Salvatore Mancuso's appearance before the Colombian Parliament is a milestone in the control of the state by organized crime.
Audio file available at Radio Nizkor
The history of organized crime contains chapters which in many instances exceed any screenplays by the best cinema scriptwriters.
On the 28th July 2004 an incident took place which could easily be one of those film scripts but which also constitutes another chapter in the universal history of infamy.
On that date three paramilitary leaders took preferential seats in the Colombian parliament and, although formally accused by the justice system as drug trafficking capos, the three delivered their speeches to the further discredit of civil liberties, justice and popular power of which a parliament should be an expression.
Meyer Lansky, mafia boss and master financial strategist who tried without success to be buried on the heroes hill in Israel and who, along with many other operations, financed the failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs, would have been proud of the spectacle; one which also bears comparison with his actions in the Cuba of Fulgencio Batista.
The occasion could also be compared with the example of General Khun Sa in Myanmar (formerly Burma), who, during the 80s managed to control 80% of the area within the Golden Triangle and increased opium production from 550 to 2,500 metric tonnes.
One is even reminded of the image of President Reagan calling the Taliban leader, Bin Laden a " freedom fighter".
Bin Laden organized the largest market in opium production in the world in order to finance the war against the Russians in Afghanistan. Today he is accused of running the largest organization of Islamic fundamentalism which continues to be financed by heroin originating in Afghanistan.
Similarly, the image of the paramilitaries in the Colombian Parliament brings to mind the one and only legendary Sicilian boss Charles "Lucky" Luciano, who died of a heart-attack in Naples airport in 1962, after having spent years in hiding as a result of organizing and running one of the first Sicilian heroin networks. He was allowed to do so as compensation for his services during the Second World War.
The grotesque scene also evokes the memory of the Corsican mafia bosses who had to withdraw from the Golden Triangle and who were hunted down after an agreement was reached between President Nixon and the French President George Pompidou to stop the activities of the Marseilles laboratories.
Many of them were ruthlessly assassinated despite their co-operation in French Indochina and then with the CIA in South Vietnam.
A spectacle such as that witnessed in the Colombian parliament can even be compared with what went on in Bolivia from 1978, when the first foreign mercenaries began to arrive there, having been hired by Klaus Barbie, the German war criminal and Nazi refugee, on behalf of the Bolivian Ministry of the Interior for which he acted as a consultant.
The Argentinians Alfredo Mario Mingolla, González Bonorino and Silva arrived in Bolivia in that way, all of them originally from the shadowy Argentinian Anti-Communist Alliance or the Triple-A , and it was also in that way that the Argentinian Navy were able to gain control of the cocaine market to finance the war in Central America, and particularly their operations first in Guatemala and then in Honduras.
It was there that they put together, among many other clandestine operations, a group of journalists headed by Juan Gasparini, a collaborator from the Argentinian Navy. This group controlled all the information and backed media operations to support the drug-traffickers.
This technique was also used in the PR campaigns run by Carlos Castaño in Colombia which included a widely published edition of a book entitiled "My Confession". The book was written by the Spaniard Mauricio Aranguren Molina and was publicised by the correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo - Salud Hernández Mora.
Alvaro Uribe Vélez, the President of Colombia, and his Vice-President, Pacho Santos, are in charge of the largest operation to legitimize a criminal mafia organization to have taken place in recent years.
To understand exactly what that means, we describe here the profile of five of the negotiators of the so-called AUC (United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia). In the case of every one of them there are formal charges pending involving the running of drug-dealing organizations.
These organizations are responsible for the production of over 90% of the cocaine sold world-wide.
They are also responsible for 65% of the heroin sent to the United States.
At the moment, the most important of these men is the paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso.
Mancuso is a member of the 'Ndranghetá', the powerful Calabrian mafia which according to Italian police, exceeds the Sicilian Cosa Nostra in both strength and size. The 'Ndranghetá purchased almost "an entire neighbourhood" in Brussels, the capital of Belgium with laundered funding originating in narcotrafficking.
