Peruvians, Chileans help guard Baghdad's Green Zone




 
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November 18th, 2005  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Peruvians, Chileans help guard Baghdad's Green Zone


by Carlos Hamann


BAGHDAD, Nov 18 (AFP) - Some 1,000 Peruvian, Chilean and Central American
private security guards have begun working in Baghdad's heavily fortified
Green Zone.

People entering the restricted downtown Baghdad area since early November
have noticed the change: the Nepalese former Gurkhas working for the British
firm Global Security have been replaced.

In their place are people with last names such as Diaz, Sanchez and Huaman,
which means hawk in the pan-Andean language of Quechua.

The Latin American security guards work for Triple Canopy, one of the
several US-based private security companies that emerged following the 2003
US-led invasion of Iraq.

The media and politicians "have called us mercenaries, sellouts, all kinds
of bad things", said one Peruvian guard named Ernesto, a veteran of the war
with the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas in his home country.

"But we're here because we're paid well, and we like the work," said the
Peruvian, who like his colleagues did not give his last name for security
reasons.

The main mission of the Latin American guards is to make sure internal Green
Zone rules are followed.

Under Saddam Hussein, the Green Zone -- which the Americans also call the
International Zone -- was a neighborhood of palm trees and marble palaces
where the country's top officials worked, and some of them lived.

Today those same palaces have been taken over by Prime Minister Ibrahim
Jaafari, President Jalal Talabani and the parliament and government. The US
and British embassies are located there, as well as the United Nations
mission.

The perimeter is protected by reinforced concrete walls four meters (13
feet) tall and half a meter (1.6 feet) wide.

To reach the Green Zone a visitor has to go through several Iraqi police
checkpoints on the roads leading to the area, then get past Iraqi soldiers
posted at the entrance, supported by US armor.

Soldiers from the former Soviet republic of Georgia form a second security
perimeter, checking documents of pedestrians.

The Latin Americans from Triple Canopy form a third security cordon, again
checking documents and frisking visitors to make sure they do not bring
unauthorized weapons or explosives strapped to their bodies.

The men do the same job at the entrance of several of the walled compounds
within the 10-square-kilometer (four-square-mile) zone. At some sites, like
the entrance to the US embassy, they also operate x-ray machines scanning
hand carried items.

Following the site rules, the guards wear bullet-proof vests and carry M-4
rifles, the same as those used by US soldiers.

According to a supervisor about 70 percent of the thousand-man force come
from Peru. There are some 250 Chileans, and the rest are from Honduras and
Nicaragua.

Basic pay is 1,000 dollars a month, deposited electronically in their
hometown bank accounts. Food and housing is paid for during the year-long
contract.

"The great majority of the boys here have some military experience," said
Gustavo, an explosives expert who retired from the Peruvian navy. "One has
to be psychologically prepared because mortar rounds fall here."

Insurgents fire mortars and sometimes rockets toward the Green Zone at
random intervals -- maybe once or twice a month, but sometimes more on the
eve of major political events.

Still, the attacks are falling in number.

The insurgents fire from far and with little accuracy, and the rounds often
land in open areas. It is rare to hear of casualties from mortar fire.

In any case there are plenty of sandbag positions and special reinforced
concrete shelters to hide in whenever anyone inside the Green Zone hears the
whistle of an incoming round.

The workers are limited to working inside the Green Zone. "We don't go out
for any reason," said a Chilean guard named Roberto. "It's absolutely
forbidden."

Then he asks: "What is life like out there? And where can a buy a mobile
phone to call home?"

According to a supervisor, the company is preparing a room in the guard camp
with computers and free Internet access, and telephones to call home for a
modest price.

"I knew there was a risk coming here," said Jose, a veteran of the Peruvian
air force who worked in security.

Jose said he had a full-time job in Peru along with a part-time job, and he
still could not make enough money for his family. "In any case, nothing
ventured, nothing gained," he said.
November 18th, 2005  
03USMC
 
 
Thats causing some major discontent in Peru the general public seems to think that they are being used to replace Americans and being paid less.