Thu Nov 15, 2012, 10:34 AM
muriel_volestrangler (76,898 posts)
A cut we can all get behind: The School of the Assassins
On Friday, thousands of protesters will converge on Fort Benning, Georgia, home to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Co-operation (WHINSEC). It’s had this title since 2001, but when it was set up in Panama in 1946 it was the School of the Americas. In 66 years it has trained 64,000 soldiers from Latin America in counterinsurgency, sniper warfare, interrogation techniques and other useful methods for repressing their citizens.
Another name for it in Latin America is the Escuela de los Asesinos. A United Nations Truth Commission in El Salvador implicated 19 of its graduates in the massacre of six Jesuit priests on 16 November 1989. School of Americas Watch (SOAW), the organisers of this week’s event, list 57 of the most notorious graduates, among them generals Galtieri of Argentina, Banzer of Bolivia, Rios Montt of Guatemala and Noriega of Panama. Hugo Banzer, who maintained a ‘chamber of horrors’ beneath his interior ministry where 2000 prisoners were kept and tortured, had his photo on the school’s ‘wall of fame’. More recent graduates include two leaders of the failed attempt to unseat Hugo Chávez in 2002 and the mastermind of the coup in Honduras in 2009, General Vásquez Velásquez.
When I spoke to him in August he’d just persuaded President Correa of Ecuador to withdraw from the SOA, and a few days later he convinced Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua to do the same. Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela and Bolivia had already withdrawn their support. Costa Rica’s President Arias pulled out in 2007, only to be worked on behind the scenes until, as WikiLeaks revealed, he quietly reversed the decision and continued sending police trainees anyway.
The president with the most power over WHINSEC’s future is of course Obama. But if the place is eventually closed, it’s likely to be for economic as much as moral reasons. SOAW are working on Congress to cut its funding. In 2010 a bill to suspend operations at WHINSEC had more than 100 co-sponsors. Now SOAW are looking for support from Republicans interested in budget cuts. The fewer countries that send troops there, the more that spending $18 million a year on WHINSEC looks like a waste of money.
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A cut we can all get behind: The School of the Assassins (Original post)
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