Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi: We Must Close the School of the Americas, Whose Graduates Have Committed Human Rights Atrocities

July 2, 2002


House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued the following statement today at a press conference in San Francisco held by School of the Americas Watch West:

"Although Congressional business prevents me from being with you in person today, I appreciate the opportunity to receive this Declaration of Protest from Fr. Louis Vitale, Fr. William O’Donnell, and Leone Reinbold.

Fathers Vitale and O’Donnell share a long history of activism for peace, justice and human rights, and have worked tirelessly on behalf of the most vulnerable members of society. I thank them for their important contributions to the Bay Area and applaud their willingness to stand up for what is right.

In 1999, the U.S. Congress voted to close the School of the Americas, which has educated some of the most horrible violators of human rights in this hemisphere. Last year, the Pentagon changed the name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation , but did little to address the fundamental issues raised by Congress about the schools training methods, its lack of oversight, and its record of graduating human rights abusers.

I am proud to co-sponsor H.R. 1810, which would repeal the authority of the Department of Defense to operate the school, effectively closing it. This legislation would also establish a joint congressional task force to evaluate what kind of education and training is appropriate to provide to military personnel of Latin American nations, particularly with respect to the observance of human rights.

Human rights abuses by military personnel in Latin America are not, unfortunately, a thing of the past. We must not condone any of the atrocities that have been performed by people who are graduates of the School of the Americas, and I will continue to work with all of you to close this institution."

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