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Bush quietly resumes training Latin American militaries
WASHINGTON — Concern about leftist victories in Latin America has prompted President Bush to quietly grant a waiver that allows the United States to resume training militaries from 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries.
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Published on Friday, November 10, 2006.
Source: USA TODAY- By Barbara Slavin
The administration hopes the training will forge links with countries in the region and blunt a leftward trend. Daniel Ortega, a nemesis of the United States in the region during the 1980s, was elected president in Nicaragua this week. Bolivians chose another leftist, Evo Morales, last year.
A military training ban was originally designed to pressure countries into exempting U.S. soldiers from war crimes trials. The 2002 U.S. law bars countries from receiving military aid and training if they refuse to promise immunity from prosecution to U.S. servicemembers who might get hauled before the International Criminal Court.
The law allows presidential waivers. The White House lifted the ban on 21 countries, about half in Latin America or the Caribbean, through a presidential memorandum Oct. 2 to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The training is conducted in the USA. A ban on giving countries weapons remains. Commercial arms sales are not affected, said Jose Ruiz, a U.S. Southern Command spokesman.
The training ban had resulted in a loss of U.S. influence in the region. The issue gained urgency after a string of leftist candidates came to power in Latin America. Rice said this year on a trip to the region that the impact of the ban had been "the same as shooting ourselves in the foot."
China stepped into the gap. Ruiz said China "has approached every country in our area of responsibility" and has exchanged senior military officials with Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and Cuba and provided military aid and training to Jamaica and Venezuela.
The ban remains in effect for some countries. Venezuela, whose fiery President Hugo Chávez is a critic of the Bush administration, remains ineligible because it is on a State Department list of countries alleged to have permitted the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation and forced labor.
Chávez is up for re-election in December and leads in the polls.
Cuba is also off-limits because of a long-standing U.S. embargo against Fidel Castro's regime. Ruiz said efforts are being made to transfer money this year to begin training foreign officers from eligible countries.
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