Sunday, October 21, 2012
Last month's capture of Colombian drug lord Daniel "El Loco" Barrera by Venezuelan police was hailed as a "victory" in the "War on Drugs."
Barrera, accused of smuggling some 900 tons of cocaine into Europe and the U.S. throughout his infamous career, was described by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who announced the arrest on national television, as "the last of the great capos."
But what of the "capo" who enjoyed high office, is wined and dined by U.S. corporations and conservative think-tanks, owns vast tracks of land, is a "visiting scholar" at a prominent American university (Georgetown) and now sits on the Board of Directors of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation?
When will they be brought to ground?
A Family Affair
To clarify the questions above, one need look no further than the kid-gloves approach taken by the media when it comes to former Colombian President, the U.S. "Presidential Medal of Freedom" recipient Álvaro Uribe.
Accused by human rights organizations over his role in the forced disappearance of thousands of Colombians during two terms in office (2002-2010), Uribe may still land in the dock as a result of ongoing investigations by Colombia's Supreme Court into official corruption, drug trafficking and mass murder.
Recent arrests by Colombian authorities and revelations by the president's former allies however, are beginning to draw a circle around Uribe and the U.S. secret state in some of the hemisphere's worst human rights abuses of previous decades.
As the net tightens, members of the president's own family are sharply focused in the cross-hairs of investigators. Back in June, Antifascist Calling reported on the arrest of Ana Maria Uribe Cifuentes and her mother, Dolly Cifuentes Villa on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. The U.S Treasury Department froze their assets last year.
Accused by the Justice Department of having trafficked some 30 tons of cocaine into the U.S. as business partners of Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, the women, members of the Cifuentes Villa crime family led by Dolly's brother, Jorge Milton Cifuentes Villa, are prominent members of Colombia's jet-setting narco-bourgeoisie.
According to the Justice Department, the investigation revealed that "the Cifuentes Villa drug trafficking organization was using sophisticated drug trafficking routes to distribute multi-ton cocaine loads from Colombia through Central America, for ultimate distribution in Mexico and the United States." In 2009, some 8.3 tons of cocaine which the family were attempting to export to Mexico were seized by law enforcement officials in Ecuador.
Federal prosecutors charged that the Cifuentes Villa family owns or controls 15 companies operating in Colombia, Mexico and Ecuador involved in a variety of ventures that supported their narcotrafficking enterprise.
Among the firms targeted were Linea Aerea Pueblos Amazonicos S.A.S., a newly-created airline operating in eastern Colombia, Red Mundial Inmobiliaria, S.A. de C.V., a real estate company located near Mexico City, along with Gestores del Ecuador Gestorum S.A., a consulting firm located in Quito, Ecuador.
It is also worth noting that the Cifuentes Villa organization, as the Center of Public Integrity reported, have also profited from illegal mining operations that traffic rare-earth minerals destined for the world market.
Accordingly, the Cifuentes Villa clan employed the same smuggling routes that trafficked cocaine to move precious metallic ores such as coltan and tungsten, used by the communications industry and weapons manufacturers, onto the international market. When the Treasury Department placed family members onto its drug kingpin list they identified their mining fronts as "a money-laundering operation in support of a cocaine-smuggling enterprise."
While U.S. media were mesmerized by the extradition of Sandra Ávila Beltrán, whom the press had dubbed "La Reina del Pacífico" (The Queen of the Pacific), over her lavish lifestyle and family ties to legendary Mexican drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, onetime godfather of the Guadalajara Cartel, Uribe's relatives inexplicably "disappeared" from "court records and authorities were unable to pinpoint the pair's whereabouts," Colombia Reports informed us.
For his part, the former president denied allegations leveled against his brother Jaime, who died in 2001, and claimed that unnamed "criminals," who conducted "business" from his brother's car phone had cloned it. He also "denied any knowledge of his brother's relationship with Cifuentes or the existence of his niece, despite a birth certificate that was uncovered proving Jaime Uribe was her father," Colombia Reports averred.
What Uribe continues to gloss over however, is the inconvenient fact that brother Jaime had been arrested and interrogated by the Colombian Army after investigators recorded calls \made from his phone to none other than Pablo Escobar, the Nuevo Arco Iris political research center in Bogotá disclosed.
Among the unanswered questions surrounding these recent arrests, investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker wondered: "Did Álvaro Uribe okay the loading of 3.6 tons of cocaine at an airport he controlled in Rio Negro Colombia onto a 'former' CIA Gulfstream (N987SA) jet from St. Petersburg Florida that crashed in the Yucatan in 2007?"
That fateful crash eventually led to the deferred prosecution agreement between the U.S. federal government and Wachovia Bank, fined $160 million for laundering some $378 billion for Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, "business associates" of the Cifuentes Villa clan.
More pointedly Hopsicker asked: "Why did two successive U.S. Administrations lavish billions of dollars to stop drug trafficking on a President of Colombia who was himself involved in the drug trade?"
As the investigative net is drawn around the family of the former president, another Uribe brother, Santiago, "is facing a criminal investigation for the alleged founding and leading of a paramilitary group," Colombia Reports disclosed.
Investigations into that group, the notorious death squad the 12 Apostles, again surfaced when The Washington Post revealed that a former police chief, Juan Carlos Meneses, charged that Santiago "led a fearsome paramilitary group in the 1990s ... that killed petty thieves, guerrilla sympathizers and suspected subversives."
Meneses, who fled to Venezuela with his family, disclosed that the "group's hit men trained at La Carolina, where the Uribe family ran an agro-business in the early 1990s." For services rendered, Meneses told the Post "he received a monthly payment of about $2,000 delivered by Santiago Uribe."
The former police official said he came forward "because associates in the security services warned him he would soon be killed for knowing too much."
"The revelations," according to the Post, "threaten to renew a criminal investigation against Santiago Uribe and raise new questions about the president's past in a region where private militias funded with drug-trafficking proceeds and supported by cattlemen wreaked havoc in the 1990s. The disclosures could prove uncomfortable to the United States, which has long seen Uribe as a trusted caretaker of American money in the fight against armed groups and the cocaine trade."
"Uncomfortable" perhaps, but not surprising given the U.S. track record in support of drug-trafficking death squads, especially those which advanced corporate America's geopolitical interests throughout Latin America.
"Meneses," the Post averred, "is the first close collaborator of the 12 Apostles to speak publicly about the group's inner workings. His declarations are also the most extensive recounting by a security services official of how Colombia's militarized police and its army worked in tandem with death squads in one community--a model that investigators of the paramilitary movement say was duplicated nationwide."
For his part, the former president accused human rights' activists who have leveled charges against his family "of being guerrilla stooges who disseminate false accusations against his government."
However, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, who was present when Meneses recounted his story during a taped interview in Buenos Aires, told the Post that the former police chief "'incriminates himself and also the brother of the president who managed the paramilitary group, but also President Uribe'."
Interestingly enough, Uribe's appointment to News Corp's board came while the former president is under investigation for illegally wiretapping human rights activists, journalists, Supreme Court justices and opposition politicians.
His former chief of staff is currently in jail awaiting trial on criminal wiretapping charges and his former secret police chief, Maria Pilar Hurtado, fled Colombia and sought asylum in Panama before similar charges could be filed against her.
And with two more senators now under investigation for suspected ties to paramilitary death squads Colombia Reports averred, Uribe's teflon armor is slowly being chipped away.
If, as Voltaire once said, "the history of the great events of this world are scarcely more than the history of crime," what of the powerful actors who have looted entire nations and did so while serving the interests of their imperialist overlords?
Dubbed the "parapolitical scandal" by Colombian media, the investigation was set in motion when leftist opposition politician, Clara López Obregón, formally denounced and provided evidence in 2005 to the Supreme Court of links between drug trafficking organizations, the military/intelligence apparatus, right-wing death squads and members of Congress, including prominent officials of Álvaro Uribe's then-governing coalition.
That investigation gathered steam when a laptop was seized by authorities in 2006 from Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias Jorge 40, a leader of the Northern Bloc of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC).
The origins of the AUC can be traced to the take-down of the Medellín Cartel and murder of "cocaine king" Pablo Escobar by rival drug organizations, principally the Cali Cartel run by the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers, who were provided logistical support and firepower by the CIA and U.S. Delta Force commandos to eliminate the competition.
An umbrella group comprised of far-right militants and drug capos aligned with Colombia's ruling class, the AUC and splinter groups such as the Águilas Negras, or Black Eagles, and the Ejército Revolucionario Popular Antiterrorista Colombiano (Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia, ERPAC), derive the bulk of their income from drug trafficking as they wage war against the leftist Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC), trade unionists and land reform activists.
Readers will recall that during the 1980s both the Medellín and Cali cartels were given a leg up by the Reagan administration's CIA as funds derived from the drug trade were diverted to the Nicaraguan Contras as part of the administration's anti-Communist crusade in Central America.
In fact, as the Agency was forced to admit in the wake of "suicided" journalist Gary Webb's "Dark Alliance" investigation, the CIA and Reagan's Justice Department agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding that handed their dope-dealing Contra assets get-out-of-jail-free cards.
As political fallout from the latest "War on Drugs" scandal--the "gun walking" Fast and Furious affair that put thousands of high-powered weapons into the hands of cartel killers in Mexico--hovers like a radioactive cloud over the Justice Department, the old watchword of the 1980s, "drugs in, guns out," is all the more timely.
And like the Contras, the AUC were more than simply an enforcement arm of Colombia's narco-elites; they served as an unofficial though deadly instrument, to preserve the status quo. For Washington policy makers, this meant continued access by U.S. petroleum corporations, mining and agro-business interests to Colombia's vast wealth. If thousands of tons of cocaine entered the United States as the price for stamping out "leftist subversion," then so be it.
Along with incriminating evidence that linked Tovar's gang to 550 murders, it later emerged that Tovar was a close political associate of Jorge Noguera, the former head of DAS, the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (Administrative Department of Security), the Colombian equivalent of the CIA.
