Moving Forward in 2014, A Letter from María Luisa Rosal Print
Written by María Luisa Rosal   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 16:29
It is with great honor and enthusiasm that I introduce myself to each and every one of you today as the movement's new Field Organizer. I officially joined the SOA Watch family on October 21, 2013 – almost 3 months ago – and I have hit the ground running since!

Just one month into my work as Field Organizer, I made the amazing journey down to the gates of Ft. Benning for our annual November Vigil for the very first time. For me the entire Vigil – from the vigil at Stewart Detention Center, to the workshops and the People's Movement Assembly, to the concerts, to the  Saturday rally and the solemn funeral procession, not to mention having had the honor to have met with so many of you – overwhelmed me with many emotions. Through laughter and tears, I felt completely surrounded by love and a spirit of solidarity, and I left the Vigil energized and inspired to continue my work.

Just two weeks after the November Vigil, I traveled to Colombia, to accompany our sister organization, the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, in celebrating its 25th anniversary and International Human Rights Day, as well as accompanying the communities they work with. As part of their Ethics Commission, SOA Watch has had the honor of accompanying indigenous, Afro and campesino communities – all affected by forced displacement, massacres, disappearances, assassinations and other human rights violations at the hands of the police, military, paramilitary, death squads, African palm oil industry and mining companies that operate in the country with absolute impunity – in their demands for truth, memory, justice and peace.  I had the honor to hear the voices of community leaders as well as children from the communities from the Chocó, as they converged in Bogotá to demand their right to consultation, in light of the recent installation of the military base, Batallón de Selva No. 54 – built without prior consent of the community, and to dignify the historical memory of each community through artistic expression.

Once again, I traveled back to Washington, DC, my heart and conscience filled with inspiration and awe of the the level of courage and expression of the human spirit with which the people of Colombia – a country torn apart by over six decades of violence – struggle to survive, even in the face of living in the country that currently sends the largest number of soldiers to be trained at the SOA/WHINSEC. How great can our movement be if we continue our struggle with the same resiliency that our brothers and sisters to the south do every day, even in the face of difficult and unjust living conditions and unimaginable repression? Without a doubt, there is much work to be done, but at the same time, we have come so far!

While I am so happy to say that to date, six countries have pulled out of sending their military and police to the SOA/WHINSEC, our work at SOA Watch today continues to be as urgent and relevant as ever, especially in the face of continued social repression and militarization across the Americas. Together, I know that we can continue to activate entire communities across the United States to build a grassroots culture of peace and YES – change our US foreign policy towards Latin America. I will be right there next to each of you in supporting this just  and urgent endeavor!

As you may know, 2014 is such an important year for SOA Watch as well as Latin America, as seven Latin American countries hold presidential elections. Follow the work that we do as we start the year off by taking a delegation to El Salvador from January 27 to February 4 to observe the 5th democratic elections since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992.  Likewise, from February 15 to February 23 we will travel to Guatemala to learn more about the historic genocide trial against former dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt, learn first hand  the devastating social and environmental impacts mining has had on indigenous and campesino communities, and meet with human rights organizations and government officials to discuss Guatemala's participation in the SOA/ WHINSEC.

This year, we will kick off the spring season with our April Days of Action! Over the course of the week, join us as we converge on Washington, DC to lobby and meet with State Representatives and Senators, participate in workshops, mobilizations, and our second People's Movement Assembly! Let us build from the hope and optimism we collectively created at this past Vigil at the gates of Ft. Benning! I am so proud of the hard work and contributions that each of you has put in to this movement. I never cease to be surprised and inspired by what we can accomplish together. Thank you!

Let's make 2014 another amazing year full of challenges, hopes, achievements and growth! I look forward to mobilizing with you in April!

in solidarity,


María Luisa Rosal