Anti-imperialism schooling now a must for Bolivian officers

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2016, file photo, Bolivia's President Evo Morales sings his national anthem at a signing ceremony for the expansion of a road that connects the capital with the nearby city of El Alto, in La Paz, Bolivia. President Morales has inaugurated an Anti-Imperialist Command School for military officers on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, outside the eastern city of Santa Cruz. The academy had previously trained soldiers for U.N. peacekeeping missions. Now, it will aim to counter U.S. political and military influence, a mission that opposition leaders called an illegitimate political tainting of the armed forces by Bolivia’s first indigenous president (AP Photo/Juan Karita, File)

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Good leadership skills won't be enough for Bolivian officers seeking promotion to the rank of captain in any branch of the South American nation's military. They must now add ideological schooling.

President Evo Morales inaugurated the Anti-Imperialist Command School on Wednesday outside the eastern city of Santa Cruz

The academy had previously trained soldiers for U.N. peacekeeping missions. Now, it will aim to counter U.S. political and military influence, a mission that opposition leaders called an illegitimate political tainting of the armed forces by Bolivia's first indigenous president.

The school will not, at least initially, train officers from allied leftist nations as the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, initially proposed.

"We want to build anti-colonial and anti-capitalist thinking with this school that binds the armed forces to social movements and counteracts the influence of the School of the Americas that always saw the indigenous as internal enemies," Morales told a crowd that included the defense ministers of Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Some Latin American officers trained at the U.S.-based School of the Americas went on to commit atrocities under 20th century military dictatorships. In 2000, the academy at Fort Benning, Georgia, was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

Morales, who expelled the U.S. ambassador and counter-narcotics agents in 2008, accused Washington of encouraging "congressional coups" such as the impending impeachment trial of suspended President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. He also said the U.S promotes global terrorism through military interventions, citing the rise of the Islamic State group as an example.

The Santa Cruz academy was initially inaugurated in 2011 as the "ALBA School" after the now-weakened regional alliance that includes Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Cuba.

Morales' invitation to that event of then-Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi provoked an uproar in neighboring Argentina, where judicial authorities have accused Vahidi of a role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people.

The re-inaugurated school carries the name of Gen. Juan Jose Torres, a leftist who was Bolivia's de facto president in 1970 and who expelled the Peace Corps for allegedly sterilizing indigenous women.

A semester-long course required for advancement to captain is being taught by the Argentine Marxist intellectual Atilio Boron, Deputy Defense Minister Reymi Ferreira said.

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