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From: New York On-Line A Radical Electronic Resource 1-718-852-2662 ContraGate CONGRESS TO PROBE CONTRA COCAINE LINK: MISSION IMPEACHABLE? by Rob Koenig Revelations of money from illegal arms sales to Iran ending up in Contra coffers has caused quite a stir. The two top men at the national Security Council, Admiral john Poindexter and Lt. Colenel Oliver North, are gone. Glad as we are to see them go, this cabinet shuffling should be viewed with skepticism, for behind the Swiss bank accounts and the illfated C-123 transport in which eugene hasenfus was shot down lurks an even darker secret, one whose revelation can only lead to impeachment proceedings. In the midst of a sanctimonious and self-serving "War on Drugs," the Costa Rica branch of the Contra support operation has been shipping cocaine into the USA with the apparent blessings of the White House. An impending Senate Investigation and a Federal lawsuit in Florida are threatening to expose a contra cocaine conspiracy with a trail of airplanes, telephone calls and business cards leading to the office of Vice President George Bush. A good place to start is the May 30, 1984 press conference held by former sandinista turned Contra Eden Pastora, held in Costa Rica. Pastora was to announce his refusal to affiliate his Costa Rica based group with the larger Nicaraguan Democratic Front, as the Honduran based group was still run by Sanocista ex Guards and dominated by the CIA. His announcement was interupted by a bomb which killed 8 people and injured 28, including Pastora and 28 journalists. Two of the injured journalists, writer Martha Honey and cameraman Tony Avirgan decided to investigate the bombing. They recieved a tip from a Costa rican named carlos about a contra plot to blow up the US Embassy in San Jose and kill the Ambassador, Lewis Tambs, while pinning the blame on the Sandinistas. The plot involved Columbian cocaine dealers, angry at Tamb's attempts to interdict shipments, and contra forces operarting out of an 8,000 acre ranch owned by American businessman and reputed CIA Agent John Hull. (Hull's business partner, Bruce Jones, was revealed as a CIA Agent in the Feb. 85 Life magazine.) Honey and Avirgan began recieving death threats. Their friend Carlos was kidnapped, tortured, and killed. Eventually their story ran in a Costa Rican daily. John Hull was outraged at charges that his ranch was used as a contra base and cocaine depot for shipments to Miami where their sale funded the contras. He filed a libel suit against the journalists, who enlisted the Christic Institute to defend them. The Washington DC based Institute was formed in 1980 out of the legal team that represented Karen Silkwood's family in their successful suit against Kerr Mcgee corporation. Hulls libel suit was dismissed. Subsequently the Christic Institute filed a $23 million claim on behalf of the journalists in Federal District Court in Miami, charging 30 Contra leaders and their American backers (including retired Major General John Singlaub) with involvement in a complex conspiracy of gun running, cocaine smuggling, and the press conference bombing. The case is pending. MEANWHILE: A story by Joel Millman in the July 1 1986 Villiage Voice detailed the strange career of Barry Seal, a Baton Rouge Louisiana aircraft dealer, pilot, smuggler, and eventually, informant for the Drug enforcement Agency (DEA). Seal had been a Green Beret in Vietnam and later a pilot for TWA. In 1972 he was indicted but aquitted on charges of conspiring to ship explosives to anti-Castro Cubans in Mexico. From '73 to '82 he ran a no questions asked airplane dealership, including as customers the CIA. During this period he also flew marijuana, and later cocaine, from Colombia to his private airstrip in Baton Rouge. In 1982 he was arrested in Ft. Lauderdale for possession with intent to deliver quaaludes, a felony carrying 10 tears. Afraid of doing time, he offered his services as an informant. At first the DEA wanted nothing to do with Seal; they had spent enough time and money busting him in the first place. So Seal flew his Lear jet to Washington for a hearing before the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System. This Vice-Presidential (italics) Task Force overruled the Miami DEA office, which was forced to put him to work on Operation Screamer. He helped in the largest cocaine bust in the history of Nevada, as well as a sting that netted the Prime Minister of the Turks and Caicos. The main focus of Seal"s and the DEA's investigation was the Medellin Cartel, based in the Columbian city of that name, and headed by the Ochoa brothers, Jorge, Juan, and Flavio. Seal first made contact with their Miami outlets, Filix Dixon Bates and Carlos Bustamante (both now in prison on Seal's testimony). Soon he was in Columbia contracting with Jorge and Flavio Ochoa to deliver their cocaine to customers in Miami and the West Coast. THE SOUP THICKENS