News of the operation was announced on 5th May 2004 by the Italian Government and it followed actions to dismantle an important network of drug-traffickers from the Calabrian mafia, with international ramifications.
During the operation 47 people were arrested, accused of drug-trafficking and money-laundering and are attributed with having laundered the equivalent of 28 million euros in Brussels by purchasing real estate.
The investigating judge from Reggio Calabria, Francesca Mollaca, advised that measures had already been introduced to seize the assets acquired by the mafia group in the city of Brussels.
According to the investigation, the activities of the 'ndrangheta extended to the Netherlands where large quantities of heroin and cocaine had been marketed.
According to an investigation of the Anti-Mafia Commission of the Italian Parliament the Calabrian 'ndranghetá' make some 11,000 million dollars per annum solely from cocaine trafficking, easily exceeding the 9,000 million made by the Sicilian Cosa Nostra.
The Calabrian mafia also dominate the world market in cocaine trafficking along with their colleagues the Colombian dealers. They even supply the Cosa Nostra, the Neapolitan Camorra and the Sacra Corona Unita from the Apulia region (Puglia), the other existing Italian mafia organizations.
An important boss of the 'ndrangheta', Antonino Pangallo was also arrested in Madrid Spain where he has been a fugitive since 2002.
In one week alone, between the 18th and the 24th February 2004, the Italian police arrested two important bosses: Giuseppe Morabito, fugitive for 12 years and Orazio De Stefano, on the run for the last 16 years.
The Italian Minister for the Interior, Giuseppe Pisanu, defined the 'ndrangheta' as "the most powerful and dangerous criminal organization in Italy".
According to the investigations, the organization has expanded into countries on five continents.
The connection of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, the AUC, with narcotics trafficking was confirmed with the capture of 102 people in Italy, Holland and the Colombian city of Santa Marta, all belonging to a narcotics network in the service of that illegal armed group.
As a result of the anti-narcotics operation an international group led by the 'Ndrangheta' mafia was dismantled, not only one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in Italy, but also according to the authorities, with apparent connections to one of the heads of the paramilitary group.
In the massive police action known as "Decollo", 75 people were arrested in Italy, 11 in Holland and 16 in Colombia, and over 5,000 kilos of cocaine were seized in the Italian city of Calabria.
According to the investigations, in order to dismantle the network, someone close to the Mancuso family, from the Calabrian town of Vibo Valentia, was infiltrated and formed a relationship with one of his relatives who is currently one of the heads of the paramilitary group.
The anti-mafia state prosecutor Pierluigi Vigna commented, "from this anti-narcotics operation it is apparent that cocaine trafficking is used to finance forms of terrorism. A Calabrian man is a member of one of the Colombian paramilitary organizations".
Another paramilitary leader is Víctor Manuel Mejía Múnera, one of the so-called 'Twins' (Mellizos).
He and his brother, Miguel Ángel Melchor Mejía, 'El Loco' (the 'Madman'), are known members of the cartel from Norte del Valle. Apart from being the subject of extradition applications on the grounds of narcotic trafficking, they also have the dubious honour of being on the FBI list of the world's 12 most wanted drug-dealers.
The Twins will be remembered for the multimillion dollar seizure which the police carried out in August 2001 in one of their apartments in Bogotá: 35 million dollars, 93,000 million Colombian pesos were concealed inside a wall of the apartment situated at no. 1102, Carrera 6 No. 88-44 in the North of the city.
With respect to one of the other paramilitary leaders, Francisco Javier Zuloaga, the authorities claim that he was a partner of Fabio Ochoa Vásquez. A court of the Southern District of Florida accuses him of drug dealing and has requested his extradition.
On the 11th June 2004, just before the paramilitary leaders were about to concentrate some of their forces in Santa Fe de Ralito (the 'Location Zone'), the authorities carried out an operation involving helicopters in El Volador, a municipality of Valencia, in order to capture him.
That area is under the control of 'Adolfo Paz,' AUC military co-ordinator for the negotiations zone.
The proximity of the operation to the area arranged for the concentration set off protests of the self-defence groups. The Government clarified that the operation was only intended to deal with drug-traffickers.
