The Office Of the Americas (OOA) was founded in 1983 by activist Blase Bonpane, who continues to serve as the organization’s director, and his wife Theresa. Prior to creating OOA, Mr. Bonpane had helped introduce liberation theology to Latin America during his 1960s assignment as a Maryknoll priest in Guatemala. Moreover, he has worked as a commentator on the Pacifica Radio Network and as a professor at both UCLA and California State University-Northridge.
OOA is a nonprofit organization that seeks to “end the long-standing international culture of militarism” and promote worldwide “justice and peace” through a variety of “broad-based educational programs.”
OOA’s public education campaigns are targeted broadly toward students, religious and human-rights groups, and “all others concerned about issues of international justice and peace.” The organization’s major programs include the following:
During the 1980s and ’90s, OOA consistently denounced America’s involvement in Central and South American affairs. Indeed, the Bonpanes led dozens of delegations and thousands of Americans to areas of conflict in Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, where they joined locals in publicly denouncing U.S. policies in those places. In 1994, OOA worked in Chiapas, Mexico to arbitrate talks between the Mexican government and the Zapatistas, an armed group of anti-free trade Mexican revolutionaries. In July 2007, an OOA trip to Nicaragua was sponsored by the pro-Sandinista organization Nicaragua Network.
OOA also helped bring numerous Latin American luminaries to the United States to speak on college campuses and in other forums about the harm that U.S. policies had inflicted on their countries. Among these speakers were such notables as former Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega; Miguel d’Escoto and Ernesto Cardenal, former cabinet-level ministers in Ortega’s Sandinista government; Salvadoran rebel leader Ruben Zamora; and Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu.
In 1991, OOA vehemently opposed America’s involvement in the Gulf War. At the start of Operation Desert Storm, both Blase and Theresa Bonpane were jailed for taking part in an anti-war demonstration outside the Los Angeles Federal Building. After the war ended, OOA worked with leaders of numerous left-wing groups to protest the United Nations-imposed sanctions against Iraq. Among these groups were the American Friends Service Committee, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the International Action Center, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, the Muslim Students Association, the National Lawyers Guild, Voices in the Wilderness, and the Workers World Party.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, OOA tried to preemptively discredit any plans for a U.S. military response. Indeed, on September 12 the organization helped to create the Coalition for World Peace, which would play a key role in staging large anti-war rallies in Southern California during 2002. In subsequent years, OOA leaders collaborated with representatives of other likeminded groups in protesting the ongoing Iraq War, which began in March 2003. Among these groups were Al-Awda, the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, the ANSWER Coalition, Code Pink, the Free Palestine Alliance, Gold Star Families for Peace, the Islamic Circle of North America, Military Families Speak Out, the National Lawyers Guild, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Students for Justice in Palestine, Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and World Can’t Wait.
In addition to its consistent opposition to United States foreign policies, OOA has also been unremittingly critical of American domestic affairs. Characterizing the U.S. penal system as racist and corrupt to its core, for instance, OOA asserts: “Just as in the case of the arms business during the Cold War and the eternal Bush Wars, corporate profits are the driving forces for the prison industrial complex.”
In 2003, OOA was a steering committee member of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Coalition, an immigration-reform initiative. Today, OOA is a member organization of the United for Peace and Justice coalition.
OOA’s headquarters are based at the Aris and Carolyn Anagnos Peace Center Foundation in Los Angeles (formerly known as the Los Angeles Peace Center), which has also housed the Coalition for World Peace, the Humanitarian Law Project, Peace No War, and branch offices of the Democratic Socialists of America, and the National Lawyers Guild.
Blase Bonpane today heads OOA’s executive board, which includes such high-profile figures as actors Ed Asner and Martin Sheen. The OOA advisory board, meanwhile, has included notables like Aris Anagnos, Roy Bourgeois, Noam Chomsky, Jodie Evans, Dolores Huerta, James Lawson, the late Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn.
 Central to this mission is a campaign designed to discredit those “areas of U.S. foreign policy” that are “illegal and/or immoral.” “We have lived in a culture that glorifies war,” Bonpane once said. “We have to abolish the war system.”