Ambiguous Position of U.S. Government on Drug Trafficking
Where does the U.S. government stand in relation to the massive amounts of drugs pouring across the U.S./Mexican border for U.S. consumption?
Overtly, the government is strongly against it. The ‘War on Drugs’, started by the Nixon administration, and now supposedly strengthened by the Reagan administration, purports strong commitment to checking the flow of drugs across the U.S. border and to ‘controlling the problem at its source’. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the CIA, U.S. Customs, and the former U.S. Ambassador in México, John Gavin, have all done a lot to uncover the massive network of drug trafficking from México, and the collusion of Mexican officials. A new law was promoted by Congress to drastically cut U.S. aid to countries that do not bring drug growing under control. (17) The U.S. has invested millions into equipping Mexican Narcotic Control Units with a fleet of 80 aircraft helicopter spraying rigs, tons of Paraquat and other herbicides, advisers, training programs, and undercover agents. (14) Yet, the production of drugs and their flow into the U.S. from México continues to grow. México ’s share of marijuana traffic to the U.S., for example, grew from 4% in 1981 to 25% in 1985. (18)
Behind its strong public stand for an all-out ‘War on Drugs’, the U.S. government’s de facto position is far more ambivalent, and at times, self-contradictory. While some branches of government are apparently fighting a serious war on drugs, others are undermining their efforts, and still others are in collusion with drug racketeers. In his book, The Underground Empire: Where Crime and Government Embrace [Doubleday & Co.,1986], James Mills—who, for six years accompanied a small DEA anti-drug strike force called Centac—concludes (according to an article in the New York Times Book Review) that “all drug investigations will eventually run up against the complicity of governments, including ours and our allies', with the most powerful figures in the drug business.” (20) He speaks with admiration for the efforts and commitment of the DEA, but points out that when it comes to effective action in controlling drug traffic, too often the DEA’s hands are tied by ‘political constraints’ mandated from higher up in the administration. The Times review gives Mills' portrayal of anti-drug operations, where they “go after loads of cargo rather than the heads of smuggling organizations.” This, of course, permits the appearance of a ‘War on Drugs’ without seriously restraining drug production or traffic. Perhaps it was Centac’s political mistake of going after some of the top kingpins in the international drug trade that led to “Centac’s reorganization into meaninglessness through the efforts of the FBI.” (20) When explaining the frustrations of the DEA to a congressional hearing at which Mills was asked to report, Senator Lawrence J. Smith (R-Florida) admitted that placing the DEA under the mandate of the FBI was probably a mistake. (21)
Senator Smith sums up James Mills' conclusions: “…drug enforcement efforts kind of break down when the governments involved, both those of the producing or trafficking countries and our country, see a potential for embarrassment or interference with other diplomatic or national security objectives.” (21)
‘The intelligence community just does not want us to go into court with evidence incriminating Mexican officials in drug trafficking...’
In the case of México, as Mills stated to the same congressional committee, “There is a very strong tendency, particularly within the [U.S.] Department of Justice, to keep the lid on very simply ….” and adds, tellingly, “We know that México has a $100 billion foreign debt.” (21)
Why does the U.S. government not carry through consistently on its ‘War on Drugs’? The answer lies in political and economic factors, but also in deeply entrenched corruption. The corruption within the U.S. government, if perhaps less pervasive, is just as institutionalized as in the Mexican government (insofar as it often has covert, high-level approval) and is much more dangerous and far reaching—precisely because the U.S. is a much more powerful and influential country.
