El Salvador has 338 soldiers in Iraq. But an equal number of Salvadorans, have been recruited by private US contractors, to work in Iraq as well, usually at much lower wages than are paid to their US counterparts. USA Today reports:
A police sergeant here, speaking on condition of anonymity, says there have been more than 800 requests in the past three months by policemen [in El Salvador] asking to leave in order to accept jobs with two different contracting firms, mostly with Triple Canopy. He says 32 people have been given permission by the department and maybe 10 more, he says, have gone without permission.
Pay depends on the recruit's experience and the job to be performed, but can also be determined by his country of origin. While some firms offer U.S. and European recruits up to $700 a day, companies like Blackwater, based in Moyock, N.C., reportedly pay Latin Americans and others from less developed countries $1,200 to $5,000 a month. Uniforms, housing, transportation, food, and life insurance are all provided. Typical police salaries in El Salvador range from $320 a month for rank-and-file police to $1,500 for a handful of elite officers.
The practice has its critics. "This is all very deeply wrong," says Geoff Thale, a senior associate for Central America at the left-leaning WOLA. He argues that the developing world should not serve as a cheap labor source for life threatening work that the U.S. government has chosen to undertake. "It may be tempting to hire low-wage workers to take risks for us, so that we don't experience the human cost of casualties or deaths ourselves. But it's not morally acceptable," he says....
Private security firms contracted with the Pentagon and the State Department are dipping into experienced pools of trained fighters throughout Central and South America for their new recruits. With better pay than what they can earn at home, some 1,000 Latin Americans are working in Iraq today, estimates the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). These recruits are joined by thousands of others from the U.S. and Britain, as well as from Fiji, the Philippines, India and beyond. Close to 20,000 armed personnel employed by private contractors are estimated to be operating in Iraq, making up the second largest foreign armed force in the country, after the US.