The U.S. Dept. of Defense (DoD) and the State Dept. are preparing to intensify and expand drug interdiction and aerial crop-eradication efforts in South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Based on a review of recently distributed federal-procurement documents, the U.S. government is actively soliciting the help of mercenaries whose sole function will be to locate and rescue missing or captured Drug War personnel.
The hiring of private-sector contractors to perform these “personnel recovery” missions for the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) is coinciding with other initiatives in and around Colombia; for instance, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) simultaneously is arranging to buy millions of gallons of jet fuel through 2009 to supply Colombian national police and military posts, camps and stations, the documents show.
The DoD will rely on hired guns to set up posts throughout the region in order to carry out reconnaissance missions for the Pentagon and its Latin American allies. Or as the Army put it in a work statement that this writer has obtained, the contractors will “provide personnel, equipment, or any other supplies and services" to establish and operate what are known as Combined Country Personnel Recovery Centers
, or CCPRCs.
DoD wants to have the contractors in place and setting up shop beginning May 2005. “The countries identified for immediate contractor support are Peru and Bolivia,” the work statement says. “Future support may be required in other Central and South American countries and is likely in the countries of Colombia, Panama, Ecuador and Venezuela.” The document also refers to the Caribbean, but does not identify specific nations.
Personnel recovery, or PR (not to be confused with “public relations), is defined by DoD as “an aggregation of military, civil, and diplomatic efforts to recover captured, detaining, evading, isolated or missing personnel from uncertain or hostile environments.”
Even more revealing of potential U.S.-coordinated interventions is the project’s directive to accomplish the PR task “through military action, action by non-governmental organizations, other U.S. Government approved action, and diplomatic initiatives, or through any combination of these options.”
The PR contractors will report to the U.S. Embassy of the respective partner nations, to which they are assigned, providing specific services such as Combat Search and Rescue, Joint Combat Search and Rescue, Non-Conventional Assisted Recovery, Evasion and Recovery, and Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape.
Anticipated “places of performance” listed in the planning document are: U.S. Embassy Military Assistance Advisory Group, Lima, Peru; U.S. Embassy Military Group, La Paz and Santa Cruz, Bolivia; U.S. Embassy Office of Defense Corporation, Panama City, Panama; and U.S. Embassy Military Groups of Bogota, Colombia; Quito, Ecuador; and Caracas, Venezuela, respectively.
The contractors also will administer the U.S. Embassy’s “Blood Chit” Program. Blood chits are notes, written in numerous languages, carried by aircrews in combat situations in the event they are shot down. They are used to aid the downed pilots and crew members in seeking assistance from local populations, who are promised through the blood chits that the U.S. government will reward them financially for ensuring the safe passage and return of these personnel.
Further connecting the dots of this expansion of crop-spraying and military intervention is a State Dept. recruitment effort to hire logistical advisors to coordinate the aircraft-maintenance and fuel-support segments of these counter-narcotics operations. The State Dept. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs is seeking an Aviation Maintenance Advisor for the Colombian National Police Air Services, as well as an Aviation Fuels Advisor to assist the Colombian Army Aviation Program.
The positions will enable State to replenish, sustain and monitor aircraft assets and supplies it is providing to the Government of Colombia in support of destroying opium poppy crops and coca., as well as for “interdicting the flow of the finished narcotics products into the United States,” according to a State Dept. personal-services contractor solicitation.
DLA’s Defense Energy Support Center will arrange for the delivery of 7.2 million U.S. gallons of jet fuel to Colombian military posts, camps and stations by 2008, rising to a total of 8.4 million gallons in 2009, according to estimates listed under the Supplies, Delivery Points and Methods section of the request for bids.
Contract award winners will deliver up to 121,000 gallons of jet fuel per month to the Gomez Nino Colombian Air Force base alone. The amount of jet fuel delivered to military facilities in Arauca,. St. Jose DeGuaviare, Tres Esquinas, and Tolemaide each will range from 10,000 to 28,000 gallons per month.
The above-mentioned governmental solicitations began circulating in Feb. and March 2005, coinciding with the March 5 release of the State Dept. International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.
Among the many issues and regions that this voluminous report tackles, it includes one particular notation about claims levied by Colombian farmers for alleged damages that their crops have sustained because of aerial spraying. Under the heading, Environmental Safeguards, the report explains how the Anti-Narcotics Directorate of the Colombian National Police (known as the DIRAN) has processed about 5,500 complaints of crop damage by spray planes since 2001.
It dismissed most of those claims as unfounded:
“Some 2,725 complaints were processed in 2004 alone. Since the complaints tracking program began in 2001, 12 complaints of accidental spraying food crops or pastureland have been verified and compensation paid, with four more claims in the process of completion. To date, the program has paid less than U.S. $20,000 in total compensation for damaged crops.
“Regarding claims of health damage, during the past 10 years there has not been a single case verified by the Colombian National Institute of Health of adverse health effects from the aerial spray program. The spray program follows all laws and regulations of the Colombian Environmental Management Plan. The program has also been favorably reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”