Freddy Cuevas / Associated Press – 2006-11-27 00:07:38
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (November 24, 2006) — The Honduran government said Friday it has fined the local subsidiary of a US company $25,000 for allegedly training more than 300 Hondurans and foreigners last year to work as mercenaries in Iraq.
The company Your Solutions trained 340 Hondurans, Chileans and Nicaraguans in violation of labor laws, Public Safety Department spokesman Santos Flores told a news conference.
“The fine was imposed because the company was training mercenaries, and the act of being a mercenary is a form of violating labor rights in whatever country,” Flores said, adding that the company, which he said is based in Chicago, Illinois, “operated without permission in Honduras.”
Benjamin Canales, general manager of the Honduras-based subsidiary of Your Solutions, fled the country six months ago, Flores said.
The company could not immediately be reached in Chicago for comment late Friday.
In September 2005, Canales, a retired member of the Honduran military, said the company’s trainees were private security guards “not mercenaries, as some people have called them.”
“These are just people who want a job, and we have offered them one,” Canales said.
Friday’s fine was the second action the Honduran government has taken against the company. In September 2005, authorities — citing a federal law that prohibits security and military training for foreigners on Honduran soil – said that they were deporting 211 Chileans who came to Tegucigalpa to be trained by the company.
An investigation by the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year determined that the trainees were employed as private security guards, as Canales said, but received military training in both Honduras and Iraq and ended up performing duties not established in their employment contracts.
The company did not operate in secret in Honduras. In August 2005, it issued a public news release saying it had trained and sent a third group of 12 Hondurans, most of them former soldiers, to Iraq to work as private security guards.
Most of the trainees worked for six-month stints in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The company said each of the guards would earn a minimum monthly salary the equivalent of $990 US dollars, 80 percent of which would be sent to their families in Honduras.
A private security guard in Honduras earns about $250 a month. English-speaking guards were to be paid a higher salary, from $1,300 to $1,600 a month, the company said.
The Honduran government at one time sent peacekeeping troops to aid the US-led mission in Iraq, but has since withdrawn its forces.
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