School of The Americas Watch: Dennis Kucinich Joins Protest at Fort Benning - November 16-18
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOVEMBER 16, 2007
CONTACT: School of The Americas Watch
Joao Da Silva, 202-302-4706, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dennis Kucinich Joins Protest at Fort Benning - November 16-18
GEORGIA - November 16 - Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, Representative Jim McGovern,
veteran civil rights activist Ruby Sales, the Indigo Girls, torture
survivors and social movement leaders from Latin America are among the
speakers and performers at the annual vigil at the gates of Fort
Benning in Columbus, Georgia.
On the weekend of November 16-18, thousands of human rights advocates
from across the U.S. and Latin America will converge at Fort Benning,
Georgia to demand a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy and the
closure of the controversial U.S. Army's School of the Americas
WHEN/WHERE: Fort Benning – Columbus, Georgia
Saturday, November 17 - 10am-5pm: Vigil at the gates of Fort Benning –
Fort Benning Dr.
Speakers include: Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), Ruby Sales of the Spirit
House Project, Jim Schmitz of AFSCME, Michael McPherson of Veterans
for Peace, Lydia Lopez of the Colombian flower workers union, the
Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and many more.
Sunday, November 18 – 9am-3pm: Vigil, symbolic funeral procession and
nonviolent direct action. Performers and speakers include: U.S.
Representative and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, the Indigo
Girls, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Fr. Roy Bourgeois founder of SOA Watch,
Bread and Puppets, and more.
WHAT: The SOA, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security
Cooperation (WHINSEC), made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon
released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture,
extortion and execution. Graduates of the school have been
consistently linked to human rights violations and criminal activity
in Latin America. In 2007, 10 Colombian SOA/WHINSEC graduates,
including two former instructors, who taught "peacekeeping operations"
and "democratic sustainment" at WHINSEC in 2003-2004, have been
arrested or are under criminal investigation.
In spite of an aggressive international PR campaign and lobbying
efforts on behalf of WHINSEC, support for the institute continues to
erode. In 2007, Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Oscar Arias of
Costa Rica publicly announced that they would cease to send military
and police to the school, becoming the 4th and 5th countries after
Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela to commit to a withdrawal from the
U.S. Army training facility.
On June 21, 2007 a McGovern/Lewis amendment to the FY 2008 Foreign
Appropriations bill that would have prohibited funding for the
SOA/WHINSEC lost by a margin of only six votes. 203 members of
Congress voted in favor of the amendment to cut the funding for the
school quoting its connection to human rights abuses throughout Latin
America. Congressional efforts and grassroots pressure to close the
school are increasing.
The annual Vigil to close the SOA at Ft. Benning has grown from a
dozen people in November of 1990 to more than 20,000 in 2006. The
annual event is held on the anniversary of the November 16, 1989
massacre at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador
where 14-year old Celina Ramos, her mother Julia, and six Jesuit
priests where murdered by the Atlacatl Battalion, an SOA trained unit
of the Salvadoran army.
The events will culminate on Sunday, November 18 with a symbolic
funeral procession to the gates of Ft. Benning. Many will negotiate a
barbed-wire fence to enter the military base in an act of nonviolent
civil disobedience. Since protests against SOA/WHINSEC began more than
a decade ago, 226 people have served federal prison sentences.