Noguera's links to Tovar came to light when his deputy, Rafael García Torres, DAS's former chief of Information Technologies, was arrested and charged by Supreme Court investigators of accepting bribes from right-wing sicarios (assassins) and drug traffickers in exchange for erasing their criminal histories, along with those of the Cifuentes Villa clan, from the state intelligence database.
In his testimony, García charged that Noguera, a Uribe crony, collaborated with Tovar's Northern Bloc in a coordinated move by the AUC to support local, regional and national candidates for office who supported their hardline against the left.
More recently, the not-so-hidden hand of the United States emerged.
The Washington Post reported that "American cash, equipment and training, supplied to elite units of the Colombian intelligence service over the past decade to help smash cocaine-trafficking rings, were used to carry out spying operations and smear campaigns against Supreme Court justices, Uribe's political opponents and civil society groups."
Post reporters Karen DeYoung and Claudia J. Duque disclosed that despite billions of dollars of aid supplied by U.S. taxpayers under Plan Colombia, "the DAS under Uribe emphasized political targets over insurgents and drug lords."
In fact, Colombia prosecutors told the Post that the "Uribe government wanted to 'neutralize' the Supreme Court because its investigative magistrates were unraveling ties between presidential allies in the Colombian congress and drug-trafficking paramilitary groups."
Based on "thousands of pages of DAS documents and the testimony of nine top former DAS officials, the prosecutors say the agency was directed by the president's office to collect the banking records of magistrates, follow their families, bug their offices and analyze their court rulings."
These black operations however, were not the work of a few proverbial "bad apples" but were a direct result of projects designed by the CIA.
"Some of those charged or under investigation have described the importance of U.S. intelligence resources and guidance," the Post disclosed, "and say they regularly briefed embassy 'liaison' officials on their intelligence-gathering activities."
"'We were organized through the American Embassy,' said William Romero, who ran the DAS's network of informants and oversaw infiltration of the Supreme Court. Like many of the top DAS officials in jail or facing charges, he received CIA training. Some were given scholarships to complete coursework on intelligence-gathering at American universities."
As with the previous Clinton and Bush regimes, the Obama administration vociferously denies any knowledge of corrupt practices by Colombian officials and in fact, "anti-drug" programs such as Plan Colombia "are viewed as so successful that it has become a model for strategy in Afghanistan," the Post reported.
By 2012 however, some 139 members of Congress were under investigation; five governors and 32 lawmakers, including President Uribe's cousin, Mario Uribe Escobar, a former President of Congress, were convicted of paramilitary ties and subsequently jailed.
In late August, former Colombian senator Jorge Visbal, a Uribe ally, "was charged with the promoting and financing of paramilitary groups, held responsible for tens of thousands of human rights violations," Colombia Reports disclosed.
"Former AUC leader Salvatore Mancuso testified before Colombian prosecutors that Visbal had an 'identical ideology' to the extreme-right paramilitaries and, on behalf of the cattle ranchers, brought 'information and suggestions' to meetings with paramilitary leaders to secure the expansion of paramilitary power in the north of Colombia."
Mancuso, who took over the AUC when Israeli-trained narcotrafficker and death-squad führer Carlos Castaño "disappeared" in 2004, said during recent court proceedings that Uribe was aware that the organization supported his campaign for president in 2002 "economically and logistically," according to Colombia Reports.
Prior to his arrest, the human rights organization Equipo Nizkor reported that Mancuso, the son of Italian immigrants, along with being an AUC "godfather," was also a member of the 'Ndrangheta, "the powerful Calabrian mafia which according to Italian police, exceeds the Sicilian Cosa Nostra in both strength and size."
In fact, when Italian anti-Mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri flew to Bogotá to investigate the 'Ndrangheta's Colombian drugs network, Gratteri was told by Mancuso he had spied on him the entire time.
"I was in the center of Bogotá, with lots of security protecting me. I didn't know that all the armored cars that I could see around my hotel belonged to Mancuso," Gratteri told The Daily Beast. "He told me his protection consisted of 600 men! Not even the U.S. President has such an escort. Can you imagine how much money he had?"
Mancuso claimed Uribe was aware of the AUC's backing. "There were previous meetings with members of Álvaro Uribe's campaign, including those delegates that asked us to decrease military operations because it was affecting the campaign and image of the candidate," Mancuso said.
During those same proceedings, another former AUC leader, Jorge Ivan Laverde, alias "El Iguano," said that "no evidence exists of these financial transactions because the groups burned all of their paramilitary records before they demobilized."
Rather conveniently, one might say.
"According to El Iguano," Colombia Reports disclosed, "the support of the ex-president all began when the righthand man of AUC creator Carlos Castaño called all groups to give them the order that they must support the Uribe campaign and spend money where necessary."
The former president denounced these claims and said he would launch "a criminal complaint against the former paramilitary for libel."
However, former Congressman Miguel Alfonso de la Espriella, who was part of Uribe's coalition government and later sentenced for ties to the AUC, told prosecutors in September that Uribe "knew he was receiving support from paramilitary groups during his 2002 election campaign," Colombia Reports disclosed last month.
The now-disgraced politician said that Uribe "never objected" to meeting with the AUC-backed politicians, but "simply maintained a prudent silence."
In a recent interview, de la Espriella told El Espectador that the AUC had donated some $134 thousand to Uribe's 2002 presidential campaign.
The former senator told the paper that Mancuso said "our participation in the self defense forces was to seek a deal with his [Uribe's] government. He [Uribe] did not explicitly reject this possibility or the support. What he did say was that we wait and if he got elected we would talk again."
More recently, Uribe's jailed ex-security chief, Mauricio Santoyo Velasco, accused of illegally ordering driftnet surveillance over electronic communications and the forced disappearance of human rights workers in Medellín, "is willing to officially testify against his old boss and other senior officials," according to Colombia Reports.
Santoyo is presently jailed in the U.S. for collaborating with the AUC and "previously acknowledged accepting bribes from paramilitary members in exchange for giving them information about police operations being carried out against them."
According to "highly credible sources" cited by Colombia Reports, Santoyo "is willing to implicate the ex-president and other top officials," in exchange for a "reduced sentence."
Although U.S. prosecutors previously said that the Santoyo case was the "tip of the iceberg" and an opposition senator accused the former president of bringing "a criminal apparatus" to the presidential palace in 2002, the current director of Colombia's National Police, General José Roberto León Riaño, denied that the U.S. is investigating anyone other than Santoyo.
"Yesterday I personally interviewed the toughest prosecutor of the United States on the matter of drug trafficking, Neil MacBride, who is running the case against [retired general Mauricio] Santoyo," Colombia Reports averred. "He indicated: 'there are bad apples in every institution, Santoyo is an apple that acted on his own, but that can't affect the whole organization'."
While evidence has yet to emerge that Uribe met with Mancuso as the former AUC chief testified, ubiquitous "facts on the ground" in the form of thousands of tons of exported dope, forced "disappearances" and the mass murder of peasants and left-wing activists tell a different tale and point to official complicity amongst Colombian elites and their U.S. "drug war" sponsors.
Back to the Future: U.S. Complicity and Cover-Up
The sordid history of collaboration between Colombian elites, drug gangs, the military and right-wing death squads was known for years by U.S. secret state agencies and federal prosecutors but was covered-up in the interest of "national security."
In declassified documents published by the National Security Archive in 2004, we learned that then Senator "Álvaro Uribe Vélez of Colombia was a 'close personal friend of Pablo Escobar' who was 'dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín [drug] cartel at high government levels,' according to a 1991 intelligence report from U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officials in Colombia."
Researcher Michael Evans revealed that the "newly-declassified report, dated 23 September 1991, is a numbered list of 'the more important Colombian narco-traffickers contracted by the Colombian narcotic cartels for security, transportation, distribution, collection and enforcement of narcotics operations'."
The former president, a "key U.S. partner in the drug war" and a major recipient of billions of dollars of taxpayer-supplied funds for Plan Colombia, "was linked to a business involved in narcotics activities in the United States" and "has worked for the Medellín cartel."
Evans disclosed that "The document is marked 'CONFIDENTIAL NOFORN WNINTEL,' indicating that its disclosure could reasonably be expected to damage national security, that its content was based on intelligence sources and methods, and that it should not be shared with foreign nationals."
One cannot help but ask: whose "national security" was threatened by the disclosure? Certainly not that of thousands of Colombian citizens murdered by drug-linked paramilitary gangsters or the hundreds of thousands of "drug war" victims incarcerated in American gulags for drug use or low-level sales.
"Uribe," the Archive informed us, was "the 82nd name on the list," and appeared "on the same page as Escobar and Fidel Castaño, who went on to form the country's major paramilitary army, a State Department-designated terrorist group now engaged in peace negotiations with the Uribe government. Written in March 1991 while Escobar was still a fugitive, the report was forwarded to Washington several months after his surrender to Colombian authorities in June 1991."
"Most of those on the list are well-known drug traffickers or assassins associated with the Medellín cartel," Evans averred. "Others listed include ex-president of Panama Manuel Noriega [and] Iran-contra arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi."
Four years later in another release of previously classified documents, the Archive revealed that "U.S. espionage operations targeting top Colombian government officials in 1993 provided key evidence linking the U.S.-Colombia task force charged with tracking down fugitive drug lord Pablo Escobar to one of Colombia's most notorious paramilitary chiefs."
"The documents," Evans wrote, "reveal that the U.S.-Colombia Medellín Task Force, known in Spanish as the Bloque de Búsqueda or 'Search Block,' was sharing intelligence information with Fidel Castaño, paramilitary leader of Los Pepes (Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar or 'People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar'), a clandestine terrorist organization that waged a bloody campaign against people and property associated with the reputed narcotics kingpin."
After Escobar's take-down, Los Pepes morphed into the AUC and led to a strategic realignment "between Colombian intelligence agencies, rival drug traffickers and disaffected former Escobar associates like Castaño, the godfather of a new generation of narcotics-fueled paramilitary forces that still plagues Colombia today."
