A US Hand in Brazil’s Coup?

The ouster of Brazil’s left-of-center president was the latest right-wing victory in Latin America, but was this “quiet coup” driven by local politics or part of a broader U.S. strategy to reclaim dominance over its “backyard,” asks Ted Snider.

By Ted Snider

There can no longer be any doubt that the impeachment of Brazil’s democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff was an illegitimate act of power politics. The maneuvering by opposition politicians has been revealed for what it clearly was all along: a quiet coup dressed in the disguise of good governance.

The recent publication (by Brazil’s largest newspaperFolha de São Paulo) of transcripts from secret conversations that took place in March, just weeks before the impeachment vote, has done for Brazil what the intercepted phone call between Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt did for Ukraine: it provided proof that the removal of the elected president was a coup.

The call — between Romero Jucá, who was a senator at the time and is currently the planning minister in the new Michel Temer government, and former oil executive Sergio Machado — lays bare “a national pact” to remove Rousseff and install Temer as president. Jucá reveals that not only opposition politicians but also the military and the Supreme Court were conspirators in the coup.

Regarding the military’s role, Jucá said, “I am talking to the generals, the military commanders. They are fine with this, they said they will guarantee it.” And, as for the Supreme Court, Jucá admitted that he “spoke with and secured the involvement of numerous justices on Brazil’s Supreme Court,” according to The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald (who lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).

Jucá further boasted that “there are only a small number” of Supreme Court justices that he had not spoken to.

What the Romero Jucá phone call does not do, unlike the Victoria Nuland phone call, is reveal U.S. involvement in the coup. The Jucá transcript does not name the United States as a participant in the intrigue. Neither did President Rousseff when Greenwald interviewed her. She pinned the blame securely on the lapel of lower house president Eduardo Cunha.

Rousseff’s ouster was dressed up as punishment for her obtaining loans to cover budgetary shortfalls. There were no allegations that Rousseff personally profited from these transactions, but it appears that some of the coup plotters hope the new regime will kill off a corruption and money-laundering investigation that implicates some of them, including the phone-call participants Jucá and Machado.

But there are three lines of evidence suggestive of U.S. involvement as well. In chronological order, there is suggestive historical evidence, there is a suggestive pattern of evidence in other Latin American countries, and there is current suggestive evidence in Brazil.

The Historical Evidence

Over the years, there have been a number of well-documented American coups in Latin America. The most well known are the 1954 CIA overthrow of Guatemala’s Jacobo Arbenz and the 1973 overthrow of Chile’s Salvador Allende. But the little known 1964 Brazilian coup was significant, too.

Noam Chomsky explains that in 1962, amid Cold War tensions over Cuba, Kennedy made the policy decision to transform the militaries of Latin America from defending against external forces to “internal security” or, as Chomsky puts it, “war against the domestic population, if they raised their heads.”

The Brazilian coup was significant because it may have been the first major manifestation of this shift in America’s Latin American policy. The Kennedy administration prepared the coup, and it was carried out shortly after Kennedy’s assassination. Chomsky says that the “mildly social democratic” Goulart government was taken out and replaced by a “murderous and brutal” military dictatorship.

Though not often included in the list of significant U.S. coups, the evidence that it was a U.S. coup is solid. The CIA station in Brazil’s field report shows clear U.S. foreknowledge of the coup: “a revolution by anti-Goulart forces will definitely get under way this week, probably in the next few days.” President Lyndon Johnson also gave Undersecretary of State George Ball and Assistant Secretary for Latin America Thomas Mann the green light to participate in the coup: “I think we ought to take every step that we can, be prepared to do everything that we need to do.”

And the steps were substantial. Ambassador Lincoln Gordon told CIA Director John McCone, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk that those steps should include “a clandestine delivery of arms . . . pre-positioned prior any outbreak of violence” to the coup forces as well as shipments of gas and oil.

Ambassador Gordon also told the senior officials to “prepare without delay against the contingency of needed overt intervention at a second stage” after the covert involvement. Rusk would then send Gordon a list of the steps that would be taken “in order [to] be in a position to render assistance at appropriate time to anti-Goulart forces if it is decided this should be done.”

The list, sent in a telegram on March 31, 1964, included dispatching U.S. Navy tankers with petroleum and oil, an aircraft carrier, two guided missile destroyers, four destroyers and task force tankers for “overt exercises off Brazil.” The telegram also lists as a step to “assemble shipment of about 11 tons of ammunition.”

The significance of this historical record is the demonstration that the last time Brazil had a “mildly social democratic” government, the U.S. cooperated in its removal. The next social democratic government would be the now removed PT government of Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.

Since Lula da Silva took office in 2003, government policies have been credited for lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty and making Brazil a powerful independent player on the world stage.

In 2009, Lula da Silva was a key figure in the creation of the BRICS organization of emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), representing a challenge to the dominance of the U.S.-based International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Among other initiatives, BRICS has called for a new global reserve currency, a direct threat to the power of the U.S. dollar.

Now, Lula da Silva’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, has been removed from office, creating uncertainty about the BRICS future.

Pattern of Evidence in Latin America

The next line of evidence is the recent pattern of right-wing or reactionary movements reclaiming power across Latin America. After a powerful swing to left-wing governments in the first decade of the new century, conservative forces have been re-establishing their control over the past few years.

For the U.S. government, which was uncomfortable with the leftist trend, the surge to the right has been welcome news since Washington has long viewed Central and South America as its strategic “backyard” with compliant states accepting U.S. hegemony and granting American companies easy access to natural resources.

As former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger put it, if America could not control its own backyard, it could hardly hope “to achieve a successful order elsewhere in the world.”

Key to this reclamation of Latin America is the repossession of Venezuela after the death of populist leader Hugo Chavez in 2013. Chavez’ successor, Nicolás Maduro, is not considered nearly the skilled political leader that Chavez was but Maduro did continue the run of Bolivarian Revolution victories, albeit by a narrow margin over Henrique Capriles, Washington’s choice.

Though some 150 international monitors observed the election and an audit of more than half the vote tally found no problems, the United States refused to recognize the election results, the only country to do so. Since then, political pressure on the Maduro government has continued, often cheered on by the U.S. news media and made worse by the drop in world oil prices that contributed to an economic crisis.

President Maduro recently declared a state of emergency, accusing the U.S. of conspiring with right-wing groups in Venezuela to overthrow his government. Maduro said, “Washington is activating measures at the request of Venezuela’s fascist right.”

But Venezuela’s leftist government has hardly been alone in facing hostility from Washington. On June 28, 2009, Honduras’ democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya was seized at gunpoint by hooded soldiers and forced onto a plane that, after refueling at the U.S. military base of Palmerola, took him to Costa Rica.

Zelaya immediately declared that he was the victim of a coup, an assessment shared by almost all the international community and the Organization of American States (OAS). But then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted Zelaya’s ouster and supported the new Honduran regime’s moves to select a replacement. The Obama administration refused, publicly, to use the word “coup.”