In his testimony against Bates and Bustamente Seal gives this version of events: When the plane in which he arrived in Columbia proved unsuitable for the run the Ochoas came up with a twin engine Titan as a replacement. Since this plane could not make it to Seal's Louisiana airstrip nonstop, arrangements had been made for refueling in Managua. This they did, but as they were taking off from managua, an uninformed Sandinista defence battery fired on the plane, forcing an emergency landing. Seal and his copilot, longtime partner Emille Camp were arrested, but according to Seal's testimony the Ochoa's Sandinista contacts arranged their release and return to the US. Seal revealed the Nicaraguan twist to his DEA bosses, adding that he was expected to return to Managua to retrieve his 1500 kilogram cargo. The CIA is brought into the operation, rigging Seal's favorite plane, a C-123 known as THE FAT LADY, with a hidden camera to record the pickup. Tapes are made of Seal's phone calls to a Sandinista official named Frederico Vaughan in which arrangements are finalized. Seal claims to have stopped at a military airfield just outside Managua, where the camera clicked away as the plane was refueled and the illicit cargo loaded by Sandinista soldiers in civilian dress. The plane and cargo then flew to Homestead Air Base in Florida, where the cocaine was transferred to a Winnebago purchased by Bates and Bustamente. After a delay to convince these two that the camper had driven from Baton Rouge it is delivered to them, then rammed on the highway in a phoney accident to obscure Seal's role in the ensuing search and arrests. Facing congressional opposition to further aid to the Contras, the white house could not wait for completion of the Ochoa case before leaking the tale of Sandinista "narcoterrorism" to the Moonie-owned Washington Times, without bothering to alert the DEA or Seal, who continued to fly for the Ochoas, unaware his cover was being blown. When the Ochoas placed a $2 million contract on Seal, the investigation had to be abandoned, and President Reagan presented one of Seal's photos in a televised press conference. Despite an extradition treaty between the US and Nicaragua still in force, no effort was made to bring Vaughan to answer the Miami indictment, in which he was named a defendant. Nicaraguan officials deny he was ever a "top" official, and say he has not worked for the government at all since 1982. His whereabouts since the purported cocaine flight remain unknown. 1985 brought new developments. On Feb. 20 Seal's copilot, Emille Camp dies in a plane crash in Arkansas. In March a disgruntled mercenary from CMA (Civilian Military Assistance), Jack Terrel, visits Washington to tell Alabama Senator Jeremiah Denton of the lack of support given MISURA, an anti-Sandinista Indian group, by the CIA and main Contra groups. He returns to Honduras only to be rounded up with 13 other CMA mercenaries, who are told by the US Embassy that their actions are illegal, and deported back to Miami. By April the office of Massachusets Senator John Kerry had begun investigating persistant rumours of contra drug trafficking, and got hold of Terrel. Terrel had seen no evidence of drugs in Honduras, but told of a contra plot, backed by Columbian drug dealers, to blow up the US Embassy in San Jose and kill Lewis Tambs. The drug dealers hated Tambs for trying to stop cocaine shipments, and the contras planned to blame the bombing on the Sandinistas. Sound familiar? Kerry's office verified Terrel's story, and in June of 1986 called for an investigation. Meanwhile, on April 18, 1985, a report entitled "Who are the Contras?" was released by the Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus. The report detailed the network of groups that were raising funds and aiding the contras. Included were the World Anti-Communist League (WACL) headed by retired Army General John K. Singlaub, Soldier of Fortune magazine, Christian Broadcasting Network, CMA, the Air Commando Association (headed by retired General H.C. Aderholt), CAUSA International (part of Reverend Moon's empire), Friends of the Americas, and others. A complete list can be found in the book Contra Terror in Nicaragua by Reed Brody, South End Press, 1985. In April of '85 two CMA mercenaries were arrested by the Costa Rican Civil Guard in connection with the foiled plot to blow up the US Embassy in San Jose. In the summer of '85 Barry Seal testified against the Medellin cartel, implicating the Ochoas. In September Robert Owen (formerly of Gray & Co., a Republican public relations firm, and half-way house for CIA agents on their way into the private sector) was hired by the State Department's Nicaraguan Humanitarian Assistance Office. As Lt. Col. Oliver North's representative Owen was the main link to the CMA. He was also connected to the Miami based Cuban-American Brigade 2506, which trained and fought with the contras. In October 1985 a Cuban named Jesus Garcia