|Institute Gets Board of Visitors|
S. THORNE HARPER, Staff Writer
The successor to Fort Benning's School of the Americas filled its watchdog board Tuesday and set the board's first meeting for early next month.
The Board of Visitors of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation is scheduled to meet June 3-4 at Fort Benning, the institute said.
The 13-member board, established after SOA closed its doors in December 2000, is chartered to serve as an oversight mechanism of the institute to prevent human rights abuses associated with its predecessor. Administrators of the 16-month institute have heralded the seating of the board as proof that the school has left the taint of SOA behind. The new list excludes a controversial member of the Bush administration whose name appeared last month as a board member. Otto Reich, the assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, has assigned one of his officers to fill the position.
"I don't know why it was done," Lee Rials, institute spokesman, said of the change.
Following Reich's being named to the board by Secretary of State Colin Powell, SOA Watch -- an opponent of SOA and the new institute -- began criticizing Reich on its Internet site, saying he represented the excesses associated with the former school.
Reich, a former ambassador to Venezuela, once headed the Office of Public Diplomacy, a now-defunct Reagan administration agency associated with the dissemination of political disinformation. He has been criticized by members of Congress for his association with Orlando Bosch, an anti-Castro extremist who was linked to the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
Reich, the Bush administration point-man on Latin American policy, has since redesignated the position to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fisk.
SOA Watch called Reich's decision to remove himself from the board "an intelligent move."
"The board is a public relations puppet show," said Matthew Smucker, SOA Watch media coordinator. "Reich's designation of someone to fill in for him is an easy concession. But it doesn't change the nature of this school of coups."
During the board's first meeting, it will elect its chairperson, vice-chairperson and recorder. It will also set the meeting schedule and approve its operating rules.
The Board of Visitors meeting is open to the public. However, those attending must register with the institute. To register, call Lt. Col. Andres Toro, (703) 692-7421.
BOARD OF VISITORS
Daniel Fisk, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., or his designate
U.S. Rep. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif.
Maj. Gen. Gary D. Speer, U.S. Southern Command
Gen. John N. Abrams, Army Training and Doctrine Command
The Rev. Denis St. Marie, Diocese of Cleveland
Dennis Jett, University of Florida
Steven M. Schneebaum, Patton Boggs LLP
Jennie Lincoln, Georgia Tech
Jose Sorzano, Austin Group
Deborah Avant, George Washington University.
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