The U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA) is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers located at Fort Benning, Georgia. SOA graduates have been responsible for some of the worst human rights atrocities in Latin American history, including:
* Two of the three officers responsible for the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980
* Three of the five officers responsible for the rape and murder of four U.S. churchwomen in 1980
* 19 of 26 responsible for the massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter in 1989
* The man convicted in Guatemalan courts for the assassination of Guatemalan Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi in 1998
* The man arrested for the murder of Colombian Bishop Isaias Duarte in 2002
Originally set up as a counterinsurgency training school in 1946, the SOA has claimed numerous reforms in the way it selects and trains its students over the years, culminating in its name change to the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation" (WHISC) in 2001. Each of these changes came only because of grassroots and congressional activism, but none has permanently closed the school or allowed for a full accounting of its tragic legacy. The school continues to train soldiers from countries with the worst human rights records in the region.
There are three ways to take action today to close the School of the Americas:
1. Arrange to travel to Fort Benning, Georgia, this coming weekend for the annual vigil to close the SOA. Join Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, Sr. Helen Prejean of Dead Man Walking fame, Bishop Gabino Zavala, and thousands more people of conscience to stand in solidarity with those affected by the atrocities committed by SOA graduates. This annual vigil serves as a powerful reminder of the work that can be accomplished by those who care enough to take a stand and take action. Go to www.soaw.org for travel details, and if you can't attend yourself, consider giving financial help to a local college or church group making the trip.
2. Begin planning to take part in the SOA Lobby Days, February 21-22, as faith-based activists from around the country make a personal appeal to congressional representatives to close the school.
3. A bill sits in Congress that would close, investigate, and prevent another cosmetic remake of the SOA. Please contact your congressperson today and urge them to co-sponsor HR 1258.
Click here to send a letter.