On Sept. 12, members of the Colombian National Police began training Salvadoran, Mexican, Honduran and Guatemalan police and attorneys general at the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in El Salvador. According to the Colombian embassy in El Salvador, this week-long course specializing in anti-kidnapping and anti-extortion is meant to “share experiences among experts in the region.” While extortion is recognized as a one of the principal crimes affecting the population in El Salvador and throughout Central America, critics have raised concern about the increasing role of Colombian police and military in Mexican and Central American policing, pointing to the abysmal human rights record of Colombian law enforcement, as well as the active role of the US State Department in facilitating and funding this collaboration through such institutions as the ILEA.
The ILEA, a project of the State Department, was opened in San Salvador in 2006; until now, the majority of instructors at the ILEA have come from various US agencies, such as the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency. It is not a surprise that Colombia would be the first country in South America that the ILEA would ask to provide training, considering that “Plan Colombia” has been a cornerstone of the US anti-narcotics policy throughout the region, despite its well-documented links to human rights abuses. Critics say the participation of the Colombian government in El Salvador is an indication that the US intends to replicate the same “security” model in Central America through the Mérida Initiative. Mexico, the primary country receiving aid and training under the Mérida Initiative, has witnessed over 30,000 death since the program was instated in 2006, and a six-fold increase in human rights violations attributed to the police in 2009. (CISPES, Sept. 16)