"The collaboration between paramilitaries and government security forces evident in the Pepes episode is a direct precursor of today's 'para-political' scandal," said Evans. "The Pepes affair is the archetype for the pattern of collaboration between drug cartels, paramilitary warlords and Colombian security forces that developed over the next decade into one of the most dangerous threats to Colombian security and U.S. anti-narcotics programs. Evidence still concealed within secret U.S. intelligence files forms a critical part of that hidden history."
In this context, as Peter Dale Scott observed in Drugs, Oil, and War, "The true purpose of most of these campaigns has not been the hopeless ideal of eradication. It has been to alter market share: to target specific enemies and thus ensure that the drug traffic remains under the control of those traffickers who are allies of the Colombian state security apparatus and/or the CIA."
"Allies" like Álvaro Uribe.
Monday, September 3, 2012
In a story which should have made front page headlines, Narco News investigative journalist Bill Conroy revealed that "A high-ranking Sinaloa narco-trafficking organization member's claim that US officials have struck a deal with the leadership of the Mexican 'cartel' appears to be corroborated in large part by the statements of a Mexican diplomat in email correspondence made public recently by the nonprofit media group WikiLeaks."
A series of some five million emails, The Global Intelligence Files, were obtained by the secret-spilling organization as a result of last year's hack by Anonymous of the Texas-based "global intelligence" firm Stratfor.
Bad tradecraft aside, the Stratfor dump offer readers insight into a shadowy world where information is sold to the highest bidder through a "a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world."
One of those informants was a Mexican intelligence officer with the Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional, or CISEN, Mexico's equivalent to the CIA. Dubbed "MX1" by Stratfor, he operates under diplomatic cover at the Mexican consulate in Phoenix, Arizona after a similar posting at the consulate in El Paso, Texas.
His cover was blown by the intelligence grifters when they identified him in their correspondence as Fernando de la Mora, described by Stratfor as "being molded to be the Mexican 'tip of the spear' in the U.S."
In an earlier Narco News story, Conroy revealed that "US soldiers are operating inside Mexico as part of the drug war and the Mexican government provided critical intelligence to US agents in the now-discredited Fast and Furious gun-running operation," the Mexican diplomat claimed in email correspondence.
Those emails disclosed "details of a secret meeting between US and Mexican officials held in 2010 at Fort Bliss, a US Army installation located near El Paso, Texas. The meeting was part of an effort to create better communications between US undercover operatives in Mexico and the Mexican federal police, the Mexican diplomat reveals."
"However," Conroy wrote, "the diplomat expresses concern that the Fort Bliss meeting was infiltrated by the 'cartels,' whom he contends have 'penetrated both US and Mexican law enforcement'."
Such misgivings are thoroughly justified given the fact, as Antifascist Calling reported last spring, that the Mexican government had arrested three high-ranking Army generals over their links to narcotrafficking organizations.
In Conroy's latest piece the journalist disclosed that the "Mexican diplomat's assessment of the US and Mexican strategy in the war on drugs, as revealed by the email trail, paints a picture of a 'simulated war' in which the Mexican and US governments are willing to show favor to a dominant narco-trafficking organization in order to minimize the violence and business disruption in the major drug plazas, or markets."
A "simulated war"? Where have we heard that before? Like the bogus "War on Terror" which arms and unleashes throat-slitting terrorists from the CIA's favorite all-purpose zombie army of "Islamist extremists," Al Qaeda, similarly, America's fraudulent "War on Drugs" has been a splendid means of managing the global drug trade in the interest of securing geopolitical advantage over their rivals.
That major financial powerhouses in Europe and the U.S. (can you say Bank of America, Barclays, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, HSBC, ING and Wachovia) have been accused of reaping the lions' share of profits derived from the grim trade, now a veritable Narco-Industrial Complex, the public continues to be regaled with tales that this ersatz war is being "won."
While the Mexican body count continues to rise (nearly 120,000 dead since 2006 according to the latest estimates published by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, or INEGI, as reported by the Paris daily Le Monde in a recent editorial) the United States is escalating its not-so-covert military involvement in Mexico and putting proverbial boots on the ground as part of the $1.6 billion U.S.-financed Mérida Initiative.
But have such "initiatives" (in actuality, taxpayer-funded boondoggles for giant military contractors), turned the corner in the drug war? Not if estimates published the United Nations are accurate.
According to the 2011 World Drug Report, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC): "US authorities have estimated for the last couple of years that some 90% of the cocaine consumed in North America comes from Colombia, supplemented by some cocaine from Peru and limited amounts from the Plurinational State of Bolivia. For the year 2009, results of the US Cocaine Signature Program, based on an analysis of approximately 3,000 cocaine HCl samples, revealed that 95.5% originated in Colombia (down from 99% in 2002) and 1.7% in Peru; for the rest (2.8%), the origin could not be determined. The trafficking of cocaine into the United States is nowadays largely controlled by various Mexican drug cartels, while until the mid-1990s, large Colombian cartels dominated these operations."
Despite more than $8 billion lavished on programs such as Plan Colombia, and despite evidence that leading Colombian politicians, including former President Álvaro Uribe and his entourage had documented links to major drug trafficking organizations that go back decades, the myth persists that pouring money into the drug war sinkhole will somehow turn the tide.
But drug seizures by U.S. agencies only partially tell the tale.
As UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov pointed out in the introduction to the agency's 2011 report, Estimating Illicit Financial Flows Resulting from Drug Trafficking and Other Transnational Crimes, "all criminal proceeds are likely to have amounted to some 3.6 per cent of GDP (2.3-5.5 per cent) or around US$2.1 trillion in 2009."
UNODC analysts disclosed that illicit money flows related to "transnational organized crime, represent the equivalent of some 1.5 percent of global GDP, 70 percent of which would have been available for laundering through the financial system. The largest income for transnational organized crime seems to come from illicit drugs, accounting for a fifth of all crime proceeds."
"If only flows related to drug trafficking and other transnational organized crime activities were considered," UNODC asserted, "related proceeds would have been equivalent to around US$650 billion per year in the first decade of the new millennium, equivalent to 1.5% of global GDP or US$870 billion in 2009 assuming that the proportions remained unchanged. The funds available for laundering through the financial system would have been equivalent to some 1% of global GDP or US$580 billion in 2009."
"The results," according to UNODC, "also suggest that the 'interception rate' for anti-money-laundering efforts at the global level remains low. Globally, it appears that much less than 1% (probably around 0.2%) of the proceeds of crime laundered via the financial system are seized and frozen."
Commenting on the nexus between global drug mafias and our capitalist overlords, former UNODC director Antonio Maria Costa told The Observer in 2009, "that the proceeds of organised crime were 'the only liquid investment capital' available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result."
Would there be an incentive then, for U.S. officials to dismantle a global business that benefits their real constituents, the blood-sucking gangsters at the apex of the capitalist financial pyramid? Hardly.
Nor would there be any incentive for American drug warriors to target organizations that inflate the balance sheets of the big banks. Wouldn't they be more likely then, given the enormous flows of illicit cash flooding the system, to negotiate an "arrangement" with the biggest players, particularly the Sinaloa Cartel run by fugitive billionaire Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán?
In fact, as Narco News disclosed last December, a "quid-pro-quo arrangement is precisely what indicted narco-trafficker Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, who is slated to stand trial in Chicago this fall, alleges was agreed to by the US government and the leaders of the Sinaloa 'Cartel'--the dominant narco-trafficking organization in Mexico. The US government, however, denies that any such arrangement exists."
Narco News reported that according to "Zambada Niebla, he and the rest of the Sinaloa leadership, through the US informant Loya Castro, negotiated an immunity deal with the US government in which they were guaranteed protection from prosecution in exchange for providing US law enforcers and intelligence agencies with information that could be used to compromise rival Mexican cartels and their operations."
In court pleadings, Zambada Niebla's attorneys argued that "the United States government considered the arrangements with the Sinaloa Cartel an acceptable price to pay, because the principal objective was the destruction and dismantling of rival cartels by using the assistance of the Sinaloa Cartel--without regard for the fact that tons of illicit drugs continued to be smuggled into Chicago and other parts of the United States and consumption continued virtually unabated."
Those assertions seem to be borne out by emails released by WikiLeaks. Conroy disclosed: "In a Stratfor email dated April 19, 2010, MX1 lays out the Mexican government's negotiating, or 'signaling,' strategy with respect to the major narco-trafficking organizations as follows:
The Mexican strategy is not to negotiate directly.
In any event, "negotiations" would take place as follows:
Assuming a non-disputed plaza [a major drug market, such as Ciudad Juarez]:
• [If] they [a big narco-trafficking group] bring [in] some drugs, transport some drugs, [and] they are discrete, they don't bother anyone, [then] no one gets hurt;
• [And the] government turns the other way.
• [If] they [the narco-traffickers] kill someone or do something violent, [then the] government responds by taking down [the] drug network or making arrests.
(Now, assuming a disputed plaza:)
• [A narco-trafficking] group comes [into a plaza], [then the] government waits to see how dominant cartel responds.
• If [the] dominant cartel fights them [the new narco-trafficking group], [then the] government takes them down.
• If [the] dominant cartel is allied [with the new group], no problem.
• If [a new] group comes in and start[s] committing violence, they get taken down: first by the government letting the dominant cartel do their thing, then [by] punishing both cartels.
"MX1," Narco News revealed, "then goes on to describe what he interprets as the US strategy in negotiating with the major narco-trafficking players in Ciudad Juarez--a major Mexican narco-trafficking 'plaza' located across the border from El Paso, Texas:"
... This is how "negotiations" take place with cartels, through signals. There are no meetings, etc. ...
