SOA trains the military muscle to enforce "Free Trade" in Latin America Print
Vicente Fox, Mexico's president, is pushing a comprehensive plan for a major transportation and industrial corridor skewering Central America. In Fox's vision the corridor would run from Puebla, Mexico to Panama and spilling over into Colombia. According to the Action for Community & Ecology in the Regions of Central America website, the plan calls for "vast displacement of native communities, rampant and uncontrolled ecological devastation, and massive industrial development." The Zapatistas have denounced the plan. Subcommandante Marcos has declared: "The isthmus is not for sale!"

International trade and development agreements -- NAFTA, FTAA and now PPP -- have one purpose: to siphon labor and income from the poor, and resources from the land. The corporate rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the earth is crucified.

Thanks to these schemes, in Latin America indigenous people inhabiting land lying above oil and mineral deposits are killed or displaced; those organizing for a living wage and collective bargaining are killed and disappeared; anyone working to reduce poverty, ecological disruption, and the violence and militarism essential to these agreement risks exile or assassination.

The indigenous, the poor and people of conscience resist exploitation. It was on January 1, 1994, the day NAFTA began, that the Zapatistas rose up in Chiapas.

Here's where the School of the Americas (SOA) comes in. This school at Ft. Benning, Georgia, trains the Latin American soldiers whose job it is to impose neo-liberalism on their own people. They are trained in a US military specialty: counter-insurgency, i.e. civilian-targeted warfare.

Coinciding with the increasingly louder calls for social and economic justice in Mexico, the number of Mexican soldiers at the SOA escalated sharply.? At least 18 high-level officers involved in the government's ongoing eight-year war against the people in southern Mexico are SOA grads. In Nicaragua, as PPP plans for a transportation corridor across the isthmus advance, soldiers are being sent to the SOA for the first time in 20 years. Without these men with guns there would be no NAFTA, FTAA or PPP

Throughout Latin America, the SOA and the multinational agreements are the military and economic sides of the same coin.

According to SOA Watch, the Pentagon recently told Congress that SOA training supports US policy towards Latin America. This training "seeks to develop stable, free market democracies throughout the region." The mission of the US Army's Southern Command (encompassing the SOA) includes "...protecting the supply of strategic natural resources and access to markets."

SOA training manuals encouraged torture, illegal imprisonment, and "neutralizing." For decades SOA grads have been involved in the chain of command of virtually every major human rights atrocity in Latin America.

In the US there is a vigorous anti-SOA campaign.? It features recurring nonviolent civil disobedience actions.

170 SOA Watch activists have cumulatively spent nearly 100 years in prison. The campaign thrives on solidarity with these Prisoners of Conscience.

In January 2001 the SOA, after a decade of whistle-blowing agitation, changed its name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC). But whatever its name, it's role is the same. It's still a School for Assassins, a School for Subversion: a terrorist training camp. March 2002