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Bolivia opens new military academy to combat US 'imperial oppression'

President Evo Morales said the new academy was Latin America’s answer to the US School of the Americas and its dark history supporting right-wing dictatorships during the Cold War.
Il Presidente Evo Morales durante l'inaugurazione della scuola. (Foto di Presidenza Boliviana/Handout via Reuters)

Bolivia's President Evo Morales has inaugurated a military academy he promised will help push back US imperialism in Latin America and the world.

"While the empire's military schools teach how to dominate the world, this school will help us learn to free ourselves from imperial oppression," Morales told soldiers gathered at the school for the opening ceremony on Wednesday. "We'll be a school for the defense of the people, and not the empire."


According to the Bolivian newspaper Página Siete, the institution's "anti-imperialism" diploma will be a mandatory requirement for promotion to the rank of captain within the Bolivian army.

President Morales said the School of the Anti-Imperialist Commando, located in the eastern Bolivian town of Warnes, will begin work with 100 pupils and will be open to soldiers from other Latin American countries.

The original idea came from the Venezuelan president and onetime regional leftist icon, Hugo Chávez, who financed the construction of the building before his death in 2013.

The project was always presented as a kind of antidote to the legacy of the US School of the Americas located in Fort Benning, Georgia.

Latin America's left still harbours a deep disgust for that US school that trained many Latin American officers in their abuse-filled battles against guerrillas during the Cold War, and has since been renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

Pupils included former dictators Efraín Ríos Montt from Guatemala, Argentina's Rafael Videla, and Vladimiro Montesinos, the notoriously ruthless aide to Peru's former president Alberto Fujimori, as well as Panamanian dictator Omar Torrijos. Other rumored graduates include founding members of the infamous Zetas drug cartel formed from a core of deserters from the Mexican military.

"The School of Anti-Imperialism is a school that seeks to preserve life, unlike the School of the Americas, which brainwashed military officers into believing that the enemy was our people," Bolivia's Defence Minister Reymi Ferreira said during the opening ceremony.

Bolivia's opposition, however, charged that the real purpose of the school is to fill the army with an ideological affinity for Morales and his party, known as the Movement Towards Socialism or MAS.

"The anti-imperialist school will not teach the military anything democratic," opposition senator Oscar Ortiz told the newspaper El Diario. "It will not teach the military to obey the state, the voters, or the Bolivian people, but to obey the MAS."

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Follow Alan Hernández on Twitter: @alanpasten