So, the MX [Mexican] strategy is not to negotiate. However, I think the US [recently] sent a signal that could be construed as follows:
"To the VCF [the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes] and Sinaloa cartels: Thank you for providing our market with drugs over the years. We are now concerned about your perpetration of violence, and would like to see you stop that. In this regard, please know that Sinaloa is bigger and better than [the] VCF. Also note that CDJ [Juarez] is very important to us, as is the whole border. In this light, please talk amongst yourselves and lets all get back to business. Again, we recognize that Sinaloa is bigger and better, so either VCF gets in line or we will mess you up."
I don't know what the US strategy is, but I can tell you that if the message was understood by Sinaloa and VCF as I described above, the Mexican government would not be opposed at all.
In sum, I have a gut feeling that the US agencies tried to send a signal telling the cartels to negotiate themselves. They unilaterally declared a winner [the Sinaloa Cartel], and this is unprecedented, and deserves analysis. If there was no strategy behind this, and it was simply a leaked report, then I will be interested to see how it plays out in the coming months.
Keep in mind that this "analysis" is from a senior CISEN officer describing U.S. "strategy" for managing, not putting a stop to the flood of narcotics crossing the border.
"In a separate Stratfor email dated April 15, 2010," Conroy wrote, "MX1's views on the US strategy with respect to the drug organizations in Juarez, essentially favoring the Sinaloa 'Cartel,' is referenced yet again:"
We believe that when the US made an announcement that was corroborated by several federal spokespersons simultaneously (that Sinaloa controlled CDJ [Juarez]), it was a message that the DEA wanted to send to Sinaloa. The message was that the US recognized Sinaloa's dominance in the area [Juarez], although it was not absolute. It was meant to be read by the cartels as a sort of ultimatum: negotiate and put your house in order once and for all.
One dissenting analyst thinks that the message is the opposite, telling Sinaloa to take what it had and to leave what remains of VCF. Regardless, the reports are saying that the US message to the cartels was to negotiate and stop the violence. It says that the US has never before pronounced that a cartel controls a particular plaza, so it is an unusual event.
"Unusual" perhaps, but not surprising given the secret state's documented history of close collaboration with major drug trafficking networks that serve as unofficial, though highly-effective instruments, for advancing U.S. imperial strategies.
In a recent piece published by Global Research, analyst Peter Dale Scott observed that America's two "self-generating wars" on "terror" and "drugs" have "in effect become one."
"By launching a War on Drugs in Colombia and Mexico," Scott wrote, "America has contributed to a parastate of organized terror in Colombia (the so-called AUC, United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia) and an even bloodier reign of terror in Mexico (with 50,000 killed in the last six years)."
And by "launching a War on Terror in Afghanistan in 2001, America has contributed to a doubling of opium production there, making Afghanistan now the source of 90 percent of the world's heroin and most of the world's hashish."
"Americans should be aware of the overall pattern that drug production repeatedly rises where America intervenes militarily--Southeast Asia in the 1950s and 60s, Colombia and Afghanistan since then," Scott noted. "(Opium cultivation also increased in Iraq after the 2003 US invasion.) And the opposite is also true: where America ceases to intervene militarily, notably in Southeast Asia since the 1970s, drug production declines."
"Both of America's self-generating wars are lucrative to the private interests that lobby for their continuance," Scott averred. "At the same time, both of these self-generating wars contribute to increasing insecurity and destabilization in America and in the world."
In this light, Narco News revelations make perfect sense. As the global financial crisis deepens, brought on in no small part by the massive frauds perpetrated by leading capitalist institutions, they have inflated their balance sheets with a veritable tsunami of hot cash generated by the Narco-Industrial Complex.
In turn, the American secret state, working to recapitalize financial markets beset by a seemingly insolvable liquidity crisis resulting from massive bank frauds, turn a blind eye as these same institutions become major centers of organized crime, monopoly enterprises which could not survive without the trillions of dollars of illicit funds parked in offshore accounts.
Friday, June 15, 2012
As the body count climbs across Mexico, the drugs continue flowing across the border by the ton.
Despite the evident disconnect--a "war" on drugs that increases the supply while lowering the price, in the best tradition of our reigning "free market" ideology--the American media regales the public with fairy tales of heroic "warriors" doing battle with murderous gangsters named "Joaquín," "Jorge" and "Amado."
The fact is, more likely than not, the real narcos taking the biggest cut from deep inside the reeking abattoir of the grisly trade have far less prosaic names like "Brett," "Ethan" or "Jason."
'The Only Liquid Investment Capital'
Earlier this month, The Observer reported that "The vast profits made from drug production and trafficking are overwhelmingly reaped in rich 'consuming' countries--principally across Europe and in the US--rather than war-torn 'producing' nations such as Colombia and Mexico, new research has revealed."
Journalist Ed Vulliamy informed us that the authors of that report provide compelling evidence that "financial regulators in the west are reluctant to go after western banks in pursuit of the massive amount of drug money being laundered through their systems."
Indeed, at the height of the global financial crisis Antonio Maria Costa, then the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime told The Observer "he has seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were 'the only liquid investment capital' available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result."
"In many instances," Costa said, "the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital. In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system's main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor."
"Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade and other illegal activities... There were signs that some banks were rescued that way." While Costa "declined to identify countries or banks that may have received any drugs money, he said the money is now a part of the official system and had been effectively laundered."
In other words, for dodgy bankers it was "accounts balanced" and an excuse to buy a new Armani suit or two, a case of 20-year-old single malt or that vacation home for the trophy wife, no questions asked.
In stark contrast to the impunity enjoyed by our capitalist overlords, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Treasury Department "slapped sanctions on two key operatives of the Sinaloa drug cartel" last Thursday.
The Journal informed us that "Kingpin Act sanctions were placed on Maria Alajandrina Salazar Hernandez and Jesus Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, the wife and son of Joaquín "Chapo" Guzmán, the fugitive drug lord who heads the Sinaloa Cartel."
Also last week, the Associated Press reported that Sandra Ávila Beltrán, whom the media dubbed "La Reina del Pacífico" (The Queen of the Pacific), can be extradited to the United States "where she faces cocaine-related charges." Ávila was arrested in Mexico City in 2007 and awaits prosecution on money laundering charges.
A third-generation drug trafficker, Ávila is the niece of of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, onetime godfather of the Guadalajara Cartel now serving a 40-year prison term for the 1984 murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena. Camarena was kidnapped and tortured to death after he uncovered evidence linking the CIA and Oliver North's sordid "Enterprise" to drug trafficking Nicaraguan Contras during the Reagan administration.
And just this week, The Guardian reported that two relatives of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, "are awaiting extradition to the US over claims they had ties to the world's most wanted drug lord."
"Ana Maria Uribe Cifuentes and her mother, Dolly Cifuentes Villa, were arrested last year after a request from a US federal court for alleged ties to the head of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán."
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), "both women are alleged to belong to the Cifuentes Villa clan," which DEA claims "trafficked at least 30 tonnes of cocaine to the US between 2009 and 2011, and laundered the proceeds in several Latin American countries including Colombia."
Drug trafficking allegations have long swirled around the Uribe family. A 1991 Defense Intelligence Agency report published by The National Security Archive pointedly stated that during his tenure in the Colombian Senate, Uribe was a "close personal friend of Pablo Escobar" and was "dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín [drug] cartel at high government levels."
The document went on to assert that before becoming a key U.S. "partner in the drug war," and rewarded with some $3 billion under Plan Colombia to "fight drugs," Uribe "was linked to a business involved in narcotics activities in the United States" and "has worked for the Medellín cartel."
Although the U.S. government disavowed that report, for purely political reasons I might add, several members of Uribe's family, including the president's cousin, Mario Uribe Escobar, the former President of the Colombian Congress, was convicted and removed from office over his close ties to the far-right, drug trafficking paramilitary death squad, the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC.
In announcing sanctions against the Guzmán clan, Adam Szubin, the director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement: "This action builds on Treasury's aggressive efforts, alongside its law enforcement partners, to target individuals who facilitate Chapo Guzmán's drug trafficking operations and to pursue the eventual dismantlement of his organization, which is culpable in untold violence."
While Chapo, Inc. earned honorable mention at No. 1153 on Forbes "World's Billionaires List," and may very well be responsible for the estimated 25% of illegal drugs trafficked into the United States as the DEA alleges, his place at No. 55 on Forbes list of "The World's Most Powerful People," sandwiched between PIMCO founder and "Bond King" Bill Gross and Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Director-General of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, speak volumes about the rather interesting juxtapositions (parapolitically speaking, that is!) between the worlds of finance, crime and covert operations.
Citing findings by two Colombian academics, Alejandro Gaviria and Daniel Mejía in their study, Anti-Drugs Policies In Colombia: Successes, Failures And Wrong Turns, Ed Vulliamy disclosed "that 2.6% of the total street value of cocaine produced remains within the country, while a staggering 97.4% of profits are reaped by criminal syndicates, and laundered by banks, in first-world consuming countries."
Gaviria told The Observer, "Colombian society has suffered to almost no economic advantage from the drugs trade, while huge profits are made by criminal distribution networks in consuming countries, and recycled by banks which operate with nothing like the restrictions that Colombia's own banking system is subject to."
Co-author Daniel Mejía added: "The whole system operated by authorities in the consuming nations is based around going after the small guy, the weakest link in the chain, and never the big business or financial systems where the big money is."
Where, inquiring minds can't help but wonder, are Treasury's "aggressive efforts" when it comes to those simple, yet readily demonstrable facts?
But like drug cartels, banks and the "old boy" networks who run them have names. I'll give you a hint: they're not self-styled "Lords of the Heavens," though they just might think of themselves as proverbial "Masters of the Universe."
A case in point. Back in 2000 when Narco News publisher Al Giordano and Mario Menéndez, a reporter for the Mexican newspaper Por Esto! were sued in a New York court for libel by Banamex-Citigroup, Giordano wrote that "The true bosses of the illegal drug trade do not appear on the FBI 'Most Wanted' list."
No, Giordano averred, "The Chief Operating Officers of drug trafficking are not Mexicans, nor Colombians: they are US and European bankers, those who launder the illicit proceeds of drug trafficking. Institutions like Citibank of New York--as this report documents--are the true beneficiaries of the prohibition on drugs and its illegal profits."
