Issue # 21 Sign Up for Free Mailing List

June 16, 2002

Narco News '02

Gorman's South American Round-up:

"My Friend, Langley" in

Brazil, Perú and Colombia

Changes Unnoticed

in the United States

By Peter Gorman

Special to the Narco News Bulletin

Despite most of the US press paying little attention, several major events have occurred in South America during the past two months. Some of them, like April's two-day coup of Venezuela's Chavez, did get coverage, even though nearly all of it missed the point. The May 6 claim by John Bolton, the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control, that Castro was manufacturing biological weapons in Cuba also briefly hit the newsstands; the subsequent US admission that the claims were completely invented, however, was mostly overlooked.

But several other events have taken place or are taking place that should be closely watched as well. Some of them I've written about; others I've held back on to see what develops. And during the past few weeks several conversations with my friend Langley have shed light on some things, at least a few of which this reporter missed completely. Of course, when talking with Langley it's important to keep in mind that he may be feeding me disinformation at the Company's behest, or may be feeding me disinformation that he's been given as genuine. But much of what's been passed over the past 20 years has proven true, so I tend to go with him, though cautiously.

That said, here are some of the important stories coming out of South America and Langley's imput on a few of them:


Álvaro Uribe Veléz, former Mayor of Medellin during that city's heyday as the world's cocaine capital, was elected president in the May 26 elections with enough of a majority to avoid a runoff. Uribe, who was clearly the US choice as Colombia's next president because of his hard-line stance against the left-wing FARC rebels, was greeted in his winning hotel suite by US Ambassador Anne Patterson in a show of US-solidarity with his agenda. Or so it seemed. In fact, while Patterson's victory visit told the world we were behind him, what it told Uribe was that he would be closely watched and had better be behind the US.

The US decision to back Uribe-who takes office August 7- had been made months earlier, but was set in stone on April 14, when a remote-controlled bomb was set off on a bridge just after a motorcade in which Uribe was riding to stump the northern coastal Colombia city of Barranquilla had passed over it. While four civilians were killed, Uribe was unhurt. But Uribe, who had just prior to the blast suffered devastating blows to his campaign with the release of information tying his campaign manager to the cocaine trade and himself to the brutal AUC paramilitaries, saw his stock rise in the blast's aftermath.

Uribe blamed the FARC for the blast while cynics saw it as the doing of his own campaign to solidify the need among the Colombian populace to once-and-for-all eliminate the FARC with all necessary force. But the truth, according to Langley, was that the bomb was arranged by the US CIA as a political persuader. Uribe, says Langley, was being told in clear terms that while the US would see that he was elected, he is expected not to simply go along with the US agenda in Colombia, but with the US agenda everywhere. For the duration of his term, says Langley, Uribe will mouth agreement with every major political decision the US makes everywhere in South America.

And Ambassador Anne Patterson's appearance at his victory party was a reminder that the US will be watching closely. To prove his willingness to go along with the program, shortly after his victory the Harvard-educated Uribe announced that "We need the help of the USA in order to preserve our democracy.''

Another major event that was missed by much of the US press and, according to Langley, misinterpreted by those who did catch it, was the March 17 assassination of Catholic Archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino, Colombia's highest cleric. Duarte was assumed to have been killed for having called for a boycott of Colombia's March 10 Congressional elections-a call which resulted in a 62% voter-absence. Duarte had called for the boycott in response to what he said was the presence of drug-money in those elections. What speculation there was at the time over who was responsible for Duarte's death involved either the drug lords-the official Colombian political line, or the FARC, who were blamed by AUC paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño. Cynics saw it as the work of either Uribe's camp - hoping blame would fall on the FARC - or the AUC paramilitaries themselves because of their leadership role in the cocaine trade. Regardless, the Duarte assassination helped the Uribe camp during the presidential campaign because it helped focus public opinion on the lawlessness in Colombia that Uribe was promising to eliminate.

But in a conversation shortly after the May 26 election, Langley proposed to this reporter an altogether different scenario: the killing, he said, was planned and carried out by the Catholic church on orders from Rome. Duarte, said Langley, had been getting more and more active politically for several years, and with Colombia being overwhelmingly Catholic, his power was increasing fantastically. Rome - up to and including the Pope himself - had on several occasions during the past several years, suggested that Duarte either retire or back off non-Rome-authorized politics. More recently, says Langley, Rome had ordered Duarte to leave politics alone. When Duarte's response was to order a boycott of Colombia's March 10 Congressional elections, he sealed his fate. "Political opinion flows from Rome in the Catholic church, not to Rome," explained Langley. "And this was a clear message to all Catholic hierarchy that that remains as true today as it was five hundred years ago."

