For Immediate Release


Joao Da Silva,
646 - 613-1440 Ext. 203,

North American Congress on Latin America

Latin America Solidarity Activists to Address US Militarization at Washington, DC Conference

Human rights advocates, community organizers, academics and students will discuss U.S. intervention in Latin America at Howard University workshop on Sunday, February 15

NEW YORK - School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) and the Latin American Solidarity Coalition (LASC) will conduct an anti-militarization program on Sunday, February 15 at Howard University in Washington, D.C.. The program is a part of NACLA and LASC's "Not Just Change, But Justice Campaign" which is intended to raise public awareness and pressure the Obama administration to adopt a new and more progressive policy towards Latin America.

"The election of Barack Obama provides an opportunity for the United States to change its relationship with the other nations of the hemisphere." said Christy Thornton, Director of the North American Congress on Latin America. "we are aiming to push the administration to end the long legacy of using Latin America's people and resources for U.S. ends."

Latin American solidarity activists around the world look positively upon President Obama's executive order to shut down the Guantanamo prison in Cuba. This, along with ending the embargo on Cuba, ceasing of hostilities toward Latin America's left-of-center governments, stop funding for Plan Colombia, and closing the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly the U.S. Army School of the Americas) is one of the many goals stated in LASC's Talking Points for a New U.S.-Latin America Policy.

The Sunday event will take place at Howard University's Blackburn Center (2397 Sixth St NW, Washington, DC) and is open to the public. The workshop is scheduled to begin at 4pm with opening remarks from SOAW founder and Maryknoll priest Fr. Roy Bourgeois, followed by a discussion moderated by NACLA Director Christy Thornton with a panel of human rights advocates, community organizers and academics. The panel will include Pablo Espinoza Ruiz, a Chilean human rights activist and former political prisoner under the Pinochet regime; Sonia Umanzor, a Salvadoran-American immigrant rights activist; Lesley Gill, author of "The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas"; John Lindsay-Poland, co-director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean; and Ben Beachy, regional organizer for Witness for Peace Mid-Atlantic.

***Interviews Available ***


Father Roy Bourgeois, M.M.
Fr. Roy Bourgeois worked in the 1970s with the poor in Bolivia before being arrested, tortured and forced to leave the country. In 1980 he became involved in issues surrounding US policy in El Salvador after four US churchwomen were raped and killed by Salvadoran soldiers. Roy is the founder of SOA Watch, the campaign to close the School of the Americas, now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Christy Thornton
Christy Thornton is a media and global justice activist who has lived in New York for a decade, and has done field work in Cuba and El Salvador. She is a member of the NYC Grassroots Media Coalition, the May First/People Link leadership committee, and the Brooklyn for Peace Latin America committee. She has been NACLA's Executive Director since 2005.

Pablo Espinosa Ruiz
Pablo Ruiz is a Chilean human rights activist, journalist and former political prisoner who lives in Santiago, Chile. He worked in Chile with the Committee Against Impunity, seeking to bring to trial military who had committed human rights abuses during the dictatorship of General Pinochet. Pablo is spearheading efforts to seek the withdrawal of Chile from the SOA. He works as the Communications Coordinator for SOAW's Partnership America Latina.

Sonia Umanzor
Sonia Umanzor left El Salvador in 1981 to escape persecution by paramilitary groups. Sonia is a nurse who attends to Salvadoran immigrants in DC. Her everyday interactions with migrants newly arrived from the perilous journey through Mexico and the U.S. desert have convinced her that the increased militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border has created more pain and suffering.

Lesley Gill
Lesley Gill is an anthropologist whose research has focused on political violence, human rights, global economic restructuring, the state, and transformations in class, gender, and ethnic relations. She currently serves as Associate Professor of Anthropology at American University.

John Lindsay-Poland
John Lindsay-Poland served on human rights teams in Guatemala and El Salvador, and co-founded accompaniment projects in Colombia. He is author of Emperors in the Jungle: The Hidden History of the US in Panama and a recent report on civilian killings by US-financed Colombian army units. He co-directs the Fellowship of Reconciliation's Latin America program.

Ben Beachy
Ben Beachy lived for three years in Nicaragua, where he co-led 22 delegations to explore firsthand the impact of U.S. economic policies, traveled to a dozen other Latin American countries, wrote articles on U.S. influence in the region, and acted as a liaison between Nicaraguan textile unions and US labor organizations.


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