News from the Americas (US, Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, Guantanamo) Print

"We who believe in Freedom cannot rest until it comes," the famous line from the civil rights anthem "Ella's Song" by Bernice Johnson Reagon, holds true for SOA Watch these days. Since the powerful November Vigil at the gates of Fort Benning, SOA Watch activists have joined the massive mobilizations against police killings of people of color in the US, mobilized in solidarity with the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, pushed back against impunity for US torturers, delivered a letter to Barack Obama and held vigils in 4 cities on International Human Rights Day, and more.

There's a lot happening, and a lot to do! This SOA Watch email newsletter is providing updates about recent developments throughout the Americas:

1) Ayotzinapa No se Olvida - La Lucha Sigue!
2) Honduras: "Drug War" Militarization/SOA Grads
3) Turn in US-Cuba Relations
4) BREAKING NEWS: Obama  Signs Sanctions against Venezuela, CALL White House NOW
5) End the Occupation of Haiti
6) Time to Close Guantánamo

January 5-7, 2015: Enrique Peña Nieto in DC
Ayotzinapa No Se Olvida, La Lucha Sigue!
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Weeks of intense  mobilizations in Mexico carry on as new information about the Mexican federal police’s involvement in the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa surfaced and more questions about official claims that all of the kidnapped students were killed and burnt in Cocula arise. Friends and relatives of the abducted students were again attacked by the federal police while preparing a solidarity concert on Sunday morning. As the repression continues, protests in Mexico AND the US continue as well!

A series of high profile massacres, the incarceration and repression of activists, and the collaboration between the state and organized crime, has unmasked the true face of  Enrique Peña Nieto's administration. President Obama has finally weighed in by ... welcoming the Mexican President for a visit to the White House and doubling down on the US' disastrous Drug War policies!?!?

SOA Watch has been active in bringing attention to the recent events in Mexico and the US' role in them through email updates, online actions, our “Greatly Missed” poster campaign and by organizing the Washington, DC vigil and petition delivery to Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) that was part of the nationwide "USTired2" actions on 12/03/14.

We will continue to do so during Peña Nieto’s visit in Washington, DC as part of a coalition that will “not Welcome” him on January 5-7, 2015! Join Ayotzinapa parents, SOA Watch, #USTired2 , Mexican@S Sin Fronteras and hundreds, if not thousands, on January 6th between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm in front of the White House for a Day of Protest. Mexican Human Rights defenders, including a teacher and parent of a disappeared Ayotzinapa student plan to travel to the US to be part of the protest. Lobbying of key Senators and a National Call-In Action are also in the works for January 5-7! Stay tuned for more details or contact our Advocacy Coordinator at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you want to participate in the protest or grassroots lobbying.

School of the Americas Graduates on the Forefront of Repression
Honduras - "Drug War" Militarization Continues while US Funded & Trained "Special Forces" Implicated in Drug-Trafficking

50 members of the new, elite, US funded, trained, and vetted special forces TIGRES unit in Honduras have been suspended after 8 TIGRES officers and 14 TIGRES agents stole $1.3 million during a drug trafficking operation. The TIGRES are a capstone of Honduras' US-backed President's efforts to dramatically militarize the police. With much fanfare, they underwent special training by the US Special Forces Group 7 and Colombia's Jungle School with the US Ambassador personally attending their graduation. This massive example of corruption, with high ranking officers stealing and distributing money amongst themselves just five months after their US training, shows the complete failure of US "vetting" to justify US military/police training and funding to Honduras' corrupt and repressive regime. Given that militarization and human rights abuses continue unabated, it is time the US cut all military/police aid to Honduras.

It was also announced that 2-time SOA graduate General Julian Pacheco will become Honduras' new Secretary of Security, marking further military control as it is the first-time a military general has occupied this position. Notably, General Pacheco's coursework at the SOA included a course on Psychological Operations. Former Honduran President Mel Zelaya – who was ousted in the 2009 SOA-graduate led coup – summed up the militarization occurring today in Honduras in a recent interview: “Honduras is a military base, it is the United States who loans us Hondurans some territory to live; the United States dominates absolutely everything... economic policy is through international institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and the Military Police are the security policy through the Pentagon and Southern Command.”  Read more here

