September 2001, Congress was debating a number of national security
issues involving Latin America, including the Bush Administration's
new Andean counterdrug initiative and the continued U.S. military presence
on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. While still critically important
in the region, both dropped to barely perceptible blips on Washington's
political radar screen after September 11th. While U.S. military programs
will continue in Latin America, they are likely to undergo some changes
as the United States responds to the terrorist attacks.
year's major assistance package to Latin America focuses on U.S. military
support for counternarcotics efforts in Colombia and the Andean region.
While major guerrilla groups operate in Colombia, the United States
has so far restricted its rationale for assistance to counter-drug support.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks, the already blurry line between
counternarcotics and counterinsurgency in Colombia may be erased.
conditions on aid are also at risk as U.S. attention turns to terrorist
threats. Efforts are underway to seek broad waiver authority to override
human rights safeguards on U.S. military programs worldwide. Agreements
with countries hosting U.S. military Forward Operating Locations in
Latin America restrict their use to counterdrug activities, but there
may be pressure to use these facilities for counterterrorism purposes
these potential changes, many of the programs the United States carries
out with Latin American militaries will not be dramatically affected
by recent events. Engagement is, and will continue to be, a primary
objective for many U.S. military programs in the region. The other overriding
rationale for U.S. military programs in this hemisphere has been counternarcotics,
and these programs will certainly remain high priorities.
September 11, congressional oversight of U.S. military programs with
Latin America was limited, but steadily improving. Now, it is less likely
that Congress will focus significant attention on the oversight of any
programs outside of the terrorism response. While the shift in policymakers'
attention is understandable, U.S. involvement in the Colombian counterdrug
effort, the build up of the Forward Operating Locations and large scale
training programs will all continue. Military-to-military activities
and priorities will move forward, whether or not policymakers are minding
access to information about U.S. military assistance increased somewhat
since 1997, when the Latin America Working Group launched the "Just
the Facts" project. Congress required some new reports -- particularly
an overall accounting of U.S. military training and a description of
the Defense Department's counterdrug aid -- that gave much insight into
U.S.-Latin American military cooperation.
however, we have seen a disturbing reversal in this progress. The above-mentioned
report on military training (known as the "Foreign Military Training
Report," or FMTR) was released in March 2000 with key information
from earlier reports classified. The 2000 FMTR would not identify the
foreign military units trained, making impossible monitoring of compliance
with human rights conditions in military-aid law. The report also removed
any mention of U.S. trainers and training locations, leaving the public
unable to determine which U.S. institutions (such as the former School
of the Americas) provide the most instruction and how much training
takes place overseas.
2001 FMTR increased classification still further, this time entirely
cutting out much of the counter-drug training provided by the Defense
Department -- one of the largest funding sources for military training
in Latin America. As a result, the report left out even aggregate numbers
of trainees for many Latin American countries. It became impossible
even to answer basic questions like "how many Bolivians were trained
in 2000," rendering the FMTR largely useless as an oversight tool.
saw another crucial tool severely weakened. All Latin America activities
were for the first time removed from unclassified distributions of the
Pentagon's annual report on Special Operations Forces' training with
foreign forces (known as the "Section 2011" report due to
its place in the U.S. Code). This report is the best source of information
about the Special Forces' Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program.
JCET was a source of some controversy after 1998 press reports revealed
the program was active in Indonesia, a country banned at the time from
receiving military aid through the foreign assistance budget.
committees considering 2002 legislation have called on the State and
Defense departments to reconsider increased classification. The Senate
Appropriations Committee's non-binding report accompanying the 2002
foreign aid bill expects the next FMTR "to contain the maximum
amount of information in declassified form, including information about
foreign units trained; the location of training; U.S. trainers' units;
course descriptions; the number of courses given and students trained;
and estimates for next-year training in each category of training reported."
