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Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Cheap labor in Iraq

It's not a new story, but this article provides some interesting information about the nature of U.S. contractors (a.k.a. "mercenaries") in Iraq:
The former Peruvian army sergeant is only one of many Latin Americans who have gone to Iraq to work for security firms -- most of them based in the United States -- that now employ 6,000 to 10,000 men from around the world, according to news accounts.

The Latin Americans typically served in the military back home -- many fought leftist guerrillas in places like El Salvador and Colombia -- and were taught by U.S. instructors, making it easier for them to use U.S. weapons and work under American security procedures.

But after leaving their armed forces, these soldiers found themselves in low-paying jobs. So they agreed to risk injury or death in Iraq for $1,000 to $1,500 a month -- $5 to $7 an hour -- a good wage for them, but far below the $10,000 to $15,000 monthly pay for American contract employees.

Peruvians guard the outer perimeter of a U.S. installation in Basra. Chileans protect the governmental Green Zone in Baghdad. Hondurans have provided security within the terminal at Baghdad International Airport. Salvadorans once protected the Green Zone in Baghdad, but they and some Ecuadoreans reportedly have left the jobs after media in their home countries labeled them "mercenaries."

The practice has become widespread enough to attract the interest of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Over the past year, the Geneva-based office has sent a five-person Working Group to Fiji, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.

"The companies say they are private guards, but really they are private soldiers," said José Luis Gomez del Prado, a Working Group member who is a Spanish human rights professor. "They are provided with military equipment and weapons. You are privatizing war. That is the concern of the international community."

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