June 23, 2009

End SOA/WHINSEC secrecy - act today!

UPDATE (6/25): WE WON, BY A VOTE OF 224-190! Now it must pass a House-Senate Conference Committee to become law. Stay tuned to SOA Watch for more.

Most House Democrats supported the measure, including our own James Oberstar and David Obey. SHOCKINGLY, Collin Peterson of Minnesota (including Bemidji, Detroit Lakes) and Bart Stupak of the UP voted AGAINST transparency. If you are a constituent of either Peterson or Stupak, please contact them to express your disappointment.

ON WEDNESDAY, June 24, the House will vote on a Defense Authorization Act amendment that would require the Army to release names, ranks, countries of origin and courses attended for students of the notorious School of the Americas/WHINSEC.

SOA/WHINSEC is a US-run training program for Latin American armed forces that has graduated the worst human rights abusers, dictators and coup-leaders in the hemisphere. In 1996, the Pentagon was forced to release SOA training manuals that advocated torture, disappearances and blackmail against nuns, trade unionists, students and indigenous activists.

In 2000, the Pentagon "closed" the SOA and reopened it under a new name - the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). They promised that the school would be more transparent, yet they have consistently blocked the release of student data to human rights groups.

This information must be public, so that we can track the activities of graduates and expose the SOA/WHINSEC for what it is: a training ground for the hired guns of transnational corporations.

Please call your representative and urge him or her to vote yes on this amendment. Here are the numbers for our area representatives:

David Obey (WI-7, including Superior and Ashland):
(202) 225-3365
James Oberstar (MN-8, including Duluth and Grand Rapids):
(202) 225-6211
Colin Peterson (MN-7, including Detroit Lakes and Bemidji):
(202) 225-2165

Hello, My name is __________, and as your constituent, I urge you to vote YES on the McGovern-Sestak-Bishop-Lewis amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill.

The amendment would release the names, country of origin, rank and dates of attendance at WHINSEC for graduates and instructors. This amendment is supported by Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Congressman Ike Skelton.

As you may know the School of the Americas, renamed WHINSEC, has a notorious history linked to serious crimes and human rights abuses throughout Latin America. In the past few years under WHINSEC, known human rights abusers have attended the school and WHINSEC instructors have been arrested in Colombia for returning home and aiding the drug cartels. None of this information would be known if the basic information about enrollment at WHINSEC were not disclosed. This information is vital to the work of Congress and human rights organizations who seek protection of human rights and promoting transparency, however all FOIA requests for this information are now being denied.

What is WHINSEC hiding?! Voting YES on the McGovern-Sestak-Bishop-Lewis amendment is a vote FOR human rights and FOR transparency. I urge your boss to vote YES!!!

No comments: