News and Opinion Based on Facts

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Art Linkletter and Richard Nixon: Alcohol vs. Pot

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Art Linkletter, who died May 26 at 97, was important not only for getting little kids to say the darndest things, but also as a crusader against the counterculture of the 1960s, and especially against drugs. Nixon appointed him an adviser on drug policy, and on May 8, 1971, Linkletter went to the White House and met with the president.

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Jon Wiener
Jon Wiener teaches US history at UC Irvine.  His most recent book is Historians in Trouble. He sued the FBI under...

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The transcripts show Linkletter telling Nixon, “There's a great difference between alcohol and marijuana."
Nixon replies: “What is it?” The president wants to know!
“When people smoke marijuana,” Linkletter explains, “they smoke it to get high. In every case, when most people drink, they drink to be sociable.”
“That's right, that's right,” Nixon says. “A person does not drink to get drunk. . . . A person drinks to have fun."
Then Nixon turns to the global history of drinking and using drugs. “I have seen the countries of Asia and the Middle East, portions of Latin America, and I have seen what drugs have done to those countries,” he says. ”Everybody knows what it's done to the Chinese, the Indians are hopeless anyway, the Burmese. . . . they've all gone down.”
Nixon continues, “Why the hell are those Communists so hard on drugs? Well why they're so hard on drugs is because, uh, they love to booze. I mean, the Russians, they drink pretty good. . . . but they don't allow any drugs.”
“And look at the north countries,” Nixon continued. “The Swedes drink too much, the Finns drink too much, the British have always been heavy boozers and all the rest, but uh, and the Irish of course the most, uh, but uh, on the other hand, they survive as strong races.”
Linkletter says "That's right."
Nixon comes to his main point about the “drug societies:” they “inevitably come apart.”
Linkletter adds, "They lose motivation. No discipline."
Nixon gets the last word: "At least with liquor, I don't lose motivation.”
The next year, 1972, Linkletter announced that he had changed his position on marijuana. According to the New York Times, “After much thought and study he had concluded that the drug was relatively harmless.”


Drug Policy Disconnect

Written by Coletta Youngers  

Sunday, 29 May 2010
Source: Foreign Policy in Focus

The rhetoric has changed.
According to new U.S. "drug czar" Gil Kerlikowske, who heads the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the Obama administration doesn't use the term "drug war" because the government shouldn't be waging war against its own citizens. In March 2009, U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke described the opium poppy eradication effort in Afghanistan as "the most wasteful and ineffective program that I have seen in 40 years." He bluntly stated that the U.S. government had wasted millions of dollars on a counterproductive program that generates political support for the Taliban and undermines nation-building efforts. And in his trip to Peru this past April, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela noted that the fundamental problem is not coca cultivation itself, but poverty and inequality.

Yet the indigenous and Afro-Colombian groups along the Naya River on Colombia's Pacific coast tell a different story. For the past three months, coca fumigation operations have taken place in one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world. Despite myriad concerns – from its ineffectiveness to the damage done to human health and the environment – the Obama administration remains committed to this fumigation strategy as well as to the overall Plan Colombia. The rhetoric may have changed for the better, but the reality of the how the U.S. "war on drugs" is waged on the ground in Latin America has not.
That isn't to say that there are no new developments. Important domestic reforms have begun. Following Holbrooke's statements, the United States suspended funding for opium poppy eradication in Afghanistan. In its proposed fiscal year 2011 budget for assistance to Latin America, the Obama administration has shifted some resources from military to economic programs. Yet for now, given its other foreign policy priorities, the White House has little enthusiasm for taking on the entrenched "drug war" bureaucracy or in expending political capital in pushing for reform of international drug policy.
Policy Debate Ignites

To its credit, the administration no longer uses the "drug war" as a way to gain political points. It doesn't try to discredit opponents at home by branding those advocating alternative policies as "evil legalizers." If anything, apart from Mexico and Afghanistan, the administration hardly mentions international drug policy.
This has contributed to an opening up of the drug policy debate, for the first time in many years, at the local and national level. Across the country, Americans are showing frustration with the economic and social cost of burgeoning prison populations and are questioning the logic of marijuana prohibition. In stark contrast to even a year ago, articles on the marijuana issue are now routine in newspapers across the country. All eyes are now on California, where a referendum on the November ballot proposes a legal, regulated, and taxed market for marijuana use.
The renewed debate has gone hand in hand with increased acceptance among politicians in Washington – long loath to admit that billions of dollars have been wasted in attempting to keep illicit drugs from reaching U.S. shores — that the so-called drug war has failed. Despite some fluctuations in the data, illicit drugs are as plentiful and available as ever. In the U.S. Congress, proposals to create commissions to evaluate U.S. drug control policies are winding their way through both the House and the Senate.
On the Demand Side

Concern with U.S. demand has finally gained the prominence it deserves. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeatedly stated that as the world's major consumer of illicit drugs, the United States must take more responsibility in confronting the problem of demand. Kerlikowske emphasizes the importance of treating drug consumption as a public health issue. And for the first time in the drug czar's office, a well-known expert in treating problematic drug use, Tom McLellan, serves as deputy.
At the end of last year, Obama signed a law ending the prohibition on federal funding for needle-exchange programs, which have long proven effective in reducing HIV/AIDS transmission. During his presidential campaign, Obama also supported ending the tremendous disparity in federal sentencing for crack and powder cocaine. Presently, sentences for crack are 100 times higher than for cocaine and disproportionately affect poor African-American males. The Justice Department is now backing the elimination of the sentencing disparity, and legislation pending in the U.S. Congress would dramatically reduce, though not eliminate, the gap. The Justice Department also announced that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents would no longer raid medical marijuana facilities in states where they operate legally.
Despite all of the talk about beefing up effective demand-related programs, however, only very modest changes have been made to date in the budget. The first budget fully elaborated by the Obama administration — fiscal year 2011 — proposes a 13 percent increase for prevention programs and a 3.7 percent increase for treatment programs. Presently, supply control programs, including domestic law enforcement, account for nearly 75 percent of federal government funding for drug control programs.
On the Supply Side

Last year, the U.S. government ceased its funding for forced eradication in Afghanistan and is instead channeling that funding into interdiction and economic development programs. This U.S. policy development is in line with a growing number of countries and international donors advocating for an "alternative livelihoods" approach to reducing coca and poppy production by enhancing the welfare of poor farmers via comprehensive development strategies that include improving local governance and citizen security.
This change in approach, however, may already be on shaky ground. According to Vanda Felbab-Brown, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, "Voices for eradication are strong in the United States. The Obama administration has failed to prepare Congress and the international community for how long it takes for rural development to take place and consequently for the likely outcome that — despite a good policy — we may not see deep reductions in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan for several years."
Although the U. S. government may have learned a lesson about forced eradication in Afghanistan, it has yet to apply it to Latin America. On the contrary, U.S. officials have consistently stated that such an approach should not be adopted in Latin America, erroneously claiming that the existence of stronger institutions provides the conditions for successful implementation of forced eradication. Yet, as in Afghanistan, forced eradication in the Andean region has failed to achieve its desired objectives. Over the last two decades, coca production has remained remarkably consistent at about 200,000 hectares. And the program has pushed people deeper into poverty and generated human rights violations, social unrest, instability, and violence.
One key reason for this policy stagnation is that the drug war bureaucracy remains intact. Although new staff is working on demand-related programs at ONDCP, the same individuals from the Bush years are running U.S. international drug control programs. In particular, officials who work on supply-side policies at ONDCP, the DEA, and the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement bureau at the State Department strongly support the current forced eradication policies. Internal battles have resulted in a significant delay in the release of the National Drug Control Strategy Report (NDCSR), which is to lay out the Obama administration's approach to drug policy. ONDCP Deputy director McLellan has already announced his departure from the administration this summer.
A draft NDCSR leaked to the press fully endorses Plan Colombia, the cornerstone of U.S. drug policy in the Andes. During the 2008 campaign, Obama linked support for a free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia to improvement in its human rights record. By April 2009, however, the administration endorsed congressional approval of the FTA. Then in September 2009, the Obama administration "certified" that Colombia met the human rights requirements laid out in U.S. law to continue receiving U.S. security assistance (an assertion long contested by Colombian and U.S. human rights groups U.S. officials rarely miss an opportunity to praise Colombia for "its vigorous fight against the production and trafficking of illicit drugs." Many analysts concur that although Plan Colombia may have improved security in certain areas of the country, it has had little success in stemming the flow of cocaine out of the country and has had a devastating impact in certain rural areas, especially among the Afro-Colombian population.
Moreover, military-to-military ties, ostensibly for counternarcotics purposes, were further strengthened with the signing of an accord on October 30, 2009 allowing the U.S. military access to seven military bases across Colombia. Of particular concern, the Obama administration made no effort to consult other countries prior to finalizing the deal with Colombia, and appeared oblivious to the regional tensions it ignited. Predictably, the controversial agreement sparked protest across the region and called into question the Obama administration's stated commitment to working multilaterally.
In the case of Bolivia, the Obama administration has continued the Bush administration's approach when it comes to drug control. In a September 2009 "determination," it declared that Bolivia had "failed demonstrably to make sufficient efforts to meet its obligations under international counternarcotics agreements" and later that year refused to renew trade benefits suspended in 2008. In fact, illicit drug seizure rates in Bolivia have increased significantly under the Morales government, and net increases in coca production are lower than in neighboring Peru. Venezuela also received a failing grade in a bilateral process that Latin American countries have long found offensive.
A Better Way

The failure of the traditional "war on drugs" approach is leading policymakers across the hemisphere to seek new strategies to contain the scale of illicit markets, and at the same time minimize the harms associated with drug consumption and production. There is also growing international recognition that drug programs must be carried out in full compliance with international human rights standards. Specifically, such measures include treating consumption as a social and public health — not a criminal — issue, ensuring proportionality in sentencing and having viable economic alternatives in place prior to significant coca or poppy crop reductions. Law enforcement efforts both at home and abroad should not target easily replaceable low-level offenders, but rather the leadership of drug trafficking organizations, corruption, and money laundering.
Finally, it's time for the Obama administration to put its money where its mouth is and significantly reallocate scarce U.S. resources to evidence-based education and treatment programs here at home and integrated economic development programs in poor rural and urban areas in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Coletta A. Youngers is an independent consultant, a senior fellow at the Washington Office in Latin America (WOLA), an associate at the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More than 60 dead in Drug War in Jamaican Ghettos

There is really not a lot to add to the story below.
The drug war goes on.
Drugs don't kill even a small fraction of the innocent people who die as collateral damage in this anti-drug crusade.


Thanks to Global News for this informative, and tragic, story.

KINGSTON - Gun battles raging in the Jamaican capital have left more than 60 people dead, mostly civilians, hospital sources said Tuesday, as troops fanned out across the city hunting an alleged drug kingpin.
Police have put the death toll at 27, but Prime Minister Bruce Golding warned the figures would likely rise, and police late Tuesday said there had also been "several murders" in Greater Kingston area.
Hundreds of troops and police have been deployed to hunt down Christopher "Dudus" Coke, wanted in the United States on drug-trafficking charges, amid a weeklong standoff with his loyal supporters.
The clashes appeared to be spreading after security forces Monday stormed the western seafront slum of Tivoli Gardens in their bid to capture Coke, whose extradition order was signed by the government a week ago.
With violence turning some of the city's slum areas into a war zone, three trucks loaded with bodies, including a baby, unloaded their grim cargo at a morgue in one of the main hospital complexes, witnesses said.
Golding vowed the security forces would restore law and order — three days after his government declared a state of emergency amid the worst violence to hit the Caribbean nation in decades.
"The government deeply regrets the loss of lives of members of the security forces, and those of innocent law abiding citizens who were caught in the cross fire," Golding told the House of Representatives.
Golding warned that although the official toll stood at 27 "it is likely that the number is higher." He ordered two top officials to launch an inquiry into the operation.
The police press office confirmed late Tuesday that "there are several other murders committed in the corporate area" referring to Greater Kingston, listing at least 11 deaths in areas other than Tivoli Gardens.
Gunfire rattled around the city, as plumes of smoke hung above Tivoli Gardens which Coke's supporters had barricaded last week to thwart his arrest.
Hospital sources told AFP that early Tuesday two trucks bearing "about 50" bodies had been unloaded at the morgue at the Kingston Public Hospital.
An AFP correspondent saw a third truck arrive full of bullet-riddled corpses, including a baby, later in the day. A nurse said there were 12 bodies inside, and they came from a different area to the east of the city called Mountain View.
Police also told AFP they have detained 211 people, including four women.
But National Security Minister Dwight Nelson told a press conference that Coke, 42, had not yet been detained. "Up to the last briefing I got the answer is no," Nelson said, quoted by the Jamaica Observer.
Supporters say Coke is a local hero for helping residents pay bills, and even to send children to school. Coke himself says he is merely a businessman.
Soldiers dressed in full combat gear and police Tuesday combed the deserted downtown streets looking for him, but security officials refused to confirm how people many had been deployed.
Helicopters buzzed overhead and the normally bustling streets were deserted.
Residents have been warned to stay home, and the few who ventured out stayed close to walls, diving for cover as gunfire rattled around the area. Schools and stores have shut.
Most of the million tourists who flock to the island every year do not visit Kingston — long dubbed one of the murder capitals of the world, with 1,700 homicides recorded in 2010 out of a population of 2.8 million.
Instead they flock to the beaches to soak up some sun and the sounds of reggae music, leaving the island's economy heavily dependent on tourism for bringing in valuable foreign currencies.
The United States and other countries have also warned their citizens against travelling to Jamaica, as some airlines cancelled flights.
Drug warfare between rival gangs has long plagued the island which is a key transshipment point for cocaine from South America heading for North American and European markets.
The U.S. Justice Department has labeled Coke one of the "world's most dangerous narcotics kingpins."
He is accused of leading since the 1990s an international gang — dubbed "The Shower Posse" for the number of bullets it allegedly has rained on foes — which U.S. prosecutors say sells marijuana and crack cocaine in the New York area and elsewhere.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Joan Baez 97th Birthday and Killing Jamaicans

Congratulations to "Big Joan", Joan Baez' Mom.
Statistically, this means we will probably have the iconic Joan Baez for many more years!

For those who don't know, Joan Baez was one of the leading voices of the sixties counter cultural movement, and a singer with an incredible, powerful voice.
She was once Bob Dylan's girlfriend, to both of their benefits, musically.

Celebrating Big Joan's 97th Birthday at Lisa's Tea Treasures ... on Twitpic

In unrelated news, lots of Jamaicans being killed in the island nation.
The conflict, which prompted the government to declare a state of emergency over the weekend, pits supporters of Christopher Coke, wanted in the United States on gun and drug charges, against the government of Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who has relied on Mr. Coke’s influence to win votes in the west Kingston neighborhood that both men share.

According to news reports 30 supporters of Mr. Coke have been killed.
They are described as gunmen.
Makes it more palatable to kill them.

Wealthy Colombian businessman is a drug-trafficker, CIA operative alleges

It's not theoretical or hypothetical, it's true that the U.S. Government is involved in world wide sales and distribution of illegal drugs.

One would really have to close one's eyes and ears to not be aware of the countless former government officials and CIA operatives, and former DEA agents, and Police, who have have provided evidence that proves the opening statement.
Right now the U.S. Military is "allowing" Afghanistani farmers to grow and sell Opium and Marijuana.
Afghanistan is the leading exporter of these two drugs.
The Blackburn Report will be detailing some of this in the coming days and weeks.
Stay tuned.
Thanks to Narcoshpere for this detailed report:

Wealthy Colombian businessman is a drug-trafficker, CIA operative alleges

Another source, a past employee, also claims narco-entrepreneur is connected to rightwing paramilitary forces
Narco News won an historic legal battle in 2001 when the New York Supreme Court dismissed a libel suit filed against the online publication by a giant Mexican bank. In the process, the court also extended critical free-press protections for the first time to Internet news sites and reporters.
Narco News publisher Al Giordano, and his longtime ally, Mexican journalist Mario Menendez, publisher of the Mexican daily Por Esto!, stood as defendants in that litigation against the powerful lender Banco Nacional de Mexico S.A.(Banamex), led and controlled at the time by banker Roberto Hernandez Ramirez.
At the heart of the litigation was the following claim:
“Plaintiff [Banamex, since acquired by New York-based Citigroup] alleges that defendants [Giordano and Menendez] made accusations that Mr. Hernandez Ramirez is involved in criminal drug trafficking and specifically, the Colombian drug trade,” states the 2001 New York Supreme Court ruling.
And now, some nine years later, a similar set of allegations have been made against another powerful businessman, this one in Colombia, who also has threatened his accuser with a defamation lawsuit.
But in this case, the accuser is a long-time CIA operative who also was involved in extensive counter-narcotics work for the FBI and DEA during the 1980s, 1990s and into the early 2000s.
That individual is Baruch Vega — a seemingly mild mannered fashion photographer who played a key role a decade ago in helping to broker plea deals between notorious Colombian narco-traffickers and representatives of the U.S. Justice system. To this day, Vega remains a well-connected individual, both in Colombia and the United States — with a book about his adventures about to be published, he says.
The businessman who threatened him with a lawsuit earlier this year did so after Vega appeared on a popular Colombian radio program and fingered him as an alleged narco-trafficker.
In a letter sent last April to this businessman in response to the lawsuit threat, Vega asserts the following [translated from Spanish to English]:
The [DEA and FBI] information and reports made against you continued to emerge, and you were accused of direct involvement with the North Valley Cartel especially closely linked to Wilmer Varela [a violent Colombian narco-trafficker found shot to death in a Venezuelan resort town in 2008] and protected by members of the Colombian Police in particular by Colonel Danilo Gonzalez [who was assassinated in Colombia in 2004].
Vega also claims in the letter — which was sent to the Department of Justice, the IRS, FBI and DEA — that the Colombian businessman’s brother, who runs a transportation company in Medellin, Colombia, twice put out a contract on his life. Vega alleges that this brother who ordered him killed was a member of the Medellin Cartel and in the early 1990s, along with a group of other narco-traffickers since dubbed the Dirty Dozen, “received amnesty because of their possible collaboration against [narco-trafficker] Pablo Escobar [who was gunned down in Colombia by law enforcers in 1993].”
“Also relevant is what occurs on January 24, 2003, when the FBI and the DEA notified me that they had discovered another plot to kill me,” Vega alleges in the letter. “That time I came out publicly in all the media, press, radio and television and denounced the Norte del Valle Cartel and its members as accomplices in this plot.”
Vega goes on to assert in the April 2009 letter that former Colombia National Police Col. Danilo Gonzalez decided to turn himself into U.S. authorities shortly after hebecame the target of a U.S. indictment charging him with narco-trafficking, money laundering and murder.
From Vega’s letter:
 Danilo Gonzalez, finding himself with no other options, decides to turn himself over to the U.S. government and asks me to help him do so. During the time he was negotiating his rendition to the U.S. government, Gonzalez holds [the businessman’s brother] fully responsible and implicates him on tape (in an audio recording) in drug trafficking operations, money laundering, corruption, obstruction of justice and murder….
Gonzalez was preparing to surrender himself to U.S. authorities in the spring of 2004 when he was assassinated at the bottom of a stairwell in his attorney’s office in Bogota, according to a January 2005 report in the St. Petersburg Times.
Vega’s letter continues:
… For its part, the U.S. government had over many year s put together reports implicating [the brother] and by extension, you [the businessman], as a front man for [the brother], through several of its judicial arms. I am fully aware of this, because I personally had access to this information during the time that I was part of these government agencies.
