Peace Time: December 23, 2004

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Although the SOA (School of the Americas) has been shut down for almost 5 years now, there's been no decrease in US training aid to Latin American countries. In fact, military training for Latin American personnel has jumped by about 52 percent in the last two years alone. The SOA at Fort Benning graduated its last foreign class on December 15, 2000. Since then, all Latin American military training by the US has been conducted by Special Forces Groups, many of whom were already instructors at the SOA. Since 2002, 23,000 personnel were trained by US special operations troops. The list of countries receiving this training is long indeed and includes Colombia, Bolivia, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Panama, Honduras, and Argentina. A 52 percent increase in training sounds like a lot, but the catch is that almost all of the extra trainees were Colombian troops. Since the Colombia's drug war is undeniably linked to its military problems, counternarcotics money can now be used for counterinsurgency training. A total of 18,000 Colombian military personnel were trained by the US in 2002-2003. This mixing of military and police training for the Colombians is causing some concern, but there's really no way to beat the insurgents without beating the drug dealers. And vice versa. Its that way in lots of places, like Albania, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Macedonia, and Thailand. In places like Mexico, where its primarily a police problem, its a whole different story. 

Of course, a major criticism of the US role in training Latin American forces, especially during the Cold War, was that the United States was spending money to train soldiers and paramilitaries with appalling human rights records. Of course, the Russians did the same thing in other parts of the world, but nobody seemed to notice that as much as it did Uncle Sam's programs. Today, things are much different. Even before the SOA closed down, human rights had been a major part of its training program for a number of years. A major part of the training given to foreign soldiers were courses on respecting human rights and not harming civilians during combat/counterdrug operations. Of course, despite all of this, the numerous human rights violations committed by cops and soldiers in countries like Colombia and Mexico are really out of US hands, as each individual country tolerates brutality at different levels. Nonetheless, as long as there's an insurgency in Colombia and drugs flowing in from Mexico, don't expect aid to Latin America to go away any time soon. With almost $900 million slated to be doled out in military aid for that region in 2005, the training keeps increasing in size, and money. 

 


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