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Obama's new military base in Chile PDF Print E-mail
An SOA Watch delegation protested this week against the installation of a military training center that is situated in the port city of Concón in the central Chilean province of Valparaíso, and paid for by the U.S. Southern Command. Watch a video of the protest here: http://youtu.be/zuUj1VMChMg

While local authorities and the U.S. military claim that Concón will be used for training armed forces deployed for peacekeeping operations, human rights groups believes the base is aimed at controlling and repressing civilian populations. For Chilean civil society, which has longtime experience with U.S. interventionism going back to the days of the Pinochet military dictatorship, the Concón base raises eyebrows. The actual design of the base - which simulates an urban zone with eight buildings as well as sidewalks and roads - suggests that the Chilean military is interested in repressing protest. According to United Press International, Concón "is growing into a major destination for regional military trainers and defense industry contractors."



From Concón, Chile to the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia:
Shut Down the SOA!

Led by SOA Watch Latin America Coordinator and torture survivor Pablo Ruiz, a delegation of SOA Watch activists is currently on the ground in Chile, where they are standing with tens of thousands of Chileans, in commemorating the martyrs whose lives were lost by the dictatorship. From these ashes of the past, a new Chile is arising, thanks to the valiant efforts of Chilean students and Mapuche people who refuse to accept the the neoliberal model imposed by Pinochet and designed by US economists.

From November 22-24, 2013, we will carry our protest to the place where the killers are still being trained: Fort Benning, Georgia. Join torture survivors, and social movement activists from Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and from across the Americas and take a stand against the School of the Americas and oppressive U.S. foreign policy. The November Vigil has evolved into one of the largest annual anti-militarization gatherings in the hemisphere, with concerts, workshops, strategy sessions, protests, street theater and nonviolent direct action. Make your travel plans now and join us from November 22-24, 2013 at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia!

For more information, visit SOAW.org/november






 
Update: August 9th Day of Action PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 12 August 2013 18:04

Last Friday, August 9th, SOA Watch supporters in four cities held actions to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the first direct action to call attention to the training of repressive military forces at Fort Benning.  These actions were planned together with SOA Watch staff canvassing the streets of Washington DC, and founder Roy Bourgeois fasting for 24 hours at the gates of the SOA/WHINSEC in Georgia.

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We would like to thank all of the community members who came together and mobilized for August 9th, and send our support to all others who used the auspicious date as a time to organize against militarization and oppression.

Without the support of the grassroots, popular movements cannot carry the torch of justice into the halls of power.  Public convergences such as these help to spread the word about the School of the Americas/WHINSEC, and the issues which are connected with it.  Continue taking it to the streets, gente, and never stop speaking truth to power.

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Guatemalan Constitution Court Annuls Ríos Montt Verdict PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 21:08

Guatemala’s high court has overturned the genocide conviction of former U.S.-backed dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. In the guilty verdict delivered by Guatemalan courts on May 10, Ríos Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity in the targeted extermination of at least 1,771 indigenous Ixil Mayan people during his fifteen month rule from 1982-83.

However, in a 3-to-2 ruling Monday, May 20, the constitutional court dismissed the court proceedings going back to April 19. On that date the court suspended the trial due to disputes between judges over jurisdiction. The court presiding over the case against Ríos Montt had been influenced heavily by lobbyists which supported this powerful figure in the Guatemalan military and political sphere. One of the most influential of these was Guatemalan business association CACIF.

The Constitutional Court’s approval of the annulment is based on a technical procedure. Ríos Montt remains in a military hospital where he has been since last week’s conviction. His legal status undefined, it is likely he will be put on house arrest.

This decision serves as a reminder that the struggle for justice and reparations is never over, and therefore cannot accept delay as defeat, nor corruption as an inevitability. The very fact that this historic trial came to fruition is testament to peoples’ determination and willingness to move forward, unyielding, in stride toward a brighter tomorrow. Those in Guatemala who twenty years ago cried ¡Nunca más! have witnessed the product of their persistence, and will continue to move onward, for, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once expressed, "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."

Last Updated on Friday, 31 May 2013 15:02
 
Caso Cerrado... Rios Montt Found Guilty of Genocide in Guatemala! PDF Print E-mail
Efraín Ríos Montt Found Guilty of Genocide!
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards Justice.

SOA Watch celebrates the guilty verdict against the former Guatemalan dictator and School of the Americas Graduate Efraín Ríos Montt, who was sentenced to 80 years in prison. We celebrate and stand in solidarity with the Ixil Mayans, the survivors of the genocide and crimes against humanity committed under his dictatorship (1982-1983).

General Ríos Montt was the first ex-head of state to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in his home country. Doubts arose throughout the 7 weeks of harrowing trial testimony whether or not the Guatemalan justice system would be capable of withstanding dark political forces and threats of violence to deliver the only result supported by the evidence. We applaud the judge's bravery and strongly worded verdict, which has created an echo of hope throughout the Americas and the rest of the world.

SOA Watch renews the demand that justice also visit those who trained, equipped, and facilitated his genocidal regime. School of the Americas graduates formed the backbone of the presidential cabinets under the dictatorships of both Montt and his predecessor, Romeo Lucas García. They were also deeply involved in the Guatemalan Intelligence Agency (D-2), in the formation of the notorious civil defense patrols, and in planning and executing "Operation Sofia". This military maneuver wiped out some 600 Mayan villages, part of a broader campaign "of genocide against groups of Mayan people," as concluded by the 1999 UN-backed truth commission. Montt is the first ex-president to be found guilty of genocide by a Latin American court---it indicates that the tide is turning against impunity in the region, however, we must also hold those in the United States accountable, who trained and equipped the right-wing military dictatorships and made the genocide possible.