Vega first came to the attention of Narco News in early 2006, shortly after the “Kent Memo” surfaced. The memo alleges that U.S. federal agents in the U.S. Embassy in Bogota were on the payroll of drug traffickers, complicit in the murders of informants who knew too much, and assisting Colombia’s infamous rightwing paramilitary death squads in laundering money. Justice Department attorney Thomas M. Kent wrote the memo in late 2004 in an effort to draw attention to alleged serious corruption within the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia — exposed by Narco News in a series of investigative stories called the Bogota Connection.
Vega was very involved with some of the U.S. law enforcement operations referenced in the Kent memo. Those particular operations played out between 1997 and 2000 and sought to snare narco-traffickers with Colombia’s infamous North Valley Cartel.
Vega claims that corrupt U.S. agents that are part of the Bogota Connection seriously compromised his role as a government asset and that a number of his informants within Colombia’s narco-trafficking underworld were assassinated as a result.
Vega also contends that he has intimate knowledge of the alleged corruption outlined in the Kent memo.
Again, from Vega’s April 2009 letter to the Colombian businessman:
In late 1996 I was placed in a combined FBI and DEA group to resume previous activities looking for drug submissions and cooperation and in an operation whose purpose was to uncover possible corruption by Colombian judicial officials, with groups of drug dealers as well as possibly members of the U.S. government operating through the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.
… At that time … the FBI and the DEA both prepared reports where the names of [the businessman and his brother] began to turn up again as direct participants in narco-trafficking and money laundering operations….
Family Businessmen
The individual whom Vega sent the letter to last April is Juan Gonzalo Angel Restrepo, the current president and CEO of GlobalMedia, which operates Cable Noticias, a 24-hour cable TV news channel in Colombia. Angel also is the past owner of Cablepacifico SA, a major cable TV operator in Colombia that was acquired by Mexican telecom giant Telmex in 2007.
Juan Gonzalo Angel’s brother, also the subject of accusations in Vega’s letter, is LuisGuillermo Angel Restrepo (known as “Guillo”), who controls the Medellin-based transport company called Helicargo SA.
In an October 2008 story in the Colombian publication El Tiempo, Guillo claims that he has no economic interest in any of the businesses operated by his brother Juan Gonzalo. Guillo also states in the article that any allegations accusing him of participating in illegal activities (such as “Narcoparamilitarism") are untrue and defamatory. He adds that he has “certifications” from judicial authorities indicating that he has never been the subject of a criminal investigation on the national or international level.
Juan Gonzalo Angel also contends that accusations claiming he is involved in criminal activity are baseless and asserts specifically that Vega’s charges are simply not true.
“Baruch Vega made everything up,” Juan Gonzalo Angel told the Colombian news publication El Espectador in an interview published on July 25, 2009. “… Why didn’t they [Colombian officials] extradite me or charge me? Does it seem right to you that he [Vega] would make these accusations 20 years after the fact.”
Vega told Narco News that since Juan Gonzalo Angel threatened him with a defamation lawsuit earlier this year, he has heard nothing from him, nor has he yet been served with any papers. Vega also contends that among the reasons Colombian authorities have not pursued the Angel brothers more vigorously is because they are wealthy businessmen who are friends of current Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
Vega’s claim concerning the Angel brothers and their close relationship to the president of Colombia may seem the stuff of conspiracy theories. Still, it’s not the first time that Uribe, who hails originally from Medellin, has been accused of having ties to the narco-trafficking business — a charge he has consistently denied. In fact, a controversial 1991 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency document declassified in 2004 revealed the following about Uribe, based on information from an anonymous source:
A Colombian politician and senator dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high government levels. Uribe was linked to a business involved in narcotics activities in the U.S. His father was murdered in Colombia for his connection with the narcotraffickers. [Uribe claims left-wing FARC guerillas were responsible.] Uribe has worked for the Medellin cartel and is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar Gaviria. He has participated in Escobar’s political campaign to win the position of assistant parliamentarian to Jorge (Ortega). Uribe has been one of the politicians, from the Senate, who has attacked all forms of the extradition treaty.
