“Colombia is a country that has had military conscription for too long, which has fallen on the shoulders of the poorest men in the country,” he said. “When an economic underclass learns to fight and conduct military operations and nothing else, these skills are not easily transferred to the civilian sector except in the area of private security.”
General Luis Fernando Navarro said those accused left the military between around 2002 and 2018 and were involved in “mercenary activities” with “purely economic” motives.
It is not clear whether the individuals recruited for the operation knew the specifics of the task entrusted to them, according to John Marulanda, the head of the retired military association.
Paul Angelo, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations who studies security issues, said Colombians used to be recruited for criminal tasks because they sometimes had limited options once they left. the armed forces.
The idea that people would sign up for such a risky operation “does not make sense from a military point of view,” Marulanda said.
A former Colombian army officer, who asked not to be identified, said a mercenary traveling overseas could easily be paid around $ 2,700 a month, against a military salary of around $ 300 per month, even for soldiers with years of combat experience.
“It’s not just Haiti, it’s Kabul, Mexico, Yemen, the Emirates,” he said in a telephone interview, listing where former Colombian soldiers have gone.
Reporting was provided from Colombia by Sofía Villamil in Cartagena and Edinson Bolaños in Bogotá.