Father Luis Barrios - Trial statement Print
I am a transgressor, in favor of peace with justice

I would like to make an appeal in a special way
to the men of the army. In the name of God, in
the name of the suffering people whose laments
rise to the heaven each day more tumultuous,
I ask you, I order you in the name of God,
stop the repression.

San Romero de Las Américas

Honorable Judge Faircloth:

On Sunday, November 23rd, 2008, I, along with other human rights activists, crossed the gates of Fort Benning . I did so with a photo of Monsignor Oscar Romero, the former Archbishop of San Salvador. Upon his assassination, this brother, this companion, and this spiritual guide, was converted into our Saint Romero of the Americas. His assassination was planned and executed by graduates from the School of the Americas, with the blessings of the US Government, following a speech in which he pleaded for the army to stop massacring the Salvadoran people. In El Salvador, as well as all of Latin America, thousands of other women, men, and children have also been assassinated by agents of the School of the Americas. These silenced human beings, along with Saint Romero, deserve justice. To Saint Romero, as well as to the other victims, justice is what I am respectfully requesting here.

Hon. Faircloth, my meditation for that day, while I entered Fort Benning, was and still is this: I wish for this individual sacrifice to be transformed into a collective of spiritual ethics. Therefore, I confess in front of this court that I am not guilty of committing any crime against humanity. However, I’m guilty of being a transgressor of any “law” that pretends to justify the injustice of oppression, exclusion, or assassination. I do so because these are not laws!
I learned the spirituality of transgression from my brother and companion Jesus Christ, who in each of his actions in his native Palestine, while walking with the people, showed through a subversive ministry that it was necessary to violate the unjust laws of the Roman Empire. He was condemned for being a transgressor. Thus, I have learned from him to transgress against injustice, and against the immorality of disorder that we see in our society, to benefit humanity. This transgression, my action, is not only morally right, but it is also an obligation. This is a way of building a new world, a better world.

With no pretensions of being compared to Jesus, which would be nothing but a lack of respect on my part, I only wanted to follow his example, in the most humble way. This time, I transgressed and trespassed the gates of Fort Benning, with a strategy of peaceful resistance, founded in the basic principles of civil disobedience, an approach also known as “non-violence ”.

My intention through the transgression of the gates of Fort Benning was, and still is, to be able to demonstrate that from its inception in 1946, the School of the Americas, disguised since 2001 as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is one of those military institutions that pretends to justify oppression, exclusion, and assassination, behind the semantics of national security and/or protection of democracy. When in reality its goal is to validate and protect the political, military, and economic hegemony of the United States in Latin America .

Hon. Faircloth, historically my pastoral and academic activism has taught me that apathy in front of unjust laws is an offense against peace-driven justice. Furthermore, it has taught me that it is my duty not to remain silent against injustices, on one side, and to fight rebelliously until justice prevails. This is the motivation behind my transgression on Sunday, November 23rd, 2008.

Hon. Faircloth, within this context, it is necessary to understand the political violence exercised by the School of the Americas, as well as the impunity that is granted to its graduates. In other words, this institution is a symbol of U.S. despotism towards our Latin American countries. That is why, whenever there is dissidence directed against U.S. expansionist policies, such in the cases of the Cuban revolution, the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, the Bolivariana in Venezuela, the Bolivian revolution in Bolivia, or the popular revolution in Ecuador – only to mention a few, the U.S. government has consistently aimed to block and defeat democratic governments, in favor of other governments that would help advance US interests. This is what is known as political terrorism.

The advancement of U.S-sponsored political terrorism and the effect on its victims can best be summed up by the words of Father Roy Bourgeois : Here is the School of the Americas. It's a combat school. Most of the courses revolve around what they call "counter-insurgency warfare." Who are the "insurgents?" We have to ask that question. They are the poor. They are the people in Latin America who call for reform. They are the landless peasants who are hungry. They are health care workers, human rights advocates, labor organizers. They become the insurgents. They are seen as "the enemy." They are those who become the targets of those who learn their lessons at the School of the America.
Similarly, it is incorrect, Hon. Faircloth, your intention to send a message of neutrality, within the false context of interpreting some laws and applying their sentences. Your duty as judge and citizen continues to be protecting Justice. This partial neutrality, linked to injustice, makes you guilty of all the crimes committed by the School of the Americas and its graduates. Allow me to remind you that you have a moral responsibility in front of God and in front of Her people, to reject and combat unjust laws.
Even more relevant still, Hon. Faircloth, you could become part of the Amnesty International Campaign to push the United States to recognize, support, and submit to the International Criminal Court regulations. It is an embarrassment that a country such as the United States, which holds democracy as one of its core values, has been able to sabotage an international institution that guarantees communal existence, within a framework of respect, justice, and peace. It is not a secret either that this anti-democratic strategy only serves to guarantee USA’s impunity in relation to the crimes that this Criminal Court is to judge.
Hon. Faircloth, if you, or your system, plan to punish me through incarceration, aiming to correct or modify my behavior as a transgressor who favors justice and peace, I would like to let you inform you that this is not possible. I do not believe in punishment. I believe in the restitution of justice, and that is the reason why I am here today. Hon. Faircloth, if it is your decision to send me to jail, what I would like to make clear is that by doing so, you will be guilty of keeping silent and embracing apathy. Furthermore, you will be an accomplice to the crimes originated at the School of the Americas. This fact will be part of both of our histories.
I will not try to escape from the consequences of my actions. This would do nothing but diminishing the validity inherent in these actions of civil disobedience. Nonetheless, Hon. Faircloth, remain assured that I will enter and later leave the gates of any jail standing up. Neither you nor your system will take away my dignity. The only thing that would be achieved is converting me into a prisoner of conscience, into an anti-terrorism activist.
Therefore, if these proceedings of punishment are meant to force me to ask for forgiveness, this will not be achieved. I will not kneel and beg for forgiveness. For it is to my Latin American people only that I ought to ask for forgiveness, for not acting earlier. I am a free person. You could incarcerate my body, but you would never imprison my love for peace and justice, because my conviction has made me free. These principles would fly away from jail at their leisure, beyond any prison bars or unjust gates that you may see fit for me.

Therefore, Hon. Faircloth, there are transgressors that have contributed to moving forward positive changes in history, because they dared raising their voices when injustice reigned, and when hope from the peoples remained unseen. Today it is my turn. I hope I will be able to make a contribution as well. I hope you also understand that with my solidarity love, the most important sacrament, I’m putting the system on trial. God bless us.

In peace with justice,

Father Luis Barrios

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