The House version includes similar language.
to both the FMTR and the "Section 2011" report, the House
Armed Services Commmittee's report accompanying the 2002 Defense Authorization
bill notes that "information contained in these reports regarding
foreign military units trained is important and should, where appropriate,
be made available in an unclassified form to the general public."
currently before the House of Representatives would make greater disclosure
of training into law. The "Foreign Military Training Responsibility
Act" (H.R. 1594) would also require a report on foreign police
training, improve tracking of trainees' careers, and establish a commission
to re-think the mission of foreign military training activities.
in Congress are pushing in the opposite direction, seeking to weaken
further the Foreign Military Training Report. Section 816 of the House
of Representatives' version of the 2002-2003 Foreign Relations Authorization
Act (H.R. 1646) would require the FMTR to be produced only at the request
of congressional leaders, and only for specified countries.
and Senate versions of the 2002 foreign aid bill continue reports, including
the FMTR, and human rights conditions that applied to previous aid,
while adding little new (other than those applying to Andean aid, discussed
include prohibitions on combat and technical training to Guatemala through
the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program. The
Senate Appropriations Committee's report on the 2002 foreign aid bill
notes that "the Committee is perplexed by the Administration's
requests for regular IMET assistance for some countries whose armed
forces have a recent history of actively undermining elected civilian
authorities, corruption, and human rights abuses, and which have shown
no commitment to reform."
report includes language clarifying implementation of the Leahy Law,
which since 1997 has prohibited aid to foreign military units that violate
human rights with impunity. The subcommittee defines "unit"
as "the smallest operational group in the field that has been implicated
in the reported violation." The report also calls for the State
Department "to establish and maintain an electronic database of
credible evidence of gross violations of human rights by units of foreign
security forces. Each U.S. embassy should designate an appropriate official
to collect and submit data to the database from a wide range of sources
on a regular basis. Such a database would be one important depository
of evidence for making determinations regarding the implementation of
this provision." This clarification was needed because interpretation
and implementation of the law has varied even among U.S. embassies in
Andean Regional Initiative
largest element of the United States' 2002 plans for the hemisphere
is continued support for "Plan Colombia," which began with
the July 2000 passage of a $1.3 billion package of "emergency"
anti-drug aid to Colombia and its neighbors. The Bush Administration's
"Andean Regional Initiative" aid request will continue programs
begun under the 2000 aid package, while greatly increasing military
and police assistance to six of Colombia's neighbors.
terms, the request seeks less aid to Colombia's military and police
than Bogotá received in 2000 and 2001. This merely reflects that
the 2002 request includes no high-cost helicopters, which added about
$350 million to the 2000-2001 aid package.* The sixteen UH-60 Blackhawk
and roughly forty UH-1 Huey helicopters in that package began delivery
to Colombia in July 2001. They will provide mobility to a three-battalion
Counternarcotics Brigade in Colombia's army, created with heavy U.S.
assistance. The second and third battalions completed training by U.S.
Special Forces in December 2000 and May 2001, respectively.
are charged with guaranteeing security for an expanded program of aerial
fumigation of drug crops, carried out by Colombia's National Police
and U.S.-funded private contractors. The U.S. government contracts with
private companies, which employ civilians to work in Colombia as spray-plane
pilots, mechanics, search-and-rescue personnel, military trainers, logistics
experts and intelligence-gatherers, among other duties.
State Department reported in May 2001 that "the average number
of U.S. citizen civilian contractors working on State Department, USAID
and DOD programs supporting Plan Colombia on any given day has been
in the range of 160-180 persons." According to press reports, including
non-U.S. citizens increases this number to well over 300 civilian contractors.
use of contractors has been a source of some controversy, as it raises
issues of accountability and proximity to Colombia's conflict. The controversy
was fed by the involvement of contract personnel in the accidental shooting
down of a plane carrying U.S. missionaries, mistaken for drug traffickers,
over Peru in April 2001.
