Sunday, January 16

Colombian ex-military, labor of the mercenary market | International

Dozens of people crowd around a police car in which there are two Colombians captured by a group of people in Puerto Principe (Haiti).
Dozens of people crowd around a police car in which there are two Colombians captured by a group of people in Puerto Principe (Haiti).Jean Marc Herve Abelard / EFE

The assassination of the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, is a puzzle that is missing pieces and will have to piece itself apart between Haiti and Colombia going back at least three months, when the first recruitment offers to the ex-Colombian military appeared.

On Wednesday July 7, while in Port-au-Prince chaos reigned after the assassination of the president, one of the suspects, the former Colombian military man, Duberney Capador, communicated with his family. At 11:30 in the morning he spoke with his sister Yenny to tell her that he was cornered. “He told me that they had arrived late for the person I had to take care of, that they were being shot and that they were going to negotiate the way out,” Yenny Capador told EL PAÍS by phone, from Quindío in Colombia.

Her last communication – she relates – was at 5:31 p.m. that day, when she assured him that she was fine and asked if they had seen the news, and although she wrote to him at dawn on Thursday morning, she no longer found an answer. “At Easter (April) they called him to hire him from a very good and important security company to go to Haiti,” says the woman who learned on television that her brother, along with First Sergeant Mauricio Romero Medina, was one of the dead. She asks the Colombian government to help her repatriate the body. So far, the Haitian Police have identified 28 involved, 26 Colombians and two Americans of Haitian origin. Of the former Colombian soldiers, 20 have been arrested, three have died and the rest are still fugitives.

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Capador’s story is similar to that told by other relatives of those captured by the Haitian police who are accused of the assassination. From a security agency they were offered $ 2,700 a month to take care of important personalities, they did not give them information about the place to which they would be assigned, they were being trained and hosted in a country house in Haiti. The Colombian Police have identified four companies that paid for air tickets and stay on the island, but they have not revealed more details and it is not clear if there was a signed contract that proves what was said by the relatives of the military.

The profile of the indicated

The only thing that is clear is the profile of the Colombians accused of the assassination: they were all military personnel with a lot of experience as special forces and training even in the United States. Recently retired from service – between 2018 and 2020 they ceased to be active in the Army – they were between 40 and 45 years old and would have received a job offer from abroad.

According to several of their relatives, they would do what is common for retired soldiers with that profile: join security companies abroad, work for two years and return to the country to live with a little more than the money that their pension gives them. In other words, join the mercenary companies that are nurtured by the ranks of trained soldiers coming out of the Colombian Army. In recent decades, the most common destinations have been Iraq, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

“The recruitment of ex-military to go to other areas of the world as mercenaries is a long-standing issue, but there is no rule that prohibits or prevents it,” says General Luis Fernando Navarro, commander of the Military Forces. “There is a significant number of former Colombian military personnel in Dubai,” he adds. Navarro assures that they have an internal program to motivate those ex-military personnel to stay in Colombia because they know that “when they cross borders in these types of activities” they can end up immersed in situations such as Haiti.

After several decades of armed conflict, the Colombian military has been highly trained and has become a sought-after product in the mercenary market. Each year, according to the Colombian Association of Retired Officers of the Military Forces (Acore), between 10,000 and 15,000 soldiers leave the Army who perform compulsory military service. While the Colombian Association of Professional Soldiers and Marines in retirement and pension from the Military Forces, says that there are 6,000 professional soldiers who retire annually. There are no figures on how many work in security companies abroad.

In the case of Haiti, there are from NCOs to professional soldiers. The highest ranking is Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Giovanny Guerrero, who in In 2016 he became commander of the Mariscal Antonio José de Sucre infantry battalion, from Chiquinquirá (Boyacá). In the painting presented by the Colombian Police, he appears with a blow to his face.

Sergeant Capador also passed through Boyacá, a department in central Colombia, and it could be the place where the recruitment of several of the ex-military took place. The wife of Francisco Eladio Uribe, a professional soldier captured in Haiti, assured that it was the sergeant who made the offer. “My husband worked in the battalion in Chiquinquirá before retiring in 2019, he accepted the offer because it came from trusted people,” he told local radio. Uribe is being investigated for an extrajudicial execution that occurred in 2008.

Although it is already known the route that these ex-military men took to reach Haiti, via the Dominican Republic, their level of participation in the assassination is not yet clear. According to anonymous sources from the newspaper EL TIEMPO, the ex-military men have fallen into a trap. “The hypothesis that the ex-military could be deceived stems from several questions that experts on the subject have posed. The main one: why didn’t they leave Port-au-Prince after assassinating the president? ”Says the newspaper. And he joins the voices of Haitian politicians who question why none of the president’s security guards were injured.

In Quindío, Yenny Capador awaits clarification on her brother’s case. As proof that he had been hired – he says – he only has a photo in which he is seen with the shirt of CTU Security, a security company based in Miami, another city that adds to the puzzle of the investigation.

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