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Chicago Students Say: School of the Americas Has Got to Go!

By Heather Tuskowski

Chicago, IL – The weekend before Thanksgiving, November 21 and 22, people from around the country will gather in Fort Benning, Georgia, to demand that the School of the Americas be closed. Student activists from Chicago area campuses have joined the mobilization.

A statement from student organizers noted: “For over 20 years, death squads and dictators trained at the School of the Americas (SOA) have tortured and massacred hundreds of thousands of people throughout Latin America. Rich landowners and dictators have often used the support of SOA-trained death squads to hold on tight to their power, their money, and their land by torturing and/or killing those who fight them. From the death squad leader in El Salvador, Roberto D’Aubuisson, who was responsible for the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero, to Colonel Julio Alpirez of Guatemala, responsible for the torture and death of U.S. citizen Michael DeVine. The 'graduates' of the School of the Americas have made a place in history with some of the worst human rights violations ever.”

Today, the SOA, also known as the School of the Assassins, is still operating. In December of 1997, over 20 people were massacred by death squads in Chiapas, Mexico. Kelly Vaughan of DePaul University stated that, “Training for the military of Chiapas has greatly increased since fighting between the government and the Zapatistas began in 1994.” It is easy to see the implications this will have in the future for the people of Chiapas, given the history of SOA graduates.

Similarly, Colombia has its own graduates of the SOA. “Death squads in Colombia have been responsible for the murders of more trade unionists, who were mostly teachers, than any other country in the 90s. This is including the country of South Africa while it was under the system of apartheid,” stated Chicago trade union activist Tom Burke.

“With the history of the SOA graduates in Latin America it is clear that this school must be shut down! They have tortured and killed union members, teachers, religious leaders, and anyone who has spoken out for human rights and justice. Join us in Fort Benning or support someone who is going. The SOA must be stopped from continuing to support the rich by killing off the poor. We hope you’ll join us in this fight,” concluded the student statement.

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