The CIA planes brought guns, washing machines, gourmet food, and fancy furniture intto Colombia and took drugs back to the U.S.”Some of the people involved in drug smuggling are present or past agents of the Central Intelligence Agency.”
The lead DEA agent in Central America tried to tell Bush that “something funny” was going on
Palatio’s involvement came about from her relationship with an upper-class Colombian whose social circle included 3people deeply involved in the drug trade,2 she told Senator Kerry in her 1986 statement to his narcotics committee. Concerned for the safety of her daughter, she eventually volunteered to work with the FBI in the early 1980s, because, she said, “I was angry about what drugs were doing to the people I knew and to the United States government itself.”
FORMER DEA AGENT BLOWS THE WHISTLE
Celerino Castillo III, a 15-year veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration, observed first-hand a drug-smuggling operation in the mid-180s at the Ilopango airport, a military facility under the direct control of the CIA and Lt. Col. Oliver North during the colonel’s heady days at the National Security Council. But it was on January 14, 1986, the day he met then-Vice President George Bush at a Guatemalan embassy reception, that Castillo became truly concerned about what he had witnessed.
The lead DEA agent in Central America, Castillo tried to tell Bush that “something funny” was going on at Ilopango. “But he just shook my hand, smiled and walked away from me,” Castillo recently recalled in an interview. Later that same day, he says, Bush met with North and Contra leader Adolfo Calero.
Castillo, in-country agent for the DEA, went on to gather evidence that was formally documented in a Feb. 14, 1989, memo to his Guatemala-based DEA supervisor. He detailed how known traffickers with multiple DEA files used Hangars Four and Five in Llopango for drug smuggling. Despite their backgrounds, asserted Castillo in the memo, the traffickers had obtained U.S. visas. Furthermore, said Castillo, “the CIA owned one hangar, and the National Security Council ran the other.”
“There is no doubt that they [agents from the U.S. government] were running large quantities of cocaine into the U.S. to support the Contras,” Castillo said. “We saw the cocaine and we saw boxes full of money. We’re talking about very large quantities of cocaine and millions of dollars.”
According to Castillo, “my reports contain not only the names of traffickers, but their destinations, flight paths, tail numbers, and the date and time of each flight.” Castillo said that he was told by his supervisor to lay low and that if he did go ahead and disclose the information he had gathered, he might be jeopardizing his career because he had stumbled onto a “White House” operation.
Despite Castillo’s impending silence, further evidence of the contra-cocaine connection supporting his accounts was revealed 10 years ago in the form of an internal document of the since-disbanded Select House Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control.
In a syndicated Newsday article on March 31, 1987, contents of an eight-page June 25, 1986, staff memorandum clearly stated that “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.”
Blum testified that the civil war provided clandestine air strips, cowboy pilots who would fly junker airplanes, people who would make arrangements for the clandestine movement of money — all of which were “perfect facilities for someone in the drug business. So there were people who were connected very directly to the CIA who had those facilities, and allowed them to be used, and indeed, personally profited from their use.”