While Chapo Guzmán's family are now targets of Treasury Department sanctions, what can we learn from recent reporting on Justice Department inaction when it came to prosecuting officers of America's fourth largest bank, Wachovia, bought by Wells Fargo & Co. in 2008 at the height of the capitalist financial meltdown?
Charlotte: The World's Narco Capital?
In landmark exposés of corporate greed, criminality and corruption, Bloomberg Markets Magazine and The Observer revealed in 2010 and 2011 respectively, that Wachovia was up to its eyeballs in laundering hot money for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels.
As I reported in 2010 on Wachovia's foray into money-laundering for Chapo Guzmán's Sinaloa Cartel (see: "All in the 'Family.' Global Drug Trade Fueled by Capitalist Elites," Antifascist Calling, July 20, 2010) then-CEO, G. Kennedy "Ken" Thompson, a former president of the Federal Reserve Board's Advisory Committee and Bush Ranger who raised some $200,000 for W's 2004 presidential campaign, was buying up competing banks faster than you can say "credit default swaps."
By the time Wells Fargo bought Wachovia at the fire-sale price of $12.8 billion, the bank and Thompson, who had "retired at the request of the board," were in deep trouble.
Prior to the takeover, Wachovia had embarked on a veritable shopping spree. After the firm's 2001 merger with First Union Bank, Wachovia merged with the Prudential Securities division of Prudential Financial, Inc., with Wachovia controlling the lion's share of that firm's $532.1 billion in assets. Following this coup, the bank then bought-out Metropolitan West Securities, adding a $50 billion portfolio of securities and loans to their Lending division. In 2004, Wachovia followed-up with the $14.3 billion acquisition of SouthTrust Corporation.
Apparently flush with cash and new market clout, Wachovia set it sights on acquiring California-based Golden West Financial. Golden West operated branches under the name World Savings Bank and was the nation's second largest savings and loan. At the time of the buy-out, Golden West had over $125 billion in assets. For Wachovia and Thompson, it was a deal too far.
A cash-crunch soon followed. Now exposed to risky loans, including toxic adjustable rate mortgages acquired as a result of the Golden West deal, which Thompson had described as Wachovia's "crown jewel," the firm's loan portfolios were hammered by heavy losses during the subprime mortgage meltdown.
While the bank had reported some $2.3 billion in earnings during the first quarter of 2007, by 2008 they were reporting heavy losses that topped $8.9 billion by the fourth quarter. It was panic time in Charlotte.
And where did some of that "liquid capital" come from which enabled Wachovia's reckless expansion?
"One customer that Wachovia took on in 2004 was Casa de Cambio Puebla SA," Bloomberg Markets reported. The Puebla, Mexico currency exchange was the brainchild of Pedro Alatorre Damy, a "businessman" who "had created front companies for cartels."
Alatorre, and 70 others connected to his network were arrested in 2007 by Mexican law enforcement officials. Authorities discovered that the accused money launderer and airline broker for the Sinaloa Cartel controlled 23 accounts at the Wachovia Bank branch in Miami and that it held some $11 million, subsequently frozen by U.S. regulators.
In 2008, a Miami federal grand jury indicted Alatorre, now awaiting trial in Mexico along with three other executives, charging them with drug trafficking and money laundering, accusing the company of using "shell firms to launder $720 million through U.S. banks." The Justice Department is currently seeking Alatorre's extradition from Mexico.
Despite the fact that Wachovia's Miami office had been designated by federal investigators a "high-intensity money laundering and related financial crime area," in a "high-intensity drug trafficking area," The Observer reported that even in the face of internal warnings from their own anti-money laundering investigators, Wachovia did nothing to stop the illicit flow of hot funds.
With America's housing bubble now fully-inflated, and warning signs that the speculative boom would soon go bust, one can only surmise that the need for liquidity at any price, had driven Wachovia to play dumb where shady, yet highly-profitable "arrangements" with Casa de Cambio Puebla SA were concerned.
Bleeding cash faster than you can say "mortgage backed securities," Wachovia was on the hook for their 2006 $26 billion buy-out of Golden West Financial at the peak of the bubble, a move that Bloomberg Businessweek reported generated "resistance from his own management team" but ignored by Thompson.
Why? "Because no one outside of Thompson and Golden West CEO Herb Sandler seemed to like the deal from the moment it was announced," a company insider told Businessweek.
(An alert reader pointed out when my piece appeared in 2010, that Herb Sandler, who sold Golden West at the top of the market saying he wanted to devote himself to "philanthropy," "now owns ProPublica, a Left gatekeeper that goes after easy targets like racist cops ... but which will not examine Sandler's wing of the power elite. Michael Barker wrote a great series on this outfit and its Establishment handlers called "Investigating the Investigators--A Critical Look at ProPublica.")
While the buy-out may have given Thompson "the beachhead in California he had long desired ... the ink was barely dry on the Golden West deal in late 2006 when the housing bubble in markets including California and Florida began to deflate."
Hammered by the housing bust, Wachovia's share price, which had risen to $70.51 per share when the Golden West deal was announced had slid to $5.71 per share by October 2008. In other words Wachovia, along with the rest of the world's economy was circling the proverbial drain.
In their Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the Justice Department, Wells Fargo agreed not to contest charges brought against Wachovia in the federal indictment.
Banking giant Wells was forced to admit: "On numerous occasions, monies were deposited into a CDC [Casa de Cambio] by a drug trafficking organization. Using false identities, the CDC then wired that money through its Wachovia correspondent bank accounts for the purchase of airplanes for drug trafficking organizations. On various dates between 2004 and 2007, at least four of those airplanes were seized by foreign law enforcement agencies cooperating with the United States and were found to contain large quantities of cocaine."
As Ed Vulliamy reported in The Observer, although investigators from DEA and the IRS uncovered evidence that Wachovia had laundered as much as $378.4 billion, "a sum equivalent to one-third of Mexico's gross national product--into dollar accounts from so-called casas de cambio (CDCs) in Mexico," and later paid federal authorities $110 million in forfeiture, including a $50 million fine "for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine," no criminal proceedings were ever brought against bank officers.
"The conclusion to the case," Vulliamy wrote, "was only the tip of an iceberg, demonstrating the role of the 'legal' banking sector in swilling hundreds of billions of dollars--the blood money from the murderous drug trade in Mexico and other places in the world--around their global operations, now bailed out by the taxpayer."
While Chapo Guzmán and other leaders of Mexican drug trafficking organizations face federal charges that could land them in prison for the rest of their lives, contrast the kid gloves approach taken by the government when it comes to American narcos.
Despite serious federal money-laundering charges against Wachovia, "smartest guy in the room" Thompson was paid $15.6 million in total compensation by the board in 2007, fully a year after that fatal Golden West deal went south. Nor did subsequent losses, and an impending criminal indictment (against the bank, not its officers), stop Wachovia from showering Thompson with a severance package worth nearly $8 million.
Now that's juice!
Following extensive, years' long reporting in the trenches by MadCow Morning News investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker and Narco News' Bill Conroy into the origins of two aircraft seized in Mexico with some ten tons of cocaine on board, we learned that as many as 100 planes had been purchased with hot money laundered through Wachovia Bank.
And when "mainstream" journalists Michael Smith and Ed Vulliamy picked up the trail of breadcrumbs assiduously laid out by Hopsicker and Conroy (always without attribution, mind you), they did however, advance some previously unknown facts surrounding this sordid case.
"Just before sunset on April 10, 2006," Bloomberg's Michael Smith reported, "a DC-9 jet landed at the international airport in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, 500 miles east of Mexico City."
When Army troops grew suspicious after the crew tried to "shoo them away, saying there was a dangerous oil leak," they did what good law enforcement officials should do: they searched the plane.
On board, they found 128 identical black suitcases "packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100 million. The stash was supposed to have been delivered from Caracas to drug traffickers in Toluca, near Mexico City, Mexican prosecutors later found. Law enforcement officials also discovered something else."
"The smugglers," Smith wrote, "had bought the DC-9 with laundered funds they transferred through two of the biggest banks in the U.S.: Wachovia Corp. and Bank of America Corp."
But in breaking that story six years ago, (long before Bloomberg and The Observer joined the hunt), Hopsicker revealed that "One of the two owners of the DC-9 (tail number N900SA) busted at an airport in Ciudad del Carmen in the state of Campeche, Mexico last week freighted 5.5 tons of cocaine had been appointed in 2003 to the Business Advisory Council of the National Republican Congressional Committee by then-Congressional Majority Leader Tom Delay, The MadCow Morning News can exclusively report."
That plane, Hopsicker disclosed, was tricked-out by owner Brent Kovar to impersonate a jet flown by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. An official-looking seal read "Sky Way Aircraft, Protection of America's Skies," complete with the "image of a federal eagle clutching the familiar olive branch in its talons."
And when he searched FAA and corporate records, Hopsicker learned that "A close look at [shell company] Royal Sons reveals evidence indicating that the firm is part of a cluster of related air charter firms being used as dummy front companies to provide 'cover' for CIA flights."
"The companies involved," Hopsicker averred, "include Royal Sons, Express One International, Genesis Aviation and United Flite Inc."
"All four companies appear to be engaged in an interlocking and time-honored Agency scheme going back 50 years: using frequent cosmetic transfers of aircraft title to make positively identifying the ownership of any one plane at any given time as difficult as finding the pea under the shell in a game of three-card Monte."
Subsequent reporting by Hopsicker revealed that the second plane, a Gulfstream II business jet (N987SA) which crash landed on the Yucatán peninsula in 2007 with four tons of coke on board, was registered to a "Donna Blue Aircraft, Inc." (DBA, or "doing business as") and was previously employed as a "private charter" that did "terrorist" rendition flights for, who else, the CIA!
As Narco News journalist Bill Conroy revealed in 2008, "At the center of that controversy are allegations that the downed cocaine jet was part of a CIA-backed narco-trafficking operation."
