U.N. Mercenary Investigation Lands in Chile

The U.N. Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries arrived in Chile on July 9 to conduct a fact-finding mission to investigate the country’s burgeoning mercenary industry and its impacts on human rights. 

"Presently, we know that there are ex-military and ex-police recruited by a Chilean company with headquarters in Uruguay, a company that has the support of a U.S. company," said Jose Luis Gomez del Prado, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group. "These [private security] companies come to Latin American countries and recruit people for $31 a day, which is what we just saw in Peru. And once they are on a plane or bus, recruits are made to sign an English contract with a sister company from the United States, a contract that leaves them completely unprotected."

The L.A. Times reported last week that private contractors now outnumber U.S. troops in Iraq. The U.N. Working Group publicly released a report in March that uncovered human rights abuses and other illegal activities carried out by private security contractors recruiting Latin Americans for jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The current investigation in Chile was hampered when mercenary recruiter Jose Miguel Pizarro, "the godfather of Chile’s mercenary industry", reneged on a promise to meet with the group. He defended his decision to cancel his meeting with the group by alleging that Gomez del Prado was anti-Bush and anti-U.S. The retired military officer’s private security firm Grupo Táctica recruits former Army officers for security work in Iraq. Pizarro is also president of a Washington D.C. based defense consulting group accused of having ties to the CIA. 

Pizarro, who has dual citizenship and is also a U.S. citizen, previously worked as a translator for U.S. Southern Command. He has also defended the bloody regime of former U.S.-backed dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

The Working Group’s report released earlier this year unearthed a scandal in Honduras in which Illinois-based Your Solutions Inc. smuggled 105 Chileans into the country to receive training with Honduran counterparts at a former military base used in the 1980’s to train Contras and other Washington-backed death squads. These new recruits were also hired to work in Iraq.

"They must put an end to that illegal industry of labor deception, because if not, they will be allowing many former Chilean soldiers to go to Iraq to play the role of cannon fodder in an unfair and dishonourable war," said Chilean Senator Alejandro Navarro.

The Working Group hopes Chile will ratify the U.N. Convention Against the Use of Mercenaries and prosecute any security company guilty of violating national and international laws.