Costa Rica drops out of SOA

On May 16, during a visit to Washington, DC, Costa Rican president Oscar Arias announced that Costa Rica will stop sending police agents to be trained at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), a US military training institution formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA). Critics of the school, located at Fort Benning, Georgia, charge that it has trained many of the hemisphere’s worst human right abusers.

Arias made the announcement after talks with a delegation from the of the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), a human rights advocacy group that has campaigned since 1990 to have the school shut down. Costa Rica does not have an army, but it has sent some 2,600 police agents to the school since it started in 1946. Minor Masis, leader of Costa Rica’s former “Comando Cobra” anti-drug squad, attended the school in 1991; he is now serving a 42-year jail term for rape and murder committed during a 1992 drug raid. Costa Rica currently has three policemen at the center. “When the courses end for the three policemen, we are not going to send any more,” Arias said.

Costa Rica is the fourth country to end its connection with the school. In January 2004, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias announced that Venezuela would no longer send troops to train at WHINSEC. In 2006, the governments of Argentina and Uruguay announced that they would stop all training at the school. (SOAW press release, May 18)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 20

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