Subject: CIA/Cocaine: Former DEA Agent Tells All in 1992 Book

The following article was posted by "Tom Paine" to the NY Times "New Media"
forum on 10/8/96:


The following are exerpts from "Powder Burns", Cocaine, Contras & The Drug
Connection, a book by retired DEA agent, Cellerino Castillo published in 1992.
Castillo has documented much of what he saw and the DEA has refused to honor
Freedom of Information Act requirments to release any of it. 

From early 1984 to the fall of 1986, (Lt. Col. Oliver) North directed a
clandestine resupply operation he dubbed "Project Democracy," which used a
military airbase in El Salvador to fly weapons and supplies to the Contras. 

For the better part of a year, I investigated it. 

None of this came as any surprise to me. In seven years in the trenches, I had
arrested dozens of traffickers; trained antinarcotics squads in two countries;
flown aerial eradication missions; spearheaded huge cocaine busts. The drug
barons barely flinched: 

In Peru, I watched cartel pilots playing soccer with soldiers; in El Salvador,
military officers took weapons seized from the guerrillas and sold them to
traffickers; in Guatemala, I discovered members of our host government running
a smuggling ring for the cartels. Then I discovered the Contras' secret. 

By the end of his Congressional testimony, North was crowned an American Hero.

Telegrams streamed in from admirers across the country, who reached out to
their new icon. I knew better. 

Many of the diplomats I worked with on a daily basis in the U.S. Embassy in El
Salvador regarded the hard-nosed NSC staffer running the Contra operation as
"pushy and arrogant." 

I thought of him as the leader, whether he knew it or not, of Latin America's
most protected drug smuggling operation. 

The connections piled up quickly. Contra planes flew north to the U.S., loaded
with cocaine, then returned laden with cash. All under the protective umbrella
of the United States Government. My informants were perfectly placed: one
worked with the Contra  pilots at their base, while another moved easily among
the Salvadoran military officials who protected the resupply operation. They
fed me the names of Contra pilots. Again and again, those names showed up in
the DEA database as documented drug traffickers. 

When I pursued the case, my superiors quietly and firmly advised me to move on
to other investigations. 

In Central America, the Contras' drug connection was no secret. The Salvadoran
military knew. The U.S. Embassy knew. DEA knew. The CIA knew: "With respect to
(drug trafficking by) the Resistance Forces ... it is not a couple of people.
It is a lot of people," the CIA's Central American Task Force chief would tell
the Congressmen a month after North's testimony. 

A Congressional subcommittee chaired by Sen. John Kerry searched North's
personal notebooks and found 543 pages containing "references to drugs and
drug trafficking." 

On many of the pages, the material adjacent to the drug references was blacked
out before the pages reached the subcommittee. A few cryptic references
remained, scrawled in North's shorthand: 

July 9, 1984. Call from Clarridge -- Call Michel re Narco Issue -- RIG at 1000

(QO384) -- DEA Miami -- Pilot went talked to Vaughn -- wanted A/C to go to
Bolivia to 

p/u paste -- want A/C to p/u 1500 kilos -- Bud to meet w/Group (QO385)
[italics added] 

It was also enough to scare the hell out of some of our elected leaders, who
knew a political minefield when they saw one. Six months before North's
Congressional appearance, the senate lran-Contra committee pondered
investigating the Contras' drugs-for-guns network. A New York Times article on
January 13, 1987 summed up their trepidation: "Some senators say that any
official inquiry on this topic, and how much if anything American officials
knew about it, at this time would create such an uproar that it could derail
the main thrusts of the Senate inquiry: to sort out the Reagan
Administration's secret arms sales to Iran and diversion of profits to the


--Jim Hargrove

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