US military aid to Colombia is privatized

Venezuelan-U.S. lawyer Eva Golinger claims that more than half of the $520 million paid out by the U.S. State Department as military aid to Colombia under Plan Colombia is routed through private U.S. contractors.

Golinger makes use of data from declassified U.S. documents. She has provided regular updates on U.S. funding of rightwing opponents of the Venezuelan, Cuban and Bolivian governments. Her present report on outlay for Colombia during 2009 provides a useful survey of U.S. financing of “irregular war” there, and by implication, U.S. strategic objectives. It appears on the web side chavezcode.org.

A survey of a few of the 31 corporations signing State Department contracts is instructive. They include:

Lockheed-Martin received $53 million to provide personnel, training, equipment, and technical support as backup for use by the Colombian army and police of U.S.-provided aircraft.

Deriving 96 percent of its $2 billion annual income from the U.S. government, DynCorp International will gain $164 million to pay for pilots, technicians and logistical support. DynCorp has achieved notoriety for aerial fumigations gone awry.

Arinc Company, at a cost of $8 million, provides training, signal-collecting equipment and other espionage devices for the Colombian police. Controlled by the Carlyle private equity group ― a favorite of high Washington officials ― Arinc is, according to its web site, “a world leader in communications, engineering, and integration investment.”

For $5 million, Raytheon subsidiary Oakley Network is providing Colombian security agencies with software for monitoring Internet traffic and developing espionage programs useful in criminal investigations. Its web site advises, “Take the guesswork out of monitoring and investigations.” Oakley provides “military grade threat protection for the Fortune 100.”

With $11.7 billion in 2008 income, ITT will have taken in $7 million since 2007 to provide equipment and servicing for satellite-based radar monitoring throughout Colombia.

The U.S. government is paying $3.4 million to the Rendon group to offer 'communication support' for Plan Colombia. Rendon’s specialty is “psychological warfare” delivered in 91 countries through “a proven approach to media analysis and demonstrated success in multilayered public relations initiatives.” Recently it mounted a media barrage against Venezuela and Ecuador. Golinger observes that the Rendon contract stipulates use of the “Echelon” espionage system used by the National Security Agency to monitor worldwide communications.

The end result, according to Golinger, is “total privatization of the war in Colombia.” She condemns “utilization and financing of transnational mercenaries that have no obligation to respond legally to any judicial system in the world.” U.S.-Colombian agreements specifically absolve U.S. companies of responsibilities imposed under U.S. law. “In other words, they enjoy total immunity,” says Golinger.

What with surveillance, monitoring and transportation capabilities in place, the stage is set for continued U.S. engagement in Colombia’s civil war involving leftist insurgents. That role was in the open recently under terms of agreements allowing the U.S. military to operate out of seven Colombian bases.