In February 2012, the SOA Watch movement will take the US
Government to court over its refusal to disclose the names of graduates and
instructors at the SOA/WHINSEC.Following the 2001 name change from the "School of the
Americas" to "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security
Cooperation", independent grassroots investigations found that the "new" school continued to train known
human rights abusers, and that WHINSEC instructors were implicated or investigated in
their countries for human rights abuses and other crimes.In response, the US Government broke its
nearly 60-year tradition of releasing the names, and instead, opted to hide the
names from public scrutiny.
Solemn voices lifted up the spirits of those killed by graduates of the School of the Americas and filled the air as the music team sang out their names from the stage during this morning's funeral procession in front of the entrance to Fort Benning. The crowd of thousands responded, "PRESENTE!"
Joining actor Martin Sheen on stage this weekend was Georgia NAACP State President Edward DuBose, who told the crowd many had asked him why he'd come here.
“I made a promise to Troy Anthony Davis that I would continue to speak out against any system that takes any innocent life,” DuBose told the crowd. “However long it takes, we'll be here. We're on this road until justice is served!”
United Auto Workers President Bob King also addressed the gathering, lifting up the voice of organized labor standing in solidarity with workers all across the Americas.
Social movement leaders from Colombia, Haiti, Honduras and Costa Rica joined the thousands of activists who made the trek to this year's vigil. Jimena Paz, who helped organize the SOA Watch Encuentro in Venezuela, and who, as a young member of the Honduran Resistance, has lost friends to the SOA-led repression campaign, shared her compelling story from the stage.
Dr. Luther Castillo, a young, Afro-indigenous Garifuna doctor and community organizer, directs the foundation For the Health of Our People ("Luagu Hatuadi Waduheñu" in the Garifuna language), and is the founder and director of the First Popular Garifuna Hospital of Honduras. Exposing the effects of SOA training of Honduran soldiers since the 2009 graduate-led military coup, Luther shared that he and the hospital have been subject to many threats of closure and other attacks by the military and coup government.
Jani Silva, a community organizer from La Perla Amazonica, Putumayo, Colombia, addressed the reality of US foreign policy in her country, which has sent more than 10,000 soldiers to be trained at the SOA with chilling results. Mario Joseph, a prominent Haitian human rights lawyer, is representing political prisoners and victims of political violence in Haiti. He spoke from the stage, urging solidarity with Haitian struggle to keep the army from being brought back.
Also present among those giving testimony to SOA violence was Nelly del Cid, one of the Sisters of Mercy Associates from Honduras. She shared her deep concerns about the huge number of femicides since the coup. Costa Rican lawyer and peace advocate Luis Roberto Zamora also gave updates about the lawsuit he filed against the Costa Rican government for sending police to the School of the Americas/WHINSEC.
Theresa Cusimano, 43, of Denver, Colorado, crossed the line for the second time following the morning's solemn funeral procession. She was arrested by military police and faces up to six months in prison. Click here to read a message from Theresa!
See Photos from the November Vigil
Tom Bottolene of MN SOA Watch shared these images from the weekend.
Watch the video of the stage performance by JAROCHICANOS, a Son Jarocho group from Chicago:
Friday, November 18:2 arrested in front of Stewart Detention Center at the immigrant rights vigil in Lumpkin, Georgia. SOA Watch understands that many immigrants to the United States are victims of U.S.-sponsored military training and atrocities in Latin America. In our fight to close the School of the Americas and to end U.S. militarization in the Americas, we continue to work towards a world that is free of suffering and violence. The SOA and the unjust immigration policies are parts of the same racist system of violence and domination. Now more than ever, we must be joined together in our fight to create a better world.
Click here to read Father Roy Bourgeois' op-ed about Haitian President Michel Martelly's plan for the reconstitution of the Haitian army, which was published yesterday. Martelly punted his army reconstitution plan - saying a commission needs to be drawn up first. A new survey shows that a big majority of people "strongly disagree" that the Haitian army should be brought back, while less than 1 percent "strongly agree" that it should. Stand with the Haitian people in the anti-militarization struggle. Prominent Haitian human rights lawyer Mario Joseph, who is representing political prisoners and victims of political violence in Haiti, will speak from stage at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia this afternoon.