the Andean Regional Initiative will slightly decrease military and police
aid levels for Colombia in 2002, it will mean a large leap in this assistance
to Colombia's neigbors.
armed forces will enter the post-Fujimori period with new U.S. funding
for Navy riverine efforts, Air Force C-26 sensor packages, engine upgrades,
and training. The Peruvian police will get upgrades to fourteen UH-1
Huey helicopters and greater assistance for manual coca eradication
Ecuador's border with Colombia will be the chief focus of U.S. security
assitance to Quito. Assistance to Ecuador's military and police will
include training, logistical support, communications gear and maintenance
of helicopters and equipment. The United States is also in the midst
of a $61.2 million upgrade to an airbase at Manta, on Ecuador's Pacific
Coast. U.S. aircraft will use Manta as a "Forward Operating Location"
to host and maintain surveillance flights over the drug "source
zone" (particularly southern Colombia, Peru and Bolivia).
States has built barracks for Bolivia's Army in the Chapare coca-growing
region, and sent numerous teams of counter-drug military trainers. Plans
for 2002 include equipment, weapons and training for the ground, water
and air interdiction efforts of all branches of Bolivia's armed forces
police will receive significant counternarcotics assistance for the
first time in 2002. Much of it will support Brazil's "Operation
Cobra," a three-year effort to fortify the border with Colombia.
the Colombian border is a central goal of U.S. police assistance in
armyless Panama. Greatly increased aid will provide equipment, training
and advice to Panamanian National Police border units, National Maritime
Service, and National Air Service.
military relations with the government of Venezuelan President Hugo
Chávez have been mixed. Venezuela continues to prohibit use of
its airspace by U.S. counter-drug surveillance aircraft, and the State
Department has criticized Venezuela's own interdiction efforts as "largely
unsuccessful." In August 2001, Venezuela revoked the fifty-year-old
agreement granting the U.S. Military Group a rent-free presence in the
Fuerte Tiuna military headquarters in Caracas. Venezuelan Defense Minister
José Vicente Rangel criticized the agreement as "a museum
piece of the Cold War." On the other hand, U.S. collaboration with
Venezuela's National Guard continues to be close, particularly on counter-narcotics
matters, and Venezuela's security forces will see a significant increase
in U.S. funding in 2002 as part of the Andean Regional Initiative.
to the Andes continues to receive more scrutiny than any other activity
in the hemisphere. Colombia is particularly controversial. Concerns
have centered on the human rights record of the world's third-largest
recipient of security assistance (as of publication) and the possibility
of entanglement in a broadening conflict. The Senate Appropriations
Committee noted that "many Members have expressed concerns that
this program is drawing the United States into a prolonged civil war
that may pose grave risks to American personnel and further hardships
for the Colombian people."
branch has long dismissed such concerns by insisting that U.S. aid is
for counternarcotics programs, not counter-insurgency. However, the
Bush Administration is carrying out a "formal review" to determine
whether the U.S. mission should remain "just narcotics, or is there
some wider stake we may have in the survival of a friendly democratic
government," as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International
Security Affairs Peter Rodman defined it in August 2001.
about the direction of U.S. policy toward the Andes has led to the placement
of several restrictions and reporting requirements on the 2002 Andean
aid package, which as this document goes to press is currently before
Congress as part of the Foreign Operations appropriation. Both houses'
versions place human rights conditions on military assistance, and include
maximum numbers of U.S. military personnel and contractors allowed in
Colombia at any given time. The Senate's version would cut off aerial
fumigation funding until the government certifies the chemicals' safety
and use according to U.S. government and manufacturers' standards, and
until reparation mechanisms are in effect for those unjustly fumigated.
document goes to press in late September 2001, it is unclear how U.S.
aid to the Andes will be affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks.
