CHAPTER THREE 25
BUILDING THE LATIN AMERICAN DRUG NETWORK
The Czechoslovak component of the Soviet drug offensive began in 1960 on two fronts, Asia (Indonesia, India and Burma) and Latin America (Cuba). Because of the special rele- vance of Cuba to the growth in illegal drugs and narcotics in the United States, the Soviet- Czechoslovak-Cuban operation deserves close scrutiny.
In the late summer of 1960, just a year and a half after Fidel Castro seized power, his brother Raul Castro visited Czechoslovakia in search of military aid and assistance. At that time, Fidel and the Soviets distrusted each other, which is why the Cubans first approached Czechoslovakia rather than the Soviet Union. Sejna was responsible for receiving the Cuban delegation and serving as their host during their visit. One of his first actions was to arrange for Raul to visit the Soviet Union and meet Khrushchev1. Following that visit, the Soviets directed Czechoslovakia to work with the Cubans and pave the way for an eventual Soviet takeover of Cuba. The Soviets wanted Czechoslovakia to take the lead, hiding the role of the Soviet Union. They did not want Fidel Castro to be aware of the
Soviet operation to infiltrate and take over Cuba and they did not want the United States to be alerted to what would be happening.
Cuba and Czechoslovakia signed an agreement whereby the Czechoslovaks would help the Cubans obtain military equipment, train the Cubans in military planning and operations, and help organise Cuban intelligence and counter-intelligence2. In return, Cuba agreed to become a revolutionary centre3 in the West and to allow Czechoslovakia to establish an intelligence station in Cuba. Sixteen Czechoslovak advisors went to Cuba to provide training and help establish their intelligence and counter-intelligence operations. Roughly fifty percent of the Czechoslovak advisors and intelligence agents who went to Cuba were actually Soviets operating under Czechoslovak cover. Within three years, all Czechoslovaks in key positions would be replaced by Soviets. Thus, from the beginning, Cuban intelligence and military structures were heavily influenced by the Soviets. In less than ten years, the Soviets were in complete control.
After the first Cubans had been trained as intelligence agents, they received their first directions from Moscow via Czechoslovakia: to infiltrate the United States and all Latin American countries4 and to produce and distribute drugs and narcotics into the United
States. The instructions from the Soviet Defence Council went to the Czechoslovak Defence Council and thence to Cuba. Czechoslovak advisers helped the Cubans initiate the produc- tion of drugs and narcotics as a matter of the highest priority and also assisted them in set- ting up transportation routes through Canada and Mexico, where the Czechoslovaks had good agent networks, into the United States. Rudolph Barak, the Czechoslovak Minister of Interior and as such the head of civilian intelligence, personally helped establish the Cuban operation. From the beginning, Barak was constantly pushing the Soviets to go faster and farther. He wanted to speed production and make more effective use of the Czechoslovak agent networks in Latin America, Asia, Austria and West Germany5.
No sooner had the basic Cuban drug production and trafficking operation started up than instructions were received from the Soviet Defence Council to expand the offensive. In
1961, Czechoslovakia received directions from the Soviet Defence Council for Cuban intelligence to infiltrate existing drug operations in Latin America and the United States and to prepare the base for 'recruiting' these independent operations. The order was pre- sented to the Czechoslovak Defence Council by the Ministers of Defence and Interior. As Secretary of the Czechoslovak Defence Council, Sejna was responsible for coordinating and scheduling such directions and subsequent assignments. The Czechoslovak plan to implement the order had been coordinated and approved by the Soviet Administrative Organs Department of the Central Committee of the CPSU.
