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Son of Honduran Human Rights leader assassinated PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Monday, 31 October 2016 15:27

In Honduras, the son of a prominent human rights leader was shot dead yesterday in what appears to be the latest assassination targeting campesino organizers fighting massive palm oil plantation companies in the valley of Aguán in northern Honduras. Fernando Alemán Banegas was shot several times as he exited a nightclub in the city of La Ceiba. He’s the oldest son of Elsy Banegas president of the Coordinating Committee of Popular Organizations of Aguán. This comes after two campesino leaders in the Aguán region were also assassinated earlier this month (see our message from last week).

Fernando Alemán Banegas ¡Presente!

Enough bloodshed. Click here to ask Congress to cut off US military and security aid to Honduras!

Last Updated on Monday, 31 October 2016 15:41
Double assassination of movement leaders in Honduras PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Thursday, 27 October 2016 20:35

On October 18, José Ángel Flores, the President of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MUCA) in Honduras Jose Angel Floresand fellow MUCA leader Silmer Dionisio George were assassinated in front of doezens of people as they came out of a meeting.  The Agrarian Platform of the Bajo Aguan denounced that they were murdered by a paramilitary group that colaborates with high ranking military officials.  They also report that the United States Special Forces have trained Honduran special forces units at the 15th Battalion base in Rio Claro, which is linked to the death squads.  Earlier this year, a former soldier with the Xatruch Task Force, which operates out of the 15th Battalion base, reported that the military unit had been given hitlists with names and photos of campesino leaders in the Aguan.

Ask Congress to cut off all US security aid to Honduras NOW!

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 October 2016 20:51
Update from the Convergence at the Border

At the heart of the 2016 School of the Americas Watch Encuentro is increasing awareness of the militarization of the US-Mexico border and Latin America, as well as the criminalization of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and people of color.

We moved our annual convergence this Fall from the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia to the militarized US/Mexico border. The Convergence at the Border took place from October 7-10, 2016 in Nogales, Arizona/ Sonora, at the Eloy Detention Center and in Tucson, Arizona. The change of the location goes along with the broadening of the issue and our expanded fight against US militarization at home and abroad.

Visit SOAW.org/border for photos, videos and more about this powerful encuentro, and read our report back:

Friday, October 7

Hundreds of migrants, students, members of religious communities, veterans, and human rights activists gathered outside of the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, to call for the release of the incarcerated migrants, for an end to profiteering of human suffering, and for justice for all.

Speakers addressed the connection between US militarization in Latin America and forced migration to the United States, and described the horrors of living inside detention centers like private, for-profit CCA-run Eloy.

“To those of you who don’t vote, who don’t change these laws, you are allowing children to die here inside places like Eloy,” spoke Berta Avila, a woman who was detained while pregnant, denied medical care, and who lost her child in detention.

Following the moving speakers and songs of resistance, after the sun had set, the crowd processed closer to the detention center with candles and instruments. Inmates, who had organized on the inside, greeted those gathered on the outside by waving pieces of cloth and turning the lights in their cells on and off, while the crowd outside created a wall of sound, chanting, drumming and singing.

In the Nogales, Sonora side of the border, people came together from all across the Americas. Deported Veterans, the dance group Abya Ayala, migrant aid workers Las Patronas, the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, Brothers on the Road, Border Patrol Victims Network and frontline communities in resistance demonstrated that the war has not been able to separate all our struggles.

“The border is an open wound that we can only close with everyone’s help. Activities like this remind us that more than a region, we are a people injured but not defeated. We are a wounded but honorable people,” commented Ana Enamorado, member of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, who began her struggle after the disappearance of her son, Honduran national Óscar Antonio López Enamorado, in 2010 in Mexico.

Saturday, October 8

Concurrent veteran-led marches led from both sides of the border to the US/Mexico border wall, where a rally with speakers and musicians bridged the high wall.

Shena Gutierrez, from the Border Victims Network, spoke from the stage about the struggle to hold Customs and Border Protection agents accountable. In 2011, Shena’s husband, José Gutierrez, was brutally beaten by CBP agents near a port of entry in Southern Arizona. Since this tragedy, which her husband survived, Shena has become a spokesperson for border communities and victims of border patrol abuse, and inspires and educates border communities about their rights

Also on Saturday, all day in Tucson, Frente X for International Liberation held a plenary, workshops and breakout groups for people of color (POC), re-imagining mutual solidarity against state-sanctioned violence, upholding racial and gender justice. The Encuentro provides a unique opportunity for those most directly impacted by state sanctioned violence in the US, Latin America, and other parts of the world to learn from one another, and begin building inter-racial, transnational solidarity networks. The moral necessity to make the Encuentro accessible to our undocumented family led us to create the POC Space in Tucson, AZ, where people are not forced to traverse a Border Patrol checkpoint in order to arrive.

