The second escape from a Mexican maximum security prison of feared Sinaloa drug cartel chieftain Joaquin Guzman Loera, also known as El Chapo, has re-focused attention of the ties between the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and drug manufacturing and smuggling syndicates around the world.
Drug smuggling planes used by the Sinaloa and other Mexican cartels and linked to the CIA have been interdicted in Mexico. One, a Gulfstream used by the CIA to rendition suspected Al Qaeda members, crash landed in Yucatan in September 2007. On board the aircraft were 3.3 metric tons of cocaine bound for the Sinaloa cartel from Colombia.
In 2006, Mexican police, acting on a tip from INTERPOL, seized a DC-9 aircraft carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine with an estimated street value of $100 million. The plane had made an emergency landing at Ciudad del Carmen in Campeche state. The DC-9 was painted in the familiar blue and white colors of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.
In addition, the Zetas cartel, with support from Mossad cells operating in Guatemala and Costa Rica have used weapons smuggled from the United States and drugs smuggled from Mexico and other locations to launch major CIA-sponsored destabilization efforts aimed at toppling the Sandinista government from power in Nicaragua and seeing the leftist National Unity of Hope (UNE) government of Guatemala ousted in the 2012 election.The ouster of the leftist government in Guatemala was accomplished.
The CIA’s ties to El Chapo follow a long history of CIA links to drug smuggling war lords in Third World nations. During the Indochina War, the CIA’s ties with General Khun Sa in Burma’s opium-producing Golden Triangle and General Vang Pao’s drug smuggling operations in Laos, provided Langley which substantial “off-the-books” revenues for clandestine activities around the world. The CIA’s Golden Triangle smuggling operations continue to exist with CIA fronts, mostly shipping companies based in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macao, smuggling pure morphine into the United States.
Ever since the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, the CIA has been at the center of Afghanistan’s opium and heroin smuggling operations. Most of the smuggling was carried out under the regime of President Hamid Karzai, an old CIA operative since the CIA-led mujaheddin war against the Soviets in the 1980s. When the Taliban banned opium production in 2000, the CIA stepped up its anti-Taliban operations through proxies in the Afghan Northern Alliance and anti-Taliban elements living in Pakistan.
Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a kingpin in the Afghan heroin trade, has also been on the payroll of the CIA. This was even reported by The New York Times in 2009.
During the 1980s, two Nicaraguan contra operatives, Carlos Cabezas and Julio Zavala, were convicted by the U.S. Justice Department of drug trafficking in Miami, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Another drug smuggler, Juan Norwin Meneses Cantarero, was an operative for the two leaders of the contras, Adolfo Calero and Enrique Bermudez. In 1982, the CIA requested the Justice Department to return $36,800 in cash seized from a Meneses operative who was busted in San Francisco. The CIA said the money had to be returned in order to protect an “operational equity.” That equity was the Contra leadership.
The CIA also cooperated with the Israeli Mossad in drug running in the 1980s. Eric Arturo Del Valle, the man Panamanian General Manuel Noriega selected to serve as Panama’s President from 1985 to 1988, was not only a leading member of Panama’s Jewish community but Mossad’s number one asset in Central America. The CIA used the Del Valle family’s sugar export business to smuggle cocaine into the United States. In 1988, the United States exfiltrated Del Valle from Panama City to Miami. Del Valle had broken with Noriega and was replaced as president after the Panamanian junta leader’s indictment by the U.S. Justice Department for drug smuggling. Del Valle arrived at Miami International Airport with several pieces of luggage, some suspected of containing nothing but cash. U.S. Secret Service agents accompanied Del Valle and his wife Marianella to an “undisclosed location.”
The CIA also used Steadman Fagoth Muller, the leader of MISURA, a coalition of Nicaraguan Atlantic coast Indian tribes, the Miskito, Sumo and Rama, to help facilitate the CIA’s Caribbean off-shore narcotics smuggling activities. Miskito Indians began harvesting what became known as “white lobster” — floating packages of cocaine jettisoned from ships originating in Colombia — later picked up by CIA aircraft from small landing strips in Nicaragua and delivered to Mena airport in Arkansas; Marianna airfield, near Memphis; and Marana airport in Arizona.
The Miskito and other tribes received weapons from the CIA in return for the cocaine. Also used to smuggle drugs into the United States was the old CIA proprietary company, Zapata Off-Shore, which was once “owned” by George H W Bush, the vice president of the United States when most of the CIA’s drug smuggling activities were taking place. The shrimp trawlers of another CIA front, Pacific Seafood, was used to transport drugs from Zapata oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico to the U.S. mainland. One important destination for the contraband was John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the drugs were delivered into the hands of Italian mafia boss John Gotti’s men. The link between Gotti and the CIA was known to Jeh Johnson, the Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The CIA links were covered up after the Mafia don’s arrest in 1989. Today, Johnson is Secretary of Homeland Security.
The Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico smuggling operations primarily involved the co-founders of the Medellin cartel in Colombia, Carlos Lehder and Pablo Escobar. As with Noriega who served time in a Florida federal prison, Lehder is housed in a minimum-security Florida federal correctional center. Noriega, who is now in a Panamanian prison, after serving time in a French prison, and Lehder are being kept on ice because of the knowledge they have of the Bush family’s and CIA’s involvement in drug smuggling. Escobar was killed by the Colombian National Police in 1993 after his location was determined through triangulation of his communications signals. The operation was assisted by the U.S. National Security Agency. Escobar was shot in the head, torso, and leg.
When Noriega’s American lawyers threatened to expose videotapes showing Noriega and George H W Bush conspiring to smuggle drugs into the United States, the trial judge, William M. Hoeveler, merely ruled that the CIA could not be brought up by the defense during Noriega’s trial in Miami. Hoeveler, a Jimmy Carter nominee, served on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida until his retirement last year. Although he obviously took his orders from Langley, Hoeveler is praised by his colleagues as a shining star of American jurisprudence. One of his clerks, Kevin Martin, later became a member of the Bush-Cheney recount team in Florida in 2000 and chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under George W. Bush.
There have been appeals for Noriega’s release in Panama and Lehder’s release to his father’s native Germany. As long as the Bush family has anything to do with such decisions, both will remain in prison indefinitely.