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by James Corbett
March 12, 2013
Bring up the issue of US interference in Latin America, and among that section of the public that does not greet the topic with blank stares, you will usually hear about the same few pieces of well-documented history. US involvement in the overthrow of Allende in Chile in 1973, for instance, or Iran-Contra, where the US military and intelligence establishment under Reagan illegally sold arms to Iran in order to fund the Nicaraguan Contras.
In fact, those who have been following the latest developments in Argentina will know that these ghosts of the past are coming back to haunt some of the officials who were backed by the US during Operation Condor in the 1970s, an attempt by the hardline military dictatorships that came to power in the region in the 1970s with US support to eliminate their left-wing opposition through a coordinated campaign of bloodshed and terror.
All of these pieces of history are doubtless important parts of the puzzle when it comes to understanding how the US has worked to shape the region economically and politically, and to the extent that most of the public still do not know the details of this now officially admitted and openly documented history, it is still important to work to document these crimes and bring their perpetrators to justice. Insofar as these same few well-worn events are all safely in the now long-distant past, however, they can create the false impression that this is all that is needed to understand this story. On the contrary, US interference in the region is ongoing as we speak and those seeking to bring attention to this fact are, as always, being ignored.
In the current instance, whistleblowers and journalists in Latin America have recently uncovered a scandal of immense proportions, one involving the CIA and the DEA in drug smuggling operations in Chile that are being used to fund political opposition groups in Ecuador. In effect, Iran-Contra part two is unfolding right now, and few have even heard about it.
The scandal was brought to public attention last November, when Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced the details of the operation on national television, but the scandal first began to emerge in February 2012, when Italian police opened the Ecuadorian government’s diplomatic mail on arrival in Rome and discovered nearly 40 kilos of cocaine. According to journalists investigating the scandal, the drugs were placed there by people connected with the Chilean embassy.
This led to further allegations from sources connected to the ANI (the Chilean FBI) that the CIA is helping to run over 200 kilos of cocaine a month from Bolivia through Chile in order to gather black funds, exactly as they did during the Iran-Contra operations in the 1980s. In this case, the details of the scandal are further confirmed by former British ambassador Craig Murray, who had independent sources confirming that secret off-budget funds were being used by the CIA to fund Rafael Correa’s political opposition. Correa has been seen as uncooperative with US economic and political interests in the region and is one of the main targets of American destabilization operations in Latin America.
Earlier this week I had the chance to talk to Matias Rojas, one of the independent journalists in Chile who has been following this story, about the scandal and its details.
Sadly, if predictably, this scandal, too, has turned into a game of “shoot the messenger” where the authorities are attempting to smear the journalist who broke the story, rather than face up to the facts of the story. In this case, Patricio Mery Bell, the Chilean journalist who has been working to uncover this story since it first broke late last year.
Last November, Patricio Mery met with a young lady claiming to be an informant who had been working with CIA-affiliated anti-Castro groups in Florida. This supposed source claimed that he had sexually assaulted her, and he was duly arrested and all of his materials were confiscated, including his cell phone. The cell phone memory included video testimony of Mery’s intelligence sources which was destined to be passed to President Correa.
After President Correa’s sweeping win in the Ecuadorian election last month—receiving 56 percent of votes cast against his closest opponent’s 23 percent—it is obvious that the intellignece agencies have failed in their quest to derail Correa’s Presidency. What is unclear is whether these drug smuggling operations are continuing, and if so where the funds may be funnelled from this point on.
Given the harrassment that journalists like Patricio Mery have faced for attempting to bring the story to the light of day, it is imperative that we support those like Mery and Rojas who are continuing to uncover the facts about this case. If attention is brought to this story now and it begins to cross the threshhold of public awareness, there is the chance at the very least for some sort of wider political ramifications of the scandal to emerge in the US, as they did in the Iran-Contra scandal. Otherwise, there is the chance that this scandal, too, will be swept under the rug and consigned to the dustbin of history along with so many other major political scandals in the region over the past half century.