From November 19-21, Orlando YAYA members took part in the workshops and vigils organized by the School of the Americas Watch at Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia.
The School of the Americas, now called The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is an academy that trains a number of Latin American countries’ soldiers in supposed United States military protocol.
However, the school has a sordid history dating back to the early days of the Cold War. A copious number of graduates from the school used their training to inflict massive oppression upon the people of South and Central America.
While remembering those who had fallen at the hands of militaristic oppression the protest also held numerous workshops dealing with current social issues as well as
training for non-violent protests. Among the workshops I found most edifying was the labor caucus. Numerous labor leaders from around the country and world spoke about the importance of coalition building, worker unity and speaking truth to power.
It is important in our work with the farm workers that we illustrate our solidarity with them while also identifying the root causes of the problems facing them and responding with solutions that come from consensus building.
A number of other issues were also brought up in the workshops such as violence toward labor and rural communities in Colombia, the explicit role of Coca-Cola in the crushing of labor unions and the unfairness of the embargo in Cuba.
It is important to understand that the root cause of many of these problems including the ones facing farm workers here in Florida are a result of the same culture of greed and dehumanization facilitated under the system. It is important to educate the public about the exploitative nature in our society and provide avenues for change so more people can join the struggle.
– Curtis Hierro
On a brisk Friday Morning 10 young adults packed themselves and their luggage on a minivan to embark on the 8 hour to Columbus, GA to check out the School of The Americas Watch workshops and vigil. They arrived with aching muscles but eager brains waiting to be informed on what this yearly protest was all about. From what some of them understood the school of the Americas, now named The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, was a place where they trained Latin American soldiers to torture and organize themselves to overthrow unfavorable governments back in their perspective countries.
The most eye opening part of the weekend for me, personally, was the Killer Coke movie screening of “The Coca-Cola Case”. Here, Ray Rogers, a very energetic and charismatic man, introduced us to the movie and some other important information, such as FLOC‘s action against Chase banks, the largest financier to the tobacco giant and human rights abuser RJ Reynolds. The movie itself was insanely informative and eye opening. Coca Cola is an insanely horrible company that is directly responsible for the killing, that’s right, KILLING of lots of labor union organizers in Latin America; visit the Killer Coke website for more info on this tragedy.
The rest of the weekend was, sadly, really informative on horrible stuff that America’s neoliberal campaign on the world has caused. This was important us, YAYA, since it helped us become aware of the forces responsible for large amounts of oppression in the world and at home. Sadly, the people affected by these forces include farmworkers and even ourselves. Learning about that helps us be more effective in our efforts to fight injustice in the fields and at home.
(Photos courtesy of Juan Barredo)