Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

SOA Watch Action Alert- H.R. 2989

September 10, 2013


Torture is Immoral- Close the SOA!

Catholic social teaching today opposes torture in the treatment of any detained or imprisoned person. For the Church is convinced that every human person bears a God-given dignity; respect for that dignity must always be present. The Church also is careful to point out that torture is illegal, prohibited under international law. – U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

school of the americasWe are now upon the 40th Anniversary of the start of the Pinochet dictatorship that unleashed 15 years of terror in Chile. During this time, the military disappeared and tortured 40, 018 people. Many military officers were graduates from the School of the Americas, a U.S. – sponsored military training camp for Latin American military officials in Fort Benning, Georgia.  For years Columbans accompanied the families and individuals who were victims of the Pinochet dictatorship just as they accompanied victims of torture by militaries in other Columban countries like Peru, Korea, and the Philippines.

Torture is a violation of the human dignity of each person.  Congress has the opportunity to end torture by passing H.R. 2989, the Latin America Military Training Review Act of 2013, which was just introduced in the House of Representatives to suspend and investigate the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC).

We invite you to speak up on behalf of torture victims throughout the countries where Columbans serve and beyond by calling on your Representative’s office through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to tell them that we must close the SOA/WHINSEC because:

    1. SOA/WHINSEC has contributed to extensive human suffering: Graduates of the school have been responsible for the assassinations and torture of tens of thousands of people in Latin America. The Pentagon’s public disclosure of torture manuals have been used at the school as an educational tool.
    2. Some alumni of the SOA/ WHINSEC have gone on to become oppressive dictators: For instance, graduates of the SOA have comprised a majority of the members of DINA command staff, the notorious Chilean intelligence agency responsible for the worst human rights atrocities during the Pinochet era. Similarly, Peruvian and Brazilian graduates have contributed to massacres that have killed countless civilians and protesters.
    3. Many Latin American Countries are walking away from the SOA/ WHINSEC: Due to this lack of respect for human dignity, six countries in Latin America no longer send soldiers to the school.

      Here is a sample script for you to use once connected with your Representative’s office:

      Hello my name is ________, and I am a constituent in Representative __________’s  district who is deeply concerned about the past and ongoing torture of citizens throughout Latin America by military personnel. I am calling to urge you to support H.R. 2989, the Latin America Military Training Review Act of 2013. This bill would put an end to the SOA/WHINSEC training program that has educated dictators and military officials in Latin America. As a person of faith, I know that torture is immoral and that every human person has the right to a dignified life. Thousands of people throughout Latin America have been killed, tortured, or disappeared at the hand of many SOA/WHINSEC graduates since its inception. Please consider voting in favor of H.R. 2989, and putting an end to the SOA/ WHINSEC to restore safety and dignity to our brothers and sisters throughout Latin America. Thank you for your time.

      PS: Let us know you made the call by emailing us at cschwabe at columban dot org.

      Peace and blessings!