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Home News Press Releases Venezuelan President to Reconsider Training of Soldiers at the School of the Americas (SOA/WHISC)
Venezuelan President to Reconsider Training of Soldiers at the School of the Americas (SOA/WHISC) PDF Print E-mail
In a move that illustrates the growing divide between Latin American nations and the US, Venezuelan President Hugo Ch?vez announced on Monday that he is going to reconsider sending Venezuelan soldiers to the School of the Americas (now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), the controversial US military combat training school for Latin American soldiers, based in Fort Benning, Georgia. SOA graduates have been found responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Ch?vez stated: ?This school [the SOA/WHISC] deformed the minds of many Latin American soldiers, who from there went on to become dictators.?

Hugo Ch?vez had first hand experience with SOA graduates in April 2002, when a 48-hour coup threatened to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela.

The SOA graduates Efrain Vasquez Velasco (the Army Commander in Chief) and General Ramirez Poveda were key players in the coup, which was denounced by many Latin American governments. The US ambassador in Caracas, however, was quick to embrace the coup leaders and content to see Hugo Chavez, a duly elected president, in exile. Such involvement by SOA graduates follows a clear pattern, as recognized by former Congressman Joseph Kennedy, who stated "the School of the Americas...is a school that has run more dictators than any other school in the history of the world." In total, the school has produced at least eleven Latin American dictators.

Initially established in Panama in 1946, the SOA was kicked out of that country in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President Jorge Illueca stated that the School of the Americas was the ?biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.?

Over its 58 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counter-insurgency techniques, sniper skills, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, unionists, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, ?disappeared?, massacred, and forced into refuge by those trained at the SOA.

The School of the Americas (SOA/WHISC) continues to be a ?key element of US foreign policy? ? a foreign policy that is using military repression to ensure US control. The official SOA/WHISC propaganda that the school is ?promoting democracy, human rights and civilian control of government? has too many times been contradicted by the actions of its graduates. New legislation to close the school was introduced by Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass) and is currently co-sponsored by 102 Members of Congress. 28 people are scheduled for trial on Jan. 26, facing 6 months for committing civil disobedience when 10,000 people demonstrated at Ft. Benning, home of the School of the Americas (SOA/WHISC). Opponents of the SOA/WHISC are preparing for a large-scale Lobby Day in DC on March 30th.
 

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