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Blackwater USA Resurrects Plans to Open Training Center in San Diego County

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Aired 4/19/09

Blackwater USA has resurrected plans to open a military training center in San Diego County. The private security contractor abandoned a bid last month to build a facility in the small town of Potrero in East County amid protests from local residents.  KPBS reporter Amita Sharma has more.

Blackwater's new facility on Google Maps
[View enlarged Google Map image]

Blackwater intends to open a new training center inside a warehouse in an industrial zone in Otay Mesa. The 60,000-square-foot facility will include ship simulators and a firing range. The warehouse is just south of Brown Field and less than a mile north of the U.S.-Mexico Border. Both countries have signed an anti-drug aid program that includes the use of  private contractors.

But Blackwater spokesman Brian Bonfiglio says the planned Otay Mesa center is not connected to that endeavor.

Bonfiglio: This facility will have nothing to do with any anti-drug anything other than providing a location for the Navy and potentially other forces such as Coast Guard to train there -- that's it.

But Congressman Bob Filner says the company operates in secret and can't be believed. He objects to Blackwater's operation of a training center anywhere in San Diego County.

Filner: They obviously want to have border business. They want to have armed forces business. That would be very, very bad for our area to give mercenary soldiers the authority to deal with immigration issues.

Filner is planning a protest of the facility later this week.

Amita Sharma, KPBS News.

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