This morning hundreds of human rights advocates nationwide began a three day fast to bring attention to the victims of the violence of the School of the Americas and to put pressure on Congress to vote in favor of HR 1707 which would cut funding for the SOA/WHINSEC.
What is the SOA? The School of the Americas, in 2001 renamed the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation,” is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. Since its founding, the SOA has trained more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence, interrogation tactics, and, yes, torture. These graduates have consistently used their skills against their own people, frequently on behalf of anti-democratic US-supported governments.
Among those targeted by SOA graduates have been educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who oppose the corporate hegemony of the region. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into fleeing their countries by soldiers trained by US tax-dollars at the School of the Americas. Initially established in Panama in 1946, the SOA was kicked out of that country in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President Jorge Illueca, called the school the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.”
So, over the next three days, activists are conducting public fasts and demonstrations in front of Congressional offices, federal buildings and at colleges and universities to inform the public and new members of Congress about the SOA and why there’s a popular movement to end its operation.
SOA Watch, an independent organization that seeks to close the school, is asking people to support those fasting by imploring your Congressional reps to support legislation proposed by Rep. Jim McGovern on March 27 (with 72 original co-sponsors!) that would shut down the School of the Americas.
Click here for tips on helping SOA Watch, and check out this YouTube video, narrated by Susan Sarandon, to learn more about the SOA’s bloody history.