Colombia, Israel and rogue mercenaries

Briefly, a story worth noting from International Relations and Security Network:

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos has acknowledged that Bogota had quietly hired a group of former Israeli military officers to advise local defense officials on their counter-insurgency tactics against leftist Fuerza Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, the Colombian daily Semana newspaper reported on 10 August….

Outside assistance with Colombian ‘counterinsurgency’ efforts in the form of Israeli ‘expertise’ has created dangerous rogue mercenaries and prolonged a bloody conflict….

The program has its critics, many of whom wonder why the government did not resort to private groups or the US or the UK, which already cooperate with Bogota on intelligence matters. The government’s explanation is that the Israeli mission is highly specialized.

However, Colombian security expert Laude Fernandez is not convinced. “It would have had been better to rely on the British, who have a good system of intelligence and a better standard in human rights,” Fernandez told the Colombian daily Semana on 4 August…

Israel is now Colombia’s top weapons supplier, with the bulk of the armaments being used against FARC and another leftist group, the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (National Liberation Army or ELN.) Israeli weaponry includes drones, light arms and ammunition, surveillance and communication systems and specialized bombs capable of destroying coca fields.

The irony is that Colombia’s armed forces occasionally clash with right-wing paramilitaries and drug cartel gunmen trained in the late 1980s by rogue Israeli mercenaries, one of whom was detained in Russia earlier this week on an Interpol warrant.

This last paragraph is important. The Cote d’Ivorie “Air Force” attack on French soldiers in 2004 was really Belarus mercs being directed by Israeli combat air traffic control.

The news throws a most unwelcome spotlight on the Colombian government’s efforts to avail itself of Israeli expertise. In 1987, right-wing paramilitaries hired Israeli former Lieutenant Colonel reservist Yair Klein and members of his private “security” company Hod He’hanitin (Spearhead Ltd.) as advisors on the country’s leftist insurgency with tacit approval from the government of President Virgilio Barco Vargas….

Klein is wanted by Colombia’s law enforcement agencies after being convicted for training a terrorist group in 1990 – a group supported by Colombian drug dealers. The former Israeli army lieutenant colonel was convicted of terrorist activities and the training of gunmen from among local residents on territory not under the control of the official authorities.”

Klein eventually acknowledged having led a team of instructors for Rodriguez’s forces in Puerto Boyaca in early 1988. A subsequent search of Rodriguez’s home uncovered 200 Israeli assault rifles, which the Israeli government stated were part of a 400-weapon contingent that they had sold to Antigua’s government, which had apparently then been transferred to the Medelin cartel.

Colombian internal security chief General Miguel Marquez in 1989 publicly named Klein as training and providing arms to the Medellin cartel’s sicarios (death squads). Colombian authorities assert that Klein was also involved in training the security detail of Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, head of the Medelin cocaine cartel in the 1980s. Gaviria was killed in 1993.

Freelance Israeli activities in Colombia apparently did not end with Klein, as in May 2000 Colombian intelligence arrested two Israelis and a Colombian suspected of attempting to smuggle more than 50,000 weapons to guerrillas.

Remember when countries were held accountable for their citizens? This was a byproduct of nationalism mobilized for purposes of the state. To be a great power you had to mobilize your people. If you could mobilize your people, you could therefore control them and thus be accountable for their actions. A bunch of laws popped up around Europe and the Americas like Britain’s Foreign Enlistment Act (originated in 1806 and last revised in 1871) that prohibited citizens from entering conflicts against allies.

The State of Israel is either confused about its responsibilities, does not control its citizens, or has some other agenda going on.

Most noteworthy about this story is that it surfaced. Finding data on Israeli mercs operating in Columbia, Mexico, and elsewhere is difficult, but not impossible. This information ISN story may raise the profile of this issue a bit. If the UN is interested in Fiji’s new national product, will it be interested in Israel’s?

2 Replies to “Colombia, Israel and rogue mercenaries”

  1. Israel’s been in this game for a long time. I have little idea about what they plan to get out of it though.

  2. I may have missed it, but I didn’t get the impression from this article, or others, that the Israeli Gov’t condones his actions. I only say this because of:

    “The State of Israel is either confused about its responsibilities, does not control its citizens, or has some other agenda going on.

    I could easily be wrong here. Like John Hull 20 some odd years ago, he may have been operating with Israeli consent.
    Interesting article and true that info on Israeli mercs is thin. They do a good job staying out of the press.
    Re: motivation… hate to say it, but petro-resources? Silver Shadow owed their presence there with DSL to protect BP’s pipeline… http://web.archive.org/web/20050226063139/http://bpamoco.org.uk/rights/98-10-17bgu.htm
    Or simply political? Colombia’s large and armed socialist movement is a good target for their polar opposites… and a market is there for folks like Klein as well as Hugo. One thing is for sure, the Colombian gov’t has no love for this guy:

    Following news of Klein’s detention, Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos said, “Hopefully they’ll hand [Klein] over to us so he can rot in jail for all the damage he’s caused Colombia,” local newspapers reported.

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