Saturday, October 13, 2007

Latin America and WHINSEC

Evo Morales has announced that Bolivia will no longer send soldiers to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC, which is the name change for the School of the Americas). Other countries similarly refusing are Argentina, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Every year, there are failed efforts to get Congress to cut WHINSEC’s funding. School of the Americas Watch is working to get more co-sponsors for a bill to suspend operations, but it’s tough to get enough votes. The funding is a drop in the budget bucket and few members of Congress pay enough attention to Latin America to care much.

Military training, however, is both a supply and demand issue. Dealing with supply (i.e. the training) is difficult, and I also wonder whether, if even SOAW can put the votes together, something else will be created in WHINSEC’s place.

Even more effective, however, would be to dry up demand simultaneously—Latin American leaders (with some exceptions, such as in Colombia and El Salvador) may well be receptive to avoiding WHINSEC. I’m actually curious why Ecuador and Nicaragua have not made the same pledge. In fact, I think an interesting research idea would be to analyze the demand side over time—even in work I’ve done on WHINSEC/SOA, I’ve focused on supply.

h/t Plan Colombia and Beyond


Miguel Centellas 10:26 AM  

I agree that SOA had serious flaws in the past (perhaps even in the present). But isn't a forum where military personnel from Latin American learn the importance of "proper" civil-military relations also important?

Greg Weeks 10:43 AM  

Yes, I do. Perhaps someday we'll find a country capable of teaching it.

Miguel Centellas 12:41 PM  

Costa Rica might be a good candidate.

Justin Delacour 2:36 PM  

Better to call it SOA in the title. The superficial name-change to WHINSEC was just a congressional charade to divert attention from the sordid history of the institution (and to thereby take its congressional backers off the hot seat).

Tambopaxi 5:42 PM  


Here are some thoughts:

1. Not one LA country needs a military force, period.

2. Every LA country needs an honest, effective, and efficient police force that protects the people, serves them and brings bad guys to justice. Almost none of them have one. Possible (repeat, possible) exceptions are Costa Rica and (surprise!) Panama.

3. Almost all (perhaps all) military systems in LA are separate and political cultures intent on preserving themselves.

4.LA military forces and their structures are essentially employment generation mechanisms and (on the plus side, ironically) sources of upward social and economic mobility for many people who are not members of the economic elite. On this same point, LA military often run legit businesses authorized by their legislatures (whether under duress or not, is a different story).

5. Without going into the sordid, as Justin puts it, history of the SOA, it's now basically an entity in search of business more than a mission; in essence it needs to justify its continued existence. SOA, just as the LA military needs to justify its existence - kind of an existential issue, if you think about it...

6. On this same point (the need for LA militaries), they always justify themselves in terms of defending the borders/sovereignity of their countries, but only rarely in the last 100 years has there been a need for this kind of force. In contrast,ironically and sadly, LA militaries have been used against their own peoples - another reason, in my opinion, for doing away with the militaries.

7. In case anyone missed my point: SOA should just shut down and disappear; there's no good reason for its continued existence.

8. Point of info: it's not clear from the interchange between Miguel and Greg, but I assume you guys know that Costa Rica hasn't had a military force since the 1948 civil war. One might argue that the public security forces have become more militarized over time, but they are most definitely not a military force.

Greg Weeks 7:16 AM  

The fact that Costa Rica has no military is the reason why Miguel mentioned it.

Lee Rials 8:15 PM  

Do you suppose the originator of this blog and those who have commented know even one course taught at the WHINSEC? The so-called 'movement' to close the institute is a vacuous fraud upon those who devote themselves to peace and justice. For you scholars, just name one person who ever used what he learned at the school to commit a crime. If you can, you will be the first. In case you are wondering, I am the public affairs officer at the institute, and what makes my job easy is that I can say to you, "Don't take my word for this, come see for yourself." We are open every workday, and visitors may sit in classes, talk with students and faculty, and review instructional materials. One British doctoral candidate did that for more than a month three years ago. Earlier this year, a Univ. of Oregon student came for a week. Instead of spewing ideological baloney drawn from people who have no clue, do your own research. Here's my email, feel free to write:
Lee A. Rials, Public Affairs Officer, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation

Anonymous,  11:31 PM  

Read Week's 2003 article about WINSEC. It clearly demonstrates that both SOA followed govenment policy. It was not an independent operation. WHINSEC has much more oversight much less US-centric focus. The people that work at WHINSEC are not morons, but are keenly aware of the issues that surround Lantin America.

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