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The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) is a United States Department of Defense Institute located at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia. Authorized by the United States Congress through 10 USC 2166 in 2001,[1] WHINSEC "Provides professional education and training to eligible personnel of nations of the Western Hemisphere within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States[2] (such charter being a treaty to which the United States is a party), while fostering mutual knowledge, transparency, confidence, and cooperation among the participating nations and promoting democratic values, respect for human rights, and knowledge and understanding of United States customs and traditions.[3] Throughout the decade since its establishment, WHINSEC has provided training for more than 13,000 U.S. and International students. Its educational format incorporates guest lecturers and subject matter experts from sectors of U.S. and International government, non-government, human rights, law enforcement, academic institutions and interagency departments[4] to share best practices in pursuit of improved security cooperation between all nations of the Western Hemisphere.

Background[edit | edit source]

In 10 USC 2166, Congress establishes an independent review board (a federal advisory committee) to "inquire into the curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, and academic methods of the Institute, other matters relating to the Institute that the Board decides to consider, and any other matter that the Secretary of Defense determines appropriate".[5] The "Board of Visitors" (BoV) as this committee is named, is responsible for reviewing the curriculum of WHINSEC to "determine whether the curriculum complies with applicable United States laws and regulations; is consistent with United States policy goals toward Latin America and the Caribbean; adheres to current United States doctrine; and appropriately emphasizes the matters specified in subsection (d)(1): "The curriculum of the Institute shall include mandatory instruction for each student, for at least 8 hours, on human rights, the rule of law, due process, civilian control of the military, and the role of the military in a democratic society." The Board must also submit an annual report to the Secretary of Defense on its findings and recommendations related to its review of the institute. Copies of their reports are posted on the Federal Advisory Committee website.[6] The 14-member BoV includes Senator Carl Levin (Senate Armed Services Committee majority, D-MI); Senator Saxby Chambliss (Senate Armed Services Committee minority, R-GA); Rep. Phil Gingrey (House Armed Services Committee majority, R-GA); Rep. Loretta Sanchez (House Armed Services Committee minority, D-CA) as well as six members designated by the Secretary of Defense from the community at large. These six members include representatives from the human rights, religious, academic, and business communities. Members of the Board are not compensated for service on the Board. A full listing of the BoV members can be found on the Federal Advisory Committee website[6] and the WHINSEC public website.[7] The BoV annual meeting is open to the public and meeting dates are posted in advance on the Federal Register.[8]

History[edit | edit source]

Until 2000, the United States Army School of the Americas (USARSA) was the principal training school for U.S. and Latin American military and police personnel in a variety of small unit tactics and leadership courses. By the early 1990s the Cold War was drawing to its end. During the ten years that followed, new freedoms brought new challenges. Latin America was no different, moving away from dictatorships and toward democracy, open markets, the professionalization of its military, police and interagency organizations as well as mutually beneficial cooperation with its neighbors to meet new regional challenges to security. Because USARSA's mandate and capabilities were not able to address the needs of post–Cold War Latin America and sectors of concerned citizens voiced their desire for change, Congress, through the FY01 National Defense Act, withdrew the Secretary of the Army's authority to operate USARSA.[9]

WHINSEC curriculum[edit | edit source]

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Criticism of WHINSEC[edit | edit source]

Human rights violations by graduates[edit | edit source]

The School of the Americas was criticized concerning the human rights violations performed by a number of its graduates,[10][11][12] WHINSEC argues "that no school should be held accountable for the actions of its graduates".[13]

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 the armed forces within several Latin American countries ruled or had disproportionate government influence and committed serious human rights violations in those countries." 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,[13] but according to Human Rights Watch, "training alone, even when it includes human rights instruction, does not prevent human rights abuses."[11]

U.S. Army Maj. Joseph Blair, a former director of instruction at the school, said, "there are no substantive changes besides the name. [...] They teach the identical courses that I taught, and changed the course names and use the same manuals."[10] On the lessons taught at the School, Blair said: "The doctrine that was taught was that if you want information you use physical abuse, you use false imprisonment, you use threats to family members, you use virtually any method necessary to get what you want...[including torture] and killing. If there's someone you don't want you kill them. If you can't get the information you want, if you can't get that person to shut up or to stop what they're doing you simply assassinate them, and you assassinate them with one of your death squads."[14]

