[News] Another SOA? International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA)

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Wed Jul 20 08:36:02 EDT 2005

Subject: Another SOA? International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA)

Council On Hemispheric Affairs

Monitoring Political, Economic and Diplomatic Issues Affecting the Western

Tuesday, July 19 2005


Too Close for Comfort: El Salvador Ratchets Up its U.S. Ties

* With all of the hullabaloo focused on CAFTA, Washington is moving ahead
with a new police training facility in a troubled Central American country.

* As U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice astonishes the world by
repeatedly describing El Salvador as a "democracy," she announced at this
year's Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Ft.
Lauderdale (June 5-7) that plans are underway to develop an International
Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in El Salvador. The school would yearly
enroll as many as 1,500 students from various hemispheric countries.

* Negotiations for the ILEA come during a period when cooperation among
Central American nations on matters of national and international security
is already at an all time high.

* The Salvadoran Ombudsperson for Human Rights, Dr. Beatrice de Carrillo,
and the Popular Social Block (BPS), a group led by a Lutheran pastor in El
Salvador, are at the head of protests against the launching of the
controversial U.S. facility as well as the overall expansion of U.S.
influence in the country.

* Today, El Salvador is the consummate Central American Banana Republic.

With full support coming from President Antonio Saca's rightist Nationalist
Republican Alliance (ARENA) -led government, Washington is ambitiously
planning for an expanded presence in El Salvador. The State Department's
Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is
currently in the initial stages of negotiating plans with Salvadoran
officials to establish an International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) at La
Comalapa, with the potential for additional use of an existing Salvadoran
police training headquarters in Santa Tecla. A counterpart facility in Peru
is under consideration, though no concrete steps have yet been taken in that

Establishing the ILEA in Latin America has been a crucial, longstanding
State Department strategy for consolidating Washington's influence in the
western hemisphere. The ILEA in El Salvador would realize a strategy whereby
the U.S. would have a variety of training instructors in Latin America,
additionally featuring the Pentagon's Western Hemisphere Institute for
Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). The facility shed its former title of School
of the Americas (SOA) in 2001, in a cosmetic public relations tactic aimed
at separating it from an unsavory past. Unlikely enough, unless the
progressive notion gains ascendancy in the current negotiations for the ILEA
Latin America and guarantees the inclusion of a specific clause banning the
involvement of military personnel, ARENA's compromising agreement to host
the civilian police training school in El Salvador could ultimately lead to
a broadening of the school's already 360 degree scope and have it become a
new U.S. military influenced outlet. This grave possibility will become
increasingly urgent as the freshly baptized military training school WHINSEC
continues to decline in influence.

The ILEA Mission
ILEAs - there are four others worldwide - have been established, usually
without great controversy, in regions where the history of U.S. intervention
has been marked by a much lower profile. The overarching goal of the INL in
establishing these police training schools at its best is to improve
transnational cooperation on security matters, democratic rule and lawful
proceedures in any given strategic region. The State Department's statement
of purpose proclaims that through the ILEAs, it is seeking to "buttress
democratic governance through the rule of law; enhance the functioning of
free markets through improved legislation and law enforcement; and increase
social, political, and economic stability by combating narcotics trafficking
and crime."

Generally, the ILEA instructors are largely part of an international task
force, the curriculum is primarily developed by the U.S. and costs are
shared bilaterally between the U.S. and the host nation. ILEAs use a variety
of courses to train police leadership with the expectation that they will in
turn go on to professionalize their forces. The first ILEA was set up in
Budapest by the State Department in 1995 under President Bill Clinton, in
response to a shifting geopolitical scene that saw many countries emerge
from Eastern Block communism without wholly qualified security forces. The
ILEA Budapest has caused few problems since its founding. In Latin America,
however, the State Department's attempt to secure a site for the ILEA has
been a mounting struggle, on a hill of its own making. El Salvador's
problematic newfound openness to the institution is indicative of ARENA
steering the country into increasing dependency on the U.S.

