Sunday, November 06, 2005

For a handful of dollars

After picking up that story on coolie labour imported to build US bases in Iraq, we heard news of another way global enterprise is providing opportunities for the world's poor.

This is from Ángel Páez on Inter Press (IPS):

PERU:Veteran Soldiers, Police Recruited for Iraq by U.S. Contractors

from Ángel Páez

LIMA, Oct 31 (IPS) - "Piraña", a former Peruvian army sergeant who fought the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) Maoist guerrillas in the jungles of Peru in the 1990s, decided at the last minute not to travel to Iraq with around 200 former members of the military and police recruited by the U.S.-based private security firm Triple Canopy. "My mom convinced me not to go," Piraña told IPS on condition of anonymity. "She told me she would prefer to see me poor but alive rather than dead for a handful of dollars." Complaints from the families of former soldiers and police officers hired to work as security personnel in Iraq by private military contractors triggered a scandal in Peru. "There is no work here, and when you do find a job, you earn pathetically low wages. I'm a factory watchman, and I earn the equivalent of eight dollars for a 12-hour day. To work in Iraq they were going to pay me 35 dollars a day, plus other benefits. It was really tempting, despite the risks," said Piraña, 29. "I have three kids, and my wife helps out selling food in the street, but we just don't earn enough. I saw the ad in the newspaper and applied. They quickly accepted me because of my combat experience in the army. I went through the training and everything, but my mom found out and persuaded me to change my mind," he added. Ads seeking former members of the armed forces and police officers interested in working as security personnel in exchange for "excellent wages" began to appear in newspapers in Lima last August. Hundreds of people applied. The ads were run by Triple Canopy, a private security and special operations firm founded in 2003 in the state of Illinois by former members of the U.S. army's elite Delta Force. Thanks to the company's contacts in the George W. Bush administration, it quickly won lucrative contracts with the State Department. The firm provides bodyguard and site security services to U.S. infrastructure and personnel involved in the reconstruction of Iraq, which has been occupied by the United States since March 2003. The growth of Triple Canopy reflects the boom currently enjoyed by "private armies" and the outsourcing of war. One of Triple Canopy's first contracts was a six-month 90-million dollar deal to protect a dozen offices of the Iraqi interim government, which are frequent targets of attacks by the resistance to the U.S. invasion and occupation. "We don't hire mercenaries," said Jorge Mendoza, manager of the local company Gun Supply, which provided the training to 200 Peruvians on behalf of Triple Canopy. "These are people with experience in security missions, who know how to handle weapons, but they aren't going to fight in Iraq. Of course it's very dangerous work, but no one forced them to take the job. Triple Canopy guarantees them insurance and indemnification in case of accidents, attacks or death," he told IPS. "They are paid in accordance with the job they are going to do. The salaries go up to 50 dollars a day," added Mendoza. Triple Canopy has also hired former soldiers and police officers in El Salvador, Colombia and Chile, although they are paid more than the wages promised the Peruvians. That did not deter the 380 Peruvians who have already flown to Iraq, however. Families of Peruvians recruited by Triple Canopy complained about the terms under which their husbands, sons or brothers were hired. For example, anyone wanting to sue the firm would have to do so in a court in Virginia, because the new recruits' contracts were signed under the laws of that state, where the company relocated its headquarters in June, "to be closer to our main customer, the U.S. government," according to a press release on the Triple Canopy web site. A copy of the contract, obtained by IPS, shows that the Peruvians are being hired for one year, from Oct. 15, 2005 to Oct. 14, 2006. It also stipulates that neither Triple Canopy nor the U.S. government are responsible in case the employees are injured or killed in the line of duty.



At 11:11 PM, Blogger DesertPeace said...

Interesting! Keep posting my friend...
Thanks for adding my site to your links... as soon as I figure out how that option works I'll add you to mine as well.
All the best.


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