Last week I walked out of federal prison, flew home, and was greeted by my smiling parents at the airport gate. Unlike most other prisoners, I didn’t have to take a 14 hour Greyhound bus; or use my bright red, inmate ID card; nor wear my prison clothes en route. My privilege returned to me the moment of my release. Friends picked me up and drove me to the Westin hotel for a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream. Although it was July 11th and there was a heat wave burning through the country, I was still cold from my incarceration.
The unfortunate actions in Cajamarca well demonstrate that while Latin
America as a whole has greatly changed since the end of the Cold War,
human rights and democracy concerns still exist today. Peru has
historically been one of the biggest senders of personnel to the School
of the Americas, and in recent years the bulk of Peru's SOA students
have been members of the National Police. While the American people have
a right to know if the police involved in the deadly violence in
Cajamarca were trained by SOA/WHINSEC, cross-checking the names of the
students with those of the abusers is impossible, as the US Department
of Defense refuses to release the names of WHINSEC students, citing "the
historical stigma" that has been attached to graduates of the school.
Of course, the stigma exists only because so many SOA/WHINSEC graduates
have been involved in abuses, which is why SOA Watch will continue to
fight get the names of the students released and have the school finally
WHINSEC Board of Visitors Meeting - June 27-28, 2012
On June 27 and 28, 2012, the news that Ecuador had pulled out of the SOA made shock waves in Columbus, Georgia. During those two days, SOA Watch
activists – including Fellowship of Reconciliation’s John
Lindsay-Poland, former SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience Louis Wolf and
members of SOA Watch-Columbus – spoke out at the SOA/WHINSEC Board of
The activists inquired about the transparency
of the school that neither releases the names of the graduates and
instructors, nor knows how to track them after they leave. Ecuador’s
decision to leave the school left a cloud of doubt over the meeting.
Letter from jail, by Theresa Cusimano, SOA Watch prisoner of conscience
"As you may recall, I entered frustrated and disillusioned. This
second time around certainly reminds me of my incredible privilege of
being born into an upper middle class family. It reminds me why justice
work is central to our existence. Sharing cannot be an option... it must
be required if we are ever to pretened we are a merciful community of
On April 16, 2012, human rights activists took to the streets around Capitol Hill in a spirited parade, culminating a week of trainings, workshops, music and lobbying to close the School of the Americas. Police on foot, bicycle, motorcycle and in vehicles prohibited free passage of the march, limiting SOA Watch activists abilities to be heard and seen by Congressional staff. Thirteen were arrested as they tried to lead the march down Independence Avenue in front of the Congressional buildings, but were impeded by dozens of police who blockaded their passage and expression of free speech.
Inside Congress, students, teachers, labor leaders and activists pressed their Representatives to cosponsor HR3368, the bill to suspend and investigate the SOA/WHINSEC. Amplify the voices of those who are meeting with their Members of Congress today, by calling your Representative's office in Washington, DC. Just call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (the phone number is (202) 224-3121), provide the zip code of the place where you live, and the operator will connect you to your Representatives' office. Click here for a call script.
The weekend's conference, strategy sessions and concert brought organizers together around issues of de-militarization, joining the thousands in Cartagena, Colombia, who attended the People's Summit of the Americas.
We will not be silenced. Despite police censorship of our message, the movement to close the SOA/WHINSEC will continue to demand a closure of the School of Assassins and an end to militarization. Our efforts are fueled with the knowledge that we will prevail!