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(8:26) This clip shows the violent rivalry of the Medellin and Cali cartels and their distinctively different ways of operating in Colombia.
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Original Air Date: May 22, 1990
Produced, Written, and Directed by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn

ANNOUNCER:
The government says it is fighting back by capturing or killing the drug lords.

Sen. PEDRO ALCANTARA, Patriotic Union:
They had to kill him. It could have been very inconvenient to capture him alive, because he would have had many things to say about his relations- with certain sectors of the armed forces of the government.

ANNOUNCER:
Jailed drug lord Carlos Lehder tells Frontline about the ties between drug traffickers and the Colombian military.

CARLOS LEHDER, Convicted Drug Trafficker:
The secret service of the Colombian army got in a strategical alliance with some of the cocaine smugglers.

ANNOUNCER:
From the U.S. to Medellin, Frontline investigates the politics of the drug trade. Tonight, "Inside the Cartel."

JUDY WOODRUFF, Frontline:
Good evening. Last month, a car bomb in the Colombian city of Medellin killed 14 people. Then another exploded in a crowded Bogota shopping mall, killing 19 and injuring nearly 200. Then, for the third time in less than a year, a presidential candidate was gunned down. Every week, there is news of more violence in Colombia. At war, it appears, are the Colombian government, and the narco-trafficantes, the drug lords who control the multi-billion-dollar cocaine trade. At least, that's what it seems like from the outside. Except that the real story is much more complex.

Frontline investigative reporters Leslie and Andrew Cockburn have spent months in Colombia gaining access to sources close to the drug lords, and exploring the ways in which the narco-dollars have penetrated deep into the Colombian economy. The drug cartel, it turns out, is not monolithic, and the Colombian government may not be as dedicated to the drug war as it appears, even with the support of hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. military aid.

The program was produced by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn. It is called "Inside the Cartel."

NARRATOR:
Here in the Amazon, deep in Colombia's cocaine country, people have never heard of America's war on drugs. They live with a real war between their army, guerrillas and the drug lords. From the beginning, the Bush administration has declared that drugs are America's greatest threat, and the enemy is in Colombia.

MICHAEL SKOL, Dep. Asst. Sec. of State, South America:
The primary objective is to help the Colombian government continue to do what it has been doing so successfully for the last six months, a year, even more, in, for the first time in history, really putting the drug traffickers seriously on the run, disrupting their industry and having effects throughout South America.

NARRATOR:
Last December, half a ton of dynamite ripped apart a city block of Colombia's capital. It was morning rush hour in Bogota--63 people died, over 200 were wounded. A major drug trafficker had ordered the bombing to kill just one man.

Gen. MIGUEL MAZA, Colombian Security Police Chief:
I call it a mini-atomic bomb. In my office, the glass panes, which were bullet-proof--one of them was torn out of its frame and landed on my desk. Had it been hurled at the chair where I work, it would have crushed me.

NARRATOR:
The target was General Miguel Maza, chief of DAS, Colombia's internal security police.

Gen. MAZA:
We realized the extent of the damages, the loss of life, and had no doubt that this had been the most horrifying attack that we Colombians had ever suffered.

NARRATOR:
General Maza was a prime target because he was not open to threats or bribes. He was not just hunting the major drug traffickers, he was uncovering their networks of power and influence that reach deep into the Colombian state.

How many attempts on your life have there been?

Gen. MAZA:
On my life, serious ones, two. Perhaps I've been able to escape because I'm aware of the danger I face, and this has led me to adopt a lifestyle surrounded by many security measures. I go out very little. I now have a social life which, I would say, has been reduced approximately 90 percent. So all of that does not make it easy for them.

NARRATOR:
The first attempt on his life depended on intelligence supplied from inside the army, a fact that surprised few people in Colombia. General Maza has support because people believe he's honest. The drug lords earned their popularity another way: they buy it. This is the man who paid for that bomb: here, handing out cash stored in the police van behind him to victims of an earthquake.

Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, a shrewd and ruthless businessman, came from nothing to make as much as $1 billion in less than 10 years in the cocaine trade. No ordinary criminal, he used cash and brutality to build up his power until he threatened the government itself. At the end, he frightened even his allies.

Two weeks after the bombing, Maza's men caught up with him. He was hunted down with his son and bodyguards in a remote district in northern Colombia. His death came as a relief to many.

Sen. PEDRO ALCANTARA, Patriotic Union:
They couldn't capture him alive. It could have been very inconvenient to capture him alive, because he would have had many things to say about his relations with certain sectors of the armed forces of the government and of different strata of Colombian society. They had to kill him.

