Sunday, November 19, 2006

Starve the Beast

Now here's an approach to killing off the SOA that has some punch:
However, while SOA-W haven't slowed their demonstrations or lobbying efforts, in the last year organizers have pioneered a new--and dramatically successful--strategy.

The new strategy involves directly working with Latin American social movements and sympathetic governments to get them to agree to stop sending troops to the SOA. To this end, in past months SOA-W activists have traveled to Venezuela, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Ecuador, meeting with movements and urging governments to deprive SOA of students. "The thinking behind this new Latin America strategy' was simple," writes Lisa Sullivan, one of the key organizers of this new campaign and who, to better coordinate with Latin social movements, has recently opened an SOA-W office in Caracas, Venezuela. "If there were no more students, there would be no more school."

To date, they have made vital steps towards this goal. In recent months, the Defense Ministers of Venezuela, Uruguay, and Argentina have all agreed to stop sending troops to the SOA. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez had Bourgeois and Sullivan on his weekly television show, "Hello President," to talk about SOA, before announcing Venezuela's boycott of SOA. Uruguay, which has not sent troops since the inauguration of President Tabaré Vásquez, made its abstention from sending troops official with a public announcement. Argentina, which has typically sent 10-20 troops a year, made a similar public announcement, timed to coincide with the thirty year anniversary of the 1976 military coup.
While the SOA-W has been a key player, as the article notes, the organization has been fueled by a change in the Zeitgeist at the grassroots level in South and Central America:
In an attempt to hold both past and present human rights violators accountable, grassroots social movements from north to south have been successfully demanding past-dictators and present military offenders--often ex-members of authoritarian old guards themselves--be punished. In Argentina, this past September, prosecutors won the first significant conviction of an ex-member of the 1976-1983 dictatorship there when they sentenced ex-Police Chief Miguel Etchecolatz, responsible for the torture and murder of twenty high school students in 1976, to twenty-five years in prison; Pinochet, after years of stalled efforts to bring him to trial, is likely to be judged for crimes against humanity in a Spanish court; in Bolivia, a strong movement has emerged to extradite ex-President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada for his role in the 2003 massacre of over sixty protestors in the city of El Alto; in Peru, the National Supreme Court has authorized the extradition of ex-Army Major Telmo Hurtado, who now lives in the US and has confessed to involvement in the 1985 massacre of 74 children, women, and old men, in an Andean village. The message Latin American movements are sending is clear: the era when the military, or anyone else, could torture and kill without fear of justice is over.

And here is where the SOA ties in to the new Latin American movements against impunity. The Latin America strategy of SOA-W has found such success because as Latin American movements fight against and work to build accountable and democratic governments, SOA's role in both dictatorship and democracy-era military violence comes up again and again.

[snip]

In short, SOA-W's new campaign has met such success because of the coalescence between its goals and the anti-impunity mood in Latin America. "Everywhere we've traveledin South America, we've been amazed to realize that people are fully aware of the reality of the School of the America's," says Lisa Sullivan. "They have experienced firsthand the horrors of the tortures, detentions, imprisonments and disappearances' caused by its graduates."
Actually it's a good idea to read the whole thing.

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