But it was a coup and Washington cooperated with it. Zelaya complained that “after the coup d’état . . . the U.S. has increased its military support to Honduras.” Despite a demand from the OAS and the United Nations for Zelaya’s return, Clinton’s State Department refused to follow that course.

Later, the U.S. recognized the coup leaders as the winners of an election that the OAS, the Latin American Mercosur trade bloc and the 23-nation Rio Group refused to accept. So illegitimate was the election that the U.N. refused to even bother monitoring it.

Latin American expert Mark Weisbrot told me that “the Obama administration acknowledged that they were talking to the [Honduran] military right up to the day of the coup, allegedly to convince them not to do it.” But, he added, “I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t convince them not to do it if they really wanted to: the Honduran military is pretty dependent on the U.S.”

Despite the refusal to call it a coup and the insistence on recognizing the new government as legitimate, the U.S. knew it was a coup. By July 24, 2009, less than a month after Zelaya’s ouster, the White House, Clinton and many others were in receipt of a cable sent from the U.S. embassy in Honduras. Clearly never meant to be public, the cable was titled: “Open and Shut: the Case of the Honduran Coup.”

In it, the embassy said, “There is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup” and “none of the . . . arguments [of the coup defenders] has any substantive validity under the Honduran constitution.”

So, the U.S. had foreknowledge of the coup, cooperated in the coup — at least by helping the rendition plane to refuel — and provided crucial diplomatic cover for the coup.

A similar pattern occurred in Paraguay where democratically elected Fernando Lugo was removed in a right-wing coup in 2012 while the U.S. was negotiating for a new military base. Again, the U.S. refused to call Lugo’s impeachment a coup, though as early as 2009, U.S. embassy cables noted that Lugo’s political opposition has as its goal to “Capitalize on any Lugo missteps” and “impeach Lugo and assure their own political supremacy.”

The cable noted that to achieve that goal, the opponents are willing to “legally” impeach Lugo “even if on spurious grounds.” So, the U.S. knew that was a coup because they had been tipped off about the strategy and told what it would look like.

A slightly different strategy has been pursued in Bolivia where WikiLeaks cables revealed that Washington had approved 101 grants worth over $4 million to help regional governments “operate more strategically” to cause a shift in power away from the national government of Evo Morales to regional governments. The idea was to rebalance power and weaken the Morales government.

That Brazil was going to be a part of this Latin American pattern was clear as early as 2005 when, Mark Weisbrot said, the U.S. intervened in Brazilian politics to undermine the government.

Current Suggestive Evidence in Brazil

Though the precise U.S. role in Brazil’s current political crisis remains unclear, there has been some suggestive, though not conclusive, evidence. Weisbrot said, “there is no doubt that the biggest players in this coup attempt — people like former presidential candidates José Serra and Aécio Neves — are U.S. government allies.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Professor of Sociology at the University of Coimbra in Portugal and Distinguished Legal Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Brazil is awash in financing from American sources, including “CIA-related organizations.”

Perhaps the most direct implication is that the day after the impeachment vote, Senator Aloysio Nunes of the coup government began a three-day visit to Washington. Nunes is no small player. He was the vice-presidential candidate on the 2014 ticket that lost to President Rousseff and helped spearhead Rousseff’s impeachment in the senate.

Nunes scheduled meetings with, among others, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker and Ben Cardin, respectively, as well as with Undersecretary of State and former Ambassador to Brazil Thomas Shannon. Though Nunes denies it, there are reports that his trip to Washington was ordered by acting President Michel Temer.

The willingness to go ahead with the planned meetings with Nunes right after the impeachment vote suggests at least tacit acceptance or approval on the part of Washington.

President Evo Morales of Bolivia has called on the remaining left-wing governments of South America to counter American plans to retake control of the region. Morales said, “It is the plan of the American empire that wants to regain control of Latin America and the Caribbean, and especially in South America, and there surely is an ambition to establish a United States presence in these countries and recover subservient governments as a model, as a system.”

So far, the U.S. government has been conspicuously silent about the coup in Brazil.

Ted Snider writes on analyzing patterns in U.S. foreign policy and history.




Hitler’s Shadow Reaches toward Today

From the Archive: The key role of neo-Nazis in Ukraine’s U.S.-backed coup is denied by the mainstream U.S. press, which can’t believe the U.S. government would collaborate with such unsavory characters, but that isn’t the real history, as Robert Parry reported in 2010.

By Robert Parry (Originally published on Dec. 17, 2010)

The U.S. government protected Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie in the years after World War II and later unleashed the infamous Butcher of Lyon on South America by aiding his escape from French war-crimes prosecutors, according to a report issued by the National Archives in 2010.

The report, entitled “Hitler’s Shadow,” concentrates on the decisions by the U.S. Army’s Counterintelligence Corps to use Barbie and other ex-Nazis for early Cold War operations, but other work by investigative journalists and government investigators has shown how Barbie’s continued allegiance to Nazi ideology contributed to the spread of right-wing extremism in Latin America.

With his skills as an intelligence operative and his expertise in state terror, Barbie helped shape the particularly vicious style of anti-communism that dominated South America for most of the Cold War. He also played a role in building a conduit for drug proceeds to fund right-wing paramilitary operations, including Ronald Reagan’s beloved Nicaraguan Contra rebels.

In 1980, Barbie used his perch in Bolivian intelligence to organize an alliance of military leaders and cocaine barons to overthrow Bolivia’s democratically elected leftist government in a bloody coup. Though fitting with Washington’s distrust of left-wing populist governments in South America, the so-called Cocaine Coup had other long-term consequences for the United States.

Bolivia’s coup regime ensured a reliable flow of coca to Colombia’s Medellin cartel, which quickly grew into a sophisticated conglomerate for smuggling cocaine into the United States. Some of those drug profits then went to finance right-wing paramilitary operations, including the CIA-backed Contras, according to other U.S. government investigations.

Barbie reportedly collaborated, too, with representatives of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church as they worked with Bolivia’s Cocaine Coup regime to organize anti-communist operations in South America. By then, the region had become a center for Moon’s global money-laundering operations. In 1982, Moon began pouring hundreds of millions of his mysterious dollars into the right-wing Washington Times newspaper to influence U.S. politics.

Eventually, as Bolivia’s corrupt Cocaine Coup government crumbled and Barbie’s identity became well known, French authorities finally secured Barbie’s return to France to face a war-crimes trial in 1983. (He died in 1991.)

The Butcher of Lyon’s role in these South American anti-communist activities caused brief embarrassment for Moon’s church and some right-wing Americans. But the Nazi collaboration didn’t draw much attention from the U.S. news media, which was already shying away from critical reporting on the Reagan administration’s unsavory alliances in Central and South America.

A Long Continuum

Indeed, the Right’s growing dominance of Washington opinion circles can be viewed as a continuum dating back to those days right after World War II, when U.S. priorities switched quickly from prosecuting Axis war criminals to seeking their help in crushing leftist political influence in Western Europe and Asia.