NARRATOR:
After Gacha's death, bank records were found detailing multi-million-dollar payoffs to whole brigades of the Colombian army. He believed he had bought a license to kill.

WILLIAM MORAN, Miami Lawyer:
Obviously, some of these people are irresponsible psychopaths who no reasonable person would want to have any contact with. On the other hand, you'd be surprised that some of them are simply business people, who are in a business that we have one view of, and their culture and their history has another view of.

NARRATOR:
It is in Medellin where Miami lawyer Bill Moran has landed his biggest clients among the top members of the Medellin cartel.

Mr. MORAN:
I've had a lot of contact with people that are allegedly major narcotics traffickers since 1977. And I guess it's just sort of, you know, the natural fall of the Roman Empire sort of a syndrome. I mean. there was simply no unified. articulated effort by the government of Colombia to deal with it as a problem. To them, it wasn't a problem. It became a problem when, you know, the violence began to affect not only the people here, but the people in Colombia.

NARRATOR:
But religion offers more than consolation to the congregation here, in the Church of Sabaneta, on the outskirts of Medellin. Colombians call her the "narco Virgin". Diamonds stud her halo--offerings from grateful traffickers for successful shipments north to the markets of the United States.

INTERVIEWER:
Say you have someone who's not the biggest, just someone who is in the business, doing okay. How much money would they make in a year?

CARTEL MEMBER:
A little man?

INTERVIEWER:
Okay, a little man.

CARTEL MEMBER:
Two, three million dollars a year.

NARRATOR:
Most cartel executives we met would not agree to speak to us on camera. Nevertheless, this man, an active carted member, eventually agreed to talk to us from the shadows about life on the other side of the drug war

INTERVIEWER:
So how's business right now?

CARTEL MEMBER:
Right now, it's a pretty good business.

INTERVIEWER:
You don't want to retire?

CARTEL MEMBER:
No. If you start with a kilo a month, you can be a big guy in a little while.

INTERVIEWER:
If you stay alive.

CARTEL MEMBER:
Yeah.

NARRATOR:
That's the dream in the poor barrios of Medellin, where the drug lords got their start as car thieves, kidnappers, even gravestone robbers, before they struck it rich.

INTERVIEWER:
How did these people who came to dominate the business--how do you think they did it?

Mr. MORAN:
I don't think they know, themselves. When you stop and think about it, it's kind of like MacDonalds. You know, in the early '70s, no one even knew about these people because they didn't exist. And it's all a matter of--you know, from, say, 1975, we're only talking about something that's been in existence 12, 13 years. And it all happened so quick, nobody even knew what it was. It just went from a situation where people were importing marijuana into this country, and they used to add 10 kilos of cocaine in the shipment. And before you know it, it totally swallowed the business. And it went to the, you know, 7,000, 8,000 kilos a week that it's at now.

NARRATOR:
These account books, detailing immense shipments of cocaine to major distributors across the U.S., belong to Pablo Escobar, the richest man in the cartel. Last year, General Maza's men found them at Pablo Escobar's headquarters.

Gen. MAZA:
Many documents were found there because he had installed his main offices there. Well, above all, the documents showed the economic development of his criminal activity lists of friends--in fact, what you find in an office. All of this is being investigated.

NARRATOR:
With their new money, cartel families with names like Gacha, Ochoa and Escobar spent lavishly. They built houses on a scale that dwarfed the old haciendas of the coffee, oil and banking families. They built racing stables. But for cartel executives, it was not enough. Former gravestone robber and golf caddy Pablo Escobar built a zoo, his first drug plane astride the entrance. It boosted his popularity with the locals, with the added benefit that wild animal dung in a drug shipment puts off the dogs.

The new rich also wanted land. They bought up 12 million acres, one quarter of all Colombia's prime farm land. With the land came political ambition. Pablo Escobar, like other drug lords, began turning cocaine profits into political clout. Confident enough to become a public figure, Escobar even got into Congress, elected as a member for Medellin.

JORGE CHILD, Colombian Historian:
Pablo Escobar was involved in politics. He wanted to be a political leader, as he wanted to be a sort of Robin Hood leader in Medellin. And he wanted to have social positions.

NARRATOR:
Jorge Child is a Colombian historian who has observed the rise of the cartels. His curiosity has earned him a place on the narco death list.

Mr. CHILD:
He was in love with a very famous--with a very famous TV entertainer, and so on. He just wanted to play very high society, high bourgeoisie role, in Colombia.

NARRATOR:
One of the founding bosses of the Medellin cartel has left the big houses behind. Carlos Lehder was captured three years ago, and is now in maximum security in Illinois. His sentence: life without parole, plus 135 years.

