Why is the Contra-Cocaine Connection Being ignored?

by Robert Knight and Dennis Bernstein

March 31, 1987

A tragic irony overshadows the recent increase in violent crimes attributed largely to the widespread abuse of crack, a potent but inexpensive form of cocaine. The irony is that American citizens may be the indirect casualties of the contra war against Nicaragua.

A congressional report details charges that substantial quantities of cocaine are being imported into the United States through the contra supply network.

The irony is further compounded by the apparent inability or unwillingness of federal investigators to look into the Iran-contra arms scandal to expose this darker side of the Administration's covert war against Nicaragua.

According to an internal memorandum of the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, chaired by Rep. Charles Rangel, "a number of individuals who supported the contras and who participated in contra activity in Texas, Louisiana, California, and Florida, as well as in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, have suggested that cocaine is being smuggled in the U.S. through the same infrastructure which is procuring, storing, and transporting weapons explosives, ammunition, and military equipment for the contras from the United States."

The eight-page document from the Committee's counsel to its chief of staff continues: "One conspiracy described by these sources involves members of the Brigade 2506 in Miami (Cuban-American veterans of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion) and unidentified Colombian drug traffickers smuggling drugs to the U.S. using two mechanisms.

"The first is to blast freeze cocaine in seafood processing plants in Limon, Costa Rica, and then to smuggle the cocaine in through Miami. The second is to use airstrips on the Costa Rican-Nicaraguan border, controlled or managed by American supporters of the contras, for refueling of drug planes on the way to the U.S. from Columbia."

The suggestion of the connection between drug smugglers and contras referred by the Narcotics committee report is only the latest in a series of similar charges from congress and other sources.

Aides to Sen. John Kerry say the Massachusetts democrat is confident that money from the sale of narcotics has helped finance the contras and that the arms network set up by L.C. Oliver North could be involved.

"We have received a variety of allegations about drug connections to the contras and to parts of the North network," said Jonathan Winer, an aide to Kerry. "As to whether Oliver North is involved in that, I cannot say. But members of the North network alleged were, and that needs to be looked at very seriously."

Similar charges have also come from the former ambassador to El Salvador, Robert White. White, now the president of the International Center for Development Policy in Washington, told the House Subcommittee on Western Hemispheric Affairs in October that "the contras have been involved in a wide range of criminal activities that violate U.S. law. These activities include narcotics trafficking, arms smuggling, various currency offenses, and other crimes up to and including murder." White was basing his testimony on information gathered from former contra supporters.

The Christic Institute, a Washington-based social policy law firm, has filed legal papers in federal court in Miami on behalf of two Costa Ricans-based journalists wounded in the 1984 bombing of a press conference called by then contra leader Eden Pastora, in which three reporters were killed. The papers detail a two-year investigation that also indicates a strong contra drug connection.

Florida public defender John Mattes, an attorney for Cuban American Jesus Garcia, a former member of the North network, says that cocaine traffickers and the secret contra network got together as a marriage of convenience.

Despite substantial information that has surfaced linking the contra operation to drug trafficking, sources at the Justice Department say Lawrence Walsh, the independent counsel appointed to investigate the Iran-Contra affair, has decided not to explore the allegations further at this time.

Nor has the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence indicated that it will investigate allegations that as much as one ton of cocaine per week has entered the United States under the guise of patriotic support for the President's "Freedom fighters." And the Narcotics Committee's investigation festers unfulfilled for lack of funds, said one committee source.

The apparent decision not to conduct a full-scale investigation is nothing short of outrageous while drug abuse continues to devastate the lives of American youth with no end in sight.

If the President and the First Lady are truly interested in stemming the flow of drugs into the country, rather than reducing drug education and treatment programs, they should take a public stand encouraging an all-out investigation into these serious allegations and let the chips fall where they may.

This article was also published in the April 3, 1987 edition of the Minneapolis Star-Ledger,
and was distributed by the L.A. Times-Washington Post newswire.

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