UU’s Called To School of the Americas

Thanks to the UUA Youth Office for circulating this announcement: Here’s a really important Social Action Issue that you can get involved
in right now!  There’s a vigil happening on the weekend of November 17-19 in Fort Benning GA pushing for the closing of the School of the
Americas (SOA).  SOA Watch is an organization which was founded by Fr. Roy Bougeois in 1990.  SOA Watch plans a huge action to close the
School of the America’s every year in November, and many other smaller
events, actions, and organizing campaigns throughout the rest of the
year.

*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.

SOA/ WHISC graduates have included some of the worst and most notorious human rights abusers in Latin American history, and for much of the world, the school, under any name, is synonymous with torture and impunity. SOA graduates have led military coups and are responsible for massacres of hundreds of people. Among the SOA’s more than 60,000 alumni are notorious dictators Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador and Hugo Banzar Suarez of Bolivia. SOA graduates were responsible for the Uraba massacre in Colombia, the El Mozote massacre of 900 civilians in El Salvador, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the massacre of 14-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador and hundreds of other human rights abuses. Closing the school would send a strong human rights message to Latin America and the world.

Specifically youth and young adults within Unitarian Universalism have had a huge impact on organizing to close the SOA, as well as at the vigil.  There has been a large contingent of UU youth and young adults at the vigil ever since the fall of 99.  At GA in Salt Lake City the youth and young adults came together, trying to find an issue to collaborate on, and decided that oragizing around closing the SOA would be a great way to work together, and support a super important human rights issue. 

Maura McGill and Robin Lea were key organizers in the early days of UU Youth and Young Adult involvment in the SOA Watch.  This was a really grassroots campaign within youth and young adult communities from the beginning, and largely continues to be.  The year that Mimi Lavally worked in the Youth Ofiice was when there started to be institutional support for the work.  Two past Youth Program Specialists, Mimi Lavalley and Jason Lydon have been jailed as a result of civil disobediance at the protest.  There is a long line of history of UU activists supporting the SOA watch, and now is the perfect time for you to get involved!

You can get involved by organizing a group to go to the vigil in Ft Benning GA, organizing a fundraiser to support the SOA Watch, or educationg yourself and the people in your community, church, and youth group about the School of the Americas, and the reasons it needs to close!  You could even hold a workshop for your church, youth group, or district/regional con or rally.  You can find lots more info on the SOA Watch website at http://www.soaw.org .   Check it out!  You can make an important difference, get involved today!

-Laura

*parts of this e-mail with info about SOA history and SOA Watch info were taken from the SOAW website, which you should still check out!

laura manning
youth ministry associate
youth office
unitarian universalist association
25 beacon st.
boston, ma 02108
phone: 617-948-4353
fax: 617-367-4798

The average black male live a third of his life in a jail cell Cause the world is controlled by the white male And the people don’ never get justice, And the womyn don’ never get respected And the problems don’ never get solved, And the jobs don’ never pay enough So the rent always be late. Can you relate?
We living in a police state.
-Dead Prez (Police State)

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