A direct threat to U.S. security on its own soil may divert attention
and resources -- including military aid -- away from the region. It
is at least as likely, though, that a new global "war" on
terrorism might ease a shift toward counter-insurgency assistance, with
the pretext of helping Colombia to control the three armed groups in
its country that appear on the State Department's list of thirty-one
international terrorist organizations.
United States' relationship with Mexico's military continues to be based
on counternarcotics. In 2001, the United States plans to train 1,363
Mexican military personnel. While training numbers have fluctuated somewhat
over the past few years, the average remains around 1,000 per year.
The fluctuations likely have more to do with temporary political considerations
than with significant changes in priorities or direction.
to the 2000-2001 Foreign Military Training Report, "The U.S. conducts
extensive training in the counter-narcotics area, with special focus
in helicopter repair and maintenance of aircraft. Technical assistance
covering a broad range of counter-drug capabilities and assets help
enhance Mexico's ability to combat narcotic traffickers and continue
its cooperation with U.S. counter-drug efforts."
training with Mexico began in earnest when the United States donated
73 used helicopters for counter-drug use in 1996 and 1997. Though Mexico
returned all of the helicopters in 1999, the training program has continued;
the Mexican military has obtained helicopters from other sources and
standard helicopter training applies equally to the new equipment.
annual Foreign Military Training Report has classified information about
foreign units trained by the United States, it is clear that counternarcotics
work has taken on more of a maritime focus, and that the United States
is working closely with the "Marina" in Mexico.
report appears to indicate an increase in training programs that take
place on Mexican soil. Unlike the rest of Latin America, where U.S.
mobile training teams and Special Operations Forces conduct much training
in host countries, most Mexican trainees have been brought to the United
States for training. The presence of U.S. troops in Mexican territory
has been historically controversial.
this year's FMTR indicates that about half of expected trainees for
2001 are taking courses either given by mobile training teams or courses
often provided in that fashion.
somewhat from 1996 and 1997, when the helicopters were transferred and
significant resources went to training counter-drug Air Mobile Special
Forces Groups (GAFEs), engagement with the Mexican military is still
a major priority for the United States. While Department of Defense
officials admit that the relationship has been rocky, one recently described
the periodic crises as "on the margins of the fundamental relationship."
military and police aid levels to Central America lag behind the Andes
and Mexico, they are no longer declining from their 1980s highs.
security forces in particular are experiencing a significant jump in
U.S. aid. Aid in dollar terms, which stayed below $1 million since the
early 1990s, may reach nearly $4 million in 2002 thanks to a large infusion
of Foreign Military Financing (FMF, the U.S. government's main non-counternarcotics
military aid program). The State Department reports that the FMF will
help the Salvadoran military refurbish helicopters overused in response
to January 2001 earthquakes, and will support naval vessels used for
is also hosting a Forward Operating Location at its Comalapa airport,
where U.S. Navy and Customs personnel are supporting counter-drug surveillance
aircraft on missions over the eastern Pacific Ocean. While the site
is in limited use, improvements valued at $9.3 million will be made
in 2002 and 2003.
assistance to Central America is increasing, though peacekeeping and
humanitarian assistance continue to be key missions of U.S. military
cooperation with the region. The Southern Command's Humanitarian and
Civic Assistance (HCA) program, in which U.S. miltiary personnel pay
visits to build infrastructure and provide medical services, remains
more active in Central America than in the rest of the hemisphere. HCA
exercises operated at an unprecedented pace in the region in 1999 following
Hurricane Mitch; while they fell off somewhat in 2000, the program increased
again in 2001 following the El Salvador earthquakes.
the Southern Command's "Joint Task Force Bravo" continues
to operate out of the Soto Cano airbase near Comayagua. The unit's 550
U.S. military personnel and 650 U.S. and Honduran civilians provide
"responsive helicopter support to missions in Latin America and
the Caribbean," Southern Command chief Gen. Peter Pace explained
in April 2001.
