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Home Action Legislative Action Current Bills and Actions McGovern's 2/05 Dear Colleague Letter
McGovern's 2/05 Dear Colleague Letter PDF Print E-mail
On Wednesday, February 16th, the following letter was sent by Rep. McGovern's office to all the previous cosponsors of HR 1258 in the 108th Congress. You can reference it when you contact the offices; or you can adapt the talking points to create your own letter.

February 16, 2005

Dear Colleague,

In the 108th Congress, you joined 130 of your colleagues as a cosponsor of H.R. 1258, the Latin America Military Training Review Act, the bipartisan bill to suspend operations of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation/WHINSEC (formerly known as the U.S. Army School of the Americas/SOA) and to review the status and needs of U.S. military training in Latin America and how to best meet those needs. I would like to invite you to join me once again as an original cosponsor of this bill in the 109th Congress.

Like me, I am sure that your recently received in your office the new booklet produced by the public relations office of the WHINSEC describing its purpose and accomplishments. There are still, however, several troubling aspects about the WHINSEC/SOA that should compel Congress to continue to call for the suspension of its operation and undertake a comprehensive review of U.S. military training programs in Latin America and the Caribbean:

  • None of the fundamental issues raised around the need to close the SOA have been addressed in the renamed WHINSEC ? not its training methods, nor its lack of oversight, nor the school?s record of graduating human rights abusers, nor the school?s lack of follow-up with its graduates.

  • The failure of the U.S. Army or the Office of the Secretary of Defense to deal seriously with the record of the SOA, which was the most intensively scrutinized aspect of U.S. military training in Latin America, raises questions about the quality and emphasis in the vast array of other U.S. military training programs. For this reason, a comprehensive review of those programs needs to be undertaken.

  • Human rights abuses and problems with civil-military relations are not, unfortunately, a thing of the past in Latin America. We need to look no further than recent events in Venezuela, Colombia or Haiti to understand that Latin America is still grappling with the question of how to train, respect and institutionalize within its military establishments proper civil-military relations.

  • In no other region or area of the world has the Pentagon determined that a separate military training institute needs to be established. For all other regions of the world, the broad array of existing U.S. military training programs is deemed appropriate and adequate. Why then are Latin American military officers alone singled out for such privileges? Especially when so many past graduates have failed the test of leadership when faced with challenges to protecting human rights and the rule of law?

    There is one modification to the legislation I will introduce in March from H.R. 1258. This bill will also call for an independent report on the authorization and use of training manuals that advocated tactics that violated U.S. and international law. The U.S. Army and the Pentagon have deliberately avoided carrying out any review of this matter so that now it appears only Congress can call for such an independent report. It is difficult to imagine how the mistakes of the past can be avoided in current programs if that same past remains sealed and shielded from inquiry. Amnesty International USA and other human rights groups are particularly supportive of this addition to our legislation.

    I firmly believe it is not inevitable that U.S. policy follow the same path as it has in the past. Please join me in reintroducing this legislation so that we might suspend the WHINSEC/SOA and carry out a bipartisan review of our foreign military training needs in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    The deadline for becoming an original cosponsor is Tuesday, March 8th. Please contact Cindy Buhl in my office if you would like to become an original cosponsor of this bill.

    Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.


    James McGovern
    Member of Congress


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