Suddenly, U.S. intelligence agencies were freeing Nazi and Japanese war criminals from prison and exploiting their talents to neutralize labor unions, student groups and other left-wing organizations.

Though the National Archives report deals with ex-Nazis in Europe, a similar program was underway in Japan where war criminals such as right-wing yakuza gangsters Yoshio Kodama and Ryoichi Sasakawa were freed and allowed to become important political figures in Japan and later internationally by supporting a global crusade against communism.

In the 1960s, Kodama and Sasakawa joined with Rev. Moon and two right-wing dictators, Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-shek and South Korea’s Park Chung Hee, to create the World Anti-Communist League (WACL), which also brought in right-wing leaders from Latin America and Europe, including ex-Nazis and neo-Nazis, according to authors Scott and Jon Lee Anderson in their landmark 1986 book, Inside the League.

So, with the Cocaine Coup in 1980, Barbie not only closed the circle, bringing together death-squad commanders, ex-Nazis, neo-Nazis and various sociopaths from around the globe, but he helped ensure that drug proceeds would be available to fund right-wing causes in the future.

“Hitler’s Shadow,” in effect, tells the first chapter of this right-wing restoration as U.S. intelligence agencies turned to former Nazi officials and SS officers to counter the perceived greater threat from the Soviet Union and Communist groups in Europe.

“Gestapo officers, who also held ranks in the SS, were in the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps’s automatic arrest category after the war,” the report said. “Later, CIC used former Gestapo officers to garner useful intelligence for the postwar period on everything from German right-wing movements to underground communist organizations. Intelligence officers often overlooked the significant role Gestapo officers played in the murder of Jews, POWs, and the political enemies of the Nazis.”

The report notes that “approximately 1,200 newly released files relate to the penetration of German Communist activities and specifically to ‘Project Happiness,’ the CIC’s codename for counterintelligence operations against the KPD,” the German Communist Party.

Though Barbie notorious for personally torturing French partisans during the war may be the best known ex-Gestapo officer recruited by the CIC, others had similar histories.

For instance, Anton Mahler was the chief interrogator of Hans Scholl, a leader of the White Rose, a Munich-based student organization that secretly passed out leaflets urging Adolf Hitler’s overthrow and decrying German apathy in the face of Hitler’s crimes. Hans and his sister Sophie Scholl were convicted of high treason and beheaded in February 1943.

Mahler also served in Einsatzgruppe B in occupied Belarus as the group slaughtered more than 45,000 people, most of them Jews, the report said. Nevertheless, CIC deployed Mahler as an informant starting in February 1949 and soon made him a full-time employee.

Regarding Barbie, the report builds on a 1983 investigation by a Justice Department investigator who confirmed suspicions that U.S. intelligence had worked with and protected this hunted war criminal who was accused of executing 4,000 people and shipping 7,000 Jews to concentration camps.

“In the spring of 1947 a CIC agent named Robert S. Taylor from CIC Region IV (Munich) recruited Klaus Barbie, the one-time Gestapo Chief of Lyon (194244),” the new report said. “Barbie helped run a counterintelligence net named ‘Büro Petersen’ which monitored French intelligence.

“In 1948 Barbie helped the CIC locate former Gestapo informants. In 194950, he penetrated German Communist Party (KPD) activities in CIC Region XII (Augsburg). He continued to work for the CIC in return for protection against French war crimes charges.”

Ratline to Bolivia

The story of Barbie’s escape to South America with the CIC’s collaboration was addressed in the 1983 report by Allan A. Ryan Jr., head of the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations. Ryan’s 218-page report said that in 1951, the CIC helped Barbie evade French authorities and flee over a “ratline” to Bolivia.

Ryan said that a half dozen CIC officers participated in the cover-up of Barbie’s identity and excused their actions by claiming that the French arrest of Barbie could jeopardize the security of other CIC operations. To get Barbie to Bolivia, the CIC officers used a ratline run by a Croatian priest, Father Krunoslav Draganovich, Ryan wrote.

Ryan said the Central Intelligence Agency later rebuffed suggestions that Barbie be reactivated in the 1960s, but Barbie using the name Altmann held an official position with a state-owned shipping company that allowed him to move freely and even to travel to the United States. [For more on Ryan’s report, see Time magainzse, Time magazine, Aug. 29, 1983]

More significantly, Barbie became a figure in Bolivian intelligence and used that perch to coordinate with other right-wing intelligence services around the continent that were engaged in Operation Condor, a program of assassinating suspected subversives and other dissidents.

In the 1970s, these intelligence agencies had teamed up to give their assassination squads regional and even global reach, including the murder of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and an American co-worker on the streets of Washington in 1976.

For the Cocaine Coup in 1980, Barbie recruited Argentina’s feared intelligence service along with young neo-Nazis from Europe. The World Anti-Communist League arranged support from Moon and other Asian rightists.

For years, Moon had been sinking down roots in South America, especially in Uruguay after right-wing military dictators seized power there in 1973. Moon also cultivated close ties with dictators in Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, reportedly ingratiating himself with the juntas by helping the regimes buy weapons and by channeling money to allied right-wing organizations.

“Relationships nurtured with right-wing Latin Americans in the [World Anti-Communist] League led to acceptance of the [Unification] Church’s political and propaganda operations throughout Latin America,” the Andersons wrote in Inside the League.

“As an international money laundry, the Church tapped into the capital flight havens of Latin America. Escaping the scrutiny of American and European investigators, the Church could now funnel money into banks in Honduras, Uruguay and Brazil, where official oversight was lax or nonexistent.”

Moon expanded his network of friends when Barbie helped pull together a right-wing alliance of Bolivian military officers and drug dealers for the Cocaine Coup. WACL associates, such as Alfredo Candia, coordinated the arrival of some of the paramilitary operatives from Argentina and Europe who would help out in the violent putsch.

Barbie, then better known as Altmann, was in charge of drawing up plans for the coup and coordinating with Argentine intelligence. One of the first Argentine intelligence officers to arrive was Lt. Alfred Mario Mingolla.

“Before our departure, we received a dossier on” Barbie, Mingolla later told German investigative reporter Kai Hermann. “There it stated that he was of great use to Argentina because he played an important role in all of Latin America in the fight against communism. From the dossier, it was also clear that Altmann worked for the Americans.”

The Cocaine Motive

As the coup took shape, Bolivian Col. Luis Arce-Gomez, the cousin of cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez, also brought onboard neo-fascist terrorists such as Italian Stefano della Chiaie who had been working with the Argentine death squads. [See Cocaine Politics by Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall]

Still a committed fascist, Barbie started a secret lodge, called Thule. During meetings, he lectured to his followers underneath swastikas by candlelight.

