were responsible for the Uraba massacre in Colombia, the El Mozote massacre of 900 civilians in El Salvador, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and the Jesuit massacre in El Salvador, the La Cantuta massacre in Peru, the torture and murder of a UN worker in Chile, and hundreds of other human rights abuses. In September 1996, under intense pressure from religious and grassroots groups, the Pentagon released seven Spanish-language training manuals used at the SOA until 1991. The New York Times reported, “Americans can now read for themselves some of the noxious lessons the United States Army taught thousands of Latin Americans… [The SOA manuals] recommended interrogation techniques like torture, execution, blackmail and arresting the relatives of those being questioned.”
On November 20th and 21st, join Susan Sarandon, Martin Sheen; Carlos Mauricio and Neris Gonzales, torture survivors and plaintiffs in the successful lawsuit against Salvadoran generals now living in the US; Betita Martinez, long time Chicana activist and historian; Ruby Sales, prominent civil rights activist and native of Columbus, Georgia; Bob King, vice president of the United Auto Workers; Bishop Gabino Zavala, Bishop President of Pax Christi USA, Kathy Kelly, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and founder of Voices in the Wilderness; Sr. Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, grassroots activists from Mexico, labor leaders from Colombia and many more dynamic speakers gathered on stage in front of the main gates of Fort Benning, Georgia.
Join, also, rousing musicians from around the country, including many of the long-time musicians that have been an essential part of our November presence: Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, Charlie King and Karen Brandow, Pat Humphries and Sandy Opatow, Francisco Herrera, Jon Fromer, David Rovics, Dave Lippman and Llajtasuyo. Newcomers to the stage this year include Kim and Reggie Harris, Utah Phillips and Chicago-based ska/reggae band Los Vicios de Papá.
Click here for more information, including the complete schedule of events.
There is a ride boad, and a guide to legal protest. Read the history of this horrible place. It is astounding.