Barack Obama and Raul Castro Announcements
Turn in US-Cuba Relations

cuban-flag-5-faces The remaining three of five prisoners known as the Cuban Five, a group of Cuban intelligence officers falsely convicted of espionage conspiracy against the US government in what has been criticized as a highly prejudiced and unfair court case in Miami in 2001, were released in a prisoner swap between the Cuban and U.S. government this Wednesday. In return an unnamed US intelligence officer, jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, and Alan Gross,  a US government subcontractor held in custody since 2009 for his participation in a controversial “democracy building” USAID program aimed at destabilizing Cuba’s government, were returned to the US. The prisoner release was accompanied by a public statement from Barack Obama indicating a landmark move in US-Cuban relations that have been in a stalemate for decades.  In his address, Obama called for putting an end to an outdated and failed foreign policy model towards Cuba. Similarly, Raul Castro released an announcement expressing his openness to resolve some of the differences with the US government but without sacrificing any of Cuba’s principles. All of which points to a first step towards reestablishing diplomatic ties between the two countries, including a long overdue but still limited loosening of the travel and trade embargo/blockade against Cuba that was instated over 50 years ago. This major shift invites for a moment of cautious celebration!

Are U.S. Sanctions Against Venezuela the Trade-Off for Cuba?
A Wrong Turn for Diplomacy: Call the White House

As President Obama announces long-overdue policy changes toward Cuba, other developments point to the continuation of myopic, Cold War policies toward Latin America. The US Congress has largely been silent as Mexico convulses from 100s of thousands of human rights violations facilitated by U.S. military and political support, yet they hastily passed a factually-challenged sanctions bill against Venezuela based on ideology, not facts, last week. Unfortunately, Pres. Obama has just signed the bill into law. Please see recent op-eds in Al Jazeera and the New York Times for more facts and background on this important issue.

SOA Watch asks those able to make a 1 minute phone call demanding a true change in US policy toward Latin America do so RIGHT NOW by leaving a message with the White House to 1) Express opposition to the sanctions against Venezuela, and 2) Demand that President Obama mitigate the damage by "normalizing" relations with Venezuela as it will do with Cuba. We even have a call script for you:

White House phone #: (202) 456-1111

My name is __________ and I'm a resident of ____________. I am calling to express my deep disappointment with President Obama's signing of the Venezuela sanctions bill. A clear majority of Americans do not support the right-wing Miami lobby on Cuba and applaud the President decision to normalize relations with that nation. I thank the President for this long-overdue policy change toward Cuba, but do not believe the President should bow to the Cuban lobby and Senators Rubio and Menendez’s radical foreign policy agenda on Venezuela either. The right-wing groups and legislators that are so recalcitrant on Cuba are the same people that have generated false claims and faux concern for human rights in Venezuela. This bill is a step backward for U.S.-Latin America relations just when a new opportunity for true change and mutual respect manifests itself. There is however, steps the President can take to mitigate the damage of this Cold War era bill. I urge President Obama to "normalize" relations with Venezuela, just as he intends to do with Cuba. An exchange in ambassadors with Venezuela would be the first step in this direction so that relations and trust with not just Venezuela, but all of Latin America have a real chance to improve. Thank you.

UN Troops and Haitian Police Fire on Protests in Port-au-Prince
End the Occupation of Haiti

Haitian police and members of the United Nations peacekeeping force (MINUSTAH) clashed with protesters in Haiti's capital Port-Au-Prince last week. AFP and the Associated Press reported that security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition at large crowds that assembled in the Haitian capital to demand new leadership.

MINUSTAH is now in its 10th year, having replaced a US military force that had occupied Haiti in the wake of the illegal coup d’etat that ousted the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Classified U.S. State Department cables, made public by Wikileaks, have revealed that the U.S. government places a strong strategic importance on MINUSTAH’s ongoing presence in Haiti, and in particular its inclusion of troops from several Latin American governments – in part because the Mission represents a regional initiative that excludes Venezuela, yet involves several left-leaning Latin American countries.A growing chorus of civil society groups in Haiti, as well as politicians, labor unions, human rights activists, social movement groups, writers, and others have begun to urge a timetable for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal.

Prison and Torture Camp in Cuba
Time to Close Guantánamo

It's time for the United States military to shut down the Guantánamo prison camp as well as the illegal Guantánamo US military base, and to return the land to Cuba. Join the Witness Against Torture community in Washington, DC from January 5-13, 2015. This January 11th, 2015, marks the beginning of 14 years of torture and indefinite detention.

Right now, 136 men remain imprisoned , half of whom have been cleared for release but continue to be held without charge or trial. We celebrate the freedom of those recently released. Yet, we must continue to pressure the Obama administration to fulfill its promise to finally shut down the prison and charge or release all those detained.

In light of these events, including the release of the Senate's torture report and Brazil's National Truth Commission report, a lot of work is cut out for us in 2015. Consider making a donation to the SOA Watch movement in support of our efforts towards more peace and justice in the Americas!