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Justice Not Impunity! November 22-24 PDF Print E-mail

We will upload photos throughout the day to this page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/soaw/

The 2013 November Vigil energized the movement. The weekend gathering was vibrant and featured creativity in many different facets. Many participated for the first time in the annual vigil. On Sunday, November 24, thousands walked in a solemn funeral procession and commemorated those who have been killed by SOA/ WHINSEC graduates and U.S. militarization. The procession transitioned into an upbeat celebration of life and resistance, after Oscar Romero's last sermon was blasted through the stage speaker system, and a banner with our message, and thousands of soap bubbles crossed over the barb-wired fence.

The vigil weekend included for the first time a Peoples Movement Assembly (PMA) on Saturday morning. As part of the PMA, hundreds of movement activists gathered in small groups and discussed questions about the role of nonviolent direct action in the context of an increasingly militarized prison system. SOA Watch activists are taking the discussion back to their communities. The questions that we are focusing on are: is there a need to shift to other creative ways of continuing the tradition of direct action? What are your thoughts on nonviolent direct action and prison witness considering both our movement’s history and today’s context? The other main question focused on our grassroots organizing strategies. The conversations continue and we are looking forward to everyone's input.

Stay tuned for a report back from the November Vigil, the Peoples Movement Assembly, the rally at the Stewart Detention Center, and more!
Also, SOA Watch will converge on Washington, DC from March 30 - April 3, 2014! We hope to see you there.

The ROOTED IN RESISTANCE banner goes over the fence:

Click here for more photos.

10:57: The solemn funeral procession to commemorate the victims of SOA violence begins.

Walking with the lead banner in the solemn funeral procession: SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois, SOA Watch organizer Maria Luisa Rosal, H.I.J.O.S. Mexico director Edith Lopez Ovalle, SOA Watch Chile Activante Camila Leiva, Guatemalan survivor Adriana Bartow.

The stage MCs announce that two Honduran campesinos were killed last night as they returned from an election training, as both victims had official electoral duties for today's election. They were ambushed by masked gunmen with high caliper weapons as they returned home on foot. They died immediately from the shootings.

The incident occurred between 7:30 and 8:00 pm, in the community of Carbon, in the Cantarranas Municipality. Maria Amparo Pineda Duarte was the elected President of the Cooperative. Julio Ramon Maradiaga was an active member. The community is the site of an ongoing land struggle in the area, and both victims were active members in the LIBRE party.

10:30am: Nieves Ayress, a torture survivor from Chile, makes an appeal to the soldiers: "Don't listen to the generals, don't attack the people."

10am: Lorena Cabnal, a Xinka woman from Guatemala, who is a member of the Mesoamerican Women in Resistance, and the co-founder of the Association of Indigenous Women of Santa María Xalapán, talks about the resistance to mining and militarization.

9:50am: Hector Aristizábal, a Colombian artist, actor and human rights activist, who survived torture at the hand of the School of the Americas trained Colombian military, addresses the crowds from the stage.

9:46am: The stage team is reading an update from Honduras, were 18 members of the LIBRE opposition party of Xiomara Castro de Zelaya – including candidates – have been murdered since May last year. Today, the Honduran presidential elections are taking place. (see Saturday report back below for an action alert).

Sunday morning, 9:38am: 36°F (feels like 28°) but sunny and our spirit is high! People from across the United States and from across the Americas are streaming into the vigil site.

Report back from Saturday:

Thousands gathered on Saturday, November 23 at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia (click here for photos from the rally). The rally to close the SOA and to resist U.S. militarization was preceded by a People's Movement Assembly (PMA) at the Columbus Convention Center, where hundreds of people discussed important movement questions, and shared hopes, dreams and strategies for the future of SOA Watch in 20 groups (click here for photos from the PMA). Tonight, we will gather in the Columbus Convention Center for workshops, panels, trainings, film screenings and a concert.

Click here to read the SOA Watch Media Release from Saturday, November 23, 2013.

