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Report: “mistakes were made” in Latin America training manual

February 21, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Pentagon said today ``many mistakes were made″ in Army manuals used to train Latin American troops that contained references to beatings, executions and human rights abuses.

But the report by the Defense Department’s inspector general declined to single out anyone for blame. There was no deliberate attempt to violate Pentagon policies in the manuals used for nearly a decade at the School of the Americas, now based at Fort Benning, Ga., the report said.

Critics in Congress have argued for years the school was a training ground for dictators and human rights abusers.

The inspector general supported a 1992 Pentagon report on the school that ordered an end to the use of objectionable material without blaming any individuals.

The original Spanish-language manuals were created in 1987, distributed to students throughout Latin America by Army mobile training teams from 1987 through 1989, and used at the Army School of the Americas from 1989 through early 1991.

``The department acted appropriately in 1992 to stop the use of improper materials in training foreign military officers,″ Deputy Defense Secretary John White, the Pentagon’s No. 2 official, said today. ``Secretary (William) Cohen and I are committed to doing everything we can to prevent such mistakes from happening again.″

``From 1982 through early 1991, many mistakes were made and repeated by numerous and continually changing personnel in several organizations from Panama to Georgia to Washington, D.C.,″ said Acting Inspector General Russell Rau.

The School of the Americas was established in Panama in 1946 and moved to Fort Benning in 1984.

Earlier Pentagon reviews found about two dozen isolated phrases, sentences or short passages, out of 1,100 pages in six of the manuals, that were objectionable or questionable and apparently violated U.S. policies.

One phrase described how an ``employee’s value could be increased by means of arrests, executions or pacification, taking care not to expose the employee as the information source.″ Another advised that ``threats should not be made unless they can be carried out and the employee realizes that such threats could be carried out.″

Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, D-Mass., has argued that 10 Latin American presidents who attended the school took over governments through undemocratic means, including Panamanian dictators Manuel Antonio Noriega and Omar Torrijos.

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