INTERVIEWER
How much money did you contribute to political campaigns

CARLOS LEHDER, Convicted Drug Trafficker:
I would say I put up a couple million dollars.

INTERVIEWER:
A couple of million dollars?

Mr. LEHDER:
Yes, myself. But there is many other people that, just by themselves, they put much more than that. Most of these were very famous people, either on the organized crime--either Mafia or smugglers.

INTERVIEWER:
Drugs?

Mr. LEHDER:
Drug smugglers. Colombia exports only cocaine, so I would say cocaine smugglers.

INTERVIEWER:
Who can you buy?

CARTEL MEMBER:
Everybody. You can buy everything in Colombia if you want.

INTERVIEWER:
Could you buy an army general? CARTEL MEMBER: Of course

INTERVIEWER:
A police general?

CARTEL MEMBER:
Everybody, I told you.

GENERAL MANUEL JOSE BONNET, Colombian Army:
It's easy, because money can do anything.

NARRATOR:
Three-star general Manuel Jose Bonnet runs the army's third brigade. He commands all of southwest Colombia. His troops are trained to fight guerrillas, but have been assigned to take on the drug lords, as well. Unlike many of his peers, General Bonnet has never been accused of accepting cartel payoffs. But for badly-paid soldiers, the money is hard to resist.

Gen. BONNET:
There are people--very few, but there are people-- with contact with the narco-trafficantes. We know that. Money is money. And they can buy persons

INTERVIEWER:
Not you?

Gen. BONNET:
Not you, not me.

NARRATOR:
They've backed the campaigns of major candidates. For politicians they could not buy, the cartel had another option: they killed them.

Gen. BONNET:
The cartel of Medellin have been fighting with the government. They killed the minister of justice. They kill everybody. So since five years ago, they have been fighting against the government, always escaping, always under the ground.

Mr. LEHDER:
In Colombia, because of this war going on, people have the tendency to use self-defense teams or hit squads or hit men or like that, because it's a matter of survival. But it's a very dirty cold war going on there

"MIGUEL", Drug Traffickers' Hit Man:
If you're going to kill someone, you're going to kill someone. Prices vary It depends on the person. A journalist like you is worth a lot.

NARRATOR:
Young and poor, the front line soldiers in the narco-traffickers wars are the hit men, or sicarios. We'll call him "Miguel." He's 22 years old, and a paid killer.

Mr. LEHDER:
A sicario is a hit man. And Colombia is a country where a policeman makes $100 a month. A teacher makes $150. A judge makes $200 a month.

"MIGUEL":
You see someone who works in this business with this gorgeous car, and two beautiful chicks in the back, and you go driving. And they show you their farm. And they say, "Oh, yeah. That's my farm." And then there's a great big swimming pool. So a young guy might say, "Gee, I really want that, you know? So maybe, in order to get it, some day I'm going to have to do the same thing. I've got to kill. I've got to kill." Or maybe somebody does something to you, and you think, "Gee, in order to get there, I've got to kill the first one. I've got to kill the first one in order to get rid of the fear." And after the first one, you're disposed to do it. You're more disposed to do it.

Let's be realistic. If there are people working in the business, of course there are going to be people who are willing to--quote, unquote--"work for them." And the people willing to work in that business will come to them like ants.

NARRATOR:
There is a culture of death in Medellin. The Sicarios have their own band, the Bastards With No Name. Half the founding members are dead. It is easy to die here--50 people are murdered every day. Working for the cartel is a high-risk profession. Those who cause problems are easily disposed of.

CARTEL-MEMBER:
Sometimes the people don't want to pay. Sometimes people know too much. This is a dirty business, and it works

INTERVIEWER:
It's a dirty business. Is it a dangerous business?

CARTEL MEMBER:
Yes, very dangerous.

INTERVIEWER:
Do you know a lot of people who've been killed in it?

CARTEL MEMBER:
All my friends.

NARRATOR:
Four hundred miles to the south, the death and violence of the drug war seem very far away. Yet Cali is home to another vastly rich and formidable cartel who, according to cartel sources, ship three tons of cocaine to the United States every day.

Local society appreciates the fact that their cartel is more discrete than their rivals in Medellin.

FRANCISCO CASTRO, Cali Banker:
Everyone is talking about the drug lords from Medellin, and the Medellin cartel. And the people here are doing probably a tremendous amount of business, and they're not being bothered in the same way because they get around in a more intelligent way, I would say.

NARRATOR:
Francisco Castro is a successful banker and entrepreneur in Cali. The Panamanian branch of his bank was indicted last year for laundering drug money.

