Caravan for Peace Protests in Front of School of the Americas Print
On Friday, August 31, the Mexico Caravan for Peace and Justice with Dignity stopped at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia to highlight  the connection between SOA/WHINSEC and the thousands murdered during the past 6 years in the so-called “War on Drugs” in Mexico. Family members of the victims and their allies staged a die-in at the entrance to the base, leaving photographs of their loved ones, signs and crosses on the main entrance's sign.

View pictures from the protest.

More pictures from the Peace Caravan's Flickr page

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by José Gil Olmos, Proceso Magazine

Caravan for Peace Protests in Front of School of the Americas

ATLANTA, Ga. - The cries for justice echoed through the entrance of the famous School of the Americas at Fort Benning. Never before had there been a peaceful Mexican demonstration at the door of this anti-insurgency military training center.

Six years ago, the U.S. government changed the name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in an attempt to erase its dark history.

However, Javier Sicilia, the leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity that is touring the country with a group of families, decided to refresh everyone’s memory, stating, “this school is the face of legalized criminals.”

Watched by a group of policemen, the Mexican contingent, supported by various U.S. social organizations, led the protest at the main entrance of Fort Benning.

There, Javier Sicilia charged that the school has generated legal criminals that later have become illegal.

“According to the Defense Secretary, 33 percent of deserters in the Mexican army were trained at the School of the Americas. It is they who butcher, decapitate, disappear people. That is the reality of this school, a reality that combines with crime to shame nations, to shame people, to destroy them.”
The poet called on the Mexican Armed Forces and the governments of other countries to withdraw their students from the school because, he said, “they are going to create more crime in the country, if they desert and have no ethics they will become a part of it, like the Zetas of the country’s criminal forces.”

Sicilia said that in Mexico at least thirteen commanders involved in the country’s violence graduated from this school, among them General José Rubén Rivas, author of 1994’s Chiapas Plan and main advocate for the militarization of the southern state.

After reminding the demonstrators that although the government believed that the EZLN (the Zapatista Army of National Liberation) and other indigenous groups would Balkanize the country, it was the criminals who actually did it and one example of this, he said, is the hiring by the Juárez cartel of thirty-one soldiers who then became Zetas [the violent Mexican criminal syndicate].

According to Sicilia, this school is the shame of military ethics because it is the face of legalized criminals, the opposite of what armies across the world have been.

Before arriving at Fort Benning, the Caravan for Peace was greeted by a group of members of the Trinity Presbyterian Church, whom they asked for help in stopping the drug war.

In his speech, the leader of the Caravan recalled the recent massacres in the country, like that in Colorado, and made it clear that he did not come to try to impose an agenda, but only to ask that the U.S. take responsibility for supporting the Mexican government in the drug war.
“This is the United States’ responsibility, we come to ask them for help, we must stop this war, because all it’s doing is killing and destroying, creating gains for the most perverse figures, the leaders of violence, and benefiting the mafias,” he stated in front of the white Presbyterian pastors who offered breakfast to the Caravan.
One of the pastors acknowledged that the U.S. has managed to avoid the violence in Mexico.
“In this country we haven’t had the courage to face the truth. We have funded the destruction of Mexico and the deaths of many here. For many years we have kept up a drug war that was a failure from the start,” he said.

He also said that each time a criminal leader dies, a few dozen arise because they do business and there are many poor people who are looking for ways to make money: “We are creating our own destruction, and Mexico’s.”

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