The only overtly Communist country included on the State Department's 1998 list was Laos. Notable by their absence were Cuba, Nicaragua, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, East Germany, Romania, the Soviet Union, North Korea, the People's Republic of China and North Vietnam. Here we had a familiar consequence of detente.
Moreover, only two countries on the State Department's list were refused certifica- tion: Syria and Iran. All the remaining countries listed were certified by the Department of State to be not subject to any of the restrictions identified by Congress, because that would be contrary to 'vital national interests', or because it would not encourage cooperation, or because the countries were making bona fide efforts. The 'vital national interest'
cited by the State Department in not wanting to censure Laos was its help in the continuing
US search for POW/MIAs [Prisoners of War/ Missing in Action]!
While Cuba was not even mentioned in the report, the State Department's position had been explained in its annual report published three months earlier, in March 1988:
'It is possible that at least some of them [use of Cuban airspace and waters by narcotics smugglers] occur with direct or tacit Cuban government permission'85.
Attempts to decertify Mexico in 1988 were successfully thwarted by top-level officials in the State Department, Treasury and Congress. They were described in Elaine Shannon's book, Desperados: Latin Drug Lords, US. Lawmen, And The War America Can't Win, along with the corruption in Mexico's entire political and police structure, from top to bottom86. The book was written around the abduction and murder of a DEA agent, Enrique 'Kiki' Camarena, the subsequent cover-up by Mexican officials, and the attempts by US officials from the State Department, the White House, the Treasury and the Justice Department in support of the Mexican officials concerned. The controlling interests were US banks and the business lobby87.
Deep Cover is a detailed expose of the Drug Enforcement Administration's incompe- tence, written by a former DEA undercover agent and group supervisor, Michael Levine.
While focused on a particular case involving Bolivian producers and Mexican corruption in
a joint DEA-Customs sting operation, Levine also discusses the Camarena case. 'In the aftermath of Kiki's murder, the Mexican Government had stonewalled all efforts - first in finding Camarena's body, second in stopping his killers from escaping, and finally in investigating the event'.
Many of the Justice Department, DEA and State Department suits [upper manage ment] and politicians - with an interest in projecting an image (no matter how false) of a progressive and honest Mexican Government that was cooperating in our antidrug efforts - wanted to play down and put the Camarena incident out of the front pages as quickly as possible. It had been up to Kiki's street brothers, the DEA street agents, who fought tooth and nail to keep the investigation alive' to keep the heat on the Mexican Government88.
The story of Camarena's death and the fights DEA agents had to wage against corrupt
Mexican officials was dramatised in an NBC television mini-series, 'Drug Wars', on January
7-9,1990. Indignant Mexican Government officials complained afterwards, with statements that sounded as though they were taken right from the script89. Two weeks later, a Los Angeles grand jury indicted nineteen Mexicans in the torture-murder of Camarena - including the former head of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police, Manuel Ibarra Herrera, and the former head of the Mexican branch of Interpol, Miguel Aldana-Ibarra. Without question, the behaviour of Mexican officials was deplorable.
However, from their perspective, the Mexicans may have a valid complaint. What crimes did the Mexican officials commit that were any worse than the behaviour of their coun- terpart US officials and business/banking interests over the years - to wit, those with respect to Panama, Bulgaria, China and Cuba?
Why did US officials not only ignore Noriega's activities for fifteen years, but in fact send him personal letters of commendation? Why indict Noriega, Vaughan and assorted and
sundry Colombian drug-traffickers, and not indict Raul and Fidel Castro? And why were US business and banking interests more important to US officials than the flow of drugs into the United States, thirty percent of which came through Mexico?
In 1989, the State Department reported on measures taken by the then newly installed
President of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, to 'curb drug-trafficking'. Yet
reports proliferated about continued Mexican corruption and narcotics trafficking. At hearings concerning the State Department's position against decertifying Mexico, the US Customs chief of the day, William von Raab, was prevented from testifying by senior US Treasury officials because of von Raab's critical view of Mexico. As one of von Raab's assistants put it, 'Mr von Raab was particularly anxious to testify' about Mexico: 'He feels that diplomacy seems to have superseded the war on drugs.... There is no evidence of a cooperative effort by Mexico. In many ways the country has become a safe haven for drug dealers, and a huge storage area for drugs'90.
In 1990, another graphic illustration of the State Department's perverse behaviour entered the public domain. Kirt Kotula was a program officer for Bolivia in the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics Matters. In January 1990, he prepared a memorandum which was leaked to the Washington Post91. The memo was described as highly critical of the then new Bolivian Government under President Jaime Paz Zamora, noting that Bolivia's performance 'in almost every area indicates a total lack of commitment to the antidrug war'. Not only did the Bolivian Government's eradication of coca fields lag behind the established objectives, but new plantings had resulted in overall production increasing by 9.2 percent.
The US Government uses successful extradition cases as evidence of cooperation. But Kotula pointed out that the Minister of Interior Luiz Arce Gomez, who was subsequently extradited to the United States on drug charges, was 'universally hated' in Bolivia. Another activity highly publicised by Washington was a succession of joint raids on cocaine labora- tories in the Bolivian interior. One particular raid, which cost the United States $100,000, was mentioned in Kotula's memo. The raid 'failed to achieve even minimal success', he wrote, probably because the traffickers were tipped off in advance by Bolivians.
