United Auto Workers Call for Closure of SOA/WHISC Print
May 3, 2004

Dear Representative:

The UAW supports legislation which has been introduced by Representative McGovern (H.R. 1258) to suspend operations at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC). We urge you to cosponsor this bill and to support its speedy enactment.

In January, 2001, the U.S. Army officially ?closed? the infamous School of the Americas (SOA). This action was taken in response to the serious concerns which had been raised about the operations of this school in Congressional debates in recent years. Unfortunately, the Army subsequently re-opened a virtually identical DOD facility at the same location named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC). It is now apparent that the Army has simply changed the name of the school, and has not taken steps to address the many serious concerns which have been raised by Congress.

In particular, the renamed WHISC is continuing virtually the same courses as the SOA, without adequate oversight and attention to human rights issues. In addition, the staff at WHISC has not been changed or retrained in any way, and changes have not been made in the curriculum or other aspects of the school. Thus, it is evident that the Army has failed to deal seriously with the problems that led to the closure of the SOA. Instead, it has simply tried to paper over the problems with a change of names, without any underlying reforms to the operations of the school.

Sadly, human rights abuses and problems with civil-military relations continue to be a serious issue in Latin America. In Columbia, for example, there are well-documented links between the military and paramilitary groups that have committed massacres and other horrible human rights violations. Peru, Mexico and Venezuela are also grappling with how to institutionalize proper civil-military relations.

The UAW believes that WHISC is a relic of the Cold War that serves no meaningful purpose today. The United States does not maintain a similar training institution for any other part of the world. In our judgment, there is no reason to continue the WHISC for Latin America.

For the foregoing reasons, the UAW urges you to cosponsor and support the legislation sponsored by Representative McGovern to suspend operations at WHISC (H.R. 1258). Thank you for considering our views on this important human rights issue.

Sincerely,

Alan Reuther
Legislative Director