The Salvadoran National Assembly yesterday approved the agreement with the US for establishment of an International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in El Salvador. The ILEA will use US personnel to provide training of police, judges and prosecutors from around Latin America.
The establishment of the ILEA has been vigorously opposed by the opposition in El Salvador and civil society organizations. Voices on the Border sets out well the grounds for the opposition to the ILEA:
While no one argues that more training and professionalization would help the Salvadoran security forces; which since being re-formed after the war, have been plagued by accusations of corruption, arbitrary detention, and abuse; many question the ILEA as the ideal tool to accomplish that goal. Section 660 of the U.S. Foreign Aid Bill prohibits aid to foreign police forces except in democratic countries with exceptional human rights records. Although we cannot conflate todayÂs Salvadoran civilian police force with the militarized police of the war years, it is still safe to say that the Salvadoran police force is light years away from satisfying the conditions of the bill.
Meanwhile, Latin American social movements do not trust the United States as an appropriate purveyor of the ILEA's purported objectives of strengthening the criminal justice system with an emphasis on human rights and democratization. This mistrust is based at least as much on current events, such as the U.S. refusal to sign on to the International Criminal Court and the torture scandals of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, as its long history of supporting death squad governments in the Americas. The School of the Americas trained many of the soldiers responsible for the most notorious massacres of the Salvadoran civil war and circulates manuals with such names as "How to Keep Torture Victims Alive."
In July, I expressed my view that the ILEA is not intrinsically evil. The opposition to the ILEA reflects much more the abysmal state of the Bush administration's reputation in Latin America than it reflects any actual evidence that the ILEA (originally a Clinton administration concept) will lead to any human rights violations or loss of sovereignty in a nation where it is located.