On June 17, 1980, in nearly public planning for the coup, six of Bolivia’s biggest traffickers met with the military conspirators to hammer out a financial deal for future protection of the cocaine trade. A La Paz businessman said the coming putsch should be called the “Cocaine Coup,” a name that would stick. [See Cocaine Politics]

Less than three weeks later, on July 6 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, U.S. undercover drug enforcement agent Michael Levine said he met with a Bolivian trafficker named Hugo Hurtado-Candia. Over drinks, Hurtado outlined plans for the “new government” in which his niece Sonia Atala, a major cocaine supplier, will “be in a very strong position.” [See Levine’s Big White Lie]

On July 17, the Cocaine Coup began, spearheaded by Barbie and his neo-fascist goon squad which was dubbed the “Fiancés of Death.”

“The masked thugs were not Bolivians; they spoke Spanish with German, French and Italian accents,” Levine wrote. “Their uniforms bore neither national identification nor any markings, although many of them wore Nazi swastika armbands and insignias.”

The slaughter was fierce. When the putschists stormed the national labor headquarters, they wounded labor leader Marcelo Quiroga, who had led the effort to indict former military dictator Hugo Banzer on drug and corruption charges. Quiroga “was dragged off to police headquarters to be the object of a game played by some of the torture experts imported from Argentina’s dreaded Mechanic School of the Navy,” Levine wrote.

“These experts applied their ‘science’ to Quiroga as a lesson to the Bolivians, who were a little backward in such matters. They kept Quiroga alive and suffering for hours. His castrated, tortured body was found days later in a place called ‘The valley of the Moon’ in southern La Paz.”

To DEA agent Levine back in Buenos Aires, it was soon clear “that the primary goal of the revolution was the protection and control of Bolivia’s cocaine industry. All major drug traffickers in prison were released, after which they joined the neo-Nazis in their rampage.

“Government buildings were invaded and trafficker files were either carried off or burned. Government employees were tortured and shot, the women tied and repeatedly raped by the paramilitaries and the freed traffickers.”

The fascists celebrated with swastikas and shouts of “Heil Hitler!” Hermann reported. Col. Arce-Gomez, a central-casting image of a bemedaled, pot-bellied Latin dictator, grabbed broad powers as Interior Minister. Gen. Luis Garcia Meza was installed as Bolivia’s new president.

The victory put into power a right-wing military dictatorship indebted to the drug lords. Bolivia became South America’s first narco-state.

Moon’s Throne

One of the first well-wishers arriving in La Paz to congratulate the new government was Moon’s top lieutenant (and former KCIA officer) Bo Hi Pak. The Moon organization published a photo of Pak meeting with the new strongman, General Garcia Meza. After the visit to the mountainous capital, Pak declared, “I have erected a throne for Father Moon in the world’s highest city.”

According to later Bolivian government and newspaper reports, a Moon representative invested about $4 million in preparations for the coup. Bolivia’s WACL representatives also played key roles, and CAUSA, one of Moon’s anti-communist organizations, listed as members nearly all the leading Bolivian coup-makers.

Soon, Colonel Luis Arce-Gomez, a coup organizer and the cousin of cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez, went into partnership with big narco-traffickers, including Cuban-American smugglers based in Miami. Nazi war criminal Barbie and his young neo-fascist followers found new work protecting Bolivia’s major cocaine barons and transporting drugs to the Colombian border.

“The paramilitary units conceived by Barbie as a new type of SS sold themselves to the cocaine barons,” German journalist Hermann wrote. “The attraction of fast money in the cocaine trade was stronger than the idea of a national socialist revolution in Latin America.”

A month after the Cocaine Coup, General Garcia Meza participated in the Fourth Congress of the Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation, an arm of the World Anti-Communist League. Also attending that Fourth Congress was WACL president Woo Jae Sung, a leading Moon disciple.

As the drug lords consolidated their power in Bolivia, the Moon organization expanded its presence, too. Hermann reported that in early 1981, war criminal Barbie and Moon leader Thomas Ward were seen together in apparent prayer.

On May 31, 1981, Moon representatives sponsored a CAUSA reception at the Sheraton Hotel’s Hall of Freedom in La Paz. Moon’s lieutenant Bo Hi Pak and Bolivian strongman Garcia Meza led a prayer for President Ronald Reagan’s recovery from an assassination attempt.

In his speech, Bo Hi Pak declared, “God had chosen the Bolivian people in the heart of South America as the ones to conquer communism.”

Flush with Cash

In the early 1980s, cocaine kingpin Suarez his coffers now overflowing with cash invested more than $30 million in various right-wing paramilitary operations, including the Contra forces in Central America, according to U.S. Senate testimony in 1987 by an Argentine intelligence officer, Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse.

Sanchez-Reisse testified that the Suarez drug money was laundered through front companies in Miami before going to Central America. There, Argentine intelligence officers, including Sanchez-Reisse and other veterans of the Cocaine Coup, trained the fledgling Contra forces.

But by late 1981, the cocaine taint of Bolivia’s military junta was so deep and the corruption so pervasive that U.S.-Bolivian relations were stretched to the breaking point. “The Moon sect disappeared overnight from Bolivia as clandestinely as they had arrived,” Hermann reported.

The Cocaine Coup leaders soon found themselves on the run, too. Interior Minister Arce-Gomez was extradited to Miami and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking. Drug lord Suarez got a 15-year prison term. General Garcia Meza became a fugitive from a 30-year sentence imposed on him in Bolivia for abuse of power, corruption and murder.

SS veteran Barbie was returned to France to face a life sentence for war crimes. He died in 1991 at the age of 77.

But Moon’s organization suffered few negative repercussions from its role in the Cocaine Coup. By the early 1980s, flush with seemingly unlimited funds, Moon had moved on to promoting himself as a key friend of the new Republican administration in Washington.

A guest at Reagan’s First Inauguration, Moon made his organization useful to the new President and to Vice President George H.W. Bush, who would later become a paid speaker for Moon’s organization. Where Moon got his cash was not a mystery that American conservatives were eager to solve.

“Some Moonie-watchers even believe that some of the business enterprises are actually covers for drug trafficking,” wrote Scott and Jon Lee Anderson.

While Moon’s representatives have refused to detail how they’ve sustained their far-flung activities including many businesses that insiders say lose money Moon’s spokesmen have denied recurring allegations about profiteering off illegal trafficking in weapons and drugs.

In a typical response to a gun-running question by the Argentine newspaper, Clarin, Moon’s representative Ricardo DeSena responded, “I deny categorically these accusations and also the barbarities that are said about drugs and brainwashing.” [Clarin, July 7, 1996]

Nevertheless, Moon’s organization did its best to disrupt the work of U.S. investigative reporters and government investigators looking into the connections between the drug trade and right-wing paramilitary operations such as the Nicaraguan Contras.

