12 May 2008

Blackwater Eyes Colombia, Mexico

Jeremy Scahill, U.S author of Blackwater The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, says the company is eyeing Colombia and Mexico as future markets to increase its profit margins. The Pentagon has asked the company headed by Erik Prince, a former soldier from a very rich and conservative family (and major Bush donor) to develop an anti-drug plan for these two countries with an estimated budget of $15 billion.

Washington wants to guarantee its presence in the region through such private businesses “without leaving a military mark”, says Scahill, who says the billions of U.S. dollars invested in the past 15 years in the fight against drugs in the region has really been for counter-insurgency

Colombia is an ideal case, says Scahill, as it already receives millions annually in the drugs war, of which Bogota assigns a good part to pay business like Blackwater such as DynCorp. He predicts, “In future, small paramilitary teams working for these companies will do the training and preparing of Latin American militaries.”

We will see an increasing presence of these businesses in the region, predicts Scahill, and that the logic of business and free market is what led Blackwater and other companies that hire mercenaries focus on the cheap workforce offered by countries like Chile, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru and Bolivia.

Contrasting with the $10,000 a month that a U.S. mercenary or one of any other developed country can cost for their services in Iraq, the Latin Americans accept the same risk, offer the same skills for a tenth of the salary. The majority of these personnel were raised in the Eighties and Nineties during the dirty wars instigated by Washington and they have experience in counter-insurgency, sharpshooting, as commandos as well as military espionage and interrogation tactics.

Scahill says in his book that one of the largest contingents of non-U.S. soldiers imported by Blackwater for Iraq was composed of former Chilean commandos, some of whom had been trained or had served during the brutal Pinochet dictatorship.

About a thousand Chileans were sent to Iraq with the help of José Miguel Pizarro Ovalle, whom the author describes as a staunch supporter of Pinochet and who worked as an interpreter for the U.S. military before becoming a link for more than ten Latin American government and U.S. arms manufacturers.

Scahill says the Iraqis and the Latin Americans do the most dangerous work in Iraq, protecting buildings or private contractors and businessmen. The Peruvians are the most sought after and are considered cheap and tough fighters.

Source: El Espectador

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