Interestingly, more than a week after Langley's assertions in the Duarte assassination, on June 8, Uribe announced the itinerary for his first trip abroad since being elected the next Colombian president: Washington, Canada, France, and the Vatican, for a private conversation with Pope John Paul ll. The trip has since been expanded to include Spain and England, but the thank you visits with Washington and the Vatican are the only ones of significance.

A third event of importance that occurred in relation to Colombia recently was the brief May 9 AP mention of a shipment of 3,000 Kalashnikov rifles that were allegedly headed to Panama but wound up instead in the hands of the AUC paramilitaries. The shipment, which included 5 million rounds of ammunition, was manufactured by two Israeli-owned Nicaraguan arms companies.

The story, though brief, is this: the two Israeli-owned Nicaraguan arms companies were commissioned to make the rifles and rounds and ship them to Panama-though why Panama, which has no Army, needed them is uncertain. But for some reason, the arms ended up aboard the Otterloo, a Mexican-crewed ship flying under the Panamanian flag and were unloaded into the hands of the AUC at a small Colombian port shortly before midnight on November 10, 2001. Nicaragua admits selling the guns at a tenth of their value but officials there say they had proper documentation from Panamanian security. Panama denies ever having ordered the guns and the Panamanian company which owned the Otterloo has since been dissolved and authorities have been unable to contact its former owner.

What is almost an afterthought in the story is that the US State Department, through Wes Carrington, spokesman for the Department's Western Hemisphere section, admitted that it knew of the shipment but hilariously claims it thought the weapons were collectors' items intended for the US collectibles' market.

No one needed Langley to explain this one, but he did nonetheless. The arms were always intended for the AUC, he said, to insure continued mayhem in Colombia during the period when the election was heating up and Horatio Serpa, the candiate calling for continued peace talks with the FARC, was in the lead. Continued mayhem, much of it caused by the AUC but blamed on the FARC, was what eventually cost Serpa the lead and subsequently, the election.

Another Colombia-related recent event was the May 1 certification by Secretary of State Colin Powell that the Colombian military has met the US Congress' human-rights requirements, freeing up $62 million in US military aid. Powell's certification means that Colombia's military has made progress in vetting those forces involved in human rights violations and in severing it's ties with the right-wing AUC paramilitaries that the US continues to arm.

In addition to the above scandals, in May, a routine audit of US Plan Colombia funds turned up $2 million missing that was intended for the administration of the Colombian counter-narcotics police. In the ensuing scandal, General Gustavo Socha, head of the counter-narcotics police resigned and several officers were fired. The money was apparently diverted to pay for personal expenses.


On April 29 the Peruvian administration of Alejandro Toledo called off a joint US/Peruvian military exercise that had been in the planning stages for more than a year and was scheduled for May 15 to August 15 in the Amazon region of the Andean country. The exercise, called New Horizons, would have brought a rotating force of 220 US Army engineering and medical troops-mostly Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers-to Peru's jungle to build schools and medical clinics. New Horizons has been held in a number of Latin American countries including neighboring Bolivia and Ecuador, since 1996.

The official explanation for calling off the exercise is that Peru suspects the US would subsequently pressure them to permit a permanent base on its soil, which is forbidden by the Peruvian constitution unless authorized by Congress. The situation is much more complicated than that, however. A refusal by ex-President Alberto Fujimori to permit the US to use a secret base built near the Peruvian/Colombian border by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1998-1999 was perhaps the single most important factor in the US decision to stage the public scandals that eventually toppled Fujimori and forced him to run for cover in Japan. That base was intended for use by both US Special Forces and CIA-contract mercenaries to cut off the southern escape route most likely to be used by the FARC revolutionaries in Colombia when the Colombian military pushed them southward.

Following Fujimori's demise, the interim government of Valentin Paniagua said it would do whatever it could to assist the US in implementing Plan Colombia-which, though unsaid, included the use of that base. But when Narco News reported that a team of former Navy SEALS had been recruited to eliminate fleeing FARC rebels as they reached the Putumayo river-the border between Peru and Colombia-that operation had to be cancelled, much to the annoyance of the US government.

