THOUSANDS GATHERED AT THE GATES OF U.S. MILITARY BASE IN GEORGIA TO CLOSE THE SOA/WHINSEC
3-DAY MOBILIZATION CULMINATES WITH MASS DIE-IN AND FUNERAL PROCESSION TO COMMEMORATE THE VICTIMS OF SOA/ WHINSEC VIOLENCE AND U.S. MILITARIZATION
NASHUA CHANTAL, 60 OF AMERICUS, GEORGIA CROSSES OVER THE FENCE TO CARRY THE PROTEST ONTO THE MILITARY BASE, FACES SIX MONTHS IN FEDERAL PRISON
Columbus, Georgia – The largest annual anti-militarization gathering in North America took place in Columbus, Georgia, from November 16-18, 2012.
Nashua Chantal of Americus, Georgia, who stood in silence with the message ‘Study war no more’ painted across his face during the symbolic funeral march, crossed the line onto the military base. The base is home to the US Army School of the Americas, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC) in 2001, a training facility that has turned out some of Latin America’s most notorious killers and continues to be implicated in human rights abuses today. Nashua Chantal was arrested after he crossed over the barb-wired, and is currently in the custody of the military police. He will be arraigned in federal court and is facing up to six months in federal prison for his courageous act of civil disobedience.
The weekend included a massive rally on Saturday, where thousands came together at the gates of the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC), now named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, and culminated on Sunday, November 18 with a mass die-in and funeral procession to commemorate the victims of SOA/ WHINSEC violence and U.S. militarization.
The weekend featured musicians like emma’s revolution and Rebel Diaz, and international speakers like Francia Marquez from Colombia, Martin Almada from Paraguay, and Ismael Moreno from Honduras.
Francia Marquez, a leader from the Afro-Colombian gold-mining community of La Toma in southwestern Colombia, talked about how her community has struggled against political, economic and armed forces looking to control their hands and resources.
Martin Almada, a Paraguayan educator, talked about his experience as a political prisoner under the regime of Alfredo Stroessner. His wife died of a heart attack after being forced to hear through a telephone her husband’s cries as he was tortured.
Ismael Moreno (known in Honduras as Father Melo), a Jesuit priest, radio host and contributor to Envio magazine, had his radio station occupied by the military following the SOA led military coup and he began receiving death threats.
Moreno’s story shows how, even though the school changed its name in 2001 to WHINSEC, the graduates of this U.S. taxpayer-funded military school are still key players in human rights abuses throughout Latin America.
Last week, on November 14, an SOA Watch delegation met with Denis McDonough, the National Deputy Security Advisor to President Obama in the White House, to ask that the SOA/WHINSEC be shut down by Executive Order. In January, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) will introduced legislation to suspend operations at the school and investigate human rights abuses in Latin America.
The SOA/WHINSEC is a U.S. taxpayer-funded military training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. The school made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Despite this, no independent investigation into the training facility has ever taken place.
SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots movement that works to close the School of the Americas and change U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America. For more information, visit www.SOAW.org.