"Sources at the [U.S. Army School of the Americas] say that when Honduran and Colombian soldiers go through the urban-combat exercise with blanks in their weapons, half the time the village priest (played by a U.S. Army chaplain) is killed or roughed up," Newsweek reported.[15]

An official set of School of the Americas talking points in 1999 declares: "Liberation Theology — in Latin America ... was defeated with the assistance of the U.S. Army."[16]

On September 20, 1996, the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals that were used at the U.S. Army School of the Americas and distributed to thousands of military officers from 11 South and Central American countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama, where the U.S. military was heavily involved in counterinsurgency. These manuals advocated targeting civilians, extrajudicial executions, torture, false imprisonment, and extortion.[17][18][19]

In "Teaching Human Rights Violations", a Washington Post editorial commented on its report, "US instructed Latins on Executions, Torture:" The U.S. Army advocacy of terror methods reaches far beyond the question of whether or not the U.S. Army School of the Americas ought to be shut down {"Army Instructed Latins on Executions, Torture", front page, Sept. 21}. It has to do with U.S. complicity in human rights crimes."[20]

In "School of the Dictators", the editors of The New York Times commented: "Americans can now read for themselves some of the noxious lessons the United States Army taught to thousands of Latin American military and police officers at the School of the Americas during the 1980s. A training manual recently released by the Pentagon recommended interrogation techniques like torture, execution, blackmail and arresting the relatives of those being questioned. Such practices, which some of the school's graduates enthusiastically applied once they returned home, violate basic human rights and the Army's own rules of procedure. They also defy the professed goals of American foreign policy and foreign military training programs."[21]

Participation[edit | edit source]

In 2004, Venezuela ceased all training of Venezuelan soldiers at WHINSEC[22] after a long period of chilling relations between the United States and Venezuela. On March 28, 2006, the government of Argentina, headed by President Néstor Kirchner, decided to stop sending soldiers to train at WHINSEC, and the government of Uruguay affirmed that it will continue its current policy of not sending soldiers to WHINSEC.[23][24] In 2007, Óscar Arias, president of Costa Rica, decided to stop sending Costa Rican police to the WHINSEC, although later reneged, saying the training would be beneficial for counter-narcotics operations. Costa Rica has no military, but has sent some 2,600 police officers to the school.[25] In a letter to the Commandant of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), U.S. Army Col. Gilberto Perez, Bolivian President Evo Morales formally announced on February 18, 2008, that he will not send Bolivian military or police officers to attend training programs at the institute formerly known as the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA).[26] In 2012, President Rafael Correa announced that Ecuador would withdraw all their troops from the military school at Ft. Benning, citing links to human rights violations.[27]

Legislative action[edit | edit source]

A bill to abolish the school, with 134 cosponsors, was introduced to the House Armed Services Committee in 2005.[28]

In June 2007, the McGovern/Lewis Amendment to shut off funding for the Institute failed by 6 votes.[29] This effort to close the Institute was endorsed by the nonpartisan Council on Hemispheric Affairs who called the Institute a "black eye".[30]

SOA Watch[edit | edit source]

Main article: School of the Americas Watch

Since 1990, Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit human rights organization School of the Americas Watch has worked to monitor graduates of the institution and to close the former SOA, now WHINSEC, through legislative action, grassroots organizing and nonviolent direct action.[31] It maintains a database with graduates of both the SOA and WHINSEC who have been accused of human rights violations and other criminal activity.[32] In regard to the renaming of the institution, SOA Watch claims that the approach taken by the Department of Defense is not grounded in any critical assessment of the training, procedures, performance, or results (consequences) of the training programs of the SOA. According to critics of the SOA, the name change ignores congressional concern and public outcry over the SOA's past and present link to human rights atrocities.[33]

Protests and public demonstrations[edit | edit source]

