Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel (left), in a meeting with religious representatives from the United States, took up the delegations proposal that Venezuela stop sending soldiers to the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) at Ft. Benning, Georgia. During the meeting Rangel called the Venezuelan minister of defense to discuss the feasibility of the request.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez met in Caracas with Roy Bourgeois (right), a Maryknoll priest, to confirm Venezuelas decision. Bourgeois began protesting the school in 1983 when he played a tape of assassinated Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romeros final sermon next to the military base. During the visit of religious leaders, Chávez spoke out against the U.S. military institution, saying, "This school deformed the minds of many Latin American soldiers, who from there went on to become dictators." Venezuela is the first nation to refuse to send soldiers to the School of the Americas.!doctype>