It is well documented that attempts at drug enforcement at lower levels of the U.S. government have, for political reasons, often been blocked at higher levels. For example, the Chicago Tribune tells us that although CIA agents have collected vast amounts of evidence incriminating Mexican officials in drug trafficking, the CIA leadership has been reluctant to use that evidence to help check the flow of drugs. “The intelligence community just does not want us to go into court with what they have gotten,” a Justice Department source is quoted as saying. (11)
In May of 1986, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, Senator Jesse Helms, chairman of the subcommittee, led what has been described as an “angry and accusatory” testimony against high-ranking officials in the Mexican government. As part of the testimony, the then-U.S. Ambassador to México, John Gavin, and the head of U.S. Customs, William von Raab, brought vehement allegations of drug trafficking, not only against high officials and police chiefs, but also against relatives of México ’s president. The U.S. Customs chief called graft in México so pervasive that he “assumes that any Mexican official is dishonest unless proven otherwise.” (22)
Rather than follow up on specific accusations, or bring charges against any of the officials named, both the Mexican government and the Reagan administration reacted in a way that can only be described as ‘politically expedient’. The Mexican government issued a strong protest, accusing the U.S. of violating México ’s sovereignty. (23) The protest stated that “México categorically denies all the accusations and slanders that have been made against our country during the hearing,” and that “low-level officials” in the U.S. administration made declarations during the hearings that “do not reflect reality and that use distorting information about what is going on in México.” (24)
In response, the Reagan administration apologized to the Mexican government and rebuked the “low-level officials” who had testified at the hearing. (11) When, in spite of the rebukes from the Reagan administration, Jesse Helms, in a subsequent hearing, implicated still more Mexican officials, Attorney General Meese took a move to restrict the inquiry. “Convinced that the cross-border mudslinging was doing unneeded harm to relations between the U.S. and México, Meese ordered all Justice Department agencies to refrain from making such allegations, and he struck up what has been described as good relations with the Mexican Attorney General, Sergio García Ramírez!” (11) Meese has even said that he is “terribly impressed” with México ’s antinarcotics efforts. (22) Meanwhile, drugs continue to flow into the U.S. from México at an unprecedented rate.
Diplomatically and strategically, Meese probably had no choice but to call off his investigators when they began to follow too closely on the track of Mexican high officials. For, as the Reagan administration knows only too well, officials high in the U.S. government are vulnerable to similar charges. In fact, the Mexican government had every right to be outraged, and to point to “…the political irresponsibility implied by these statements [in the hearings].” (23) The Mexican government newspaper, El Nacional, was more blunt in its accusations. A front-page headline stated that the U.S. is a leading promoter of drug traffic. (25)
And as the evidence mounts, this accusation seems dangerously close to the truth. No wonder Reagan’s drug warriors have called off their dogs. † And, diplomatically speaking, rightly so. There appears to be a tacit agreement between the U.S. and Mexican governments about how far either government will go—and not go—in their mutual `War on Drugs'. Each government is well aware of the other’s clandestine record of collusion in drug trafficking. As the Christian Science Monitor points out:
Nor do Mexicans forget that many of the drugs grown in areas near the U.S. border were developed with funds of U.S. drug racketeers. They also point out that many of these mobsters have never been brought to justice in the U.S. and that some of them have excellent connections with corrupt U.S. law enforcement officials. (28)
† Politics are not only behind the ‘cease fires’ in the ‘War on Drugs’, but also behind some of the most devastating attacks. If we reflect on Senator Jesse Helms’ political record, it becomes evident that his vehemence against high Mexican officials comes less from his concern about drug dealing than as an excuse to harass México for its opposition to U.S. intervention in Nicaragua and its leadership in the Contadora alliance for peace in Central America. In contrast to his charges against México, in El Salvador he not only did nothing to expose public officials involved in drug trafficking, he supported ultra right- wing candidate Roberto d’Aubuisson for the Salvadoran presidency, despite the evidence that d’Aubuisson knows and does business with death-squad killers and drug smugglers. (26)
Even the tremendous reaction of the Reagan administration to the murder of Camarena is thought by some critics to be politically motivated. In the words of former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, “I don’t see any real drug control basis for the border [restrictions following the Camarena murder]. It’s a weapon the Reagan administration has chosen to manifest its power to discipline México for policies it doesn’t like. It’s a way of sticking our finger in Mexico’s eye, a neat way of showing how much trouble we can give.” (27)
The Economics of International Drug Trafficking
The fundamental reason why neither the U.S. nor the Mexican government is willing to fight an all out ‘War on Drugs’ (except in public speeches) lies in the camp of national and international economics.
Economically, México is in a severe crisis, which for the past five years has been rapidly worsening. This crisis has been caused, at least in part, by the same global economic factors that have driven nearly all developing countries into overwhelming and unpayable foreign debt.