Security Breach
Although the claims and counterclaims being bandied back and forth between Vega and Angel may not be sorted out short of a court showdown someday, it appears Vega is not alone in denouncing the business practices of Juan Gonzalo Angel.
Another who has stepped into that fray is Carlos Alberto Pinilla Ochoa, who provided security services to Juan Gonzalo Angel in the late 1990s, according to a recent story in Colombia’s El Espectador. Vega tells Narco News that Pinilla was actually the head of security for both Juan Gonzalo Angel and his brother Guillo and, as a result, has intimate knowledge of their business and personal doings.
Pinilla, according to El Espectator, was the target of an assassination attempt in August 2002 by “unknown assailants.”
Vega alleges that Pinilla — whom he says is also a former Colombian military officer — has been the target of multiple assassination plots since leaving the service of the Angel brothers. Vega also claims Pinilla is currently in hiding and seeking to cooperate with U.S. authorities in an effort to share what he purportedly knows about the Angel brothers and their operations.
Narco News could not confirm that claim independently, but then such matters are rarely discussed by the parties involved. However, Narco News was able to obtain pleadings filed by Pinilla with the Colombian judicial system that include some very serious allegations against the Angel brothers and their alleged associates.
Following is a sample of some of those allegations (translated from Spanish to English) from Pinilla’s Colombian legal pleadings:
From a June 14, 2009, complaint:
I [Pinilla] was to receive on loan a sum of money, without a cosigner, unsecured, with an extremely long repayment term and at zero interest. The brief drafted by the attorney [claiming to represent Juan Gonzalo Angel Restrepo, then, according to Pinilla, allegedly a shareholder in Telmex Hogar S.A.] said that when that I would receive the money from the person [Juan Gonzalo Angel Restrepo] who, in his capacity as president of Cablepacifico S.A. (today Telmex Hogar S.A.), ordered me killed, and by whose hand I am now a victim of displacement [exile] and they still want to take my life.
… On December 20, 2008, [the attorney], on a flight from Medellin, called to tell me that he was bringing the money and asked if I already had readied and authenticated the briefs he sent, so we could meet. My response was clear, I did not receive money on loan or any other way because I did not need it and much less from the person who had ordered my execution, I had not retracted [my statements] and that, on the contrary, I asserted that in the name of Cablepacífico SA crimes against humanity had been committed and that my dignity was not for sale and as far as the contracts in force with that same company I would collect them myself directly and by legal means if necessary.
From a July 4, 2009, petition:
Clearly, I also have made known to Telmex Hogar SA that I am one of the victims of the paramilitary barbarism that ruled in Cablepacífico SA and which today continues to keep an eye on me so that I remain silent.
… In reference to my accusations of violation of International Humanitarian Law byCablepacífico S.A.: I accept responsibility for proving them before whichever body you deem appropriate.
From a July 6, 2009, filing:
I respectfully address myself to your office to offer documentary proof of records that I have in my possession in my capacity as a victim of Narcopara-entrepreneurs. I have established myself in a new office located at Telmex Hogar SA, which purchased the company shares of Cablepacífico SA. [in 2007]. I am requesting my contractual rights which have been denied me and are impossible for me to demand through administrative means, as my victimizers have at a distinct legal and security disadvantage, taking into account that I am one of the many people affected by violations of human rights by this company and the Metro Bloc of the AUC [a unit of the right-wing paramilitary death-squad organization known as the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia in English].
From a June 14, 2009 filing:
1. My complaint against Mr. Juan Gonzalo Angel Restrepo (aka, Plata Limpia [meaning Clean Silver]), Luis Guillermo Angel Restrepo (aka, Guillo) and Hugo Albeiro Quintero Restrepo (aka,El Patron de Bello), is not about threats but Attempted Aggravated Murder, Aggravated Murder, Forced Displacement, Expropriation, Narco-paramilitarism, and crimes against humanity and not specifically for threats.
2. My complaint with the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions is for Human Rights violations crimes, committed by these three people with the help of state security agencies and therefore the competence of a unit specializing in this area isimportant in supporting the activities of the Prosecutor 241 Sectional.
