Colombia’s Gringo Invasion

The US military boasts that its Army Special Forces or “Green Berets” are “the most versatile special operations soldiers in the world.” [1] While serving under the Department of Defense (DoD), members of these units, trained in unconventional warfare, psychological operations, and other skills, sometimes work on temporary “attachment” to the CIA’s Directorate of Operations.[2] Under CIA auspices, Green Beret advisers have been involved in both covert actions (never to be attributed to the US) such as Operation Phoenix, which set up death squads in Vietnam in the 1960s, and clandestine operations (secret only during their execution) such as the training of El Salvador’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols in the 1980s.[3]

In the 1990s, Green Berets and other US advisers have been deeply involved in Colombia, even though it has the worst ongoing human rights record in Latin America.[4] Last year, at least 231 US military and intelligence advisers were sent there, according to the DoD’s official deployment schedules.[5] These include two teams with 52 US Green Beret advisers each to train the Colombian Army in “junior leadership” combat skills. That official count is only three fewer than the congressionally-imposed limit (often violated[6]) on the number of in-country US advisers deployed in El Salvador during the peak of its war. Even more Green Beret advisers have trained Colombian Army Special Forces units outside Colombia at US bases in Panama.[7] According to US officials involved, this particular training has taken place under the auspices of the CIA as part of a “Top Secret” counter-drug program.[8]

Since 1989, all US military training, advice, arms and services to Colombia have been officially earmarked for the drug war. While most coca leaf is grown in surrounding Andean countries, Colombia refines and exports about 80 percent of the world’s processed cocaine.[9] US anti-drug policy, by prioritizing law enforcement over prevention and treatment measures, puts considerable pressure on countries such as Colombia. All of Washington’s $169 million annual aid to that country is earmarked to counter drugs. Some has actually been used for this purpose. A Bogota-based CIA team, for example, was instrumental in the 1995 arrests of the top leaders of the Cali cartel. But most US aid has been diverted to Bogota’s counterinsurgency war against leftist guerrillas. Since the 1960s, the Colombian military, with US backing, has been fighting the formerly pro-Moscow Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the pro-Cuba National Liberation Army (ELN), as well as other groups. In recent years, the conflict has heated up, with Amnesty International reporting more than 20,000 dead since 1986.[10] While all sides have committed abuses, the military and allied (though illegal) rightist paramilitary groups are guilty of the vast majority.[11]

Spooks Bearing Gifts

Human rights monitors have long accused Washington of complicity in these crimes. Now they have proof. Last October, Amnesty International released internal US military documents showing that the US had provided arms to 13 of 14 Colombian army units that Amnesty had cited for abuses.[12] In November, Human Rights Watch released US and Colombian military documents, along with oral testimony, showing that in 1991, both the CIA and DoD advised Colombia before its Defense Ministry established 41 clandestine intelligence networks. According to a classified (reservado) ministry order creating the program, the networks’ only function was to target “the armed subversion,” i.e., leftist guerrillas and their suspected supporters. Four former members of one network, based in the river port town of Barrancabermeja, testified that it incorporated illegal paramilitary groups and was responsible for killing hundreds of civilians.[13]

The CIA was directly involved in helping design and fund the intelligence networks, according to retired US Army Col. James S. Roach, Jr., then military attaché and Defense (Department) Intelligence Agency liaison in Bogota. “The CIA set up the clandestine nets on their own,” Roach says. “They had a lot of money. It was kind of like Santa Claus had arrived.” CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield declined to comment.[14]

These CIA-promoted intelligence networks enabled the Colombian military and illegal paramilitaries to expand the pattern of secret collaboration which began in the early 1980s. According to Javier Giraldo, a Jesuit priest and founder of Colombia’s Inter-Congregational Commission for Justice and Peace:

A vast network of armed civilians began to replace, at least in part, soldiers and policemen who could be easily identified. They also started to employ methods that had been carefully designed to ensure secrecy and generate confusion. Because of this, witnesses and victims of crimes are unsure of the exact identity of the individual(s) responsible for committing them. This problem with identifying the perpetrators is often insurmountable.

At the same time, members of the army and police began to conceal their identities, frequently wearing civilian clothes and hoods, to drive unmarked cars and to take their victims to clandestine torture centers, all in order to forego legal formalities in arrest. What has frequently followed these abductions is intimidation or torture, enforced disappearances and murder.[15]

SOA’s Traditional Values

While DoD officials continue to deny complicity in human rights violations, the close ties between US intelligence and defense agencies and their Colombian counterparts are well documented. Last year, for example, the US Navy deployed 97 operations and intelligence advisers in-country. There they helped plan strategy with the Colombian Navy command and provided tactical advice to units based out of ports including Barrancabermeja.[16] Meanwhile, US Green Berets train the Colombian army in Cimitarra, a town that even Colombian police reports identify as a center of illegal paramilitary operations.[17] Other US officials work closely with Colombia top commanders. The US Military Advisory Group’s office is inside the Colombian Armed Forces command compound, conveniently down the hall from the offices of the Colombian army commander.

As is the case throughout much of Latin America, many key human rights violators have received US training. Commander Gen. Manuel Jose Bonett Locarno is one of hundreds of Colombian officers who have graduated from the US School of the Americas (SOA).[18] He was later implicated in torturing and murdering trade unionists, community leaders, and human rights monitors. Bonett, who denies responsibility for these or any other crimes, reports to Gen. Harold Bedoya Pizarro, Colombia’s Armed Forces commander, who studied military intelligence at the SOA in 1965 and was invited back to teach it as a guest professor in 1978 and 1979. A coalition of European human rights groups and others have accused him of running death squads comprised of joint military and paramilitary forces. More recently, Bedoya has mapped out “intelligence planning regarding the country’s internal political situation” through El Diario de Bedoya, a classified analysis with general orders from Bedoya himself, regularly sent to all divisions and brigade commanders.[19]

While Bedoya acknowledges that he has identified suspects for army surveillance, both he and Bonett deny that these targets include such legal entities as community leaders, non-governmental organizations, or political parties and their elected officials. But a July 1995 “reservado” division-wide order signed by Bonett instructs army intelligence networks to conduct “permanent surveillance of the municipal governments and the ways in which they are managing their funds.”[20] Another classified Colombian army document from March 1995 claims that the guerrillas have infiltrated an estimated 800 locally-elected municipal governments nationwide and an unknown number of non-governmental organizations, “especially leftist ones … in Colombia, the United States, Canada, Europe.” This activity has led the groups, the document goes on, to adopt positions favoring “the overcoming of impunity,” “the vigilant and effective monitoring of human rights,” and “the construction of a peace process.”[21]

Within Colombia’s tense climate, simply identifying an organization or individual as “leftist” is tantamount to authorizing anything from surveillance to murder, and indeed, many Colombians so labeled have disappeared or been killed. Take the rural town of Aguachica in the northern Magdalena Valley, where the army’s ability to process intelligence is made more efficient with computers. One classified printout, “Latest Information on the Enemy,” was prepared by army Task Force No. 27 Pantera (Panther). It names dozens of alleged subversives, including leaders of the local Community Action Movement (CAM), a legal group which this printout identifies as a “political branch” of the guerrillas. Their crime? Community leaders “led a meeting of peasants where they espoused their political objectives and how they plan to achieve them as a movement.”[22]

Among CAM’s popular leaders were “Libardo Galvis, a.k.a. Lalo” and his brothers, Jesus Emilio and Luis Tiberio. On September 24,1995, two months after the army printout, Jesus and Luis were abducted by armed men, “some wearing civilian clothes and others wearing army uniforms with the insignias of the Counter-guerrilla Unit Task Force No. 27.” Witnesses quoted by the human rights group, MINGA, later said: “The brothers were brutally tortured. They burned the fingers of their hands, and then decapitated them.” The same armed men then walked to a nearby village and killed a local police inspector, Emelda Ruiz, who had been investigating death squad crimes. According to witnesses: “The perpetrators announced that they would be back for other people whose names they had on their lists.”[23]

There is also good documentation of abuses by the Colombian Navy, which has also been armed, trained, and advised by the United States. The US helped design its Riverine units to patrol rivers in search of trafficking boats. One of the ports the Riverines are based in is Barrancabermeja, also the site of one of the 41 intelligence networks promoted by the CIA. Four ex-agents of this network have testified about it. In a pattern used around the country, naval intelligence wanted to keep the network covert, so it incorporated retired military officers and other civilians to both gather intelligence and execute operations. One such clandestine operative was ex-naval Sgt. Saulo Segura. He reported to Capt. Juan Carlos Alvarez, the network chief who served under Lt. Col. Rodrigo Quinonez, then the Navy’s top intelligence commander.[24] Together these men identified targets for surveillance and decided which ones to hit.

One ex-agent testified:

[Lt.] Col. Rodrigo Quinonez was told everything about the [surveillance] operations. And according to what was discovered, he would speak with Capt. Juan Carlos Alvarez, alias El Ingeniero [“The Engineer”], giving the green light if the operation was OK or not, in other words, to kill people or not. After that, Capt. Juan Carlos Alvarez would communicate directly with [our team leaders], who told us what to do. If it was by phone, they used the following codes: “There are some broken motors. I need you to repair them. They are in such and such a place.” And they would give the address. “Take good mechanics and good tools.” Mechanics meant sicarios [hired assassins], good tools meant good arms, and the motors meant the victims.[25]

According to the testimony of four ex-agents, early victims included the president, vice-president, and treasurer of the local transportation workers union; two leaders of the local oil workers union (another one of its leaders was killed last October); one leader of a local peasant workers’ union; and two human rights monitors.[26]

These murders and others drew the interest of Ismael Jaimes, editor of La Opinion, Barrancabermeja’s leading independent newspaper. After investigating for several months, he began writing columns alleging that the military was behind these crimes. Finally Jaimes was targeted too. One witness said: “After following him for several months, they established that he went every morning to drop off his son at school in the Torcoroma neighborhood, where he was killed one moming.”[27]

Soon the network attracted even more attention as many of its sicarios were also accused of robberies and other common crimes. To protect itself from exposure, the Navy began killing off operatives. On June 1, 1992, after four network sicarios were apprehended by a regular army unit over an authorized murder, military intelligence officers disappeared all four, according to a document signed by the regular unit’s commanders.[28] Later, several more network personnel were killed. Unidentified gunmen eventually tried to kill Segura, wounding him twice. [29]

This turned Segura against the Navy, and he joined three of his former colleagues who testified against their superiors. But instead of prosecuting the officers named by these ex-agents, the Colombian government charged and imprisoned Segura. Last year inside La Modelo, Bogota’s maximum security jail, he glanced about nervously before saying, “I hope they don’t kill me.” Two months later, on Christmas Eve, Segura was murdered inside his cellblock with a handgun left next to his corpse. His murder remains unsolved; the whereabouts of the other three witnesses remain unknown. Nonetheless, they provided solid and overlapping details about the murders of 57 specific political opponents and activists. Yet not one case has gone to Court.[30]

American Hand

The US bears complicity in Colombia’s human rights record, having armed, trained and advised most of the military units and commands directly implicated in the killing. Still, the Clinton administration is now increasing aid to the Colombian military. This year, the US is sending a record $169 million in arms. They include 12 Blackhawk helicopter gunships, even though Amnesty International has already shown how US weapons have been diverted to the Colombian military’s dirty counterinsurgency war. Nonetheless, US officials insist that this time, the weapons will be used to fight drugs. “[W]e are very clear that the military assistance that we provide to Colombia must be used for the purposes intended, counter-narcotics,” said Nicholas Burns, The State Department spokesman.[31] But human rights groups no longer believe it. Recent revelations by both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch “confirm what we expected,” says Charles Roberts of the Washington, DC-based Colombia Human Rights Committee. ” While trying to avoid the appearance of complicity in human rights violations, the United States has continued to provide training and materiel to the Colombian military irrespective of its horrendous abuses.”[32]

1. US Special Operations Forces Posture Statement, (Washington, D.C.: US Defense Department, 1994), p. 10
2. Interviews with senior Department of Defense (DoD) officials, Dec. 1995.
3. Douglas Valentine, Phoenix Program (New York: William Morrow, 1990); and Frank Smyth, “Secret Warriors: U.S. Advisors Have Taken Up Arms in El Salvador,” The Village Voice, Aug. 11, 1987. The US role in training these patrols first came out in testimony by Lt. Col. Oliver North during the Iran-Contra hearings. One of the CIA operatives involved, Felix Rodriguez, a.k.a. Max Gomez, also participated in the 1967 Bolivian operation, which resulted in the capture and summary execution of Che Guevara.
4. See, among others, Amnesty lnternational, Political Violence in Colombia: Myth and Reality (London: Al Publications, 1994); Javier Giraldo, S.J, Colombia: The Genocidal Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1996).
5. “List of FY96 Deployments for USMILGP [US Military Advisory Group] Colombia. This document first appeared in Appendix 3 of Human Rights Watch, Colombia’s Killer Networks: The Military/Paramilitary Partnership and the United States, Washington, D.C., 1996)
6. Interview with Anne Manuel, deputy director, Human Rights Watch/Americas, Feb. 1997.
7. Human Rights Watch. op. cit., p. 91.
8. Interviews with senior DoD officials, Dec. 1995.
9. See “The Cali Cartel: New Kings of Cocaine,” US Drug Enforcement Administration Drug Intelligence Report, Nov. 1994; and The National Narcotics Intelligence Consumers Committee Report 1993: The Supply of Illicit Drugs to the United States, Aug. 1994, pp. 2-6.
10. Amnesty International, op. cit., p. 1.
11. Ibid., pp. 67-74.
12. See, among others, Reuters, “Amnesty calls for halt in U.S. aid to Colombia,” Oct. 29, 1996.
13. Human Rights Watch, op. cit., pp. 27-41.
14. Telephone interview, March 1996.
15. Giraldo, op. cit., p. 22.
16. List of FY96 Deployments, op. cit.
17. “Human Rights Watch,” op, cit., p. 91.
18. Out of the one list of 247 Colombian military officers implicated in specific human rights cases, 124 of them have received training at the US School of the Americas. Another seven Colombians, including Bedoya, have been invited to teach there. This Alumni list was prepared by Fred Gaona and is on file at the Washington Office on Latin America. Profiles of both the known abusers and the evidence against them was compiled by a coalition of European human rights groups in El Terrorismo de Estado en Colombia (Brussels), Ediciones NCOS, 1992, pp. 71-72.
19. Authors’ notes on document, Oct. 1996.
20. “Asunto: Examinacion de la Estrategia Divisionaria, Reservado,” signed by Maj. Gen. Manuel Jose Bonett Locarno, when he was the Colombian Army Second Division commander, July 24,1995.
21. “Asunto Apreciacion Coyuntural Situacion Nacional,” signed by Lt. Col. Jose Domingo Garcia Garcia, second commander and chief of staff of the Colombian Army Fifth Brigade, March 2, 1995.
22. Fuerza de Tarea No. 27 “Pantera, Ultimas Informaciones del Enemigo,” April 8-July 11, 1995.
23. MINGA Urgent Action, “Political Genocide Continues in Aguachica, Cesar,” Sept. 25, 1995.
24. Interview with Saulo Segura Palacios, La Modelo prison, Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 18, 1995.
25. Testimony of Carlos Alberto Vergara Amaya to the Colombian attorney general, Feb. 11, 1994.
26. Letter from Carlos David Lopez to the Colombian attorney general, Dec. 7, 1993; Letter from Saulol Segura Palacios to the Colombian attorney general, Dec. 7, 1993; Testimony of Carlos Alberto Vergara Amaya to the Colombian attorney general, Feb. 11, 1994; and Letter from Felipe Gomez to the Colombian attorney general, Nov. 29, 1994.
27. Letter from Carlos David Lopez, Dec. 7, 1993
28. “Asunto: Informe desaparicion personas,” signed by Colombian Army Gen. Marino Gutierrez Isaza, June 2, 1992, as quoted in Human Rights Watch, op. cit.
29. Interview with Segura, op. cit.
30. See Human Rights Watch, op. cit.; and Charles Roberts, “Rule of Law and Development: U.S. AID and the Public Courts of Colombia,” Georgetown University Law Center manuscript, Spring 1995.
31. Transcript of State Department briefing, Washington, D.C., Oct. 29, 1996.
32. Interview, Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 1997.”

La Mano Blanca en Colombia

La CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) ha respaldado por mucho tiempo a sus aliados anticomunistas quienes, durante su relación con la CIA o después, han traficado drogas. Esto no es sorprendente. Desde los primeros años ’60, los manuales militares estadounidenses sugirieron que los agentes de la inteligencia se aliaran con “contrabandistas” y con “operadores del mercado negro” para derrotar a los insurgentes comunistas, como reportó Michael McClintock en su libro “Los instrumentos de la formación del Estado” (Instruments of Statecraft). La CIA hizo precisamente eso, por ejemplo en el Sudeste de Asia.

Después, durante la misma década, la CIA se alió con los Hmong en Laos, entre otros, quienes según el historiador Alfred W. McCoy, traficaban con opio.Note1 Otro ejemplo es Afganistán donde, en los años ochenta, la CIA apoyó a los Mujahedeen en su lucha contra la Unión Soviética. Durante los años noventa, según Tim Weiner (The New York Times), los mismos Mujahedeen llegan a controlar hasta la tercera parte del opio (materia prima de la heroína) que llega a los Estado Unidos.

En nuestros días, el ejemplo de Colombia es aún más claro. Además de sufrir tasas desenfrenadas de criminalidad común, Colombia es un país lisiado por dos campañas de órden político en marcha; una es la guerra que, desde hace tres décadas, enfrenta a los militares colombianos (respaldados por la CIA) y sus aliados paramilitares, contra los grupos guerrilleros de la izquierda, anteriormente primero pro-Moscú y luego pro-Habana. La otra campaña es la guerra contra las drogas, con un campo de batalla mucho menos claro. Todos estos grupos tienen elementos involucrados en el narcotráfico colombiano que cubre aproximadamente el 80 por ciento de la producción mundial de cocaína, la materia prima del crack.

La CIA no es la excepción en Colombia. Desde 1995, un equipo de élite antinarcóticos, dirigido -en actitud progresista- por una mujer y conformado mayormente por tecnócratas jóvenes y competentes, tuvo una participación decisiva en la captura de los siete capos del Cártel de Cali. Pero en 1991 hubo un otro equipo de la CIA que jugó un papel diferente. Más interesados en apoyar a la guerra sucia contra la insurrección que a los esfuerzos antidrogas, éste equipo ayudó a forjar y financiar una alianza secreta anticomunista de los militares colombianos y grupos paramilitares ilegales, muchos de los cuales hoy en día trafican drogas.

¿Por qué fue secreta esta alianza? Dos años antes, en 1989, luego de que una investigación del gobierno colombiano descubrió que el Cártel de Medellín (encabezado por Pablo Escobar) se había apoderado de estos mismos grupos paramilitares, Colombia los había prohibido. En aquel tiempo, Escobar y sus socios estaban resistiendo ferozmente la presión de los EE.UU. para la aprobación en Colombia de leyes de extradición que permitieran su procesamiento en los EE.UU. por cargos de narcotráfico. Así, Escobar y sus socios empezaron a controlar a los grupos paramilitares más fuertes de Colombia, para utilizarlos en una lucha terrorista contra el Estado. Estos paramilitares, con sede en el Valle de Magdalena Medio, fueron los responsables de una ola de crímenes violentos, incluyendo la destrucción por bomba del vuelo HK-180 de la aerolínea Avianca en 1989, que causó la muerte de 111 personas. Investigadores concluyeron que la bomba fue detonada por un altímetro y que los autores del atentado fueron capacitados por merce

narios israelitas, británicos y otros, encabezados por un teniente coronel de la reserva del ejército israelita, Yair Klein. Los militares colombianos habían ayudado a proteger los entrenamientosNote2 y Escobar cancelaba los honorarios de los mercenarios.

La CIA ignoró estos hechos cuando, dos años más tarde, decidió renovar en secreto la alianza entre los militares colombianos y los grupos paramilitares. Los grupos insurgentes de la izquierda permanecían relativamente fuertes, a pesar de que había finalizado la Guerra Fría y la ayuda económica del bloque de Europa Oriental. Muchos sindicatos, grupos de estudiantes, campesinos y otros, les proveían con apoyo político y hasta logístico. Los agentes de la CIA sabían que los paramilitares -civiles generalmente comandados por oficiales retirados de las Fuerzas Armadas- podían ofrecer a los militares colombianos pretextos plausibles para negar su participación en asesinatos de izquierdistas sospechosos y en otros crímenes de esa índole. En palabras de Javier Giraldo, sacerdote jesuita y fundador de la Comisión Intercongregacional por la Justicia y la Paz en Colombia: “Una enorme red de civiles armados empezó a reemplazar, por los menos en parte, a soldados y policías quienes podían ser fácilmente identificados. Est

os grupos irregulares empezaron a emplear métodos cuidadosamente diseñados para mantener en secreto sus actividades y generar confusión.” Pero ni la CIA ni ninguna otra agencia estadounidense admitió que seguía apoyando a la campaña contra-insurgente en Colombia.

En cambio, los oficiales estadounidenses afirman que, desde 1989, todo el apoyo de su país a Colombia ha sido planificado en función de la guerra a las drogas. “Hubo un debate muy grande (sobre la mejor distribución del) dinero para las operaciones anti-narcóticos en Colombia”, afirmó el coronel (retirado) de Ejército estadounidense, James S. Roach (hijo), en ese entonces el agregado militar de más alto rango y enlace de la DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) en Bogotá; “EE.UU. estaba buscando una manera de ayudar, pero si no estás dispuesto a combatir con tropas propias, hay que buscar una salida”.