Stewart Detention Center Vigil Report Back
Written by Hendrik Voss
Saturday, 19 November 2011 03:37
Friday morning 270 activists for immigrant justice marched from the Stewart County Courthouse to the Stewart Detention Center, the largest privately owned detention center in the United States. Gathered in the center square of Lumpkin, GA, the activists heard from community organizers and faith leaders from across the state, who urged the crowd to stand strong in their fight to close the Detention Center.
Xochitl Bervera of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and veteran civil rights organizer Theresa El-Amin from the Southern Anti-Racism Network spoke of Black and Brown unity, reminding the crowd that just as our African American ancestors were enslaved and forced to work to produce our food, our immigrant brothers and sisters are mistreated and exploited in fields and factories today.
Following the speeches, the activists marched a mile and half to the Detention Center, carrying with them a clothesline hung with over 900 orange and blue shirts, each bearing the name of an immigrant from Dalton, GA, who had been detained or deported within the last year. At the entrance to the Detention Center, the crowd regrouped to hear a song sung by family members of detained undocumented, lead by America Gruner of Dalton, GA.
Afterward, the recently reunited Guzman family spoke of their struggle to free Pedro Guzman, an immigrant who spent 20 months in the Stewart Detention Center before being released in May. Pedro and his wife Emily Guzman expressed their thanks to the movement that supported them, and vowed to continue their fight for human rights for all immigrants.
Moments later, the crowd began singing “We shall overcome” while activist Chris Spicer from Chicago, IL, crossed the police barricade in an act of civil disobedience in solidarity with the immigrants detained within the prison walls. Chris, who was recently released from serving a six-month sentence for crossing the line at the 2010 Vigil to Close the School of the Americas, was brought before Judge Wayne Ammons, who set the bond for this criminal trespass charge exorbitantly high at $5000. Responding to news that detainees were fasting to commemorate this fifth annual vigil at the gates of the Stewart facility, Chris announced that he too would be fasting, "to purify this unjust system. The SOA and inhumane immigration policies are part of the same racist system of violence and domination."
Georgia Detention Watch organizer Anton Flores, from the Alterna Community, was wrongfully arrested at the close of the action, after media and legal observers had left. Despite video evidence proving Anton did not trespass, the police refused to stop harassing him, and only after the evidence was presented to Judge Ammons were his charges dismissed.
Here are some beautiful photos of the event taken by Dean Rogers of Stone-Rogers Photography:
The Honduran Supreme Court voted 12-3 on October 20, 2011, to reject abuse of authority charges against now-retired Generals Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, Luis Prince Suazo, Venancio Cervantes, Miguel Garcia, Juan Pablo Rodriguez and Carlos Cuellar. The charges stem from the 2009 coup in which the democratically-elected president, Manuel Zelaya, was overthrown and flown to Costa Rica.
As a result of the case, SOA Watch has been able to determine that of these six generals officially linked to the orchestration of the coup, 4 were trained at the notorious School of the Americas. These are Generals Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, Luis Prince Suazo, Miguel Angel García and Carlos Cuellar.
Is It Time to Shutter the Americas "Coup Academy"?
TIME Magazine, October 17, 2011
Few of the hemisphere's training centers can
boast as many ex-leaders and government strongmen among its graduates.
For many schools, this would no doubt be an excellent marketing pitch.
Not so for the School of the Americas (SOA). None of its famous alumni
reached power by way of the voting booth. Some are even behind bars now,
either convicted or facing prosecution in their respective countries
for abuse of power.
En 1946, Estados Unidos puso en marcha una escuela para entrenar a militares latinoamericanos. Hace años que sectores críticos denuncian que la institución forma a muchos de los violadores de derechos humanos del sur del continente. Aprovechando la crisis económica, han lanzado una campaña en el Congreso para pedir su cierre.