In the mid-1980s, for instance, when journalists and congressional investigators began probing the evidence of Contra-connected drug trafficking, they came under attack from Moon’s Washington Times. An Associated Press story that I co-wrote with Brian Barger about a Miami-based federal probe into gun- and drug-running by the Contras was disparaged in an April 11, 1986, front-page Washington Times article with the headline: “Story on [contra] drug smuggling denounced as political ploy.”

When Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, uncovered additional evidence of Contra-drug trafficking, the Washington Times denounced him, too. The newspaper published articles depicting Kerry’s probe as a wasteful political witch hunt. “Kerry’s anti-contra efforts extensive, expensive, in vain,” declared the headline of one Times article on Aug. 13, 1986.

Despite the attacks, Kerry’s Contra-drug investigation eventually concluded that a number of Contra units were implicated in the cocaine trade.

“It is clear that individuals who provided support for the contras were involved in drug trafficking, the supply network of the contras was used by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers,” Kerry’s investigation stated in a report issued April 13, 1989.

Mysterious Contra Backer

In 1998, CIA’s Inspector General Frederick Hitz confirmed the earlier allegations of extensive cocaine trafficking by the Contras, including significant ties to Bolivia’s traffickers. Hitz also cited a partially redacted document referring to a “religious” group cooperating with the Contra-cocaine trade.

“There are indications of links between [a U.S. religious organization] and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups,” read an Oct. 22, 1982, cable from the office of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations. “These links involve an exchange in [the United States] of narcotics for arms.”

In 1982, the CIA quickly shut down any further reporting on this drug deal, citing the role of U.S. citizens. “In light of the apparent participation of U.S. persons throughout, agree you should not pursue the matter further,” CIA headquarters wrote on Nov. 3, 1982.

During the Inspector General’s investigation, Hitz conducted a follow-up interview, with Contra-connected drug trafficker Renato Pena, who described the redacted U.S. religious organization as a Contra “political ally that provided only humanitarian aid to Nicaraguan refugees and logistical support for contra-related rallies, such as printing services and portable stages.”

Moon’s religious-political groups, some based in the United States, were extremely active supporting the Contras in the early 1980s, suggesting that Moon’s Washington Times might have had more than an ideological reason to attack investigators exploring Contra drug trafficking.

To this day, the Washington Times remains a reliably right-wing voice in the U.S. capital. [Moon died on Sept. 3, 2012.]

Still, the CIA’s shielding of the name of that “religious organization” and similar protective behavior represented a continuation of a long-standing pattern in which U.S. intelligence covered up for right-wing and neo-Nazi criminality, a dark history that began with the likes of Klaus Barbie and has extended “Hitler’s Shadow” to modern times.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.




L’Affaire Snowden Shows US Weakness

Exclusive: The U.S. threw its diplomatic weight around getting several European countries to block a plane carrying Bolivia’s President Evo Morales thinking NSA leaker Edward Snowden might be a stowaway but the clumsy affair only spotlighted declining U.S. influence in Latin America, writes Andrés Cala.

By Andrés Cala

It took the Spanish government an inexplicably long time, but it finally apologized last week to Bolivia for an extremely rare diplomatic faux-pas, denying access to its air space for the presidential plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales from an official trip to Russia on July 3.

Spain was acting on information from an undisclosed source that whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed global eavesdropping by the United States, was hidden inside the plane. France, Portugal and Italy also denied their air space, but quickly moved to correct the situation. Madrid’s denial was more serious, not only because Spain was slow to recant its position but because Bolivia’s presidential plane had to refuel in Spain’s Canary Islands on its way to South America.

Further adding to the offense, the Spanish ambassador in Austria, where Morales was forced to land, tried to invite himself onboard “for coffee” to inspect the plane. Spain finally apologized and acknowledged that it acted inappropriately, but only after multiple international bodies had condemned the affair.

As we know now, Snowden wasn’t on board, and it’s hard to explain why anyone would think Bolivia’s head of state would risk stowing away Snowden, and even harder to figure out why European governments would deny use of their airspace, treating Morales as if he were a criminal.

The “rumor,” as Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel García Margallo described it, could only have come from Washington, which is exerting its diplomatic muscle to prevent South American countries from giving Snowden refuge. The Snowden case, as it relates to Latin America, is ultimately anecdotal, of course. It does however illustrate a profound hegemonic transition that is taking place in the region.

The multiple asylum offers Snowden has in Latin America, despite the public and no doubt private threats from the U.S., would have been unthinkable last century. They thus illustrate a new reality, as does the fact that Washington can’t do much about it.

The outcry over the blocking of Morales’s plane was reasonably monumental. The Organization of American States condemned it, as did South American countries individually. The U.S. and Canada abstained in the OAS, once again isolating themselves from the rest of the hemisphere.

For Spain the former colonial power and, until only a decade ago, the second most influential country in the region after the United States, it was a gross miscalculation especially because of its continuing political and economic ties to Latin America. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela recalled their ambassadors from the involved European countries to pressure them to correct an unjustified slap on the face to Bolivia and the rest of South American countries.

A free trade agreement that Europe has been negotiating with the South American Mercosur bloc will be further delayed as mistrust grows. What the U.S. and Spain don’t seem to understand is that Latin America can no longer be bullied into submission.

Transition in Latin America

Since Latin America’s independence from Spain in the 19th Century, and through most of the last century of U.S. dominance, the region has had basically two hegemonic overlords. However, over the past two decades, Latin America has matured into a powerful region and to varying degrees its countries have shed their politically dependence and economically instability, emerging from an era of dictatorship, war and gross human rights violations.

Latin America’s combined economies now are similar to Japan’s, about 70 percent of China’s, and about a third of the European Union’s. Though the region’s per capita spending of its nearly 600 million people is closer to that of Eastern Europeans, it is fast approaching developed economies’ consumption patterns. Regional economic growth outpaces the U.S., and in Europe’s case, especially Spain, by far.

The region also holds an enviable reserve of minerals, land, water and natural resources. A robust middle class is emerging with a rising number of high-income homes. In other words, Latin America is no longer about potential, but about reality. None of this has escaped China, Russia, India, Iran, some European countries and other middleweight powers.

However, the United States has been slower in recognizing this new reality, perhaps partly because it requires a new frame of thinking. Until the 1990s, Latin America was a proxy battlefield of the Cold War between Americans and Soviets, a strategic trophy rather than an investment opportunity. Now, it’s a must destination for global leaders trying to make inroads, form alliances and broaden relations with the region.

But the United States has been largely absent during Latin America’s formidable coming of age, while Spain has remained arrogant toward its former colonies. As a result, both are being displaced gradually as the region’s hegemonic powers by a rising Brazil, which moved ahead of the United Kingdom to become the world’s sixth largest economy.

Most Latin American countries hold Brazil as a model. But other countries also have been raising their profiles geopolitically and economically, including Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Venezuela. That is a diametrically different reality from just two decades ago when the region was still considered “America’s Backyard,” an infamous title it held for almost two centuries and is still used commonly in American policy-making circles.

