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PhiladelphiaPasses Resolution to Close
the School of the Americas!

For Immediate Release
September 30, 1999

Philadelphia City Council today approved a strongly worded resolution calling on the President and Congress to close the School of the Americas (SOA)–a federally funded military training academy. The SOA, located at Ft. Benning, Georgia has trained more than 60,000 soldiers, many of whom have been among the most avowed proponents of human rights abuses.

 Introduced by City Councilman Angel Ortiz, and co-sponsored by a majority of members of the City Council, the resolution will be presented to President Clinton and the Philadelphia Congressional delegation.

 The resolution refers to the 1996 declassification by the State Department of training manuals used at the SOA, which advocate the use of torture, executions, and false imprisonment. This resolution also cites many instances of human rights abuses by graduates of the SOA. Examples included the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the murder of six Jesuit priests and their two female co-workers, and the massacre of entire villages. Infamous graduates include death squad leaders Col. Julio Alpirez, (paid CIA agent), and Roberto D'Aubuisson, both responsible for some of the most heinous human rights abuses in this hemisphere, and the former dictator of Panama, Manuel Noriega.

 Major newspapers across the country, including the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune have condemned the SOA. Throughout the Americas, people have been speaking out about this issue and passing resolutions, including more than 130 U.S. Bishops, and forty Latin American bishops, the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, and the New Jersey and New York State Assemblies. Philadelphia is the first major city to pass such a resolution.

 Councilman Ortiz states that "American foreign policy needs to be one that protects human rights and not one that abuses them.... the closure of this school is long overdue!" The Councilman also stated that "citizens should contact their member of Congress and urge them to co-sponsor the House Resolution (HR 732) introduced by Rep. Joseph Moakey (D-MA) which would effectively close the SOA." On July 30, 1999 the majority of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey congressional delegations voted in favor of an amendment to cut funding to the SOA.

 On October 11, Columbus Day, Councilman Ortiz will speak at a rally at the Liberty Bell to support indigenous rights and to call for the closure of the SOA. On November 21, hundreds of Philadelphians will join more than 10,000 people at the gates of Ft. Benning to stand vigil and to protest the School of the Americas.


For more information, contact:
Linda Panetta ~ SOA Watch/NE: 215/473-2162
or Councilman Ortiz: 215/686-3420

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