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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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