ILEA Funding Approved by Salvadoran Right Wing Legislators
ILEA Funding Approved by Salvadoran Right Wing Legislators; Bush Tour Fails to Counter Latin American Disgust with U.S. Policy
"Bush, out of Latin America," sign from protest in downtown San Salvador on March 10
On March 8 the right-wing ARENA, PCN and PDC parties approved $110,000in funding for the construction of the International Law EnforcementAcademy (ILEA) in El Salvador. The ILEA began functioning in 2005,temporarily giving classes at the US military base in Comalapa and atthe Salvador National Police Academy; now, with the passage of thislegislation it will soon have its own installations. The FMLN andsocial movement organizations protested the approval of the funding forthe ILEA in El Salvador, saying the school violates nationalsovereignty and that it is a continuation of the infamous School ofAmericas (SOA), which trained Latin American officers who carried outhuman rights abuses in the 1970s and 80s. "We cannot support [U.S.trainers] coming to corrupt the minds of our police, prosecutors andjudges," declared FMLN deputy Salvador Arias on the day of the vote.
It was back in July of 2005 that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the U.S. intention to install the ILEA El Salvador before it was ever formally discussed in there. The Academy began functioning later that year, offering courses to officials from the Dominican Republic, Colombia and El Salvador even before it was officially approved in the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly. The first formal class later graduated in July 2006. According to the State Departments website, the main focus of the courses is combating international terrorism, organized crime, and drug trafficking. However, Salvadoran human rights advocates see this approach as misguided, especially since "terrorism" is not a threat in El Salvador. In an interview about the recent high profile murders of Salvadoran legislators in Guatemala, Jeanette Aguilar of the Jesuit University of Public Opinion (IUDOP) said that gangs and terrorism are not nearly as much a threat as "organized crime under the protection of the state." As an academy aimed to give law enforcement officials specific skills, the ILEA will not remedy these underlying problems with Salvadoran institutions.
Others have joined in denouncing the ILEA in El Salvador, including the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), which stated that the academy has a "militarist and repressive content that would affect national sovereignty and security, and work contrary to the efforts that have been proposed in the region to find a solution our conflicts." As if to prove how the ILEA overrides sovereignty, in late February the U.S. managed to get ARENA and its allies in the Salvadoran legislature to award diplomatic immunity to all U.S. citizens who are in any way connected to the Academy.
Latin America protests Bushs Visit
George W. Bush set out over the weekend for a 5-country tour of Latin America, the longest such tour of the region since he became president. Huge motorcades and other security arrangements throughout the tour cost millions of dollars, and he was met by dramatic protests at every stop, including in Mexico on Tuesday where a large group of protesters stormed the U.S. embassy. Salvadorans joined the protests this past Saturday as members of the Popular Social Bloc (BPS), FMLN solidarity committees and the partys veterans organization held a demonstration in the capital city. The protesters denounced Bushs military intervention in El Salvador through both the army base in Comalapa and the building of the ILEA.
Meanwhile, while visiting Colombia Bush said that his trip provided a chance to "tell the people of Colombia, Uruguay and Brazil and Guatemala and Mexico that the United States cares deeply about the human condition." He has also talked repeatedly about the U.S. giving aid to support "social justice" in the region. The attempted focus on justice and a benevolent U.S. foreign policy is a clear response to the U.S. nemesis in the region, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. His countrys concrete use of resources to aid poor countries and bolster the social and economic integration of Latin America has won many allies throughout the Americas.
Bush Administration Presents U.S. Federal Budget for 2008, Includes More Funding for ILEAs
Despite all the rhetoric, Bushs proposed budget for 2008 reflects another kind of concern for the "human condition." There is continued massive military funding to Colombia, and another $4.8 million for El Salvador to "strengthen the security of the United States and promote peace in general."
The budget proposal presented by the Bush Administration in February for fiscal year 2008 again includes funding for the International Law Enforcement Academies under the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the State Department. Last years budget included for $15.8 million for the five ILEAs (Bangkok, Budapest, Botswana, San Salvador, and New Mexico.) This years budget proposes to increase the funding to $16.5 million and to open a satellite Latin American ILEA in Peru.
The State Departments justification for the spending says that the ILEA is meant to "help protect U.S. interests through international cooperation" by training police, judges, prosecutors, and other law enforcement officials. All U.S. federal appropriations have to be approved by Congress, and ILEA funding will go through the Foreign Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives and voted on in May or June. CISPES is building a campaign to exclude U.S. Congressional funding for the ILEA. A delegation sponsored by SOA Watch to El Salvador this March will spotlight the ILEA, and CISPES chapters will use the anniversary of Monse