On September 4th, 2012 in Managua, Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega – the president of Nicaragua – announced Nicaragua’s withdraw from the institution formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA), an institution specialized in training Latin American dictators and military personnel in forms of human rights violations such as repression and torture. A nine-day, international-peace promoting delegation co-sponsored by the SOA Watch and Nicaragua Network made for the perfect setting for Ortega’s announcement. The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), more famously known by its former name – SOA – is located in Fort Benning, Georgia. Moreover, Ortega has described his nation as being the SOA’s victims.
President Ortega has an agenda planned for his country that involves Nicaragua becoming a more independent country. In his opinion, their involvement with the SOA – among other things – is hindering that from happening. At the delegation, President Ortega described the SOA as a “symbol of death…[and] terror” and as an “ethical and moral anathema.” With the South American countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Ecuador having already withdrawn its troops from the SOA, Nicaragua is continuing the trend of solidarity within the region by being the first Central American country to withdraw its troops and continue its progressive stride in the right direction. In 2008 Nicaragua had 78 students enrolled in the school, then a mere five students in 2011, and finally zero students enrolled this year prior to Ortega announcing the official withdraw. Nicaragua further progressed its efforts of self-sufficiency by retracting its membership from the Interamerican Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance – a military pact that is predominantly influenced by the United States’ interests.
While Nicaragua straying as far as possible from things associated with the United States is crucial, it is not nearly enough according to SOA Watch member and organizer Lisa Sullivan. As Sullivan described it after Ortega’s announcement, the U.S. is “ … a nation that continues to punish [the country] for any slight step out of line by withholding their funds, while also blocking other international funds destined for Nicaragua.” Whatever the case may be for Nicaragua’s future, Ortega’s decision spreads a sense of hope and solidarity among other Latin American countries and the world.
“Nicaragua Withdraws from School of the Americas: “We Have Been Its Victims”.” Cosner, Colette. Yes! Magazine. 05 2012: n. page. Web. 14 Nov. 2012.
“VICTORY! Nicaragua Withdraws from the SOA.” Sullivan, Lisa. SOA Watch: Close the School of the Americas. Web. 14 Nov 2012. <http://www.soaw.org/about-us/equipo-sur/212-delegations/3966-victory-nicaragua-withdraws-from-the-soa>.
Student Researchers: Tiara Winston, Andi Mills, Marie Adams; DePauw University
Expert Evaluator: Glen Kuecker, DePauw University, Ph. D. Latin American History
Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley, DePauw University
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