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SOA Border Convergence

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

School of Americas Watch Commemorative Gathering
Fort Benning, Columbus, GA

November 15-17, 2019

Cost: $300

On the morning of November 16, 1989, an elite battalion of the Salvadoran Army entered the grounds of the Jesuit University of Central America, with orders to kill Father Ignacio Ellacuría—an outspoken critic of the Salvadoran military dictatorship—and leave no witnesses.1  When it was all over, the soldiers had killed six Jesuit priests, 16-year-old Celina Ramos and her mother Elba Ramos. The Massacre at UCA is one of most notorious crimes of El Salvador’s 12-year civil war, which left over 75,000 people dead.  Nineteen of the 26 Salvadoran officers cited for their involvement in this massacre had training at the School of the Americas in the USA prior to this atrocity.2

This year marks the 30th anniversary of this massacre, an event that sparked the exposure of and organized movement to end US support through training in this and multiple other abuses of human rights throughout Latin America. 

Join activists, church leaders, refugees, immigrants, and fellow students from across the US and around the world in this commemorative gathering, organized by the SOA Watch.  Students from UD will attend with staff and faculty to prayerfully call for a more peaceful and just US foreign policy and stand witness to injustices throughout the Americas, and especially in realtion to US policies that contribute to forced migration, disappearances, and deaths. This gathering, outside the gates of Fort Benning, which houses the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC, formally School of the Americas) joins years of creative nonviolent action to bring about peace for all in the Americas.

The SOA Watch movement began as a response to what was happening in El Salvador in the 1980’s when many people joined the solidarity movement. The patterns of violence and forced migration established during the dirty wars of the 20th century have continued unabated as a direct result of U.S. economic and security policies in Mesoamerica as well as the U.S.-led Drug War. How do we respond to this current reality in the same way we responded to the violence in the 1980’s? Where should our energies lie?

This will be a BreakOut of learning and action, with the following goals in mind:

  • 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 drive from Dayton for this experience. 

Any questions, please contact Mary Niebler or Christina Baker.   



Border Convergence Registration Form


Campus Ministry's Center for Social Concern

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