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Feb 23rd
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Why we return to the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia PDF Print E-mail

 ...and our plans for Washington, DC 


November 2010 will mark the 20th anniversary of the vigil that brings together religious communities, students, veterans, community organizers, musicians, puppetistas and many others.  

The November Vigil to Close the School of the Americas at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia will be held from November 18-21. The annual vigil is always held close to the anniversary of the 1989 massacre of Celia Ramos, her mother Elba and six Jesuit priests by SOA graduates at the University of Central America in El Salvador. 

The killing continues...

so our resistance can’t stop. Graduates of the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) continue to use the skills taught at the school to wage a war against their own people. In Colombia, the SOA/ WHINSEC promotes “military solutions” that have killed thousands of peasants, unionists, religious workers and others who speak out for the rights of the poor, and have displaced almost 5 million people. 

In 2009, SOA graduates overthrew the democratically-elected government of Honduras in a military coup, to prevent a poll that would have asked if Hondurans wanted a popular constitutional referendum to take place. A brutal repression of the Honduran pro-democracy resistance continues. 

Our work has unfortunately not gotten any easier and U.S. militarization in Latin America is accelerating. The continued operation of the SOA and the expansion of US military bases in Latin America are examples of the ongoing threats of a U.S. foreign policy that is using the military to exert control over the people and the resources in the Americas. 

Ft. Benning VigilOver the past two decades, SOA Watch has grown from a handful of people, fasting for justice at the gates of Fort Benning into one of the most dynamic cross-continental movements against militarization. Thousands have been educated and mobilized to speak out against U.S. foreign policy and to engage in nonviolent direct action. New layers of activists are joining our movement, including numerous youth and students from multicultural, working-class communities. 

The annual November Vigil plays a significant role in our movement. Just as the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina have sustained their vigil at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, we continue to commemorate the people who have been martyred by graduates of the School of the Americas at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, and we continue to demand justice. 

SOA Watch organizer and torture survivor Hector Aristizábal writes about the November Vigil as “not just a protest, but a distinctive place of healing for us as individuals and as a culture. 

Every year at the SOA Watch vigil a sudden village is created. Elders come with groups such as Veterans for Peace and The Wailing Grandmothers, youth cross the country in buses from colleges and high schools, and children are brought by their conscientious parents. As this village is created, the grounds of Fort Benning are transformed from a place that trains assassins to a place of initiation into political awareness.” 

Taking our Resistance to Washington, DC in 2011 

Like all movements for social justice, we have to constantly evaluate, adjust and advance our strategies and tactics. 

Following extensive discussions in the movement, the SOA Watch Council decided, after weighing all the feedback that they received, that the November vigil will stay in Georgia and that we need to continue to converge on the base, where the killers are being trained, until the School of the Americas is closed once and for all. 

In addition, SOA Watch is going to mobilize for a gathering in Washington, DC in the Spring of 2011 that will take our demands to the halls of Congress and other places where military and foreign policy decisions are made. We’ll be joining with the Latin America Solidarity Coalition’s 5th Conference, concentrating our creative direct action and lobbying efforts where the policy makers are, to shut down the SOA/WHINSEC and to resist the increasing U.S. militarization! of the Americas By first creating the world we wish to see in November as we remember the fallen, we will then carry those visions with us to DC in the Spring!

“If the abolition of slave-manacles began as a vision of hands without manacles, then this is the year; if the shut down of extermination camps began as imagination of a land without barbed wire or the crematorium, then this is the year; if every rebellion begins with the idea that conquerors on horseback are not many-legged gods, that they too drown if plunged in the river, then this is the year.  So may every humiliated mouth, teeth like desecrated headstones, fill with the angels of bread”.

(from Imagine the Angels of Bread, Martín Espada)

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Featured Article
Download the Spring 2016 issue of Presente

The Spring issue contains mobilizing information for the SOA Watch Border Convergence, which is taking place from October 7-10, 2016 at the US/Mexico border in Nogales, and also focuses on recent developments in Latin America and within the SOA Watch movement.

Click here to download a PDF version of the Spring 2016 issue.

As this issue of Presente went to print, our hearts were heavy. The assassination of our dear friend and comrade Berta Cáceres, and the increased repression against social movement groups, have left us shocked and saddened. SOA Watch Latin America liaison Brigitte Gynther traveled to Honduras the morning after she learned about the assassination and has been coordinating SOA Watch’s response together with our partner groups on the ground. If you do not already receive Urgent Action emails from us, please click here to sign up now.

The recent decision by the U.S. judge in North Carolina to extradite one of the perpetrators of the 1989 massacre at the University of San Salvador gives us hope that justice will prevail in the end. It will take all of us to create change! Please join us as we mobilize to the U.S./Mexico border from October 7-10, 2016!

Other articles in this issue cover a protest by SOA Watch in Chile against US bases in Latin America, the FBI surveillance of SOA Watch, updates from Colombia and Mexico, news about the first Border Patrol agent to receive training at WHINSEC, background information about Direct Action, the Youth Encuentro in Guatemala, and more.

Download this issue of Presente here.

SOA Violence
Image SOA Grads Responsible For UCA Massacre Face Extradition, Military Officers Arrested in El Salvador The 1989 massacre of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos, and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador, that galvanized opposition to the U.S. relationship with Central American death squads and that sparked the movement to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas, is making headlines again.
International Human Rights Encuentro in Bajo Aguán, Honduras

fathermila.jpgInterview with Father Fausto Mila in Honduras

SOA Watch participated in the International Human Rights Encuentro in Honduras in February 2012. Laura Jung spoke with Father Fausto Milla, a religious leader in the Honduran movement who has been persecuted by the State of Honduras.  

Local Organizing
For 25 Years the SOA Watch Movement has been on a Journey A journey to live into the radical hope that marked the lives of  14-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba, and Jesuit priest dissidents Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J., Joaquín López y López, S.J., Amando López, SJ.
Direct Action
Moving the 2016 November Vigil to the Border? The 2015 Vigil is still going to take place at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, but there are discussions within the SOA Watch movement to move the 2016 vigil to the militarized U.S./Mexico border. What do you think?
Image Latin American Resistance & U.S. Solidarity Latin America has a 500 year history of resistance to the violence of colonialism, militarization, and elite domination. It is a legacy to treasure and honor.
SOA Watch in Latin America
SOA Watch Chile Declassified List with Names of WHINSEC Graduates

By Pablo Ruiz, Equipo Latinoamericano of SOA Watch
SOAW Chile achieved an important victory; to declassify the names of over 760 Chilean soldiers who took courses at the School of the Americas/WHINSEC during the past decade.

Image Looking Back to Move Ahead I was asked to write a piece about people of color organizing to attend the 2009 SOA Watch vigil and about our plans for 2010. I believe everything happens for a reason.
Ron Teska Ron Teska, a stone carver and organizer from Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania worked on this piece of art throughout the November Vigil weekend in Georgia.


Love is so short and forgetting is so long.

-Pablo Neruda


Book Tip

Disturbing the Peace book cover



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