Así hicieron. Primero, un equipo interagencial (que incluyó a representantes del Grupo de Asesores Militares de la Embajada de los Estados Unidos en Bogotá; del Comando Sur en Panamá; de la DIA en Washington; y de la CIA en Langley, estado de Virginia), formuló recomendaciones para hacer una reestructuración general de las redes colombianas de inteligencia militar. Después, la CIA financió independientemente la incorporación de fuerzas paramilitares a esas redes. No le importó a la CIA que estas fuerzas paramilitares en ese momento fueran ilegales en Colombia; ni tampoco le importó que fueran explícitamente prohibidas, debido a la creciente influencia de Pablo Escobar y su Cártel de Medellín en la dirección de estos grupos.

Además del tráfico de drogas, los nefastos paramilitares colombianos han sido implicados en muchos abusos de los derechos humanos. Este hecho llevó a que, entre otros, el Departamento de Defensa norteamericano recomendara que las Fuerzas Armadas colombianas no los incorporaran en sus nuevas redes de inteligencia. “La intención fue no ser relacionados con los paramilitares”, dijo el coronel Roach, quién mantuvo contactos frecuentes con agentes de la CIA en Bogotá, quienes, según él, tenían otra estrategia. “La CIA organizó las redes clandestinas por su cuenta; tenía bastante dinero, fue más o menos como si llegara Papá Noel”. Mark Mansfield, portavoz de la CIA, se negó a brindar cualquier comentario al respecto.

Noticias de estas redes clandestinas de inteligencia salieron por primera vez a luz pública a través de Human Rights Watch, cuando ésta organización privada publicó, en noviembre de 1996, documentos de las FF.AA. (estadounidenses y colombianas), así como testimonios orales, que demuestran que ambos, el Departamento de Defensa (EE.UU.) y la CIA, persuadieron a Colombia para reorganizar por completo su sistema de inteligencia militar. En mayo de 1991, Colombia conformó 41 nuevas redes de inteligencia en todo el país; según la orden colombiana que las estableció: “con base en las recomendaciones de la comisión de asesores militares de los EE.UU.”. Más tarde, cuatro ex-integrantes colombianos de una red en el Valle de Magdalena Medio, declararon que la red tenía incorporados a grupos paramilitares ilegales, pagados tanto por el acopio de información de inteligencia como por el asesinato de personas sospechosos de ser izquierdistas.

Aunque oficiales estadounidenses sostienen que apoyan la reestructuración del sistema de inteligencia como parte de los esfuerzos antidrogas, la mencionada orden colombiana instruye a las nuevas redes a luchar solamente contra “la subversión armada” o la guerrilla izquierdista. De hecho, la mayoría de la guerrilla izquierdista colombiana -especialmente las FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas)- está también involucrada con el narcotráfico. Sin embargo, un reciente estudio interagencial, encomendado por Myles Frechette, embajador de los EE.UU. en Bogotá, concluye que el papel de las guerrillas en el narcotráfico se limita principalmente a la protección de plantaciones de materia prima, y en menor grado, a las operaciones de procesamiento de droga. En cambio, de acuerdo a las autoridades de orden colombianas así como de inteligencia estadounidenses, los paramilitares derechistas (en alianza con los militares) protegen mayormente los laboratorios de droga y las rutas internas de transporte. Es más,

según un informe de las fuerzas de orden colombianas, el narcotráfico ha vuelto a ser el “eje central” de financiamiento de los paramilitares.

Asimismo, un informe de 1995 sobre el Valle de Magdalena y preparado por investigadores de la Policía Judicial colombiana, sostiene que los militares y paramilitares en esta zona permanecen aliados: “no exclusivamente para la lucha anti-subversiva, sino también para beneficiarse económicamente y abrir el paso a los narcotraficantes”. El informe nombra como paramilitar sospechoso a “el conocido narcotraficante Víctor Carranza”. Carranza, contemporáneo de Pablo Escobar, en un principio cobró fama al alcanzar la cumbre del rentable negocio de esmeraldas en las montañas de Boyaca, eliminando a la vez al númeroso frente guerrillero de esa región. Poco después, Carranza también llegó a ser un terrateniente de importancia, comprando enormes terrenos en los llanos orientales de Meta, una provincia plagada de cultivos para la droga así como de laboratorios para su procesamiento. Hoy en día, la policía colombiana identifica a Carranza como traficante de múltiples toneladas de droga, y como uno de los líderes principale

s de los abundantes grupos paramilitares colombianos, como por ejemplo, en Meta, el infame Serpiente Negra. Organizaciones de derechos humanos han acusado a Carranza de ser el autor intelectual de tanto asesinatos como masacres.

No existen evidencias de que Carranza haya sido, en algún momento, un informante o colaborador de la CIA pero tiene credenciales anticomunistas impecables y mantiene contactos frecuentes con los militares. Testigos militares han dado cuenta de una reunión con oficiales en su hotel “Los Llanos” en Villavicencio (Meta). También los oficiales estadounidenses saben mucho de él: “Carranza aparece a menudo en los informes de inteligencia”, según un experto. Don Víctor, como lo conocen sus hombres, es un líder chapado a la antigua. Continúa frecuentando sus minas de esmeraldas para disfrutar la primacia en la selección de las piedras más grandes y de las mejores vetas descubiertas.

Carranza es un hombre intocable. En 1995, uno de sus supuestos lugartenientes, Arnulfo (Rasguño) Castillo Agudelo, fue detenido, a consecuencia de la exhumación (en 1989) de aproximadamente cuarenta cadáveres en una de las haciendas de Carranza en Meta. Rasguño se negó a ser entrevistado en la prisión Modelo de Bogotá. Tampoco Carranza, quien normalmente evita la publicidad, quiso dar comentarios.

En años recientes, Carranza ha ampliado sus operaciones en Colombia central a través del Valle de Magdalena. El mencionado informe policial señala que: “Carranza está planeando adquirir Hacienda Bella Cruz (allá) para usarla como una base para sus actividades, (y) traer a 200 soldados paramilitares de Meta”. Testigos sostienen que ahora el lugar está sumamente concurrido por hombres armados, quienes han desterrado a centenares de campesinos del lugar. Según Jamie Prieto Amaya, obispo católico de la región, Carranza y otros sospechosos de narcotráfico han comprado cerca de 45.000 acres (18 mil hectáreas) de terreno a través del Valle de Magdalena.Note3

Otro personaje paramilitar sospechoso es Henry Loaiza (El Alacrán), detenido en 1995 con ayuda de la CIA bajo sospecho de ser uno de los siete capos del Cártel de Cali. Como Carranza, el Alacrán se encuentra implicado en varias masacres de civiles y supuestos izquierdistas, llevadas a cabo conjuntamente por fuerzas militares y paramilitares. Entre ellas está la masacre de Trujillo cerca de la ciudad de Cali, que se caracterizó por el uso de motosierras.

La policía colombiana identificó a otros (ex-)oficiales militares como sospechosos de narcotráfico, como es el caso del Mayor Jorge Alberto Lázaro, acusado de ordenar a los paramilitares en el Valle de Magdalena en la ejecución de masacres. Hoy día este valle, que se extiende por una distancia de 400 millas hacia los puertos caribeños en el norte, es uno de los corredores principales para el tráfico de drogas procesadas y de precursores químicos.

Más de un año después de la caída del muro de Berlín, La CIA ayudó a posibilitar una colaboración oscura entre los militares y los paramilitares colombianos. De este modo, la CIA ha facilitado crímenes, en el ámbito de los derechos humanos y del narcotráfico. Si ésta clase de comportamiento fue reprensible durante la Guerra Fría, ahora es completamente indefendible.

(Texto original en inglés, traducción: Kathy Ledebur.)



Note1 MCCOY, Alfred W. “The Politics of Heroin: The CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade”, Laurence Hill Books, Chicago, Illinois, 1991.

Note2 Se estableció que los militares colombianos habían mantenido contacto por radio con la base de entrenamiento de los paramilitares.

Note3 Prieto Amaya fue citado en la revista Cambio-16 de Bogotá.


Frank Smyth: Periodista independiente de nacionalidad estadounidense. Ha publicado sobre narcotráfico y políticas antidrogas en ‘The Village Voice’, ‘The Washington Post’, ‘The Wall Street Journal’ (Estados Unidos) y otros.

Colombia’s Blowback

EDITOR’S NOTE: The article below by investigative journalist Frank Smyth was published last Fall by the Transnational Institute (Amsterdam) and Accion Andina (Cochabomba, Bolivia) as a chapter titled, “La Mano Blanca en Colombia,” in the book, Crimen Uniformado [Crime in Uniform]: entre la corrupcion y la impunidad (1997). It appears in Antifa Info-Bulletin with the author’s permission.

The CIA has long backed anti-communist allies who, either during their relationship with the agency or later, ran drugs. This comes as no surprise. As early as 1960, U.S. military manuals encouraged intelligence operatives to ally themselves with “smugglers” and “black market operators to defeat communist insurgents, as reported by Michael McClintock in his seminal book Instruments of Statecraft. In fact, the CIA did just that. Take Southeast Asia. Later in that same decade the agency allied itself with, among others, the Hmong in Laos, who, according to historian Alfred W. McCoy in his book, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, were trafficking opium. Or Afghanistan. There in the 1980s the CIA backed the Mujahedeen against the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, according to Tim Weiner of The New York Times, the same Mujahedeen have controlled up to one third of the opium (used to make heroin) reaching the United States.

Colombia is an even better example today.

In addition to suffering from rampant common crime, Colombia is a country crippled by two ongoing political campaigns. One is a three-decade war pitching the CIA-backed Colombian military and allied rightist paramilitaries against formerly pro-Moscow and pro-Havana, leftist guerrilla groups. The other campaign is the drug war, where the battle lines are far less clear. Elements of all these sides are involved in Colombia’s drug trade, which includes the processing of about 80 percent of the world’s cocaine, the base substance of crack.

The CIA is no exception. Since 1995, an elite CIA counter-drug team commanded by, progressively enough, a woman, and staffed mainly by young, competent technocrats, has been instrumental in apprehending all top seven leaders of Colombia’s Cali cartel. But back in 1991, another CIA team played a different role. More interested in supporting Colombia’s dirty counter-insurgency than its counter-drug efforts, this team helped forge and finance a secret anti-communist alliance between the Colombian military and illegal paramilitary groups, many of whom are running drugs today.