Since 1990, SOA Watch has sponsored an annual public demonstration of protest of SOA/WHISC at Ft. Benning. In 2005, the demonstration drew 19,000 people. The protests are timed to coincide with the anniversary of the assassination of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador, on November 1989, by graduates of the School of the Americas.[34] On November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests (Ignacio Ellacuria, Segundo Montes, Ignacio Martin-Baro, Joaquin López y López, Juan Ramon Moreno, and Amado López); their housekeeper, Elba Ramos; and her daughter, Celia Marisela Ramos, were murdered by the Salvadoran Military on the campus of the University of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador, because they had been labeled as subversives by the government.[35] A United Nations panel concluded that 19 of the 27 killers were SOA graduates.[36]

Graduates of the School of the Americas[edit | edit source]

"The U.S. Army School of the Americas is a school that has run more dictators than any other school in the history of the world."

A number of graduates of the SOA and WHINSEC have been accused of human rights violations and criminal activity in their home countries.[38] In August 2007, according to an Associated Press report, Colonel Alberto Quijano of the Colombian army's Special Forces was arrested for providing security and mobilizing troops for Diego León Montoya Sánchez (aka "Don Diego"), the leader of the Norte del Valle Cartel and one of the FBI's 10 most-wanted criminals. School of the Americas Watch said in a statement that it matched the names of those in the scandal with its database of attendees at the institute. Alberto Quijano attended courses and was an instructor who taught classes on Peacekeeping Operations and Democratic Sustainment at the school from 2003 to 2004.[39]
Others former students include members of the Atlacatl Battalion, responsible for the El Mozote massacre and Franck Romain, former leader of the Tonton Macoute, responsible for the St Jean Bosco massacre.[40]


Luis Posada Carriles at Fort Benning, Georgia, 1962

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.[41]

Educated according to other sources[edit | edit source]

Luis Posada Carriles was educated by the CIA in explosives and sabotage at Fort Benning (the current location of the academy) between March 1963 and March 1964, after his participation in the Bay of Pigs invasion.[45][46][47][48]

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.[49][50]

