Los Zetas Holds U.S. Drug Business at Gunpoint
© Nil Nikandrov
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation
February 5, 2011
Los Zetas, a Mexican drug cartel run by former special forces officers, turned independent several years ago. The officers sent the Z letter as the codename during their army service, hence the name of the group. For a long time, Los Zetas members used to be hired as bodyguards and hitmen by the influential El Golfo cartel supplying cocaine and heroin from Colombia to the U.S. Eventually Los Zetas outgrew the role and started fighting for control over drug markets and supply routes, regarding El Golfo as the main rival. Fairly soon other Mexican drug cartels found themselves dragged into the strife.
Mexican president Felipe Calderon’s war on drugs contributed to the complexity of the situation. In a clear attempt to boost his popularity following a rather unconvincing victory in the presidential race, Calderon launched a campaign targeting drug cartels which so far met with virtually no resistance in Mexico. Facing an increasingly aggressive drug supply from Mexico which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the FBI were unable to counter, Washington readily blessed Calderon’s aspirations. The global financial crisis forced many of the U.S. banks to welcome cocaine-related financial flows, thus helping breed drug groups which evaded the control exercised by DEA and other U.S. special services. Washington, in its turn, simply sought to regain control as the drug revenues slipped away.
Such were the settings in which the Zetas started building their own bases in the U.S., Central and South America, and the Caribbean in a hope to establish new routes of drug supply from Peru and Colombia to the U.S. via the Pacific and Atlantic “corridors”. The advent of a strong unfamiliar player to the drug market did not go unnoticed. The ferocity of Zetas seemed shocking even for the drug business: they serially killed witnesses, tortured and beheaded their victims to intimidate competitors and law-enforcement agents, and never hesitated to kill people in numbers.
It is an open secret that today’s world owes the spread of torture as an almost routine practice to the CIA, DEA, and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. The Zetas surely learned the craft at the time when their careers were interwoven with those of professionals from the above services. The Zetas record can be traced back to the 1970s-1990s, the epoch of counter-insurgency in Mexico and Central America. U.S. instructors trained a total of 15,000 Mexican special forces officers at Fort Bragg (North Carolina) and the School of the Americas (SOA) sited in the proximity of the Panama Canal, and later – when SOA closed – at Fort Benning (Georgia). Quite a few of the trainees acquired combat experience later during the offensives against the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in Chiapas in 1994-1995. Miserable pay and lack of social status lead thousands of Mexican soldiers and officers to flee from the army and some escapees were recruited by various criminal groups. Switching from army service to organized crime is a phenomenon occurring frequently not only in Mexico, but also in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Those who received counter-insurgency training under the U.S. oversight – for example, the Kaibiles, a Guatemalan analog of the Zetas – tend to be particularly ruthless.
U.S. agencies, aware of what Pentagon’s pets are like, seem alarmed by the increasingly tight alliance of Mexican and Guatemalan organized crime groups. At the moment Washington is trying to eradicate the monsters of its own upbringing, but the U.S. is clearly behind the curve as the carefully tuned and perfectly controllable U.S. domestic drug business is already exposed to the Zetas onslaught. The threat that the war over the drug market is going to spread from Mexico to the U.S. is growing day by day. As of today, the Zetas are fairly entrenched in the part of the U.S. bordering Mexico where the group is known to be buying administration officials, ethnic Latin Americans being the prime target group. Until recently a network of informants managed to help Zetas avoid serious defeats. The drug cartel is heavily armed with various types of weaponry from guns to grenade launchers which the group obtains from gun stores sited all along the 3,170 km U.S.-Mexican border. In some cases, Zetas resort to the assistance from their Mexican army contacts who have access to Pentagon’s arsenals and get the best of the U.S.-made supplies like latest versions of bullet-proof waists, advanced means of communication, helmets equipped with night-vision systems, etc.
Presidents of Central American Countries, Mexico, and Colombia will convene in Guatemala in June, 2011. The stated integration agenda will likely be overshadowed by urgent issues related to the fight against drug cartels. Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom warned that – unless drastic measures were taken to suppress drug trafficking – the death toll in 2011 would reach unprecedented proportions, and Salvador’s Mauricio Funes expressed concern that Zetas are making inroads into his country’s army and police top brass.