Mr. CASTRO:
The city and the area is very controlled. As a matter of fact, the cartel--the so-called cartel here in Cali--has done--has been around in a very different way than the Medellin cartel, which is more famous. The cartel here understand that this is something political. And if they can do around in their business without contaminating society, and without creating violence, they'll be treated in a more preferential way.

NARRATOR:
Like a medieval Italian city-state, Cali guards its borders from intrusion by Medellin.

Mr. CHILD:
The bosses from the so-called cartel of Cali, they are more clever than the others. They're not so violent, not so brutal. They help, of course, the politicians. But they don't want to get involved themselves, personally, in politics.

Gen. BONNET:
The cartel of Cali, they don't love much the cartel of Medellin because of the program of the cartel of Medellin with the government, which compromise the cartel of Cali without making anything.

Mr. MORAN:
I mean, it's bad for business, you know? If you're in the cocaine smuggling business, and you're trying to do that as a business, obviously, you know, disrupting the society and causing people to engage in Public acts of violence is bad for business.

Gen. BONNET:
The amount of money that they have invest in this area is this big. Very, very big. The houses and estates are very expensive areas, presidential areas. That costs more than $1 billion.

Mr. CHILD:
They live in the best quarter of Cali, with the other people of the society

INTERVIEWER:
But they're not in the country club. Not in the country club, no.

NARRATOR:
The city's old elite is not yet ready to admit the local drug families to their clubs. But when Chepe Santa Cruz Londono was turned down for the exclusive Club Colombia, he hired the same architect and built a replica for himself.

Last year, this and other cartel mansions were occupied and stripped by the army. They have since been given back. The army had a glimpse of luxurious lifestyles, including art collections carefully chosen for their investment value. Just as they prefer to educate their children in English schools, the cartel executives like to give the impression of good taste.

Gen. BONNET:
Somebody told me that it was because of the decorators.

INTERVIEWER:
The decorators?

NARRATOR:
This is the cultural adviser to the Rodriguez brothers, the top cartel family. Alvaro Bejarano, an old friend, tutors them in art history.

INTERVIEWER:
What about the old masters--classic Renaissance art? Could they collect that?

ALVARO BEJARANO, Cali Cartel Associate:
Without a doubt. In fact, they have connections over in Europe, which have something to do with classic art.

NARRATOR:
The connection is the Italian Mafia, who sold them a Titian paid for in coke. The U.S. government sold the former American consulate, now used by cartel leaders for board meetings.

INTERVIEWER:
How did the Rodriguez family succeed in opening up markets in the United States?

Mr. BEJARANO:
In Queens, in New York, there were already a lot of Colombians, who were crucial for marketing any product over there. The United States may be right to try and stop the distribution and sale of cocaine, but it should also render homage to those heroes who were able to start what is now the biggest business, bigger even than the oil industry, by selling door to door.

NARRATOR:
One cartel executive told us that their biggest problem today is finding good middle management in the United States. That's not a problem at home.

Sen. ALCANTARA:
They invest in their country.

INTERVIEWER:
How do they invest?

Sen. ALCANTARA:
Oh, they have great investments in Colombia. I would say that they are among the greatest investors in this country. They invest in banking, construction, industry, agricultural development, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

NARRATOR:
Cartel executives told us that creating jobs was the best way to help the people of the city. The banks on every corner in Cali are a telling sign of what cocaine means to the Colombian economy. Everyone wants to help scoop up the flood of narco dollars.

Cocaine is the country's biggest export. The 2-4 billion dollars that come back every year have helped save Colombia from the runaway inflation and debt that are crushing the countries around it. That's why Colombian presidents like to announce tax amnesties, allowing people to shift money to Colombian banks from abroad with no questions asked.

The Rodriguez brothers also bought up Colombia's legal pharmaceutical industry.

Mr. CHILD:
They have the drug stores and the drug laboratories, not of cocaine, but of Alka-Seltzer, for instance. Here all the persons drinking Alka-Seltzer, help the Rodriguezes in Colombia.

NARRATOR:
Everywhere, Cali bears the signs of the cartel's success as a major business enterprise. According to sources close to the cartel, this local landmark is their corporate headquarters.

INTERVIEWER:
If the Cali cartel can have its corporate headquarters sort of up and running, is there really an energetic war on drugs going on in Colombia?

Mr. SKOL:
Well, the answer is, there is an energetic war on drugs going on in Colombia. And the priority choices that the government makes as to who it goes after first, and who it goes after second, is largely the business of the Colombian government, as long as they're successful. I mean, I don't know which building, exactly, they pointed out to you. But all the evidence is that the Colombian government is pursuing the traffickers energetically.