Why was this alliance made secret? Colombia had outlawed all such paramilitary groups two years before in 1989. Why did Colombia do that? A Colombian government investigation had found that these same paramilitaries had been taken over by the Medellin drug cartel led by the late Pablo Escobar. At the time, Escobar and his associates were fiercely resisting U.S.-backed pressure for Colombia to pass extradition laws intended to make them stand trial in the United States on drug trafficking charges. So they took control of Colombia’s strongest paramilitaries, using them to wage a terrorist campaign against the state. These same paramilitaries, based in the Middle Magdalena valley, were behind a wave of violent crimes, including the 1989 bombing of Avianca flight HK-1803, which killed 111 passengers. Investigators concluded that the bomb was detonated by an altimeter, and that the perpetrators had been trained in such techniques by Israeli, British and other mercenaries led by an Israeli Reserved Army Lieutenant Colonel, Yair Klein. The Colombian military had helped protect this training, to the point of even being in radio contact with the paramilitaries’ training base, while Escobar had paid the mercenaries’ fees.

The CIA, however, ignored these facts when it decided two years later to help renew — in secret — the alliance between the Colombian military and paramilitary groups. By then, even though the cold war was over and Eastern bloc aid had long since dried up, Colombia’s leftist insurgents were still relatively strong. And many trade union, student and peasant groups, among others, provided them with political and sometimes even logistical forms of support. CIA officers knew that paramilitaries — civilians usually led by retired military officers — could provide the Colombian military with plausible deniability for assassinations of suspected leftists and similar crimes. “A vast network of armed civilians began to replace, at least in part, soldiers and policemen who could be easily identified,” writes Javier Giraldo, a Jesuit priest and founder of Colombia’s Inter-Congregational Commission for Justice and Peace. “They also started to employ methods that had been carefully designed to ensure secrecy and generate confusion.”

But neither the CIA nor any other U.S. agency admitted that it was still backing Colombia’s counter-insurgency campaign. Instead U.S. officials claim that all U.S. support to Colombia, since 1989, has been designed to further the drug war. “There was a very big debate going on [about how to best allocate] money for counter-narcotics operations in Colombia,” said retired U.S. Army Colonel James S. Roach, Jr., who was then the top U.S. military attaché in Bogota as well as the Pentagon’s ranking Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) liaison there. “The U.S. was looking for a way to try to help. But if you’re not going to be combatants [yourselves], you have to find something to do.”

Do, they did. First an inter-agency team including representatives of the U.S. embassy’s Military Advisory Group in Bogota, the U.S. Southern Command in Panama, the DIA in Washington and the CIA in Langley made recommendations to completely overhaul Colombia’s military intelligence networks. Then The CIA independently provided funds to incorporate paramilitary forces into them. It didn’t matter that these paramilitary forces were illegal in Colombia at the time. Nor did it matter that they had been outlawed explicitly over the growing influence of the late Pablo Escobar and his Medellin drug cartel in directing them.

In addition to drug trafficking, Colombia’s nefarious paramilitaries had already been implicated in widespread human rights abuses. This led the Defense Department, for one, to discourage the Colombian military from incorporating them into these new intelligence networks. “The intent was not to be associated with paramilitaries,” said Colonel Roach, who was also in regular contact with CIA officers in Bogota. He says they had another approach. “The CIA set up clandestine nets of their own. They had a lot of money. It was kind of like Santa Claus had arrived.” CIA spokesman Mike Mansfield declined to comment.

News of these clandestine intelligence networks was first brought to light by Human Rights Watch, in November 1996 released U.S. and Colombian military documents, as well as oral testimony, to show that both the Defense Department and the CIA, in late 1990, encouraged Colombia to reorganize its entire military intelligence system. In May 1991, Colombia formed 41 new intelligence networks nationwide “based on the recommendations made by the commission of U.S. military advisors,” according to the original Colombian order which established them. Later, four former Colombian operatives from one of network in central
Colombia’s Magdalena valley testified that it incorporated illegal paramilitary groups, paying them to both gather intelligence and assassinate suspected leftists. Though U.S. officials still maintain that they supported this intelligence reorganization as part of their drug war efforts, the same Colombian order quoted above instructs these new intelligence networks to fight only “the armed subversion” or leftist guerrillas.

Indeed most of Colombia’s leftist guerrillas, especially among the formerly pro-Moscow FARC, are also involved with drugs. But a U.S. interagency study recently ordered by the Clinton administration’s former ambassador in Bogota, Myles Frechette, found the guerrillas’ role to be limited to mostly protecting drug crops, and, to a lesser degree, processing operations. Meanwhile, rightist paramilitaries allied with the military protect far more drug laboratories and internal transit routes, according to both U.S. intelligence and Colombian law enforcement authorities. In fact, according to one Colombian law enforcement report, drug trafficking today is — again — the paramilitaries’ “central axis” of funding.

Similarly, according to another report from a different law enforcement entity, this one about the Magdalena valley in 1995 by top detectives from Colombia’s Judicial and Investigative Police, the military and paramilitaries there are allied “not only for the anti-subversive struggle, but also to profit and open the way for drug traffickers.” One paramilitary suspect it names is “the well-known narco-trafficker Victor Carranza.” A contemporary of Medellin’s Escobar, Carranza first established himself by rising to the top of Colombia’s lucrative emerald trade among the Boyaca Mountains, and by wiping out a large guerrilla front there at the same time. Soon Carranza also became a major landowner, buying large swaths of it in the eastern plains of Meta, a province choked with drug crops as well as laboratories. Today Colombian police identify Carranza as both a multi-ton level drug trafficker, and one of the key leaders of Colombia’s many illegal paramilitary groups like, in Meta, the infamous “Black Snake.” Human rights groups have accused Carranza of engineering assassinations as well as massacres.

There is no evidence that Carranza has ever been either a CIA asset or informant. But his anti-communist credentials are unquestionable. And he runs frequently in military crowds. Military eyewitnesses say that military officers in Villavicencio, Meta have even met him inside the Los Llanos hotel, which he owns. U.S. officials too know a lot about him. “Carranza comes up constantly in intelligence reporting,” one such expert says. An old-fashioned gangster, “Don Victor,” as he is respectfully called by his men, still frequents the emerald mines and likes to be the first to pick out the largest stones from the best veins uncovered. Yet, Carranza remains untouchable, even though one of his purported lieutenants, Arnulfo Castillo Agudelo, also known as “Scratch,” was arrested in 1995 implicated Carranza in circumstances involving over 40 corpses which had been exhumed — six years before — on one of Carranza’s Meta ranches. “Scratch” declined to be interviewed in Modelo prison in Bogota. Carranza, who avoids publicity, was also unavailable for comment.

In recent years, Carranza has been expanding his operations in central Colombia throughout the Magdalena valley. The above police report notes: “Carranza is planning to acquire Hacienda Bella Cruz [there] to use as a base for his activities, [and] bring in 200 paramilitary operatives from Meta.” Witnesses say that it is now teeming with armed men, who have displaced hundreds of local peasants. In total, Carranza and other drug suspects have bought about 45,000 acres of land throughout the Magdalena valley, according to Jamie Prieto Amaya, the Catholic bishop there, quoted in the Bogota newsweekly, Cambio 16.

Still another suspect is Henry Loaiza, also known as “The Scorpion.” Demonstrating the importance of paramilitaries to the overall drug trade, he was one of the top seven Cali cartel suspects arrested with CIA help since 1995. Like Carranza, “The Scorpion” is also implicated in several specific civilian massacres of suspected leftists carried out jointly by military and paramilitary forces, including the 1989 Trujillo massacres (involving chainsaws) near Cali. Other drug suspects identified by the Colombian police include military officers like Major Jorge Alberto Lazaro, a former Army commander also accused of ordering paramilitaries to commit massacres in the Magdalena valley. Today this same central Colombian valley, which runs about 400 miles north toward Caribbean ports, is a major corridor for both processed drugs and precursor chemicals.

The CIA helped enable Colombia’s military and paramilitaries to collaborate in the dark — more than a year after the Berlin Wall fell. By doing so, the CIA has facilitated crimes involving both human rights and drug trafficking. Such behavior was reprehensible during the cold war. It is completely indefensible now.

Frank Smyth is a freelance journalist who has written about drug trafficking in The Village Voice, The New Republic, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. He is co-author with Winifred Tate of “Colombia’s Gringo Invasion,” Covert Action Quarterly, Number 60, Spring 1997. The article above was reprinted in Colombia Bulletin: A Human Rights Quarterly.

My Enemy’s Friends: In Guatemala, the DEA fights the CIA

Original article can be found here.

Why did the Guatemalan military kill American innkeeper Michael DeVine? In April of this year, acting CIA Director William 0. Studeman and other U.S. officials implicated Colonel Julio Roberto Alpírez, who was on the CIA payroll at the time of the crime, in the June 1990 killing. But Studeman offered no explanation for the murder, and Alpírez ‘s motive for ordering it has remained a mystery. The New York Times reported that DeVine may have been killed because he knew about the Guatemalan military’s illegal logging of mahogany trees near his ranch in the country’s northern Peten jungle. DeVine’s widow says it may have been because in his restaurant he served a civilian before serving a military officer. Assistant Secretary of State Alexander F. Watson told Congress DeVine might have been killed in a dispute over missing army rifles.

There is, however, a more probable motive for DeVine’s murder. For the crucial backdrop to this story is not only the involvement of the CIA with the Guatemalan military, but the involvement of the Guatemalan military in drug trafficking. From the beginning, U.S. intelligence sources say, officials have had information to suggest that drugs were behind DeVine’s murder. “DeVine could have found out that there were Guatemalans dealing with drugs up there because there were,” says Thomas F. Stroock, who was the U.S. ambassador to Guatemala at the time of the DeVine killing. Now a former Drug Enforcement Administration special agent says that DeVine was killed because he knew Alpírez was involved in drug trafficking.

The ex-DEA agent, Celerino Castillo III, says he worked with both G-2 (the former name for the Guatemalan military intelligence) and the CIA from 1985 to 1990. Castillo says that CIA agent Randy Capister (whose identity Stroock confirmed) served as the agency’s covert liaison with G2. Capister, Castillo alleges, learned that DeVine had found out that Alpírez was involved in cocaine trafficking and marijuana cultivation near DeVine’s ranch. (DeVine, though not a DEA informant, knew U.S. officials and others associated with the U.S. Embassy.) Once Capister learned of DeVine’s discovery, he in turn informed Colonel Francisco “Paco” Ortega Menaldo, then head of G-2. Colonel Alpírez was under Ortega’s command within the G2, while CL4 agent Capister reported not to then-Ambassador Stroock, but to Alfonso Sapia-Bosch, then the CIA station chief. Sapia-Bosch, reached for comment, declined to make one. Says Stroock of these agents: “I had no way of knowing what they did or did not know.”

What the DEA knew or knows is also in doubt. Back in 1993 the DEA stated of DeVine’s murder: “There is, no indication that drugs were involved in this case.” But since Alpirez’s role in the murder was revealed, the DEA’s chief spokesman, James McGivney, has declined to answer any queries on Guatemala. Studeman, for his part, has denied that the CIA played any role in DeVine’s killing. When the CIA obtained specific information about Alpírez’s alleged role in the crime in October 1991, the agency turned it over to the Justice Department but withheld it from Congress.

