Close to ten thousand people descended on Fort Benning, Georgia over the weekend to protest a US military program that trains Latin American soldiers in combat, counterinsurgency and counter-narcotics.
Graduates of the School of the Americas are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. The SOA’s 60,000 graduates include:
- Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega
- Members of El Salvador’s notorious death squads who have been implicated in the massacre of thousands of men, women and children. In one case, six Jesuit priests, their house-keeper and her teenage daughter were assassinated. In another, Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed
- High-level military officials in Augusto Pinochet’s repressive regime in Chile
- Argentine generals responsible for tens of thousands of murders and disappearances
- Guatemalan army officers accused of unspeakable atrocities
For more than a decade, the Catholic priest and decorated Vietnam veteran Father Roy Bourgeois and the umbrella organization SOA Watch have led a growing international movement to close down the School of the Americas.
Since the annual protests began hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested for acts of peaceful civil disobedience. Many of them have received six-month prison sentences.
Close to a hundred were arrested this weekend, including six nuns.
Last year, a bi-partisan amendment to close the SOA and conduct a congressional investigation lost by a narrow ten-vote margin in the House of Representatives. Instead, Congress changed the name from School of the Americas to Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
Today we’re going to spend the hour with a new documentary called 'Hidden in Plain Sight.' The story weaves personal testimonies of those personally affected by SOA graduates together with a spirited debate between the school’s defenders and detractors. You’ll hear General John LeMoyne and Col. Glenn Weidner, Representatives Barbara Lee and Jim McGovern, activists Father Roy Bourgeois and Sandra Alvarez, political thinkers Eduardo Galeano and Michael Parenti, and others. The film is directed by John Smihula and narrated by actor Martin Sheen.
But first, we are joined on the telephone with Father Roy Bourgeois. He is a decorated Vietnam veteran, a Catholic priest, and a leader of the movement to close the SOA. Right now, he is outside the gates of Fort Benning in Georgia.
- Father Roy Bourgois, SOA Watch organizer, Catholic priest and decorated Vietnam veteran.
- 'Hidden in Plain Sight,' directed by John Smihula and narrated by actor Martin Sheen. The documentary includes: General John LeMoyne and Col. Glenn Weidner, Representatives Barbara Lee and Jim McGovern, activists Father Roy Bourgeois and Sandra Alvarez, political thinkers Eduardo Galeano and Michael Parenti, and others.