U.S. Special Operations Forces training missions to Latin America tripled between 2007 and 2014, newly obtained documents by a human rights advocacy organization reveal, offering further evidence that it is “the golden age” of secret operations by these elite fighters.
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) says the uptick happened during “a period when overall military aid to the region was decreasing” and as overall transparency about these forces, which include the Green Berets, the Navy SEALs, and Rangers, is waning.
Many of the missions these forces took part in, WOLA’s Sarah Kinosian and Adam Isacson explain, were trainings called Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET). While 12 JCETs trained 560 foreign personnel in 2007, the number zoomed up to 36 JCETs training 2,300 personnel in 2014.
Kinosian and Isacson write:
The highest number of missions—21—took place in Honduras. Most of those occurred from 2011 to 2014, a period when “when serious allegations levied against Honduran security forces—murder, torture, rape and extortion—went uninvestigated and unpunished,” Kinosian and Isacson write.
Nearly as many—19—missions took place in El Salvador, where the trainings may have been for a group of units ostensibly taking to the streets to fight that country’s war on gangs, and who have “been credibly accused of extrajudicial executions, crime scene manipulation, and enforced disappearances, among other crimes.”
Kinosian and Isacson write: “Over the past eight years, nearly 4,000 U.S. Special Forces personnel have trained nearly 13,000 Latin American security force personnel at a cost of $73 million.”
All this means, they add, that the public needs to ask some questions about the missions, namely, who exactly is the U.S. training? Are they implicated in human rights abuses? Is it now the U.S. military crafting U.S. foreign policy? And where is the public oversight?
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