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Last Updated:12/19/01
Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI) in Colombia

Military Professional Resources, Inc. (MPRI), is a "professional services company engaged in defense related contracting in the U.S. and international markets," according to its website. Since its creation in 1988, MPRI has been run and staffed mainly by former military personnel. In February 2001, the Defense Department decided not to renew a one-year, $4.3 million contract with MPRI to perform a bottom-up review of Colombia's military.

The Defense Department Contract:

In cooperation with the government of Colombia and the United States government, MPRI provided advice and assistance in developing specific plans and programs to assist the Ministry of Defense and the armed forces of Colombia in institution building, long range planning, and interagency cooperation to enhance their counter drug capabilities. [MPRI website]

MPRI, hired by the U.S. Defense Department, has a team of about 10 retired U.S. military officers in Bogot√° to advise the military on strategic and logistical issues. The company has steadfastly declined to comment on their exact number or work. [Miami Herald, Feb. 22, 2001 - link to article text at Yahoo Groups]

The [MPRI] report blurs the lines between the drug war and the civil war: its operational guidelines would have all Colombian infantry units switching back and forth between counter-drug and counter-guerrilla operations. [Associated Press, May 21, 2001 - link to article text at commondreams.org]

Administration officials say MPRI personnel are doing precisely what uniformed American soldiers have traditionally done. They say MPRI was hired not because it has any special expertise, but because U.S. Southern Command in Miami, which oversees American military operations in Latin America, cannot spare 14 men to send to Colombia...Nevertheless, U.S.-Colombia policy experts say the use of firms like MPRI is intended primarily to limit the risk of American military casualties there. [St. Petersburg Times, Dec. 3, 2000]

Among the most provocative parts of the MPRI mission are plans for MPRI to recommend legislation, statutes and decrees to Colombia regarding a military draft, a professional soldier statute, officer entitlements and health law reforms. "They are using us to carry out American foreign policy," [Edward] Soyster, the MPRI spokesman, said. "We certainly don't determine foreign policy, but we can be part of the U.S. government executing its foreign policy." [St. Petersburg Times, Dec. 3, 2000]

MPRI walked away with $4.3-million, paid largely from the $1.3-billion aid package Congress approved for Colombia last year under Plan Colombia to help fight the drug war.

The Pentagon compared Colombia's Ministry of Defense with a broken factory. The job of MPRI was to fix the factory in order to produce a better soldier to fight the drug war. Before MPRI won the one-year contract, it was hired by the Pentagon in fall 1999 to assess the defense ministry. MPRI charged the Pentagon $850,000 for six weeks of work.

The use of MPRI marked an unprecedented degree of cooperation between the United States and Colombia.

After MPRI arrived in Colombia, problems arose, according to military analysts. The company chose to staff its Bogota office with people who spoke no Spanish and had little or no experience in Latin America. Instead, most had a background in U.S. operations in Europe and in the Pentagon bureaucracy.

Over the course of the contract, MPRI worked with the armed forces and the National Police in the areas such as psychological operations, training, logistics, intelligence and personnel management.

Colombian officials, however, criticized MPRI's work as largely irrelevant and not tailored for Colombia's needs. Indeed, they were frustrated with the very mission itself, which strictly provided advice on how to fight the drug war, not the guerrilla war. [St. Petersburg Times, May 13, 2001]

Mpri -una empresa presidida por Carl Vuono, el jefe del ejército estadounidense durante la Guerra del Golfo-, y que tiene 850 empleados e ingresos anuales por 70 millones de dólares-, trajo a Colombia 14 empleados bajo el mando de un general retirado para hacer la asesoría.

Atendieron consultas específicas del Ministerio de Defensa acerca, por ejemplo, de si convenía o no conformar una sola agencia de inteligencia de las Fuerzas Armadas. Además entregaron al Ministerio un enorme manual llamado 'La doctrina colombiana contra las drogas'. La primera parte, por ejemplo, buscaba proveerle un manual a la fuerza pública acerca de cómo "pensar para alcanzar su misión" y describe "habilidades de guerra necesarias para ganar esta guerra", según figura en el primer borrador de julio de 2000.

También recomiendan conductas tales como"mantenerse enfocado en la imagen que se quiere proyectar, sea esta humanitaria o la de un firme pero bien intencionado agente de cambio y asegurarse que las tropas se conduzcan acorde".

Pero la asesoría de Mpri no fue tan fructífera. "No hubo empatía", dijo el ministro Ramírez. Las razones son varias. El Ministro señala que a veces los generales no tenían tiempo para recibir a los funcionarios de Mpri. "En un país en guerra no hay mucho tiempo de ir a comités", dijo Ramírez. También hubo críticas por la irrelevancia de sus documentos para Colombia, que más bien eran reportes genéricos de experiencias en todo el mundo.

Otro observador sostiene que los de Mpri tuvieron que hacer "maromas para atender las necesidades de los militares colombianos en su lucha contrainsurgente sin salirse de su mandato de asesorar sólo para la lucha contra las drogas".

Aunque algunas de las recomendaciones de Mpri validaron cambios que ya habían emprendido los militares, el contrato finalmente no se renovó por decisión del Ministerio de Defensa y Mpri se fue del país a principios de marzo pasado. Esta experiencia y el debate en Estados Unidos dejan lecciones valiosas para el país. [Semana (Colombia), May 4, 2001]

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