The US Department of Defense has confirmed that some of the Colombian ex-soldiers arrested in Haiti last week in connection with Moise’s killing had received training from the US military during their time in the Colombian military.
“A review of our training databases indicates that a small number of the Colombian individuals detained as part of this investigation had participated in past US military training and education programs, while serving as active members of the Colombian Military Forces,” Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Ken Hoffman told the Washington Post on Thursday.
He added that US foreign military training is intended to promote “respect for human rights, compliance with the rule of law, and militaries subordinate to democratically elected civilian leadership.”
Haitian National Police (PNH) Chief Leon Charles has said his forces arrested 18 Colombians believed to be part of a 28-man commando that stormed Moise’s house early on the morning of July 7, killing him and wounding his wife, Martine. According to Colombian military authorities, 17 of them were former soldiers, having left the service between 2018 and 2020. He has not since commented on the three men later apprehended.
Two Americans were also arrested, one of whom is a former security guard at the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince and another who is a former informant for the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), a federal police force that also works closely with Colombian authorities as part of the US’ War on Drugs.
Since Moise’s killing, acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph has been recognized by the US and United Nations as the de facto leader of the country, although his successor was appointed by Moise just a day before Moise was killed. Joseph declared a state of emergency and appealed to the US and UN for support, including deployments of troops to defend key infrastructure against armed gangs. While the US has agreed to send some senior law enforcement help and provide the PNH with $5 million in funding, Biden said Thursday that a troop deployment was not being considered.
The US has worked closely with the Colombian military and police since the early 20th century, from crushing United Fruit workers’ strikes in the 1920s and 1930s to supporting Colombia’s fight against a communist insurgency during the Cold War and cracking down on drug trafficking since the 1970s. More recently, Colombia has been a major thorn in the side of Venezuela, serving as a base from which to infiltrate the country.
Colombian military commander Gen. Luis Fernando Navarro told reporters last week that “the recruitment of Colombian soldiers to go to other parts of the world as mercenaries is an issue that has existed for a long time, because there is no law that prohibits it. There are a significant number of Colombian soldiers in Dubai, for example.”
Gen. Eduardo Zapateiro, head of the Colombian Army, told Reuters that Colombian soldiers are often recruited as mercenaries after their obligatory service is completed “because of all their experience.”
“It’s a shame because we train them for other things,” he added.
However, that training has also been blamed for the deadly police violence used against protesters on Colombia's streets earlier this year, in which as many as 42 people may have been killed and hundreds were wounded.
Sean McFate, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, told Reuters that copycat mercenary groups imitating the US firm Blackwater have popped up in recent years, many of which are staffed by soldiers drafted from rural communities whose only marketable skills are their training with weapons or in urban counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.
“They are mercenaries in every sense of the word,” he said.
As Sputnik has reported, US-trained troops often go on to less reputable futures, such as African troops trained by US Africa Command, who are responsible for a slew of coups d’etat across the continent since AFRICOM was formed in 2008.
Haitian and Colombian authorities have identified five security companies associated with Moise’s death, one of which is CTU Security, based in Miami, Florida. Colombian National Police chief Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas told reporters on Wednesday that CTU had bought 19 members of the commando tickets to Haiti prior to the operation.
According to Venezuelan National Assembly Speaker Jorge Rodriguez, CTU has also been implicated in several plots against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as well, including the 2018 assassination attempt with exploding drones, and Operation Gideon, the 2020 attempt to kidnap and extradite Maduro to stand trial in the US on drug trafficking charges. Silvercorp USA, another private security contractor, was the primary force behind the latter operation, having been contracted for the job by self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido.