[News] 42 House Democrats Back U.S. Terror Academy
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jun 25 11:18:45 EDT 2007
June 25, 2007
42 House Democrats Back U.S. Terror Academy
Democrats and the School of the Americas
By DAN BACHER
Two San Joaquin Valley Representatives, Dennis
Cardoza of Merced and Jim Costa of Fresno, were
among 42 Democrats that voted to keep the world's
foremost torture school, the School of the
Americas, open during a House vote on June 21.
The vote was 203 yes, 214 no, 1 voting "present" and 19 not voting.
Cardova, Costa and 40 other Democrats voted no on
the McGovern/Lewis Amendment that would have
finally cut off funding to the School of Americas
(SOA), now known as Western Hemisphere Institute
for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). Only 6 more
votes were needed to pass it--but these Democrats
shamefully chose to join Republican
Representatives in voting for the school, whose
graduates have been responsible for genocide,
assassinations, torture and other human rights
violations throughout Latin America for decades.
California representatives Loretta Sanchez and
Grace Napolitano, along with Charles Rangel of
New York, are listed among the Democrats who
chose not to vote. (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is
not found on any list, not even present.)
SOA Watch, a human rights advocacy group founded
in 1990 by Maryknoll Priest Father Roy Bourgeois
to close the "School of Death," was disappointed
by the vote. However, SOA Watch vowed to continue
its efforts in Congress until the school, located
in Fort Benning, Georgia, is shut down.
"The grassroots mobilizing effort was tremendous:
Tens of thousands of emails, faxes and calls
flooded the halls of Congress over the past three
days," said Joao Da Silva, SOA Watch spokesman,
after the vote at 11:52 p.m. on Thursday.
"Students, clergy, union members and veterans
traveled to DC and visited with hundreds of
Congressional offices to communicate clearly that
there is no room for institutions like the
SOA/WHINSEC in our future. Despite this, 214
Members of Congress missed the chance to stand up
for human rights, justice and democracy, and
voted to keep the funding for the SOA/WHINSEC flowing."
The WHINSEC "PR machine" and high-ranking
Pentagon officials used taxpayer money to put a
lot of pressure on Members of Congress. However,
Da Silva said this is no excuse for
Representatives to not be accountable to their constituents.
"There were Representatives this week that
committed to vote to cut funding for the
SOA/WHINSEC, and then shifted their vote," said
Da Silva. "Those people need hear from all of us, loudly and in public."
Da Silva emphasized, "While we did not get enough
Members of Congress to vote with us, it was clear
to us and our supporters in the House that we
have tremendous power when we mobilize together.
We gained the support of new Republicans and new
members of Congress. The margin of SOA/ WHINSEC
survival is rapidly dwindling, and this week due
to grassroots pressure, we added several new
cosponsors to HR 1707 bringing our total to 111.
We have gained a lot of ground in Congress and
our goal of closing this School of the Death is coming closer and closer."
The vote, although it failed by 6 votes, still
came closer to ending the school's funding than
last June's vote, when the amendment to the
Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill by Jim
McGovern (D-MA) calling for school's closure failed by a 15 vote margin.
The recent vote came after a series of successes
by SOA Watch over the past two years in
convincing Latin America leaders to remove their
military and police officers from the school.
Venezuela, the first country to withdraw its
troops from the SOA in 2005, was followed by
Argentina and Uruguay last year. After a visit to
Bolivia by Roy Bourgeois, President Evo Morales
said Bolivia's military will be pulling out of SOA/WHINSEC on a gradual basis
More recently, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias
announced on May 16 that Costa Rica will stop
sending its police to train at the school. Arias,
a Nobel Peace Prize winner, made the decision
after talks with a delegation of SOA Watch,
including Bourgeois and Lisa Sullivan Rodriguez.
Costa Rica does not have an army--choosing to
spend its tax money on education, health and
social welfare--but has sent some 2,600 police
officers over the years to be trained at the school.
"We agreed that when the courses end for the
three policemen we are not going to send any more," Arias said.
