For a fistful of dollars
For a fistful of
marines were killed last week in Iraq in one roadside-bomb explosion near
Fallujah. Their deaths were noted and mourned. One Peruvian mercenary was killed
last week in Kabul. His death was less noted in the media, though not less
mourned by his family in Lima.
Alberto Jara Richard, 40, left for Afghanistan in early November to work as a
"security guard" for an unnamed American company, under a contract with an
employment agency called 3D Global Solutions that hires mercenaries on behalf of
the U.S. and British governments. Jara's body was flown to London last week and
will be returned to
via Washington. The circumstances of his death were not disclosed.
Jara is the
first Peruvian casualty in Iraq since October, when more than 1,000 Latin
American guns-for-hire left for the Middle East, hired under the same conditions
as he was. His death focuses attention on a practice that has been largely
ignored in South America and the Caribbean.
privatization of war
Zone of Baghdad, a four-square-mile area that houses the U.S. and British
embassies, the U.S. Central Command and Iraqi government headquarters, is being
protected not only by allied troops but also by more than 1,200 Chilean,
Peruvian, Nicaraguan, and Honduran mercenaries -- euphemistically called
of them are Peruvian; about 250 are Chilean; about 320 are Honduran. Most are
former soldiers or former policemen, recruited through ads placed in local
newspapers by 3D Global Solutions. In Peru, 3D is represented by an outfit
called Gestión de Seguridad (Gesegur), or Security Business. Another hiring
company active in Peru is called Triple Canopy Operations; it has a subsidiary
called Gun Supply.
to the Peruvian press, which obtained a copy of a Triple Canopy contract in
October, the signatory "exempts the government of the United States, the hiring
company and its subsidiaries from all responsibility for each of the claims,
losses, damages and injuries that may occur" to him. The contracts run for one
year and are renewable.
What's a life worth?
mercenaries are paid between $1,000 and $1,200 per month. Transportation,
housing, food, medical care and an insurance policy are provided in addition.
Arrangements can be made for the families to receive part or all of the
to a Triple Canopy contract disclosed in Lima by television Channel Two, the
insurance payments are: $243,000 for the loss of an arm; $225,000 for a leg;
$190,000 for a hand; $160,000 for a foot; $125,000 for an eye; $58,000 for a
finger, and $12,500 for a toe. Channel Two could not obtain the figure for the
loss of a life.
there are 20,000 "private security contractors" in Iraq, a number revealed by
The Washington Post and the PBS program "Frontline." The admittedly incomplete
information on the Iraq Coalition Casualties website -- http://icasualties.org/oif/Civ.aspx
-- showed 286 contractor fatalities as of Dec. 4.
Peruvian Army trains civilian gunmen
Peruvian newspaper El Comercio in late October revealed that the Peruvian Army
was actively involved in furnishing trained mercenaries to the United States. A
contract between the Army and Triple Canopy, signed Sept. 23, stated that the
Army would set up four training courses at its base in Huachipa, the newspaper
course trained 218 "civilian volunteers," for which the Army was paid 104,640
soles by Triple Canopy -- the equivalent of US$30,657; the second trained
another 218, but the Army charged more: 156,960 soles, or US$45,985. The
third course trained 120 men for 86,400 soles, or US$25,313, and the
fourth, 122 men for 87,840 soles, or US$25,734. The total number of
mercenaries trained was 678.
questioned about this by Congress, Defense Minister Marciano Rengifo
acknowledged that the Peruvian Army had agreed to train the "civilians" for a
total payment of 435,840 soles, or US$127,690. The figure included
"130,000 rounds of 5.56-millimeter and 9-mm. ammunition," according to the
contract disclosed by El Comercio.
of those calibers is fired only by military weapons. Peruvian law forbids
civilians to use military weapons.
debate is beginning
death raises another issue, which is now being debated in Peru. According to El
Comercio, the Secretary of Peruvian Communities Abroad, Jorge Lázaro, said last
week in Lima that "the migration of this Peruvian was legal and he traveled [to
Afghanistan] in full use of his physical and mental faculties, exercising his
civil and political rights."
laws neither cover nor sanction the practice of hiring Peruvian citizens to
fight as mercenaries in foreign countries, he said. There are legal loopholes,
he said. And for the government to deal with the issue would be a long and
costly legal process. He might as well have said that the government washes its
hands of the whole affair and the U.S. is free to continue hiring cannon fodder
also last week, the executive director of the Andean Commission of Jurists,
Enrique Bernales Ballesteros, told CPN Radio in Lima that the contracts used to
send Peruvians to Iraq and Afghanistan "lack all legality because they are
contrary to the nation's laws." There are no loopholes in those laws, he said.
Besides, "our country is a signatory to the Geneva Convention, which prohibits
hiring persons to involve them in foreign conflicts."
the topic will be debated at the highest levels of the Peruvian executive and
judiciary. It should also be debated here in the United States. To entice Third
World citizens to fight and be killed in U.S.-engineered wars is not only
illegal but also morally wrong.
Emilio Paz is a
Miami-based writer. A related news story about Honduran "security guards" who
were turned into combatants in
appears elsewhere in this issue of Progreso Weekly.