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The US Drug War, or the Curacao Contact

Nil Nikandrov -
January 8, 2010
The US Drug War, or the Curacao Contact
Vice Council of the US Consulate General Curacao James Edward Hogan left his home on foot late at night on September 24, 2009 for one of his regular walks. Used to them, his wife reported him missing only the next morning. Search for Hogan, initialy conducted by the US Consulate staff and intelligence agents, began without much publicity. The local authorities were notified only when Hogan's clothes covered with blood were found.

The incident became widely known shortly thereafter. Local media floated various stories including Hogan's leaving his wife for another woman, imitating his own death to let his wife get the life insurance payment, or being killed as an act of revenge by the drug mafia with which he allegedly had ties. Gradually the drug-related version grew dominant. The media discovered that Hogan had worked for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and had served as a trade representative in Africa after receiving additional training. It appeared that - as an operative - he indeed dealt with drug-trafficking groups. If he was dead, who could have killed him and why?

Scrupulous journalists invoked a recent raid against a drug cartel which supplied cocaine from Colombia to the US, Middle East, Holland, Belgium, and Denmark. The major operation had been carried out last April by DEA in Curacao and Aruba with the help of the local police. The 17 people arrested in the case were Colombians, Surinamese, Curacao and Aruba natives, Venezuelans, and Cubans. As usual, DEA supplied no details concerning the Venezuelan and Cuban members of the group, thus creating a pretext for a media campaign charging Havana and Caracas with involvement in drug trafficking.

Moreover, 4 individuals from Lebanon had also been arrested during the raid, which made it possible for the media to pick up the version that Hezbollah terrorists were getting drugs from their Venezuelan partners. DEA has tried for a decade but failed to discover any links between Venezuela and Hezbollah's drug groups, but no doubt new propaganda campaigns targeting Venezuela are in the making. Some elements of the fictional scenario – allegations that speed motorboats delivered cocaine from Venezuela to Curacao - have already been leaked to the media. Motorboats carrying drugs from South America to the Caribbean Islands are a reality, but the truth is that they are registered in Colombia. DEA is known to greenlight the drug trafficking under its own control while suppressing the competition in the business highly profitable for the US (and DEA), which is posed by “unaffiliated” players. US agencies treat Curacao, Aruba, and Bonaire as their own backyard. For DEA, Hollywood-style episodes with bad cops putting drugs into the pockets of innocent people, etc. are routine practice. Not surprisingly, some Latin American countries are deporting DEA operatives and refusing to cooperate with the US agency.

The US SOUTHCOM maintains the so-called Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) on Curacao and Aruba. They are equipped with advanced air and naval surveillance facilities and the electronic equipment capable of intercepting all types of communications. As a result, the islands are closely watched and the existence of “independent” criminal groups on them is absolutely impossible. Seaports, airfields, banking, the real estate sector, administration, and diplomatic missions on Curacao and Aruba are defenseless against the US monitoring and heavily infiltrated by Washington's agents. The only surviving drug groups in Curacao are those used by DEA in its strategic games. Obviously, DEA planed the recent raid against a Curacao drug group as a major provocation against Venezuela, but the operation collapsed as no real Chavez's envoys or Hezbollah terrorists were caught. Then the story about individuals from Lebanon coming to Curacao was invented – if you are ready to believe that anyone from Lebanon is a Hezbollah member, they must have been drug traffickers and terrorists.

One might say the fabrication is too naive for DEA, the CIA, or any other US agencies, but they are facing stiff inter-departmental competition and are under pressure to churn out results to justify their enormous budgets. As a result, almost any “information” is regarded as usable. While DEA is saying that Venezuela and Ecuador are among the leading drug producers, Latin America's number one drug factory supplying plastic-packaged narcotics to all parts of the world is Colombia. The country's extensive drug network employs its own financial centers, carefully maintained routes, corrupt officers at customs checkpoints and in police forces, etc. This activity would have been impossible without the help of DEA, the secret agency with its own logistics and system of analysis.

Videos showing thousands of confiscated packages containing cocaine are regularly featured on Venezuelan TV channels. The country's law enforcement agencies became a lot more efficient since the expulsion of DEA. Currently they are uprooting the drug network DEA had been cultivating for years both to earn money and to compromise Chavez and his regime. When Venezuela opposed the Honduran coup and made efforts to reinstate the country's legitimate President Jose Manuel Zelaya, Washington claimed Chavez was keenly interested in Honduras as an intermediate base for supplying drugs to Mexico and the US. A typical case of blame-shifting!

Zelaya was the first Honduran President who was not a total US puppet. His predecessors readily and profitably cooperated with DEA. The independent Zelaya who re-emerged as a populist leader ruined the plans of the US super-cartel which had turned Honduras into its base in Central America. The Honduran drug chronicles illustrate the proportions of the “commercial” aspect of DEA activity. Crushes or interceptions of planes loaded with drugs are reported nearly every week. Speed motorboats registered in Honduran seaports deliver cocaine and heroine to Mexico and the US East Coast, and only a fraction of the traffic – that with no ties to DEA – gets intercepted.

DEA made a crucial contribution to the coup in Honduras as the majority of the country's army command used to be on its payroll. Much to the displeasure of DEA, Zelaya planned to purge the corrupt officers corps. The November, 29 “election” of Porfirio Lobo Sosa as the President of Honduras coincided in time with the assassination of Gen. Julian Aristides Gonzalez, director general of the National Office for Combating Drug Trafficking, by two gunmen riding motorcycles in Tegucigalpa. Reportedly, Gonzalez was going to write a book about his transactions with DEA and had a lot to tell about its ties with the Honduran cartels.

No doubt, Colombia is the leader in drug production. Bolivian President Evo Morales said recently that the US deliberately reiforces the negative processes in Colombia such as the escalation of its domestic armed conflict, the surge of the paramilitary movements, and the expansion of drug groups to justify its continued presence in the country and to use it as a foothold in the struggle against the region's populist regimes.

Destructive processes are gaining momentum in Mexico, also with a major contribution from DEA. The drug war with a death toll higher than that of the US in Afghanistan is the coutry's permanent condition. It took over 9,000 lives in 2009, many of those killed being police officers and army servicemen. The confrontation in Mexico is unbelievably ferrocious. Beheaded and mutilated corpses in plastic bags are found in its cities daily. Drug cartels are not only fighting for control over Mexico's regions but also over parts of the neighboring Guatemala. One of America's top undercover agents Michael Levine retired from DEA in 1989 after 25 years of service. Disillusioned, he authored Deep Cover: The Inside Story of How DEA Infighting, Incompetence and Subterfuge Lost Us the Biggest Battle of the Drug War, in which he stated that the US war against drugs is essentialy a pretext for covert operations abroad. Levine took part in a number of operations that could be crowned with arrests of the key figures of the drug business underworld, but every time his superiors told to leave them at large. He faced threats from DEA seniors when he attempted to reveal facts compromising the agency.

The current situation in DEA is even more sinister than it used to be in the 1980ies. In the situation of the unprecedented financial crisis the drug business rose from the tactic to the strategic level. The annual drug business revenue ranges from $700 bn to $1 trilion, which is comparable to the revenues generated by all oil companies.

Chances are slim that James Edward Hogan is alive. One of his operative contacts unexpectedly called him the night he went missing, and his mobile phone was found later in the water near the place where he supposedly had been killed. It is possible that, as it had happened before on Curacao, the assasination was an act of revenge perpetrated by the members of the cartel who had evaded arrest. Tens of FBI, CIA, and DEA operatives continue to investigate Hogan's disappearance. Whatever happens, the struggle over dominance over the drug markets will go on.