Nicaragua Withdraws from US School of the Americas

During a visit of a delegation of US and Central American activists to Nicaragua this week, the Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega announced that his country will not send any Army personnel to Fort Benning, Georgia to be trained in combat, counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics by US military personnel.
 
The delegation was organized by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network and SOA Watch. In 2001, the School of the Americas (SOA) was renamed  the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), but many people still refer to it as SOA.
 
Ortega was emphatic: “[T]he SOA is an ethical and moral anathema. All of the countries of Latin America have been victims of its graduates. The SOA is a symbol of death, a symbol of terror. We have been gradually reducing our numbers of troops at the SOA, sending only five last year and none this year. We have now entered a new phase and we will not continue to send troops to the SOA. This is the least that we can do. We have been its victims."
 
SOA Watch and numerous organizations and activists across the world continue to demand the closing of this US institution that trains Army officers (and police officers) in warfare tactics that have been used against political organizers and citizens in Latin America.
 
Nicaragua joins Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Venezuela in repudiating the school and denouncing the obsolete US policy that keeps it in place.
 
While US is locked in the past and limited to the use of military force as its main foreign policy strategy, Latin American nations have established concrete steps for cooperation. The growing dissidence around SOA comes on the heels of other profound changes in the geopolitical situation in Latin America. The creation of the 33-nation Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) is building closer economic and political relations across region. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has created a bank to finance economic and social programs in the region. And the Bolivarian Alternative to the Americas (ALBA), an alternative to Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), has brought educational and medical services to thousands of people in the Caribbean, South and Central America.
 
Closing the School of the Americas would represent a very welcome change and a step towards peace and justice. Grassroots International commends our friends at Nicaragua Solidarity Network and SOA Watch for their efforts to advance an alternative policy towards Latin America.
 
Photo courtesy: soawatch.org