The School of the Americas (SOA) is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 2001 renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). It was initially established in Panama in 1946 however it was expelled from Panama in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty (article iv) and reinforced under the Treaty Concerning the Permanent Neutrality and Operation of the Panama Canal (article v).
Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.” The SOA have left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned. For this reason the School of the Americas has been historically dubbed the “School of Assassins”.
Since 1946, the School of the Americas has trained over 64,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Each year, the program trains between 1,000 and 2,000 soldiers, and many of the School’s graduates have been implicated in numerous murders, assassinations, and massacres throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean basin. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by School of the Americas graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.
Some of the most infamous graduates include the founders of death squads in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
On January 17, 2001 the School of the Americas was replaced by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. This was the result of a Department of Defense proposal included in the Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal 2001. The measure passed when the House of Representatives defeated a bi-partisan amendment to close the school and conduct a congressional investigation by a narrow ten vote margin. The amendment was sponsored by Representatives Moakley (D-MA), Scarborough (R-FL), Campbell (R-CA) and McGovern (D-MA) . The following is a summary comparison of the “new” school with the School of the Americas.
In a media interview last year, Georgia Senator and School of the Americas supporter, the late Paul Coverdell, characterized the DOD proposal as “cosmetic” changes that would ensure that the School of the Americas could continue its mission and operation. Critics of the School of the Americas concur. The new military training school is the continuation of the School of the Americas under a new name. It is a new name, but the same shame.
The approach taken by the DOD is not grounded in any critical assessment of the training, procedures, performance, or results (consequences) of the training program it copies. Further, it ignores congressional concern and public outcry over the SOA’s past and present link to human rights atrocities.
1850-56: U.S. soldiers defend American-built transisthmian railroad in Panama
1852-53: U.S. Marines land in Argentina to protect American interests during a revolution
1855: U.S. forces sent to Uruguay to protect American lives and property
1856: William Walker, with a mercenary army, conquers Nicaragua.
1857: Cornelius Vanderbilt funds the war against Walker, and hires American mercenary Sylvanus M. Spencer to lead Costa Rican forces
1885: Washington sends–in one of the first acts of “gunboat diplomacy”–the USS Wachusett to Guatemala to defend American lives and property
1898: America defeats Spain and annexes or assumes control of Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico (and also annexes Hawaii)
1903: The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty makes the U.S. the “sovereign” power in the Panama Canal Zone
1904: Roosevelt announces his corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, and takes customs control of the Dominican Republic
1905: U.S. Marines land in Honduras
1906-09: U.S. forces occupy Cuba
1910: U.S. forces land in Nicaragua and control–for the next thirty-eight years–the country’s finances
1912: United Fruit begins operations in Honduras
1914-34: U.S. troops occupy Haiti
1916-24: U.S. Marines occupy the Dominican Republic
1918: U.S. army lands in Panama to protect United Fruit plantations
1920-21: U.S. troops support a coup in Guatemala
1926-33: U.S. marines occupy Nicaragua and wage war against Sandino’s peasant army
1936-79: U.S. support for the Somozas
1954: CIA-United Fruit coup in Guatemala
1961: CIA-supported invasion of the Bay of Pigs
1966: U.S. Green Berets take part in “Operation Guatemala”; over 8,000 Guatemalans killed
1981-90: U.S. funds contra war in Nicaragua
1983: U.S. invasion of Granada
1989: U.S. invasion ousts Panamanian dictator and former CIA operative, Manuel Noriega.