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AUGUST 9, 2002
10:55 AM
CONTACT: School of the Americas Watch
Jeff Winder 202.607.0052, 202.903.7257

35 U.S. Activists Return from Human Rights Delegation to Colombia
Group to Engage in Nonviolent Direct Action at School of the Americas

Sunday, August 11th, 11AM at main gate to Ft. Benning (Ft. Benning Rd., Columbus, GA)

Saturday, August 10th: Festival of Hope
6-8PM at the South Columbus United Methodist Church, 1213 Benning Dr.

COLUMBUS, GEORGIA - August 9 - Thirty-five U.S. activists return today from a ten-day human rights delegation to Colombia. They will engage in a nonviolent direct action at the School of the Americas (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) in Ft. Benning, Georgia on Sunday morning, at 11AM. The group shares concerns over current US policy towards Colombia, including a military aid package of historic proportions, a highly controversial program of aerial fumigation of coca, and the human rights implications of training Colombian soldiers abroad and at the SOA/WHISC.

“The current program of massive military aid to this war-torn country is like pouring gasoline on a fire,” said Carol Richardson, one of the delegates.

SOA Watch and Witness for Peace sponsored the delegation. These groups hold that U.S. military aid exacerbates violence in Colombia. Human Rights Watch and the US State Department have documented links between the Colombian military and illegal paramilitary forces responsible for 70% of Colombia’s civilian killings. Since the US began sending aircraft and on-the-ground training to Colombia in 2000, politically motivated killings have risen from 14 to 20 per day, and the number of kidnappings and disappearances has doubled.

Colombia has sent 10,000 soldiers to the SOA/WHISC. The SOA/WHISC is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. Its graduates are consistently involved in human rights atrocities. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated the use of torture, extortion and execution. In December 2000 Congress authorized the WHISC to replace the SOA. The renaming of the school was widely viewed as an attempt to diffuse public criticism and to disassociate the school from its reputation. SOA Watch maintains that the underlying purpose of the school, to control the economic and political systems of Latin America by training and influencing Latin American militaries, remains the same.

“Colombia has sent more soldiers to this school than any other country, and it has the worst human rights record to date in the Western Hemisphere,” said Carrie Eikler, one of the delegates.

SOA Watch works to stand in solidarity with people of Latin America, to change oppressive US foreign policy, and to close the SOA/WHISC.


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