The School of Dictators in Our Backyard

by Vins
Published: Updated:

The School of the Americas (SOA), also known informally among its critics as the “School of Dictators,” is a school funded by the US Army that has given birth to numerous Latin American dictators and war criminals. Founded in 1946 in Fort Benning, Georgia, this school has trained leaders who are responsible for numerous human rights violations including rape, murder, and kidnapping. Official training manuals from the school teach students torture, blackmail, extortion, and execution. During the El Mezote massacre in El Salvador in 1981, government forces killed 800 civilians, including women and children. Of the 12 officers cited, 10 of them were School of the Americas graduates.

Although the US government defends the school by claiming that they train its graduates to spread and support democracy, it has produced more dictators than any other school in the world. Corporations have taken advantage of the cheap labor and raw resources in these countries, which employ tactics developed in the School of Americas to prevent civilian resistance. This military repression is supported by the Pentagon. After backlash near the turn of the century, SOA was renamed and rebranded as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. However, the institution itself is still the same.

The SOA Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work. SOA Watch has demanded that the victims be recognized and compensated for their losses. The FBI keeps the nonviolent group under surveillance in order to protect their investment. Although this issue was covered briefly in the late 1990s by the New York Times, the fact that this school is still operating is notably absent from today’s corporate news.


Abby Martin, “The US School That Trains Dictators & Death Squads,“ Media Roots, December 14, 2015,

Student Researcher: Larkin Bond (College of Marin)

Faculty Advisor: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)