Maryknoll, NY–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–June 20, 2007–Now there are four. The president of Costa Rica says his country will no longer send security personnel to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), the former School of the Americas, (SOA), once its current students graduate.
WHINSEC is housed at the Fort Benning military reservation in Columbus, GA; the site of a yearly peaceful vigil to close down the school.
The founder of the SOA Watch, Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois, a Vietnam veteran and purple heart recipient, says working for peace is the very core of faith. “I don’t know how we can say we are people of faith if we don’t work for peace to try to be a healer in our world.”
Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace Price winner Oscar Arias announced the decision to stop sending police to WHINSEC following a meeting with Bourgeois, as part of the SOA Watch Latin America initiative, in which he and Maryknoll Lay Missioner Lisa Sullivan meet with political leaders to persuade them to stop sending military and police to WHINSEC. Aside from Costa Rica, Bourgeois has met with and convinced government officials in Venezuela, Argentina and Uruguay to pull out of WHINSEC.
The priest’s annual November vigil outside the gates of Fort Benning, which last year attracted over 20,000 people, began two decades ago with a modest group of ten people. Each year since then, a growing number of people have joined the march, held during the second week of November, to mark the 1989 murder in El Salvador of six Jesuit priests by graduates of the SOA.
Bourgeois has traveled a long and difficult road to convince four Latin American nations to stop sending people to SOA/WHINSEC, and he has no illusions that it will be any easier convincing the other Central and South American regimes, including Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala to follow suit, but he finds this work tremendously satisfying.
He says college and high school students have become the backbone of the movement to close SOA/WHINSEC.
“They give me hope,” says Bourgeois, “because we’re bringing a whole new generation to peacemaking.”
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