3. That if it is true that Dr. Fabio Humar, Prosecutor, Sectional 241, is advancing the investigation because of my complaint, and surely I will set up a time to testify to my claims, but only about my complaint as victim, not including the other victims like me who have had their human rights violated by these three gentlemen in financial complicity with companies like Cablepacífico SA, Telmex Hogar SA, Transportes Bellanita S.A. and Helicargo SA.
… 4. That to this day I have expressed concerns for my own and my family’s safety and I have not been offered protection by the Attorney, despite asking for this assistance, forcing me to remain displaced and vulnerable to another attack. [It is because of this] that my elaboration and the testimony of victims cannot be expressed freely.
… 6. Similarly, I ask that you tell me how I can get a lawyer to represent me during the trial, as those professionals that I have contacted, once they discover that these people are linked to Narcoparamilitarism and formerly to the PEPES [a paramilitary group, allegedly backed by the U.S. government, that was formed to hunt down Pablo Escobar], choose to withdraw or propose to charge me a fee that is out of my reach.
It is not clear if Colombian authorities are seriously investigating Pinilla’s claims, though one document on file with a government office there does confirm Pinilla’s complaints, at least in part, are winding through the back rooms of the bureaucracy:
From the Division of Registration and Control and Correspondence [again, translated from Spanish into English]:
I wish to inform you that your communication based on the Correspondence Group of this entity, No. 198115 2009, was forwarded to PUBLIC MINISTRY Delegate (PROCURADURIA DELEG MINISTERIO PUBLICO) No130344 by official letter dated July 09, 2009.
The final proceedings will be conducted in accordance with the terms established by the Act 734 of 2002 C.U.D.
The Attorney General's Office appreciates your participation and collaboration that makes a positive contribution to the fight against corruption.
Where’s the Money?
Whether these various, quite serious charges against the Angel brothers should be believed or not, kind readers, is up to you. The same can be said of the charges raised some nine years ago against Mexican banker Hernandez Ramirez.
But regardless, the New York Supreme Court’s ruling in the dismissed Narco News libel case merits mentioning again in the context of these new allegations against the Angel brothers in Colombia:
The nature of the articles printed on the [Narco News] website … constitute matters of public concern because the information disseminated relates to the drug trade and its affect on people living in this hemisphere.
And in places like Juarez, in this “hemisphere,” as a consequence of the relentless drug war, people are being murdered by the thousands. Regularly, in the media, the blame for that carnage is put at the feet of notorious criminal narco-cartoon-like characters, such as Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman or Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, who seem to possess seemingly mythic powers.
To be sure, they are cunning men with a ruthless drive to survive and advance their power, but they are only men nonetheless. They, too, have to serve somebody.
In light of the allegations raised by individuals like Vega, Pinilla and the past claims (based on hardnosed investigative reporting) advanced by journalists like Giordano and Menendez, maybe its time to reconsider the conventional mainstream media meme on the drug war — and the cast of narco-cartoon characters set up as its sinister scapegoats, those shadowy figures who pack pearl-handled pistols and are able to drive around untouched in Mexico behind the tinted glass of armored SUVs made in America.
Maybe there’s another cast of bad guys behind the drug-trafficking menace who are not the usual suspects, but rather, due to society’s pretenses, are individuals deemed beyond suspicion — such as well-heeled bankers, chamber-of-commerce businessmen and career government servants).
Who knows?
One thing is certain, though: The dead of Juarez, and elsewhere along the front lines of the drug war, tell no tales. But their bones do provide a vivid reminder that all this carnage isn’t about some Mickey Mouse cartoon show.
“Colombia exports $100 billion or more in drugs each year and everyone that has been arrested accounts for only a very small amount of that retrieved [by the authorities],” Vega claims. “And they [the Colombian narco-traffickers now in control] have been working for 10 to 15 years making $100 billion a year, so where is all that money?”
Stay tuned….
Links to source documents
• Baruch Vega’s April 13, 2009, letter to Juan Gonzalo Angel Restrepo [in the original Spanish and translated into English]
• Carlos Alberto Pinilla Ochoa’s filings with the Colombian judicial system [in the original Spanish and translated into English]