Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

The group's national organizer Hendrik Voss said, "In order to create real change, we can't rely on politicians to make it happen for us." (Photo: Ashleigh Nushawg/flickr/cc)

Dem Platform Includes Plank to Close Notorious School of the Americas

The taxpayer-funded military school has trained Latin American dictators

Nadia Prupis

Although the Democratic Party's latest draft platform has received a mixed reception from progressives, human rights advocates on Tuesday called attention to one long-awaited demand that made it into the manifesto: Closing the controversial military training facility known as the School of the Americas.

The measure, introduced by committee member Marcos Rubenstein—who was elected by Bernie Sanders delegates—calls for the closure of the school, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC) to support the progressive belief that "democracies and civilian governments in the Western Hemisphere...should never be involved in the political process."

The SOA/WHINSEC plank was accepted by both Sanders' and Hillary Clinton's campaigns in the first time that such a measure has been included in the Democratic party platform.

SOA Watch, a grassroots group that has organized around the closure of SOA/WHINSEC since 1990, noted Tuesday that "[w]hile the platform is nonbinding, grassroots activists, who have been concerned about the hawkish stands of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton towards Latin America, will push the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign to adhere to the platform's call."

The group's national organizer Hendrik Voss said, "In order to create real change, we can't rely on politicians to make it happen for us. We have to organize to build broad-based grassroots power, and hold those who are making decisions that affect our lives accountable."

SOA/WHINSEC has become a notorious symbol of U.S.-backed human rights abuses in Latin America. The taxpayer-funded school—which many opponents have nicknamed "School of the Assassins"—educated several dictators from the region, as well as their military officials, and included torture, extortion, and execution in its curriculum.

The new platform measure is particularly important as questions continue to rise over Clinton's role in the U.S.-led coup in Honduras in 2009, which led to increased militarization and human rights abuses, the group said.

Activists and peace groups regularly protest outside the SOA/WHINSEC facility in Fort Benning, Georgia. In November, SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois spoke at an annual vigil outside the school grounds stating, "Despite a shocking human rights abuse record, the School of the Americas continues to operate with US taxpayer money. Closing the SOA would send a strong human rights message to Latin America and the world."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Bloodbath': At Least 6 Dead, Dozens Wounded in Mass Shooting at Illinois July 4th Parade

"What freedom do we have if we fear being gunned down at a parade?" asked one progressive politician horrified by the reported carnage.

Brett Wilkins ·


On This July 4th, Abortion Rights Movement Says 'We're Not in the Mood for Fireworks'

"If we don’t have the ability to make decisions about if, when, and how to grow our families—we don't have freedom."

Brett Wilkins ·


Deadly Glacier Collapse in Italy 'Linked Directly to Climate Change'

At least seven people were killed when a glacier slid down a mountainside near a popular climbing route in the Alps on Sunday.

Julia Conley ·


'Organized Whitewash': US Claims Israeli Military's Murder of Journalist Not Intentional

"The odds that those responsible for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh will be held to account are all but nonexistent," said the human rights group B'Tselem in response to findings of U.S. State Department.

Brett Wilkins ·


Hundreds March in Akron Enraged by Police Killing of Jayland Walker

"The police can do whatever they want," said one local resident through tears. "They can take our children's lives and think it's okay."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo