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SOA Watch Update December 7, 2005

Vigil a success!

With numbers too big to be ignored, we succeeded in sending a strong message that the SOA must be closed ? and recharging our energy for the struggle ahead. The November Vigil to Close the SOA received extensive news coverage in Latin America, Europe and North America. There is no doubt: We are closing the SOA. See a short video by Rebecca MacNeice with footage from the Vigil and the nonviolent direct action! Read news stories about the weekend. See photos by Linda Panetta. View slideshows of the weekend by Mike Haskey.

Struggle against torture continues

Yesterday SOA Watch received word that a group of U.S. Christians has begun a ?March on Guantanamo to visit Prisoners on Hunger Strike.? Twenty-five U.S. citizens, in the nonviolent tradition of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker, set out yesterday from Santiago, Cuba on a solemn 50-mile march to Guantanamo Bay. They seek to ?defend human dignity? by visiting with the hundreds of detainees who have been held for more than three years under horrific conditions by the U.S. government. The group plans to arrive outside the gates of the U.S. naval base and prison complex on Guantanamo Bay on December 10, International Human Rights Day. Participants in the group include a Jesuit priest, a Catholic nun, Frida Berrigan, daughter of the late antiwar activist Phil Berrigan, and representatives of a number of Catholic Worker Communities. They are requesting entry into the compound to visit and interview the detainees as a ?work of mercy? in keeping with their faith. If refused, as United Nations inspectors were just two weeks ago, they will hold a fast in solidarity and a vigil to pray for the immediate abolition of torture by all nations. Take Action! Sign on to a letter to President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Guantanamo Naval Base Commanding Officer Mark M. Leary, requesting that the marchers be allowed to visit those incarcerated in the Guantanamo Bay prison. To stay informed, find out about actions you can take, download factsheets and flyers and read the marchers? online blogs, visit For additional actions and campaigns against torture, visit: Stop the Torture Stop Torture Now The Torture Abolition Survivors & Support Coalition (TASSC)

2006 Delegations to South America with SOA Watch

  • Uruguay & Argentina: Closing the SOA from Latin America?s Southern Cone -- March 19-30, 2006 On this delegation, co-sponsored by SOA Watch, Nonviolence International, Marin Interfaith Task Force on the Americas and Global Exchange, participants will meet with Uruguayan and Argentine government officials to urge that no more soldiers be sent to the SOA/WHINSEC and with Fr. Roy Bourgeois and other SOA Watch leaders who are part of a separate trip to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay to campaign for Latin American countries to stop sending students to the SOA/WHINSEC. The delegation will also commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Argentine military coup, and will meet peace, human rights activists and family members of the disappeared. Participants will learn of worker cooperatives, economic justice struggles & environmental movements and will discover how independent media in Uruguay and Argentina play an important role in the movement for justice and peace. Read more and apply.
  • Colombia: Labor Rights & Human Rights -- July 7-17, 2006 Colombia is enduring a brutal armed conflict that is fueled by billions of dollars of U.S. foreign aid and SOA training. The primary victims are civilians ?- unionists, indigenous leaders, peasants, and human rights workers. Over 4,000 trade unionists alone have died since 1986, and Colombia has become the most dangerous country in the world to be a unionist. The murder, torture and disappearance of labor activists and others represents the ?collateral damage? of civilians caught between the armed actors in Colombia?s war. SOA Watch, Witness for Peace, and author Lesley Gill invite you to Colombia to examine the consequences of U.S. policies for working people. We will talk with the combative workers of Coca-Cola and Nestle and meet with various labor unions and human rights groups in Bogot?. We?ll also travel to Barrancabermeja, the center of the Colombian oil industry, where there is a rich tradition of labor and grassroots activism. Participants on this delegation will learn about the social, political and economic roots of the conflict in Colombia, and will listen to first-hand testimony from trade unionists and other Colombians. The group will understand what role labor unions play in the struggle for human rights and will hear about the consequences for ordinary Colombians of U.S. military training at the SOA. Read more and apply.

    Support the Prisoners

    On November 21, 2005, 40 people were arrested in acts of civil disobedience calling for the closure of the School of the Americas. Five of these individuals are currently in custody at the Muscogee County Jail. You can write to Christine Gaunt, Jonathan Robert, Priscilla Treska, Louis Vitale and Jerome Zawada by sending a letter to: [Inmate?s Name] Muscogee County Jail 700 10th St. Columbus, GA 31901-2899 Please note that you may only address a letter to one inmate at a time. Read the full report by the SOA Watch Legal Collective. Learn more about political prisoners and the prison industrial complex in the US:

    Save the date! April 23-25 in Washington, DC

    Join with other SOA Watch activists from around the country and visit your Representatives and Senators in Washington, DC on SOA Watch's Lobby Days, April 23-25, 2006. As soon as the summer of 2006, a vote on the School of the Americas will come up in Congress. We already have over 120 co-sponsors of HR 1217, the legislation introduced by Rep. McGovern that would close and investigate the SOA/WHINSEC. We need to build on the momentum of the Vigil with increased pressure on members of Congress! Come to DC for several days of legislative trainings, lobbying, networking and more. Help us to build crucial support for the upcoming vote to close the SOA! Read more and download a flyer.