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Colombia’s Export of Mercenaries Scrutinized After U.S.-Trained Soldiers Kill Haiti’s President

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Image Credit: Reuters

The role of Colombian mercenaries in the assassination two weeks ago of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse has come under scrutiny after The Washington Post reported some of the Colombians received U.S. military training while they were part of the Colombian armed services. One of the mercenaries has been identified as former special commando Grosso Guarín, who was once assigned to a secretive elite military detachment of Colombia’s Urban Anti-Terrorist Special Force group that carried out kidnappings and assassinations. Another Colombian mercenary arrested in Haiti was Francisco Eladio Uribe Ochoa, who was once investigated for his role in executing civilians in Colombia and then disguising them as combatants — a practice known as false positives. The Colombian military has been accused of killing over 6,400 civilians in this way. Joining us from Bogotá, Colombia, reporter Mario Murillo says the involvement of Colombian mercenaries stems from the “hyper-militarization of the country,” rooted in decades-long counterterrorism and counternarcotics operations that have doubled the size of the Colombian military. “We’re talking about thousands of soldiers who have been going around the world,” he says, calling them highly trained “artists of war.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Mario Murillo, I also wanted to ask you about the role of the Colombian mercenaries in the assassination two weeks ago of the Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. The Washington Post has reported some of the Colombians had received U.S. military training while they were part of the Colombian armed services. One of the mercenaries has been identified as former special commando Grosso Guarín. Reporter Dan Cohen has written that Grosso was once assigned to Colombia’s Urban Anti-Terrorist Special Force group, a secretive elite military detachment dedicated to, supposedly, counterterrorism operations and carrying out kidnappings and assassinations. Another one of Colombian mercenaries that was arrested in Haiti was Francisco Eladio Uribe Ochoa, who was once investigated for his role in executing civilians in Colombia, then disguising them as combatants — a practice known as false positive, a practice — they were dressed then as — dressed up as FARC. The Colombian military has been accused of killing over 6,400 civilians in this way. Cohen writes, quote, “This gruesome practice helped military commanders reach lofty kill-count quotas set by the United States and was incentivized with bonus pay and vacation time for soldiers who carried out the killings.” Now, again, two of these men, Colombian mercenaries, arrested in Haiti. And, of course, the number of Colombian mercenaries involved in the assassination, it’s believed to be more than 20. Can you comment on this?

MARIO MURILLO: Yeah, the specifics and the role that the Colombian mercenaries played in the assassination is still unclear. There’s a lot of muddied reports as the investigation begins to unfold in Haiti and here in Colombia, reports trickling out. Essentially, what this is is an example of what one retired sergeant, who’s spent 20 years in counterterrorism, counternarcotics work here in Colombia — he was interviewed in El Espectador on Sunday, interesting interview, which was mind-boggling to hear the details of that — what he referred to as the producto de exportación con alta solicitud, an export product in high demand, which is essentially those thousands of Colombian soldiers, officers, etc., who over the last 20 years, specifically after Plan Colombia was implemented, and Plan Patriota, which was Uribe’s continuation of Plan Colombia, a hyper-militarization of the country, a doubling of the size of the military, and essentially trained and built on these counterterrorism, counternarcotics operations, the kind of the high-value target extraction types of tactics, that is — you know, we’re talking about thousands of soldiers who have been going around the world, to the United Arab Emirates, to Afghanistan, to Iraq. These are highly trained, highly disciplined soldiers of war. You know, they’re artists of war. And they’re being used around the — you know, like Cuba sends medical practitioners, doctors around the world, Colombia is sending these soldiers, who actually talk about how they very often don’t have enough, after retiring, in their pensions to support their families, so they have these highly lucrative contracts for two or three years and go all over the world and carry out similar operations. So, this is essentially a reflection of that export product that is coming out of Colombia.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Mario, we want to thank you very much for being with us, Mario Murillo, award-winning journalist who’s followed Colombia for decades. His books include Colombia and the United States: War, Unrest and Destabilization. María del Rosario Arango, thank you for joining us from Cali.

As we turn now to Haiti, we will speak with a Haitian pro-democracy advocate about the latest developments in Haiti, two weeks after the assassination of the president. Stay with us.

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“It Is Offensive”: Haitian Activist Says It’s Not Up to U.S. to Determine Haiti’s PM or Future

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