By Paulette Peterson and Mary Ann McGivern
Sixteen Loretto Community members, Volunteers and friends joined the Nov. 9 demonstration to advocate for the closing of the School of the Americas, renamed the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). Loretto has been present at the School of the Americas Watch in Fort Benning, Ga., since 1999, protesting a school there that trains military from Latin America. This training includes sniper training, interrogation tactics, commando and psychology warfare. Graduates have been convicted of human rights violations, targeting educators, unions, student and religious leaders and people who advocate for the poor and marginalized. The torture, loss of life and suffering of civilians is incalculable. The skills learned through the School of the Americas are carried forward into drug and human trafficking and dictatorships, in short, a moral catastrophe.
Last year the annual march moved to the Arizona-Mexico border. The School of the Americas Watch protests harmful U.S. economic and political policies and the militarization of the border. It highlights use of U.S.-supplied weapons to target civilians in many Latin American countries from which immigrants flee. Further, the protest recognizes that the Pentagon has military advisers around the world (e.g., Niger), and while a board now supervises the WHINSEC curriculum, there is no oversight of the thousands of soldiers teaching foreign troops to use sophisticated weapons and promoting a political ideology that has included torture and suppression of democracy.
The week after the SOA demonstration, the Loretto Latin America Caribbean Committee led a delegation of 11 Minnesota activists and Loretto members to see the wall and visit Humane Borders (https://humaneborders.org/) formed to put water in the desert for migrants, No More Deaths (http://forms.nomoredeaths.org/en/) that reports on topics like the “disappeared” and the abuse of migrants, and established a camp with a health clinic on private land in the desert, the Kino Border Initiative (https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/programs/humanitarian-assistance/) that provides necessities for deportees in Nogales, Mexico, and HEPAC, Home of Hope and Peace ( http://www.hepacnogales.org/) that develops a just economy in Nogales and Sonora, Mexico.
Sixteen Loretto Community members, Volunteers and friends took part in the 2017 School of the Americas Watch demonstration. Shown above are participants Pat McCormick, Pat’s friend Sheila Karpan, Byron Plumley, Rox Monterastelli, Mary Jean Friel, Carolyn Jaramillo, Paulette Peterson, Sally Dunne, Mary Ann McGivern, Eileen Harrington, Pat Geier, Loretto Volunteers Jaclyn Schmitz, Susan Nichols, Jocelyn Trainer and Mary Louise Pabello, and Kathy Clarkson, a friend of Loretto from the Basilica of St. Mary’s in Minneapolis. Below are scenes from their participation at the event. (Photos courtesy of Mary Jean Friel, Eileen Harrington, Mary Ann McGivern and Paulette Peterson.)