San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S.-Trained Mercenaries Causing Stir in Region

TEGUCIGALPA (EFE) – The 105 Chileans a U.S. contractor trained in Honduras for duty in Iraq returned to Tegucigalpa this week after Nicaraguan authorities prevented them from entering their territory.Benjamin Canales, manager of the Honduras office of Your Solutions, the U.S. firm that hired the Chileans for security tasks in Iraq, said the group had been prevented from entering Nicaragua for unexplained reasons. (Nicaragua does not allow foreign fighters into the country without congressional approval.)The group was ordered to return after the Honduran Migration and Foreigners’ Ministry decided to allow them to remain 15 more days. The decision will allow the company to follow through on plans to arrange a charter flight to take the men to Iraq on Oct. 7, Canales said.On Tuesday, Honduras gave the Chileans 72 hours to leave the country after immigration authorities discovered they had entered the country on tourist or business visas but were actually there for training as employees of the U.S.-based firm.The country’s constitution bars military training of foreign nationals in Honduran territory.The existence of the Your Solutions training facility in Lepaterique, about 40 kilometers west of Tegucigalpa, was uncovered by La Tribuna newspaper.Your Solutions Honduras is committed to delivering 600 private security guards to Iraq by next month, and has already sent 36 Hondurans to Baghdad.“If we had gotten 600 Hondurans, we wouldn’t have sought the Chileans,” Canales said, adding that the firm expects to fill its 600-guard quota through recruitment in Nicaragua.Your Solutions is offering new hires assignments in Iraq that pay between $990 and $1,500 a month.The incident has stirred criticism from some Hondurans who accuse their government of knowingly allowing the mercenaries to enter the country, but Defense Minister Federico Breve said Tuesday that Tegucigalpa turned down a request from Your Solutions to conduct training in the country.“This is an absolutely private issue, among private parties, to possibly carry out security duty in Iraq, and the truth is that as government and as a state, we don’t have much to say,” Chilean Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker said earlier this week about the situation involving his compatriots in Honduras.“The truth is that we – as a government, as a state – have had a very clear position on the matter of Iraq,” Walker said, alluding to Santiago’s consistent opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of the Arab nation. “But who hires whom in the private world is not an issue that concerns the Foreign Ministry.”In October 2003, 120 Chilean military veterans were hired for work in Iraq by North Carolina-based Blackwater USA, one of the principal private security contractors operating in the Middle Eastern country.Last November, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told The Nica Times he didn’t know anything about U.S. firms outsourcing the Iraq war by recruiting mercenaries in Central America. At the time of his denial, U.S. firm Triple Canopy was already recruiting in El Salvador, with plans to expand to neighboring countries (NT, Nov. 19, 2004).

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