Beginning on March 24, the 15th anniversary of Salvadorian Archbishop Oscar Romero's murder at the hands of SOA graduates, people across the nation will participate in a 7-day, liquid-only fast in Washington, DC, to focus attention on the U.S.Army School of the Americas. The campaign to close the school, which robs American taxpayers of millions of dollars a year, is led by Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a Vietnam veteran and Maryknoll priest, who is asking all aspiring peacemakers to join him in Washington for one , two, or even the entire seven days.Supporters have already made a difference in that the votes to close the school are increasing.
Those who are unable to attend the fast are urged to write or call their representatives, circulate petitions, and engage in other nonviolent acts to bring attention to this shameful blemish on the United States.The infamous School of the Americas, housed at Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia,has also been called the School of Assassins, the School of Dictators, and the School of Coups. The reason is because 75 percent of its graduates have been implicated in the torture and murder of thousands of peasants and numerous union leaders, human rights workers, and nuns and priests including Bishop Oscar Romero.
Some of the graduates of this school include Manuel Noriega and Roberto D'Aubuisson, former death squad leader of El Salvador (who actually ordered Bishop Romero's murder). The list of Central American thugs goes on. This school, financed by American taxpayers at a cost of between $6 to $10 million dollars a year, trains 2000 soldiers from Latin America and the Caribbean each year in combat skills such as counterinsurgency operations.
The only problem is that the "counterinsurgents" are students, peasants, church people, professors and virtually anyone who speaks out against brutal oppression, stands up for human rights, and supports democratic reforms. Ironically, U.S. taxpayers are spending huge sums of money to suppress those freedoms elsewhere that they enjoy here in the U.S. What is happening is that the very rich landowners in Central America direct the militaries to protect their wealth which is made on the backs of the peasants who work their fields for below subsistence wages.
The U.S. not only trains the henchmen of the landowners but also pumps $1 million dollars a day into these small countries and provides the M-16 rifles which are used against the poor and their advocates. On a recent interview on WEVO, a U.S. government official admitted that our support of such regimes has significantly contributed to the destabilization of Central American states. An amendment to cut off funding for the School of the Americas was defeated last year by a 217-175 vote in the House of Representatives.
The School of the Americas must be closed down in the name of human decency. When the vote comes up again this year, we hope that the amendment will pass. It w ill if there is enough public outrage. According to Fr. Bruni, silence is the voice of complicity. If we act now, we can save thousands of lives in the years to come as well as restore American dignity at home and abroad.
For more information, contact Fr. Roy Bourgeois, S.O.A. Watch, P.O. Box 3330,Columbus, GA 31903. The Phone/fax is (706) 682-5369.