Gathering and Resisting in the Humanitarian Space El Mirador

Theater and Substance at the School of the Americas

By John Lindsay-Poland

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SOA Watch November Vigil 2014. Photo credit: Gary Cozette

Over the weekend, hundreds of people commemorated the 25th anniversary of the killing of six Jesuit priests by Salvadoran soldiers trained by the United States, by holding an annual vigil at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia. There, the former School of the Americas (now Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, WHINSEC) continues to train 1,700 Latin American soldiers and police each year.

The day before the protest, a federal advisory committee to WHINSEC held what one observer called a “highly choreographed” annual meeting to discuss curriculum and direction for the school. Established in the 1990s after public disclosures of manuals used by the school that promoted torture and killing civilians, the committee is made up of academics, retired diplomats, and representatives of Congressional, military and State Department officials.
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Teatro y la Sustancia en la Escuela de las Américas

Por John Lindsay-Poland

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La Vigilia de Noviembre 2014 del Observatorio de la Escuela de las Américas. Foto: Gary Cozette

La Vigilia de Noviembre 2014 del Observatorio de la Escuela de las Américas. Foto: Gary Cozette

El pasado fin de semana, cientos de personas conmemoraron el 25º aniversario del asesinatos de los seis sacerdotes jesuitas por soldados salvadoreños entrenados por los Estados Unidos, haciendo una vigilia frente las puertas de Fuerte Benning, Georgia. Allí, la ex Escuela de las Américas (ahora el Instituto de Cooperación para la Seguridad Hemisférica, Whinsec por sus siglas en inglés) sigue entrenando a 1.700 soldados y policías de América Latina cada año.

El día antes de la protesta, una comisión asesora nacional de Whinsec llevó a cabo lo que un observador calificó como una “altamente coreografiada” reunión anual para hablar de los cursos y la dirección de la escuela. Establecida en los 1990s después de la publicación de un manual utilizado por la escuela que promovía la tortura y la ejecución de civiles, la comisión se constituye por profesores, diplomáticos jubilados, y representantes de Congresistas, agencias militares y el Departamento de Estado.
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Serious Setback for Justice in Colombia if Bills to Expand Jurisdiction of Military Courts Approved

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FOR Peace Presence and sixteen other U.S., European and international organizations concerned with human rights released today a statement asserting their “grave concern’ regarding “renewed legislative efforts by the Colombian government that could deny justice for serious human rights abuses—including extrajudicial executions—committed by members of the military and police.”   See the English version here:

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Grave retroceso para la justicia en Colombia si se aprueban proyectos de ley para ampliar el fuero penal militar

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FOR Presente por la Paz y dieciséis otras organizaciones de derechos humanos estadounidenses, europeas e internacionales manifestaron su “profunda preocupación” sobre “los renovados esfuerzos legislativos del gobierno colombiano que podrían negar la justicia por los abusos de derechos humanos – incluyendo las ejecuciones extrajudiciales – cometidos por miembros de la fuerza pública.” La declaración completa:

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Gathering and Resisting in the Humanitarian Space El Mirador

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7th of November 2014: National and international organizations gather in the Humanitarian Space of El Mirador for a Humanitarian Commission to assess several aspects of the current situation of the community of El Tamarindo, Atlántico. FOR Peace Presence is part of the international team of observers of the Humanitarian Commission. The community is facing imminent threats of a further eviction of its settlers, with pressure growing daily from presumable land title owners, which coincides not only with the State’s negligence to move forward on the solutions agreed upon with community members, but also with the negligence of protections for the community in prior evictions. For example, the eviction on the 7th of November 2013, exactly one year ago, ended with at least three wounded settlers.

Background

About 12 years ago, farmers who had been forcibly displaced by the violence of the internal conflict started settling in El Tamarindo, which back then was a wasteland of about 120 hectares on the outskirts of Barranquilla, Colombia’s fourth biggest city. No one lived on the land, and no one was listed as owning it before they arrived.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

El Tamarindo is located in an international trade hub, the connection between the Caribbean Sea and the Magdalena River, one of Colombia’s crucial trade routes. With the arrival of the free trade agreements in 2007, the area was designated a free trade zone, Barranquilla Zona Franca, with import and export tax exemptions. That is when private landowners suddenly appeared and started claiming the land. To date, more than 40 official notices for evictions have been given to the community of El Tamarindo. Despite the joint judicial and political efforts by the community living in the territory to avert these evictions, already 66% of the 120 ha have been reclaimed in the last few years. The Police Inspector of Barranquilla has been in charge of the execution of evictions on the ground, in which the Colombian police and private security forces have been involved. The evictions have included physical and psychological violence, and have been destroying people’s homes, harvests and futures.
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