Friday, November 10, 2006

U.S. to lift ban on Latin American military training

"Concern about leftist victories in Latin America has prompted President Bush to quietly grant a waiver that allows the United States to resume training militaries from 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries," USA TODAY's Barbara Slavin reports today. "The administration hopes the training will forge links with countries in the region and blunt a leftward trend."

The training ban, "originally designed to pressure countries into exempting U.S. soldiers from war crimes trials," has caused the United States to lose influence in the region, military officials tell Slavin. Read the full story to learn which countries will get the waiver; Venezuela and Cuba aren't among them.

Public reaction appears limited so far. The School of the Americas Watch, which monitors and protests the U.S. military programs that have controversially trained Latin American military groups for decades, plans a large demonstration this month to protest the change and call for an end to the training.

The School of the Americas gained notoriety after the Pentagon's 1996 revelation that manuals used there "advocated executions, torture, blackmail and other forms of coercion against insurgents," as The Washington Post put it. A number of its graduates have also been accused of human rights abuses. The school closed in 2000 and was replaced by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation the next year.

A public forum this month covered by the Associated Press and others shows the debate around the issues here remain alive and well. What do you think of the return to training? Will it help American influence in Latin America, or does more involvement mean more trouble?


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