Call for an Organizers’ Strategy Conference on U.S. Militarization – Nov. 18, 2010, Columbus, Georgia
We have seen US policy tilt more and more toward military options in its relations with Latin America and the Caribbean and the world. Support for the Honduras coup, the military response to Haiti’s earthquake, seven new bases in Colombia and four in Panama, continued restoration of the mothballed Fourth Fleet, all provide support for statements heard at the SOA Watch vigil in November 2009 that “Obama’s policies are more dangerous for Latin America than were Bush’s.” At the same time, the US government continues to prefer military solutions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and continues to escalate tensions with Iran, Venezuela and other countries which assert independence from US hegemony.
In the United States we are witnessing the militarization of our borders and law enforcement in our cities — aimed at immigrants, Muslims, and, as always, African-descended people. Desperately needed social programs such as health care and education are being short-changed while the Pentagon budget continues to grow beyond any rational need for defense.
In the last decade Latin America has moved toward integration and out of the US imperial orbit, while the US government has been tied down in its wars for oil in the Middle East. With the passing of the Bush regime, US policy-makers are again looking to this hemisphere and are moving aggressively to recover lost hegemony by upgrading military options and increasing covert and overt efforts to undermine Latin American and Caribbean democracies through the National Endowment for Democracy and US Agency for International Development.
It is time for the Latin America solidarity movement – in coordination with other movements — to examine its current strategies and develop new ones to support our partners in the South and to expose and oppose US government and corporate strategies to undermine Latin American and Caribbean sovereignty and its steps toward political and economic integration in the goal of a multi-polar world. SOA Watch is taking the first step in this necessary re-evaluation with its encuentro which will bring leaders of the bases in 15 Latin American countries and an equal number of US SOA Watch activists together in Venezuela in June to discuss strategies for closing the School of the Americas (renamed Western Hemisphere Initiative for Security Cooperation) and respond to US militarization.
In order to build a strong and successful movement to reverse our government’s dangerous militarism abroad and militarization of our own communities, it is necessary that we act, not just as the Latin America solidarity movement, but in unity with other movements that are fighting militarization of the borders, militarization of our police forces and the obscene share of our national wealth spent on the military industrial complex. The LASC will use its participation in the US Social Forum in Detroit, June 22-26 to begin the discussion and to build alliances.
This is a call for all Latin America solidarity groups, whether or not currently members of the LASC, as well as all US community-based grassroots movements fighting militarization of our culture, to continue that effort in a one-day organizers’ strategy conference on November 18, 2010 in Columbus, GA the day prior to SOA Watch’s annual vigil at the gates of Ft. Benning.
The purpose of the conference will be to examine current and proposed strategies to oppose US militarism and anti-democracy campaigns and the militarization of our communities with the goal of coming out of the conference with movement-wide strategies and campaigns that we can take back to our organizations, bases, and communities. We will present many of the ideas raised in workshops and plenaries during the SOA Watch vigil and at a follow-up conference in the Spring of 2011. It is recognized that each participating organization, national and local, has its own mission and program. The objective of the LASC strategy conference would be to propose framework strategies and campaigns that inform, but do not supersede, the program priorities of individual organizations.
The conference will draw on the experiences of our Southern Partners, front-line struggles in our own communities, the SOA Watch June encuentro in Caracas, Venezuela, the US Social Forum and the on-going work of US Latin America grassroots solidarity organizations. While the conference may benefit by some of the work of policy NGOs, the conference will be of, by, and for grassroots organizations and organizers. It is anticipated that a successful organizers’ conference will develop strategies and campaigns that Latin America solidarity organizations and US anti-militarization organizations will find useful to their own work, and will result in a larger, more effective movement to oppose war and injustice. For registration and information about how your organization and organizers can participate in this important conference, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. To register go to: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/727/t/5959/signUp.jsp?key=4993