Sunday, August 08, 2010

Resisting Militarization and Promoting a Culture of Peace

This report, and the picture above, came from an email from the School of the Americas Watch:

In the shadow of Venezuela´s emerald green Andes Mountains, activists from 19 countries of the Americas gathered in June to share experiences and strategies in resisting militarization and promoting a culture of peace.

Among them were those who had witnessed the disappearance of their family members at the hands of the SOA as well as an SOA graduate now committed to the closing of the school. They were joined by those who had gone to jail in the U.S. to protest the SOA, and those who had been jailed and tortured in Latin America by SOA graduates. The group, spanning 50 years of age and thousands of miles of distance, was united in their commitment to work together bring peace to "Una Sola America".

SOA Watch activists from Toronto to Florida, and California to Maine shared their multiple efforts to bring the doors of the SOA to a close. Their partners from the South brought awareness of U.S. militarization in their countries, such as 7 military bases occupied by the U.S. in Colombia, an SOA-engineered repressive regime in Honduras, U.S. troops and ships headed to Costa Rica, the military occupation of Haiti and the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, among other concerns. The Southern partners expressed their gratitude for the efforts of their northern partners in trying to close the SOA, but encouraged them to broaden their focus to these new expressions of the SOA that pose even greater threats to their people.

On the final evening of the gathering, in the cool mountain air, participants gathered around a map of "America" from Alaska to Patagonia, with no borders delineated. At the center was a clay pot containing a mixture of the soil brought from 19 lands. One by one the participants passed some of the mixed soil to one another to take back with them, saying, "Somos una Sola America" (We are one America). Hours earlier, ten agreements had been reached, such as the organization of simultaneous actions throughout the Americas in coordination with the November vigil. However, it was clear that even more than written agreements, it was the connections and the vision of being Una Sola America that would truly move peace forward in the continent. As one participant said on the last evening, "this Encuentro has not ended. It has just begun."

Representatives of diverse social organizations of the Americas, from 19 countries of our continent, met in Sanare Venezuela between June 21 and 25 2010, and agreed to the following:

1. We express our solidarity with the people of Honduras through a document drafted at the Encuentro and made public that reflects our position and support for the Resistance. In addition, we call for actions in each of our countries in support of the Resistance movement in Honduras.

2. We support the vigil organized by SOA Watch in Georgia each November, and propose the organization of simultaneous vigils between November 19-21 2010 in front of foreign military bases in Colombia and Honduras, at ILEA in El Salvador, in front of U.S. embassies, as well as other identified locations in each of our countries.

3. We call for the promotion of coalitions of organizations in our countries to support the re-launching of the Continental Campaign against Foreign Military Bases, beginning with the Social Forum of the Americas that will take place in Paraguay from August 11-15, 2010, as well as the promotion of popular consultations against the bases.

4. We call upon SOA Watch to participate at the Social Forum of the Americas in Paraguay, in panels and in other spaces of participation in order to promote these agreements.

5. We call for actions in our countries in support of the Resistance in Colombia, focused on the struggle against the foreign military bases in that country, and encourage the participation of SOA Watch in the women's march against the foreign military base in Palanquero, Colombia on August 23, 2010.

6. We suggest that participation of activists from Honduras, Colombia, Haití and México at the 2010 SOA Watch vigil in Georgia be facilitated.

7. We suggest that the 2010 SOA Watch vigil in Georgia emphasize the situations in Honduras, Colombia and México, in the workshops and focus of the event.

8. We call for joint actions in support of the Resistance in Haiti, in conjunction with the vigil against militarization in Haiti that will take place on January 12, 2011.

9. We agree to organize a media workgroup to facilitate the establishment of communication networks suggested by this Encuentro.

10. We call for the promotion of "encuentros" in our countries to promote the culture of peace and to promote awareness of the danger that U.S. militarization poses for our continent.

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