The Breadth of Salvadoran Compliance
El Salvador showed its capacity for harmonizing to U.S. policy goals long
before entering negotiations for the ILEA Latin America. ARENA has been
institutionalizing its compliance with Washington's policy initiatives in
the country regardless of any resulting harm to Salvadoran national
interests or the genuine developmental needs of its society. Dollarized
since 2001, El Salvador was the first country in Central America to ratify
the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and is the only Latin
American nation still maintaining troops in Iraq. Additionally, it already
plays host to a U.S. military base at La Comalapa as well as an FBI
installation, which both operate with the stated purpose of dealing with
Salvadoran youth gangs' links to drug trafficking in the U.S. The ILEA's
goals overlap with those of the institutions it already has ensconced in El

Whatever Happened to the ILEA South?
The U.S. has had to search gingerly to come upon a western hemisphere
country that would agree to its terms for an ILEA to be based there;
strategic considerations were largely made to defer to finding a nation with
the political will to host the institution. After Panama rejected the
project, negotiations with Costa Rica almost came to fruition in 2002 but
ultimately foundered in what could become an extremely useful case study for
El Salvador's critics of the ILEA. Tom Browne, an INL official, emphasized
to COHA that one reason for the initiative's failure was that Costa Rica
"wanted a different type [of a] curriculum, [at that time they desired] more
of a theoretical type of training than a hands on type of training."
However, in 2002, the greatest source of discord was the important fact that
the U.S. obstinately refused to sign a clause barring military instructors
or armed forces personnel from the program. Moreover, the U.S. was in the
process of withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal
Court at the time and was demanding diplomatic immunity from prosecution for
the academy's U.S. personnel. The distribution of the ILEA's costs was also
perceived by many Costa Ricans as being grossly unfair.

According to a June 18, 2002 U.S. State Department press release, John
Danilovich, then U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, suggested at an initial
signing ceremony that the U.S. choice of Costa Rica as a host country
recognized "the country's record as a stable democracy, promoter of the rule
of law, and regional model in education." His statement reflected an
awareness of the prerequisite for a U.S. police training facility abroad,
which had been spelled out by the Reagan administration in a Congressional
amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA). In 1974, Congress had acted
favorably on provision 660 of the FAA to ban U.S. training of foreign police
forces, after a controversial link between U.S. police training and human
rights abuses and torture had become evident in several Latin American
programs, especially in Uruguay. Even though exemptions to the ban were
already being made on a case by case basis, the Reagan administration
amendment lifted the ban to allow for training in any bona fide democratic
country without glaring human rights violations.

In El Salvador, ARENA Glances at the Mirror and Thinks it Sees a Shiny Costa
Though El Salvador, with its ghastly modern history and endemic human rights
violations dating back to the matanza of 1932, hardly meets the criteria of
the Reagan administration's amendment, it is now making boasts that it is a
regional examplar of good governance and sound policing. Its claims are
strikingly similar to those put forth in 2002 by advocates of the ILEA in
Costa Rica, as once again ARENA is deftly using El Salvador's alliance with
Washington to safeguard its immediate political objectives. On June 10, the
National Center for U.S. - El Salvador Sister Cities reported Saca's remarks
that "all Salvadorans should feel proud that the United States has chosen
us" to host the ILEA. The Center also reprinted a statement by Jaime
Francisco Vigil, Director of the Salvadoran National Public Security Academy
(ANSP), in which he suggested that the choice of El Salvador was made, in
part, because its police force is the "most honest, nearest to the people,
and is not corrupt like in other parts of the world." To the contrary,
during the height of the Salvadoran civil conflict, tens of millions of
dollars were passed under the table to senior officials of the Salvadoran
security forces by U.S. embassy officials. The Salvadoran Ombudsperson for
Human Rights, Dr. Beatrice de Carrillo, serves at the head of on office
which was institutionalized at the end of the Salvadoran civil war to
monitor human rights abuses; she has written a long report on the corruption
and the poor human rights record of the Salvadoran police force, and
energetically opposes her government's plans for the ILEA. She thereby joins
with the denouncement of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front
(FMLN) as well as of the multi-organizational Salvadoran Popular Social
Block (BPS), in opposing the ILEA.