In the early 1970s, The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quadrupled the price of oil. Much of the increased revenue from oil sales was deposited in Western banks. These banks, hungry for profits through lending, made big loans to developing countries, which were eager for capital to pay for expensive oil imports and to encourage economic development at home. (29)
With their income falling and prices and interest rates rising, many developing countries had trouble even paying the interest on their huge debts. And as the economic viability of Third World countries became uncertain, politicians, businessmen and racketeers began to invest much more of their money in developed countries with the encouragement of banks, businesses, and other rich nation accomplices. This capital flight, combined with widespread corruption, made the debt crisis even more extreme. (29, 30)
The banks, in order to avert default on their loans by the poor countries, offered to lend those countries still more money but only if they agreed to adopt their terms of ‘economic adjustment’. (29)
The new ‘economic adjustment’ which demands austerity (cuts in public spending, freezing wages, and freezing prices) and an increase in production for export (cash crops instead of food crops) has caused increased poverty, hunger and poor health for the poor majority in scores of developing countries.
México is one of the countries that has been hardest hit by the debt crisis. In the 1970s, as new discoveries of vast oil fields were being made, México borrowed colossal sums to finance the development of its oil industry. With its huge foreign debt and then the worldwide crash of oil prices in the early 1980s, México went into an extreme crisis. In 1982, México would have had to default on its loans—but at the last minute, the international banking community, in a desperate attempt to protect its own interests, decided to bail out the country with still more loans. This, of course, means an even bigger debt. (29)
México ’s economic crisis was aggravated even further by the massive corruption and capital flight that accompanied the loans it received for the development of its oil industry. (The same thing happened in Nigeria during its oil boom.) The head of PEMEX (Petroleos Mexicanos), Jorge Díaz Serrano, was finally fired and jailed only after he stole—and invested outside the country—billions of dollars, according to some investigators’ estimates. Former Mexican President López Portillo, who fired Díaz, is also said, during his six-year term, to have “skimmed off more than his share of the Mexican people’s wealth—perhaps as much as $5 billion.” (31)
México now has a $110 billion foreign debt, owed to over 500 international and foreign banks, many in the United States.
Every day, México must come up with $30 million just to pay the interest. (32, 33) To do this, it is forced to beg and borrow more from the same banks (who have long since grown reluctant to lend more).
An article in the Utne Reader titled “México trembles on the edge of a nightmare” sums up México’s dire situation and the concern it is provoking among U.S. bankers and government officials:
Another Mexican revolution is brewing, as plummeting oil prices and continuing chaos from last year’s earthquake bring more misery to people already suffering poverty, pollution, and political corruption on a hideous scale. The situation there has already sent millions of Mexicans into the U.S. in search of a better life. But… illegal immigration is only a small part of the problem the U.S. may face. México’s crisis may bring chaos to the American banking system with a default on its loans. And restlessness in the Mexican military, along with grave discontent among both leftists and rightists, may bring a bloody war to the southern U.S. border.(emphasis added) (34) †
† Don’t get too scared of pending revolution south of the border—at least not in the immediate future. According to the Chicago Tribune, much of this kind of ‘alarmist reporting’ about México ’s stability is based in part on a CIA National Intelligence Estimate which former CIA Director Casey had done in México. Casey wanted to prove that the Mexican government, which has been controlled for over 50 years by one party (the PRI), has become so corrupt and unstable that the situation ‘threatens U.S. security’ (in other words, that there is risk of a left-wing revolution). If this were the case, Casey felt that he could justify and carry out a covert CIA operation in México to undermine the PRI and turn power over to the ultra-right wing party, PAN. When the National Intelligence Estimate that Casey had requested showed that the Mexican government is in fact still relatively stable, that revolution is not imminent, and that there is no present ‘threat to U.S. national security’, Casey ‘revised’ the final NIE report, altering facts to support his thesis. The CIA México City station chief, John Horton, who had carried out the National Intelligence Estimate, resigned from the CIA as a protest of Casey’s dishonesty. Nevertheless, Casey’s revised NIE report continues to be the basis for much of the Reagan Administration’s Mexican policy. In a recent article in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-intelligence, Horton argues that “Casey hoped to present México as another Iran, on the brink of another violent revolution, that would have enormous ramifications for the U.S.” (35)
With regard to the huge foreign debt, many Mexican economists echo the conclusion of Fidel Velázquez, head of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CMT), who states: “At this time, we cannot pay. We simply cannot pay.” (33) In recent demonstrations in México City, around 100,000 people shouted: “Don’t pay!” (33) And, President Miguel de la Madrid simply warns: “Dead men don’t pay debts.” (36)
What would happen if México did not pay? Pete Hamill’s article “The Capital of Calamity” gives us an idea:
American financiers shudder at the possibility. Many believe that if México didn’t pay, and was joined by OPEC member Venezuela (which owes $35 billion), and then—in contagion of anti-Yanqui nationalism—by Brazil ($100 billion) and Argentina ($50 billion) then the banking structure of the United States would collapse. If México acted alone, Citibank would reel and stagger, reaching for the ropes and surviving. But mighty Chase Manhattan might have to close its gilded doors. (33)
Strangely enough, although México’s economic collapse has been predicted and awaited since 1982, the country somehow manages to survive. Not only does it survive, but Mexican officials, traders, and gangsters continue to amass vast amounts of money into private foreign accounts.
