US to open law enforcement academy in El Salvador

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced at the meeting of the Organization of American states this week that El Salvador would be the location for a new International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) for the training of police personnel from throughout the western hemisphere.

The ILEA was an idea first advanced by President Clinton in 1995. There are currently academies located in Europe, Asia and Africa. An academy for the Americas was proposed to be located in Costa Rica in 1997 and an agreement for the Costa Rica location was signed in 2002. Opposition from social and human rights organizations, however, prevented the academy from ever being established in Costa Rica. Now it appears that the ARENA government has convinced the US that El Salvador would be a friendly site.

The Human Rights Ombudsman for El Salvador, Beatrice Carrillo, has issued a sharply worded statement criticizing the proposal. She decried the threat to El Salvador's sovereignty represented by the proposal. Social groups oppose the academy, remembering the history of US support for the security forces of repressive regimes in Latin America. These concerns are reflected in a paper prepared by the Washington Office on Latin America, regarding the earlier proposal to locate an academy in Costa Rica:

The United States has a long history of providing police aid to Latin American countries. In the 1960s the U.S. Agency for International DevelopmentÂ’s Office of Public Safety (OPS) provided Latin American police forces with millions of dollars worth of weapons and trained thousands of Latin American police officers. In the late 1960s, such programs came under media and congressional scrutiny because the U.S.-provided equipment and personnel were linked to cases of torture, murder and "disappearances" in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. In 1974, Congress banned the provision by the U.S. of training or assistance to foreign police with a statute know as Section 660 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA).

Since that time, the US has continued to fund international police assistance via "exceptions to the FAA" approved by Congress on a case-by-case basis. Over time these exemptions have grown increasingly broad. Because police assistance programs are exceptions to policy, there are no over-arching policy guidelines nor explicit mechanisms for coordination of the disparate range of police assistance that the US currently provides. The State DepartmentÂ’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) channels a large percentage of US police assistance monies to other agencies for implementation, but there is no coordinated and systematic evaluation or reporting on the current police training and assistance programs.
To add fire to this issue, El Diario de Hoy reports today that Salvadoran officials are also seeking to have the United States establish in El Salvador a planned international center for tracking gang activity.