Military Silhouettes on the Police Academy's Horizon
In reports and off-the-record conversations, State Department officials hem
and haw as to why exacly El Salvador was chosen for hosting the ILEA, as it
is obviously not a thriving democracy despite President Bush's repeated
praise to the contrary. As of yet, there have not even been token
assurances, similar to the ones Danilovich ultimately made in reference to
the proposed Costa Rican academy, that this ILEA would be "strictly
civilian," which is a promise that should be writ in stone before Salvadoran
authorities allow the school to become concrete. While the INL likes to
involve Department of Defense (DOD) personnel in their training activities
because of their topical expertise, there are substantive reasons to warrant
safeguards against U.S. military instruction in a civilian police training
facility. If the U.S. human rights record in police training is poor, its
military record is even worse. The detention centers of Guantanamo Bay and
Abu Ghraib are only painfully relevant, high profile contemporary examples
of the kind of moral quagmires that were routinely seen in El Salvador in
the 1980s, when the U.S military unremittingly complied in boldly scrawling
history with the blood of El Salvador's civilians. Andres Conteris,
president of Non-Violence International and long time ILEA monitor, could
have been justified in using strong language when he accused the U.S., in a
COHA interview, of being "a known trainer in torture technologies."

The Civil War's Dismal Surfacings
During the Salvadoran civil war of 1980 - 1992, Washington backed the
government party with training and more than $6 billion in military and
economic aid in order to contain the power and influence of the increasingly
formidable Marxist FMLN. A 1993 UN Truth Commission later determined that 90
percent of the violence that was committed during the Salvadoran war was not
by the much maligned leftist rebels, but rather by El Salvador's Christian
Democratic government (later to be replaced by ARENA) and associated death
squads. Additionally, the war's most dramatic killings and incidents of
torture could all be linked to Salvadoran military personnel trained at the
paradigm of U.S. hemispheric military training, the SOA. Two of the three
implicated in the 1980 murder of Archbishop Romero, 19 out of 27 cited by
the UN Truth Commission for complicity in the 1981 massacre at El Mozote,
and ten of the twelve responsible for the 1989 murder of six Salvadoran
Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her teenage daughter, were trained at
the SOA. Washington initially denied that the mass executions at El Mozote
and in surrounding villages had ever taken place; however, 500 dead bodies
of civilians were ultimately identified along with the unknown remains of
hundreds more. Truncated exhumation efforts in the main village were
sufficient to unearth the remains of at least 143 bodies and revealed that
131 had belonged to children under the age of 12, with it being estimated
that six years was the children's average age.

The Bedrock Argument for U.S. Hemispheric Policy: Blanket Trust
U.S. intervention in the Salvadoran civil war supported the Salvadoran
government's strategy of targeting villages thought to harbor leftist
sympathizers. This in turn led to massive displacements which eventually
ignited the gang problems which are the very dragon that the U.S. is trying
to slay today with its expanded presence in El Salvador. Nevertheless,
proponents of stepped-up military or civilian hemispheric training efforts
carry a confidence in U.S. paternalism that is tantamount to blind
conviction. In an example that does not bode well for El Salvador, David
Kirsch reported in a 1990 Covert Action Quarterly article the response of
Elliott Abrams, then Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American
Affairs, to a question posed at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee
hearing: Would cattle prods be included in U.S. overseas police assistance
to Costa Rica? "I think that [the Costa Rican] government has earned enough
trust, as I think we have earned enough trust, not to be questioned,
frankly, about exporting torture equipment," he said. "But I would certainly
be in favor of giving it to them if they want it."

A Call for Constraints
In securing its country's approval for the ILEA, ARENA will likely play on
national fears that any frustrating of Washington's demands could trigger
widespread deportations of Salvadorans living in the U.S. and result in a
ban on their vital remittances now being sent back home. This strategy has
served ARENA well in justifying CAFTA, and it has helped ensure the
necessary political support to keep Salvadoran troops in Iraq and maintain
the party's hold on the presidency. Partisan Washington diplomats, too, have
a history of calculatedly exacerbating Salvadoran fears with intimidating
remarks. According to a 2004 PBS report, Roger Noriega, the Assistant
Secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs,
warned the Salvadoran electorate that "we know the history of [the
opposition party, the FMLN], and for this reason, it is fair that the
Salvadoran people consider what type of relations a new government could
have with us" if they voted for the FMLN during the upcoming election. In
drumming up support for the ILEA in El Salvador, Washington might well
revisit this time-tested strategy.