In view of the economic crisis and its huge debt, what is it that still keeps the sinking Mexican economy afloat? And why are officials on both sides of the border so reluctant to state the obvious?
If we put all the facts together, the answer is as clear as it is ominous. Narcotics. No one knows the full dimension of the narcotics trade in México, but it involves certainly more than 30 billion dollars a year and possibly more than $50 billion. Compare this with $16 billion produced by oil exports  (37) and $1 billion by the tourist trade  (38) , two of México ’s most important industries.
A classified document jointly prepared by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the CIA, the State Department, and the U.S. National Security Agency says that 75% of the total export earnings of México and Colombia are probably drug profits. (21) †
† For Bolivia, the figure is 80%, according to the Foro Económico, a Bolivian think tank. (39)
To keep paying its $30 million per day interest on its $110 billion foreign debt, México depends almost completely on its earnings from exports. American banks have good reason to be fearful of default on their loans, especially to Latin American countries. President Alan Garcia of Peru has already announced that his country will limit interest payments on its foreign debts to a percentage of its export earnings. (32) Other countries are considering similar decisions.
With 75% of México’s and Colombia’s export earnings coming from the drug trade, it is easy to understand why the U.S. banking system—and consequently the U.S. government—must carefully weigh the economic risks of an all-out ‘War on Drugs’. And it becomes clearer why “[U.S. Attorney General] Meese doesn’t favor sanctions on lands that produce drugs.” (40)
Newsweek gives this account of the role of Mazatlán’s drug lord, Manuel Salcido (Cochiloco) in the Mexican economy:
According to local sources, Salcido has invested $35 million [dollars] in Mazatlán. He owns four tourist hotels, three movie houses, restaurants, shopping complexes, and an office building from which he runs his businesses like a holding company. Half of the local newspaper, El Singleness, reportedly belongs to him and so does an elaborate disco now being built..: “The traffickers are the only ones investing money in México ,” says one businessman. “The rest take their dollars out. The narcotraficantes build roads, drainage systems, restaurants, and hotels. This creates jobs ….” Another resident reports that the pot king is now looking for political candidates to back. (7)
Caro Quintero, México’s ‘Robin Hood’ whose 8 billion dollar stash of marijuana at Los Búfalos was but one of many of his mammoth narcotics ventures, has offered to do even more to aid his country. This poor-farmer-turned-billionaire has offered, if released from jail and allowed to continue his illicit trade, to pay off México ’s national debt within five years! And millions of Mexicans believe that their folk hero would do just that.
Apart from the multi-billion dollar export earnings that México gains through tolerating the trade of its biggest drug dealers, another substantial source of revenue comes from the ‘percentages’ charged by police and soldiers who permit poor farmers to grow drugs. Still more money is made from the periodic arrests of some of these same farmers, whose families must come up with millions of pesos to get them released from jail. (This, of course, drives the families into huge debts that they can only pay off by growing more drugs.)
The ‘busting’ of some of the 400,000 American tourists in México also brings in dollars. Plainclothes police sell a bit of ‘mota’ (pot) to an unsuspecting young gringo, and around the corner a uniformed policeman busts him. In this way, a small plastic bag of marijuana can bring in sizeable quantities of dollars through a vicious circle of sales and busts. (Several years ago, soldiers planted marijuana in our Foundation truck. If I hadn’t known how to call their bluff, the incident could have been very costly for us. On another occasion, a municipal president tried to extract a bribe from me because he was convinced that my health work in the mountains of Sinaloa was a cover for drug running. I refused to pay, and two weeks later, soldiers arrested me on a trumped-up drug charge—which, fortunately, I was able to prove was false.)
