On March 13 a federal magistrate judge in Columbus, Georgia, sentenced Robert Norman "Nashua" Chantal to a six-month prison term for trespassing on the US Army's Fort Benning base during a protest against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), on Nov. 18. SOA Watch, an organization that has sponsored protests at the base each November since 1990, opposes the US Army's training of Latin American soldiers, charging that SOA graduates have been among the region's most notorious human rights violators.
The sentence that Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles imposed on Chantal, a 60-year-old carpenter from Americus, Georgia, was the maximum allowed for the trespassing offense. Chantal's attorney, Loyola University law professor Bill Quigley, asked the judge to consider his client's nonviolent history. In his own statement, Chantal cited the 1973 murder of musician Víctor Jara by SOA graduates in Chile and atrocities committed by Guatemalan soldiers during the 1982-83 dictatorship of SOA graduate Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, who is scheduled to go on trial in Guatemala on Mar. 19 for genocide and other crimes. "There are hundreds of accounts of human rights violations performed by Latin American soldiers trained by the US military," Chantal said. "Where is the justice?"
Information on sending letters of support to Chantal in prison is available at SOA Watch. (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, March 13; SOA Watch press release, March 13, via email)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 17.