The SOA/WHINSEC has graduated at least 11
military dictators and over 60,000 soldiers, many
of which have been linked to some of the worst
human rights abuses committed in the Americas.
"The school made headlines in 1996 when the
Pentagon released training manuals used at the
school that advocated torture, extortion and
execution," said Da Silva. "Despite this
admission and hundreds of documented human rights
abuses committed by soldiers trained at the
school, no independent investigation into the facility has ever taken place."
SOA Graduates include Hugo Banzer Suarez, the
former dictator of Bolivia, and Guatemalan
Dictator Efren Rios Montt, who was responsible
for a war of genocide against the Mayan people
that resulted in the elimination of 626 Mayan
villages from the face of the earth. Notorious
human rights abusers such General Hector Gramajo
of Guatemala, Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina, and
Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador were also graduates.
Lower-level SOA graduates have been involved in
many atrocities including the massacre of 900
people at the village of El Mozote in El Salvador
in the early 1980s and the massacre of four
Jesuit priests and the housekeeper at in San Salvador in 1989.
Bourgeois in his talks around the country always
emphasizes the role that the school plays in
providing the shock troops and enforcers for
corporate globalization throughout Latin America.
"The SOA continues to provide the muscle for U.S.
foreign policy. It keeps the rich rich and the
poor poor," said Bourgeois at a talk in Sacramento this February.
Protests calling for the closure of the School of
the Americas/WHINSEC have taken place every year
around the November 16 anniversary of the
assassination of six Jesuit priests and two
Salvadoran women at the hands of SOA graduates.
Every year, brave activists "trespass" onto army
property during the protest at Fort Benning,
facing arrest and time in federal prison. Since
1990, 211 SOA Watch human rights defenders have
collectively spent over 92 years in prison, while
over 50 people have served probation sentences.
Vote in Congress Visit to check the roll call
to see how your Representative voted. Call the
Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 to thank your
Representative or to express your displeasure.
For more information, visit the
<http://www.soaw.org/>SOA Watch website and the Legislative Action Index.
List of Democrats Voting No for Closure of the SOA:
Abercrombie, Neil, Hawaii
Barrow, John, Georgia
Bishop, Sanford D. Georgia
Boren, Dan, Oklahoma
Cardoza, Dennis, California
Carney, Christopher, Pennsylvania
Castor, Kathy, Florida
Clyburn, James, South Carolina
Cooper, James, Tennessee
Costa, James, California
Cuellar, Henry, Texas
Dingell, John, Michigan
Edwards, Chet, Texas
Gonzalez, Charles, Texas
Gordon, Bart, Tennessee
Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie, South Dakota
Jefferson, William, Louisiana
Johnson, E.B., Texas
Klein, Ron, Florida
Lampson, Nick, Texas
Mahoney, Tim, Florida
Marshall, James, Georgia
Matheson, James, Utah
McIntyre, Michael, North Carolina
Meek, Kendrick, Florida
Miller., Brad, North Carolina
Murphy, Patrick, Pennsylvania
Murtha, John, Pennsylvania
Perlmutter, Ed, Colorado
Peterson, Colin, Minnesota
Reyes, Silvestre, Teaxs
Rodriguez, Ciro, Texas
Ross, Michael, Arkansas
Ruppersberger, Dutch, Maryland
Sestak, Joseph, Pennsylvania
Skelton, Ike, Missouri
Space, Zachary, Ohio
Spratt, John, South Carolina
Tanner, John, Tennessee
Taylor, Gene, Mississippi
Christensen, Donna, US Virgin Islands
Bordallo, Madeline, Guam
Costello, Jerry, Illinois
Cramer, Robert, Alabama
Johnson, Henry, Georgia
Meehan, Marty, Massachusetts
Melancon, Charles, Louisiana
Napolitano, Grace, California
Ortiz, Solomon, Texas
Rangel, Charles, New York
Sanchez, Loretta, California
Scott, David, Georgia
Weiner, Anthony, New York
Dan Bacher can be reached at:
<mailto:danielbacher at hotmail.com>danielbacher at hotmail.com
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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