From México ’s perspective, serious reduction of the drug trade could mean economic disaster. There is a rumor in México that in 1985, a top Mexican official met with the nine biggest narcotraficantes in the country, offering them a free hand to continue their illicit trade, but with three conditions:
that any drugs produced or brought into México be exported and not permitted to remain in the country for local consumption,
that money earned from the export of drugs be invested in México, not banked or invested in other countries,
that violence be kept to a minimum.
Whether there is any truth to this rumor or not, it does have a certain logic. Given that under México’s present economic restraints the drug trade will and must continue, the conditions as stated above would help provide greater benefit and less harm (to Mexicans, if not to Americans). To some extent, some of México’s drug kings seem to be responding, at least to the second condition.
Drug Traffic to Fight Debts in Asia
México and Colombia are only two of many poor countries that have resorted to drug trafficking to offset their huge foreign debts. The New York Times reports that “the Government of Laos is promoting cultivation and export of marijuana as a means to earn foreign exchange, according to Thailand officials who have been monitoring narcotics in the region.” It adds that “international narcotics agents say they believe American crime syndicates are behind the expanding marijuana trade in the region…” A Thai official said that Laos “had exported at least 200 tons of marijuana in the last four months.” He states that “a Laotian Government agency… buys seed and fertilizer in Thailand, distributes it in Laos and then purchases the crop from local farmers for resale abroad.” (41)
Drug-Related Corruption Within the U.S. government
Lest Americans begin to grow righteous about corruption of Mexican officials, it is well to remember that drug-related corruption has, for many years, been institutionalized within certain branches of the U.S. government. And today it is as bad as ever, if not worse.
Collusion in drug trafficking as part of covert U.S. policy was first exposed by journalists and scholars many years ago. It has been shown that in Southeast Asia, the regional drug traffic was controlled by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) through Colonel Paul Hellywell. And, in 1968, Santos Traficante, godfather of the Florida mafia, went to Saigon under CIA auspices to organize the drug trade in Laos, Thailand, and South Vietnam. (42) The border area shared by these countries formed the notorious ‘Golden Triangle’, through which drugs were sent to the U.S., Canada, and Northern Europe. In the U.S. today, among the most active organized crime bands involved in drug racketeering are those of Chinese, Cubans, and Vietnamese. All of them are more or less linked to the Cosa Nostra (mafia), and all of them have ties to the CIA, for the CIA used them to combat socialist revolutions in China, Cuba, and Vietnam. (42)
Contras' War on Nicaragua Partly Financed by Drug Traffic into U.S.—with Covert Government Support
History is now repeating itself in Nicaragua, where many of the Contras, who are overtly and covertly financed by the Reagan administration and the CIA, also deal in drugs.
It is interesting to note that before the Iran-Contra arms scandal, there was a lot of coverage in the U.S. press about drug trafficking from Latin America into the United States. Since the Iran-Contra scandal broke, the U.S. press—with a few exceptions-has been remarkably silent on drug smuggling from Latin America.
Although there is substantial evidence that the Contras have helped finance their war by extensive trafficking of drugs to the U.S., the Iran-Contra hearings conspicuously avoided any public probing into these potentially explosive issues. Nor did the hearings committees call publicly on certain key witnesses who could provide first-hand information on the U.S. link to Contra drug-running.
It is not as if the congressmen didn’t know. On April 6, 1987, the CBS program, “West 57th Street,” led off with a heavily documented report on the CIA-Contra-narcotics connection. (However, the only major U.S. newspaper to pick it up was the Miami Herald.) The most sobering part of the report was an interview with Mike Tolliver, in which this freelance pilot and convicted drug smuggler described his role as part of the Reagan administration’s Nicaraguan policy. The interview with Tolliver was reprinted by The Nation:
In March, 1986, Mike Tolliver was contracted by the CIA to fly to Aguacate, a Contra supply base of the sort set up by Elliot Abrams and others in Honduras:
TOLLIVER: We had about 28,000 pounds of military supplies—guns, ammunition, things like that.