and Guatemala are two of the only countries in the hemisphere that do
not receive combat and technical training through the International
Military Education and Training (IMET) program. Both countries are limited
to "Expanded IMET," which offers courses in management, civil-military
relations, human rights and related topics. In the Nicaraguan case this
is a matter of policy, probably owing to the Nicaraguan army's Sandinista
origins. Guatemala, however, is prohibited by law from receiving military
aid through regular IMET and the FMF programs, due to persisting human
rights concerns. The House Appropriations Committee urges "renewed
emphasis on improving the Guatemalan civilian police force ... to strengthen
law enforcement and modernization of the state."
aid is expected to fuel increased military and police assistance to
the Caribbean in 2001 and 2002, as the State Department's 2002 request
for its International Narcotics Control (INC) program foresees large
increases to the region.
Department is funding many construction improvements to the U.S. Forward
Operating Location on the islands of Aruba and Curacao in the Netherlands
Antilles. $10.2 million will build new runways and other facilities
for Aruba, which is used by U.S. Customs aircraft. Another $43.9 million
will support similar upgrades at Curacao, which hosts a larger number
of U.S. military planes. Construction will end in late 2002.
Plan Colombia for controversy in the region is the U.S. Navy's continued
use of a firing range (the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility)
on the island of Vieques off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. The site
has been a focus of intense protest since April 1999, when a plane practicing
bombing missed its target, killing a Puerto Rican civilian security
guard. The Navy is currently practicing bombing on the site using inert
concrete bombs; a non-binding referendum of Vieques residents in July
2001 found that 68 percent wanted the Navy to vacate the sixty-year-old
range's future should be sealed by a binding referendum in November
2001 that does not include the Navy's immediate withdrawal as an option.
Voters will choose either to allow the Navy to remain (and receive $50
million in economic assistance) or to force the Navy to leave in 2003
(and receive no funds).
in the House of Representatives' version of the 2002 Defense Authorization
bill would repeal this referendum and let the Navy decide whether it
wants to leave the Vieques site. As this report goes to press following
the September 11 terrorist attacks, policymakers are renewing calls
to continue using the Vieques range while the Navy lacks available alternate
which in the mid-1990s received a great deal of assistance to establish
a national police force, today receives little police aid (Haiti has
no army), due to prohibitions on assistance until "Haiti has held
free and fair elections to seat a new parliament." Foreign aid
legislation would allow aid for Haiti's Coast Guard; the Bush Administration's
2002 funding request to Congress asks for "resumption of FMF assistance
to the HNP [Haitian National Police], and its Coast Guard in particular,
mostly to enhance counternarcotics capabilities."
Republic will receive small amounts of FMF to support coastal patrol
boats for counter-drug and migrant operations, and to provide tactical
communications for military disaster-relief efforts.
June 13, 2001 the Pentagon formally notified Congress of the forthcoming
sale of ten F-16 C/D series fighter planes and two KC-135 tanker aircraft
to Chile. The planes do not include sophisticated AMRAAM missiles, as
some had expected.
$700 million sale is the first since a twenty-year-old policy banning
high-tech weapons sales to Latin America was lifted in 1997. (One exception
had been made in the early 1980s, when F-16s were sold to Venezuela.)
Purchases by Chile and, potentially, by its Southern Cone neighbors
have been slowed somewhat by the region's chronic economic crises.
New York Times reported in August that "Brasilia has set
aside $700 million to buy up to 24 supersonic fighters. But it is insisting
that any supplier provide advanced avionics and that Brazil's burgeoning
aerospace industry be allowed to make the planes here for itself."
The U.S. government may be uncomfortable with the level of technology
transfer that these conditions would demand.
in the midst of a deep recession, has not announced plans to buy aircraft.
