On Friday, thousands of protesters will converge on Fort Benning, Georgia, home to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Co-operation (WHINSEC). It’s had this title since 2001, but when it was set up in Panama in 1946 it was the School of the Americas. In 66 years it has trained 64,000 soldiers from Latin America in counterinsurgency, sniper warfare, interrogation techniques and other useful methods for repressing their citizens.
The honeymoon between Barack Obama and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva didn’t last long. When Obama was elected, the US press imagined a natural alliance between the two men, expecting them to sideline the ideologues and set the Western Hemisphere back in greased grooves. ‘This is my man, right here,’ Obama said at the G20 summit in London in April, grinning and shaking Lula’s hand. ‘I love this guy.’ The first bump in the road was the coup in Honduras in June, which sparked a clash of wills between the US and Brazil over how best to settle it. ‘Our concern,’ said Lula’s foreign-policy adviser, Marco Aurélio Garcia, is that Washington’s push to legitimise the Honduran elections ‘will introduce the “theory of the preventive coup”’ – an extension of Bush’s doctrine of preventive war – ‘in Latin America’.