The presence of Pablo Mejía and Gabriel Giraldo in the area was confirmed by the High Commissioner, Luis Carlos Restrepo.
"Yes.Pablo Mejía has been present since the first meeting we had with the Central Bolivar Bloc (Bloque Central Bolívar) and was introduced as the commander of the Victors of Arauca (los Vencedores de Arauca). Both blocs represented themselves as one unit," stated the Commissioner.
He added that Gabriel Galindo has always been present at the meetings "accompanying" Mr.Adolfo Paz: Mr Adolfo Paz and various documents identify him as the political commander of the Pacific Bloc. "They are both here and are taking part in the meetings with me".
Other leaders of Colombian drug-trafficking are Diego Fernando Murillo, known as "Don Berna", and Vicente Castaño, who form part of the General Staff of the AUC.
Diego Murillo and Vicente Castaño, brother of Carlos Castaño (now presumed dead), are among the group of negotiators who are participating in the peace discussions.
After having been formally accused in the USA, the extradition of these two paramilitary leaders may be requested at any time by the US courts.
The charges against them in North America range from the supply of consumables for the purpose of cocaine production to conspiracy in cocaine trafficking to the US.
The US Ambassodor in Bogotá accuses the AUC of attempting to impose what he describes as a "drug-trafficking agenda" on the peace negotiations.
The accusation of drug-trafficking by the North American federal courts was made one week before various paramilitary leaders appeared at the Colombian Congress to express their points of view on the armed conflict in the country.
A letter from the Democratic candidate, John Kerry and 22 senators was sent to President Uribe Vélez on 26th July, just one day before appearance of the paramilitary in the Colombian Congress, showing that they were distancing themselves from the current policy of the State Department towards Colombia.
It is unthinkable that the Government of Uribe Vélez could have fostered the relationship between politics and organized crime - almost to the point of no return - without the support of the CIA and the Department of State.
Given this background, the position of two former Spanish presidents who visited Bogotá in a clear show of support for the presidency of Uribe Vélez is shameful.
These were former President Felipe González, who governed Spain for 14 years from 1982 to 1996 and José María Aznar, the head of the Spanish executive for 8 years and who has just recently lost his first elections.
Felipe González has supported Uribe Vélez since the time when the Colombian president was Governor of the Department of Antioquia, and became famous for his unconditional support of the former Colombian Ambassador to the European Union, Carlos Arturo Marulanda.
Carlos Arturo Marulanda was the subject of a scandal which ended in his arrest in Madrid and later extradition to Colombia charged with the killing carried out by paramilitaries in the Bellacruz estate (Hacienda Bellacruz).
This estate was the property of the Marulanda family and was the place where Salvatore Mancuso carried out his first known paramilitary operation, killing smallholders and burning out numerous homes according to evidence accepted by the Colombian judicial system.
On the other hand, President Aznar, saw Uribe Vélez as the ideal candidate for his state of exception policy, a policy which he attempted to put into effect in Spain and an ideology which he shares with the fundamentalists who form the hard core of the Bush Government.
He promoted the only European support for the policies of Uribe Vélez, organizing a couple of seminars towards the end of his mandate.
For these he also obtained the support of the former member of the European Parliament and Spanish socialist leader, Paca Sauquillo, as well as the financial backing of the Ford Foundation.
For the first time in many years, Francisca Sauquillo is not on the list of members of the European Parliament nor does she currently hold any post in the new Spanish Government nor in the PSOE executive.
Aznar's support went so far as to produce the first Spanish sale of tactical heavy weapons since the colonialist era. The sale of military tanks was however officially cancelled by the current government of Spain after the Parliamentary Commission for Foreign Affairs expressed a negative view of the operation.
But this did not result in any statement condemning the organized crime and it seems that the Spanish foreign policy will follow its traditional guidelines, which have remained unchanged since the first González government.
Radio Nizkor and Equipo Nizkor, 31Jul04
DDHH en Colombia
|This document has been published on 09sep04 by Team Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights|