The following are a series of revealing articles on the connection between the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras and the smuggling of illegal drugs, particularly cocaine. They are among the first exposés about Contra drug smuggling published in the United States. They were written by journalist Gary Webb for the San Jose Mercury News in 1996 under the series title “The Dark Alliance.” The articles, which alleged a connection between the Contras, the CIA and drug trafficking, quickly roused a strong reaction throughout the U.S. and triggered a smear campaign. Webb’s career was destroyed shortly after these articles were published by right-wing Reaganite journalists in support of the Contras.
The following copies were obtained from the website of the Seattle Times, since the San Jose Mercury News where they first appeared has removed the entire Gary Webb series from their web site.
— Espresso Stalinist
Aug 22, 1996
Salvador air force linked to cocaine flights, Nicaraguan contras, drug dealer’s supplier
by Gary Webb
San Jose Mercury News
One thing is certain: There is considerable evidence that El Salvador’s air force was deeply involved with cocaine flights, the contras and drug dealer Oscar Danilo Blandon Reyes’ cocaine supplier, Norwin Meneses.
Meneses said one of his oldest friends is a former contra pilot named Marcos Aguado, a Nicaraguan who works for the Salvadoran air-force high command.
Aguado was identified in 1987 congressional testimony as a CIA agent who helped the contras get weapons, airplanes and money from a major Colombian drug trafficker named George Morales. Aguado admitted his role in that deal in a videotaped deposition taken by a U.S. Senate subcommittee that year.
His name also turned up in a deposition taken by the congressional Iran-contra committees that same year. Robert Owen, a courier for Lt. Col. Oliver North, testified he knew Aguado as a contra pilot and said there was “concern” about his being involved with drug trafficking.
While flying for the contras, Aguado was stationed at Ilopango Air Base near El Salvador’s capital.
In 1985, the DEA agent assigned to El Salvador – Celerino Castillo III – began picking up reports that cocaine was being flown to the United States out of hangars 4 and 5 at Ilopango as part of a contra-related covert operation. Castillo said he soon confirmed what his informants were telling him.
Starting in January 1986, Castillo began documenting the cocaine flights – listing pilot names, tail numbers, dates and flight plans – and sent them to DEA headquarters.
The only response he got, Castillo wrote in his 1994 memoirs, was an internal DEA investigation of him. He took a disability retirement from the agency in 1991.
“Basically, the bottom line is it was a covert operation and they (DEA officials) were covering it up,” Castillo said in an interview. “You can’t get any simpler than that. It was a cover-up.”