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Bolivian Military Personnel - Officer Training

Most officers of the three services attended a five-year basic training course at the "Colonel Gualberto Villarroel" Army Military Academy (Colegio Militar del Ejército "Coronel Gualberto Villarroel"--CME) in Irpavi, a valley suburb of La Paz. Officers identified with their Military Academy classes (promociones) throughout their military careers. To gain admittance, an applicant had to be Bolivian; single; a secondary school graduate (or pass a written examination with a high score); and under twenty years of age. The applicant also had to produce a health document, certificates of good moral character from both the national police and the local police, and a recommendation from a "responsible sponsor." Every December the school graduated about ninety-five cadets, who were commissioned as second lieutenants or ensigns.

After a period of serving in units, Military Academy graduates proceeded to the specialist schools of their respective arms and services. Company-grade officers underwent a basic six-month course at the FF.AA.'s School of Arms in Cochabamba. After another year with a unit, they were required to attend a tenmonth advanced course at this school. Army schools also included the Army Artillery School (Escuela de Artillería del Ejército-- EAE) and the EC in Cochabamba. The EC's three-year course graduated hardy and disciplined troops for crisis situations. NCOs generally did not play any political role. Special Forces training for select members of all three services was given at the Army Condors School (Escuela de Cóndores del Ejército--ECE) in Sanandita, Tarija Department. Engineer officers in all three services, after three years of unit experience, enrolled in a five-year professional course at the EIM in La Paz.

For promotion to field grade or for staff appointments, an officer had to graduate from the appropriate two-year courses of the ECEM in Cochabamba. Since the school's inauguration in 1950, ECEM graduates who met certain other requirements were awarded the title of Staff Graduate (Diplomado de Estado Mayor--DEM), were entitled to use DEM following their rank, and became eligible for certain key positions. The coveted title was required for command of tactical units or service on the Staff. Officers who had served at least two years as captains and received the top rating of "very good" from the School of Arms could apply to enroll in the two-year ECEM course.

After spending a period with a unit, an ECEM graduate could enroll in a nine- to twelve-month course at the National War College (EAEN), the only military school not under the director of military institutes. Distinguished civilians, such as lawyers and university professors, with an interest in national security affairs could also enroll. Military graduates of the EAEN course were awarded the prestigious title of Graduate of High National Studies (Diplomado de Altos Estudios Nacionales--DAEN), whose initials replaced the staff designation of DEM. Few officers were promoted to colonel without having completed the EAEN course, a prerequisite for promotion to general officer. (President Torres worsened his strained relations with the army by appointing, as army chief of staff, a young reformist officer who had not graduated from the EAEN course.) Every year Bolivia also sent officers on training scholarships (becas) abroad, usually to Argentina, Brazil, Peru, or the United States.

Air force officers completed the five-year course of the Military Academy in La Paz before being commissioned into FAB with a rank equivalent to second lieutenant. Officer pilots then transferred to the flying school in Santa Cruz for specialist training. Since 1955 FAB's aeronautical training institute had been the Colmilav in El Trompillo, Santa Cruz Department. Colmilav included primary and basic training squadrons. Graduates of Colmilav were promoted to second lieutenant. The Colmilav student body totaled about 300 cadets in 1988. Fewer than half of the 100 cadets who enrolled every year succeeded in graduating.

Bolivian President Evo Morales opened a military school on 17 August 2016 which he said would teach an "anti-imperialist" doctrine to counter U.S. policies "based on fear." "The United States created the School of the Americas to indoctrinate the armed forces on pro-imperialism," said Morales, a reference to the Cold War-era U.S. academy that trained Latin American dictators and their military in counter-insurgency and torture techniques. "If the empire teaches domination of the world from its military schools, we will learn from this school to free ourselves from imperial oppression," he said.

Ex-coca grower Morales was a long-time critic of U.S. foreign policy, one of the last leaders left standing from South America's once-dominant populist leftist bloc. Earlier in the week he traveled to Cuba to meet with Fidel Castro during the revolutionary leader's 90th birthday celebrations.

The military school will be located in eastern Bolivia, on the site of a former United Nations peacekeeping training center. Up to 200 cadets will learn about history, geopolitics and military strategy, the government said. The school will be open to those from other countries in Latin America's leftist 'ALBA' bloc, which includes Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.

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Page last modified: 19-08-2016 18:17:50 ZULU