The main objective of the infiltration was to obtain information on individuals who had been corrupted by drug and narcotics trafficking. Key target groups that were identi- fied were the military, police, government, politics, religions and business. Additional tar- gets were scientific institutions, military industry, and universities. A secondary objective was to obtain intelligence on all drug and narcotics production and distribution activity, to enable the Soviets to exert strategic control and help prevent the various independent operations from interfering with one another. Intelligence derived from organised crime penetrations also contributed to this objective. The first meeting to coordinate the infiltration and collection of data on drug and narcotics corruption that Sejna was aware of occurred in
1962 during the Second Havana Conference, at a secret meeting of Soviet and Soviet-trained strategic intelligence agents from all the Latin American organisations. The secret meeting was managed by Cuban and Czechoslovak intelligence. Czechoslovak officials from military intelligence, Zs, organised the meeting. Other Czechoslovak officials attending the conference were from the Ministry of Interior, Second Administration (the KGB intelligence counterpart in Czechoslovakia) and military counter-intelligence.
In collecting data on individuals corrupted by drug-trafficking, both those using drugs or profiting from the trafficking, the Soviets identified large numbers of people who could be bribed, who were susceptible to influence, and, most important, as Sejna elabor- ated, who were 'not concerned about the consequences of their actions'. The resulting informa- tion in the dossiers provided an excellent base for recruiting 'agents of influence' or spies. This information was also used to expose and damage the reputations of individuals and organisations considered hostile to Soviet interests.
The use of corruption data for blackmail and for recruiting agents of influence is a long- standing Marxist-Leninist tactic which is used on a global scale. Czechoslovak intelligence divided its dossiers on corruption into two categories: people already in positions of power, and people at lower levels who were likely to advance into positions of power. By 1967, Czechoslovak intelligence had about 2,500 dossiers on people in the first category.
Their files did not duplicate the dossiers maintained by others who were active in Latin America - the Cubans, East Germans, Hungarians, Bulgarians and Soviets - because of cooperation among the intelligence services. Thus, by the late 1960s, the Soviets already pos- sessed corruption data on upwards of 10,000 influential people throughout Latin America.
As an indication that these numbers are not unreasonable, in 1971 a Frenchman by the name of Batkoun was caught bringing heroin into Canada. He was deported to France and convicted there of exporting heroin. During the trial, Batkoun was identified as a member of the French Communist Party and an agent of the subsection 'Groupement Cinq' of the Soviet KGB. During his trial, Valeurs Actuelles reported that when arrested he had in
his possession a list of 2,000 heroin addicts in Canada, many of whom were prominent civil servants, artists, radio and television entertainers, and university professors6.
Corruption, of course, is not confined to Latin America, but includes North America and European countries such as France, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Great Britain and Germany, of which the last two were identified by the head of the CPSU's International Department, Boris Ponomarev, as the most corrupt. Recognising that the financial institutions that help launder illicit money are part of this network of corruption, the potential for Soviet blackmail and influence operations becomes mind-numbing. Indeed, as will be discussed later, part of the Soviet strategy was to involve people in drugs who were in positions of influence, especially people in banks, financial institutions, politics, the military, and middle-level management in industry, precisely because of the subsequent potential for blackmail and influence operations7.
Knowledge of how various 'independent' drug operations work, what their trafficking
networks are, and who their contacts are, is also used in pursuit of the second objective mentioned on page 26, to exercise strategic control over the operations. In general, the Soviets do not want or need tactical, day-to-day control. So long as drugs and narcotics are flowing in the right direction, into bourgeois societies, Soviet objectives are being accomplished. What is important to the Soviets is to prevent such activities from interfering with other Soviet Bloc operations and certainly to prevent such operations from causing the spotlight of publicity to be shone in the 'wrong' direction.
The information collected via this process was impressive. In 1963, General Sejna, the Minister of Defence, and the chief of military intelligence visited the Zs drug-trafficking training centre at Bratislava. Their host and escort was Colonel Karel Borsky, the military intelligence political officer who was in charge of the training centres. At the time, Sejna
was amazed at the scope of the detail on drug-trafficking around the world, but especially
throughout Latin America, that had been assembled at the Bratislava training location. For example, extensive data had been acquired on numerous companies in Mexico the main business of which was drug smuggling - including pictures of the trucks and the names of the drivers used to transport the drugs into the United States.