The State Department's Herculean push for the Salvadoran ILEA is also
particularly inappropriate as it undermines current area efforts in favor of
regional autonomy. The Central American countries are showing a record level
of cooperation in their own initiatives to strengthen the rule of law as
well as cooperate among themselves on a range of other activities. On June
30, regional leaders met in Honduras to solidify plans for pursuing a
transnational security force, create a Central American passport and
establish common visa requirements. Calls for a U.S. role did not focus on
increased intervention from Washington, but rather reminded the U.S. of its
major role as a drug importer and consumer, and consequent responsibility to
cooperate in solving the area's narcotics problems. When COHA focused on
this recent acceleration in Central America's own security initiatives in
its talk with Browne, he responded by observing that the ILEA Latin America
would be useful because the curriculum being developed "covers all sorts of
crime" and is a "very broad based curriculum," and "maybe has some synergies
with the other issues but it covers everything under the sun."

The INL's Strategy by Numbers: the "Multiplier Effect"
With its vast curriculum and 1,500 students a year, the ILEA Latin America
will not be merely another SOA; it will have a good deal of clout on its
own. It could dwarf WHINSEC in terms of numbers reached. WHINSEC trains only
700 to 1,000 students a year, and numerous Latin American countries have
recently stopped sending students altogether.

The State Department's INL already has a respectable reach. For example, as
Jonathan Farrar testified on May 25, 2005 before the House International
Relations Committee, the INL maintains a Guatemalan Regional Anti-Narcotics
Training Center that provides room for students from 12 other hemispheric
countries, "organized or financed over 120 training courses" for more than
6000 Mexican law enforcement personnel in 2004 alone. The INL also
prioritizes police training, with the most questionable success, in such
unhinged and intractable locations as Haiti and Colombia.

However, with few constraints and with its massive impact, the ILEA would be
a unique and formidable consolidation of power that would institutionalize
what is now a roving lack of direction. Given the additional appearance that
systematically gauging the effects of the school is of no great concern to
the State Department - they are content with predicting, in Farrar's words,
that the institution will be a "way to achieve a multiplier effect for
[their] investment" - it is imperative that greater oversight infiltrate the
negotiation process for the ILEA Latin America.

A Proposed Rebuttal to the Planned Academy
Given State Department officials' insistence that negotiations are still
preliminary and that curricular development is still underway, Vigil's
comment that the first course will begin this July 25 appears to have been
somewhat premature. Those opposed to the ILEA have substantial momentum and
conceivably enough time in which to influence the negotiation process in a
progressive direction. With the ILEA Latin America, Washington will almost
certainly maintain the inflexible attitude it takes when it comes to
negotiating its proposals. As Conteris put it in describing the unraveling
of the ILEA South, Washington decided to "pick up the marbles [in Costa
Rica] and go home" rather than offer concessions to transparency and
anti-military safeguards. For the antagonists of the ILEA Latin America,
this provides some room for hope.

Opposition efforts in El Salvador to the hemispheric ILEA just might repeat
previous successes in deterring the facility's ability to strike roots in
Panama, Costa Rica and El Salvador's steamy political habitats, given the
Bush Administration's seeming inability to compromise when it comes to Latin
America both on small as well as large issues. What the Salvadoran
opposition must do now to succeed is press hard in its own right and at the
same time capitalize on U.S. recalcitrance.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Kathryn Tarker.

July 19, 2005

For More Information:

"Academia regional formará a 1,500 policías al año." El Diario De Hoy. 7
June 2005.

"Central America, U.S. join to fight gang crime." Reuters. 30 June 2005.

Danner, Mark. "The Truth of El Mozote." A Reporter at Large. The New Yorker.
6 December 1993.

Farrar, Jonathan. "Transparency and the Rule of Law in Latin America." House
International Relations Committee, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere,
Washington DC. 25 May 2005.

Green, Eric. "Costa Rica to House Law Enforcement Academy for the Americas."
Washington File. 18 June 2002.

"Human Rights Concerns Regarding the Proposed International Law Enforcement
Academy in Costa Rica (ILEA-South)." Washington Office on Latin America.
January 2003.

Kennedy, Edward. "HR 611: To close the United States Army School of the
Americas." 105th Congress. House of Representatives, Washington DC. 5
February 1997.

Maass, Peter. "The Salvadorization of Iraq?" New York Times Magazine. 1 May

"¡No to International Police Academy in El Salvador!" Popular Social Block.
18 June 2005.

United Nations Security Council. Report of the UN Truth Commission on El
Salvador. 15 March 1993.

"U.S. proposes international law enforcement academy in El Salvador"
National Center U.S. - El Salvador Sister Cities. 10 June 2005.

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It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most
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please see our web page at <http://www.coha.org>www.coha.org; or contact 
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