General Luis Fernando Navarro said the accused individuals had left the military between around 2002 and 2018 and that they were involved in “mercenary activities” with “purely economic” motives.
According to John Marulanda, head of the Association of Retired Military Officials, it is not clear whether the individuals recruited for the operation knew the details of the task they were given.
The idea that people would sign up for such a risky operation “does not make sense from a military perspective,” Marulanda said.
“Colombia is a country that for far too long had military conscription that fell on the shoulders of the poorest men in the country,” he said. “When you teach an economic underclass how to fight and how to carry out military operations and much more, these skills are not easily transferred to the civilian sector except in the private security framework.”
A former Colombian army officer who asked not to be identified said a mercenary traveling abroad could easily be paid around $ 2,700 a month compared to a military salary of approx. $ 300 a month – even for soldiers with years of combat experience.
“It’s not just Haiti, it’s Kabul, Mexico, Yemen, Emirates,” he said in a telephone interview in which he had indicated where former Colombian soldiers had traveled.
Reporting was contributed from Colombia by Sofía Villamil in Cartagena and Edinson Bolaños in Bogotá.