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ISSUE 116 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/6/2002

Family fights for civil rights

By Jane Dudzinski
News Editor

Friday, December 6, 2002

Ever since she had a near-death experience in El Salvador as a child, Rebekah Decker-Soltvedt ’05 has been firmly committed to political activism against the School of Americas (SOA).

Her father, a refugee from El Salvador, first instilled her with this passion for change when he wrote protest music and poetry in the early 1980s to increase awareness of the atrocities of the SOA graduates in Latin America.

He struggled during a dangerous time, which, according to Decker-Soltvedt, still exists today. "Anybody who questions the motives of authorities, in a couple of days they’ll be gone or something will happen to their family," she said.

Having visited El Salvador many times, Decker-Soltvedt witnessed the SOA-trained military control everything from a tour bus trip to public elections.

She explained that most Latin American countries have a "government that keeps everyone oppressed by keeping them ignorant." She also pointed out that, "Almost every massacre or assassination of any leader or activist [in Latin America] has been traced back to SOA graduates, whose training [at the SOA] is funded by U.S. tax dollars."

Currently Decker-Soltvedt is involved with organizations such as Peace and Justice and Amnesty International at St. Olaf.

Having participated in the School of Americas protest with other students in early Nov., Decker-Soltvedt now plans to put up a painting reflecting an activist message about SOA in the Buntrock Crossroads.

If nothing else, [the painting] will inspire people to ask, ‘what was that?’ And then, maybe they will pick up a flyer or come to a teach-in," said Decker-Soltvedt. "It will be the first step in awareness. Once people educate themselves, if they are human, they will become passionate and want to change."

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