Otto Reich has been named to the Board of Visitors at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC), formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA). The WHISC’s charter requires a Board of Visitors to monitor the school, to ensure that the curriculum emphasize “human rights, the rule of law, due process, civilian control of the military, and the role of the military in a democratic society”. Reich has a history of aiding coups and known terrorists.
In December 2000 Congress authorized the WHISC to replace the SOA. The SOA/WHISC is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. Its graduates are consistently involved in documented human rights abuses and atrocities. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution.
The renaming of the school was widely viewed as an attempt to diffuse public criticism and to disassociate the school from its reputation. SOA Watch maintains that the underlying purpose of the school, to control the economic and political systems of Latin America by aiding and influencing Latin American militaries, remains the same.
“It’s a new name, but the same shame,”said Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch, “They prove this point by putting Otto Reich on this rubber stamp board.”
Reich first gained notoriety throughout Latin America and among US human rights groups for his role as head of the Office of Public Diplomacy during the Reagan administration. This office launched an anti-Sandinista propaganda campaign, illegally designed to influence the American public to embrace the administration?s agenda for Central America. Later, as US ambassador to Venezuela, Reich used his office to help Orlando Bosch, a known terrorist, get into the US. Bosch was convicted of firing a bazooka at a freighter in Miami, and accused of bombing a Cuban jet, killing 73 people. Despite this record the current Bush administration nominated Reich for Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. In this capacity Reich admittedly advised Pedro Carmona<the businessman who seized the presidency<during the failed coup in Venezuela last month. Also he met with generals who planned the coup in the months leading up to the coup (some of whom were trained at the SOA).
“This only renews our conviction that this school of coups, torturers and assassins must be closed down for good,”said Bourgeois.
For more details contact SOA Watch. SOA Watch works to stand in solidarity with people of Latin America, to change oppressive US foreign policy, and to close the SOA/WHISC.