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.
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.