After a meeting with Ríos Montt in Honduras during the US-backed Dirty Wars in Central America, then-president Ronald Reagan stated that Ríos Montt was “a man of great personal integrity . . . totally dedicated to democracy”. The next day, December 6, 1982, the Kaibiles, the Guatemalan special forces which have extensive ties to the SOA, entered the village of Las Dos Erres, systematically raped the women, and killed 162 inhabitants, 67 of them children. Current President of Guatemala Otto Peréz Molina, also a graduate of the SOA, spent much of his time in military service as a member of the Kaibiles. This military unit was developed by the Guatemalan government in 1974, and its initial leader was a fellow SOA graduate by the name Pablo Nuila Hub. Also during the military career of Molina, he served as Montt's Ixil field commander, under the alias Major Tito Arias. For a more detailed SOA Watch report about the Kaibiles, click here.It was the current administration of Peréz Molina who, fearing Molina's complicity in much of the evidence brought forth in the trial against Montt, who stood to benefit from the temporary suspension of the trial. Thankfully justice prevailed and the trial resumed.

But since today represents a new dawn for the Ixil, Guatemalans and other survivors of systematic violence, we celebrate with hope in our hearts and a renewed sense of purpose. SOA Watch continues to call for the closure of the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) and for an investigation into the connections between U.S. military training and human rights abuses in Latin America. We will continue fighting in the streets, as well as our judicial and legislative branches until we also see justice for the victims of the SOA. Please contact your Member of Congress to urge them to close down the SOA: Click here.

As a commemoration to the inevitability of justice coming to light, we also point to our recent victory in the courtrooms of the United States, in which a federal judge from California has ordered that the Pentagon grant an SOA Watch request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demanding the release of the names of graduates and instructors from the SOA/WHINSEC, which we have previously been denied. Read more about the victory here.

Human rights activists throughout the Americas are calling on President Obama to shut down the School of the Americas and for Congress to cut the funding for the school and to conduct a Congressional investigation into the connection between human rights abuses in Latin America and U.S. military training. From November 22-24, we will take this message with us to the gates of Fort Benning, where Ríos Montt and scores of other human rights abusers were trained. With the strength of social movements across the Americas, we will take direct action against the focal point of several atrocities committed under the banner of US foreign policy, the School of Americas/WHINSEC.

P.S. Listen to "Guilty," by Rebel Diaz, perfect song for the occasion.

 
Report Back from Paraguay PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 19:40
SOA Watch Issues Report on Paraguay's Election and Human Rights Violations in the Curuguaty Massacre

From April 17th to 22nd, an SOAW (School of the Americas Watch) delegation from the United States visited Paraguay, joining with human rights organizations of the country, in order to better understand the situation there on the ground.

CURUGUATY

The delegation visited the Paraguayan campesinos arrested in the case of the Curuguaty massacre, who are now jailed in the nearby town of Coronel Oviedo.

Eleven campesinos and six police officers died during an attempt to evict landless campesinos, which ended in a hail of bullets in Marina Cue, 250 kilometers northeast of Asuncion.   The 45 campesinos, including women and children, were surrounded by heavily armed district police, a SWAT team and a separate special forces group, plus mounted police, a helicopter with snipers, and by reported paramilitary forces – adding up to over 300 armed officers.  The police were accompanied by at least three ambulances.   The campesinos had occupied the lands that they thought were state lands and thus available for agrarian reform, alleging that these lands had been inappropriately obtained and occupied from the state by Blas Riquelme, a businessman and former Senator (now deceased).

The massacre triggered the impeachment of then-president Fernando Lugo on June 22nd, one week later.  The impeachment has been widely questioned by the international community for blatant disregard of due process.

Recently, the International Human Rights Commission of the United Nations issued a report on Paraguay, expressing its profound concern about the Curuguaty case.  “The information received shows a lack of impartiality in the investigatory process.”  The UN also expressed specific concerns about the recent homicides of Vidal Vega, a campesino leader and the central witness in the case, and of Benjamin Lezcano, general secretary of a local campesino group’s steering committee.

After the massacre, the prosecutor’s office chose to investigate only the campesinos.  There are 14 campesino men accused of criminal association, property invasion, and aggravated homicide.  They were also accused of interfering with the processing of the case.  The official investigation is based on an unidentified witness who maintains that the campesinos ambushed the police.   The jailed campesinos have resorted to hunger strikes in order to demand justice and denounce judicial irregularities.

We consider that the principle trigger for the tragedy of Curuguaty was the violation of the fundamental right to the distribution and possession of lands in an equitable manner, guaranteed under the Agrarian Reformation Act and as stipulated in article 114 of the Paraguayan Constitution.  Also contributory are the unjust social conditions under which Paraguayan campesinos live.  We note the statistic that 80% of cultivatable lands in Paraguay are in the hands of 2% of the landowners, while some 300,000 workers have no land of their own.

We cite again the case of Juana Evangalista Martinez, who lives on a small plot of borrowed land that she is unable to even cultivate.  That her husband was landless led him to make the decision to join the occupants of Marina Cue, 8 days prior to the unexpected massacre “because he wanted to feed his family”, according to his widow in words to us.

Again we cite the case of Luis Olmedo, who lives on a small plot, a site to which his family does not have title nor do they even have the space to have a garden.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 April 2013 20:20
 
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