Relations between the U.S. and Argentine armed forces are quite close,
however, as Argentina is the only Latin American country to hold the
largely symbolic status of "Major Non-NATO Ally" of the United
States. This status has given Argentina priority access to the United
States' program of giveaways of Excess Defense Articles (EDA). This
program has provided Argentina with tens of millions of dollars in weapons
and equipment over the past few years. The State Department's 2002 aid
request states that EDA and a rapidly increasing amount of grant FMF
assistance are aimed at strengthening the Argentine military's abiliy
to participate in international peacekeeping missions. "Receipt
of grant EDA helps Argentina obtain NATO-compatible equipment, such
as transport and communications equipment, which improves its interoperability
with NATO forces in peacekeeping operations."
the most recent Foreign Military Training Report classified data necessary
to make an exact determination, the launch of Plan Colombia and the
training of entire battalons almost assuredly increased the number of
Latin American military personnel trained in 2000 over the 12,923 reported
in 1999. If patterns revealed by previous FMTRs continued in 2000, the
majority of this training took place overseas, given by U.S. instructors
(mainly Special Forces units) in the students' own countries.
most of the attention of congressional oversight staff remains fixed
on the standard foreign aid budget, the largest source of funding for
training in Latin America is in fact the $300 billion Defense Department
budget. Under an authorization normally referred to as "Section
1004," the Pentagon uses its counter-drug budget to train many
more individuals than does IMET, the largest training program in the
foreign aid budget.
former School of the Americas
symbol of military training for Latin America underwent a makeover in
late 2000 and early 2001. Following a change in the law proposed by
the Pentagon, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation
(WHINSEC) now occupies the building that housed the U.S. Army School
of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.
the only U.S. Army institution that offers training in Spanish, is in
the midst of reforming its curriculum and removing several combat courses;
the change in the law codifies several previously existing oversight
mechanisms, such as a Board of Visitors and regular reports on the school's
its coursework is more intensive than that offered by most U.S. training
teams overseas, the WHINSEC accounts for only about 5 percent of all
Latin American military personnel trained by the United States.
Bush Administration's aid request for 2002 would revive Foreign Military
Financing (FMF), a military aid program that had been used sparingly
in Latin America during the past ten years. Primarily intended to provide
military equipment for non-counternarcotics purposes, FMF levels in
the hemisphere are expected to rise from about $4 million in 2000 to
at least $18 million in 2002, with Argentina, Bolivia and El Salvador
the largest beneficiaries.
documents also indicate that Latin America will share in a large expected
worldwide increase in IMET funds for military training. The number of
IMET-funded trainees from Latin America would increase by about one-quarter
in two years, from 2,684 in 2000 to 3,399 in 2002.
has accounted for roughly ten percent of the worldwide budget of the
State Department's relatively small Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA)
program, which provides weapons, equipment, services and training designed
to help foreign governments prevent and deal with terrorist acts. The
State Department's April 2001 aid request indicated plans to increase
ATA funding for Latin America significantly, from $3.0 million in 2000
to $4.4 million in 2002. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 tragedy
in the United States, it is reasonable to expect the ATA account to
increase sharply worldwide, including the Western Hemisphere.
the horrific attacks of September 11 have the potential to alter radically
the United States' relationship with Latin America and its militaries.
As this document goes to publication two weeks after the tragedy, it
is easy to imagine that the U.S. military's main regional concerns during
the 1990s -- the drug war, improving interoperability, developing new
missions and carrying out engagement for its own sake -- have been eclipsed
by a vastly more immediate threat to national security.
policymakers' attention may be diverted to the Middle East, it is unlikely
that military and police assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean
will decrease. In fact, what commentators are calling "America's
new war" might bring increased involvement with the hemisphere's
militaries, as the cold war did during the second half of the twentieth
emphasis may bring several dramatic changes. First, the drug war may
fall to secondary importance among U.S. military priorities in the region.
