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Thousands gathered this weekend near Fort Benning in Georgia to call for the closing of the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/466/story/518941.html This is the 19th year that the protest has been held and the event is held in November of each year to commemorate the murder of the six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her 14 year old daughter in El Salvador on November 16, 1989 by individuals who had been trained at the SOA. http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/18/spotlight/ Although the School of the Americas was originally located in Panama, it was relocated to Fort Benning in 1984 following the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty.
The School of the Americas ("SOA") has a bloody history as many of its graduates have been linked to gross violations of human rights throughout Central and South America. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Hemisphere_Institute_for_Security_CooperationAlumni of the SOA include, among others, dictators such as Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldi Galtieri of Argentina and Roberto D'Aubisson of El Salvador. http://www.soaw.org/ Other graduates of the SOA have been linked to El Mozote Massacre of 900 civilians and the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero while he was saying Mass in San Salvador.
This morning as part of the protest activities a mock funeral procession marched to the gates of Fort Benning commemorating all those who have died at the hands of the SOA-trained military officials. Six people were taken into custody today for entering into Fort Benning to carry the protest onto the base and they face up to six months in federal prison. Organizers of the protest hope this year's protest will be the last one they need to have. They are urging incoming President Barack Obama to issue an executive order upon taking office closing the School of the Americas which is as much a stain, if not more, on the history of our nation as the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. If you would like to sign SOA Watch's petition urging President-Elect Obama to close down the School of the Americas, the petition can be reached by following the link below. http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/727/t/3823/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=1732