Its time for the annual march on Fort Benning, and great strides have been made by SOAW. Two hundred three congressmen voted to stop funding to the School of Assassins, a fifth country announced its military will discontinue involvement with the school, and congress voted to release the names of the 2005 and 2006 graduating class. But this progress may be deceiving. The last year’s Foreign Operations bill included $16.2 million to fund International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEAs). These facilities including ILEA-South in El Salvador which was established to deal with the prolific gang violence and instability in Central America. Unfortunately, reports about human rights violations from authorities continue to come from El Salvador.
Gang violence and social instability in El Salvador and other Latin American countries are products of our actions and influences. Guadalupe Chavez and Tiel Rainelli, along with the good people on staff at Presente!, provide an incriminating article connecting the actions of mercenaries, paid for by our representative and trained by our military, to the violence in Latin American and the resulting emergence of international gangs
“During the 1980’s, under the false logic of the Cold War, the United States provided direct military aid and School of the Americas training for the Salvadoran army that was systematically violating human rights in El Salvador. U.S. military aid, training, and on-the-ground advisors provided the government of El Salvador with the resources and know-how to terrorize the civilian population.
The war left over 70,000 dead and not a single soul untouched. Over two million people fled El Salvador with a great majority of them immigrating into the United States. Los Angeles became a refuge for many Salvadoran families…
…The War on Gangs gradually began to take shape in the mid 1990’s after a 1996 immigration law in the U.S. facilitated the deportation of undocumented people serving more than two years in U.S. detention facilities. From 1996 to 2003, the United States deported 70,000 people to El Salvador.” Those deported were not well received once they arrived in El Salvador, instead they were stigmatized and marginalized for their cultural differences and kept out of yet another system of employment, and education. In response to the deportations and the import of the gang culture from the United States to El Salvador, the Salvadorian government implemented “localized anti-gang measures and [formed] death squads that emerged to kill youth thought to be gang members.”
The Broader Picture
The story of El Salvador is one of many that connects the struggles in our own communities with those in Latin America. Developing countries have the resources and ability to create prosperous, democratic, and even capitalist societies. But if they try to become independent of our interest and our corporations cannot exploit their resources we, intervene like in Chile and Venezuela among others. And a plug for our economic hit men.
On the Domestic Front
The threat of political violence may be just as real here at home. Our government hosts a list of the usual suspect left over from the Iran/Contra scandal like current Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, head of the Information Awareness Office Adm. John Poindexter and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams. They instigated the ‘Salvadoran option’ in Iraq and now oversee security in the US. Besides the ILEA facilities overseas we are expending Blackwater training facilities here in Southern California . Isn’t it nice to know, just in case some disaster happens, real or perceived (say an earthquake or rise in gang violence), that we have an apparatus of private mercenaries, who operate with impunity, ready to profit off the suffering of other. Additionally, more social unrest will only feed our prison industrial complex which act as gangland finishing school.
While there must be an exponential return on investment from the $16M we spend on our School of Assassins, that money might serve better going to other programs. Here in Los Angeles, the city is busy implementing the advancement project, a comprehensive report by Constance Rice and others geared toward prevention of inner city violence, prison reform, and community development. Churches in 50 cities across the US have joined the new sanctuary movement. Homies Unidos has gang prevention programs set up in the US and El Salvador. Homeboy Industries has opened its new facilities in downtown LA. Jeff Car, founder of the Bresee foundation and ex-COO of Sojourners has been appointed Gang Czar by Mayor Villaraigosa. We might also look at the success of gang intervention programs in other countries like the Alcatraz Project in Venezuela.