Tomorrow, on Sunday, we will again converge on the main gates on Fort Benning Road in a massive funeral procession to commemorate the victims of SOA violence and to celebrate the resistance.

While we are gathered here at the gates of Fort Benning, the presidential elections in Honduras are underway. Honduran social movements have felt the brunt of SOA repression since the SOA graduate-led military coup in 2009. Over 200 social movement activists have been murdered.

Three days ago SOA Watch activists, who are in Honduras to observe the delegation, were detained for four hours at a road block. Last night, the LIBRE party headquarters in Tegucigalpa were raided by armed police. International observers have been harassed. SOA Watch is a member of the Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN). Click here for an HSN action alert.

We will continue to stand in solidarity with the people of Honduras and fight together with them for justice, dignity and self-determination.

We are in contact with our friends in Honduras and will keep you updated throughout the weekend.

For a full schedule of the November Vigil weekend events, visit

Please make a donation to help cover the costs of renting professional stage and sound equipment, renting the Columbus Convention Center, and making the event successful!

Share this event on your Facebook page or your Twitter account!

Justice Not Impunity!
Converge on Fort Benning! November 22-24

We are only a few days away from the 2013 November Vigil at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia. We are excited for this year's program--the many workshops, musicians, and speakers who make the event possible--and we are steadfast in our resistance to militarization and Empire!Have you arranged your trip to Fort Benning? Check out the November Vigil website for more information. Need more information on how to get to the vigil? Check out our Transportation Information page, including our carpool resource, the SOA Watch Ride Board. This year, three upcoming presidential elections in Latin America have special significance for the movement to close the SOA/WHINSEC, as Chile, Honduras, and El Salvador stand up for democracy against the ongoing suffering that has befallen these countries after coups d'etat led by SOA graduates.

We're heading to Fort Benning, Georgia, from November 22-24 to keep up the pressure to close the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC). We carry with us the strength of social movements in Latin America who are turning their back on the SOA. We won't stop!

Will you join us? Read about why we mobilize.

Thousands will gather at the gates, with speakers, music, street theater, workshops and networking with people from across the Americas. We come together at the gates of Fort Benning - where the killers are trained - to demand an end to US militarization and to impunity. The Vigil weekend is your opportunity to connect your communities with those across the hemisphere who are resisting Empire. In addition to the main funeral procession on Sunday, November 24, we will again have rallies, songs of resistance, 70 + workshops, and more.

And this year, on Friday, November 22, we will once again kick off the weekend joining our sisters and brothers to demand the closure of private detention prisons, like the Stewart Detention Center, and to highlight the connection between militarization and forced migration. Come early!

Check our our NEW Vigil website and STAY connected! (or else someone at the SOA Watch office is not going to be a very happy camper... and you know, we're tired of camping out here in the office!)


Activate Your Community!

Getting ready for the Vigil is easier than you think. Each of us can be an organizer when we talk to our family and friends about US militarization. It all starts with you!

Here are four things you can do right now:

  • Tell your friends about the Vigil!
  • Order a set of 100 bilingual Vigil palmcards at 100 for $6 which are a great way to get people talking
  • Invite a speaker! SOA Watch Activante in Honduras Brigitte Gynther and Latin American Liaison Lisa Sullivan will be hot on the speakers trail, and are looking to come to your community! Contact Dominique at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you can host a speaker.
  • Plan your trip to Columbus and find places to stay.
  • Unable to attend the vigil?  Learn how to host your own vigil, or learn of other vigils happening in your community.

