Despite the fact that a company contracted by the US government to carry out its program of fumigating and eradicating coca crops in Colombia has been caught smuggling heroin out of the country, no attempts have been made to bring it to justice.
For more than a year the Office of Prosecutions has failed to render a decision on the case, while the police official responsible for setting the whole process in motion has since retired from active duty. This is not the first time a case against DynCorp employees has disappeared in the labyrinth known as Colombia’s judicial system.
On May 12, 2000, according to an official US Drug Enforcement Administration document obtained by The Nation magazine under the Freedom of Information Act, Colombian police intercepted a parcel sent from DynCorp’s Colombia offices to its air base in Florida.
Colombian authorities discovered two small bottles of a thick liquid in a package which, when tested, was found to be laced with heroin worth more than $100,000. When authorities discovered the name of the company responsible for shipping the heroin they turned the results of the ‘narcotest’ over to the Immediate Reaction Unit, which then set into motion prosecution procedure 483064. However, the heroin bust remained a secret for more than a year until The Nation began its investigation and now it seems the evidence has simply disappeared.
Apparently, a similar situation occurred last year when 29-year-old Michael Demons, a paramedic member of DynCorp’s team, suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken to a hospital in Florencia, in southeastern Colombia, where he died. Forensic tests conducted at the time revealed that the cause of death was a cocaine overdose. Mysteriously, when the Colombian Central Office of Prosecutions took an interest in the death and requested more information, all related documents, such as the legal medical reports, vanished.
And two years ago, the records of ten DynCorp employees involved in the illicit trade of amphetamines also disappeared. "Faced with evidence of the scandal, DynCorp decided to expel these employees from the country and so drop the heat on the issue," a government investigator told Colombia’s Semana magazine.
These discoveries might only be the tip of the iceberg as DynCorp’s activities are conducted in absolute secrecy and appear to be beyond the jurisdiction of any governmental body. A high ranking police official in Colombia, who has known about DynCorp since their 1993 arrival in Colombia, told Semana magazine, "no authority, whether the Civil Aviation Authority, police or army, is authorized to search DynCorp’s planes. Nobody knows what they carry on their return to the United States because they are untouchable."
Some Colombian officials who disagree with DynCorp’s involvement in Colombia believe the pilots of the company are nothing more than mercenaries who travel around the world offering their services. According to another high-ranking police official who did not wish to disclose his name, "They are very difficult people to deal with. Most of them consume large amounts of drugs. Many inject before flying. Several officials have had open confrontations with these pilots because they don’t respect the disciplines of military bases. And our officials don’t accept that these people, no matter how experienced they are in the field of war, consume drugs on military grounds" .
According to the Guardian Weekly, the US government’s contract with DynCorp is full of ambiguities, giving the company even more leeway to avoid oversight by both Colombian and US authorities. This not only increases the opportunities for DynCorp employees to personally profit from drug-trafficking, but also enables the company to conduct counter-insurgency operations for the US government that go far beyond their official role of assessing and implementing the fumigation of illicit crops.
The lack of transparency with regards to DynCorp’s role in Colombia has led Human Rights Watch to accuse the Pentagon of using companies like DynCorp to violate conditions demanded by the United Stated Congress when it approved Plan Colombia. The US aid package allows for a maximum of 500 troops and 300 civilian contractors in Colombia at any given time. But according to Human Rights Watch, the policy of subcontracting the war has resulted in some 1,000 professionals with links to the United States working in Colombia, many of whom have retired from US Special Forces and are now employed by private companies like DynCorp.
Consequently, Washington is sitting pretty. It may secretly approve of and encourage counter-insurgency operations conducted by DynCorp, but it doesn’t have to take responsibility for them. Clearly, serious questions need to be answered regarding the role of both the US government and DynCorp in Plan Colombia and why personnel from DynCorp are being implicated in drugtrafficking.
The fact that nothing has been done to bring DynCorp employees to justice implies a high level of corruption and complicity with regards to these crimes. It also raises the question as to why a poor Colombian drug smuggling mule should be sentenced to many years in prison while highly paid US mercenaries remain ‘untouchable’.
English Ecologists in support of Campesinos of Colombia