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School of Americas
The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC or WHINSEC), formerly the School of the Americas (SOA; Spanish: Escuela de las Américas) is a United States Department of Defense facility at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia in the United States.
Between 1946 and 2001, the SOA trained more than 61,000 Latin American soldiers and policemen. Some of them became notorious for human rights violations, including generals Leopoldo Galtieri, Efraín Ríos Montt and Manuel Noriega, dictators such as Bolivia's Hugo Banzer, some of Augusto Pinochet's officers, and the founders of Los Zetas, a mercenary army for one of Mexico's largest drug trafficking organizations, the Gulf Cartel. Luis Posada Carriles was educated there in 1961, although he never graduated. Critics of the school argue that the education encouraged such internationally recognized human rights violating practices and that this continues in the WHINSEC. This is denied by the WHINSEC and its supporters who argue that the alleged connection is weak. According to the WHINSEC, the education now emphasizes democracy and human rights.
November Vigil 2009: Thousands Protested to Demand SOA Closure
Hundreds Penetrate Protest Barrier, Four Cross Line onto Ft. Benning
Fr. Roy Bourgeois and SOA Watch Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Click here to view photos by Linda Panetta
Also, check out photos by Tom Bottolene
Sunday, November 22:Thousands, including human rights defenders and torture survivors from Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Immokalee and the South Bronx, gathered at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, standing up against oppressive U.S. foreign policy and speaking out in defense of real and direct democracy, for life, justice, liberty, dignity and peace.
Four veteran human rights defenders crossed the line Sunday morning to carry their witness against the School of Assassins towards where it is located inside Ft. Benning, GA:
Nancy Gwin of Syracuse, NY
Ken Hayes of Austin, TX
Fr. Louis Vitale of Oakland, CA
Michael Walli of Washington, DC
None of those responsible for SOA crimes have ever been investigated or held accountable, while 286 peace and justice activists have served prison and probation sentences of up to two years for their acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.
The civil disobedience at Ft. Benning on November 22 follows the arrest of five peace and justice activists at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, where the torture manuals used at the SOA were created. The Ft. Huachuca Five are:
Fr. Bob Carney of Tucson, AZ
Joshua C. Harris of Santa Barbara, CA
John Heid of Tucson, AZ
Mariah Klusmire of Albuquerque, NM
Fr. Jerry Zawada of Tucson, AZ
Four the five received 1-year ban and bar letters, while Josh Harris awaits word on a trial date. Harris refused to cooperate with the military police, and when asked for his name said he was there representing a victim of torture.
Several hundred demonstrators marched together on Ft. Benning Rd on Sunday, November 22, risking arrest, and pushed through the police protest confines this year, led by puppetistas and drummers including Cakalak Thunder.
This exuberant, rebellious expression of the Return to Life honored the work and spirit of those who have fallen in the struggle for justice all across the Americas.