was arrested in Miami on a weapons charge. He regaled his attorney with tales of contra involvement in the cocaine trade, the Pastora bombing, and the by know familiar plot against Tamb. Garcia claimed to be in touch with Bush's office, and it came out that Garcia was in a back-up team in the assasination attempt on Pastora. Expect Garcia to be a key witness in hearings this winter. Finally, in December, 1985, Barry Seal was sentenced in Baton Rouge. Expecting a lenient sentence because of his work for the DEA and his promise to testify against the Ochoas in '86, he was led into a trap wherein he was forced to accept six months probation with community service at a Salvation Army shelter. He was forbidden as a condition of probation to carry fire arms or to have bodyguards with fire arms. Seals began his Salvation Army shelter stint in January of 1986. On February 19, 1986, he was assasinated in front of the shelter, shot over 50 times with an Ingram Mac-10 and an Uzi. Eventually, seven people were arrested in connection with Seal's death. By far the mosy interesting is a man named Jose Coutin. Coutin owned a gun shop in Miami which allegedly supplied the Uzi which was used in the Seal assasination. The gun shop, was a well-known meeting place for contras, particularly members of the Brigade 2506. Last July Millman's Village Voice article appeared, breaking the Barry Seal story, and raising serious doubts about the alleged "Sandinista Connection". The article also suggested Seal had taken a broader role in the contra supply operation. Up to this point we have a complicated story with many missing pieces. But on October 5th, 1986 the connecting pieces, well, sort of fell out of the sky, in the person of our old friend, the FAT LADY, shot down over Nicaragua. After Barry's death, she had apparently reverted to Southern Air Transport, and was back to work bringing supplies to the contras. One member of her crew, mercenary Eugene Hasenfus survives to talk. On the body of the pilot, William cooper, is found the business card of Robert Owen. The co-pilot, Wallace sawyer Jr. has a notebook with the names of 34 CIA operatives. Another card has a number written on the back... which proves to be the number of the Swiss bank account containing the $12 million profits from the Iran arms sale. Hasenfus revelations prove even worse. He identifies as commanders of the supply operation two Cuban exiles with long histories in the CIA, Ramon Medina and Max Gomez, both of whom claimed to be friends of Vice president Bush, and in close contact with Donald Gregg, his National Security Advisor, and a onetime CIA Station Chief in Saigon. Hasenfus also identified the operation's safe house in El Salvador. The Salvadoran telephone released records showing numerous calls to Oliver North at the White House (202-395-3345), to Southern Air, and to the Stanford Technology Trading Corp., a Virginia front run by retired Air Force General Richard Secord, whose name cropped up in accounts of US assistance to Southeast Asian heroin operations during the Vietnam war. Gomez then turned out to be an alis used by Felix Rafael Rodriguez, escaped from a Venezuelan prison, to which he had been sentenced for the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner fatal to 70 people, including the Cuban fencing team. Both of the Vice president's good friends have dropped out of sight. Perhaps the Iranian arms deals were seen as a way to wean the Contras from the cocaine business. Perhaps the operation continued. Did the orders to silence Barry Seal come from the Ochoas, finally indicted in absentia last week, or from a nervous White House? Seal's baton Rouge attorney told the Voice "All the federal government had to do to kill barry Seal, was to do nothing. Then let mischief work its will." Senator Robert Dole, Majority Leader in the outgoing Senate, has called for a single Select Committee to investigate the Iran arms deal. As a presidential aspirant he has much to gain from the political demise of the Vice President. Leaving the matter to a single committee however is an obvious ploy to forestall an investigation of the numerous byways, like the drug connections, which multiple investigations would surely reveal, and which would cripple the Republicans for years to come. Wanna hear the end of the story? Write or call your Senators and Representatives and demand that the Kerry hearings proceed. (Most of the Costa Rica information was taken from a lecture delivered at the Wisconsin Historical Society by Dan Sheehan, one of the Christic Institute attorneys.) (Don't bother calling the number given for Ollie North. You get a tape saying "The number you have dialed in the Executive Office of the President is not in service at this time." Varying the last three digits, however, may give you an associate with a tale to tell.) -----------------------------------------------------------------


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