But, when the State Department's Annual Report was sent to Congress on March 1,
1990, Bolivia was characterised as cooperating fully with the US anti-drug policy92. About all that Assistant Secretary Melvyn Levitsky would say when confronted with the memo was that it was part of a 'red team' exercise to give him candid analyses, but that the memo was
'stolen government property' and should not have been made public93.
With respect to Cuba, even the CIA has been reported to side with the State Depart- ment. As Jack Anderson reported, the CIA Deputy Director, Richard Kerr, stated at a meeting of a Cabinet-level board in a February 1987 that it was hard to identify a direct Cuban Government link to drug-trafficking activities94. If this is an accurate reflection of US intelligence in action, one has to wonder what they use to reach their conclusions. One embarrassing explanation was provided by Major Aspillaga, the Cuban intelligence official who defected to the United States via Vienna in June 1987 [see pages 81 and 83]. He explained that Cuban Government officials once believed by the CIA to be secretly working for them were actually feeding the CIA with misleading or useless information prepared by the Cuban intelligence service. Several such sources had even passed CIA polygraphs.
It was the US Attorney's office in Miami which first unleashed court-room evidence on Cuba's involvement. That happened in November 1982. The evidence, however, apparently never made much of an impression on US intelligence or on the State Depart- ment. Fortunately, in a subsequent indictment, the US Attorney's office in Miami pre- sented still more evidence - this time, videotapes showing drug smugglers explaining to DEA undercover informants how they shipped drugs from Colombia through Cuba, with the assistance of Cuban officials, air traffic controllers, the DGI, and Cuban Air Force
pilots95. All such hard details, however, have little impact on the State Department, which still refuses to acknowledge any significant Cuban participation in drug-trafficking96.
In 1987, as part of the US Senate's advise-and-consent procedures on the nomination, of Ambassador Jack F. Matlock, Jr. to be Ambassador to the Soviet Union, several questions on the role of the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia in narcotics trafficking were submitted to the State Department. Concerning Soviet involvement, State Department officials replied: 'The Department of State has no information regarding official Soviet involvement in international narcotics traffic'. With regard to Czechoslovakia, the State Department replied: 'The Department of State has no information regarding official Czechoslovakian complicity in the international narcotics traffic, nor of any Soviet involvement with the Government of Czechoslovakia in narcotics traffic'. This statement was made after two articles detailing the involvement of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union had been published, and after officials in the two relevant State Department bureaus,
International Narcotics Matters and Intelligence and Research, had been informed of
Sejna's information. They expressed no interest in the data whatsoever.
A particularly interesting film clip was obtained by Jean Michel Cousteau in 1981 during an expedition by his famous father, Jacques Cousteau, to the upper reaches of the Amazon. Deep in the jungle, the younger Cousteau came across an entire village which had been transformed into a centre for cocaine production and research laboratories. The local Indians were used as experimental subjects and in the process many had been transformed into 'zombies'. A segment of the background dialogue in the resultant Cousteau film is worth quoting in detail:
The secret processing centre seems as well a battle outpost, with planes and a cache of weapons believed imported from Cuba for guerrilla fighters'.
'Some believe that cocaine, once merely a source of illicit profits, now also supports small insurgent armies and is sent northward to the United States by jungle militants as a silent, inexorable, poisonous weapon'.
The Cousteau team asks: 'Are you worried about the effects of cocaine on other countries such as the United States?"
"No', the trafficker says, 'because a lot of us consider this a way of responding to the attack of imperialism in South America. If s a cultural response. If a lot of people are going to die here because of imperialist policies from the United States, a lot of people there are going to die from cocaine. This is war"97.
The original film was reported to have included a passage in which it was mentioned that East German and Bulgarian technicians and chemists were working in the laboratory, together with Cuban and Colombian chemists98. While there is no known evidence, it is possible that the highly dangerous 'crack' was developed in this or a similar research facility and then test-marketed in the Caribbean before being introduced into the United States. The US Information Agency was provided with a copy of the original film but has refused to discuss it, even with other agencies, most notably its own Voice of America.
This cooperative assistance by Cuba, East Germany and Bulgaria is not limited to Latin America. Reportedly, these countries have also been active in the Middle East and have helped in the construction of heroin refineries in Syria. The Beka'a Valley in Lebanon is under the control of Syria. The valley has long been noted for the production
of marijuana and hashish. But, the shift into poppies and heroin, with the assistance of
Cuba, East Germany and Bulgaria, is a relatively new development".
The overall situation was summed up in 1988 by the chief assistant US Attorney in Miami, Richard Gregorie, who brought the indictment against Noriega. Gregorie was often critical of the role Washington has played, or failed to play, in putting a stop to drug- trafficking. 'If we are publicly fighting a war on drugs, why isn't the State Department involved?' he asked. 'Prosecutors I have talked with consider the State Department to be working for foreign governments'100.
The State Department's own attitude was clearly expressed in its September 1988
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: 'We believe that our international strategy. .. is working'101. If it is working, one is forced to ask: For whom?