Armed with knowledge of how drug operations work, the Soviets watch an operation and exert control only when necessary. The potential for strategic control is evident from testimony given in 1983 by Juan Crump, a Colombian lawyer and narcotics trafficker. In response to questions by Senator Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ) on the importance of contacts with Colombian officials, Crump responded that contact (bribery) was essential in order to exist and survive8. Through Soviet knowledge of these officials, and intelligence on their illegal activities, the Soviets obtain the leverage to exert control over the 'independent' drug operations when necessary.
Another mechanism employed to deal with organisations or individuals who do
not cooperate is to set them up for arrest by drug enforcement authorities. That has been rumoured to be what enabled the US authorities to bring to trial the Colombian drug lord, Carlos Lehder Rivas. Possible reasons for his betrayal are easy to imagine. For example, either the Soviets or the other members of the Medellin Cartel could have concluded that Lehder had become too vocal, too political9. Lehder was giving radio interviews and calling cocaine the 'Latin American atomic bomb'10. Cocaine was a revolutionary weapon to be used against the imperialists, he explained. The problem with what he was saying was that it focused unnecessary attention on the drug operations, specifically on the Medellin Cartel of which he was a member, and was close enough to the truth about the Soviet operation, that either party could have concluded that Lehder had to be silenced". The beauty of simply turning him over to American law enforcement authorities was that it improved the public image of these authorities, even though all they were really doing was acting as disciplinary agents for the drug-trafficking organisation.
Another example of this practice was provided by Ramon Milian Rodriguez, a Miami-based CPA who managed a significant proportion of the drug money earned by Colombia's Medellin Cartel [see page 97]. While in the process of taking $5.3 million in cash out of the United States in May 1983, he was arrested and subsequently convicted of racketeering'2. Rodriguez was employed by the cartel to set up safe houses for collecting, counting and packaging the cash. He then arranged shipment of the money, a complex laundering process, to various banks. All the banks in Panama were used by Rodriguez in the process. Eventually, he explained, most of the money returned to him, which he then invested in real estate, stocks, bonds and Certificates of Deposit for the cartel.
When Rodriguez first set up the operation, Manuel Antonio Noriega was an army colonel in charge of Panama's intelligence service. Rodriguez testified before a US Senate Subcommittee in 1988 that he believed General Noriega had 'very adroitly used the American law enforcement agencies to surgically extract me from the operation, while leaving the operation intact for him and his cronies to continue working'13. The tip-off for Rodriguez's arrest was an anonymous wire, presumably sent by Noriega, from Panama to the South Florida Task Force on drug interdiction, alerting them to Rodriguez's plans14.
But there are other possibilities worth considering. Rodriguez states throughout his testimony that he was strongly anti-Communist. In 1980 or 1981, Cuban intelligence, the DGI, had tried to recruit him to their operation, but he had turned them down. At about the same time, a war started between the Medellin Cartel and the Cuban-sponsored M-19 revolutionaries. Rodriguez states that he advised the Cartel on how to fight the war using terrorist tactics, and then advised against cooperating with the M-19 after the dispute was resolved. Rodriguez further explains how he cautioned the Cartel about the measures he saw being taken by Cuban intelligence to penetrate and obtain control of the Cartel. Finally, Rodriguez explained how he was especially careful in his dealings with Noriega to ensure that 'Noriega was powerful enough to serve us but never let him get powerful enough to control us'. While the telex to Miami that triggered Rodriguez's arrest may have come from Noriega, under the circumstances it would also be logical to suspect that a Cuban or Soviet intelligence agent might have been behind it.
Through the use of information gained by infiltrating the various drug organisations, the Soviets have no need for direct (tactical) control of all Latin American operations. Indeed, it is better that they maintain their distance and that even insiders should remain unaware of the leverage (control) the Soviets can exert when necessary. This oper-
ating principle can be seen reflected in a secret resolution adopted at the Tri-Continental
Conference held in Cuba in 1966, which stated as the sixth operating principle:
To back up resolutely the campaign of the drug addicts, defending it in the name of respect for individual rights. To maintain completely apart the cadres of the Communist Party from the channels for narcotics and their traffic, so that this source of income could not be linked with the revolutionary action of the Communist Party although we must combine fostering the fear of atomic war with pacifism and with the demoralisation of youth by means of hallucinating agents"5 [emphasis added].