According to Conroy, the "key to the ill-fated Gulfstream II cocaine shipment is a prolific Colombian narco-trafficker and U.S. government informant named Jose Nelson Urrego Cardenas--who was recently arrested by police in Panama. Urrego allegedly played a major role in organizing the cocaine shipment as part of [Immigration and Customs Enforcement's] Mayan Express operation."
"For those who might wonder why ICE would pursue an operation like the Mayan Express," Conroy wrote, "it pays to keep in mind that Charles E. Allen, under-secretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), also happens to be a veteran of the CIA and was a major player in the Iran/Contra scandal that played out during the Reagan administration."
"One facet of Iran/Contra, as you might recall, allegedly involved the use of CIA resources to run drugs in order to raise money to fund the purchase of arms for the Contra rebels who were seeking to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua."
"For ICE to be cleared to operate a high-profile overseas mission like the Mayan Express, which allegedly involved coordination with the CIA, it is very likely that Allen, DHS' chief intelligence guru, had to be clued into the operation--since ICE is part of DHS."
More recently, in keeping with the dirty history of the CIA's role in managing, not eliminating, the global drug trade, Narco News disclosed that the Agency had a "quid-pro-quo" arrangement with Chapo Guzmán's Sinaloa Corporation's "leadership and US government agencies seeking to obtain information on rival narco-trafficking organizations."
In fact, as Narco News revealed last April, the federal indictment against Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla claims "he served as the 'logistical coordinator' for the 'cartel,' helping to oversee an operation that imported into the U.S. 'multi-ton quantities of cocaine ... using various means, including but not limited to, Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, private aircraft ... buses, rail cars, tractor trailers, and automobiles'."
Indeed, one of the "private aircraft" used in Chapo Guzmán's drug importation schemes was none other than that ill-fated Gulfstream II (N987SA) which crash-landed in the Yucatán in 2007. Purchased with funds laundered through Wachovia Bank, the business jet was subsequently linked by Council of Europe investigators to CIA ghost flights.
Despite facts laid out in Zambada's federal indictment "the alleged deal," Conroy wrote, "assured protection for the Sinaloa Cartel's business operations while also undermining its competition--such as the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization out of Juárez, Mexico, the murder capital of the world."
"At the same time," Narco News reported, "the information provided by the Sinaloa Cartel to US agencies against its rivals assures a steady flow of drug busts and media victory headlines for US agencies and for the Mexican government."
Conroy pointed out, "That propaganda is necessary for hoodwinking their citizens into believing that progress is being made in the drug war and thereby assuring the continued funding of bloated drug-war budgets and support for failed policies that have cost the lives of some 50,000 Mexican citizens since late 2006 and ended any hope of a productive life for hundreds of thousands of US citizens--most wasting away in US prisons and not a small number the victims of street homicides linked to drug deals gone bad."
Call it business as usual in "God's country," that "shining city upon a hill."
Past as Prologue
If history is a guide to current practices, the CIA has long-relied on financing black Agency operations through dodgy banks and the bankers who run them.
Amongst the swindlers who have profited from cosy relations with the Agency, readers no doubt are reminded of Paul Helliwell's Castle Bank Bank & Trust; Michael Hand, Frank Nugan and Bernie Houghton's Nugan-Hand Bank; Agha Hasan Abedi's Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI); or more recently, as Antifascist Calling disclosed two years ago, convicted fraudster R. Allen Stanford's multibillion dollar Ponzi scheme disguised as a "full-service bank," Stanford International.
That all four banks collapsed in ignominy and scandal as investors were bilked out of billions of dollars in deposits amid charges that these financial black holes were little more than conduits for organized crime and intelligence operations, only underscores the inescapable fact that for secret state outfits like the CIA, crime pays.
Two years after the Wachovia scandal broke amid deafening media silence in the U.S., Daniel Mejía told The Observer: "Overall, there's great reluctance to go after the big money. They don't target those parts of the chain where there's a large value added. In Europe and America the money is dispersed--once it reaches the consuming country it goes into the system, in every city and state. They'd rather go after the petty economy, the small people and coca crops in Colombia, even though the economy is tiny."
"It's an extension of the way they operate at home," Mejía said. "Go after the lower classes, the weak link in the chain--the little guy, to show results. Again, transferring the cost of the drug war on to the poorest, but not the financial system and the big business that moves all this along."
Given the corrupt trajectory of the "War on Drugs," this should not surprise anyone. As Peter Dale Scott wrote in Deep Events and the CIA's Global Drug Connection: "The global drug connection is not just a lateral connection between CIA field operatives and their drug-trafficking contacts. It is more significantly a global financial complex of hot money uniting prominent business, financial and government as well as underworld figures."
According to Scott, this global criminal-elite nexus "maintains its own political influence by the systematic supply of illicit finances, favors and even sex to politicians around the world, including leaders of both parties in the United States. The result is a system that might be called indirect empire, one that, in its search for foreign markets and resources, is satisfied to subvert existing governance without imposing a progressive alternative."
Scott's analysis has certainly been borne out by honest law enforcement officials.
Martin Woods, a former senior detective with London's Metropolitan police anti-drugs squad joined Wachovia in 2005 as the bank's chief anti-money laundering investigator and paid a steep price for his diligence.
Hounded out of his position when he refused to stop filing suspicious activity reports to headquarters in Charlotte over dubious deposit practices by Wachovia branches in London and Miami, Woods told The Observer: "New York and London have become the world's two biggest laundries of criminal and drug money, and offshore tax havens. Not the Cayman Islands, not the Isle of Man or Jersey. The big laundering is right through the City of London and Wall Street."
"Meanwhile," Woods said, "the drug industry has two products: money and suffering. On one hand, you have massive profits and enrichment. On the other, you have massive suffering, misery and death. You cannot separate one from the other."
With hundreds of billions of dollars washing through the system each and every year, there aren't many incentives to collar the big boys. And you can take that to the bank...
(Image courtesy of Daniel Hopsicker's MadCow Morning News)
Monday, May 28, 2012
Earlier this month, the Mexican government arrested three high-ranking Army generals "including a former second in command at the Defense Ministry," The New York Times reported.
According to multiple press reports, Tomás Ángeles Dauahare, who retired in 2008, was an under secretary at the Defense Ministry during the first two years of President Felipe Calderón's "war" against some narcotrafficking cartels and had even been mentioned as a "possible choice for the top job."
The Times disclosed that in the early 1990s Ángeles "served as the defense attaché at the Mexican Embassy in Washington," a plum position with plenty of perks awarded to someone thought by his Pentagon brethren to have impeccable credentials; that is, if smoothing the way the for drugs to flow can be viewed as a bright spot on one's résumé.
The other top military men detained in Mexico City were "Brig. Gen. Roberto Dawe González, assigned to a base in Colima State, and Gen. Ricardo Escorcia Vargas, who is retired."
Reuters reported that "Dawe headed an army division in the Pacific state of Colima, which lies on a key smuggling route for drugs heading to the United States, and had also served in the violent border state of Chihuahua."
When queried at a May 18 press conference in Washington, "whether and to what extent" these officers participated in the $1.6 billion taxpayer-financed boondoggle known as the Mérida Initiative or had received American training, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Robert L. Ditchey II tersely told reporters, "We are not going to get into those specifics."
Inquiring minds can't help but wonder what does the Pentagon, or certain three-lettered secret state agencies, have to hide?
CIA-Pentagon Death Squads
Although little explored by corporate media, the CIA and Defense Department's role in escalating violence across Mexico is part of a long-standing strategy by American policy planners to deploy what the late Col. L. Fletcher Prouty called The Secret Team, "skilled professionals under the direct control of someone higher up." According to Prouty, "Team members are like lawyers and agents, they work for someone. They generally do not plan their work. They do what their client tells them to do."
In the context of the misbegotten "War on Drugs," that "client" is the U.S. government and the nexus of bent banks, crooked cops, shady airplane brokers, chemical manufacturers, and spooky defense and surveillance firms who all profit from the chaos they help sustain.
As Narco News disclosed last summer, "A small but growing proxy war is underway in Mexico pitting US-assisted assassin teams composed of elite Mexican special operations soldiers against the leadership of an emerging cadre of independent drug organizations that are far more ruthless than the old-guard Mexican 'cartels' that gave birth to them."
"These Mexican assassin teams now in the field for at least half a year, sources tell Narco News, are supported by a sophisticated US intelligence network composed of CIA and civilian US military operatives as well as covert special-forces soldiers under Pentagon command--which are helping to identify targets for the Mexican hit teams."
"So it should be no surprise," Bill Conroy wrote, "that information is now surfacing from reliable sources indicating that the US government is once again employing a long-running counter-insurgency strategy that has been pulled off the shelf and deployed in conflicts dating back to Vietnam in the 1960s, in Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s, and beyond, and in more recent conflicts, such as in Iraq."
That strategy, as numerous journalists and researchers have reported, provides specialized training and heavy-weapons to neocolonial clients that the imperial Godfather believes will do their bidding. More often than not however, there are serious consequences for doing so.
As The Brownsville Herald revealed nearly a decade ago, the Zetas were the former enforcement arm of Juan García Ábrego's Gulf Cartel; then Mexico's richest and most powerful drug trafficking organization.
During the 1980s, the Gulf group negotiated an alliance with Colombia's Cali Cartel, amongst the CIA's staunchest drug-trafficking allies during the Iran-Contra period. By the 1990s, the Mexican Attorney General's Office estimated that the organization handled as much as "one-third of all cocaine shipments" into the United States from their suppliers and were worth an estimated $10 billion.
But as the Herald disclosed, the Zetas, now considered by the U.S. government to be the "most technologically advanced, sophisticated, and dangerous cartel operating in Mexico" were "once part of an elite division of the Mexican Army, the Special Air Mobile Force Group. At least one-third of this battalion's deserters was trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga., according to documents from the Mexican secretary of defense."
