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BREAKING NEWS: Former Prisoners of Conscience Take Protest to Military Base in Colombia
Nine U.S. human rights activists are holding a vigil at the Tolemaida military base in Colombia with a 12 foot banner that reads "U.S. Military out of Colombia."
TOLEMAIDA MILITARY BASE - August 3 - The Tolemaida military base is one of seven Colombian bases to which the U.S. military has been granted access for 10 years under the U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement, which was signed in October 2009. The agreement has been met with opposition by Colombian and international human rights groups. It caused tensions in the region after a U.S. Air Force document became public that revealed that the United States military is planning to use the seven Colombian bases for "full spectrum operations throughout South America" against threats not only from drug trade and guerrilla movements, but also from "anti-U.S. governments" in the region.
Father Roy Bourgeois, SOA Watch founder and Purple Heart recipient, is leading this delegation of SOA Watch activists. Most of them have served federal prison terms for nonviolently calling for closure of the School of the Americas (SOA), now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). By confronting this current escalation of U.S. policy, the U.S. activists at Tolemaida are expressing solidarity with courageous Colombians working for peace and justice. Members of the delegation come from all over the United States, are equally male and female, and represent a wide variety of life and faith experiences.
To read the press statement that they are now delivering at the Tolemaida base, visit SOAW.org/docs/aug3statement.
"The bases agreement operates from the same failed military mindset that has given rise to the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC)," said Father Roy Bourgeois. "The purpose of the bases and the purpose of the SOA/ WHINSEC are the same: to ensure U.S. control over the region through military means."
SOA/WHINSEC is a U.S. military training school for Latin American soldiers in Fort Benning, Georgia. SOA/WHINSEC has trained over 12,000 Colombian soldiers in counter-insurgency techniques, sniper skills, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Human-rights groups are calling for closure of the Institute. The recently released report Military Assistance and Human Rights: Colombia, U.S. Accountability, and Global Implications outlined the connections between SOA/ WHINSEC graduates and instructors with extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations in Colombia.
From November 19-21, 2010, thousands will gather at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, to call for the closure of the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) and to speak out for justice in solidarity with the people of Colombia and all of the Americas.