Castillo’s new charge has now led Representative Robert Torricelli, a New Jersey Democrat, to reexamine what the CIA told the Justice Department. In March, Torricelli publicly revealed Alpírez ‘s role in both DeVine’s murder and that of a Guatemalan guerrilla leader, Efraín Bámaca Velasquez, who was married to American lawyer Jennifer Harbury.

In a letter to the CIA Inspector General dated May 4, Torricelli wrote that if DeVine was slain to protect a drug operation, the crime would have been politically motivated and therefore potentially subject to prosecution here under U.S. anti-terrorism laws. “If CIA officials were fully aware of the circumstances surrounding Mr. DeVine’s murder when they requested a Department of Justice ruling,” wrote Torricelli, “they clearly did not provide that information to the Justice Department. If that is the case, then the CIA officials involved are guilty of obstruction of justice.”

Whatever the motives for DeVine’s murder, it’s clear that the CIA and the DEA have often been working at cross-purposes in Guatemala. The same military that the CIA has trained and supported in its war on leftist insurgents has also provided cover for some of the major drug traffickers pursued by the DEA. Since 1989, the DEA has formally accused at least eleven Guatemalan military officers of drug trafficking, including six Army captains, two Army lieutenant colonels, two Air Force majors and even one Air Force general; the general, Carlos Pozuelos Villavicencio, was even denied an entry visa into this country because the DEA “knows, or has reason to believe” that he is involved “in the illicit trafficking of narcotics,” according to the US. Information Service.

Yet, as a 1994 State Department report explains, “Guatemalan military officers strongly suspected of trafficking in narcotics rarely face criminal prosecution.” In most cases, the Guatemalan military has merely discharged from active service those officers named by the DEA. Say the State Department report, “In most cases, the officers continue on with their suspicious activities.”

Take the case of Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Ochoa Ruiz, “a/k/a Charlie,” the first officer against whom the DEA initiated prosecution. Today he stands accused in Florida of collaborating with Colombia’s Cali cartel to ship multi-ton level units of cocaine to the United States. In 1990, DEA agents infiltrated Ochoa’s organization, which allegedly operated from a private farm in Escuintla, near Guatemala’s Pacific Coast. In October, DEA agents allegedly watched as Ochoa and others loaded cargo onto a small plane; the agents then tracked the cargo to Tampa, where they later seized a half metric ton of cocaine, with a street value of over $40 million. Ochoa was indicted in Florida’s US. Middle District Court and the State Department requested his extradition.

In response, the Guatemalan military discharged Ochoa as well as two Army captains also implicated in the case. But that didn’t stop a Guatemalan military tribunal from later reclaiming jurisdiction and ruling to dismiss all charges for “lack of evidence.” The State Department then appealed the case all the way to Guatemala’s Constitutional Court, whose presiding judge, Epaminondas Gonzalez Dubon, had a reputation for integrity. In March 1994 Gonzalez lived up to his reputation with an unprecedented ruling: he signed a decision declaring Ochoa’s extradition to be constitutional.

It turned out, however, that there were forces more powerful than the high court. On April 1 in Guatemala City, Gonzalez was assassinated by four unidentified gunmen. Then, on April 12, the surviving judges reversed Gonzalez’s decision. Ochoa, in Guatemala, is now free. The DEA’s sting against Ochoa was the United States’s best chance to prosecute a Guatemalan military officer. Instead, the case established a precedent: even officers under indictment are above the law.

In the increasingly isolationist post-cold-war world, it might be tempting to overlook cases such as this one. Yet there are U.S. interests at stake. Taking the war on drugs seriously means taking on Guatemala. Although in the early 1980s most U.S.-bound cocaine flowed through the Caribbean, in the 1990s the Mexican and Central American land isthmus has become the cocaine superhighway. Mexico forwards the bulk of the drug to the United States. And Guatemala serves as a warehouse for Mexico. “With hundreds of unmonitored airfields and a good network of roads leading to Mexico,” reads the State Department’s latest drug control report. “Guatemala became the Colombian cartels’ choice in Central America for cocaine transshipment.”

Now Studeman claims that the CIA must maintain contacts with Guatemalan military intelligence officers–such as Alpírez–to collect information about drug trafficking. The Clinton administration agrees; after cutting other CIA programs to Guatemala, it has allowed the CIA’s anti-drug operations there to continue. The trouble is that the CIA has been relying for information about drug trafficking on the very institution that has been producing drug trafficking suspects wanted by the DEA. At the very least, this casts doubt on the reliability of Guatemalan military intelligence. It also casts doubt on the CIA: whatever information the CIA has provided so far has yet to lead to the prosecution of a single officer.

FRANK SMYTH is a freelance journalist who has written about drug trafficking in Guatemala for The Washington Post, The Village Voice and The Wall Street Journal.

Has Guatemala Become the Cali Cartel’s Bodega?

Original article can be found here.

Colombia has been reluctant to prosecute top leaders of the Cali cartel and dismantle their organization. The Clinton administration is pushing Colombia to do more, while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by Jesse Helms (R., N.C.), threatens to impose trade sanctions.

But Colombia is not the only country where drug cartels and their major confederates operate with impunity. It shares that distinction with Guatemala, where the Drug Enforcement Administration has also uncovered evidence of institutional corruption.

While Colombian cartels used the Caribbean as their primary smuggling route through the mid-1980s, increased radar, as well as opportunity, led them to shift operations toward Mexico. In the late 1980s, they expanded those routes to neighboring Guatemala.

So much cocaine was detected there by 1990 that DEA special agents coined Guatemala la bodega or “the warehouse.” Today up to 75{2ef06ca992448c50a258763a7da34b197719f7cbe0b72ffbdc84f980e5f312af} of the cocaine reaching the U.S. still passes through Mexico, but, according to the DEA, up to one-third of it is first received and stored across Mexico’s southern border in Guatemala.

Guatemala, like Colombia, has cooperated with the U.S. in both poppy eradication and cocaine interdiction. But in both countries this cooperation breaks down over prosecution or extradition of major suspects. “Extradition is the Achilles heel of this whole process,” says the DEA’s chief spokesman, James McGivney, in Washington, “whether it be Guatemala or Colombia.”

Unlike Colombia, Guatemala has an extradition treaty with the U.S. But Its Constitutional Court has only honored it in a few cases. The process is complicated by the fact that many major suspects are Guatemalan military officers.

In response, the Clinton administration has been willing to forgo prosecution of these cases. Why? One reason is to achieve cooperation with the military on other matters (the Guatemalan military receives no U.S. funding, but the police do). But the result only gives officers blanket impunity.

Lt. Col. Carlos Ochoa Ruiz was allegedly working with two Colombians from Call. Now wanted in federal court in Florida, Lt. Col. Ochoa is the first Guatemalan military officer against whom the DEA initiated prosecution. Back in October 1990, special agents watched him and others allegedly load cargo on a private plane, and then tracked it to Tampa.

The State Department requested his arrest and extradition. But one month later a Guatemalan judge released him. By 1992, two more civilian judges had ruled in his favor, while the military discharged Lt. Col. Ochoa and two Army captains also implicated in the case to put distance between them and the institution.

But that didn’t stop a military tribunal from unexpectedly reclaiming jurisdiction in 1993, and ruling to dismiss all proceedings in Guatemala for “lack of evidence.” The evidence in Tampa includes a half metric ton of cocaine. That’s worth about $7.5 million wholesale; retail it’s enough to fill a few million pipes with crack.

One judge who took the evidence into account was Epaminondas Gonzalez Dubon, the Constitutional Court president, and Guatemala’s highest justice. No other judge in memory was more independent. In May 1993, then President Jorge Serrano declared a “self-coup” and imposed martial law; Judge Gonzalez promptly declared it unconstitutional.

This helped galvanize both domestic and White House opposition, bringing down the “self-coup” one week later.

In March 1994, Judge Gonzalez made another independent ruling. “Gonzalez Dubon had signed a Court decision in which he declared [ex-Lt. Col. Ochoa’s] extradition constitutional,” reads a Human Rights Watch report. Judge Gonzalez then left Guatemala City with his family for an Easter day-trip. On their way back, in Guatemala City on April 1, four men in a car shot and killed Judge Gonzalez in front of his wife and son.

Police treated this, the slaying of Guatemala’s highest justice, as a common crime. Attorney General Ramses Cuestas claimed that it was an attempted car jacking, although no one stole anything. The surviving judges then declared ex-Lt. Col. Ochoa’s extradition unconstitutional, exhausting the State Department’s appeal.

This aborted the DEA’s most important test of whether the U.S. can prosecute a Guatemala military officer. How did the Clinton administration react? The U.S. ambassador, Marilyn McAfee, first ignored the denial, and then issued a press release, which concluded: “Unfortunately, there have been cases in which efforts to process suspected drug traffickers have been frustrated. Examples of these cases include that of Lt. Col. Ochoa, whose extradition was denied by the Constitutional Court, and the rejections for extradition of the American citizen, Carolyn Holly Fried, who has been accused of selling thousands of doses of illegal drugs to school-age children.”

According to Paul Mountain, supervising agent at the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, Ms. Fried is not accused of selling drugs to any children; and the same Constitutional Court that denied ex-Lt. Col. Ochoa’s extradition two months later approved Ms. Fried’s.

Last month, the Constitutional Court denied the extradition of another Guatemalan, this time a wealthy businessman, Roberto Antonio Beltranena Butalino. He is named as a defendant with ex-Lt. Col. Ochoa in Tampa. Ironically, this ruling was announced in Guatemala the same day that the State Department certified to Congress that Guatemala had “cooperated fully” in the war against drugs.

When asked to comment on these matters, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gelbard declined. Staff members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee say they will now review the administration’s handling of Guatemala.

More suspects remain untried, including six Army captains and two Air Force majors. Guatemala discharged all of them from active service over the DEA’s accusations. Yet, last year’s State Department drug control report, says: “in most cases, the officers continue on with their suspicious activities.”

The impact of cocaine trafficking in Guatemala, as in Colombia, is ripping its social fabric, already in shreds from four decades of Central America’s war. It was brave of Judge Gonzalez to say that the rule of law applies to all. But rather than back up the judge who backed up special agents, the Clinton administration has gone to unusual lengths to erase his memory. This only helps the Cali cartel and other Colombian drug traffickers. Threatening Colombia while coddling Guatemala won’t work.

Arming Genocide in Rwanda

Read the original article here.

The high cost of small arms transfers

Rwanda is only the latest example of what can happen when small arms and light weapons are sold to a country plagued by ethnic, religious, or nationalist strife. In today’s wars such weapons are responsible for most of the killings of civilians and combatants. They are used more often than major weapons systems in human rights abuses and other violations of international law. Light conventional arms sustain and expand conflict in a world increasingly characterized by nationalist tensions and border wars. Yet the international community continues to ignore trade in those weapons, concentrating instead on the dangers of nuclear arms proliferation.