    Obama's new military base in Chile PDF Print E-mail
    An SOA Watch delegation protested this week against the installation of a military training center that is situated in the port city of Concón in the central Chilean province of Valparaíso, and paid for by the U.S. Southern Command. Watch a video of the protest here: http://youtu.be/zuUj1VMChMg

    While local authorities and the U.S. military claim that Concón will be used for training armed forces deployed for peacekeeping operations, human rights groups believes the base is aimed at controlling and repressing civilian populations. For Chilean civil society, which has longtime experience with U.S. interventionism going back to the days of the Pinochet military dictatorship, the Concón base raises eyebrows. The actual design of the base - which simulates an urban zone with eight buildings as well as sidewalks and roads - suggests that the Chilean military is interested in repressing protest. According to United Press International, Concón "is growing into a major destination for regional military trainers and defense industry contractors."

    From Concón, Chile to the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia:
    Shut Down the SOA!

    Led by SOA Watch Latin America Coordinator and torture survivor Pablo Ruiz, a delegation of SOA Watch activists is currently on the ground in Chile, where they are standing with tens of thousands of Chileans, in commemorating the martyrs whose lives were lost by the dictatorship. From these ashes of the past, a new Chile is arising, thanks to the valiant efforts of Chilean students and Mapuche people who refuse to accept the the neoliberal model imposed by Pinochet and designed by US economists.

    From November 22-24, 2013, we will carry our protest to the place where the killers are still being trained: Fort Benning, Georgia. Join torture survivors, and social movement activists from Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and from across the Americas and take a stand against the School of the Americas and oppressive U.S. foreign policy. The November Vigil has evolved into one of the largest annual anti-militarization gatherings in the hemisphere, with concerts, workshops, strategy sessions, protests, street theater and nonviolent direct action. Make your travel plans now and join us from November 22-24, 2013 at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia!

    For more information, visit SOAW.org/november

    Update: August 9th Day of Action PDF Print E-mail
    Monday, 12 August 2013 18:04

    Last Friday, August 9th, SOA Watch supporters in four cities held actions to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the first direct action to call attention to the training of repressive military forces at Fort Benning.  These actions were planned together with SOA Watch staff canvassing the streets of Washington DC, and founder Roy Bourgeois fasting for 24 hours at the gates of the SOA/WHINSEC in Georgia.


    We would like to thank all of the community members who came together and mobilized for August 9th, and send our support to all others who used the auspicious date as a time to organize against militarization and oppression.

    Without the support of the grassroots, popular movements cannot carry the torch of justice into the halls of power.  Public convergences such as these help to spread the word about the School of the Americas/WHINSEC, and the issues which are connected with it.  Continue taking it to the streets, gente, and never stop speaking truth to power.


    Guatemalan Constitution Court Annuls Ríos Montt Verdict PDF Print E-mail
    Tuesday, 21 May 2013 21:08

    Guatemala’s high court has overturned the genocide conviction of former U.S.-backed dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. In the guilty verdict delivered by Guatemalan courts on May 10, Ríos Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity in the targeted extermination of at least 1,771 indigenous Ixil Mayan people during his fifteen month rule from 1982-83.

    However, in a 3-to-2 ruling Monday, May 20, the constitutional court dismissed the court proceedings going back to April 19. On that date the court suspended the trial due to disputes between judges over jurisdiction. The court presiding over the case against Ríos Montt had been influenced heavily by lobbyists which supported this powerful figure in the Guatemalan military and political sphere. One of the most influential of these was Guatemalan business association CACIF.

    The Constitutional Court’s approval of the annulment is based on a technical procedure. Ríos Montt remains in a military hospital where he has been since last week’s conviction. His legal status undefined, it is likely he will be put on house arrest.

    This decision serves as a reminder that the struggle for justice and reparations is never over, and therefore cannot accept delay as defeat, nor corruption as an inevitability. The very fact that this historic trial came to fruition is testament to peoples’ determination and willingness to move forward, unyielding, in stride toward a brighter tomorrow. Those in Guatemala who twenty years ago cried ¡Nunca más! have witnessed the product of their persistence, and will continue to move onward, for, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once expressed, "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."

    Last Updated on Friday, 31 May 2013 15:02
    Caso Cerrado... Rios Montt Found Guilty of Genocide in Guatemala! PDF Print E-mail
    Efraín Ríos Montt Found Guilty of Genocide!
    The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards Justice.

