Costa Rican President Oscar Arias announced Wednesday that Costa Rica will cease to send police to train at the U.S. Army Ft. Benning facility after citing its history of involvement in military coups and human rights abuses throughout Latin America.Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, made the decision after talks with a delegation of the School of the Americas Watch, including the Rev. Roy Bourgeois and Lisa Sullivan Rodriguez.
The human rights advocacy group has campaigned since 1990 for the closure of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as the School for the Americas (SOA), located at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Costa Rica has no army but has sent approximately 2,600 police officers over the years to be trained at the school. Minor Masis, leader of Costa Rica's former "Comando Cobra" anti-drug squad attended the School in 1991 and returned to Costa Rica, only to serve 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 announce a withdrawal from the SOA/WHINSEC. In 2006, the governments of Argentina and Uruguay announced that they would cease all training at the school, becoming the second and third countries to announce a cessation of training. In January of 2004, Hugo Chavez announced that Venezuela would no longer send troops to train at the school. Costa Rica's withdrawal from WHINSEC is a great victory for human rights in Latin America. With this major breakthrough, Costa Rica adds its name to the list of countries who are rejecting the destructive approach of institutions such as the SOA/WHINSEC. Combat training and military spending as a means to "solve" social problems do not bring peace and democracy.
The Peace Army of Costa Rica celebrates that Costa Rica has withdrawn from the School of the Americas. We congratulate our friend, Rita Calvert, for bringing Father Roy to Costa Rica as he was responsible for the success of this effort.
Sincerely,Rita Marie JohnsonRasur Foundation