In the post-Cold War era, in which the profit motive has replaced East-West concerns as the main stimulus behind weapons sales, ex-Warsaw Pact and NATO nations are dumping their arsenals on the open market. Prices for some weapons, such as Soviet-designed Kalashnikov AKM automatic rifles (commonly known as AK-47s), have fallen below cost. Many Third World countries, such as China, Egypt, and South Africa, have also stepped up sales of light weapons and small arms. More than a dozen nations that were importers of small arms 15 years ago now manufacture and export them. But most of this trade remains unknown. Unlike major conventional weapons systems, governments rarely disclose the details of transfers of light weapons and small arms.

The resulting costs of such transfers are apparent. Small arms and light weapons have flooded nations like Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, not only fanning warfare, but also undermining international efforts to embargo arms and to compel parties to respect human rights. They have helped undermine peacekeeping efforts and allowed heavily armed militias to challenge U.N. and U.S. troops. They raise the cost of relief assistance paid by countries like the United States. Yet the international community has no viable mechanism to monitor the transfer of light and small weapons, and neither the United Nations nor the Clinton administration has demonstrated the leadership required to control that trade.

Rwanda’s war

No tragedy better illustrates the need for controls than Rwanda, where the U.S. contribution to the present relief effort is expected to reach $500 million, or about two dollars for every U.S. citizen. Rwanda’s genocide, which began in April 1994, was preceded by a war launched in October 1990 by Tutsi guerrillas of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) against the Hutu-led government. Rwanda was already one of the poorest nations in Africa. Although both the government and guerrillas had limited resources with which to buy arms, and their combined 45,000 combatants never comprised a very large market, arms suppliers rushed to both sides like vultures to a carcass.

The war’s origins go back, in part, to a wave of violence from 1959 to 1966, when the Hutu overthrew the Tutsi monarchy, which had ruled for centuries. Between 20,000 and 100,000 Tutsi were killed in a slaughter that the British philosopher Bertrand Russell then described as “the most horrible and systematic massacre we have had occasion to witness since the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis.” The violence drove about 150,000 Tutsi exiles, known as Banyarwanda, to Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Zaire.

In Uganda, Banyarwanda and their descendants suffered under the tyranny of dictators, including Milton Obote and Idi Amin. In the early 1980s at least 2,000 of them joined a guerrilla movement led by a former defense minister, Yoweri Museveni. In 1986 Museveni and his men took power. In 1990, when the RPF invaded Rwanda across its northern border with Uganda, more than half its initial guerrillas and most its officers were drawn from Uganda’s army. Uganda also provided an array of small arms and other weapons systems, including recoilless cannons and Soviet-made Katyusha multiple-rocket launchers.

To counter the invasion, the Hutu government drew from its existing stock of Belgian automatic rifles and French armored vehicles. But Rwanda was understocked and under siege. Until then, Belgium, Rwanda’s former colonial ruler, had been its main military patron. But Belgium had an explicit policy against providing lethal arms to a country at war. Following the invasion, Belgium continued to provide military training, boots, and uniforms to the Rwandan army, but no arms. France, however, rushed in 60-mm, 81.-mm, and 120-mm mortars and 105-mm light artillery guns. France, which was committed to keeping Rwanda within the bloc of 21 Francophone African nations, also provided seasoned advisers and four companies of 680 combat troops at a time.

An arms race was under way. More than a dozen nations helped fuel the Rwandan war, and both sides appear to have purchased considerable weaponry through private sources on the open market. By its own admission, the Rwanda government bankrupted its economy to pay for those weapons. Former Warsaw Pact countries appear to have supplied both sides, seeing opportunity in Rwanda less than one year after the Berlin Wall fell. It remains unclear how long it took ex-Warsaw Pact equipment to reach Rwanda, but eventually most RPF guerrillas carried Kalashnikov AKM automatic rifles, many manufactured in Romania. Among the rebels who had uniforms, most wore distinctive East German rain-pattern camouflage.

Russians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Czechs, Slovaks, and others are aggressively promoting arms sales. The collapse of Moscow’s central control has given governments and the officials left in charge of existing stockpiles a free hand. With the Russian ruble devalued and East European nations in need of hard currency, their governments are likely to try to sell even more small arms in the future. The CIA reports that Russian crime syndicates are also involved in nongovernmental weapons sales.

By 1993, Rwanda’s Hutu government had begun to look to Russia to buy arms, especially Kalashnikov AKMs. But the key suppliers for government forces were France, Egypt, and South Africa. A $6 million contract between Egypt and Rwanda in March 1992, with Rwanda’s payment guaranteed by a French bank, included 60-mm and 82-mm mortars, 16,000 mortar shells, 122-mm D-30 howitzers, 3,000 artillery shells, rocket-propelled grenades, plastic explosives, antipersonnel land mines, and more than three million rounds of small arms ammunition.

South Africa also supplied small arms, including R-4 automatic rifles, 7.62-mm machine guns, and 12.7-mm Browning machine guns. In October 1992, on the heels of the Egyptian deal, Rwanda made a $5.9 million purchase from South Africa: 100 60-mm mortars, 70 40-mm grenade launchers with 10,000 grenades, 20,000 rifle grenades, 10,000 hand grenades, spare parts and 1.5 million rounds of ammunition for R-4 rifles, and one million rounds of machine gun ammunition.

South Africa developed its arms industry in response to the U.N. embargo against it. Its conventional weaponry is considered to be among the most durable and reliable in the world — a fact Rwanda quickly learned. By late 1993, within a year of its $5.9 million purchase, Rwanda had decided to standardize its infantry forces with South African arms. These purchases from South Africa were in contravention of U.N. Security Council Resolution 558 opposing importation of weapons from South Africa. The import prohibition was voluntary, unlike the U.N. ban on arms exports to South Africa, which was lifted in May.

Who is responsible?

The proliferation of weapons in Rwanda expanded the conflict, displacing, last year, one out of eight Rwandans — one million refugees who went unnoticed internationally. The arms flows also facilitated violations of international law (both the army and RPF engaged in direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas) and increased human rights abuses. Regrettably, that turned out to be a tragedy of minor proportions compared to what came next.

Relief groups estimate that 200,000 to 500,000 people have been killed in the genocidal carnage that began in April, although some U.S. intelligence experts estimate the death toll at one million or more. Much of the killing was carried out with machetes, but automatic rifles and hand grenades were also commonly used. Their wide availability helped Hutu extremists carry out their slaughter on a horrendous scale. The huge piles of Tutsi bodies massacred in Rwanda since April are now juxtaposed with the huge piles of rifles in Goma, Zaire, that were confiscated from fleeing Hutu.

Rwandan authorities distributed large numbers of firearms to militia members and other supporters months before the genocide began, and again after most foreigners left Rwanda at the beginning of the carnage. One example is sufficient to demonstrate the impact of small arms in the hands of those capable of crimes against humanity: Human Rights Watch/Africa reports that 2,800 people gathered in a church were slaughtered by militiamen using automatic rifles, machine guns, grenades, and machetes. As people fled, it took the militia four hours to kill them all.

Governments that supplied weapons and otherwise supported those forces bear some responsibility for needless civilian deaths. In March 1993, following the release of a report detailing the massacre of several thousand unarmed Tutsi civilians between 1990 and 1993, Belgium withdrew its ambassador, Johan Swinnen, for two weeks to protest the abuses. In contrast, France apologized for them. Said French Ambassador Jean-Michel Marlaud, “There are violations by the Rwandan Army, more because of a lack of control by the government, rather than the will of the government.” Hutu leaders got the message that they could get away with genocide facilitated by foreign arms.

Perhaps if more had been known about the flow of light weapons and small arms into Rwanda, if the international community had the opportunity to stop the arms influx or at least to pressure suppliers into conditioning arms supply on human rights performance, the outcome would have been different. Yet to this day France, South Africa, Egypt, and Uganda have not fully disclosed the nature and extent of their military assistance and arms transfers.

For Rwanda, international scrutiny came too late. In the future, human rights organizations may continue to disagree with governments about the impact of the transfer of light weapons and small arms. But a democratic debate over whether such transfers conflict with human rights requires knowledge of the transfers themselves. This is something that any democratic republic, including France and the new South Africa, should understand.

The problems of control

On every continent, trade in light weapons and small arms — both legal and on the black market — is rapidly expanding, although there are no reliable statistics. This contrasts with the global trade in heavy weapons systems, which, according to most statistics, has actually declined in dollar value in recent years.[1] Both trends reflect the high demand for light weapons and small arms in regional conflicts. Most observers agree that those arms have never before been so easily obtainable.

It is increasingly clear that the proliferation of light weapons is a destabilizing force throughout the world. Pistols, rifles, machine guns, grenades, light mortars, and light artillery are the weapons used most often in repressing civilian populations. Included in their toll is the suffering of refugees, and the corresponding costs of international humanitarian relief efforts. Small arms raise the cost of international peacekeeping and peacemaking operations. Thus, they endanger not only internal, but also regional and international stability.

Nonetheless, conventional arms trade control remains a secondary issue for most nations. Almost no effort is being made to monitor and control trade in light weapons and small arms. Governments and independent analysts alike focus almost exclusively on major weapons systems.

Disclosure of arms transfers is in the interest of the United States and the international community. Therefore, the first and essential element of any control mechanism should be to compel as many states as possible to make their transfers public. Some states, however, will oppose any attempt to compel transparency for fear that disclosure of their buyers might invite competition. Even more states, those that sell arms to human rights abusers, would fear that disclosure would subject them to stigma. But both concerns should be overridden by the collective international need for transparency.

The dynamics of the arms market give rise to another obstacle. Clearly, any control mechanism would be imperfect. The leakiness of existing and past arms embargoes on individual nations is ample evidence of the difficulties involved. A major reason those embargoes have been difficult to enforce is that without any mechanism to control transfers, states can easily buy arms through second- and third-party transfers, without the knowledge of the original producer.

There is also the huge problem presented by the voluminous covert trade in light weapons, which some observers believe may amount to billions of dollars each year. In one incident in 1993, 150 tons of assault rifles, mortars, rocket launchers, land mines, and ammunition, mostly of Chinese and Czech manufacture, were found in a warehouse in Slovenia, intended for Bosnian Muslims. Clearly, private arms dealers would seek ways to illegally circumvent any control mechanism. “Yet the biggest regular suppliers of weapons to the covert arms trade are not freelancing private arms dealers, but governments themselves,” reports The Economist. “The main motive is cash.”

The international community has never established a viable mechanism for controlling the transfer of conventional arms. Attempts at control have largely consisted of a patchwork of often ineffective arms embargoes against perceived rogue nations and failed international discussions, notably the Conventional Arms Transfer Talks during the Carter administration and the U.N. Security Council “Perm 5” talks following the Persian Gulf War. Many nations have domestic legislation regulating arms trade, but such regulations tend to be weak and susceptible to duplicity by such means as false end-user certificates. And, in general, there is far less official scrutiny and regulation of the trade in small arms and light weapons than in major weapons. Most troublesome, nations rarely have meaningful control over how their weapons are used once transferred.