REPORTER: And when you landed in Honduras, no checking, no customs, no inspections?
TOLLIVER: Well, I didn’t think the customs people were going to be out there in the jungle, to be honest with you.
REPORTER: What kind of cargo were you bringing back?
TOLLIVER: 25,000 and change, pot.
REPORTER: 25,000 pounds of pot?
TOLLIVER: Yeah, marijuana. Same plane.
Having established that the dope came from the same people who provided the original shipment of arms, Tolliver described his homeward run to South Florida:
REPORTER: Where in South Florida?
TOLLIVER: We landed at Homestead.
TOLLIVER: Air Force Base. (43)
To make things worse, the plane Tolliver identified as flying has been confirmed as the same plane hired by the Reagan administration to fly ‘humanitarian’ supplies to the Contras. The dates check out as well. (43)
On the same CBS program, George Morales, a convicted cocaine smuggler, stated (clearly without hope of improving his legal position) that the CIA had exploited his indictment as a drug lord to extort from him planes, pilots, and a $3 million cash donation to the Contras. † The CBS program, which has exacting standards for research accuracy, showed clearly that “some individuals had run a lot of guns to the Contras as well as a lot of drugs to American dealers and addicts.”
The involvement of various persons linked to the U.S. government was also obvious. (43) † †
† Nicaragua is not the only country today in which the CIA is aiding rebels who finance their war through drug traffic to the United States. According to the New York Times, dozens of rebel commanders and fighters across Afghanistan state that they are growing opium poppy to help finance their war against troops of the Soviet and Afghan armies. A report by U.S. officials denies that the rebels “have been involved in narcotics activities as a matter of policy to finance their operations.” But rebel leaders say their cultivation of opium on such an extensive scale is something new and is directly tied to the war effort …. “The war,” the rebels said, “created its own economic and moral imperatives… and the opium harvest was crucial ….” A State Department report (12 February ‘86) described Afghanistan and the bordering tribal areas of Pakistan as “the world’s leading source of heroin exports to the United States and Europe”- this year, an estimated 800 metric tons (or $80 billion, at the retail value of $100 per gram). (44) The New York Times article does not mention CIA complicity. But with the CIA’s track record and its key role in the Afghan war, we can only guess at its covert links with the rebel’s ‘victory garden’ against communism.
† † Morales identified the Costa Rican airstrip, where guns are swapped for cocaine, as owned by John Hull. In a lawsuit by the Christic Institute (see box, p. 13) John Hull is being accused of supervising a special unit of Contra forces in Costa Rica that operates mainly from his ranch there. Hull is said to have planned and provided explosives for the May 1984 attack on a public press conference called by former Sandinista commander Eden Pastora. He is also said to have participated in a plan to bomb the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica, and in a plan to assassinate the U.S. ambassador there, Lewis Tambs. (45) According to the Tower Commission Report, Hull has been recorded in several meetings with Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North.
In addition to the CBS exposure, there is substantial additional documentation (some of it in CIA reports) showing how the Contras, aided by U.S. government agents, finance their war against Nicaragua through the traffic of narcotics into the United States. Peter Dale Scott is researching this subject for the Washington-based International Center for Development Policy. These are some of the incontestable facts Dale has gathered:
A 1985 CIA report alleges that a Contra ‘top commander’ in Costa Rica used cocaine money to buy an arms shipment and a helicopter.
Two Nicaraguan cocaine smugglers, convicted in the largest cocaine bust in western U.S., told of passing their earnings to the Contras.
The DEA identified a leading Contra fund-raiser in 1984 as a major cocaine importer for the U.S. market. (43)
Also, the military leader of Panama, General Manuel Noriega, who is being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department for multimillion dollar involvement in opium processing and drug trafficking (46) is reported to have donated $10 million to the Contras. (47) No U.S. congress member—in or out of the Iran-Contra investigation—can honestly claim ignorance of these matters. All the information I have just recorded has been gathered from the U.S. press. Some of it has appeared on national television.
"Even the State Department has admitted that some of the Contras have been involved in drug-smuggling…"
An article in the Boston Globe makes clear an attempt to cover up the U.S.-Contra drug smuggling connection during the Iran-Contra hearings. The following are excerpts from the Globe article:
WASHINGTON—A confidential memorandum urging that the Iran-contra committees issue a statement saying that they have uncovered no evidence of drug-smuggling by the Nicaraguan rebels has drawn criticism from within the committees and from others probing the allegations ….
