Reviewing news articles this week, I came across an article in Upside Down World calling for protests to close the US-sponsored International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in El Salvador. The article, written by J.L. Heyward of CISPES, is an unfortunate collection of unsupported allegations, irrelevant connections, and logical fallacies.
Heyward's basic position is:
The project is a US attempt to continue militarizing Latin American police and to essentially "export" the US's criminal justice system to Latin America from a base in El Salvador.
It can also be thought of as a last ditch attempt of the US government to maintain dominance in the Latin American region, as socialist movement and electoral revolution is on the rise.
I would think most people would think that exporting the US criminal justice system -- where judges and prosecutors are not corrupt, where the rights of the accused are respected, where police are experts at investigating crime -- would be a significant improvement over the system which El Salvador has now. In a country where 90% of homicides go unsolved, training of police and prosecutors would seen to be a necessity.
The article contains the usual claim that the ILEA is another School of the Americas, where the US trained Latin American military officers in the 1970s and 1980s, including many who were horrific violators of human rights. But there are important differences. First, the ILEA is not run by the US military. Second, the persons trained at the ILEA are police officers and prosecutors, and not military personnel. Third, the ILEA has opened its doors and permitted one of El Salvador's most respected human rights institutions, the Institute for Human Rights at the University of Central America, to monitor the training and provide instruction on human rights. As I pointed out last year, the participation of this respected force for human rights provides safeguards that the ILEA will not become a place for training human rights abusers.
Police who are poorly trained, who lack techniques for crime prevention, and who lack resources and support, are more likely to be violators of human rights than a well-equipped, professionally trained police force. El Salvador desperately needs to upgrade criminal justice from the investigation of crimes through trial and punishment. Opposition to the ILEA appears to be primarily rooted in anti-Americanism, and overlooks what can be the very real benefits of such a project. (Still, given the magnitude of the problems in El Salvador, it is doubtful that the training of a few hundred Salvadoran police officers a year will make a significant, short term difference).
The CISPES attack on the ILEA points to police corruption, unsolved crimes, and lack of investigation as a reason not to have the ILEA in El Salvador. I say those are precisely the reasons the ILEA is needed.