Media representation[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. "10 USC Chapter 108-Armed Forces, Subtitle A-General Military Law, Part III-Training and Education, Chapter 108-Department of Defense Schools, Section. 2166". U.S. House of Representatives. January 3, 2012. http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/10C108.txt. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  2. http://www.oas.org/dil/treaties_A-41_Charter_of_the_Organization_of_American_States.htm Charter of the OAS including members
  3. William J. Lynn III, Deputy Secretary of Defense (March 18, 2010). "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC)". United States Department of Defense. http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/511112e.pdf. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  4. "Overview". WHINSEC. The United States Army. http://www.benning.army.mil/tenant/whinsec/overview.html. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  5. "§2166. Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation". U.S. Government Printing Office. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2010-title10/html/USCODE-2010-title10-subtitleA-partIII-chap108-sec2166.htm. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Public Access
  7. "Chain of Command". The United States Army. http://www.benning.army.mil/tenant/whinsec/commandOversight.html. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  8. http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/
  9. "Public Law 106–398: National Defense Authorization, Fiscal Year 2001". United States Department of Defense. October 30, 2000. http://www.dod.mil/dodgc/olc/docs/2001NDAA.pdf. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Bill Wallace; Jim Houston (July 13, 2002). "Bay Area protesters sentenced in Georgia". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Bay-Area-protesters-sentenced-in-Georgia-Jail-2796779.php. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Columbia: The Ties That Bind: Colombia and Military-Paramilitary Links". February 2000 work=Human Rights Watch. http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/2000/colombia/. Retrieved August 12, 2012. .
  12. "US Intelligence Oversight Board cites SOA". SOA Watch. 1996. http://www.soaw.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=226. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation". Center for International Policy. http://www.ciponline.org/facts/soa.htm. Retrieved May 6, 2006. 
  14. John Pilger (August 21, 2007). War on democracy - School of Americas. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5L1VdlktOw. Retrieved November 20, 2010. 
  15. "Running A 'School For Dictators'". Newsweek. August 8, 1993. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/1993/08/08/running-a-school-for-dictators.html. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  16. "U.S. Army School of the Americas: Frequently Asked Questions". United States Army. 1999. Archived from the original on April 28, 1999. http://web.archive.org/web/19990428095558/www.benning.army.mil/usarsa/FAQ/FAQ.htm. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  17. "Declassified Army and CIA Manuals". Latin America Working Group. 1997. http://www.lawg.org/our-publications/72-general/319-declassified-army-and-cia-manuals. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  18. "Prisoner Abuse: Patterns from the Past". Electronic Briefing Book No. 122. The National Security Archive. May 12, 2004. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB122/. Retrieved August 12, 2012. "Prisoner Abuse: Patterns from the Past"
  19. Dana Priest (September 21, 1996). "U.S. Instructed Latins On Executions, Torture; Manuals Used 1982-91, Pentagon Reveals". The Washington Post: p. A1. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost/access/21894636.html?dids=21894636:21894636&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Sep+21%2C+1996&author=Dana+Priest&pub=The+Washington+Post+%28pre-1997+Fulltext%29&desc=U.S.+Instructed+Latins+On+Executions%2C+Torture%3B+Manuals+Used+1982-91%2C+Pentagon+Reveals. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  20. Editorial (October 1, 1996). "Teaching Human Rights Violations". The Washington Post: p. A18. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost/access/21914617.html?dids=21914617:21914617&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Oct+01%2C+1996&author=&pub=The+Washington+Post+%28pre-1997+Fulltext%29&desc=Teaching+Human+Rights+Violations. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  21. Editorial (September 28, 1996). "School of the Dictators". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1996/09/28/opinion/school-of-the-dictators.html. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  22. "National Venezuela Solidarity Conference". School of the Americas Watch. http://www.soaw.org/new/article.php?id=1259. Retrieved May 6, 2006. 
  23. "Argentina & Uruguay abandon SOA!". School of the Americas Watch. http://www.soaw.org/new/article.php?id=1290. Retrieved May 6, 2006. 
  24. "¡No Más! No More!". School of the Americas Watch. Archived from the original on May 4, 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20060504204401/http://www.soaw.org/new/newswire_detail.php?id=1077. Retrieved May 6, 2006. 
  25. "Costa Rica to Cease Police Training at the SOA/WHINSEC". School of the Americas Watch. http://www.soaw.org/article.php?id=1540. Retrieved May 31, 2007. 
  26. "Bolivian Military Withdraws from Controversial U.S. Army Training School". School of the Americas Watch. Archived from the original on March 7, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080307024559/http://www.soaw.org/pressrelease.php?id=142. Retrieved February 18, 2008. 
