SOA Watch & Anti torture activism

It’s been 30 years since Colombian soldiers kidnapped, beat, tortured, starved and electro-shocked Hector Aristizabal — but it’s a memory he lives with everyday. Aristizabal said the Colombian military held and tortured him for ten days, all for having a “subversive book.” “Few people have survived torture in Colombia, so I am very lucky to tell this story. Most people get tortured for ten days, that’s the standard, and then they get shot and killed,” said Aristizabal. “Many have been disappeared — more than 80,000.” Aristizabal says that the Colombian soldiers who tortured him and later killed his brother were trained right here on American soil, at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. Retired Army Major Joseph Blair was an instructor at the School of the Americas, which has since been renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. “I was very much in favor of the School of the Americas during the Cold War era,” Major Blair said. But Major Blair said he was horrified to learn of what his former students did with their anti-communist training in their own countries. “The classified manuals that the Army School of the Americas used had the words interrogate, extortion, assassinate, neutralize — in common layman’s terms, it all equates to torture,” Blair said. Graduates from the School of the Americas have been implicated in massacres and torture throughout the hemisphere — including the murder of six Jesuit priests and four American churchwomen in El Salvador. [taken from Trained for Pain: get your torture degree from School of the Americas, a Russia Today reportage, July 2011]

SOAW vigil at For Benning, Georgia

Several of ImaginAction collaborators have participated in the yearly vigil at the gates of WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) formerly known as the School of the Americas. We collaborate with puppetistas from all over the country in the creation of a pageant that tells of the many massacres committed by the school’s graduates in South and Central America. We participate in the annual ritual of mourning to remember the dead and disappeared, culminating in a return-to-life celebration and a commitment to closing the school and ending militarism.


Click here to see videos of our work with SOAW and anti-torture activism.

You can only oppress people for so long, article published in SOLIDARITY Magazine about hector’s involvement in Anti-torture activism. Online version.

More about the School of the Americas Watch:

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