One might get an impression that the campaign against drug cartels is the Latin American leaders’ brainchild, but in fact the blueprint including the plan for coordination between the region’s armies, police, and intelligence agencies was fed to the local representatives during consultations at the respective U.S. embassies. Washington’s motivation behind the agenda is clear: it hopes to build a barrier against the drug threat before the narcotic flow spills across the U.S. border. Mexico as the country which lost over 30,000 lives in the drug war presents a stark example of human, socioeconomic, and political costs of a protracted drug-related conflict. Washington is not going to wage a serious war against the drug business within the U.S. as it would put in jeopardy the country’s financial system propped up by billions of dollars in “drug investments” from across the world. While large-scale offensives against drug groups are launched almost anywhere – in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, or Peru – nothing of the kind happens in the U.S., where the “home” drug mafia remains untouchable. Arrests on the lowest order may be carried out on a regular basis to showcase some activity, but the financial indicators of the U.S. drug mafia are never severely affected. Some 10 million Americans are cocaine addicts plus 30-40 million are occasional drug users, and the people’s comfort should not be infringed upon if it’s a market economy. The U.S. public discourse reflects the society’s progressing tolerance to drug use. The “weakness” explainable under the conditions of modern life’s permanent stress is portrayed with understanding in movies and books, and even politicians oftentimes admit lightheartedly to flirting with drugs back when they were college kids.
Latin American countries are confronted with a lot more stringent criteria, though. These liberal novelties are not meant for their populations and therefore hard times await drug cartels defying DEA control. El Golfo boss Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén and a bunch of his bodyguards were shot dead in Matamoros (Tamaulipas) in November, 2010 during a raid launched by Mexican marines after the group was tracked down by DEA and CIA operatives. Frightening pictures of the dead drug lord and his guards – with broken sculls and amidst pools of blood – were posted in the Internet. The raid left a total of at least 50 dead. Of course, these were Mexican, not American dead – the U.S. is fighting on other countries’ territories and at the cost of other nations’ blood.
… Brownsville is a nice place on the Rio Grande, at the Mexican border. It is home to a university, several museums, and a host of golf fields. Tourists flock to Brownsville mainly to watch hordes of birds in their original environment. At nights Brownsville’s cozy restaurants are packed as visitors savor Margaritas and other staples of the Mexican cuisine. Brownsville is a nice place, and, importantly, a peaceful one, in contrast to the country just across the river.
The following article is reprinted with permission from Eva Golinger. She is the author of “The Chávez Code: Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela” (2006 Olive Branch Press) and “Bush vs. Chávez: Washington’s War on Venezuela” (2007, Monthly Review Press).
Chávez: U.S. and Colombia plan to attack Venezuela
© Eva Golinger
July 24, 2010
CARACAS – Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez denounced this Saturday U.S. plans to attack his country and overthrow his government. During a ceremony celebrating the 227th birthday of Independence hero Simon Bolivar, Chávez read from a secret memo he had been sent from an unnamed source inside the United States.
“Old friend, I haven’t seen you in years. As I said to you in my three prior letters, the idea remains the generation of a conflict on your western border”, read Chávez from the secret missive.
“The latest events confirm all, or almost all, of what those here discussed as well as other information that I have obtained from above”, the letter continued.
“The preparation phase in the international community, with the help of Colombia, is in plain execution”, manifested the text, referring to last Thursday’s session in the Organization of American States (OAS), during which the Colombian government accused Venezuela of harboring “terrorists” and “terrorist training camps” and gave the Chávez government a “30-day ultimatum” to allow for international intervention.
The letter continued with more details, “I told you before that the events wouldn’t begin before the 26th, but for some reason they have moved forward several actions that were supposed to be executed afterward”.
“In the United States, the execution phase is accelerating, together with a contention force, as they call it, towards Costa Rica with the pretext of fighting drug trafficking”.
On July 1, the Costa Rican government authorized 46 U.S. war ships and 7,000 marines into their maritime and land territory. The true objective of this military mobilization, said the letter, is to “support military operations” against Venezuela.