  27. "SOAW". http://soaw.org/about-us/equipo-sur/212-delegations/3940-ecuador-will-cease-participation-in-school-of-the-americas. 
  28. "H.R.1217". The Library of Congress. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgizbin/bdquery/z?d109:h.r.01217:. Retrieved May 6, 2006. 
  29. "WHINSEC Remains Open: Congress Narrowly Fails to Halt Funding the Former School of the Americas". Council on Hemispheric Affairs. July 6, 2007. http://www.coha.org/2007/07/06/whinsec-remains-open-congress-narrowly-fails-to-halt-funding-the-former-school-of-the-americas/. Retrieved October 12, 2008. 
  30. "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation". Council on Hemispheric Affairs. http://www.coha.org/?s=WHINSEC. Retrieved October 12, 2008. 
  31. "About SOA Watch". School of the Americas Watch. http://www.soaw.org/new/article.php?id=100. Retrieved May 6, 2006. 
  32. "SOA/WHINSEC Grads in the News". School of the Americas Watch. http://soaw.org/article.php?id=205. Retrieved March 6, 2008. 
  33. "Critique of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation". School of the Americas Watch. http://www.soaw.org/article.php?id=110. Retrieved November 16, 2005. 
  34. http://www.haguejusticeportal.net/Docs/NLP/Spain/Jesuits_UN_Truth_Commission_Report.pdf Truth Commissions: Reports: El Salvador – The Hague Justice Portal – accessed November 20, 2010[dead link]
  35. Global Capitalism, Liberation Theology, and the Social Sciences: An Analysis of the Contradictions of Modernity at the Turn of the Millennium (paperback) by Andreas Muller (editor), Arno Tausch (editor), Paul M. Zulehner (editor), Henry Wickens (editor), Hauppauge/Huntington, New York: Nova Science Publishers, ISBN 1-56072-679-2.
  36. Krickl, Tony (February 3, 2007). "CGU Student Josh Harris to Spend Two Months in Federal Prison for Protesting". Claremont Courier. http://www.claremont-courier.com/pages/Topstory020307.1.html. [dead link]
  37. Who Benefits from Global Violence and War: Uncovering A Destructive System, by Marc Pilisuk, 2008, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 147.
  38. "Notorious Graduates". School of the Americas Watch. http://www.soaw.org/article.php?id=230&cat=63. Retrieved November 16, 2005. 
  39. "US trained Colombian soldiers jailed for working with cartel, says human rights group". School of the Americas Watch. Associated Press. Archived from the original on October 16, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20071016120930/http://www.soaw.org/newswire_detail.php?id=1390. Retrieved August 18, 2007. 
  40. Notorious Graduates from Haiti, SOA Watch "Notorious Graduates from Haiti"]. SOA Watch. http://www.soaw.org/about-the-soawhinsec/soawhinsec-grads/notorious-grads/240 Notorious Graduates from Haiti], SOA Watch. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  41. Mulshine, Paul. "The War in Central America Continues". FrontPage Magazine. Archived from the original on December 19, 2002. http://web.archive.org/web/20021219221936/ Retrieved November 6, 2007. 
  42. "The New Strategy". Time Magazine. April 23, 1965. 
  43. "School of the Americas: School of Assassins, USA". Third World Traveler. http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Terrorism/SOA.html. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  44. "SOA Grads". SOA Watch. http://www.soaw.org/about-the-soawhinsec/soawhinsec-grads. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  45. Candiotti, Susan (May 18, 2005). "Alleged anti-Castro terrorist Posada arrested". CNN. Archived from the original on June 2, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080602084518/http://edition.cnn.com/2005/US/05/17/posada.arrest/. Retrieved May 22, 2008. 
  46. "National Lawyers Guild Calls for Immediate Extradition of Luis Posada to Venezuela" (Press release). National Lawyers Guild. April 20, 2005. Archived from the original on April 22, 2005. http://web.archive.org/web/20090415223336/http://www.nlg.org/news/statements/LouisPosada2005.htm. Retrieved February 24, 2007. 
  47. National Security Archive. "LUIS POSADA CARRILES, THE DECLASSIFIED RECORD". http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB153/index.htm. 
  48. Amy Zalman, Ph.D.. "Luis Posada Carriles (anti-Castro Cuban terrorism)". about.com. http://terrorism.about.com/od/groupsleader1/p/LuisPosada.htm. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  49. "Congressman James McGovern : Latest News : Congressman McGovern's statements on limiting funding for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation". Mcgovern.house.gov. http://mcgovern.house.gov/?sectionid=15&parentid=4&sectiontree=4,15&itemid=74. Retrieved October 12, 2008. 
  50. "Teaching Torture". LA Weekly. http://www.laweekly.com/news/news/teaching-torture/1495/. Retrieved October 12, 2008. 

Further reading[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Official government websites[edit | edit source]

Other websites[edit | edit source]

Media and documentaries[edit | edit source]

ar:مدرسة الأمريكيتين ca:Escola de les Amèriques cs:Institut západní polokoule pro bezpečnostní spolupráci da:Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation de:Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation es:Instituto del Hemisferio Occidental para la Cooperación en Seguridad fa:دانشکده قاره‌های آمریکا fr:École militaire des Amériques gl:Escola das Américas it:Istituto dell'Emisfero Occidentale per la Cooperazione alla Sicurezza he:מכון חצי הכדור המערבי לשיתוף פעולה ביטחוני ja:西半球安全保障協力研究所 pt:Escola das Américas ru:Школа Америк fi:Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation sv:Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation

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