Guatemalans in the Congo: Mercenaries or Protectors?


I’ve written about the all-out war in Congo before, but not yet about this utterly fascinating cross-cultural intersect in the sprawling central African country.

Former members of the Guatemalan army — somewhere from 70 to 80 at the moment — are currently on the front lines in Goma, the capital seat of eastern Congo. And not just any former soldiers, but members of the Kaibiles, a brigade that undergoes an intense and controversial training at a school called “Hell” in the northern part of the country. Many Guatemalans call the training that the Kaibiles receive torture.

They are said to be forced to drink animals’ blood to survive and are described as killing machines. They are also responsible for human-rights abuses during Guatemala’s civil war.

Also, on an interesting note, some deserters of the Kaibile force apparently collaborated with the Zetas, an elite group of Mexican hit men and women who work for drug cartels.

And they are now UN peacekeepers in a nation where millions of civilians endure systematic rape, mass killings and abductions from a multitude of threats on a daily basis. Recipe for disaster?

Maybe not.

Guatemala has suffered its own brutal war, and experience there could serve their time in the Congo. But the Congo has also had serious, criminal problems with corrupt peacekeepers exploiting innocent Congolese in the past.

So what to do? It’s not easy to recruit volunteer troops to the violence-scarred country — the Guatemalans lost eight of their own in a massacre there three years ago — but does that mean we shouldn’t closely vet those tasked with protecting the defenseless?

Comments 3

  1. joe ventura December 9, 2009

    These new generation kaibiles are more profesional , they have families waiting for them back in Guatemala, their only role in congo was to capture the leaders of those raping militias and Kill them ,-simply- is so sad to watch the civilizided world seeing such impunity in places like congo and do Nothing, I am very proud of those special soldiers, they are not rapers, just as good any spetnaz or green berets whose ultimate goal is locate and kill the enemy, collenting a bill for United Nations.

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