NARRATOR:
But the most energetic assault on the Cali cartel right now is coming from their competitors in Medellin. The two cartels have been at war for over two years. The drug stores are in the front line. Out of 150 of Cali's rebaja stores in Colombia, over 50 have already been bombed. Three weeks ago, Medellin invaded Cali, hitting the biggest store in the chain.

INTERVIEWER:
What is that war about?

Sen.ALCANTARA:
It's about markets. It's really a war about markets--about production, distribution, transportation--but mainly about markets.

INTERVIEWER:
It's a business rivalry.

Sen. ALCANTARA:
Yes, it is. I think it's a war that grew out of the immense ambition of the Medellin people. I think the United States is such a big country there are markets for everybody. But the Medellin people want the United States market entirely for them. That's the problem. That's it.

NARRATOR:
That ambition led Medellin to sink their billions into property, buying up huge estates across Colombia.

Mr. LEHDER:
I will say that the cocaine bonanza, a lot of it, is invested on land. We Colombians are agriculture people, and ranchers. That's the primary industry of Colombia, agriculture and cattle. We don't produce weapons. We don't produce nuclear warheads. We've got no industry, we've got no technology. We're just campesinos.

NARRATOR:
The cartel invested much of its money in a region called the Magdalena Medio, and effectively cut Colombia in half

Prof. ALEJANDRO REYES, National University, Bogota:
These drug lords, the Mafia, bought lands in about 350 counties of the country. That's like one third of the total counties of this country. At the beginning, they bought land in the same areas where guerrilla activity was most active. They went through the main guerrilla areas of the country.

NARRATOR:
There are now three major guerrilla groups here, fighting from the sanctuary of vast stretches of jungle. They have established an uneasy relationship with the drug business, because they control the territory where much of Colombia's coca crop is grown.

Sen. ALCANTARA:
At the base of our society, the peasants who are involved in cultivating the coke plant have a direct relation to the guerrillas. There are masses of peasants in this country who have to cultivate coke because they have no other Possibility in their lives. There is not infrastructure, there are no roads, there are no markets. There's no electricity, there's no water, there's no education. What can they do?

Rep. JOHN CONYERS:
It doesn't take much to find out that as long as these farmers have no other crops, and that now the coca leaf has a market value over and above their traditional usage, that they don't have much else to do but to use that, especially when we don't have anything to help them replace it with.

Sen. ALCANTARA:
If they cultivate other things, these things will rot, because they won't have any way of taking them to market. How can You tell a peasant of the Amazon to stop cultivating coke? What can he do? Die of hunger with his family. And it is obvious that in those areas where the peasants cultivate coke, the guerrillas that come into contact with them, help them in their everyday life. And they establish a real relation that has to do with coke.

Mr. SKOL:
There are alliances that are merely protection rackets, as we say, where it's more a head tax, or a coca tax, that is charged by a specific guerrilla group that exists in a specific area against specific groups of coca growers or traffickers. Then you have the more formal relationships. You have relationships which are friendly, you have relationships which are tense. They are in league, in a great many areas. And in any event, they are problems for the government of Colombia. And helping to fight guerrillas who are in league with narcotics traffickers is, in our view, fighting narcotics.

NARRATOR:
For the State Department, the business dealings between the guerrillas and the drug traffickers make the two groups political allies. A former U.S. ambassador even coined a phrase to describe it: the narco-guerrillas. The guerrillas' anti-U.S. sentiments are conveniently folded in with the war on drugs. But Colombians know that things are not that simple.

Mr. CASTRO:
I think the guerrilla groups have gone into different understandings with the traffickers, but I don't think that is a threat, because I think that is trying to put together like water and oil. They do not mix. The narco-traffickers as a group, they're extreme right. I mean, they have come from way down. They think that, through great effort, they have grown to obtain several tangible things, and they're not willing to put that in danger through guerrillas' activities.

Mr. LEHDER:
For example, if there was town somewhere on the jungle that has been attacked by the guerrillas, well, the mayor of the town or the economic leaders of the town, have the right to form a self-defense group to defend a town from attacks. See, we're talking about a war. We're talking about a--and that hasn't actually been told, neither to the American people nor to the world. There's a war going on there for 40 years. So this there's violence involved. But it isn't that the cartel is inventing violence--or what you call the cartel is inventing violence or creating violence.

Gen. MAZA:
The thing is, they wanted to make a small state in the Magdalena Medio. For some time, they've been investing in that region. They bought up the best properties-- cattle ranches, farms and mines. The second step in their plan was to set up well-trained armies in order to defend their interests.

