What is the SOA?

The School of the Americas (SOA), renamed “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation” (WHINSEC) in 2001, is an institute that trains Latin American soldiers in military operations. SOA/WHINSEC graduates have participated in some of the worst human rights atrocities Latin America has ever experienced, including the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. The SOA has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned. Victims of SOA graduates include the tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and those forced to become refugees.


History of the SOA:
The school was originally established by the U.S. in the Panama Canal Zone in 1946. In 1984, the school moved to Fort Benning, Georgia due to terms in the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.” Since its beginning, the institution has instructed more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics.

The Pentagon itself has acknowledged that in the past the School of the Americas utilized training manuals advocating coercive interrogation techniques and extrajudicial executions. After receiving their training at the institution, officers went on to commit countless human rights atrocities in countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Colombia.

Activists long lobbied Congress to shut down the school, and in the waning days of the Clinton presidency they nearly achieved their goal. In July 1999, the House passed an amendment that cut funding for the military institution, but the Senate decided to pass its own version of the bill that included funding. Compromise legislation between the House and Senate deleted the funding cut, effectively restoring public support for the school. Shortly afterwards Congress renamed the school Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) and revised the institution’s structure and curriculum. Although the curriculum is said to differ from the past, the teachers remain the same. Most of these teachers have graduated from the ‘former’ school and have been known themselves for human rights abuses.

The Victims:
Over decades that the school has been teaching, the graduates of the school have been killing. The people of Latin America have been in fear for their lives and their children’s lives. To learn more about specific massacres and to see who has been victimized, please look at the following links:

Vigil to Border Convergence

SOA Vigil: After a brutal killing in 1989 of 6 Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter at the University of Central America, Jesuit priests took a stand to stop the massacres occurring throughout Latin America. After research, it was found that nineteen of the military officers cited for the atrocity received training at the US Army School of the Americas (SOA). As a result of this brutality, some Americans organized an annual vigil and protest at Fort Benning, Georgia, where WHINSEC is housed, to show their opposition to this violence and to support a peaceful and just foreign policy. UD students, faculty and staff joined over tens of thousands each year to promote peace in the world.

Border Convergence: In 2016, the leaders of SOA Watch decided to focus their energies on the problem of immigration reform, and replaced the Vigil in Georgia with a Border Convergence in Nogales, AZ. This new event now brings thousands of activists together to pray and call on the US government to not only work towards a more just foreign policy with our neighbors to the south, but also to fix immigration laws and be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters from south of the border.

This will be a BreakOut of learning and action.

·         Expose the Root Causes of Migration

·         End U.S. Intervention in the Americas

·         Resist Border Militarization

·         Engage in Nonviolent Direct Action, Education, Art and Culture

The group will fly in and out of Tucson, AZ and stay together throughout the experience.  Any questions, please contact Mary Niebler or Cheyenne Palmer.  Space is very limited on this experience, so sign up soon below!

Related Links

Border Convergence Registration Form

Contact Us

Campus Ministry's Center for Social Concern

Liberty Hall 107 
300 College Park Ave. 
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 0408

937.229.2524