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BACKGROUND: the School of the Americas

The School of the Americas (SOA), in 2001 renamed the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation", is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers located in Fort Benning, Georgia. 

The SOA was iniitially established in Panama in 1946. Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the "biggest base for destabilization in Latin America." 

In 1984, the SOA was kicked out of Central America.  

The SOA, frequently dubbed the " School of Assassins," has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have served.

Over its 60+ years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, "disappeared," massacred, and forced to flee by those trained at the School of the Americas. 

For close to twenty years, School of the Americas Watch has organized an annual demonstration to close the school.  The vigil is held in November to commemorate the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her daughter by soldiers trained at the School of the Americas.