NARRATOR:
This is a cartel home movie of their death squads in training. Israeli and British advisers, along with arms from Miami and Tel Aviv, made for a professional operation.

Prof. REYES:
The political effect of the cartel of Medellin has been precisely to make an implicit alliance with the armed forces in many regions to destroy guerrillas.

NARRATOR:
The paramilitary groups who are working for the drug lords, in fact, were licensed by the Ministry of Defense.

CARLOS LEMOS SIMMONDS, Former Minister of Government:
In Colombia, self-defense groups was authorized by law around 10 or 15 years ago. There were groups of citizens that were united to fight against the guerrilla threat, and it was a legal matter that, from a few months to now, those self-defense groups have been declared not legal any more.

NARRATOR:
But was it legitimate for those years to have self-defense forces, in the cases of the drug lords, because they were protecting their land?

Mr. SIMMONDS:
No, because they were protecting the land, the property, the lives against the threat of the guerrillas.

Mr. LEHDER:
There was a war between the M-19 guerrillas against some of the new millionaires that were coming out into Colombian society. And what happened was that a list was found with over 100 names that these people had in mind to kidnap.

INTERVIEWER:
So the guerrillas wanted to kidnap these 100 people?

Mr. LEHDER:
About 100 people--about 100 millionaires, or their families, right? On my personal case, they kidnapped me. I was kidnapped, and I managed to escape. And then I took it very seriously. We fought back, and assisted by the military--assisted by the secret police--and we fought back for about six months. And most of them eventually end up overseas.

INTERVIEWER:
Or?

Mr. LEHDER:
Well, I mean, the ones that didn't die.

Gen. MAZA:
This movement was formed in response to kidnapping in Medellin. That group became stronger, until it turned into what are called self-defense, or paramilitary, groups. It was a small group, whose aim was to prevent those drug traffickers from becoming the object of any attack, kidnapping or what have you. Then, when they began to buy up the cattle ranches, the self-defense groups grew so as not to have to pay tax to the guerrillas. But the time came when the self-defense groups no longer just defended their interests vis a vis the guerrillas. They also began to go against the civilian population, which had nothing to do with this conflict.

NARRATOR:
Hundreds of bodies have turned up in mass graves like this one near San Vicente, victims of the paramilitary death squads. According to Amnesty International, many of these killings have been carried out with the cooperation of the armed forces.

Sen. ALCANTARA:
We have had almost 1,000 deaths, which include two members of the house of representatives, two senators, many mayors, state deputies, city councilmen, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, all over the country.

INTERVIEWER:
Well, you're a senator. Are you at risk now?

Sen. ALCANTARA:
Yes, of course. I go around in a bullet-proof car. I have several bodyguards, which may range from six, seven to 10, at some times. We have people from DAS, a minister to the Department of Security, from the police, and from our own organization.

INTERVIEWER:
Is this why you're wearing a bullet-proof vest?

Sen. ALCANTARA:
Oh, yes, I have a bullet-proof vest. Of course, it's one of the measures.

INTERVIEWER:
When do you wear it?

Sen. ALCANTARA:
Always. Always wear it. Well, I take it off when I go to bed, of course, but we are not exempt of attacks in our homes. One of our senators who was killed in Medellin over a year ago--a Year and a half ago--was assassinated in his own home. They broke down his garage door with a Jeep in a commando operation. Eleven men broke into his house. It was six in the morning. And they assassinated him when he was just waking up.

Mr. LEHDER:
The traffickers were anti-communist, 100 percent, see?

INTERVIEWER:
But you have been accused of being a Nazi Mr. LEHDER: Is that a crime? Not in Colombia

NARRATOR:
The fact that some members of the army had links with the drug lords became official two years ago when General Maza's DAS security police began to leak documents giving specific details of this alliance. But although the Colombian government had the evidence of who was involved, and fired some officers, the killing went on.

Prof. REYES:
They have had the support of the armed forces and police through corruption and through the coincidence of strategies.

NARRATOR:
When a death squad entered the town of Segovia, the army stood by and watched. According to a judicial inquiry, the local army commander helped plan the attack.

Prof. REYES:
They killed 43 persons, just at the center of the town. Anybody who was close to that place was shot to death. They were defenseless people, common people of the town. In the days before that massacre, there have been threats against the whole population, because that town had voted for the Union Patriotica, the leftist party, so that it was a kind of sanction against the whole town for their political vote.

INTERVIEWER:
So they killed 43 people because they voted the wrong way?

Prof. REYES:
Yes.

INTERVIEWER:
What has the U.S. done with regard to the extensively documented links between elements in the military and the narco-traffickers?

