TEGUCIGALPA – Two Honduran men say they took jobs with a U.S. company to go to Iraq as security guards, but once there the firm did not fulfill its obligations and sought to make them “just another American soldier in combat.”
The complaints by Jorge Carrillos and Victor Chávez have stoked debate on the alleged recruitment of “mercenaries” by the U.S. company Your Solutions, which has sent hundreds of Latin Americans to Iraq to join the ranks of virtual private armies there.
Carrillos and Chávez filed a legal complaint with the office of Honduras’ human rights prosecutor over the treatment they allegedly received from Your Solutions after their arrival in Iraq.
“We left here as security guards, but once in Iraq, Chávez and I were selected for a course in machine guns; we were no longer security guards but just another American soldier in combat,” Carrillos told reporters.
He said that he was then ordered to man a machine gun in a tower at one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces, many of which have been taken over by occupation authorities.
The Special Prosecutor for Human Rights, Sandra Ponce, said her office has opened an investigation to determine if Your Solutions violated Honduran laws against recruitment and training of mercenaries.
Chávez and Carrillos were among more than 150 Hondurans hired by Your Solutions in 2005 for work as security guards in Iraq (NT, Sept. 30, 2005).
During the recruitment process, company representatives told the press in Honduras that the guards would receive $990 a month, free room and board, health insurance and other benefits.
In November 2004, 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, another U.S. firm, known as Triple Canopy, was already recruiting in El Salvador, opening the door for other private military firms to come into the region (NT, Nov. 19, 2004).
Even before this week’s accusations from Carrillos and Chávez, Hondurans returning from assignments with Your Solutions in Iraq – and relatives of some men still there – had complained that the firm has not kept its promises to employees. Your Solutions has hired some 200 Hondurans to work in Iraq as security guards for a monthly salary ranging from $900 to $1,300. By way of comparison, U.S. and European private security contractors in the Middle Eastern nation reportedly collect $10,000 a month.
Last October, a contingent made up of 108 Hondurans, 88 Chileans and 16 Nicaraguans left Tegucigalpa for Iraq. Your Solutions earlier ran afoul of authorities in Honduras for conducting unauthorized military training inside the country.
The recruitment by U.S. companies of security guards for Iraq has raised hackles in other Latin American nations.
In Peru, the hiring, training and deployment to Iraq of several hundred Peruvian former soldiers and policemen last year prompted increased local criticism of what was decried as exploitation of “mercenaries.”
More than 500 Peruvians have been hired and trained by Gesegur and 3D Global Solutions security firms and sent to the wartorn Arab nation, a number significantly greater than the 380 Salvadoran army troops deployed there in the only contingent of Latin American troops officially supporting the U.S. military’s Iraq enterprise.
The two companies operate in Peru on behalf of U.S.-based Triple Canopy. Founded in 2003 by former members of the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force, Triple Canopy moved in July from suburban Chicago to Northern Virginia, “to be closer to its main customer, the U.S. government,” according to the firm’s Web site.
The contract signed by the Peruvians just prior to boarding the plane identified the government of the United States as the client.
Representatives of Gesegur and 3D Global Solution told the head of the bureau for Peruvian Communities Abroad, Ambassador Jorge Lázaro, that the recruits signed a personal-services contract specifying the amount they will receive if disabled and the sums that will go to their families if they are killed in Iraq.
The recruits have been promised that in case of death, the employee’s spouse will get $500 a month for life, along with an additional $167 monthly for each underage child.
The firms also pledge to provi de bereaved families with $3,000 to defray funeral expenses.