This would be a tremendous change in Colombia, which is not only a key
drug source country but is also home to groups on the State Department's
list of international terrorist organizations. While U.S. Ambassador
to Bogotá Anne Patterson recently told reporters "there
is no stomach in the United States for counterinsurgency," there
is some possibility that the purpose of aid could nonetheless shift
toward helping Colombia to subdue "terrorist" groups within
of State Colin Powell indicated that this shift may indeed be underway
in a September 23 television interview: "Quite a few [terrorist
groups] will go after our interests in the regions that they are located
in and right here at home. And so we have to treat all of them as potentially
having the capacity to affect us in a global way. Or to affect our friends
and interests in other parts of the world. For example, we have designated
three groups in Colombia alone as being terrorist organizations, and
we are working with the Colombian Government to protect their democracy
against the threat provided or presented by these terrorist organizations."
In a context
like Colombia's this mission would require a wholesale counterinsurgency
strategy. Yet this strategy would carry the same risks of entanglement
and human rights concerns as before. Should these risks and the policy's
failure become reality, though, U.S. leaders may not be aware of the
need to act, as their attention may remain fixed on the Middle East.
change in U.S. policy toward the region could be a major rollback of
controls and conditions on military assistance that have been put in
place over the past twenty-five years. In a rush to build coalitions
and to guard against this new threat, policymakers may come to view
human rights, nonproliferation, and other protections -- as well as
transparency mechanisms -- as obstacles. The Leahy law, limits on aid
to countries developing nuclear weapons, prohibitions on aid to governments
resulting from military coups, limits on CIA recruitment of known human
rights abusers, and the ban on assassinations of leaders could all be
challenged in coming months.
protections are more badly needed now than ever. Assistance to known
abusers and criminals may appear to offer security in the short term,
but history has shown repeatedly that offering aid or a tacit "seal
of approval" to those opposed to our core values -- human rights,
liberty, democracy -- frequently contributes to making volatile regions
even less secure in the long term. Countries and individuals must be
held to an extremely high standard of relevance to U.S. security before
existing protections are waived, and the idea of "blanket waivers"
promises nothing but disastrous results. We must be cautious about reversing
decades of building human rights protections into U.S. foreign policy.
change in U.S. policy toward the region could be an acceleration in
an existing trend of increased military involvement in foreign policymaking.
Already, the many programs documented in this publication have given
the U.S. military a high degree of influence in the Western Hemipshere.
About 50,000 U.S. military personnel pass through the region in a typical
year, many of them carrying out activities that count "engagement"
as a chief mission. As a result, it is already an open question in many
countries which part of the U.S. government -- the diplomats or the
officers -- has the closest relationships with key leaders.
potential change is a reduction in oversight of U.S. military programs.
In the few weeks after the September 11 attacks, a Congress normally
fraught with partisanship addressed all national security issues with
near consensus. Once-controversial U.S. military programs like Colombia
and Vieques dropped from sight.
desire for unity is understandable. Nonetheless, oversight of U.S. military
programs -- which is based on the "trust, but verify" concept
-- unavoidably involves controversy at times.
the past five years, Congress had made good progress toward better oversight
of U.S. training and counternarcotics programs with Latin America. Congress
has required that the executive provide better information on foreign
military training and Defense Department counter-drug expenditures,
established a requirement for tracking the careers of certain foreign
military personnel trained by the United States, and implemented the
Leahy Law, prohibiting training and assistance to foreign units that
commit human rights abuses. These are all significant improvements in
is only possible when there is both access to information and a desire
to analyze it. While information may still be produced, the desire to
focus on it may diminish. In the months ahead, policymakers must recall
that U.S. military programs in Latin America continue and that relinquishing
oversight will not make us safer. Those actively pursing oversight and
accountability need and deserve support.
President and Congress move to take strong action against terrorist
threats, they must recall some of the lessons of the past forty years'
U.S. military involvement in Latin America. Probably the most important
is to be careful in choosing our friends -- both those who we train
and with whom we develop long-term alliances. We must choose allies
who do not violate our sense of justice, human rights or democracy.