This profound shift in relations is mostly due to the region’s own political and economic maturity. The U.S. and Spain have not evolved along with the region and their policies remain paternalistic, precisely as Latin American countries grow more assertive. Indeed, the disparate but well rooted Latin America’s coming of age is precisely what the U.S. and Spain, to a certain extent, had hoped for, as opposed to an unstable, economically weak and dependent region.

A New Reality

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. largely refocused its interests elsewhere, especially on the Middle East after the 9/11 attacks. As a result the U.S. gradually lost leverage over much of the continent.

Now, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia are happy to greet Snowden not just to stick it to Washington, but because there is very little the U.S. can do to retaliate in those countries. The U.S. government has few bilateral ties with those countries, and even trade preferences are little incentive. So, Snowden continues to search for a way to reach Latin America from Russia.

Ultimately, the best response for Washington may be for both Republicans and Democrats to rethink their ideological approach toward the region and to regain influence through positive and pragmatic relations, not idle threats. The economy remains the best vehicle to achieve that, not on U.S.-imposed terms, but based on mutual interests.

The nations of Latin America have no intention of ever being the obedient pupil again. The region will continue evolving under Brazil’s leadership and seek its own path, which will be heavily influenced by countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Bolivia nations that Washington insists on antagonizing.

As for Spain, its options are even more limited and were damaged by its exposure as a subservient pawn in Washington’s game of capturing Snowden. Much of Spain’s economy derives from its multinational presence in Spanish-speaking Latin America. However, it may soon be the case of Spain’s former colonies helping their ailing European relation.

Andrés Cala is an award-winning Colombian journalist, columnist and analyst specializing in geopolitics and energy. He is the lead author of America’s Blind Spot: Chávez, Energy, and US Security.




Hitler’s Shadow Reaches toward Today

From the Archive: U.S. history took a dark turn in the aftermath of World War II as the Truman administration judged the Soviet Union and socialism bigger threats than the remnants of Nazism and other right-wing ideologies. So, Official Washington protected some of the world’s worst killers, Robert Parry reported in 2010.

By Robert Parry (Originally published on Dec. 17, 2010)

The U.S. government protected Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie in the years after World War II and later unleashed the infamous Butcher of Lyon on South America by aiding his escape from French war-crimes prosecutors, according to a report issued by the National Archives in 2010.

The report, entitled “Hitler’s Shadow,” concentrates on the decisions by the U.S. Army’s Counterintelligence Corps to use Barbie and other ex-Nazis for early Cold War operations, but other work by investigative journalists and government investigators has shown how Barbie’s continued allegiance to Nazi ideology contributed to the spread of right-wing extremism in Latin America.

With his skills as an intelligence operative and his expertise in state terror, Barbie helped shape the particularly vicious style of anti-communism that dominated South America for most of the Cold War. He also played a role in building a conduit for drug proceeds to fund right-wing paramilitary operations, including Ronald Reagan’s beloved Nicaraguan Contra rebels.

In 1980, Barbie used his perch in Bolivian intelligence to organize an alliance of military leaders and cocaine barons to overthrow Bolivia’s democratically elected leftist government in a bloody coup. Though fitting with Washington’s distrust of left-wing populist governments in South America, the so-called Cocaine Coup had other long-term consequences for the United States.

Bolivia’s coup regime ensured a reliable flow of coca to Colombia’s Medellin cartel, which quickly grew into a sophisticated conglomerate for smuggling cocaine into the United States. Some of those drug profits then went to finance right-wing paramilitary operations, including the CIA-backed Contras, according to other U.S. government investigations.

Barbie reportedly collaborated, too, with representatives of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church as they worked with Bolivia’s Cocaine Coup regime to organize anti-communist operations in South America. By then, the region had become a center for Moon’s global money-laundering operations. In 1982, Moon began pouring hundreds of millions of his mysterious dollars into the right-wing Washington Times newspaper to influence U.S. politics.

Eventually, as Bolivia’s corrupt Cocaine Coup government crumbled and Barbie’s identity became well known, French authorities finally secured Barbie’s return to France to face a war-crimes trial in 1983. (He died in 1991.)

The Butcher of Lyon’s role in these South American anti-communist activities caused brief embarrassment for Moon’s church and some right-wing Americans. But the Nazi collaboration didn’t draw much attention from the U.S. news media, which was already shying away from critical reporting on the Reagan administration’s unsavory alliances in Central and South America.

A Long Continuum

Indeed, the Right’s growing dominance of Washington opinion circles can be viewed as a continuum dating back to those days right after World War II, when U.S. priorities switched quickly from prosecuting Axis war criminals to seeking their help in crushing leftist political influence in Western Europe and Asia.

Suddenly, U.S. intelligence agencies were freeing Nazi and Japanese war criminals from prison and exploiting their talents to neutralize labor unions, student groups and other left-wing organizations.

Though the National Archives report deals with ex-Nazis in Europe, a similar program was underway in Japan where war criminals such as right-wing yakuza gangsters Yoshio Kodama and Ryoichi Sasakawa were freed and allowed to become important political figures in Japan and later internationally by supporting a global crusade against communism.

In the 1960s, Kodama and Sasakawa joined with Rev. Moon and two right-wing dictators, Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-shek and South Korea’s Park Chung Hee, to create the World Anti-Communist League (WACL), which also brought in right-wing leaders from Latin America and Europe, including ex-Nazis and neo-Nazis, according to authors Scott and Jon Lee Anderson in their landmark 1986 book, Inside the League.

So, with the Cocaine Coup in 1980, Barbie not only closed the circle, bringing together death-squad commanders, ex-Nazis, neo-Nazis and various sociopaths from around the globe, but he helped ensure that drug proceeds would be available to fund right-wing causes in the future.

“Hitler’s Shadow,” in effect, tells the first chapter of this right-wing restoration as U.S. intelligence agencies turned to former Nazi officials and SS officers to counter the perceived greater threat from the Soviet Union and Communist groups in Europe.

“Gestapo officers, who also held ranks in the SS, were in the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps’s automatic arrest category after the war,” the report said. “Later, CIC used former Gestapo officers to garner useful intelligence for the postwar period on everything from German right-wing movements to underground communist organizations. Intelligence officers often overlooked the significant role Gestapo officers played in the murder of Jews, POWs, and the political enemies of the Nazis.”

The report notes that “approximately 1,200 newly released files relate to the penetration of German Communist activities and specifically to ‘Project Happiness,’ the CIC’s codename for counterintelligence operations against the KPD,” the German Communist Party.

Though Barbie notorious for personally torturing French partisans during the war may be the best known ex-Gestapo officer recruited by the CIC, others had similar histories.

For instance, Anton Mahler was the chief interrogator of Hans Scholl, a leader of the White Rose, a Munich-based student organization that secretly passed out leaflets urging Adolf Hitler’s overthrow and decrying German apathy in the face of Hitler’s crimes. Hans and his sister Sophie Scholl were convicted of high treason and beheaded in February 1943.

