In an article published last week with ABC-affiliated WTVM, WHINSEC’s new Commandant, Colonel John Suggs, said “change occured” when the SOA became WHINSEC in 2001. He went on to say that “the guys who graduate here are going to go on to be the heads of their militaries,” and that “the relationships they built here…it fosters peace throughout the whole region, it helps them get things done.” Make no mistake, the purpose and the results of the SOA and WHINSEC are the same – training state agents in civilian-targeted warfare that results in violent repression, torture, forced disappearances, massacres, forced migration, the criminalization of dissent, and imperalist coups to impose right-wing neo-liberal agendas. The idea that this training “fosters peace” throughout the Americas is absurd and extremely dangerous.
The US agenda of training and financing security forces throughout the continent to impose right-wing economic policies that benefit corporations and the elite is clear. The most recent iteration is the US-backed military coup against Bolivia’s President Evo Morales. President Morales resignation on Sunday came only after the country’s top military commander, General Williams Kaliman Romero, who trained at WHINSEC in 2003 and again in 2004, appeared on television with other high-ranking military officials and “suggested” that Morales resign. At least 6 of the Bolivian officials behind the coup have been trained at the SOA/WHINSEC. We condemn this imperialist assault on Bolivia’s people — US intervention is never the answer! We stand with the indigenous and campesinx communities and support their autonomy, right to organize, and to decide the fate of their territories outside the grasp of the United States.
This weekend in resistance and memory, we return to the gates of Ft. Benning, where the infamous SOA/WHINSEC is located. We remember and uphold Celina Ramos, Elba Ramos, Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín-Baró, Segundo Montes, Juan Ramón Moreno, Joaquín López y López, and Armando López who were massacred at the hands of SOA graduates that formed part of the Salvadoran Army’s Atlacatl Battalion. As we continue to work to close the SOA/WHINSEC and to dismantle the structures of oppression on which it is based, we remind ourselves of Ignacio Ellacuría’s words that “All those who hate injustice are obligated to fight it with every ounce of their strength. They must work for a new world in which greed and selfishness will finally be overcome.” Our obligation is to continue fighting, and together we will close theSchool of Assassins and dismantle the structures of oppression on which it is based.
If you are joining us at this weekend’s Commemorative Gathering, please register here; however, it is NOT a requirement to attend the Commemorative Gathering. Participating in the Commemorative Gathering is free! We also invite you to make a symbolic tax-deductible donation to support the logistics and facilitation of the Commemorative Gathering whether or not you are able to attend!
We will be posting more information on the 2019 Commemorative Gathering section of the SOA Watch website. We will also be live streaming parts of the Commemorative Gathering on our Instagram and our Facebook accounts, so please be sure to follow us there!
An outline of this weekend’s program can be found on our website and below this email,and a partial list of panelists and speakers can also be found on our website. If you are joining us on Saturday, lunch (sandwich, chips, fruit, cookie, and drink) is available at the Bibb Event Center where we are meeting for $15. There will be an emergency information and action meeting on the US-backed coup in Bolivia from 12:10pm to 12:50pm on Saturday so this lunch option is available if you would like to participate.
In memory and resistance,
Brigitte, Candice, Dévora, Pablo, and Roy
PS We will be sending out more information via email about the US-backed coup in Bolivia over the coming days. During the Commemorative Gathering, we will host a virtual meeting with researcher, Jeb Sprague, about US involvement in the military coup against President Morales that will be recorded and shared! Also, if you’re joining us at the 2019 Commemorative Gathering or want to make a symbolic tax-deductible donation to support the Commemorative Gathering, please fill out the registration page!
5:30pm: Sunset/Candlelight Vigil at the gates of Fort Benning and Welcome from Roy Bourgeois, SOA Watch Staff, and the Commemorative Gathering Working Group. We will begin promptly at 5:30, we recommend arriving early
7:00pm: People are invited to meet for a community gathering at the Vallarta restaurant one mile from the gate of Ft. Benning (2151 Fort Benning Rd.)
9:00am: Welcome, Opening, and Keynote Speaker at the Bibb Mill Event Center
10:00am: Tribute to the Prisoners of Conscience and those who have “crossed the line” at Fort Benning
10:15am: Panel I – SOA Watch: Bridging the Past and the Present of the Organization, the Movement, and Lessons Learned over the last 30 years of Resistance
12:10pm: Emergency information and action meeting on the US-backed coup in Bolivia
1:30pm: Panel II – The Frontlines of Resistance: Effective Organizing Strategies in the Face of US-led and Supported Violence
6:00-7:30pm: Pax Christi Program
9:15am: Walk of Peace Pagods Buddhists and Veterans for Peace (leaving Candlewood Suites, 3389 Victory Drive, 1.6 miles, about 30 minutes)
9:30am: Program will be at the Gates of Ft. Benning: Litany, Presentes, procession of the fallen, music and the Puppetistas.
2:30pm: SOA Watch community and friends will be gathering at the Vallarta restaurant (2151 Fort Benning Rd.) – all are welcome to join us!