School of the Americas

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Group.png School of the Americas  
(Military academyWebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
WHINSEC-Seal.png
AbbreviationWHINSEC
MottoLibertad, Paz y Fraternidad
(Freedom, Peace, Fraternity)
Formation1946
Interestsassassination, torture, bombings, “national security”, counterinsurgency
Also known as the "coup school", its graduates include most of the worst torturers in Latin America.

The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, WHINSEC for short, 1946 to 2001 School of the Americas, SOA for short, originally Escuela de las Américas, is a US Army training camp at Fort Benning in Columbus (Georgia), USA. The training camp and its predecessor institution, Escuela de las Américas, founded in 1946, were attended by more than 60,000 Latin American military personnel. Until 1984 it was in the Panama Canal Zone. The school is connected to the dirty wars of US-backed South American military dictatorships and the associated oppression of broad sections of the population, especially in the 1970s and 1980s.

Activities

The School of the Americas was established in 1946 under the name Latin American Training Center - Ground Division in the extra-territorial canal zone of Panama. Its task was to consolidate US interests in Central and South America during the conflict over the Panama Canal through military training of Latin American military personnel and military advisors. During the Cold War, the focus shifted towards preventing the spread of communism in Latin America (domino theory). After the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977 and under pressure from the Panamanian government, the location in the extraterritorial canal zone was given up in 1984 and relocated to Fort Benning. The training camp was integrated into the Army Training and Doctrine Command, the highest training and instruction command of the Army. The WHINSEC receives an annual budget of approximately ten million US dollars.[1]

Under President Ronald Reagan, school operations were expanded from 1984 (Reagan Doctrine). In 2000, the previous School of the Americas was closed by a resolution of Congress. In January 2001, on the basis of a law signed by President Bill Clinton, WHINSEC was opened in its current form as the successor institution. Since then, human rights studies have also been part of the curriculum. A new body that was formed by law when WHINSEC was founded is the 14-member advisory committee called the Board of Visitors, which has since been charged with independently reviewing, monitoring and making recommendations on the activities of the training facility. The committee, which includes representatives from Congress and the government as well as representatives from the areas of religion, human rights, science and business appointed by the Secretary of Defense, reviews, among other things, the "content and form of teaching and its compliance with law and with the goals of the United States politics".[2]

On average, 1,500 students pass through the training facility every year.[3]

Following Venezuela (2004), Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia also announced in 2006 that they would no longer send recruits to the training camp. Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez canceled all cooperation with the training camp. In 2002 graduates of the training camp had tried a coup d'etat against him.

The Empire Files: The U.S. School That Trains Dictators & Death Squads

Opposition

The School of the Americas has been criticized by human rights organizations for training predominantly right-wing military and paramilitary groups in torture techniques and for its massive support for right-wing military dictatorships in Latin America. Many of the graduates were later instrumental in so-called dirty wars in their home countries.

The graduates include Latin American soldiers, officers and later junta generals such as Augusto Pinochet[4], Leopoldo Galtieri, Roberto Viola, the Bolivian dictator Hugo Banzer Suárez, the Panamanian general, ex-CIA employee and drug dealer Manuel Noriega as well as the Peruvian secret service worker Vladimiro Montesinos, further Efraín Ríimiro Montesinos Montt, Guillermo Rodríguez Lara and Omar Torrijos. Roberto D’Aubuisson, who commissioned the murder of Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, was also trained in the SOA. Because many of the military who were involved in coup attempts against Latin American governments graduated from the training facility, it was also known as the "coup school". "Its graduates include most of the worst torturers in Latin America," said former CIA agent Philip Agee in 1999.

In 1996, results of an internal 1992 investigation by the Department of Defense were published that found intelligence manuals used by the School of the Americas between 1982 and 1991 to provide guidance on torture, executions, extortion, and other coercive methods of combating insurgents. At the same time, the Department of Defense stated that the teaching materials had been changed as a result of the investigation and that the courses had since contained mandatory information on human rights issues.

The School of the Americas was also criticized in the US Congress. For example, Joe Moakley (Democratic Party/Massachusetts), the leading critic in Congress in the late 1990s[5], said the school had "some of the most brutal killers, some of the cruelest dictators, and some of the worst human rights violators" that the western world has ever seen[6]. Another proponent of closing the SOA was Joseph Kennedy (Democratic Party/Massachusetts).[7] Representative Jim McGovern (Democratic Party/Massachusetts) also campaigned for the closure of the newly opened WHINSEC in 2001, and repeatedly introduced legislative initiatives to end the activities of the training center.[8]

Graduates

Some of the most famous graduates include:

Country Examples
Argentina Emilio Massera[9], Leopoldo Galtieri[10], Roberto Eduardo Viola[11]
Bolivia Hugo Banzer Suárez[12]
Chile Manuel Contreras[13][14] Augusto Pinochet[15]
El Salvador Roberto D'Aubuisson[16]
Gambia Yahya Jammeh
Guatemala Marco Antonio Yon Sosa[17]
Efraín Ríos Montt[18]
Otto Pérez Molina[19]
Panama Manuel Noriega
Peru Juan Velasco Alvarado[20]
Vvenezuela Vladimir Padrino López


 

Alumni on Wikispooks

PersonBornDiedNationalitySummary
Hugo Banzer10 May 19265 May 2002BoliviaSoldier
Politician
Manuel Noriega11 February 1934Soldier
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References

  1. http://www.unwelcomeguests.net/Category:School_Of_The_Americas
  2. http://www.benning.army.mil/tenant/whinsec/bov.html
  3. http://www.benning.army.mil/tenant/whinsec/faq.html#
  4. https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/dokument-des-grauens-wie-unter-pinochet-gefoltert-wurde-a-330366.html
  5. http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=81917&page=1&singlePage=true
  6. http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/militaerschule-fort-benning-terrortraining-im-auftrag-der-us-regierung-a-165751.html
  7. http://www.soaw.org/soaw/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2500%3Aus-instructed-latins-on-executions-torture&catid=57&Itemid=77
  8. https://web.archive.org/web/20131202225706/http://mcgovern.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/congressman-mcgoverns-statements-on-limiting-funding-for-the-western
  9. [Christine Legrand: Emilio Massera. Le Monde, 12. November 2010, S. 23]
  10. Artikel im Daily Telegraph (englisch)
  11. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/03/21/opinion/l-argentine-atrocities-have-us-connection-904595.html
  12. Artikel im Telegraph (englisch)
  13. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20000919/01-17.htm "CIA Activities in Chile"
  14. Christopher Marquis: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0DE4DB143BF93AA2575AC0A9669C8B63 C.I.A. Says Chilean General in '76 Bombing Was Informer
  15. https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/dokument-des-grauens-wie-unter-pinochet-gefoltert-wurde-a-330366.html D
  16. http://www.nytimes.com/1996/09/28/opinion/school-of-the-dictators.html
  17. The New Strategy. In: Time Magazine. 23. April 1965
  18. https://web.archive.org/web/20140222201358/http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/efrain-rios-montt-genocide_n_1535216.html/
  19. https://web.archive.org/web/20120904235809/http://www.soaw.org/about-the-soawhinsec/soawhinsec-grads
  20. http://www.soaw.org/about-us/faq