The memo [written by Robert Bermingham, a committee investigator and dated July 23, 1987] concludes that… the committees did not find “any corroboration of media-exploited allegations that the U.S. government condoned drug trafficking by contra leaders… or that the contra leaders or organizations did in fact take part in such activity ….” The memo urged that… “the joint committee issue a statement to the above effect ….”
Congressional sources say the recommendation was made because of the political motivations of committee Republicans eager to disassociate the contras from drug smuggling allegations at a time when the Reagan administration is seeking congressional approval for additional military aid to the rebels.
“It’s a harebrained idea,” said one committee investigator …. “Chairmen Inouye and Hamilton would be ill served to carry out its recommendation ….”
The memo said a parallel investigation by the Senate Iran contra committee “was also substantially negative with regard to contra drug smuggling ….’
Meanwhile, another congressional committee and two congressional subcommittees have looked into allegations that contra leaders and their U.S. supporters have engaged in drug-smuggling ….
Sources familiar with these four investigations say they have uncovered evidence to support charges of contra drug smuggling.
One of the congressional investigations is being conducted by the Senate Foreign subcommittee on security and terrorism, headed by Senator John F. Kerry. Sources say the panel has heard extensive testimony in public and in executive session supporting the drug smuggling allegations.
On July 15, the subcommittee heard public testimony from a convicted cocaine smuggler, George Morales, who said that from the summer of 1984 until early 1986 he directed a network of pilots who flew weapons from two airports in southern Florida to contra bases in Central America. Morales testified that the flights returned to the United States with marijuana and cocaine. Proceeds from the sale of the drugs yielded “millions and millions of dollars” for the Contras, he testified.
“Even the State Department has admitted that some of the Contras have been involved in drug-smuggling,” said a senior aide to Kerry. “Robert Owen has said he knew about such activities. I find it incredible that the select committee, however, cannot uncover similar evidence. The memo leads you to wonder what the motivation of its author was.”
Owen worked for Lt. Col. Oliver L. North… as an aide and liaison with the contra leadership ….
A spokesman for the [House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control], Robert Weiner, said the memo “does not accurately represent what we had or what we developed …. We did indeed find there is substance to many of the allegations. Mr. Bermingham is wrongly prejudging a congressional committee investigation.” (48) †
† Despite all this on August 26 1987, the New York Times reported, without further comment, that “A memo by an aide to the Iran-Contra committees, released today and dated July 23 said the panel had been unable to confirm charges that the Contras were underwriting their war effort through the sale of drugs.” The attempt to cover up the U.S.-Contra drug smuggling connection seems to be succeeding. (49)
No wonder Meese and Schultz reined in the witch-hunt on Mexican officials involved in drug traffic. For how can the U.S. government be critical of the drug-related corruption in México when it smuggles drugs into its own country to finance mercenaries to destabilize a small struggling nation? Is not the U.S. government’s crime far worse?
México, as we have seen, is in a state of economic crisis that I makes its drug trade almost unavoidable. On a much larger scale, México can be compared to Noes father and the other poor campesinos, who are trapped into overwhelming debt by powers bigger than themselves. Both the Mexican campesino and the Mexican government recognize the danger of turning to drugs as a last resort. But the powers that be offer them little choice.
The U.S. government, on the other hand, is using the flow of drugs into the U.S.—and the consequent addiction and deterioration of millions of its citizens—not for purposes of survival, but for aggression. This aggression has been condemned by the World Court, the UN Security Council, and the UN General Assembly, and by the vast majority of countries in the world. (50)
And what has Congress done about it? And what has the U.S. press said about it? With a few notable exceptions, they have turned a blind eye. By doing so, they have become accomplices.
The Reagan administration (and through their silence, Congress and the majority of the U.S. press) have perpetuated the use of drugs among North Americans to help finance the subjugation of countless Latin Americans to terrorism, displacement, disability, and death. All this has been done in the name of an ideology (the right of the strong to exploit the weak) which—if this planet survives—in a few generations will be universally condemned as being as selfish, barbaric, and immoral as slavery.