Poor Salvadorans Chase the 'Iraqi Dream'
Juan Nerio, a 44-year-old mason’s assistant, was sick of living in a mud hut on the side of a volcano. When he heard that an American company was offering six times his $200 monthly wage, he signed up. Six weeks later he found himself holding an AK-47 assault rifle and guarding a U.S. diplomatic complex in Iraq. “No one could possibly earn so much in our country,” said Nerio, who returned to El Salvador two weeks ago after a hernia forced him to reluctantly give up his $1,240-a-month job in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. “With that kind of money, I thought I could make my family’s life a little easier.” Like Nerio, hundreds of Salvadoran men, and even a few women, are jumping at the chance to pursue what the news media here call the “Iraqi Dream.” With the U.S. military unable to meet security needs in Iraq, private U.S. firms are now providing thousands of armed guards for diplomatic installations, oil wells, businesses and contractors there. Full Story