Partner organization Puente leader Carlos Garcia held a powerful talk on Arizona’s War of Attrition on Migrants and Brown People, giving valuable context on how the crisis in Arizona came about. “When you talk about the territories we’re in, they’re O’odham territories, they are Yaqui territories,” said Garcia. “This was, is, and always will be indigenous land.” Garcia led us through the rise of anti-immigrant legislation and policies since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994, and the concurrent rise of community struggle and resistance that birthed the Puente movement into a force to be reckoned with, which recently was able to defeat 12 out of 13 newly proposed anti-immigrant laws.

"We raise our fist and fight back, but we also have this open hand where we’re trying to counter-balance that attrition. When the state is trying to make your life so miserable that you self-deport, what is it that we need to do so that we’re there for each other, we’re supporting each other. We have our programs, we try to have health programs, community programs, know your rights workshops, anything that helps people feel like they don’t have to self-deport. So we’re stopping our people from being grabbed, put in cages, we’re trying to get them out of cages, and we’re also making them stronger and organised and making sure that they don’t leave."

Saturday afternoon we also participated in the Anniversary Vigil for José Antonio Elena Rodríguez (photo at right by Steve Pavey, Hope in Focus photography) in Nogales, Sonora: starting with a march from the Plaza de las Palomas in Nogales, Sonora to the site where Jose Antonio was killed by Border Patrol forces and a mass with the Nogales Bishop. An interfaith ceremony at the border wall & candlelight vigil was held, and followed by an energizing cross-border concert featuring Charlie King, Colleen Kattau, emma’s revolution, Natalia Serna La Muna, Olmeca, Pablo Peregrina, the Peace Poets, and Son Jarocho.

Sunday, October 9

We commemorated those whose lives were lost as a result of state violence with the traditional SOA Watch ¡No Más! No More! & Presentes at the border wall. Speakers included Shannon Rivers, a member of the Akimel O'odham tribe; Padre Prisciliano Peraza, coordinator of CCAMYN in Altar, Sonora; Carlotta Wrey, a founding member of People Helping People from Arivaca; Hector Aristizabal, Colombian human rights activist and torture survivor; Mariela Nájera Romero and Uriel Gamaliel Guzmán, Las Patronas; Marleny Reyes Castillo, Maria Guadalupe Guereca Betancourt and Araceli; Carlos Garcia, Puente; Frier Tomás González Castillo coordinator of La 72, Hogar Refugio para Personas migrantes y refugiadas, en Tenosique, Tabasco; George Paz Martin, peace and justice and climate activist and educator; and there were musical performances by Francisco Herrera, Natalia Serna La Muna, Gabino Palomares and others. (photos left and below, Steve Pavey)

Following the ceremony at the border wall, more than 200 activists including Father Roy continued their demonstration in a march to the US Border Patrol interior vehicle checkpoint on the I-19 highway 20 minutes north of Nogales. Challenging the legitimacy of such checkpoints, when not only are they notorious for rampant human rights abuses towards Arizona residents but also directly responsible for the deaths of more than 3,000 human beings forced to traverse the desert to avoid them, we lift up Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees all human beings freedom of movement, the right to leave and the right to return to their countries. Calling out, "we remember all the people these checkpoints kill, we can feel their spirits, they are with us still," we staged a nonviolent die-in. Click here to view video clips from the action.

Monday, October 10

We joined the block party that was organized for the Indigenous People Day 2016 at the Global Justice Center in Tucson, Arizona.

Our gathering this weekend reinforced solidarity and the realization that we are going to change the racist system of violence and domination.

Can you make a donation to support our work? We rely on contributions from people like you to see mobilizations like this through.

La lucha sigue,

SOA Watch

Court Refuses to Release Names of Students and Instructors of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly known as the School of the Americas) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Saturday, 01 October 2016 01:25

Pentagon Appealed to Protect Secrecy for Infamous U.S. Military Training School

San Francisco – A divided 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the U.S. Department of Defense and ruled today that human rights activists do not have the right to know the names and military units of foreign security personnel and instructors attending the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), a U.S. military training school located at Fort Benning, Georgia and funded by U.S. taxpayers. In the dissenting opinion, Judge Paul Watford said "Without knowing the actual names of those allowed to attend the Institute, the public has no way of independently verifying if students are properly vetted before enrolling at the Institute, or whether after graduating they engage in human rights abuses in their home countries.  As the majority would have it, the public must simply take the government's word for it that the reform measures mandated by Congress have been effective. This fox-guarding-the-henhouse notion is, of course, completely antithetical to the FOIA's core purpose." Read the court ruling here: SOAW.org/judgment2.pdf

In 2014, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton, of the United States Northern District Court of California, ordered the Department of Defense to release the names of the students and instructors at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly known as the School of the Americas, or SOA), a U.S. military training school for Latin American soldiers that for decades has been connected to torturers, death squads and military dictators throughout the Americas. SOA Watch activists had taken the U.S. government to court over its refusal to release the information, and won. Read the previous ruling by Judge Hamilton here: SOAW.org/judgment

Today’s ruling by the 9th Circuit Court came in response to an appeal by the U.S. Department of Defense.