By 2010, the Zetas had broken with their former Gulf partners to become one of the most formidable, and brutal, DTOs in the area. According to published reports, the organization's core operatives include corrupt former federal, state and local police officers, renegade soldiers and ex-Kabiles, the CIA and Pentagon-trained Special Forces of the Guatemalan military, responsible for horrendous atrocities during that country's U.S.-sponsored "scorched earth" campaign against leftist guerrillas; a war which killed an estimated 250,000 people, largely at the hands of the military and right-wing death squads.
Perhaps this is one reason why the Pentagon "won't get into" the "specifics" behind the generals' recent arrests, nor will the Justice Department come clean about the "quid-pro-quo immunity deal with the US government in which they [the Sinaloa Cartel] were guaranteed protection from prosecution in exchange for providing US law enforcers and intelligence agencies with information that could be used to compromise rival Mexican cartels and their operations," as Narco News reported.
While the implications of these policies may be scandalous to the average citizen, they're part of a recurring pattern, one might even say a modus operandi reproduced ad nauseam.
More than three decades ago we learned from Danish journalist Henrik Krüger in The Great Heroin Coup, that the CIA was at the center of the "remarkable shift from Marseilles (Corsican) to Southeast Asian and Mexican (Mafia) heroin in the United States," and that the legendary take-down of the "French Connection" actually represented "a deliberate move to reconstruct and redirect the heroin trade... not to eliminate it." (emphasis added)
A similar process is underway in Mexico today as drug distribution networks battle it out for control over the multibillion dollar market flooding Europe and North America with processed cocaine from South America's fabled Crystal Triangle. In fact, the illicit trade would be nigh impossible without official complicity and corruption, on both sides of the border, and at the highest levels of what sociologist C. Wright Mills called the Power Elite.
Without batting an eye however, the Times told us that the arrest of Mexico's top "drug fighting" generals "is sure to rattle American law enforcement and military officers, who in the best of times often work warily with their Mexican counterparts, typically subjecting them to screening for any criminal ties."
Not if a U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Field Manual (FM 3-05.130), titled Unconventional Warfare, serves as a guide for the Pentagon's current strategic thinking on the conflict in Mexico. Published in 2008 by WikiLeaks, the anonymous authors informed us that:
Irregulars, or irregular forces, are individuals or groups of individuals who are not members of a regular armed force, police, or other internal security force. They are usually nonstate-sponsored and unconstrained by sovereign nation legalities and boundaries. These forces may include, but are not limited to, specific paramilitary forces, contractors, individuals, businesses, foreign political organizations, resistance or insurgent organizations, expatriates, transnational terrorism adversaries, disillusioned transnational terrorism members, black marketers, and other social or political "undesirables." (Unconventional Warfare, p. 1-3)
From this perspective such "irregular forces" sound suspiciously like today's army of professional contract killers or sicarios, who act as mercenaries for the cartels and as political enforcers for local elites.
According to carefully-crafted media fairy tales, we're to believe that unlike corrupt Federal and local police, the Army, which has deployed nearly 50,000 troops across Mexico are somehow magically immune to the global tide of corruption associated with an illicit trade worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
However, ubiquitous facts on the ground tell a different tale. Like their U.S. counterparts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Mexican Army stands accused of serious human rights violations. And, like marauding U.S. imperial invaders, Mexico's Army regularly carry out illegal detentions, extortion, extrajudicial killings, torture along with the "disappearance" of indigenous and left-wing activists.
Indeed, like their American and NATO counterparts in Afghanistan today, some elements within the Mexican Army have forged highly-profitable alliances with drug traffickers, especially among organized crime groups afforded "cover" by the CIA. But unlike the global godfathers in Washington however, Mexican authorities have brought criminal charges against corrupt officials.
In the Times' report we're informed that "a retired general, Juan Manuel Barragán Espinosa, was detained in February, accused of having leaked information to a drug gang. Another general, Manuel Moreno Avina, and several soldiers he commanded are on charges of murder, torture and drug trafficking in a border town in northern Mexico."
The Houston Chronicle disclosed that the "investigation of the generals reportedly was spurred by informants' testimony linked to the August 2010 arrest of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, the Laredo native known as La Barbie who served as the Beltran Leyva's top enforcer."
According to the Chronicle, "accusations of political motivation--by the generals' wives, lawyers and others--have been raised because of prosecutors' nearly two-year delay in acting on the informant's testimony and because the arrests come less than six weeks ahead of Mexico's presidential elections."
In fact, just days before being taken into custody, Ángeles "participated in a national security conference organized by supporters of presidential front-runner Enrique Peña Nieto, candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI."
But Ángeles' inconvenient arrest just weeks before contentious national elections isn't the only problem that PRI front-runner Peña Nieto has to worry about.
The Associated Press reported that Peña Nieto's one-time ally, the former governor of the violence-plagued state of Tamaulipas, Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, has been accused in a civil action filed by federal prosecutors in Texas that he "'acquired millions of dollars in payments' while in public office from drug cartels 'and from various extortion or bribery schemes'."
"Yarrington," AP disclosed, "then used various front men and businesses 'to become a major real estate investor through various money laundering mechanisms,' according to documents filed in Corpus Christi."
The former governor "was also named earlier this year in the federal indictment of Antonio Peña Arguelles, who was also charged with money laundering in San Antonio. That indictment alleged that leaders of the Gulf and Zetas cartels paid millions to Institutional Revolutionary Party members, including Yarrington," AP reported.
Curiously enough however, that AP report failed to mention Yarrington's close political ties to politicians on this side of the border. Indeed, according to Digital Journal writer Lynn Herrmann, "Yarrington was at Texas Governor Rick Perry's swearing into office for his first full term in 2003. Prior to that, the Tamaulipas governor was a recipient of a Texas Senate resolution honoring him."
"Even closer was the relationship between Yarrington and President George W. Bush," Herrmann wrote, "a relationship apparently developed when junior was governor of Texas. In 2000, the Los Angeles Times quoted Bush as saying, 'Tomás is terrific, worked with him a lot'."
Now why wouldn't the AP report that?!
While one cannot dismiss that political motivations may lie behind the arrests, salient facts coloring these latest examples of drug war shenanigans again betray that this phony war is being waged not to stamp-out the grim trade but over who controls it.
Another Day, Another Bent General
The arrests were hardly precedent setting if truth be told. Indeed, the best known case of collaboration between the Army and the Cartels was that of Gen. José de Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo.
After having risen in the ranks to become a Three-Star Divisional Commander in the 1990s, Gutiérrez was appointed by the Attorney General of Mexico during the reign of President Ernesto Zedillo, currently a director of the drug-tainted financial black hole Citigroup, accused of laundering tens of millions of dollars in drug money for Raúl Salinas de Gortari, the brother of Carlos Salinas, the former president of Mexico. With powerful connections, the general became that country's top-ranking drug interdiction officer as head of the Instituto Nacional para el Combate a las Drogas (INCD).
From his perch, Gutiérrez had access to intelligence provided to the government by Mexican and U.S. secret state agencies. The treasure trove of data available to the general and his patrons included files on antidrug investigations, wiretaps on cartel leaders and informant identities.
There was just one small problem.
After receiving a tip that Gutiérrez had moved into an upscale Mexico City neighborhood in an apartment "whose rent could not be paid for with the wage received by a public servant," the Attorney General's Office opened an investigation.
It turned out that Gutiérrez had moved into palatial digs owned by a confederate of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the legendary head of the Juárez Cartel and "Lord of the Heavens." The drug lord earned that moniker because he moved vast quantities of cocaine into the U.S. aboard a fleet of airplanes purchased from bent brokers on the American side of the border. This too is a recurring pattern, as Daniel Hopsicker revealed during his investigation into the secret history of a fleet of fifty drug planes bought with hot money laundered through U.S. banks.
During the course of their investigation, Mexican authorities obtained a recording of Gutiérrez and Carrillo Fuentes which discussed payments to the General; remuneration for his role in leaving the Juárez Cartel alone, then Mexico's largest drug corporation.
In a 1997 interview with The Boston Globe, Francisco Molina, the former head of the anti-narcotics unit, said that during the change of command, "he personally handed over to Gutiérrez all of Mexico's 'most delicate' drug-fighting information."
"The files included thousands of documents on open investigations," the Globe reported, "pending operations, wire taps and voluminous material on Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the trafficker to whom Gutiérrez was linked."
That information, Molina said, "places many people at risk, and it throws into the garbage the huge amount of resources, money, and time that were spent" on operations. "It's like letting the enemy in to dig around in the files."
And with the U.S. State Department poised to expand the Mexican secret state's access to the latest in communications' intercept technologies as Antifascist Calling recently reported, the Cartels may soon have even more information at their disposal and the wherewithal to strike their adversaries with ruthless efficiency.
'Dirty Warrior' and 'Lord of the Heavens' United in the Great Beyond
It remains to be seen whether the accused military men will suffer the fate of another narco-linked Army commander, retired Gen. Mario Acosta Chaparro.
The Latin American Herald Tribune reported last month that Acosta, "who was convicted of drug-gang ties a decade ago but subsequently exonerated, has died of wounds suffered in a gunshot attack, sources with the capital's district attorney's office said."
According to McClatchy's "Mexico Unmasked" blog, the general was killed "as he descended from his chauffeured vehicle to pick up his Mercedes Benz (how many generals can afford to buy MBs?) in a suburban area of Mexico City. A guy in a motorcycle fired 3 rounds from a 9mm handgun into Acosta's head."
As Antifascist Calling reported in 2010, this was the same general who was shot and wounded in Mexico City during an alleged "robbery attempt." At the time, El Universal reported that police claimed a thief wanted to "steal the general's watch" and shot him several times in the abdomen when he resisted.
It must have been a nice watch.
But with last month's murder it appears that Acosta's past caught up with him. "In 2007," Antifascist Calling reported, "after a six-year imprisonment on charges of providing protection to late drug trafficking kingpin Amado Carrillo Fuentes ... Acosta Chaparro was released from custody after his conviction was overturned on appeal."
