Photo by Linda PanettaSunday, November 22:
Thousands are gathered at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, standing up against oppressive U.S. foreign policy and speaking out in defense of real and direct democracy, for life, justice, liberty, dignity and peace.
Four veteran human rights defenders crossed the line this morning to carry their witness against the School of Assassins towards where it is located inside Ft. Benning, GA: Nancy Gwin
of Syracuse, NY; Ken Hayes
of Austin, TX; Fr. Louis Vitale
of Oakland, CA; and Michael Walli
of Washington, DC.
Walli is continuing his protest by refusing to post bail and will remain locked up until their trial in January 2010. None of those responsible for SOA crimes have ever been investigated or held accountable, while now 290 peace and justice activists will have served prison and probation sentences of up to two years for their acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.
What is the SOA?
The School of the Americas (SOA), in 2001 renamed the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation,” is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Initially established in Panama in 1946, it was kicked out of that country in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.” The SOA, frequently dubbed the “School of Assassins,” has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned.
Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.
San Jose Massacre
| On February 21-22, 2005, eight members of the San Jose de Apartado Peace Community in Uraba, Colombia were brutally massacred. Witnesses identified the killers as members of the Colombian military's 17th Brigade, commanded by an SOA graduate. |
SOA/ WHINSEC Background
| On January 17, 2001 the School of the Americas was replaced by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Read more about the school here. |
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| Visit the SOA Graduate section to learn about notorious graduates of the School of the Americas. In this section you will also find a complete list of SOA graduates sorted by country. |
SOA, Labor & Globalization
| From its beginning, the mission of the SOA has been to train soldiers to protect the interests of multinational corporations and maintain the economic status quo for the few rich and powerful in the US and their cohorts in Latin America. Labor leaders and union organizers have always been among the primary targets of SOA violence. |
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| In Colombia and the Andean Region, our taxpayer money is paying to escalate a civil war, displace hundreds of thousands of civilians, strengthen a military with a horrible human rights record, damage critical bio-diversity in the Amazon basin, and more. Learn about recent events and the connections between the SOA/ WHINSEC and Colombia. |
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Reports Citing the SOA/ WHINSEC
| Read a variety of reports from international human rights organizations and agencies citing the SOA/ WHINSEC and its graduates. |
| Read the actual text of a variety of SOA training manuals. Manuals on topics such as Counter Intelligence, and Terrorism and the Urban Guerilla are available here in English and Spanish. |
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| Learn about massacres committed by SOA graduates and read the names of their victims |
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