SOA on Trial in Costa Rica's Supreme Court Print
SOA on Trial in Costa Rica's Supreme Court

Today at precisely 2:05 pm President Obama's plane will touch town in Costa Rica's Juan Santamaría Airport where he will be met by President Laura Chinchilla. He will then head in Cadillac One - escorted by a fleet of limousines - to a summit of presidents of the Central American Integration System (SICA). He won't have to worry about traffic: roads will be closed, public workers were given the day off, and no public appearances were scheduled to avoid those who might "forget all courtesy that should be given to such a distinguished visitor", as clarified by Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo.

SOAW-Costa Rica, active members of the San José, Quaker Peace Center, aren't fretting about missing Obama's motorcade They're too busy pursuing their passion: keeping Costa Rica's lone lighthouse of peace aglow in an ever increasing sea of militarization. But they do worry that behind the Cadillac's 12 centimeters of ballistic window glass, President Obama will be carrying an agenda that pushes Costa Rica and all of Meso America in the opposite direction, towards increased militarization.



This agenda also worries hundreds of human rights organization throughout the continent who feel that the U.S. has used the War on Drugs as a pretext to militarizing citizen security in Meso America. Not only has increased militarization failed to keep citizens secure, but it has led to increasing human suffering in the region. In Mexico alone 80,000 men, women, and children have been killed by drug-related violence and the militarized response in the past six years. These organizations call on the presidents to instead look at the root causes of violence. The military training provided at the SOA is obviously one of these root causes, please ask your Member of Congress to support the current bill to close the SOA (or thank them if they already have signed on)!

A small delegation of US SOA Watch activists recently visited Costa Rica. We had come to try - again - to get Costa Rica to withdraw its police from the School of the Americas/WHINSEC, a school synonymous with murder, massacre and coups in Central America. I say again, because Costa Rica actually did withdraw from the WHINSEC- back in2007, albeit for only 6 months. President Oscar Arias announced the withdrawal to us at a meeting arranged by this same group of extraordinary women.

However, the State Department and Pentagon swung into action for 6 months to convince President Oscar Arias to reverse his decision, as revealed by Wikileaks. Arias quietly agreed to again send Costa Rican police to train at WHINSEC, as long as he didn't have to announce it publicly.

But, the Costa Rica SOAW group didn't give up. Young Costa Rican lawyer Roberto Zamora stepped forward to help them. He has brought a case before Costa Rica's Supreme Court to call for the prohibition of sending Costa Rican police to WHINSEC, based on Arias' commitment and Costa Rica's constitution that prohibits an army and by default, military training.

This Costa Rican court case opens a new and strategic legal arena to carry forward the struggle to close down the SOA, an arena that has many fronts. Only one week ago, another legal case challenging the secrecy of the SOA brought victory, when a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that the Defense Department must release the names of those who have studied and taught at the SOA. SOA Watch activists took the U.S. government to court after these names were hidden from the public, and they won! This is an enormous victory for the SOA Watch movement and for human rights in the Americas!

Two years ago I wrote a few lines when receiving the Wikileaks cables. They have kept me going when the road looks long and dark. I share them again, with all of you who are part of the tiny steps that keep us on the path to peace: When we join together as small grassroots groups from around the Americas to resist militarization and promote a culture of peace we are, quite simply, very powerful. So much so, that the world’s largest military giant not only takes notice, but sometimes has to scramble to keep up as we take the lead.

Lead on, Costa Rican peace activists!