Thousands will Rally to Demand Closure of U.S. Military Training School for Latin Americans and Call for an End to U.S. Military Intervention. Print
WASHINGTON ? Motivated by the indictment of human rights abusers in South America, the Bush Administration's permissive policies towards torture and plans to resume military aid to a select group of Latin American countries, thousands of people around the country and the world are preparing for hemisphere-wide actions on November 17-19 calling for the closure of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) and an end to U.S. military intervention in Latin America.

The SOA/WHINSEC, a military training facility for Latin American military and police located at Fort Benning, Georgia, made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Despite this shocking admission and hundreds of documented human rights abuses connected to soldiers trained at the school over its 60-year history, no independent investigation into the training facility has ever taken place.

Thanks to an ongoing grassroots campaign, support for the SOA/WHINSEC continues to erode. Earlier this year, the governments of Argentina and Uruguay announced that they would cease all training at the school, becoming the second and third countries to announce a cessation of training. In January of 2004, Hugo Chavez announced that Venezuela would no longer send troops to train at the school.

"Our tax money needs to go to serve human needs, not militarism", said Judy Cumbee, a peace activist from Alabama who is part of the Living the Dream March from Montgomery, AL to the Vigil at Ft. Benning, GA.

The annual Vigil to close the SOA/WHINSEC at Ft. Benning has grown from a dozen people in November of 1990 to more than 19,000 in 2005. This years program will feature music and speakers from Latin and North America, including torture survivors, civil rights activists, and social movement leaders from Argentina, Guatemala, Colombia and El Salvador; Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking; Charles Steele Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; a delegation of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and a line-up of diverse musicians who will offer Folk, Latin, Hip-Hop, Andean music and more.

The events will culminate on Sunday, November 19 with a symbolic funeral procession to the gates of Ft. Benning. Many will negotiate a barbed-wire fence to enter the military base in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. Since protests against SOA/WHINSEC began more than a decade ago, 211 people have served federal prison sentences. Simultaneously on the weekend of November 17-19, demonstrations will take place in Ecuador, El Salvador, Paraguay, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Arizona and California.