Mr. SKOL:
Well, we know that such things are going on. The government of Colombia knows that such things are going on. We are-- we discuss this on a constant basis. Part of United States policy, not just in Colombia but throughout the world--we are insistent in our conversations with foreign governments that human rights is a basic tenet of U.S. foreign policy.

NARRATOR:
Even so, U.S. policy is to work closely with the Colombian military.

Mr. SKOL:
The Colombian model is the integration of the armed forces into the anti-narcotics fight. The mix of equipment, of training, of other things that we do with the Colombian government, is not decided in some back room at the Pentagon or the State Department in Washington. It's done very much in consultation with the Colombian government, with the president, with his staff people, with the foreign ministry, the ministry of defense, and various agencies that are involved. And we and they are confident that we are providing the right kind of mix. The Colombian model is, in fact, a pretty good model for the right kind of mix.

INTERVIEWER:
What are they doing here?

Gen. BONNET:
The United States?

INTERVIEWER:
Yes.

Gen. BONNET:
I don't know. We don't receive any information of what are the Americans doing. I think that in my area, nothing.

NARRATOR:
For his area, General Bonnet is in charge of the drug war. When President Bush met with Colombia's President Barco at the Cartagena summit last February, they pledged continued cooperation. There had been successes. Fourteen traffickers had been extradited; tons of cocaine had been seized; money-laundering networks had been closed off. Colombia would now receive economic aid as part of the anti-drug package, and they would continue to receive military aid. By the end of 1991, the Bush administration will have sent nearly half a billion dollars in aid and guaranteed loans to the Colombian armed forces to buy military equipment. But when $65 million worth of American equipment arrived in Colombia last September, the chief of police complained that it was not suitable for fighting narcotics.

Mr. SKOL:
We're quite satisfied. President Bush has said it many times. We are satisfied that they understand the purposes for which our Congress is appropriating money, and that their goals, their objectives, their use of these funds and the materiel, is consistent with that.

NARRATOR:
U.S. military equipment intended for the war on drugs has been welcomed by the Colombian ministry of defense for use in the ongoing war against the guerrillas. Refugees from the fighting find shelter at this camp in Barranca Barnea.

Father FLORES MIRO, Refugee Worker:
They feel fear and anger when they see these helicopters, because they know they come to attack.

NARRATOR:
Father Flores Miro looks after refugees who have fled the countryside in the Magdalena Medio.

Father MIRO: [through interpreter]
The armed helicopters come to attack, and the sound itself of the helicopters is terrible for anybody, a peasant especially. The peasants flee when they hear the helicopters. They know it isn't a sign of welcome.

1st REFUGEE:
We came out because of the bombardment. We've been bombed five times.

INTERVIEWER:
Who were you bombed by?

1st REFUGEE:
Helicopters. bombs on top of us, and just razed the area.

They burned up my house. I don't have any clothing. The only thing I have left are my four daughters.

2nd REFUGEE:
Everybody says the army is supposedly going after the drug traffickers. But I don't understand this, because here in these areas, there's not any marijuana not any coke. They say they're going after the drug traffickers, and they're really going after the civilian population. We're the ones that are being bombarded, not the drug traffickers.

INTERVIEWER:
Congressman, are people here on Capitol Hill aware that the Colombian military is using U.S. military equipment, supposedly going to fight the war on drugs, to bomb civilians,

Rep. CONYERS:
Well, there have been reports that would bring it to the attention to many of the members of Congress. I would imagine that everybody does know about that.

INTERVIEWER:
We found in Barranca Barnea, a large number of refugees who had left their homes as a result of aerial bombardment of f helicopters, they said. They said, and I found police sources to confirm this, this area was not an area of drug activity. And they said, "Why is the U.S. sending stuff to do this to us when we're not part of the drug problem?"

Mr. SKOL:
Well, once again, I can't give you a percentage figure, but we are satisfied, the Colombian government is satisfied that the mix is the correct one, that it's primarily being used for anti-narcotics purposes. But if you expand that just a little bit further, if you have a government with very limited resources, as we have the Colombian government. It has to fight not only the narcotics cartels--Medellin, Cali, et cetera--but it has to fight guerrillas. If we provide assistance to the Colombian government which relieves it of resource pressures, no matter how the government uses that equipment or funding, it is relieving it of resource pressures which it then can shift to other areas.

NARRATOR:
The Colombian government is not shifting it to this area. In Cali, it's business as usual. The economy is booming, thanks to cocaine. Along with the car dealers, bankers and lawyers in the crowd, we found the two top pilots of the Cali cartel.