Assassination and Overthrow
“There is an agreement between Colombia and the U.S. with two objectives: one is Mauricio and the other is the overthrow of the government”, revealed the document. President Chávez explained that “Mauricio” is a pseudynom used in these communications.
“The military operation is going to happen”, warned the text, “and those from the north will do it, but not directly in Caracas. They will hunt ‘Mauricio’ down outside Caracas, this is very important, I repeat, this is very important”.
President Chávez revealed that he had received similar letters from the same source alerting him to dangerous threats. He received one right before the capture of more than 100 Colombian paramilitaries in the outskirts of Caracas that were part of an assassination plan against the Venezuelan head of state, and another in 2002, just days before the coup d’etat that briefly ousted him from power. “The letter warned of snipers and the coup”, explained Chávez, “and it was right, the information was true, but we were unable to act to prevent it”.
U.S. Military Expansion
This information comes on the heels of the decision last Thursday to break relations between Colombia and Venezuela, made by President Chávez after Colombia’s “show” in the OAS.
“Uribe is capable of anything”, warned Chávez, announcing that the country was on maximum altert and the borders were being reinforced.
Last October, Colombia and the U.S. signed a military agreement permitting the U.S. to occupy seven Colombian bases and to use all Colombian territory as needed to complete missions. One of the bases in the agreement, Palanquero, was cited in May 2009 U.S. Air Force documents as necessary to “conduct full spectrum military operations” in South America and combat the threat of “anti-U.S. governments” in the region.
Palanquero was also signaled as critical to the Pentagon’s Global Mobility Strategy, as outlined in the February 2009 White Paper: Air Mobility Command Global En Route Strategy, “USSOUTHCOM has identified Palanquero, Colombia (German Olano Airfield SKPQ), as a cooperative security location (CSL). From this location nearly half of the continent can be covered by a C-17 without refueling”.
The 2010 Pentagon budget included a $46 million USD request to improve the installations at Palanquero, in order to support the Command Combatant’s “Theater Posture Strategy” and “provide for a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics-funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-U.S. governments, endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters”.
The May 2009 Air Force document further added that Palanquero would be used to “increase our capacity to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), improve global reach… and expand expeditionary warfare capability”.
In February 2010, the U.S. National Directorate of Intelligence (NDI) classified Venezuela as “Anti-U.S. Leader” in the region in its annual threat assessment.
The U.S. also maintains forward operation locations (small military bases) in Aruba and Curazao, just miles off the Venezuelan coast. In recent months, the Venezuelan government has denounced unauthorized incursions of drone planes and other military aircraft into Venezuelan territory, originating from the U.S. bases.
These latest revelations are evidence that a serious, and unjustified conflict is brewing fast against Venezuela, a country with a vibrant democracy and the largest oil reserves in the world.
Eva Golinger is a Venezuelan-American attorney from New York. Her website is http://www.chavezcode.com.
The following analysis is from Russia’s Strategic Culture Foundation.
What is CIA trying to hide in Colombia?
© Nil Nikandrov
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation
July 3, 2010
A group of intelligence agents who worked at Makyhelados ice-cream factory undercover for Colombian DAS were arrested in the town of Barinitas in Venezuela in April. The group was headed by Luis Carlos Cossio, who has dual Colombian-Canadian citizenship. Transportation of goods to the most distant areas of the country offered him unique opportunities for espionage.
Cossio was arrested by the Venezuelan police after he had been seen taking photographs of electricity substations, transmission systems and highways. Frequent cases of sabotage resulted in tight security measures at the country’s energy infrastructure. The police searched Cossio’s house and discovered some 100,000 digital photos which are said to have been transmitted to Colombia via satellite and were addressed to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
There is hardly anyone in Colombia who has never heard about DAS. The Administrative Department of Security is controlled personally by the president. Under Alvaro Uribe, DAS has more than once been at the center of political and criminal scandals. In fact, DAS agents obeyed the CIA and helped the U.S. implement its ‘plan Colombia’.
The U.S.-funded ‘plan Colombia’ aims at curbing drug smuggling and combating a left-wing insurgency (FARC and ELN rebel groups). Washington expected prompt results and thus allowed its ally to play a game without rules. How could President Uribe be criticized in any way since he was loyal and reliable and used the most effective means to fight ‘enemies of democracy and freedom’?
