SOA Enrollment Drops

The Defense Ministers of Argentina and Uruguay declared March 28 that they would no longer send armed forces personnel to the US-based "School of the Americas." The "school", known officially as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) is located in Fort Benning, Georgia and is responsible for training Latin American military personnel in counter-insurgency, torture and intelligence-gathering tactics.

Many of the region’s human rights violators have been traced to the School of the Americas. Activists throughout the hemisphere have called on the U.S. army to close the school.

"To Latin Americans, the SOA/Whinsec represents nothing but the gravest violations," said Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch.. "No amount of reforms will repair those relationships. We must close this school if we want to show that the United States is serious about human rights."

It was unclear if the Ministers were withdrawing personnel from all U.S.-sponsored military training academies or just WHINSEC. The U.S. operates a number of such academies for Latin American militaries and US Congressional action is pending on the appropriations for the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) scribed for El Salvador, to be run by US military personnel.

The move was also seen as a subtle rebuff to Paraguay, which invited 500 US troops to train at the Mariscal Estigarribia airbase in July 2005 and granted them full prosecutorial immunity.