Between 1946 and 2001, the SOA trained more than 61,000 Latin American soldiers and policemen. Some of them became notorious for having been responsible for human rights violations, including generals Leopoldo Galtieri and Manuel Noriega, dictators such as Bolivia's Hugo Banzer as well as some of Augusto Pinochet's officers. The terrorist Luis Posada Carriles was educated here by 1961, although he never graduated. Critics of the school argue that the education encouraged such practices and that this continues in the WHINSEC. This is denied by the WHINSEC and its supporters who argue that the alleged connection is at least sometimes weak. According to the WHINSEC the education now emphasizes democracy and human rights.
During 1949 it was expanded and became the U.S. Army Caribbean Training Center. It was expanded and renamed the U.S. Army School of the Americas in 1963. It relocated to Fort Benning in 1984, following the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty. More than 61,000 military personnel attended these United States Army schools.
The School of the Americas taught military education courses as they were taught in U. S. Armed Forces institutions -- the School translated the courses, lessons plans and all, into Spanish. Beginning in 1963, and evolving as the region changed, SOA taught, at various times, professional military education and training courses to officers and non-commissioned officers in the areas of:
The current WHINSEC, now part of the United States Department of Defense, was created as part of the National Defense Authorization Act by Congress in 2001. The WHINSEC teaches primarily in the Spanish language, especially for Latin American military personnel, but is now also open for civilians and persons from outside Latin America. Presently roughly 700-1,000 students per year attend WHINSEC.
According to official web site, the WHINSEC was established "to provide professional education and training to eligible persons of the nations of the Western Hemisphere within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States." Its "mission also includes fostering mutual knowledge, transparency, confidence, and cooperation by promoting democratic values; respect for human rights; and an understanding of U.S. customs and traditions. Specific subjects set by Congress include leadership development; counterdrug; peacekeeping; democratic sustainment; resource management; and disaster preparedness and relief planning. In every course offered, eight hours of democracy and human rights instruction is mandatory. Its motto is Libertad, Paz y Fraternidad (Liberty, Peace and Brotherhood).
Currently all students are given a minimum of eight hours of instruction in "human rights, the rule of law, due process, civilian control of the military, and the role of the military in a democratic society." Courses must focus on leadership development, counter-drug operations, peace support operations, disaster relief, or "any other matter the Secretary [of Defense] deems appropriate.
According to the Center for International Policy, a "Board of Visitors" is required to review and evaluate "curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, and academic methods." A federal committee, the board must include the chairmen and ranking minority members of both houses' Armed Services Committees (or surrogates), the senior Army officer responsible for training (or a surrogate), one person chosen by the Secretary of State, the head of the U.S. Southern command (or a surrogate), and six people chosen by the Secretary of Defense ("including, to the extent practicable, persons from academia and the religious and human rights communities"). The board reviews the institute's curriculum to determine whether it complies with U.S. laws and doctrine, and whether it is consistent with U.S. policy goals toward Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to the Center for International Policy, "The School of the Americas had been questioned for years, as it trained many military personnel before and during the years of the "national security doctrine" -- the dirty war years in the Southern Cone and the civil war years in Central America -- in which Latin American militaries ruled or had disproportionate government influence and committed serious human rights violations. Training manuals used at the SOA and elsewhere from the early 1980s through 1991 promoted techniques that violated human rights and democratic standards. SOA and WHINSEC graduates continue to surface in news reports regarding both current human rights cases and new reports."
Defenders argue that today the curriculum includes human rights as described above. They also argue that no school should be held accountable for the actions of only some of its graduates.
After this investigation in 1992, the Department of Defense discontinued the use of the manuals, directed their recovery to the extent practicable, and destroyed the copies in the field. U.S. Southern Command advised governments in Latin America that the manuals contained passages that did not represent U.S. government policy, and pursued recovery of the manuals from the governments and some individual students.
In June 2007 the McGovern/Lewis Amendment to shut off funding for the Institute failed by 6 votes. This effort to close the Institute was endorsed by the non-partisan Council on Hemispheric Affairs who called the Institute a "black eye".
Critics of SOA Watch argue the connection is often misleading. According to Paul Mulshine, Roberto D'Aubuisson's sole link to the SOA is that he had taken a course in Radio Operations long before El Salvador's civil war began.
|Leopoldo Galtieri, Roberto Eduardo Viola|
|Hugo Banzer Suárez|
|Marco Antonio Yon Sosa|
|Manuel Noriega, Omar Torrijos|
|Vladimiro Montesinos, Juan Velasco Alvarado|
In 1992 the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recommended prosecution of Col. Cid Diaz for murder in association with the 1983 Las Hojas massacre. His name is on a State Department list of gross human rights abusers. Diaz went to the Institute in 2003.
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