The most significant international initiative to date has been the establishment of the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms. The register was made possible by the end of the Cold War, which created a more sympathetic environment for conventional arms trade control, and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, which convinced many nations of the dangers of excessive arms transfers. The U.N. register is a voluntary mechanism, designed not as a control measure but as a confidence-building procedure. Data is requested on the export and import of seven categories of major weapons systems: battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, naval warships, and missiles and missile launchers. The U.N. established the register in 1991, and states made their first entries in 1993 for the previous calendar year.

The U.N. register has been a qualified success. Some previously unknown information was reported, while some critical and otherwise known transfers were not.[2] Fortunately, most arms exporters participated, including a number of countries that have traditionally been secretive about their arms trade, such as France and the United Kingdom. But only two-thirds of arms importers participated; some key nations in the Middle East and Asia did not.

These shortcomings stem partly from fundamental problems with the register itself. It does not include light weapons and small arms; it requests reporting only after the completion of a calendar year; and it requests states to participate on a voluntary basis. Rwanda is a case in point. Despite the heavy flow of arms into that country in 1992, the only entry listed in the register is Egypt’s provision of six 122-mm howitzers. These problems are readily recognized by people responsible for developing the register, but they point out that the collective political will necessary to correct the problems does not exist at this time.

Still, the premise of the U.N. register is sound. Increased transparency enhances peace and stability. A register for trade in light weapons and small arms is needed more than one for major weapons systems, as far more about trade in the latter is already known. The addition of light weapons and small arms to the register, even if unevenly reported, would be a major step forward. Transparency can also be a crucial tool in the much-needed effort to demand accountability for weapons misuse by the supplier as well as the recipient.

Whatever control mechanism is used, to be effective it must seek to compel rather than merely request disclosure, and disclosure should be within a reasonable period. A nation’s willingness to cooperate should be a prerequisite for its acceptance by the international community. The nurturing of such a climate would, of course, take time. The first step should be expanding the register to include light weapons and small arms.

Many states will be opposed to controls on trade in light weapons and small arms, and reasonable questions will be asked about the feasibility of constructing a verifiable or enforceable export control regime. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for the Clinton administration to show leadership on an important but largely ignored threat to international peace and stability.

America’s role

No discussion of conventional arms exports should omit the fact that the largest conventional arms exporter is the United States. The Clinton administration has trumpeted the increased threat of the spread of weapons of mass destruction as the foremost danger facing the United States. Yet it has issued hardly a word on conventional arms — the real killer — except to assert their importance to U.S. defense manufacturers. For almost two years, the administration has labored to develop an official arms transfer policy. According to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, “Regrettably, the evidence clearly indicates that the administration has sought to promote arms sales, rather than to reduce them.”

The United States, as the world’s number one arms merchant, should take the lead in proposing new ways to control the flow of light weapons and small arms. An administration that is struggling to deal with crises in Rwanda, Bosnia, Somalia, and elsewhere should recognize its own need to check this type of proliferation.

To its credit, the U.S. government has taken action on light weapons in two notable instances. In a precedent-setting action earlier this year, the United States announced that it would no longer provide small arms to Indonesia in recognition of its government’s use of such weapons in human rights abuses in East Timor. The U.S. Congress has incorporated a similar ban into this year’s foreign aid appropriations bill.

Even more noteworthy is the leadership the United States has exercised in prohibiting the export of a particularly egregious light weapon — the antipersonnel land mine.’ With strong encouragement from a broad coalition of human rights, humanitarian, arms control, development, and environmental organizations, the United States, at the initiative of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Representative Lane Evans (D-Ill.), enacted a one-year moratorium on the export of all antipersonnel land mines in 1992 and extended the moratorium for another three years in 1993. The U.N. General Assembly subsequently passed a resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on land mine trade, and to date about a dozen nations have announced an export ban. The U.S. State Department and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency are developing a framework for an international export control regime for antipersonnel land mines. This could provide a model for limiting the trade in light weapons and small arms.

While the vast majority of the United States’ major weapons transfers are public, most of its transfers of light weapons and small arms are not. For this trade no regular reporting is made to Congress in classified or unclassified form.[3] Many sales are private commercial transactions, and attempts to get detailed data on them through the Freedom of Information Act are routinely denied on proprietary grounds. But since the United States has perhaps the most transparent arms transfer system of any arms-producing nation, it has little to lose and much to gain by compelling competitors to move toward an equal or higher standard.

Transparency would not translate into control. But it is a necessary starting point in coming to grips with the nature, scope, and effects of the trade in light weapons and small arms. The costs to the world of this uncontrolled trade are so great that urgent action is needed. Nations need to devote more resources to monitoring and assessing the impact of the light arms trade. The international community needs to do some serious and creative thinking about how to design a control regime. To preclude more killing fields, the world begs for leadership now.

1. See, for example, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 1991-1992, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1994; U.S. Congressional Research Service, “Conventional Arms Transfers to the Third World 1986-1993,” CRS Report to Congress, #94-612F, July 29, 1994; Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Yearbook 1994, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

2. See Edward J. Laurance, Siemon T. Wezeman, and Herbert Wulf, Arms Watch: SIPRI Report on the First Year of the U.N. Register on Conventional Arms, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

3. For several years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a useful and detailed annual report was publicly released to Congress that contained comprehensive data on the U.S. trade in light weapons and small arms — the “Annual Report on Military Assistance and Exports, as required by Section 657, Foreign Assistance Act.” Resuming publication of this report would be the singly most important step the U.S. government could take to increase transparency in arms transfers,

Justify My War: Why Clinton Eyes Haiti’s Drug Trade and Ignores Guatemala’s

Original article found here.

While Bill Clinton’s White House invokes Haitian drug trafficking as a key rationale for invasion, it is continuing the Bush administration policy of virtually ignoring massive cocaine shipments — and related mass murders — by Guatemala’s military. U.S. officials on Friday said that they were investigating a possible drug indictment against two top Haitian officials, military leader General Raoul Cédras and police chief Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Michel Francois. But they are being far less aggressive toward Guatemala, which transships at least six times as much cocaine into this country than Haiti.

Like his predecessor, Clinton claims to have struggled against foreign governments and especially militaries involved in trafficking. President Bush used this pretext to invade Panama and later to put General Manuel Noriega on trial. Today the Clinton administration’s special adviser on Haiti, William Gray III, says that democracy, drugs and refugees — in that order — are its justifications for a possible invasion.

In May, Clinton administration officials began to say that the Haitian military’s involvement in cocaine trafficking was a threat to U.S. national security. Three weeks later, on June 8, The New York Times quoted unnamed administration sources “saying that the Haitian officers are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars each month for allowing their country to be used as a transshipment center by the main Colombian drug rings in Cali and Medellin.” But, the same day, when asked to elaborate by members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Gray declined, saying, “What type, size, who are involved, are] currently under review, and when that review is completed we’ll get back to you.”

On the contrary, the facts about Haiti’s role in the cocaine trade are already well known to State Department’s International Narcotics Matters (INM) bureau and DEA experts, including the DEA’s Miami Field Division Chief, Thomas Cash; all describe it as “relatively insignificant.” They say that before the export embargo was imposed last year, Haiti transshipped only between six and 12 metric tons of cocaine annually, much if not most of it to Europe.

While Clinton focuses drug attention on Haiti, vastly more cocaine pours into this country from Guatemala. INM and DEA experts say Guatemala today transships between 50 and 75 metric tons annually to the United States. Similarly, the largest single seizure of cocaine known to involve Haiti is the 160 pounds discovered in three unclaimed suitcases at JFK airport in New York in April 1992; the same month, authorities confiscated 6.7 metric tons — 14,740 pounds — of cocaine discovered inside cases of frozen Guatemalan broccoli in Miami.

This seizure led to the nearest arrest of Harold Ackerman, whom the DEA’s Cash described as “the Cali cartel’s ambassador to Miami.” He was working with confederates in Guatemala, where U.S. embassy press attaché Lee McClenny said, “the vast majority of cocaine trafficking is Cali cartel-related.” As has been widely reported, U.S. experts say the Cali cartel now controls at least 75 per cent of the world’s cocaine trade, and two-thirds of the cocaine entering the United States passes through either Mexico or Guatemala, on NAFTA’s southern border.

While federal prosecutors now try to indict Francois and, perhaps, Cédras, the DEA has implicated Guatemalan military officers of all ranks. They include one air force general, two air force majors, one army lieutenant colonel, and six army captains; the DEA has collected enough evidence against each to either recommend or take legal action. But because Guatemala’s military and the courts it controls protect them, not one officer has gone to trial. “Guatemalan military officers strongly suspected of trafficking in narcotics rarely face criminal prosecution,” reads this year’s INM International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. Instead the officers above were either expelled or retired from military service. But this is no deterrent. “In most cases, the officers continue on with their suspicious activities,” according to the INM report.

The DEA has even observed air force officers using military aircraft to smuggle cocaine. One suspect is General Carlos Pozuelos Villavicencio, the former air force commander. Last October, the State Department denied him an entry visa to the United States under the section of the U. S. immigration law that allows barring entrance to known narcotics traffickers. Another is Army Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Ochoa Ruiz, who, along with two army captains, was set up in a DEA sting way back in 1990. While agents watched, Ochoa and his men loaded a half metric ton of cocaine, worth $7.5 million wholesale, on board a private plane. It landed in Tampa, where Ochoa was later indicted by a U.S. grand jury.

But Guatemalan civilian courts have three times denied Ochoa’s extradition to stand trial. And although the evidence against him includes the half ton of seized cocaine, a military tribunal ruled last year to dismiss all charges for lack of evidence. Rather than demand his extradition, the Clinton administration doesn’t want anyone to know Ochoa’s still wanted. While not one Haitian military officer is currently charged in any U. S. court, Ochoa, an alleged multi-million-dollar trafficker, walks away from the U.S. indictment.

In addition to the above 10 officers implicated by the DEA, seven more officers, a town mayor currently being prosecuted in federal court in Brooklyn, and 19 other paramilitary “commissioners” under military control are accused of narcotics trafficking in legal testimony recorded by the office of Guatemala’s Human Fights Ombudsman. The charges include illegal detention and torture.

Guatemala’s army has the absolute worst human rights record in the hemisphere, and most of its victims are native Mayans. (On Friday, Guatemalan authorities said the charred bodies of 1000 men, women, and children had been found near the Mexican border.) Previous abuses include an estimated 40,000 people disappeared, and another 100,000 murdered, usually for their armed resistance or politics.

