I am looking out of the window of my apartment onto the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, the home of the School of the Americas. It is a place that has stolen the dreams and the lives so many people throughout the Americas, such as Walter Trochez, a good friend of young Honduran activist Jimena Paz who marched to these gates at my side just a few weeks ago.
Many of you joined Jimena and I at the gates, others joined us from afar in solidarity, and one friend – Theresa – chose to scale right over the gate in the face of armed soldiers who promptly dragged her to be arrested. Her trial on January 5 will be an opportunity to put the SOA on trial for its complicity in the death and disappearance of thousands of our Latin American neighbors.
I write today to invite you to join me at another line that is a concrete expression of the suffering caused by our nation’s policies: the southern border of the United States. So many of our neighbors have also tried to cross, climb or swim across this line, fleeing economies broken by U.S. free trade agreements, violence armed and funded from this side of the border, and atrocities caused by the booming U.S. drug market. Many of these line crossers have reached the other side, some have been criminalized and returned, while others have died trying.
The most vicious perpetrators of the violence that is jolting Mexico are none other than graduates of the SOA who comprised two-thirds of the original ranks of the Zetas, the most brutal hired assassins of the drug cartels. These deserters from the elite Special Air Mobile Force Group of the Mexican army acquired specialized knowledge of arms and techniques at the SOA that have brought the brutality of the drug violence to unprecedented levels.
For years the SOA Watch movement has cried “No más, no more” at the gates of School of the Americas.Now it is time to take this message to the US-Mexico border. We go to stand in solidarity with the 50,000 victims of Mexico’s so-called “war on drugs.” We go to stand at our southern border - every day more militarized – and demand that policies such as the Merida Initiative cease. We go because we believe that justice in Latin America can only exist if we close the SOA, bury the failed military policies of the past, and replace them with policies based on the needs of real people on both sides of the border. As the Obama Administration continues to deport record numbers of immigrants and states pass xenophobic immigration laws, NOW is the time to say “No más, no more.”
Please consider joining me on a delegation to the US/Mexico border in El Paso/Ciudad Juarez from February 12-19, 2012 to experience the realities of both sides of the border, and to understand the border itself. For more information, write Lisa Sullivan at LSullivan@soaw.org.
Thank you so much for your support and solidarity,
abrazos, Father Roy Bourgeois, MM
SOA Watch founder