El Salvador: Fight Against ILEA US Police Academy

The US Congress will vote on funding for new US police academy in El Salvador, the ILEA (International Law Enforcement Academy) in mid-May.   The ILEA – San Salvador academy opened recently in July, 2005, and is intended to replace the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, GA. The project is a US attempt to continue militarizing Latin American police and to essentially "export" the US’s criminal justice system to Latin America from a base in El Salvador. 

It can also be thought of as a last ditch attempt of the US government to maintain dominance in the Latin American region, as socialist movement and electoral revolution is on the rise. For these reasons, it is by no means a foregone conclusion that this new form of US occupation is something the social movement will have to "learn to live with."  The construction of the ILEA academy hasn’t yet begun and there is overwhelming, organized resistance to CAFTA and the ILEA on the ground in El Salvador (see below to get involved).

CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) is organizing actions to pressure congress to support an amendment to refuse funding for the ILEA in the Foreign Operations Bill based on the Salvadoran Attorney General’s refusal to investigate several assassinations and forced disappearances in El Salvador since the opening of the ILEA in July, 2005. The Salvadoran human rights office has confirmed the reformation of death squads within the national civilian police and since the first batch of ILEA recruits graduated in June, 2005. Ten social movement leaders and members of the clergy have been assassinated, three student organizers "disappeared." Francisco Contreras, one of the organizers, was last seen on February 7th, pulled from a bus by the PNC (National Civilian Police), [1].

The ILEA is funded out of the US Foreign Operations Budget and managed through the US state department through the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), which is essentially a combination of government funded and, in many cases, privately-owned "law enforcement" trainers, consultants, and police operatives, [2]. The DHS budget is in the tens of billions and the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) makes up 1/3 of that budget and personnel. The ICE, which has conducted immigration sweeps throughout the US (and has an unofficial routine of randomly interrogating people whom they suspect to be undocumented migrantsin apartment buildings, schools, and grocery store parking lots), has already deported thousands people in the past year.

In March, US attorney general Alberto Gonzales made a trip to El Salvador to announce a new TAG program that will help an international law enforcement team share information that will help them profile and track Latin American people deported from the US. At the ILEA – San Salvador, agencies such as the ICE, the FBI, the ATF, and the new IOM (International Office for Migration) will train police recruits from throughout Latin America to "secure US investment in the region" and spur "economic development by harnessing the forces of migration," [3].

 To compliment this task force, René Figueroa, El Salvador’s Minister of the Interior, announced last week the opening of another huge program (possibly a constituent aspect of the ILEA) called the "Transnational Anti-Gang Center" (TAG) in El Salvador.  US police forces will be trained (most likely both in classrooms and in the field) in "gang fighting techniques" or "street combat", surveillance/wiretapping, group infiltration, and interrogation tactics, among other skills.  The CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) delegation to El Salvador will tour the ILEA site within the next two weeks.  They are currently making a call to congressional representatives to demand that the ILEA allow CISPES delegates to enter the site.

[1] See at Raúl Gutiérrez, "Amnesty Law Biggest Obstacle to Human Rights, Say Activists." IPS News. (March 26, 2007). This article delves a little bit into the amnesty law, which left death squad assassins and leaders unchallenged and untried (in fact, the right wing ARENA party was founded by Roberto D’Aubuisson, death squad architect, trained at the SOA) for brutal human rights violations and the murder of 75,000 Salvadorans during the war.  It also gives more details into the police abduction of Franscisco Contreras.

[2] Blackwater is giant among the corporations who profit from using government money through the DHS to train private mercenaries who are most present now in Iraq but  are currently being used in 9 countries. 

[3] Quotes from an ILEA director and from the IOM’s mission statement.

STOP this project in its tracks!

You have about three weeks to help flood the congressional switchboard and district offices with phone calls to demand that congress support an amendment to refuse funding for the ILEA in the foreign operations bill based on the Salvadoran attorney general’s refusal to investigate several assassinations and forced disappearances in El Salvador since the opening of the ILEA in July, 2005.  

Get involved: Call your representative in the house and tell them to do everything in their power to pass this amendment to the foreign operations bill to close the ILEA – San Salvador.

Capitol Hill switchboard: (202) 224-3121
Find your representative here:

You can find talking points on the CISPES website.

In addition to making a call to Congress yourself, you can work with a local CISPES Committee (or independently) to get out there on the streets and get more postcards out there before this vote. To continue working with us in solidarity with Salvadorans who are fighting US economic and military/police expansion, find your local committee at www.cispes.org

if there isn’t a committee in your city, call the nearest one or the Bay Area CISPES commitee @ 415.503.0789 and we’ll send some materials to prepare you for a congressional visit, postcard gathering, or a direct action to oppose the ILEA. 

J.L. Heyward works with the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).

Contact her at heyward.cispes(at)gmail.com; or 415.503.0789.