INTERVIEWER:
You're in a position where you're trying to fight a drug war. You're getting a certain amount of pressure of the United States to do so, as well. And yet, we're sitting here in Cali, home of a major cartel, where a large number of the legitimate businesses here--the banks, the hotels, the pharmacies, shops, car dealerships--are thriving because of drug money.

Mr. SIMMONDS:
Well, doesn't the same thing happen in the United States? Most of the money of the drug business is in the United States. You also have bankers, and you also have politicians that are involved in the drug dealing. Remember Mr. Marion Barry? So this is not only a thing that's exclusive for Colombia. The drug dealer, the drug business is so powerful, they have such a quantity of money, that things like that are possible. But of course, we are searching what is happening with the drug dealers' money in the Colombian banks. But it would be very useful if you in the United States do the same, because most of that money is in there.

Mr. CASTRO:
I would like to see some American big banks indicted. It's very easy to take a small South American bank, and indict it. It's like taking a child and putting it under water. The only defensive activity that you have after you're almost drowned is putting your hand up and saying, "Foul," no? But why don't they get around to the big New York banks? I mean, that would create probably a problem within the system, and that would create--and touch very sensitive issues. But that is what I'm talking about. You cannot hold a double moral to treat this problem. I mean, if you're trying be conscience, and trying to do something about it, you have to start doing it by your own selves. Your attitude--I mean, your own things. And I don't think Americans are doing enough in it.

Rep. CONYERS:
We've been told that time and time again. The actual laundering does not go on in Bogota. The final processing of the cocaine goes on, and the transshipment. But the money is laundered mostly--or frequently--in American financial institutions. And then the Colombian share is returned, which adds to their national budget, at least, they admit 15 percent. And some suspect that it could be even larger. So the problem all too frequently, even when we go abroad, is we find the locus of it is back home.

Mr. LEHDER:
Fifteen percent of the cocaine money that runs in this country goes to the Colombian cocaine smugglers and producers. Eighty-five percent stays here for the American smugglers, for the American dealers, for the American banking system, and whatever else. It's like the coffee. What does Colombia get, 10 percent? Ten percent. And we produce the coffee.

INTERVIEWER:
But you're saying--

Mr. LEHDER:
It's always like that. We always end up with the--if they gave Swiss cheese, we end up with the holes.

INTERVIEWER:
Supposing that the war on drugs worked in Colombia, supposing they could stop the cartels, would that stop cocaine coming to the U.S.?

CARTEL MEMBER:
No.

INTERVIEWER:
Why not?

CARTEL MEMBER:
It is a good business. Because it's a good business, everybody want to be in the business, you know? If Colombia is not in the business, maybe Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil or Argentina.

NARRATOR:
In fact, the Colombians are already moving across their borders, which will stretch the administration's anti-drug budget still further.

Rep. CONYERS:
When you take $9 billion and spread it around the world, very little, in terms of meaningful programs, have come out. And when we challenged the drug Czar's administration on this, they said, 'Well, we haven't had enough time to get the results in from our programs." So then we said, "Well, are you monitoring the programs, so that we can measure whatever it is that you're putting toward them?" They said, 'Well, we haven't got the monitors in place. When we get to phase 2, just wait. We will then have feedback from phase 1, and we'll know how to move for phase 3."

Mr. SKOL:
Have we had success in the streets of Detroit or New York or Miami or Chicago? Not yet. But I think, for the first time, we've got a reasonable proposition on our hands, that if we continue at the current rate of working with these countries, it's not spitting in the wind. And these governments have not been totally corrupted, and that these connections, these links, can be reversed.

NARRATOR:
We found General Maza still working out of the shattered remains of his headquarters. Last week, there were more deaths in Bogota from bombs set off by traffickers.

INTERVIEWER:
Most people in your job would have quit by now.

Gen. MAZA:
Yes. I believe they would have. But somebody had to do this Job, and it happened to be me.

NARRATOR:
Pablo Escobar is still at large. Reports from Colombia say that he has avoided arrest by Maza's men on at least one occasion, thanks to a tip-off from the army. But General Maza will have to leave his post when President Barco hands over power to a new administration on August 7th. The general will then lose his protection, leaving him vulnerable to the drug lords unless he finds them first.

JUDY WOODRUFF:
The field for this Sunday's presidential election in Colombia was narrowed by two assassinations this spring. The man most like to win, if he survives, is Mr. Cesar Gaveria, a 43-year-old liberal economist who has supported President Virgilio Barco's battle against the drug barons. Regardless of who wins, few expect radical changes in the way Colombia's drug war is waged.

Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff. Good night.

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