NDNU Students to Join Protest of School of the Americas

Belmont, CA, November 14, 2007 — Five students from Notre Dame de Namur University will join more than 20,000 people are expected to descend on Ft. Benning, GA to urge the U.S. government to close down the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as School of the Americas.

The students include seniors Mallory Barr, Andres Caballeros, and Erica Spacher, and juniors Diana Enriquez and Ismat Yassin. They will be accompanied by Dr. Bobby Vaughn, associate professor of sociology, and Richard Rossi, communications director.

“For these students this is an opportunity to put into practice the values of social justice and peace that we teach at this University,” said Dr. Vaughn. “They will bring this experience back with them to campus and hopefully involve others.”

Since its founding in 1946, the school has trained more than 60,000 soldiers from Latin American armies and police forces in combat, counter-insurgency, and counter-narcotics. The School of the Americas Watch, (www.soaw.org) the organization that is organizing the vigil,  charges the school really teaches torture methods and other methods of police control that are generally considered human rights violations.  In fact, the organization says, SOA graduates have been implicated in a wide variety of human rights violations in Latin America and allegedly are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America.

In 1996 the Pentagon released training manual used at the school that advocated torture, extortion, and execution. Among the SOA’s graduates are dictators Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia. Lower-level SOA graduates have participated in human rights abuses that include the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the El Mozote Massacre of 900 civilians.