Israeli advisors fight in Colombia?

Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos confirmed that Israeli military advisors are helping his government fight guerillas, the Bogota newsweekly Semana reports. According to Semana, “A group of former Israeli military officials is counseling the military’s top brass on intelligence issues.” The weekly said the Israelis were hired by the Colombian Defense Ministry to improve the army’s intelligence capabilities and the command-and-control structure.

Semana said Santos was put in touch with the Israelis last year by former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami, when the two statesmen met (ironically) at a meeting of the Toledo International Center for Peace in Spain. The contract between the Israeli advisors and Colombia’s Defense Ministry was signed in April 2007, and sources put it at $10 million.

The Israeli group—reportedly made up of three senior generals, a lower-ranking officer and three translators—is said to be highly esteemed by the Colombians. “They are like psychoanalysts; they ask us the material questions and help us see all the problems we weren’t aware of before,” Deputy Defense Minister Sergio Jaramillo told Semana. “They are the best in the world,” another high ranking officer stated.

The Israeli advisors are said to be operating out of the notorious Tolemaida military base at Nilo, Cundinamarca department, outside Bogota. Semana described the Israeli aides as “mercenaries,” but stressed that the Israeli government was aware of their actions. Santos denied claims from the FARC guerillas that Israeli commandos, along with US and British forces, are actually fighting in Colombia’s jungles and mountains.

In recent years, Israel has become Colombia’s top arms supplier, providing drones, light arms and ammunition, surveillance and communication systems, and even special bombs capable of destroying coca fields. “Israel’s methods of fighting terror have been duplicated in Colombia,” a senior defense official was quoted by the Israeli news service YNet. (YNet, Aug. 10; Semana, Aug. 4)

See our last posts on Colombia and the Israeli connection.

  1. Israeli spook wanted by Colombia arrested in Moscow
    From AP via Israel’s YNet, Aug. 28:

    A former Israeli army officer wanted in Colombia on terror-related charges has been detained at a Moscow airport, Russian media reported Tuesday.

    The Israeli is suspected of involvement in training militants for drug cartels in Colombia in the late 1980s, according to the Interfax and RIA-Novosti news agencies and Channel One television, which cited unidentified law enforcement officials.

    The Moscow air and water transport police confirmed that an Israeli was recently detained at the capital’s Domodedovo airport, but declined to provide details.

    Interfax and Channel One said the man’s last name was Klein but gave different first names.

    In April, Interpol issued an international arrest warrant for Yair Klein, a former lieutenant colonel in the Israeli army, and two other Israelis accused of training private armies of Colombian drug cartels and right-wing death squads. They face nearly 11 years in prison if convicted on charges of criminal conspiracy and instruction in terrorism, Colombia’s domestic intelligence agency said at the time.

    Yair Klein and the other two Israelis are accused of helping set up training camps to teach private armies working for Colombian drug lords Pablo Escobar and Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha about explosives, car bombs and high-profile killings. The armies later morphed into Colombia’s right-wing death squads.