Sunday, October 14, 2007
Bolivia withdraws military from School of the Americas
Evo Morales Announces: "No More Bolivian Soldiers to the SOA/WHINSEC!"
We are very excited to announce that President Evo Morales announced Tuesday that Bolivia will gradually withdraw its military from the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as the School for the Americas (SOA). Bolivia is now the fifth country after Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela to formally announce a withdrawal from the school!
"We will gradually withdraw until there are no Bolivian officers attending the School of the Americas," said Morales. Questioning the U.S. government's foreign policy he noted that "they are teaching high ranking officers to confront their own people, to identify social movements as their enemies."
This is a great victory for torture survivors, social movement leaders and human rights activists of Bolivia and the Americas. The SOA/WHINSEC has played a significant role in Bolivia's recent political history, Hugo Banzer Suarez, who ruled Bolivia from 1971-1978 under a brutal military dictatorship attended the school in 1956 and was later inducted into the school's "hall of fame" in 1988. The SOA has trained tens of thousands of Bolivian military officers in the past fifty years. In October of 2006, two former graduates of the SOA/WHINSEC, Generals Juan Veliz Herrera and Gonzalo Rocabado Mercado were arrested on charges of torture, murder, and violation of the constitution for their responsibility in the death of 67 civilians in El Alto Bolivia during the "Gas Wars" of September-October 2003.
In March 2006 a School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) delegation led by Lisa Sullivan-Rodriguez, Salvadoran torture survivor Carlos Mauricio, and SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois met with President Evo Morales to request that Bolivia cease to send troops for training at the SOA/WHINSEC.
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