Under George W. Bush, Uribe’s bloody policies were taken as something natural. They thought the main thing was to achieve good results, even at the cost of victims among civilians. That is why the U.S. administration turned a blind eye on numerous reports by human rights organizations about genocide and thousands of victims of state terrorism in Colombia. Neither had they unveiled any details on links between DAS and ultra-right militants from the AUC (the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia).
Through its agents, DAS transmitted information on guerrillas and their aides among the locals to AUC chiefs. Punitive measures did not take long to follow. Scorched earth policy was used against the local population so that guerrillas had no support there. Those measures repeated schemes used by the CIA against left-wing insurgents in Central America in 1960-1980s. AUC brigades were sponsored by cocaine lords, which was a well-known fact for both CIA agents and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Bogota.
When Mr. Bush was expected to leave his post, Washington focused on DAS reforming and steps to abolish AUC. Since the Democrats were the most likely winners in the presidential elections in U.S., it was important to ‘settle all issues’. To encourage the Colombian authorities to cooperate on such a delicate matter, the White House issued an ultimatum: no more subsidies to DAS until it undergoes required reforms! Washington saw no chances for achieving a bilateral free trade agreement unless AUC was abolished and DAS transformed into a modern special task force, employees with criminal past banned from joining in.
President Uribe had to organize a ‘show’ with demobilization of AUC militants, who, watched with television cameras, ‘surrendered’ and ‘returned to normal life’. Later it turned out that most of them did not give up criminal activities – murdering, drug trafficking and racketeering. They are still active and strong enough to boost insurgency in neighboring countries, first of all in Venezuela.
The fact that Colombian paramilitares have moved (as refugees) to the states bordering Venezuela makes the Bolivarian special task services think that CIA and the U.S. military intelligence have been preparing to topple the Venezuelan government. Militants are being recruited secretly to be later used in campaigns aimed at undermining the regime and combating Socialist activists, union leaders and law-enforcement officers.
It is easy to guess what ideology these ‘refugees’ have. During the recent presidential elections in Colombia, election commissions attached to consulates gained overwhelming support to an ultra-right candidate Manuel Santos from members of this ‘refugee camp’. Do they all comprise a ‘fifth column’ waiting for the time to act?
Local political analysts keep on discussing this phenomenon. The Bolivarian government has done everything to help ‘Colombian brothers and sisters’, who escaped repressions, to comfortably settle in Venezuela and even get national ID cards there. But paradoxically, the ‘refugees’ who gained such overwhelming support, cast their ballots for Santos, a successor to Uribe. It was Santos who ordered to bomb a FARC camp in Ecuador, cooperate with AUC chiefs and, above all this, is an influential man in DAS circles. These ‘suspicious refugees’ could hardly be trusted since chances that they will fire at the backs of Bolivarians are too high.
‘Demobilization’ of troops and their dislocation to Venezuela was enough to settle the problem with AUC. But DAS reforming turned out to be a really difficult task. Plans to reform the Administrative Department of Security were first unveiled by President Uribe in 2006, when details on assassination of Hugo Chavez and his closest allies leaked to the media. Then the scandal was hushed up, and the Venezuelan leader accused of ‘paranoid fear for his life’.
But reports on illegal DAS activities in the sphere of drug trafficking, political murders and terror attacks involving FARC and ELN militants, continued to appear in the media. DAS agents stood behind explosions in cafes, night clubs and on buses, while pro-American journalists said ‘Marxists-terrorists’ were to blame. The CIA knew about the DAS-led operations beforehand but would not prevent them, and even initiated some of them. Unstable situation in Colombia had always been used to justify the U.S. military presence in the region, fight ‘populist regimes’, mount pressure on Brazil, and prevent Chinese and Russian expansion in Latin America.
Experts think the DAS reform will allow withdrawal of discreditable CIA materials covering the 2000-2009 period. What are U.S. intelligence agents trying to hide? Involvement in mass killings of guerillas in Colombia, or cooperation with DAS agents to carry out attacks all across Latin America? Or, maybe, their active role in inciting hostility between Colombia and its neighbors – Ecuador and Venezuela? Statistics show that in the past 10 years 60% of union leader’ killings took place in Colombia!