Following the decision to have Cuban intelligence agents infiltrate all Latin American operations, the Soviet Defence Council gave further instructions, again through the Czechoslovak Defence Council, this time for Cuba to establish its own production and trafficking operations in various Latin American countries. This provided a first-level backup to the indigenous operations. Cuba now moved rapidly to establish narcotics activities in Mexico and Colombia. The resulting Cuban drug network set up in Colombia was manned by Colombians but directed by Cuba. Czechoslovak intelligence helped establish the operation and the Soviets were involved in both planning and approval. As soon as the new arrangements were underway in Mexico and Colombia, the Cubans, with the assistance of the Czechoslovaks, expanded into Panama and Argentina, and, with the assistance of East Germany, into Uruguay and Jamaica.
Cuba and Czechoslovakia also developed joint operations in Chile. Danislav Lhot- sky, a Czechoslovak intelligence agent, was in Chile officially under an economic cover. His instructions were to develop in concert with the Cubans production and distribution networks in Chile first, and then to expand the network into Argentina and Brazil. When Lhotsky returned to Czechoslovakia in 1967, he was awarded the Order of Red Star for his successful work in building the drug network in Chile.
One of Cuba's early contributions to the drug operation in Chile - identified in a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intelligence report - was the recruitment of the Marxist Senator Salvador Allende, who would later become President. Allende was also present at the Tri-Continental Conference. He proposed creation of OLAS - the Latin American Solidarity Organisation - as a 'united front advocating armed revolution' and was elected its first leader. During Allende s presidency drug-trafficking flourished. In 1973, US authorities seized $309 million worth of cocaine produced in Chilean laboratories16.
In Argentina, the Czechoslovak drug operation was established by one of Czecho- slovakia's most successful agents, Oldrick Limbursky, who was functioning in Argentina as a representative of a Czechoslovak export company. He built the drug network in Argentina and then expanded it into Brazil.
In short, the Cubans were highly effective in establishing operations throughout Latin America. Both Fidel and Raul Castro were enthusiastic and pushed hard to have drug activities expanded faster than the Soviets deemed prudent. Fidel Castro's first visit to Czechoslovakia was particularly noteworthy in this respect. His visit coincided with an extended visit to Moscow following the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was annoyed, to say the least, and spent roughly ten days complaining to top Soviet leaders about their general lack of consultation with him. Then he went on to Czechoslovakia.
The conversations with Fidel were most difficult, Sejna explains. Fidel thought he could destroy capitalism overnight. He wanted to exploit crime for revolution and use the
knowledge of people already corrupted by drugs, which was flowing in from the Cuban infiltration operation, to help speed the sale of drugs. The drugs will help us, Sejna recalls Castro emphasising, in our defence, in obtaining money, and in liquidating capitalism.
Fidel was absolutely adamant. This episode, in fact, was one reason why the Soviets regarded him as an anarchist more than as a Communist. The Czechoslovak officials argued long and hard to convince Fidel that they needed to prepare for the next twenty years, not just for tomorrow. It was not possible, they stressed, to change the old genera- tion. We can corrupt them and exploit them through crime to obtain information and to influence decisions. But the focus for significant change had to be the younger generation.
These were the people that we needed to work on to change the military, to retard scien-
tific development, and to influence government leadership. This is why American youth had been selected as the primary target for the drug offensive.
To communicate Soviet drugs strategy more decisively and clearly to Fidel, Czech- oslovak officials organised a detailed briefing on Khrushchev's strategy of 'peaceful coex- istence', which was designed, as Khrushchev had explained to high-level Czechoslovak officials in 1954, not to befriend the Americans, but to lead them to the grave more quickly. The whole operation was laid out so that Fidel would understand how the use of drugs was integrated into the overall strategy and, therefore, why it was not possible simply to isolate drugs and treat drug-trafficking as an independent operation, drug-trafficking had been designed as an integral part of a coordinated strategy, and it was essential that Fidel understood the importance of this strategy for the long-range, systematic destruction of