2012 SOA Watch Vigil


November 21, 2012 by theappress.wordpress.com

This past weekend I decided to take a trip down to Georgia with 29 other college students from DePaul University and Dominican University. For what, you may ask? To rally together for the closure of the School of the Americas. Our destination was Fort Benning, Georgia, a military base in which the controversial school is housed. Since 1996 hundreds have gathered at Fort Benning, Georgia so that the School of the Americas will be shut down because of their unjust teachings. But before you get any further, let me just say that this weekend I learned so much, and so in order not to lose your attention by the third paragraph I will split up my posts into explaining and retelling the different components of this weekend.

To give you information on the whole event, the School of the Americas is a military training school where U.S. military officials train Latin American military officials that have been sent their by their countries, and eventually graduate and return to their countries teaching their militaries what they have learned at the SOA (or their new name, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation a.k.a. WHINSEC). However, U.S. officials are training them to use devices such as torture, psychological warfare, automatic weapons and interrogation as ways to handle conflict and rise to power. 

When I first found out about the trip I was a little reluctant to sign up since they have been rallying there since 1997. I thought it was a bit of a lost cause, but when visiting the website, soaw.org, I learned that in the last year alone they made so many accomplishments, from meeting with members of Congress at the White House to getting three countries to stop sending their military officials to the SOA. After educating myself more on the issues that the school has caused I simply couldn’t turn away. So here are some facts about the School of the Americas, a.k.a. the School of the Assassins that I couldn’t get out of my head, and further made me take action.

– Venezuela: In April 2002, SOA-trained Generals Vásquez and Ramirez Póveda led an attempted coup against the government.

– Honduras: Four of the 6 military chiefs implicated in the June 28, 2009, coup were trained at the SOA. Since then, over 460 politically-motivated killings have occurred, including 19 journalists; LGBT groups and campesino land-rights movements have been particularly targeted. Of the coup, SOA-trained Honduran Army Attorney Col. Herberth Inestroza stated in an interview with The Miami Herald that “[it] would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That’s impossible.” 

– Colombia: Over 10,000 troops have been trained in Colombia, involved in the region’s worst human rights situation. Read a report by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and US Office on Colombia linking extrajudicial executions to brigades led by SOA grads.

– Mexico: Both sides of the “Drug War” played out in Mexico find SOA graduates: 18 top ranking military officials involved in human rights abuses studied at the school.

– In Guatemala, El Salvador, and Peru, SOA grads have been appointed to high-level positions within those governments, threatening democratic institutions.

Facts courtesy of soaw.org

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