Attitudes toward the School of the Americas

In terms of foreign policy and foreign influence in Latin American countries, the United States has had great influence because of the formation of the School of Americas. Beginning in 1946, the United States has been training soldiers from Latin American countries. Those who are enrolled in this school receive training such as:
  • Professional leadership (Command and General Staff course, Military Police courses, Infantry Officers Basic course, Artillery Officers course and a Cadet Orientation course)
  • Infantry weapons (Mortar Officer course)
  • Technical support (Engineer Basic and Officer courses, Radio Operators course, Small Caliber Repair course, Wheeled Vehicle Maintenance course and Medical Assistance courses)
  • Counter-insurgency (Internal Defense and Development course, Military Intelligence course, Military Police course), introduced during 1963
  • Specialized leadership and skills (Ranger course, Air Mobile course, Jungle Operations course, Patrolling course, Parachute Rigging course, Basic Airborne course.

The School is set up to train military personnel, police, and even civilians in order to create and maintain a strong military and police for Latin American countries. The initial goal of the school was to train military officers loyal to the U.S. to be put into countries that had unstable governments. The idea was that these men would be skilled enough to bring another leader into power that would have their same loyalty to the U.S. However, there was some controversy concerning the graduates of the school and some criminal activity. The SOA has graduated some of the most famous dictators in Latin American history, including General Augusto Pinochet who led the 1973 overthrow of Chile's elected president, Salvador Allende (1908-1973); Manuel Noriega (b. 1935), a close associate of the U.S. until his friendship proved to be no longer expedient and he was deposed by the very government that had him on the payroll; as well as the leader of notorious death squads, such as El Salvador's Roberto D'Aubisson (1944-1992) (Meade 222-1)

Dubbed "the School of the Assassins," some of the graduates have been charged with murder and other crimes, one graduate is even listed on the FBI's the list of 10 top wanted, while other graduates come up in their database for other criminal acts (Meade 221). Protests are held every year, pressuring the government to close the SOA, because so many of these men are found guilty. However, the SOA cannot be deemed completely responsible for the actions of the students after graduation. After the students graduate they control their own actions, and are no longer under the direction of the SOA. This is the case for any military school or police preparatory academy.

In 2001 the School of the Americas was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC), but its function hasn't changed. The school continues to train military officers (Meade 220) for the benefit of Latin American countries. This school allowed the U.S. to have a direct route to the governments in Latin America. During this time, the U.S. realized that it was easier to keep tabs on a loyal military government than to developing a democratic nation. This idea has backfired many times, but overall allowed the U.S. to have some type of control in many Latin American countries with little risk.