At 1am on 7 July 2021 Haitian president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his Port-au-Prince residence, shot 12 times, in the forehead, left eye, chest, hip and abdomen. It seems the intention was to eliminate all witnesses, but Moïse’s wife survived by playing dead and his children managed to escape. Details surfaced within 48 hours. There were 26 assassins, all Colombian – but one might already have guessed this from the execution’s trademark brutality.
At the time, Colombia’s media outlets (all private) presented the accused as victims, drawing on family members’ statements, claiming they had been ‘misled’ by commanders who had supposedly hired them to protect important people. They ended up confessing that they had indeed been paid to kill.
Mercenaries emerged in Colombia in the 1980s, during the reign of drug lord Pablo Escobar. And over the years, thousands of young soldiers honed the art of violence in one of the most brutal armies anywhere. The country soon became the world’s largest producer of mercenaries and hired killers.
Less than a year after Jovenel Moïse’s assassination, Colombian hitmen killed Paraguayan prosecutor Marcelo Pecci during his honeymoon on Barú, a Caribbean island off Cartagena. Pecci had been spearheading his country’s fight against organised crime. Then, on 9 August 2023, Colombian assassins gunned down Ecuadorian journalist and presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.
Over the past two decades, Colombia’s media have run occasional human interest pieces on former soldiers’ adventures as combatants or protectors of oil wells in the Middle East. In 2006 local and international publications such as Semana and the New Arab reported that 35 veterans had been hired to defend US army bases in Iraq. Hundreds of Colombian nationals were known to be fighting in Afghanistan in 2010.
Taking care of the dirty work
US military operations in the Middle East after 9/11 spurred the growth of private (…)
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(4) Matthias Bau and Sophie Timmermann, ‘Reports of sexual violence in the war: Why the Ukrainian parliament dismissed human rights chief Denisova’, Correctiv, 11 August 2022.
(5) ‘OSCE Secretary General condemns use of sexual violence as weapon of war, urges for international support to survivors’, OSCE, Vienna, 19 June 2022.