Help Stop Repression in Oaxaca & Other Updates Print

SOA Watch Update
December 7, 2006

  • Updates & News from Latin America
  • Support the SOA 16
  • SOA Watch Legislative Update
  • SOA Watch Strategy Meeting & Lobby Day

  • Oranize to Help Stop Widespread Government Repression in Oaxaca

    In May 2006, Oaxaca?s state-wide teachers? union initiated a strike and non-violent occupation of the city center, demanding better pay and work conditions, as well as improvements to the state?s educational infrastructure. At dawn on June 14, state governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (popularly referred to as URO) sent in state police to violently break up the ongoing, peaceful teachers? protest. The brutal police action, which included the firing of tear gas from helicopters onto the crowd below, sparked widespread indignation and outrage in many Oaxacans. The repressive tactics backfired resoundingly, and teachers had retaken the city center by nightfall, pushing back the police?mostly through the forces of their numbers and determination.

    More importantly, the violent police action sparked a widespread, broad-based, non-violent popular movement. URO has awakened a sleeping giant?thousands of students, housewives, small business owners, workers, professors, professionals, campesinos, intellectuals and artists have come together to demand the governor?s resignation. And they have formed the People?s Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO), made up of at least 350 different civil organizations working in arenas of indigenous issues, sustainable community development, human rights and social justice. They are working to build a transparent, inclusive, participatory political system?true democracy from the grassroots.

    Since the conflict began more than 5 months ago, 17 people have been killed, including U.S. journalist Brad Will, shot in the chest by plain-clothed police while videotaping their attack on a neighborhood barricade defended by people sympathetic to the popular movement. On November 9, leaders of the People?s Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO) publicly asked local leaders of the Catholic Church to provide safe refuge after receiving death threats.

    The situation in Oaxaca has become increasingly volatile and violent with hundreds of activists, human rights leaders and community organizers arrested, disappeared and killed. The state sponsored repression as executed by the Federal Police to control a social movement on the rise such as the APPO is a clear example of how the practices taught at the SOA/WHINSEC are put into practice.

    Read more about Oaxaca and what you can do to help

    Zapatistas Call for Oaxaca Solidarity Events on December 22!

    We encourage you to take action in your community, find out about local events in solidarity with the people of Oaxaca by checking your local Indymedia, El Enemigo Comun, or the Oaxaca Solidarity Network.

    Join the call for solidarity actions on December 22nd, take part in an existing event or organize your community for non-violent protests at your nearest Mexican consulate demanding an end to government sponsored violence and repression in Oaxaca. Click here to find the Mexican Consulate nearest you.

    Read about the connections between the SOA and repression in Mexico

    SOA Graduates in the News

    After decades of civil wars, dictatorships and social and political unrest, most Latin American countries have, in the past 20 years, undergone peaceful transitions towards democracy. The re-organization of civil institutions and the reinstatement of political freedom have empowered the social movements that were once silenced under military rule. Thanks to these social movements and the efforts of survivors of repression and human rights activists, many of those who abused their power and committed gross human rights abuses during the "dirty wars" are either currently in prison or awaiting trial. In this context, and as documents and testimonies surface, we are constantly reminded of the roles that the U.S. government and the U.S. Army School of the Americas played in protecting and or aiding military dictatorships that safeguarded U.S. interests throughout Latin America.

    To this day, SOA graduates constantly resurface in trials and testimonies related to human rights violations. The year 2006 alone has seen ten SOA graduates connected to kidnappings, murder, torture, and massacres make headlines in the news and we can be sure that the list will only continue to grow in the following months.

    This past November, ex-Chilean military officer Enrique Sandoval confessed to the murder of the first underage victim of the military dictatorship in Chile, fourteen year old Carlos Fari?a Oyarce. Carlos was kidnapped from his home in La Pincoya on October 13, 1973 and was killed execution-style by three bullets to the head. His body was then burned and buried in an undisclosed location, making Carlos another of Chile's many disappeared and one of the 79 underage children who fell victim to the brutal regime led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. His remains were found 27 years later during an excavation in the West end of Santiago. The confession was part of a trial led by Judge Zepeda. Enrique Sandoval and Chilean officer Com. Lopez Almarza have been convicted for Carlos' kidnapping and murder and could face prison sentences.

    A few months prior to the murder and the military coup of September 11, 1973, Enrique Sandoval had attended the School of the Americas, then located in Panama for "Combat Arms Orientation 0-37".

    Read more about this case and other SOA Grads in the news

    The SOA 16: Support those facing prison for speaking out against the SOA

    Since protests began at Fort Benning in 1990, people in the SOA Watch movement have made decisions to put their bodies and freedom on the line by publicly defying the laws which prevent political speech on Fort Benning. Participating in civil disobedience has allowed hundreds of people to bring the case against the SOA/WHINSEC into the U.S. court system and to take action in solidarity with those most affected by SOA violence.

    On Sunday November 19, 2006, 16 human rights activists decided to take the protest to close the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) onto the Fort Benning Military Reservation. Grandmothers, homemakers, college students, religious workers, a fitness equpiment specialist and a piano tuner make up this diverse group of witnesses for human rights.

    The 16 were held at Ft. Benning and charged for unlawful entry. Fifteen of the 16 arrested were released after bail money ($500 - $1,000/per person) was posted. One person, Margaret Bryant-Gainer, opted to remain in prison, awaiting trial; she is being held at Muscogee County Jail in Columbus, Georgia. The 16 defendants will appear in federal court in Columbus on January 29, 2007 to put the SOA/WHINSEC itself on trial. We encourage all SOA Watch supporters to come to Columbus, Georgia to show your support for the SOA 16. On Sunday, January 28, we will celebrate a Festival of Hope, a gathering to honor the prisoners of conscience, to celebrate their actions and to further strengthen our community. The event will begin at 7 pm in the Howard Johnson Presidential Ball Room.

    Read More about the SOA 16

    What you can do:

    Take Actions in solidarity with the Prisoners of Conscience

    Make a Donation to help us with trial costs

    SOA Watch Legislative Update

    As you may know, the midterm elections of 2006 were a huge victory for SOA Watch and our issues. After the final tally, over 30 of our June opponents lost their seats in the House giving us an incredible opportunity for legislative success in the 110th Congress!

    GET STARTED EARLY! - Use some free time you may have over your holiday break to start researching your Member of Congress if they are new and/or prepare for a meeting in your legislator's district office in January. Visit the website of the House of Representatives Clerk to see a list of all of the new members of the House and who your Representative is.

    If this is your first time doing legislative actions for SOA Watch, the DC office has extensive information on your region and it's history of support on Congress. Contact us and ask questions!!!

    For more information on scheduling meetings with your legislators or information about the legislative campaign, contact Pam Bowman, our legislative coordinator at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 202-234-3440, and visit the Legislative Action Index on our website.

    Join us in DC in February: SOA Watch Strategy Meeting & Lobby Day

    The inspiring rise of powerful social movements in Latin America and the Bush administration's policies in the Middle East and Latin America that have negatively affected millions of human lives, have all played a significant role in igniting a widespread anti-war and pro-human rights movement. In this context, the movement to close down the SOA/WHINSEC has grown in unprecedented numbers and spread across the hemisphere like wildfire.

    Because we have gained so much momentum and energy, it is important that we continue in our efforts to fight for the closing of the SOA/WHINSEC on every front. The SOA/WHINSEC's continued existence is an affront to millions of Latin Americans who have suffered from the disappearance, torture, rape and assasination of their loved ones by the hands of SOA graduates. With a new Congress and new governments in Latin America that are held accountable by the people, we are closer than ever to our goal of shutting down the "School of Assassins".

    On Sunday, February 18, 2007, activists representing groups from around the country will come to Washington, DC for a day of reflection, discussion, and strategizing around the campaign to close the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) and plan the next steps we need to take to continue building a more just world.

    We invite all our friends and supporters to join us on Monday, February 19, 2007 to attend the grassroots lobby training which will prepare activists from around the country to flood the halls of Congress on Tuesday, February 20, to create awareness and educate our legislators on the SOA/WHINSEC and the devastating effects of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.

    Read more about the SOA Watch Strategy Meeting and Lobby Day

    We encourage you to start making travel arrangements and come join us in February!:

    Travel and Transportation Information

    Housing in and near Washington, DC