Mahler also served in Einsatzgruppe B in occupied Belarus as the group slaughtered more than 45,000 people, most of them Jews, the report said. Nevertheless, CIC deployed Mahler as an informant starting in February 1949 and soon made him a full-time employee.

Regarding Barbie, the report builds on a 1983 investigation by a Justice Department investigator who confirmed suspicions that U.S. intelligence had worked with and protected this hunted war criminal who was accused of executing 4,000 people and shipping 7,000 Jews to concentration camps.

“In the spring of 1947 a CIC agent named Robert S. Taylor from CIC Region IV (Munich) recruited Klaus Barbie, the one-time Gestapo Chief of Lyon (194244),” the new report said. “Barbie helped run a counterintelligence net named ‘Büro Petersen’ which monitored French intelligence.

“In 1948 Barbie helped the CIC locate former Gestapo informants. In 194950, he penetrated German Communist Party (KPD) activities in CIC Region XII (Augsburg). He continued to work for the CIC in return for protection against French war crimes charges.”

Ratline to Bolivia

The story of Barbie’s escape to South America with the CIC’s collaboration was addressed in the 1983 report by Allan A. Ryan Jr., head of the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations. Ryan’s 218-page report said that in 1951, the CIC helped Barbie evade French authorities and flee over a “ratline” to Bolivia.

Ryan said that a half dozen CIC officers participated in the cover-up of Barbie’s identity and excused their actions by claiming that the French arrest of Barbie could jeopardize the security of other CIC operations. To get Barbie to Bolivia, the CIC officers used a ratline run by a Croatian priest, Father Krunoslav Draganovich, Ryan wrote.

Ryan said the Central Intelligence Agency later rebuffed suggestions that Barbie be reactivated in the 1960s, but Barbie using the name Altmann held an official position with a state-owned shipping company that allowed him to move freely and even to travel to the United States. [For more on Ryan’s report, see Time magazine, Aug. 29, 1983]

More significantly, Barbie became a figure in Bolivian intelligence and used that perch to coordinate with other right-wing intelligence services around the continent that were engaged in Operation Condor, a program of assassinating suspected subversives and other dissidents.

In the 1970s, these intelligence agencies had teamed up to give their assassination squads regional and even global reach, including the murder of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and an American co-worker on the streets of Washington in 1976.

For the Cocaine Coup in 1980, Barbie recruited Argentina’s feared intelligence service along with young neo-Nazis from Europe. The World Anti-Communist League arranged support from Moon and other Asian rightists.

For years, Moon had been sinking down roots in South America, especially in Uruguay after right-wing military dictators seized power there in 1973. Moon also cultivated close ties with dictators in Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, reportedly ingratiating himself with the juntas by helping the regimes buy weapons and by channeling money to allied right-wing organizations.

“Relationships nurtured with right-wing Latin Americans in the [World Anti-Communist] League led to acceptance of the [Unification] Church’s political and propaganda operations throughout Latin America,” the Andersons wrote in Inside the League.

“As an international money laundry, the Church tapped into the capital flight havens of Latin America. Escaping the scrutiny of American and European investigators, the Church could now funnel money into banks in Honduras, Uruguay and Brazil, where official oversight was lax or nonexistent.”

Moon expanded his network of friends when Barbie helped pull together a right-wing alliance of Bolivian military officers and drug dealers for the Cocaine Coup. WACL associates, such as Alfredo Candia, coordinated the arrival of some of the paramilitary operatives from Argentina and Europe who would help out in the violent putsch.

Barbie, then better known as Altmann, was in charge of drawing up plans for the coup and coordinating with Argentine intelligence. One of the first Argentine intelligence officers to arrive was Lt. Alfred Mario Mingolla.

“Before our departure, we received a dossier on” Barbie, Mingolla later told German investigative reporter Kai Hermann. “There it stated that he was of great use to Argentina because he played an important role in all of Latin America in the fight against communism. From the dossier, it was also clear that Altmann worked for the Americans.”

The Cocaine Motive

As the coup took shape, Bolivian Col. Luis Arce-Gomez, the cousin of cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez, also brought onboard neo-fascist terrorists such as Italian Stefano della Chiaie who had been working with the Argentine death squads. [See Cocaine Politics by Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall]

Still a committed fascist, Barbie started a secret lodge, called Thule. During meetings, he lectured to his followers underneath swastikas by candlelight.

On June 17, 1980, in nearly public planning for the coup, six of Bolivia’s biggest traffickers met with the military conspirators to hammer out a financial deal for future protection of the cocaine trade. A La Paz businessman said the coming putsch should be called the “Cocaine Coup,” a name that would stick. [See Cocaine Politics]

Less than three weeks later, on July 6 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, U.S. undercover drug enforcement agent Michael Levine said he met with a Bolivian trafficker named Hugo Hurtado-Candia. Over drinks, Hurtado outlined plans for the “new government” in which his niece Sonia Atala, a major cocaine supplier, will “be in a very strong position.” [See Levine’s Big White Lie]

On July 17, the Cocaine Coup began, spearheaded by Barbie and his neo-fascist goon squad which was dubbed the “Fiancés of Death.”

“The masked thugs were not Bolivians; they spoke Spanish with German, French and Italian accents,” Levine wrote. “Their uniforms bore neither national identification nor any markings, although many of them wore Nazi swastika armbands and insignias.”

The slaughter was fierce. When the putschists stormed the national labor headquarters, they wounded labor leader Marcelo Quiroga, who had led the effort to indict former military dictator Hugo Banzer on drug and corruption charges. Quiroga “was dragged off to police headquarters to be the object of a game played by some of the torture experts imported from Argentina’s dreaded Mechanic School of the Navy,” Levine wrote.

“These experts applied their ‘science’ to Quiroga as a lesson to the Bolivians, who were a little backward in such matters. They kept Quiroga alive and suffering for hours. His castrated, tortured body was found days later in a place called ‘The valley of the Moon’ in southern La Paz.”

To DEA agent Levine back in Buenos Aires, it was soon clear “that the primary goal of the revolution was the protection and control of Bolivia’s cocaine industry. All major drug traffickers in prison were released, after which they joined the neo-Nazis in their rampage.

“Government buildings were invaded and trafficker files were either carried off or burned. Government employees were tortured and shot, the women tied and repeatedly raped by the paramilitaries and the freed traffickers.”

The fascists celebrated with swastikas and shouts of “Heil Hitler!” Hermann reported. Col. Arce-Gomez, a central-casting image of a bemedaled, pot-bellied Latin dictator, grabbed broad powers as Interior Minister. Gen. Luis Garcia Meza was installed as Bolivia’s new president.

The victory put into power a right-wing military dictatorship indebted to the drug lords. Bolivia became South America’s first narco-state.

