Given the way the primaries have been going, we are currently having more leverage with the U.S. presidential candidates than at any other time. Let’s use it! Committing one or more of them to come out publicly for the closure of the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) is a realistic and attainable goal. Once the candidate is elected president, we can hold him or her accountable to follow through and to close the school by executive order.
The Latin America Solidarity Coalition (LASC) is circulating this petition to the Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. Urge them to take a public stand for the closure of the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) and to commit to close this notorious institution by executive order if they will be elected as the next President of the United States.
Text of petition below
Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) is part of the conventional thinking that military repression is a solution to social and political problems. The existence of the SOA/ WHINSEC is part of a larger failure in U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America. It is a symbol of oppression and U.S. domination for most Latin Americans. Graduates of the school have a long history of human rights violations. From the atrocities in El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980’s to recent violations in Colombia, graduates consistently appear in reports on human rights abuses in Latin America. SOA/ WHINSEC training has resulted in civilian massacres, assassinations, disappearances, death threats and has led to both attempted and successful coups of democratically elected governments in the hemisphere. Closing the SOA/ WHINSEC, whatever its name, would demonstrate that the United States has made a clean break from the tragic history of the school and its graduates. Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Venezuela all denounced the school for its connection to human rights abuses throughout the Americas and vowed to cut its ties to the SOA/WHINSEC.
We are concerned that you have not taken a public position against the SOA/ WHINSEC. We are asking that you commit to close the SOA/WHINSEC by executive order if you are elected as the next President of the United States of America.
The issue of investigating and closing the notorious SOA/ WHINSEC is one that is widely supported well beyond the Latin America Solidarity movement. Last year a vote to prohibit funding for the school failed by a small margin of six votes. The AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the United Auto Workers, the United Steelworkers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the NAACP, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ and over 100 U.S. Catholic Bishops all advocate the institute’s closure.
Despite efforts to evade criticism by renaming the school and implementing cosmetic changes, the SOA/ WHINSEC continues to be linked to human rights and drug trafficking crimes throughout Latin America. In August, several Colombian military officials were arrested for aiding drug cartels, over half of which taught at, or took classes at, the school. This included two instructors of 2004 classes at WHINSEC. In three recent cases, known human rights abusers have been admitted to the school, despite documented instances of serious crimes.
We urge you to demonstrate your commitment to human rights in Latin America, and all over the world, by voicing your commitment to close and investigate the SOA/ WHINSEC.
The Latin America Solidarity Coalition (LASC) is an association of national and local US-based grassroots Latin America and Caribbean solidarity groups, many of which have long histories of working with grassroots organizations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. We are also opposed to other ways in which the U.S. government seeks to maintain control of Latin American military and police forces, including the 2005 opening of another “International Law Enforcement Academy” (ILEA) to train police forces in all of Latin America. We do not believe the United States has a place in teaching other nations the practice of war or policing, while its government is blatantly violating international law and refusing to ratify international pacts that could protect civilian populations and sovereign nations from further violence, such as the Rome Statute for the creation of the International Criminal Court. This is why we are working to change U.S. military policy.