For Immediate Release
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Fr. Roy Bourgeois and SOA Watch Field Organizer Nico Udu-gama Arrested Following Protest at the U.S.-Mexico Border
WASHINGTON - On Sunday, February 19, activists from School of the Americas Watch, Project Puente and other organizations around the border region held a vigil to call attention to the role of the US government in the militarization of Mexico and the failed War on Drugs. The vigil took place on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border at the Sunland Park-Anapra Fence. Father Roy Bourgeois and Nico Udu-gama joined the vigil on both sides of the border, and were arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol following the vigil when they left the vigil site.
Father Roy Bourgeois and Nico Udu-gama were charged with crossing the border through an unapproved entry point and were taken to the Santa Teresa Border Patrol Station in New Mexico. After several hours in custody and background checks, the Border Patrol decided to dismiss the charges and to release Father Roy and Nico in the afternoon.
The protest was the culmination of a week-long delegation of 10 people, headed by SOA Watch founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois, from across the United States, which has met with people on both sides of the border in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.
Over 60,000 people have been killed in the violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon deployed some 50,000 troops and federal police five years ago to confront the drug cartels. Much of this militarization has been bankrolled by the US government’s Merida Initiative, which has poured over $1.5 billion into this “war on drugs,” especially in the form of US military equipment and training. The result of this militarization has failed to curtail the flow of drug, but has caused the loss of thousands of innocent Mexican lives. The death toll in Ciudad Juarez alone is nearing 10,000.
Perpetrators of the violence on both sides of this declared "war" have strong links to the US School of the Americas/WHINSEC, a U.S. taxpayer-funded military training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. Ciudad Juarez Police Chief, Julian Leyzaola Perez, a graduate of the SOA, has been accused by human rights groups of participating "directly in the torture of individuals who were arbitrarily detained, transported to military bases, and subjected to beatings, electric shocks, death threats, and asphyxiation to obtain false confessions" (UNHCR report). On the side of the drug cartels, a third of the original members of the drug cartel known as the “Zetas” are deserted members of the Mexican military who have graduated from the SOA/WHINSEC (read article here).
SOA graduates across Latin America have been implicated in serious human rights abuses, from torture, disappearance, drug trafficking and murder. In 2009, SOA graduates overthrew the government in Honduras, while in Colombia, 10,000 troops have been trained to fight the “War on Drugs”. In October 2011, Time Magazine published the article “Is It Time to Shutter the Americas' 'Coup Academy'?”
This past week, people in Mexico convened for a National Forum Against Militarization in Mexico. SOA Watch stands in solidarity with them and draws inspiration from citizens of Mexico who have been rising up to resist this militarization.
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SOA Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the US Army School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work.