Currently, DAS employs some 6,000 people, more than 2,000 of them taking part in strategic operations. They possess equipment which allows them to tap about 1,700 telephone lines. DAS archives contain data on 28 million Colombians and 700,000 foreigners. The DAS annual budget is $1.6 million.
Current DAS director Felipe Muñoz is responsible for the reform. He is a well-known expert on international finances, and has been in close cooperation with oligarch Santos and his family. Muñoz is also Uribe’s friend, and that was he who once persuaded him to head DAS. Muñoz is a welcome guest at the U.S. embassy. He has already been instructed by the CIA on how to handle the reform and what decision to make. U.S. experts were given access to some of the DAS archives and have been studying them “for human rights purposes”.
Muñoz says he is overloaded with work. 150 officials have been fired on corruption charges, another 100 are being interrogated. A probe has been launched into the use of chuzadas (bugging devices) to tap phones owned by prominent journalists, judges, opposition leaders, etc. A group of experts have been examining DAS guides on how to discredit potential critics of the governemnt, who are accused of having links to FARC and Chavez’s Cabinet, as well as standing behind so-called ‘sex traps’.
Muñoz expects the U.S. to help Colombia create a ‘renewed intelligence organization’ – Agencia Central de Inteligencia – The Central Intelligence Agency of Colombia.
The following article is reprinted with permission from Pravda.
FARC-EP: The Truth
By Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey
March 22, 2010
International media outlets are pandering to the disinformation spread by the Uribe regime in Colombia, which provides one side of the story only, claiming that the Government forces have defeated FARC-EP, the political and military movement fighting for democracy in Colombia and against the rule of terror imposed by Alvaro Uribe and his oligarchic minority.
What is the truth on the ground? The High Command of the Oriental Block of the FARC-EP Chief of Staff have sent PRAVDA.Ru information about what is really happening. This documentation shows the other side of the story: FARC-EP is alive and well.
The Commander of the Eastern Block of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionárias de Colómbia states in his report that “the aim of the Government propaganda is to manipulate public opinion so as to place it in the pocket of the darkest interests of the Government”.
“To continue selling the false idea of a military defeat of the guerrilla movement as a panacea for a solution to the serious problems affecting the vast majority of the Colombian people,” he continues, “is a sign of the extreme perversity among those who rule the country”.
Accusing the Uribe Government of wishing to perpetuate itself for four more years, by violating every fibre of the Constitution, through cynical and corrupt manoeuvres, he claims that most Colombians live in abject misery, facing unemployment, hunger, lack of healthcare, lack of education, lack of basic public services and lack of democracy.
“The solution to our problems,” he claims, “comes neither from U.S. bases, nor spy planes, nor radars with cutting-edge technology, nor foreign military advisors, and nothing which comes from the increasing U.S. influence in Colombia”.
This “military aid” is a front for what is really happening, according to the same source, namely “robbery and sacking of our natural resources, leading us to a total neo-colonial dependence” while it provides a base for attacks on neighbouring countries (Venezuela and Brazil, Peru and Equador).
“To overcome 190 years of despotic, oligarchic and antipatriotic governments,” FARC proposes a “broad consensus of democratic forces, progressive personalities and the best and most clear-thinking opinion makers” to work together towards the national interests, “the reconciliation and reconstruction of our country and its projection towards real economic development and social justice”.
Military report negates Colombian government’s claims
The military report from the Central High Command of the Oriental Block of FARC-EP concerning operations carried out in January would negate anything that President Uribe has claimed regarding anything near defeat of the People’s Army, which operates in the mountains, plains and forests of around half the territory of Colombia, a terrain it knows well and where is enjoys overwhelming popular support.
Between January 1 and 31 2010, in 57 different combat operations in various areas of Eastern Colombia, 65 members of the Government forces were killed, 94 were wounded, three helicopters and 5 light aircraft were destroyed, while seven FARC guerrillas were wounded.
Given these figures, it appears crystal clear that the fight may be one-sided, however not pending towards a victory of the Government forces.