El Enemigo Común – World Premier Showing!!!
Saturday, November 19th, at 9:00pm at the SOA Vigil’s convention center room 207. This is the perfect place for the film to begin it’s tour. Every year, at Fort Benning, Georgia, people come together to protest the School of the Americas. For more information about the protests and convention, check out SOA Watch.
Neo-liberalism & Militarism Collide: SOA Watch 2005
An Austinite’s report back from the School of the America’s protests in mid-November.
At the “people power convergence” and vigil hosted by School of the Americas Watch on November 18-20 in Ft. Benning, Georgia, thousands of participants were presented a clear link between U.S. militarism and its free trade agenda.
The US Army-run School of the Americas (SOA) – which since the emergence of popular opposition has been renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation – trains Latin American military, law enforcement and civilian personnel in combat, counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics.
Graduates of the SOA have been guilty of horrendous human rights violations and include such dictators as Manuel Noriega of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador, Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia among several others. In 1996, the Pentagon released SOA training manuals which were found to advocate torture, extortion and execution.
originally written for the AFSC Newsletter – November 24, 2005:
In a symposium comprised of social activism experts, attendees learned that the South Eastern U.S. also plays host to intense violence in a different realm: Farm labor.
During their panel, Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) representatives discussed links between militarism in the form of violent farm labor bosses and the modern agricultural industry, a neo-liberal icon within our borders. Aside from facing sub-poverty wages, U.S. farmworkers are regularly denied overtime pay, the right to organize, sick days and any benefits whatsoever.
The ugliest form of worker exploitation, however, is human enslavement. Since 1997, the CIW has uncovered, investigated and assisted in the prosecution of five slavery convictions in Florida and South Carolina. Their work has enabled the release of more than 1,100 individuals enslaved in U.S. agriculture fields.
CIW member Gerardo Reyes Chavez clarified to the audience that slavery flourishes only in industries where status quo conditions for workers are already abnormally exploitative. For example, tomato pickers in Immokalee make 40-45 cents for every 32 pound bucket they fill. That means they must pick 4,000 pounds – or two tons! – to make $50 in a day.
The CIW invited allies to call on industry leader McDonalds (whose Customer Satisfaction Department can be reached at 1-800-244-6227) to be held accountable for the horrendous, hidden reality of farm labor by working with the CIW to ensure a safe and fair work environment.
CIW member Francisca Cortez also encouraged audience members to collaborate in telling the story of a migrant worker drawn onto the cuentahistoria – giant, brilliantly painted fabric swaths – brought by the CIW. The room collectively pieced together how neo-liberal policies like NAFTA forced thousands of people from Mexico, Guatemala and other nations of the Global South to find work within the borders of the U.S.
How these policies are imposed was a principal focus of El Enemigo Comun (The Common Enemy), a documentary by Simon Sedillo of the Austin Independent Media Center who launched the film’s world premiere that weekend. Right wing governments and paramilitaries supportive of the U.S. neo-liberal model – which savagely exploits human beings for the sake of transnational corporations’ profit – have received a bulk of the training at the SOA, Sedillo argued.
The film depicts how rising state-based militarism is employed to combat the diverse, growing movement against neo-liberalism, the “common enemy” that has come to unite struggles from the streets of Miami, Immokalee, Caracas, Seattle, Mar del Plata, Oaxaca and beyond.
Given the notable presence of Iraq Veterans Against the War and several conscientious objectors – along with Austin resident and Army Guard National Specialist Katherine Jashinski’s public announcement from the Ft. Benning gates of her refusal to head to war as scheduled – the connection between militarism and neo-liberalism in Iraq didn’t go unnoticed either. Since the occupation, Iraq has become one of only three nations in the world that give corporations all the rights entitled to a human being (i.e. “corporate personhood”). Journalist Naomi Klein has fittingly described Iraq as a modern laboratory for neo-liberal experimentation.
U.S. militarism and its free trade agenda are indeed interlocked as plainly exhibited at the School of the America’s protest in mid-November, as well as upon further scrutiny of most U.S. military interventions anywhere. This reality must affect our understanding of the real motivations behind U.S. militarization and urge us to shift our scope beyond just the government but to corporations as well, who likewise unduly impact the well-being of our planet’s many co-inhabitants. After all, where would they each be today without the other?
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