SOA Watch will continue to push for the release of the names of the graduates and instructors of the notorious institution, and for its closure.

SOA Watch is an independent, grassroots movement that provides citizen oversight of U.S. military training given to Latin American military and police personnel at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of Americas. Through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media, legal and legislative work, the movement works in solidarity with the people of Latin America and the Caribbean for human rights, economic justice, and democracy.

The U.S. Department of Defense has denied Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests by School of the Americas Watch for the names of WHINSEC students and instructors for the years 2004-2010. For the years 1946-2003 the names had always been released when requested. The names are the basis of the SOA Watch database and the means of citizen oversight of the record of SOA/WHINSEC graduates.

Plaintiff Theresa Cameranesi is a member of the School of the Americas Watch Council. She is also a member of the SOA Watch Legislative Working Group and is active in advocating for Congressional investigation of the human rights records of graduates of SOA and WHINSEC. As part of the SOA Watch San Francisco Research Group, she and plaintiff Judith Liteky identified students and instructors at WHINSEC who were admitted for training even though they had been charged with human rights violations.

Plaintiff Judith Liteky, who passed away last month, had been active with School of the Americas Watch since its founding in 1990 in response to the massacre in San Salvador at the University of Central America. On the night of November 16, 1989, a Salvadoran Army patrol entered the University campus and massacred six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter. Nineteen of the military officers cited for this atrocity had received training at the US Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. Judith was a co-founder of School of the Americas Watch San Francisco.

Plaintiff’s Cameranesi and Liteky received the 2014 James Madison Freedom of Information Citizen Award for pressing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Defense to win a precedent-setting ruling that the government may not withhold on national security grounds the names and military unit information of graduates and instructors at the former School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

The SOA Watch plaintiffs are being represented by attorneys Duffy Carolan and Kent Spriggs.

Duffy Carolan is a partner with the San Francisco firm Jassy Vick Carolan. Attorney Carolan has been honored by her peers as San Francisco's Lawyer of the Year in Litigation - First Amendment cases. She has also received the James Madison Freedom of Information Award, a Bay Area honor given to individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the advancement of freedom of expression, particularly freedom of information and open government.

Kent Spriggs is the principal in Spriggs Law Firm, Tallahassee, Florida. Attorney Spriggs has represented individuals in civil rights actions, the majority in class actions. He also works in the field of international human rights, including representing those illegally detained at Guantánamo Bay, and assisted in the analysis of U.S. money used to destabilize sovereign Latin American democracies. He has been a human rights observer in El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia, and Chile as well as Palestine and Afghanistan.

Last Updated on Sunday, 02 October 2016 00:44
Colombia on the road to peace PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sara Koopman   
Friday, 24 June 2016 23:17
Yesterday was the last day of fighting in the world's longest war.

We celebrate the signing of the official cease-fire yesterday between the Colombian government and the FARC guerillas. Colombia's internal conflict officially started in the 1960s, with roots back to the 1940s. As well as being the oldest, it has been the most fatal, with far more deaths and disappearances than any other war in the Americas. A recent report by the official Historical Memory Commission put the conflict related deaths at 220,000 - but even members of the commission considered that to be an extreme undercount because of the danger of reporting deaths. The number of people disappeared is also quite contentious, even between government agencies, but may be around 75,000.

So we celebrate that the parties have signed the cease-fire and ar
e close to signing the full peace agreement that they have been negotiating in Havana, Cuba for the past four years. Yet we mourn that this war happened in the first place and the role that the US has repeatedly played in escalating the conflict, from advising the government to form paramilitaries back in the 1960s, to flooding the country with billions of dollars in military aid, to training more than 10,000 Colombian soldiers at the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC).

Now we need to pressure the US to instead support what will be a delicate transition, and to end its policy of pushing for "military solutions"
. This will be the largest guerilla force that has ever demobilized in the Americas, and they are going to do it much faster than has ever been done before, in a context where there are still large numbers of armed paramilitaries who want to attack them. It's going to be a delicate process that will need a lot of support

We know that peace does not come overnight, and that far too many peace accords fail in the implementation phase. As we celebrate this landmark step for peace in the hemisphere, let us renew our commitment. In this post-accords period Colombians will need our solidarity more than ever!

Click here to watch the Democracy Now! segment about the signing of the Colombian cease-fire agreement.

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