Tuesday, June 26, 2007

School of the Americas: The Haitian Case

A number of bloggers (e.g., see here and here) have been commenting on last week's narrow failure of a bill in the U.S. Congress that would have finally closed down the infamous School of the Americas (SOA).

The SOA is a U.S. sponsored training program for Latin American military personnel. SOA Watch, one of the major groups seeking the closure of the SOA, reports that graduates of the school have consistently used their skills to wage war against their own people by targeting educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. They also note that hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained by the SOA.

While the atrocities committed by SOA graduates in Latin America are well known, most folks are much less familiar with the SOA's legacy in Haiti. To that end, Adrianne Aron has written an informative article for the Haiti Action Committee that shows how the SOA and U.S. military assistance to Haiti, in particular, have been especially devastating.

Thanks to SOAW's annual Vigil at the School of the Americas, the persecution of the religious community in El Salvador during the 1980s is not forgotten. Every year we commemorate the massacre that the Jesuit Provincial called "an act of lavish barbarity," when six Catholic priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter were murdered on the campus of the University of Central America in San Salvador, by government soldiers trained at the School of the Americas.

In Haiti, a number of equally barbarous events carried out by SOA graduates are not so well known, and have been neglected by world attention. The perpetrators are still free, and in some instances, still wielding power. It's time we took notice.

A case in point is Haiti's September 11, a day of infamy in 1988 when SOA alumnus Franck Romain, then Mayor of Port-au-Prince and leader of the brutal Tontons Macoutes, orchestrated a siege of Saint Jean Bosco, the parish church of Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Click here to read the rest of this article.

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