|MADRE Demands "School of Assassins" Be Shut Down|
New York, January 18, 2001-MADRE, a 23,000 member international women's human rights organization, demands the closing of the School of the Americas (SOA), the US-run combat training school for Latin American and US soldiers that teaches the gruesome "art" of military repression.
The US purports to be a model of human rights. Yet, the SOA trains human rights violators. Since 1946, the "School of Assassins," as it is called by some, has taught soldiers to execute, torture, blackmail and falsely imprison Latin Americans. SOA graduates include security forces of Nicaraguan dictator Somoza, El Salvador's death squad leaders, Pinochet's top advisors, perpetrators of Guatemala's genocide and Colombia's drug traffickers. By raping and dismembering women, executing Jesuit priests and terrorizing whole communities, SOA graduates have, for decades, supplied US newspapers with stories of murders and atrocities all over Latin America. While US citizens are often horrified by these violations, many do not realize that the perpetrators are trained at Fort Benning, Georgia and that their "education" is paid for with US taxpayers' money.
SOA training is justified under the guise that it provides stability to Latin America. But stability is defined as a free market economy in which US corporations thrive. These "stable investment climates" are created at the expense of basic needs and human rights for the majority of the people. If the US were so concerned with providing stability for humanitarian reasons, why would it enable leaders and their troops to trample the basic rights of their citizens? The US refuses to publicly take responsibility for its
actions. Yet the SOA remains key to implementing US policies in Latin America. In 1999, after a growing protest movement nearly succeeded in pushing Congress to cut SOA funding, the Pentagon momentarily closed the school, only to reopen it under a new name, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
For 17 years, we at MADRE have witnessed over and over in communities across Latin America the irreparable mental and physical harm caused by SOA-trained soldiers. As these communities are fighting desperately to overcome the destruction beset upon them by US-trained forces, they are faced with the threat that as long as the SOA remains open, they may once again be prey to such atrocities. We demand that the SOA be shut down once and for all.
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