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Oct 22nd
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Need to Cut Spending?! Close the SOA! PDF Print E-mail
Call on Barack Obama to Issue an Executive Order to Close the School of the Americas

 

“Every dollar spent on the training of repressive foreign militaries is a theft from the poor,” said 22-year-old Venezuelan-American Maia Rodriguez before she was arrested in front of the White House.

Maia was one of the “White House 27,” a group of 27 SOA Watch activists who put their bodies on the line in a nonviolent direct action in April of this year. The group staged a die-in on the White AprilDieIn.jpgHouse sidewalk to call on President Obama to shut down the SOA and to put an end to the U.S. militarization of the Americas. Maia and 14 co-defendants will take the issue to court in the coming weeks. They are facing the criminal charges of “failure to obey a lawful order” and “blocking and incommoding.” Despite facing a criminal trial, the resisters are not intimidated. 

“The real criminals are those responsible for the use of the torture manuals at the SOA and those who continue to promote ‘military solutions’ for social problems,” says Nico Udu-gama, SOA Watch’s field organizer and one of the defendants. “We will use the courtroom to make that clear.”

The direct action was part of a larger effort to increase pressure on Obama to close the SOA by Executive Order and to raise the issue of the SOA and U.S. policy towards Latin America in the public discourse.

69 Members of Congress send a letter to Obama

In August 2011, a letter signed by 69 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives was delivered to President Obama. The 69 signers, including Representatives John Lewis from Georgia, Ron Paul from Texas and James McGovern from Massachusetts, are calling on the President to shut down the SOA/WHINSEC.

In addition to observing that closing the school would save “$180 million over [the next] ten years,” the signatories highlight the failure of the Pentagon to address issues raised over ten years ago, when popular opposition to the school forced its very temporary closure and renaming. The signers note, “In 1999, when the U.S. House of Representatives voted by a bipartisan margin to close the SOA, the Pentagon moved the following year to close the SOA one morning, and the very next morning open the WHINSEC, on the same site, with the same faculty and classes.”

Major religious communities, human rights groups and labor unions like the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the United Auto Workers, the United Steelworkers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the NAACP, the Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ and over 100 U.S. Catholic Bishops are all advocating for the closure of the SOA. Amplify their voices by calling the White House and adding yours at 202-456-1414 now!

While grassroots activists urge President Obama to do the right thing and to close the SOA, the Pentagon is lobbying hard. The Pentagon wants to keep the doors of the SOA open because it serves as a tool for maintaining powerful influence within the armies of Latin America and, in turn, on the people and policies of those their countries, training soldiers to perform the Pentagon’s dirty work.

We are up against a giant, but if we keep our hands on the plow and our eyes on the prize, justice will prevail and the SOA will be shut down once and for all. The struggle to kick the U.S. Navy out of Vieques, Puerto Rico, took decades but the people won. The Mothers of the Disappeared marched for years in front of the presidential palace in Argentina to demand to know what happened to their disappeared childeren. They were laughed at and scorned. Their founder was disappeared and murdered (her body washed up on shore and was identified years later with DNA tests). Now, thanks to their persistence, some of the SOA-trained Argentine generals responsible for human rights atrocities will finally stand trial. For years, Evo Morales played a part in Bolivian social movements, which were on the receiving end of SOA violence. Now Evo is the president of Bolivia. In the U.S., the struggles for the abolition of slavery and for women’s suffrage took many years but were successful in the end. As people who care about social justice today, we follow in the footsteps of many civil and human rights organizers around the world.

There’s another opening to close the SOA and to cut off funding for failed military programs: as grassroots activists, we need to take advantage of the current debate about deficit reduction and put pressure on the Congressional twelve-member committee that is tasked with recommending $1.5 trillion in cuts to the budget. To contact the committee’s members, visit www.SOAW.org/legislative.

Please do what you can. We have an historic opportunity to bring about progressive change by pushing to defund the SOA/WHINSEC or to close the notorious school by Executive Order.

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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.

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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.  

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