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Commentary :: Human Rights
BTL:Protests in 19th Year Demand Closure of U.S. Military School for Latin American Soldiers
20 Nov 2009
BETWEEN THE LINES Syndicated Radio Newsmagazine
Protests in 19th Year Demand Closure of U.S. Military School for Latin American Soldiers

Interview with Eric LeCompte, chief organizer with the School of the Americas Watch, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Twenty years ago, on Nov. 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her teenage daughter were assassinated in El Salvador because they were outspoken proponents of a peaceful and just resolution of Salvador's civil war that took 75,000 lives in more than a decade of fighting. A U.S. Congressional Task Force and human rights groups reported that the soldiers responsible in this and many other atrocities across the hemisphere, were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga.

A year later, Father Roy Bourgeois founded the School of the Americas Watch, which called for the closure of the military facility, which is supported by Americans' tax dollars. In the years since, thousands of people have come to Fort Benning every year on the third weekend in November to commemorate the tens of thousands who have died at the hands of U.S.-trained soldiers, while continuing to demand that Congress close the school. The group helped pass a bill in the House to defund the school in 1999, but the legislation died in the Senate. Then School of the Americas changed its name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHINSEC, and instituted some changes that made members of Congress less willing to shut it down. SOA Watch maintains that the changes at the military training school are cosmetic. Their supporters chant, "New name, same shame!"

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Eric LeCompte, chief organizer with SOA Watch, who's been on staff for a decade. He describes the evolution of politics in Latin America and in the strategies of SOA Watch over the past 20 years, which now include asking President Obama to issue an executive order to close the school, something that would have been unthinkable under President George W. Bush.

For more information, including a link to the so-called "Torture Manuals," contact the group at (202) 234-3440 or visit their website at

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"Between The Lines" is a half-hour syndicated radio news magazine that each week features a summary of under-reported news stories and interviews with activists and journalists who offer progressive perspectives on international, national and regional political, economic and social issues. Because "Between The Lines" is independent of all publications, media networks or political parties, we are able to bring a diversity of voices to the airwaves generally ignored or marginalized by the major media. For more information on this week's topics and to check out our text archive listing topics and guests presented in previous programs visit:
"Between the Lines," WPKN 89.5 FM's weekly radio news magazine can be heard Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. ET; Wednesdays at 8 a.m. ET and Saturdays at 2 p.m. ET (Wednesday's show airs at 7:30 a.m. ET during fundraising months of April and October).
For an email subscription of "Between The Lines Weekly Summary" which features a RealAudio link to the week's program for Between The Lines, send an email to btlsummary-subscribe (at)
For an email subscription of "Between The Lines Q&A" which features a RealAudio link and weekly transcript to one of the interviews featured on Between The Lines, send an email to btlqa-subscribe (at)
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Distributed by Squeaky Wheel Productions
©2009 Between The Lines. All Rights Reserved.
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