|AFL-CIO Executive Council Calls for Closing the SOA|
Vol. 8, No. 6
Leaders Call for Closing of 'School for Assassins'
The AFL-CIO Executive Council has called for the closing of the School of the Americas through legislation now pending in Congress.
In a resolution adopted Aug. 4, the Council denounced the "continued training of Latin American military officers in practices which have led to the violation of human rights."
In its 52 years, the SOA at Fort Benning, Ga. has trained an estimated 60,000 Latin American troops in psychological and paramilitary warfare, including attacks on union organizers and construction workers in several countries. SOA graduates have massacred villagers and targeted community organizers, religious leaders, labor activists and others for assassination, torture and rape.
The House of Representatives approved, 230-197, a bill to cut SOA's budget of $25 million by 10 percent. Some 58 Republicans supported the bill. However, the legislation is stalled in the Senate.
According to Amnesty International, on Oct. 27, 1997, SOA-trained soldiers murdered the president of the Colombian electrical workers' union. That same day, other SOA trainees abducted workers at Colombia's state-run oil company. Just a month later, on Nov. 26 in Medellin, they assassinated the secretary of the Colombian construction union. These U.S.-sponsored killings prompted a groundswell of protest and hundreds of civil-disobedience arrests.
Ken Little of SOA WATCH Northwest in Tacoma, Wash., said SOA "teaches techniques to silence union organizers." In 1996, he said, the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals that were used at the SOA until 1991.
"These manuals recommended interrogation and intimidation techniques including various forms of torture, blackmail, the arrest of relatives of those questioned, and execution," Little added. "Labor organizers were one of the groups singled out in these manuals, which advocated targeting those who do 'union organizing or recruiting,' pass out 'literature in favor of the interest of workers,' organize worker demonstrations, or sympathize with demonstrations by workers."
Led by religious organizers and rank-and-file labor, the grassroots U.S. movement to close the school is gathering steam. On May Day, 3,500 protesters rallied against the school in front of the White House. Two days later, 1,700 people marched on the Pentagon, and 56 were arrested for civil disobedience.
For more information, contact Ken Little at SOA WATCH Northwest by phoning (253) 531-5658 or logging on to http://members.tripod.com/~ranknfile
733 Euclid Street NW
Washington, DC 20001