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News :: Peace & War

Close the School of Assassins!

Nov. 19: Thousands Rally at the Gates of Fort Benning, Georgia
Nov. 20: Funeral Procession and Nonviolent Direct Action
Arlen Salas David - Presente!

Over the years, the Vigil to Close the SOA at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia has grown into a massive people power convergence with many important side events taking place throughout the weekend. Click here for the Schedule of Events.

As the weekend’s events to close the School of the Americas (SOA) started and thousands of people converged in Columbus, Georgia, we received sad news from our friends in the Colombian Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. On Thursday, November 17, 2005, troops commanded by General Luis Alfonso Zapata Uribe* attacked and killed Arlen Salas David, a leader of the peace community.

More than 10,000 Colombian soldiers have been trained at the SOA/WHINSEC. Colombia continues to send more soldiers to the SOA than any other country--with chilling results. Graduates of the school are consistently cited for human rights abuses. The U.S. is an active contributor to the war in Colombia, providing billions in military aid and training to the Colombian military. Movements for justice in the Americas need to stand in solidarity with the people of Colombia, work to change U.S. foreign policy and close the SOA.

*General Luis Alfonso Zapata Uribe, who has commanded the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army since May 2005, was trained in counter-insurgency at the School of the Americas. He attended the “Small-Unit Infantry Tactics C-7? course to become “familiar with small-unit operational concepts and principles at the squad and platoon level, … [to] receive training in planning and conducting small-unit tactical operations.?

The San José de Apartadó Peace Community wrote today, November 18, 2005:

“We make an appeal for national and international support, so that our extermination can be stopped; so that the inhabitants of the whole region of Arenas Altas are not forced to become internally displaced, which the Army has told us is their objective. The serious and committed work that Arlen was carrying out will guide us. Pain barely lets us talk but we will continue to cry ‘Dignity’ out loud, like he taught us to do during his daily chores and his commitment to the community. His two small children will continue to walk besides us, building a different tomorrow in which there will be respect for life. Arlen, our tears accompany this horror but you are with us, giving us life. Thank you for your leadership, your committment. Someday history will judge those who murdered you.?

Click here to read the entire message from the San José de Apartadó community in Spanish and English.

Click here for information about the February massacre in San José de Apartadó.

Click here to take action.

This weekend, thousands will gather at Fort Benning, Georgia -- one of the largest military bases in the world and home of the notorious School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) -- to confront injustice, to speak out for truth, to change oppressive US foreign policy and to shut down the SOA/WHINSEC and the racist system that it represents.

It's not too late to make plans to attend the vigil!

Mobilization Information:

  • Engage in Nonviolent Direct Action and Cross the Line
  • Schedule of Events
  • Housing Information
  • Travel Info and Ride Board
  • Pulsa aquí para leer esta informacion en español
  • Sign up today to receive critical SOA Watch Email Updates (low volume)

    Don’t forget to bring crosses, Stars of David and other commemorative symbols with you to the Vigil to remember those who have died at the hands of SOA graduates.

    Click here to check out the the weekend schedule. A wide variety of exciting events is going to take place around the vigil: Nonviolence and strategic organizing trainings will be offered, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers will present an update, films are being screened, the Colombia Teach-In and different caucuses (labor, people of color, and others) are being organized. The Family Working Group is launching a series of activities for kids. For the full schedule click here >>

    For information on an area for wheelchairs, sign-language interpretation, programs in Spanish, Braille and large print etc. during the November 2005 vigil and action at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia click here >>

    The organzing effort for the vigil and action costs money, please consider donating to SOA Watch. Thank you!

    Legislative Updates
    122 Co-Sponsors to Close the SOA!

    Within six weeks of introducing a new bill in Congress to close the SOA/ WHINSEC, one hundred members of Congress co-sponsored the legislation -- thanks to the efforts of all of you in the SOA Watch movement. As of September 30, we have 122 co-sponsors of HR 1217, the legislation introduced by Rep. McGovern that would close and investigate the SOA/ WHINSEC. We are now in our strongest position to close this school since we won a vote in the House of Representatives in 1999!

    If your representative has not yet signed on as a cosponsor of the bill, take the time to call her or his DC office by contacting the Capitol Hill Switchboard at 202-224-3121. You can visit the SOA Watch Legislative Action Index and scroll to the bottom of the page to find out if your Member of Congress is a cosponsor.

    Visit the Legislative Action Index for more info on the new bill and to find out what more you can do to close the SOA!

    About the SOA/ WHINSEC

    The US Army School of Americas (SOA), based in Fort Benning, Georgia, trains Latin American security personnel in combat, counter-insurgency, and counter-narcotics. SOA graduates are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. 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. Lower-level SOA graduates have participated in human rights abuses that include the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the El Mozote Massacre of 900 civilians. (See Grads in the News.)

    In an attempt to deflect public criticism and disassociate the school from its dubious reputation, the SOA was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001. The name change was a result of a Department of Defense proposal included in the Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal 2001, at a time when SOA opponents were poised to win a congressional vote on legislation that would have dismantled the school. The name-change measure passed when the House of Representatives defeated a bi-partisan amendment to close the SOA and conduct a congressional investigation by a narrow ten-vote margin. (See Talking Points, Critique of New School, Vote Roll Call.)

    In a media interview, Georgia Senator and SOA supporter the late Paul Coverdell characterized the DOD proposal as a "cosmetic" change that would ensure that the SOA could continue its mission and operation. Critics of the SOA concur.

    SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots movement that works through creative protest and resistance, legislative and media work to stand in solidarity with the people of Latin America, to close the SOA/WHINSEC and to change oppressive U.S. foreign policy that institutions like the SOA represent. We are grateful to our sisters and brothers throughout Latin America for their inspiration and the invitation to join them in their struggle for economic and social justice.

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