The plan for the training exercise then, was seen by Peru as a substitute for the two earlier failed plans by the US to gain more of a foothold in the Amazon region. Certainly no one who has ever spent time in the Peruvian Amazon believes there is either a shortage of schools or medical clinics. In truth, had the exercise taken place near either Iquitos or Pulcallpa, the two largest cities in the Peruvian Amazon, it would have been disastrous for the locals, who already generally despise American troops for leaving loads of fatherless white babies when their tours are up, their frequent drunken behavior and their ability to walk away from motor vehicle accidents with financial and criminal impunity.

Those factors, in addition to the car bomb that went off in front of the US Embassy in Lima just prior to President Bush's visit in late March which killed nine Peruvians-arranged, as many Peruvians suspect, by the US CIA but blamed on the defunct Shining Path rebels-have combined to put Peru's President Alejandro Toledo in a difficult position. If he went ahead with the planned military operation and it resulted in a permanent US base, he would lose all credibility with the Peruvian populace. If he went ahead with the op and it resulted in drawing Peru into the US-imposed war on terrorism against their neighbors, it would similarly destroy his base of support. And even if he went along with the training exercise and it didn't result in either drawing Peru into the war on terrorism or a permanent US base in Peru, it would still go down badly with the Amazon states-because of the havoc the American soldiers would likely cause among the locals - a block Toledo may need to ensure a future second term in office.

The official announcement of the cancellation was made by Peru's Defense Minister Aurelio Loret and Foreign Minister Diego Garcia Sayan. Though Toledo himself has thus far had no comment on the matter insiders say the decision was entirely his and may even have been made in part because he is allegedly so upset about the US muscle-flexing, Lima car bombing.

Unfortunately for Toledo, while calling off the exercises sits well with his constituency, it may not sit well with Uncle Sam, which has been calling all important financial and political shots in Peru for more than a decade. And Toledo might do well to remember that the last time a Peruvian President decided to become overly nationalistic he was forced not only from office but to flee the country. And according to Langley, this was Toledo's only chance: one more mistake and there will be major scandals affecting him prior to the next election that will prevent him from winning a second term.

Despite the success of the Peruvian coca eradication program during the 1990s - which saw Peru's crop fall by 70% annually - authorities there now concede that planting is up and the US goal of complete eradication is not only unrealistic but something they will not attempt. ''Saying we would eradicate all crops would be as difficult as the United States saying it would eradicate drug consumption in four years. It's not possible,'' said Fernando Rospigliosi, Peru's interior minister.

As coca crops increase in both Peru and Colombia, the Bush administration has decided to revive the drug-plane shootdown policy over those two countries that was suspended in April, 2001 following the downing of a missionary plane outside of Iquitos, Peru.

''The amount of drugs moving through there has never been higher,'' a former Pentagon official told the Washington Post in early May, ignoring the implicit indictment of the failure of Plan Colombia.

The changes being considered before the program is officially revived include the donation of all CIA-spotter aircraft to Colombia and Peru, and the elimination of CIA-contract pilots from the spotter aircraft. Instead, Colombia and Peru will have the planes flown by their own men, with a US official onboard. Which means that while the US will continue to call the shots on which planes to shoot out of the sky, its hands will never again have to be sullied like they were when missionary Veronica Bowers and her infant daughter Charity were killed in a shootdown called by the US-contract pilots.


One more locale which may soon see US Banana Republic diplomacy is Brazil, where perennial far-left Workers' Party candidate Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva is making a surprising showing in polls leading toward Brazil's Primary elections on Oct. 6 and Secondary elections on Oct. 27. Da Silva's election - he's currently leading the field - would present the US with the spectre of a non-US aligned block in South America, with Chavez not-yet-gone in Venezuela, generally leftist Argentina as well as Brazil all opposing Bush's plan for the implementation of a Free Trade Zone throughout the Americas by 2005. While the State Department's official comments have suggested that a da Silva win would not necessarily hinder US Free Trade plans, to this reporter, it would seem an untenable situation for the US. And several government sources speaking on condition of anonymity have already begun joking about what type of accident the boys at the CIA will arrange for him if he looks to still be ahead in the polls by late September.

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