Moon’s Throne

One of the first well-wishers arriving in La Paz to congratulate the new government was Moon’s top lieutenant (and former KCIA officer) Bo Hi Pak. The Moon organization published a photo of Pak meeting with the new strongman, General Garcia Meza. After the visit to the mountainous capital, Pak declared, “I have erected a throne for Father Moon in the world’s highest city.”

According to later Bolivian government and newspaper reports, a Moon representative invested about $4 million in preparations for the coup. Bolivia’s WACL representatives also played key roles, and CAUSA, one of Moon’s anti-communist organizations, listed as members nearly all the leading Bolivian coup-makers.

Soon, Colonel Luis Arce-Gomez, a coup organizer and the cousin of cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez, went into partnership with big narco-traffickers, including Cuban-American smugglers based in Miami. Nazi war criminal Barbie and his young neo-fascist followers found new work protecting Bolivia’s major cocaine barons and transporting drugs to the Colombian border.

“The paramilitary units conceived by Barbie as a new type of SS sold themselves to the cocaine barons,” German journalist Hermann wrote. “The attraction of fast money in the cocaine trade was stronger than the idea of a national socialist revolution in Latin America.”

A month after the Cocaine Coup, General Garcia Meza participated in the Fourth Congress of the Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation, an arm of the World Anti-Communist League. Also attending that Fourth Congress was WACL president Woo Jae Sung, a leading Moon disciple.

As the drug lords consolidated their power in Bolivia, the Moon organization expanded its presence, too. Hermann reported that in early 1981, war criminal Barbie and Moon leader Thomas Ward were seen together in apparent prayer.

On May 31, 1981, Moon representatives sponsored a CAUSA reception at the Sheraton Hotel’s Hall of Freedom in La Paz. Moon’s lieutenant Bo Hi Pak and Bolivian strongman Garcia Meza led a prayer for President Ronald Reagan’s recovery from an assassination attempt.

In his speech, Bo Hi Pak declared, “God had chosen the Bolivian people in the heart of South America as the ones to conquer communism.”

Flush with Cash

In the early 1980s, cocaine kingpin Suarez his coffers now overflowing with cash invested more than $30 million in various right-wing paramilitary operations, including the Contra forces in Central America, according to U.S. Senate testimony in 1987 by an Argentine intelligence officer, Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse.

Sanchez-Reisse testified that the Suarez drug money was laundered through front companies in Miami before going to Central America. There, Argentine intelligence officers, including Sanchez-Reisse and other veterans of the Cocaine Coup, trained the fledgling Contra forces.

But by late 1981, the cocaine taint of Bolivia’s military junta was so deep and the corruption so pervasive that U.S.-Bolivian relations were stretched to the breaking point. “The Moon sect disappeared overnight from Bolivia as clandestinely as they had arrived,” Hermann reported.

The Cocaine Coup leaders soon found themselves on the run, too. Interior Minister Arce-Gomez was extradited to Miami and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking. Drug lord Suarez got a 15-year prison term. General Garcia Meza became a fugitive from a 30-year sentence imposed on him in Bolivia for abuse of power, corruption and murder.

SS veteran Barbie was returned to France to face a life sentence for war crimes. He died in 1991 at the age of 77.

But Moon’s organization suffered few negative repercussions from its role in the Cocaine Coup. By the early 1980s, flush with seemingly unlimited funds, Moon had moved on to promoting himself as a key friend of the new Republican administration in Washington.

A guest at Reagan’s First Inauguration, Moon made his organization useful to the new President and to Vice President George H.W. Bush, who would later become a paid speaker for Moon’s organization. Where Moon got his cash was not a mystery that American conservatives were eager to solve.

“Some Moonie-watchers even believe that some of the business enterprises are actually covers for drug trafficking,” wrote Scott and Jon Lee Anderson.

While Moon’s representatives have refused to detail how they’ve sustained their far-flung activities including many businesses that insiders say lose money Moon’s spokesmen have denied recurring allegations about profiteering off illegal trafficking in weapons and drugs.

In a typical response to a gun-running question by the Argentine newspaper, Clarin, Moon’s representative Ricardo DeSena responded, “I deny categorically these accusations and also the barbarities that are said about drugs and brainwashing.” [Clarin, July 7, 1996]

Nevertheless, Moon’s organization did its best to disrupt the work of U.S. investigative reporters and government investigators looking into the connections between the drug trade and right-wing paramilitary operations such as the Nicaraguan Contras.

In the mid-1980s, for instance, when journalists and congressional investigators began probing the evidence of Contra-connected drug trafficking, they came under attack from Moon’s Washington Times. An Associated Press story that I co-wrote with Brian Barger about a Miami-based federal probe into gun- and drug-running by the Contras was disparaged in an April 11, 1986, front-page Washington Times article with the headline: “Story on [contra] drug smuggling denounced as political ploy.”

When Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, uncovered additional evidence of Contra-drug trafficking, the Washington Times denounced him, too. The newspaper published articles depicting Kerry’s probe as a wasteful political witch hunt. “Kerry’s anti-contra efforts extensive, expensive, in vain,” declared the headline of one Times article on Aug. 13, 1986.

Despite the attacks, Kerry’s Contra-drug investigation eventually concluded that a number of Contra units were implicated in the cocaine trade.

“It is clear that individuals who provided support for the contras were involved in drug trafficking, the supply network of the contras was used by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers,” Kerry’s investigation stated in a report issued April 13, 1989.

Mysterious Contra Backer

In 1998, CIA’s Inspector General Frederick Hitz confirmed the earlier allegations of extensive cocaine trafficking by the Contras, including significant ties to Bolivia’s traffickers. Hitz also cited a partially redacted document referring to a “religious” group cooperating with the Contra-cocaine trade.

“There are indications of links between [a U.S. religious organization] and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups,” read an Oct. 22, 1982, cable from the office of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations. “These links involve an exchange in [the United States] of narcotics for arms.”

In 1982, the CIA quickly shut down any further reporting on this drug deal, citing the role of U.S. citizens. “In light of the apparent participation of U.S. persons throughout, agree you should not pursue the matter further,” CIA headquarters wrote on Nov. 3, 1982.

During the Inspector General’s investigation, Hitz conducted a follow-up interview, with Contra-connected drug trafficker Renato Pena, who described the redacted U.S. religious organization as a Contra “political ally that provided only humanitarian aid to Nicaraguan refugees and logistical support for contra-related rallies, such as printing services and portable stages.”

Moon’s religious-political groups, some based in the United States, were extremely active supporting the Contras in the early 1980s, suggesting that Moon’s Washington Times might have had more than an ideological reason to attack investigators exploring Contra drug trafficking.

To this day, the Washington Times remains a reliably right-wing voice in the U.S. capital. [Moon died on Sept. 3, 2012.]

Still, the CIA’s shielding of the name of that “religious organization” and similar protective behavior represented a continuation of a long-standing pattern in which U.S. intelligence covered up for right-wing and neo-Nazi criminality, a dark history that began with the likes of Klaus Barbie and has extended “Hitler’s Shadow” to modern times.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.