PART TWO: WHINSEC and SOA Watch both expand missions
By Sara Belsole
FORT BENNING, GA – Fresh off their first meeting in more than two decades with the White House, School of the Americas Watch members say they are feeling the forward momentum.
And Friday they are expanding their mission with an “expose and close” protest at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia.
SOA Watch is also protesting drone technology this weekend.
“It's the same mind set that is represented. The mind set of The School of the Americas is to use heavy military repression and military force for US foreign policy aims throughout Latin America,” Hendrik Voss, SOA Watch National Organizer, says.
But the commandant of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) which replaced the school of the Americas 12 years ago, says the Institute has the right mind set.
“It's all oriented toward the profession of arms that we are embarked on, serving our people, our constitutions, and serving the law through our elected leaders,” Col. Glenn Huber says.
Right now there are 17 different democratic nations from Chile to Canada represented at WHINSEC. Courses last between four weeks and 11 months and are usually paid for by the student's home country.
This year WHINSEC has hit record enrollment, with more than 2,000 students enrolled. There are also more than 200 faculty members, 25% of them international.
This growth has prompted WHISNEC to expand their own mission with a new campus, set to open next year.
“It is something that we are producing of high quality, of relatively good value and I think that's what has transcribed to being an increase in the students coming here. If we weren't doing something right at the Institute I don't think we would have the record numbers,” Huber says.
But the SOA Watch still believes it has the political support to shut down the school.
“SOA Watch has the support from major organizations throughout the US. We have a lot of labor leaders that are with us,” Voss says.
WHINSEC says it also has the political support to keep its doors open because it operates under the Department of Defense.