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May 22nd
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Beyond the Shadows PDF Print E-mail

Beyond the Shadows, empowered by the Movement:
The Power of Solidarity and Hope

As one of the newest members of the Movement, I was excited and a bit afraid to participate in my first Vigil. Having spent all of my life living in the shadows as an undocumented immigrant, I was concerned with the police presence at Ft. Benning due to previous police harassment and arrests.

As a Colombian citizen, I understood the importance of converging and standing up against the oppressive foreign policy that has caused decades of turmoil in my country and in so many others.  That sense of responsibility to my family in Colombia, and to those who continue to feel the impact of the SOA, empowered me to set aside my personal worries and come out of the shadows in order to represent not only those all across Latin America but also the millions of undocumented immigrants in the US who live in fear every day of their lives.  

In preparing for the Vigil, I had the privilege to work with several groups, from religious organizations to student activists, who make the Vigil a success year after year. In getting to know each group, it was easy to see the strength of the Movement and the dedication of everyone involved. The energy and support that these groups provide every year is immeasurable, and I believe that embodies the spirit of the Movement.  Thanks to each participant and the tireless efforts of the organizers, we hosted over 70 workshops and 13 musical groups and had many powerful speakers!

On the first day of the Vigil, my colleagues and I joined with over 300 activists in protesting the dehumanization of migrants and the US’s flawed immigration system in Lumpkin, Georgia, a small, impoverished rural town that is home to the largest private for-profit immigrant detention facility in the United States. We met in front of the courthouse where judges send innocent men to live in inhumane conditions due to their immigration status. From the courthouse we marched over a mile to the detention center. Although we could not see it because it was blocked by a caravan of buses, we could still feel the negative energy it projected. As we heard from a woman whose husband was wrongfully detained for almost a year, tears ran down my face.  She recounted the countless days she worried about her husband being stopped by federal agents while he was just trying to make a living for their family. To be able to stand on the other side, now that I am a DACA recipient (conditionally allowed to live/work in the U.S. through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and share in the same struggle with those inside, fighting for their basic human rights, has made my dedication to the Movement stronger than I ever thought possible.

The Vigil ended with a solemn funeral procession to honor the lives lost due to the violence caused by SOA graduates. As their names were called out, the crowd replied with “Presente!” (“You are here, you are not forgotten!”). It was another emotional moment to hear just some of the many, many names of those who were killed, tortured and disappeared at the hands of SOA soldiers, all while knowing that Colombia has the most graduates of any other country. Throughout the weekend, it was the spirit of hope and resiliency of the crowd that reinforced my faith that we can stop the injustices.We can, AND WE WILL, CLOSE THE SOA! Hasta la justicia!

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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.


We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise...

-Archbishop Oscar Romero


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Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer's book cover



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