    SOA Watch celebrates the guilty verdict against the former Guatemalan dictator and School of the Americas Graduate Efraín Ríos Montt, who was sentenced to 80 years in prison. We celebrate and stand in solidarity with the Ixil Mayans, the survivors of the genocide and crimes against humanity committed under his dictatorship (1982-1983).

    General Ríos Montt was the first ex-head of state to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in his home country. Doubts arose throughout the 7 weeks of harrowing trial testimony whether or not the Guatemalan justice system would be capable of withstanding dark political forces and threats of violence to deliver the only result supported by the evidence. We applaud the judge's bravery and strongly worded verdict, which has created an echo of hope throughout the Americas and the rest of the world.

    SOA Watch renews the demand that justice also visit those who trained, equipped, and facilitated his genocidal regime. School of the Americas graduates formed the backbone of the presidential cabinets under the dictatorships of both Montt and his predecessor, Romeo Lucas García. They were also deeply involved in the Guatemalan Intelligence Agency (D-2), in the formation of the notorious civil defense patrols, and in planning and executing "Operation Sofia". This military maneuver wiped out some 600 Mayan villages, part of a broader campaign "of genocide against groups of Mayan people," as concluded by the 1999 UN-backed truth commission. Montt is the first ex-president to be found guilty of genocide by a Latin American court---it indicates that the tide is turning against impunity in the region, however, we must also hold those in the United States accountable, who trained and equipped the right-wing military dictatorships and made the genocide possible.

    After a meeting with Ríos Montt in Honduras during the US-backed Dirty Wars in Central America, then-president Ronald Reagan stated that Ríos Montt was “a man of great personal integrity . . . totally dedicated to democracy”. The next day, December 6, 1982, the Kaibiles, the Guatemalan special forces which have extensive ties to the SOA, entered the village of Las Dos Erres, systematically raped the women, and killed 162 inhabitants, 67 of them children. Current President of Guatemala Otto Peréz Molina, also a graduate of the SOA, spent much of his time in military service as a member of the Kaibiles. This military unit was developed by the Guatemalan government in 1974, and its initial leader was a fellow SOA graduate by the name Pablo Nuila Hub. Also during the military career of Molina, he served as Montt's Ixil field commander, under the alias Major Tito Arias. For a more detailed SOA Watch report about the Kaibiles, click here.It was the current administration of Peréz Molina who, fearing Molina's complicity in much of the evidence brought forth in the trial against Montt, who stood to benefit from the temporary suspension of the trial. Thankfully justice prevailed and the trial resumed.

    But since today represents a new dawn for the Ixil, Guatemalans and other survivors of systematic violence, we celebrate with hope in our hearts and a renewed sense of purpose. SOA Watch continues to call for the closure of the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) and for an investigation into the connections between U.S. military training and human rights abuses in Latin America. We will continue fighting in the streets, as well as our judicial and legislative branches until we also see justice for the victims of the SOA. Please contact your Member of Congress to urge them to close down the SOA: Click here.

    As a commemoration to the inevitability of justice coming to light, we also point to our recent victory in the courtrooms of the United States, in which a federal judge from California has ordered that the Pentagon grant an SOA Watch request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demanding the release of the names of graduates and instructors from the SOA/WHINSEC, which we have previously been denied. Read more about the victory here.

    Human rights activists throughout the Americas are calling on President Obama to shut down the School of the Americas and for Congress to cut the funding for the school and to conduct a Congressional investigation into the connection between human rights abuses in Latin America and U.S. military training. From November 22-24, we will take this message with us to the gates of Fort Benning, where Ríos Montt and scores of other human rights abusers were trained. With the strength of social movements across the Americas, we will take direct action against the focal point of several atrocities committed under the banner of US foreign policy, the School of Americas/WHINSEC.

    P.S. Listen to "Guilty," by Rebel Diaz, perfect song for the occasion.

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