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Father Roy's Biographical Information PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nico Udu-gama   
Thursday, 20 June 2002 00:00

Father RoyFather Bourgeois has been a priest since 1972 and is best known for his work with the School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch), a nonviolent organization that exposes the U.S.-based school, once called School of the Americas, and its role in training Latin American soldiers in repressive tactics and deploying them throughout the region.

Father Roy founded the SOA Watch in 1990 after witnessing the killings of thousands in Central America in the 1980's, but his conscious awakening and calling to priesthood happened immediately after his experience serving in Vietnam. He joined the Maryknoll Society, an American Catholic organization, and traveled to La Paz, Bolivia, where he was ordered to leave the country after speaking out against the oppressive government of General Hugo Banzer Suarez, which arrested, tortured and killed many dissidents. From there he went to El Salvador. After witnessing numerous human rights abuses that the Salvadoran government, with the financial support and military tactical aid of the United States government, committed against its own population and fellow members of foreign religious organizations, Bourgeois focused on where these soldiers were receiving their training: the School of the Americas.

The SOA Watch grew from a handful of protesters to hundreds, and eventually into thousands today - with international recognition. Bourgeois and SOA Watch were nominated as a candidate for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. The School of the Americas, feeling national and international pressure, changed its name in 2001 to the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). Graduates of the school include former Bolivian dictator Hugo Banzer Suarez, and Honduran General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, who was a vital player in the recent coup there that ousted President Manuel Zelaya in June 2009. The coup not only brought an end to a democratic government, but it has also turned Honduras into a nightmare, with the highest homicide rate in the world. Political repression is among the worst in the hemisphere: journalists, opposition activists, and LGBT activists have been murdered with impunity. Graduates of the SOA, who head state security forces under the illegitimate post-coup regime of Porfirio Lobo, work in complicity with private security forces to repress small farmers and cooperatives from defending the lands that provide their sustenance. Repression by SOA graduates also continues today in Colombia, Mexico, and throughout the Americas.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) introduced the The Latin American Military Training Review Act." The bill seeks immediate suspension and investigation of the school. Efforts to move the Obama administration to close the school by executive order are underway as well.

In 2012, Father Roy traveled to Ecuador and Nicaragua, where he met with President Correa and President Ortega, who announced during their respective meetings that Ecuador and Nicaragua will no longer send soldiers or police to be trained at the School of the Americas/ WHINSEC. Ecuador and Nicaragua join Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and Venezuela, who are also no longer sending troops to the SOA/WHINSEC. Father Roy is also an outspoken proponent of women's ordination since "There will never be justice in the Catholic Church unless women are allowed to be ordained." "Who are we to say that a woman's call [to priesthood] isn't valid?" said Father Roy. "God initiates the call to priesthood, and like racism, sexism is a sin", he added.

Also visit the website www.roybourgeoisjourney.org, which is being maintained by former SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience Margaret Knapke.
Last Updated on Monday, 12 May 2014 03:22


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