Freed on technicalities despite testimony by witnesses under the protection of the Mexican government, documents published by WikiLeaks revealed that the Swiss Bank Julius Baer's Cayman Islands unit hid "several million dollars" of funds controlled by Acosta and his wife, Silvia, through a firm known as Symac Investments.
WikiLeaks wondered whether Mexican authorities would "want to know whether the several millions of USD had anything to do with the allegations that Mr Chaparro, a former police chief from the Mexican state of Guerrero, stopped chasing his local drug dealers and joined them in business."
The secret-spilling web site averred: "With the assistance of Julius Baer, Mr Chaparro was able to invest several millions of USD in Symac with all the secrecy which the Caymans allowed and to draw out some $12,000 a month until he suddenly stopped it in July 1998. The following year, a particularly notorious colleague from the Mexican police became an FBI informer and offered new evidence against him."
During his 2002 trial on drug trafficking and corruption charges one of the witnesses, Gustavo Tarín Chávez testified that Acosta answered a phone call and a voice on the other end of the line said: "Son! How are you? Son!" Tarín Chávez told the court that the only person who called the general "son" was none other then Amado Carrillo Fuentes.
During that call, the late drug lord told Acosta that he had spoken with Rubén Figueroa Alcocer, the former governor of Guerrero, and that "everything was settled."
Multiple reports in the Mexican press subsequently revealed that the general had been given orders to pick up fifty AK-47 assault rifles, thirty semiautomatic pistols, twenty two-way radios and a SUV from Carrillo Fuentes and deliver them to the governor.
Talk about a high-priced errand boy!
Tarín Chávez also testified that Acosta did all the technical planning for the Juárez group and made arrangements for the arrival of Colombian aircraft loaded with cocaine and that this logistics work involved the delivery of vehicles, cash and communications' equipment to other military officers who worked for the drug lord.
Though his case was tossed out by the Mexican Supreme Court due to a "lack of evidence" (perhaps one or all of those witnesses lost their "protection" and "vanished," into an unmarked grave perhaps?), like other close U.S. allies in the "War on Drugs," Acosta had been linked to Mexico's "dirty war" against the left during the 1970s under the administration of President Luis Echeverría.
Echeverría was Interior Minister during President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz's corrupt, repressive regime. Díaz, with much encouragement from the Pentagon, State Department and the CIA, ordered the murders of hundreds of student protesters in the now-infamous Tlatelolco Plaza massacre a few days before the start of the 1968 Summer Olympics.
In 2006, investigative journalist Jefferson Morley and The National Security Archive obtained previously classified documents which revealed "CIA recruitment of agents within the upper echelons of the Mexican government between 1956 and 1969. The informants used in this secret program included President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz and future President Luis Echeverría."
Those documents detailed "the relationships cultivated between senior CIA officers, such as chief of station Winston Scott, and Mexican government officials through a secret spy network code-named 'LITEMPO.' Operating out of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Scott used the LITEMPO project to provide 'an unofficial channel for the exchange of selected sensitive political information which each government wanted the other to receive but not through public protocol exchanges'."
Scott, a strident anticommunist who saw Moscow's "hidden hand" everywhere, suspected that student protests were "a communist controlled rebellion," and argued that the movement represented "a classic example of the Communists' ability to divert a peaceful demonstration into a major riot." Never mind that radical students despised the Stalinist Communist Party of Mexico and viewed them as conservative sell-outs; for Scott and his CIA masters, the fable of an International Communist Conspiracy directed by the Kremlin had to be maintained at all costs.
"As the student protests grew larger," Morley wrote, "Scott's information from the LITEMPO agents informed Ambassador Freeman's increasingly dire cables to Washington, which noted that Díaz Ordaz and the people around him were talking tougher. The government 'implicitly accepts consequence that this will produce casualties,' the ambassador wrote. 'Leaders of student agitation have been and are being taken into custody....In other words, the [government] offensive against student disorder has opened on physical and psychological fronts'."
The rest, as they say, is history. Army units stationed around the perimeter of Tlatelolco Plaza and in the windows of adjoining buildings began to open fire on the protesters; hundreds were killed and more than fifteen hundred people were arrested, many of whom were subsequently tortured and then "disappeared."
Heroin Coups and Iran-Contra Connections
Díaz and Echeverría did more than just ignore crimes perpetrated by the drug and CIA-linked intelligence agency, the Direcciòn Federal de Seguridad, or DFS; in the wake of the massacre, they handed DFS and the Army a blank check to carry out an anti-leftist purge which claimed thousands of lives.
Analyzing the CIA's role in global drug trafficking networks, researcher Peter Dale Scott wrote: "One of the most crime-ridden CIA assets we know of is the Mexican DFS, which the US helped to create. From its foundation in the 1940s, the DFS, like other similar kryptocracies in Latin America, was deeply involved with international drug-traffickers. By the 1980s possession of a DFS card was recognized by DEA agents as a 'license to traffic'."
According to Scott, "DFS agents rode security for drug truck convoys, and used their police radios to check of signs of American police surveillance. Eventually the DFS became so identified with the criminal drug-trafficking organizations it managed and protected, that in the 1980s the DFS was (at least officially) closed down."
Though 90 at the time of this writing, Echeverría, until recently, was considered the éminence grise of Mexican politics. He continued to wield considerable power long after his presidential term ended, mostly through his influence over the "old guard" of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI, the special police and army forces stood up under his watch, along with his alleged ties to the drug cartels.
As Scott and Jonathan Marshall disclosed in Cocaine Politics, the "failure" of various anti-trafficking programs such as Operation Condor "were inevitable given the records of the two Mexican presidents" who oversaw the operation.
"Luis Echeverría, under whom the program began," Scott and Marshall wrote, "appears to have been linked to [drug trafficker and CIA asset Alberto] Sicilia Falcón through his wife, whose family members had suspected ties to the European heroin trade." And when José López Portillo "took charge in 1976," Scott and Marshall averred, he "reportedly amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in criminal profits and bought large estates in Spain with the proceeds."
As Henrik Krüger related in The Great Heroin Coup, when he was arrested in 1975, Sicilia Falcón "claimed to be an agent of the CIA, and that his drug ring had been set up on orders and with the support of the agency."
"Part of his profits," Krüger wrote, "were to go towards the purchase of weapons and ammunition for distribution throughout Central America for the destabilization of 'undesirable' governments. If true, U.S. heroin addicts were again footing the bill for clandestine paramilitary operations and anti-Communist terror campaigns."
But the former president's shady connections didn't stop there. Indeed, Echeverría's brother-in-law, Rubén Zuno Arce, was convicted in U.S. Federal District Court in California in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison for his role as a top-tier leader of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo's Guadalajara drug cartel and for the torture-murder of U.S. DEA agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena in 1985.
Camarena had amassed evidence that the CIA and U.S. State Department considered Gallardo "untouchable" because of the "special relationship" forged by the Agency amongst drug traffickers and the Nicaraguan Contras. Scott and Marshall disclosed that "Mexico's biggest smuggler, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, responsible for moving four tons of cocaine a month into the United States, was also 'a big supporter' of the Contras, according to his pilot Werner Lotz. Lotz told the DEA that his boss advanced him more than $150,000 to pass on to the Contras."
In an 1996 PBS interview with former DEA deep-cover specialist turned whistleblower, Michael Levine, the co-host of The Expert Witness Radio Show, Levine related that "Camarena was a DEA agent working on high level drug investigations. He was stationed in Guadalajara, Mexico and his investigations were taking him right into the Contra resupply lines, that is, the Contras trafficking in drugs with the support of the Hondurans, the Mexicans, and everybody else and Enrique was down there working this case with an informer and suddenly he's arrested in broad daylight by Mexican police. He's taken to a ranch of a top Mexican criminal and slowly tortured to death over a 24 hour period."
"And later what is... what's found is Enrique was investigating [Honduran drug lord Juan Ramón] Matta-Ballesteros and Matta-Ballesteros' partner Gallardo and Matta-Ballesteros, by the way, was on the State Department payroll... in spite of being a documented heavy drug trafficker. His airline that we knew was used to traffic drugs, was used on the US government payroll to fly these Contra resupply mission. So here's this murderer who was later convicted of murdering... or conspiring to murder Kiki Camarena and he was on the US government payroll in spite of the fact that the DEA called him a drug trafficker, in spite of the fact that Kiki Camarena was investigating him. Now here's Kiki Camarena investigating the Oliver North supply line and he's tortured to death."
As investigative journalist Robert Parry revealed two years later on the Consortium News web site, Matta-Ballesteros' airline, SETCO, "emerged as the principal company for ferrying supplies to the contras in Honduras."
"During congressional Iran-contra hearings, FDN political leader Adolfo Calero testified that SETCO was paid from bank accounts controlled by Oliver North. SETCO also received $185,924 from the State Department for ferrying supplies to the contras in 1986."
Let's get this straight: Ollie North, a convicted felon who turned a blind eye to drug trafficking Contra networks he helped stand up runs for the U.S. Senate, hosts a "national defense" program on Fox News and earns millions of dollars. "Kiki" Camarena, who's investigating North's criminal assets is brutally murdered by those same "resistance" fighters.
Curiously enough, when Sinaloa Cartel head Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán escaped in 2001 from a maximum-security prison during the "reform" administration of Vicente Fox, then the leader of the neoliberal Partido Acción Nacional, or PAN, and whose Federal Police chief was recommended by Luis Echeverría, it emerged that Guzmán once worked for Matta-Ballesteros, Gallardo and Zuno Acre's Guadalajara Cartel.
But then again, with the CIA suppressing evidence that they negotiated a quid-pro-quo with the Sinaloa Cartel and can't talk about it because of "national security," or that an FBI drug-trafficking informant was at the center of the Justice Department's gun-walking "Fast and Furious" fiasco and can't be prosecuted, perhaps controlled chaos is just what the Global Godfather wants.
A bent general or two is the least of our problems.