Dec. 15, 2004 – A Colombian daily reported on Saturday that an American company is recruiting former police and military officials in the South American country for jobs protecting pipelines and industry personnel in Iraq. The story, published in El Tiempo, details how a retired Colombian military colonel approached about 25 men with offers of lucrative Iraq contracts.
The colonel reportedly told the men that they were being recruited because of the Columbian forcesâ€™ extensive experience in counter-insurgency. He also asked that they keep the proposition secret. One of the men, who turned down the job, spoke to El Tiempo about the meeting on condition of anonymity.
According to El Tiempo, the colonel may have been recruiting the men on behalf Halliburton LatinoamÃ©rica, a subsidiary of the infamous US-based Halliburton conglomerate. But the company denies it had anything to do with the recruitment campaign. A Halliburton LatinoamÃ©rica spokesperson did confirm that the company has sent some of its own personnel to Iraq.
The newspaper reports that for those who choose to accept the offer, the company will pay $7,000 a month, a hefty life insurance policy and perks including a vacation in a European city of his choice every three months. Participants must make a commitment of at least six months, and if they abandon the job earlier they will be required to return all of the money.
The former militantsâ€™ experience at suppressing guerilla fighters may have been touted by the mercenary recruiter, but Colombian forces are notorious for human rights abuses. Earlier this year, Colombian non-governmental organizations released numbers showing that a record 3,593 people were "disappeared" in 2002 and 2003, and that 412,553 people were displaced in 2002. The organizations tracking the figures said that state security forces and the paramilitary forces allied with them are primarily responsible.