This weekend, Jose Angel Corrales Perez, from the rural community of El Lagartillo, in northwestern Nicaragua will be on stage at the SOAW vigil in Fort Benning Georgia. A gifted musician, Jose is a member music group Los Rusticos del Norte, which has won local and national musical competitions and is recognized for its performance of original music. He is proud of his campesino roots, and his courageous community.
The courage of his community is what takes Jose Angel to Fort Benning this year. On December 31, 1984, El Lagartillo was attacked by heavily armed U.S.-backed "Contras", when Jose's mother was just 12 years old. Six community members, including three teenagers, were killed while defending the farming cooperative. Their courage enabled women and children to flee, saving many lives. At the vigil Jose will proudly read the names of the martyrs of his community, who died that New Year’s Eve, 30 years ago, including his uncle for whom he is named.
Prior to the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution in 1979, Nicaragua, the Somoza dictatorship, sent more troops to be trained at the SOA than any other army in the region. The SOA trains soldiers from throughout Latin America in the deadly counterinsurgency strategies of torture and terror that continue to claim thousands of innocent lives and create collective, intergenerational trauma.
On September 4, 2012, President Daniel Ortega announced that Nicaragua would no longer send students to the US to train at the School of the Americas (SOA). Nicaragua is one of six Latin American countries which have suspended participation in the SOA due to the egregious human rights abuses committed by its graduates.