But today, Mayans are killed for greed. In Los Amates, near Guatemala’s Caribbean coast, dozens of Mayans, 32 of whom added both their thumbprints and signatures to the human rights testimony, claim local military and municipal authorities tortured three men before killing one of them, and then killed eight more people, including a mother and son. Their objective was to force them and hundreds of survivors off land that most of them have farmed for two generations. Why? To build clandestine runways to run drugs.

In January 1991, the ombudsman made a ruling on the initial charges of legal detention and torture, declaring them “proven”, and implicated, among others, colonel Luis Roberto Tobar Martinez, Colonel Baltazar Aldana Morales, Colonel Luis Arturo Isaac Rodriguez, Colonel Alfredo Garcia Gomez, Major Reyes, Captain Carlos Rene Solorzano, and Arnoldo Vargas Estrada, the ex-mayor of Zacapa. Vargas alone had just been indicted in Brooklyn on separate but related trafficking charges. The ombudsman also acknowledged that one of the tortured men had since been murdered, and then declared open a second investigation he never completed.

The ombudsman, Ramiro de Leon Carpio, is now Guatemala’s president. He was supported for the post by President Clinton a year ago in June, after Guatemala’s last civilian president tried to give himself — and his military — dictatorial powers in a “self-coup”. After it failed in the face of popular and foreign opposition, the military allowed De Leon to assume office. This year, in a letter to President Clinton, President De Leon promised to continue the ombudsman’s work and bring authorities who have “committed a crime or human rights violation” to justice. Nonetheless, the above case remains open.

Survivors say the runways were built from 1990 to 1992, when the U.S. ambassador to Guatemala was Thomas F Stroock. A quintessential political appointee, Stroock met George Bush at Yale, and later, as a successful oil magnate from Wyoming, was a major fundraiser for Bush’s presidential campaign. Throughout his term in Guatemala, Ambassador Stroock — who was replaced by 1993 — denied that the military, as an institution, was involved in cocaine trafficking. Similarly, today, the Clinton administration lists Guatemala as one of the countries “cooperating fully” with U.S. efforts against drug trafficking.

The first murder victim was Celedonio Perez. Along with about 8,000 other families, he lived among the five hamlets of Los Amates in eastern Guatemala, about 35 miles across the state line from Zacapa. There, in December 1990, the DEA broke up an operation that it charged “smuggled several tons of cocaine to the U.S. each month in tractor-trailers” overland through Mexico. This led to the arrest of Arnoldo Vargas Estrada, aka “Archie,” according to the Brooklyn grand jury indictment against him. “He was a real big fish,” said one U.S., expert. “The kind of guy who could order a guy killed.”

Vargas was a local paramilitary member of the Mano Blanco death squad since age 19, says one army lieutenant colonel. By the time Vargas became mayor of Zacapa in 1990, he owned a ranch house across the street from the army base. Vargas denies the charges of trafficking against him. His attorney, David Cooper, told the Voice: “If [any planes] landed in Zacapa, the only landing field was on the army base. ” Guatemala’s military attaché in Washington, Colonel Benjamin Godoy, denies that the Zacapa base was used to run drugs.

In Guatemala, according to the INM report, “All drug enforcement activities must be coordinated with military intelligence, which actively collects intelligence against traffickers.” Guatemalan military commanders deny that military intelligence would, instead, share information with traffickers, even if they included military officers and other officials. But according to peasants’ testimony around the same time that the DEA informed Guatemalan military intelligence that it sought to arrest Vargas, Vargas and his accomplices began forcing peasants off their land in Los Amates; five weeks later, after Vargas was finally arrested and his operation busted in Zacapa, local army authorities built more runways in Los Amates.

When Celedonio Perez resisted according to testimony, he and two other men were captured on November 18, 1990, “by the Commander and seven soldiers from the Los Amates military detachment,” who were “ordered by the Justice of the Peace.” Inside the detachment, the men claimed they were threatened and tortured by Army Lieutenant Maldonado and paramilitary authorities Byron Berganza and Baudilio Guzman who have “sufficient power and economic resources to dispose of the life and liberty of any peasant.” This claim of torture is supported by a signed doctor’s medical report as well as a photo of a man’s neck encircled by a pencil-thin laceration.

On January 6, 1991, one of the men was captured again, scaring him enough to make him and his family, finally flee their land. But Perez still resisted. Survivors say that on January 19, military authorities killed him. As word of his murder spread, many more frightened families fled Los Amates. With much of its land now cleared, the army stepped up construction of runways. But in April, after many were completed, military authorities began to target individuals, like Daniel Melgar, a tractor driver, who knew about them. “Since this man had worked on the construction of the clandestine runway owned by Francisco Villatuerte, he was assassinated by men I paid by narcotraffickers,” reads the I testimony, “and today that runway I is found camouflaged with tree trunks over it.”

Still, the public did not know what was happening, and survivors feared that they might be killed next. They decided to denounce the murders publicly. After pooling their funds, they took put an ad in Prensa Libre, one of three Guatemalan dailies. But nothing changed. Four days later, survivors claim the army killed two more peasants — “a mother and son on the shoulder of the highway CA-9 near the Seafood crossroad. This woman and he husband worked loading and unloading the planes of the narcotraffickers.”

A week later, in May, survivors took out another ad in Prensa Libre, and this time, “we mentioned the existence of the clandestine landing strips built by narcotraffickers.” Survivors also named five officials in the General Registry of Property whom they accuse of falsifying titles to “our lands that we have possessed for more than 50 years.” Still, nothing changed. The next day, military authorities killed another man, survivors claim, while three other peasants were falsely arrested for his murder. A month later, in June, survivors accused military authorities of murdering three more men, who had “worked guarding the finca (ranch) situated in the Palmilia property of Arnoldo Vargas Estrada.”

Later that month, in response to the newspaper ads, the head of the homicide department for the National Police, Jost Miguel Merida Escobar, and three other agents finally arrived. But rather than investigate the murders, “They lived for various days on the finca Rancho Maya of Byron Berganza and in the house of Baudilio Guzman where they were well-received, reads the testimony. Despite being explicitly informed about the clandestine runways, “these men forgot to make mention of them in their report.”

A month later, in July, another peasant was arrested by a group of soldiers and two police agents, this time on charges involving national security. Five days later, survivors claim, another group of military authorities assassinated another man.

Three more months passed before something happened that survivors thought might at last attract outside attention. On October 11, “before sunrise, one of the planes that transports cocaine crashed when it couldn’t, reach the runway on the finca Rancho Maya.” Guatemala’s national director of aeronautics came to investigate. But in his report, he said the plane was not headed for the finca, and that its crash was merely accidental. As a result, nothing changed, and the killings continued into 1992. Finally, in March, survivors decided to take their case to officials who they thought would listen, and addressed a copy of their testimony, from which all quotes above are taken, to “Señores D.E.A.”

While most of the killings were going on in 1991, that June, shortly after the two ads ran in Prensa Libre, a privately funded human rights delegation arrived in Guatemala City (this reporter was a member). It was led by U.S. Senator James Jeffords (Republican of Vermont) and Representative Jim McDermott (Democrat of Washington). Their report concludes, “One source said the military facilitates drug trafficking, especially cocaine, flown on small planes coming from other countries.

Non-American Western diplomats further confirmed to delegation members the Guatemalan military’s growing involvement with drugs.” Ambassador Stroock, however, denied it, saying that only a few officers were involved and that they had already been charged.

In a letter to The Progressive dated April 14, 1992, Stroock challenged: “if [anyone] has any evidence that any other army personnel are involved in drug smuggling, he should make that information available and we will act on it immediately.” But Stroock’s mission already had evidence on hand. Officials from the ombudsman’s office said they helped survivors deliver their petition to the U.S. Embassy on March 12, a month before Stroock’s letter. Press attaché McClenny later confirmed that the DEA received it.

This testimony was consistent with the DEA’s own case against Vargas, but its agents didn’t act on it, One possible reason is that, even if they did, it’s unlikely that they could have brought the officers responsible to trial. It took the United States 17 months of constant pressure to finally extradite Vargas, who, although he was linked to the military through death squads, was never a military officer. And almost four years of pressure to extradite Ochoa has failed. Now, once optimistic State Department officials no longer believe that the extradition of any current or former officer is possible.

Therefore, in Guatemala, the DEA measures success not by the number of arrests, but by the tonnage of cocaine interdicted. In July 1992, for example, DEA agents, heavily armed and rappelling from helicopters, seized 2.8 metric tons of cocaine from a small house in Jardines de San Lucas near Antigua. The DEA reports that the house “was rented to a Colombian male, his supposed wife, and his supposed young daughter,” and that it is owned by a retired Guatemalan air force captain. This seizure was then the largest in Guatemala to date, and, within a month, it led to a three-ton seizure in Guatemala City. No suspects have been arrested for either. Nonetheless, these operations are still considered successful because the seizure of 5.8 tons of cocaine, worth $87 million wholesale, more than doubled the DEA’s interdiction record for that year.

On drug matters, the most visible difference between Haiti and Guatemala is that Haiti no longer cooperates with the United States in interdiction, while Guatemala does. The result has given Guatemala in the 1990s the highest rate of interdiction of any Latin American country after Mexico, with between seven and 16 metric tons seized each year. But critics charge that this merely suggests that the amount of cocaine passing through Guatemala may be higher than estimated. The DEA maintains that anywhere else in Latin America, it is rare to interdict more than 10 percent of the total cocaine flow. For Guatemala, that would mean that the actual tonnage passing through is between 75 and 150 tons.

Indeed, Siglo Veintiuno, the Guatemalan daily that has given the most coverage to trafficking, reports “Regional experts indicate that the Cali cartel is well established in Guatemala and is able to transport more than 150 tons of cocaine through the country each year.” So much was passing through by November 1992 that a group of exporters organized a conference around the sole theme how to detect whether their products were being used to run drugs. These business leaders say that narcotics profits are both crowding out and taking over legitimate commerce.

But while newspapers can report these general trends, almost no information has been reported about who in Guatemala is behind it. Rony Sagastume, a national police detective, was appointed in September 1992 to lead an investigation to find out. An experienced professional, Sagastume also had a reputation for honesty. But the very day after his appointment, he was shot to death in his car by a death squad in Guatemala City.

Recent victims include journalists and their families. Hugo Arce is the editor of Nuestro Tiempo, a critical weekly in Guatemala City. In February, he and his 22-year-old nephew, a delivery worker, were arrested by police. Arce was released, while the nephew, in detention, sufffered broken ribs, kidney complications, swollen arms and legs, and could hardly walk. Similarly, diplomats and others suspect that a mob attack this March against June Weinstock, an American traveler, was engineered by the army it eventually drove most foreigners abroad. While Haiti formally expels its UN human rights monitors, Guatemala seems to have found another way of keeping meddlesome foreigners quiet.

Besides issuing a travel advisory about Guatemala after the attack on Weinstock, the Clinton administration has done little or nothing about anything else. The reason is that this administration, like previous ones, maintains that the mere presence of a civilian president in office denotes success.

Guatemala now has such a figurehead; Haiti does not.