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    Repiglican Roast

    A spirited discussion of public policy and current issues

    Location: The mouth of being

    I'm furious about my squandered nation.

    Wednesday, July 02, 2008

    Outsourcing the Iraq War: Mercenary Recruiters Turn to Latin America

    Prince told the House Oversight Committee that in contrast, Blackwater’s employees are “Americans working for America, protecting Americans.”

    This statement would come as a surprise—and a slap in the face—to the thousands of Latin Americans and others from outside the United States whom the company has hired to fill its contracts in Iraq since the war began. Greystone Limited, a Blackwater affiliate set up in 2004 in the tax haven of Barbados, has recruited Iraq security guards from countries throughout Latin America, including Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama, as journalist Jeremy Scahill has reported.

    But Blackwater is far from the only such company hiring “third-country nationals,” or employees who are not from the United States or Iraq. In the interest of improving profit margins, private military firms in Iraq are increasingly turning to the developing world for armed guards. Peter Singer, a leading expert on the private security industry at the Brookings Institution, has estimated that there are citizens from 30 countries employed as security contractors in Iraq. While ex-soldiers from the Balkans, Fiji, Nepal, the Philippines, South Africa, and Uganda are all common in Iraq, Latin America has proven to be a particularly fertile recruiting ground for these companies.


    Given the recent history of repressive regimes throughout the region, it is likely that many Latin Americans working for private military firms in Iraq have been responsible for human rights abuses in their home countries. For instance, Louis E. V. Nevaer reported in 2004: “Newspapers in Chile have estimated that approximately 37 Chileans in Iraq are seasoned veterans of the Pinochet era.” Some argue that this is merely a result of poor vetting, while others do not see it as an accident. As Tito Tricot, a former political prisoner who was tortured under the dictatorship in Chile, told Scahill, the Chileans working for these firms in Iraq “are valued for their expertise in kidnapping, torturing, and killing defenseless civilians.”

    “What should be a national shame,” Tricot added, “turns into a market asset due to the privatization of the Iraq war.” In the end, Pizarro was fined and sentenced to 61 days in jail for his recruitment activity, a punishment that is not likely to dissuade many from following in his shoes. Nonetheless, he has appealed the sentence and is currently walking free. Meanwhile, Triple Canopy, which according to State Department figures relies far more on foreign hiring than Blackwater, filled its contract to protect the U.S. Embassy and other sites in Baghdad’s Green Zone by hiring recruits almost exclusively from Latin America (especially El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Honduras), as Foreign Policy magazine noted. In 2005, a local subsidiary of Chicago-based Your Solutions began recruiting for the company in Honduras.

    The company trained its recruits—including a group of Chileans who entered the country with tourist visas—at the former military base in Lepaterique. Located just outside Tegucigalpa, the base is a notorious legacy of the Contra war, having been used by Washington in the 1980s to train Nicaraguan counter-insurgents, as well as Honduras’s infamous Battalion 316 death squad. Echoing this gruesome past, one Triple Canopy trainee explained that he and his fellow recruits were instructed “to be heartless when it was up to us to kill someone, even if it was a child,”



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