Monday, May 14, 2007

My Top Ten - Starting with 10 (and no particular order)

We could do so much better...

10. School of the Americas

To quote SOA Watch:
The School of the Americas (SOA), in 2001 renamed the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation,” or WHINSEC, 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.

Alumni of this little School include: Former Salvadoran army officer Gonzalo Guevara Cerritos, convicted for the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, a housekeeper and her 14-year-old daughter, arrested by federal agents on October 18 in Los Angeles, California; Army Commander in Chief Efrain Vasquez and General Ramirez Poveda, who helped lead a failed coup in Venezuela in 2002; Roberto D'Aubuisson, who, in 1980, planned and ordered the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, beloved champion of the poor in El Salvador. D'Aubuisson was the first person I'd ever heard associated with the term "Death Squad."

This is just a very, very tiny sampling of the SOA's alumni. And it still exists.

The simple fix: Shut it down.

Now and forever. It does us no good to be training people in how to oppress their own citizens. Several Latin American countries have withdrawn all of their soldiers or cops or both from the school, as they feel it is anti-democratic. Interestingly enough, these folks include Oscar Arias (Costa Rica), Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), and Argentina and Uruguay. All fairly left-wing. Your average right-wing dictator loves the SOA!

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