Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban Five
Thousands of religious, trade union, and human rights supporters participated in a vigil and rally outside the gates of the School of the Americas (SOA) at Fort Benning, Georgia on November 21st to demand that it be closed. 26 were arrested, two of whom were sentenced to 6 months in prison and up to a $5000 fine for the crime of trespassing. (see http://www.soaw.org)
The “school” has trained more than 64,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency, military intelligence and interrogation techniques. Luis Posada Carriles, the notorious terrorist and mastermind of the 1976 downing of Cubana airline flight 455, trained at this School of Assassins in 1961.
Graduates of the SOA have been linked to human rights violations and suppression of popular movements throughout the Americas, most recently in Honduras where they led the coup against President Manuel Zelaya. The notorious Salvadoran death-squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson graduated from the “school.” Eleven dictators have attended: men such as Argentine junta leader, Leopoldo Galtieri, infamously responsible for the “disappeared” and Guatemala’s Efraín Ríos Montt, whose scorched earth campaign against indigenous villages, was classified as “genocide” by a UN-sponsored commission. Colombia has sent more officers to US training schools than any other Latin American country and, today, has the worst human rights record in the region.
This year marked the 21th anniversary of the massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her teenage daughter in El Salvador in 1989. Those responsible for the killing were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas. Since then, the non-violent, grassroots group called SOA Watch has organized annual protests at the gates of Fort Benning. The SOA Watch movement has stood in solidarity with the people of Latin America to change oppressive U.S. foreign policy.
This year we distributed 2300 of leaflet “Faith Leaders Speak out on the Cuban 5” to the 8000 participants The Cuban 5 have been railroaded to prison and locked up for 2 life terms and 99 years for the “crime” of uncovering U.S. based terrorism against their island.
Tom Whitney collected 250 signatures on the latest petition inspired the recent Amnesty International statement on the Cuban 5 case.
In contrast to years past, a high proportion of those attending were aware of the Cuban 5 case, and we encountered a number of attendees who had been to Cuba.
We had a 2 hour workshop to 40 people at the School of Americas protest this year about life in Cuba today and the case of the Cuban 5. We had a presentation and discussion about the effects of the U.S. blockade on Cuba, their egalitarian social system, the reasons for the economic changes taking place, and the case of the Cuban 5.
I Am Being Subpoenaed By the FBI
by Sarah Midge Smith on Tuesday, December 7, 2010
(member of Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5 who went to the SOA Watch protest)
On Friday morning, December 3rd, I received a phone call from an FBI agent. He asked if I had about 30 minutes to sit down and speak with him so he could ask me some questions. I asked about what and he said he “was not at liberty to discuss it.” I then asked if I needed a lawyer present and he said it was up to me but that I was not in any trouble and that they just had a few questions. I felt something suspicious about him telling me he wanted to ask me some questions, but he would not tell me what these questions were. So I said that I had to consult a lawyer and check my schedule and that I would get back to him. I reiterated that it would be easier for me to meet him if I knew why an FBI agent wanted to sit down with me. He then said that it had to deal with the trip I took this summer. He then emphasized, “I think you know which one I’m talking about.”
The trip I took last summer was to Israel and Palestine. I am Jewish and wanted to see first hand what life is like for Israelis and Palestinians. If I went on the standard tour to Israel, I would not be shown how Palestinians live. So I went on a tour that showed me both worlds, Israel, and the Israeli occupied Palestinian West Bank. I went with 2 Palestinian-American friends. You would think Jews and Palestinians going together to visit Israel and Palestine is something the U.S. government would encourage. Instead, we are now being ordered by the FBI to go before a Grand Jury for going on that trip.
The US government says it supports peace between Israel and Palestine. It says it supports separate Israeli and Palestinian states. So why does the FBI investigate us because we went to see the Palestinian land? Top US government leaders meet with Palestinian leaders, so why does the FBI investigate us because we talked to average Palestinians on the street? I went there so I could make up my own mind and talk about what I saw. It seems to me our government wants to hide what Israel is doing to Palestinians.
I would like to thank the Committee Against Political Repression for the support they have given me and I encourage everyone to check out www.stopfbi.net to learn more and to sign the petition against this witch hunt.
You can help by donating to my legal defense by sending a tax-deductible check to NLG Foundation. In the memo write: FBI Raids. You can mail it to Sarah Smith at 2961 S. Bonaparte, Chicago, Il 60608.