(8:26) This clip shows the violent rivalry of the Medellin and Cali cartels and their
distinctively different ways of operating in Colombia.
Original Air Date: May 22, 1990
Produced, Written, and Directed by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn
The government says it is fighting back by capturing or killing the drug
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
The target was General Miguel Maza, chief of DAS, Colombia's internal security
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
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?
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.
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.
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
It is in Medellin where Miami lawyer Bill Moran has landed his biggest clients
among the top members of the Medellin cartel.
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
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.
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?
A little man?
Okay, a little man.
Two, three million dollars a year.
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
So how's business right now?
Right now, it's a pretty good business.
You don't want to retire?
No. If you start with a kilo a month, you can be a big guy in a little
If you stay alive.
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.
How did these people who came to dominate the business--how do you think they
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
How much money did you contribute to political campaigns
CARLOS LEHDER, Convicted Drug Trafficker:
I would say I put up a couple million dollars.
A couple of million dollars?
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.
Drug smugglers. Colombia exports only cocaine, so I would say cocaine
Who can you buy?
Everybody. You can buy everything in Colombia if you want.
Could you buy an army general? CARTEL MEMBER: Of course
A police general?
Everybody, I told you.
GENERAL MANUEL JOSE BONNET, Colombian Army:
It's easy, because money can do anything.
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.
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
Not you, not me.
They've backed the campaigns of major candidates. For politicians they could
not buy, the cartel had another option: they killed them.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Sometimes the people don't want to pay. Sometimes people know too much. This is
a dirty business, and it works
It's a dirty business. Is it a dangerous business?
Yes, very dangerous.
Do you know a lot of people who've been killed in it?
All my friends.
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.
Francisco Castro is a successful banker and entrepreneur in Cali. The
Panamanian branch of his bank was indicted last year for laundering drug
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.
Like a medieval Italian city-state, Cali guards its borders from intrusion by
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
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.
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.
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.
They live in the best quarter of Cali, with the other people of the society
But they're not in the country club. Not in the country club, no.
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.
Somebody told me that it was because of the decorators.
This is the cultural adviser to the Rodriguez brothers, the top cartel family.
Alvaro Bejarano, an old friend, tutors them in art history.
What about the old masters--classic Renaissance art? Could they collect
ALVARO BEJARANO, Cali Cartel Associate:
Without a doubt. In fact, they have connections over in Europe, which have
something to do with classic art.
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.
How did the Rodriguez family succeed in opening up markets in the United
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.
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.
They invest in their country.
How do they invest?
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
What is that war about?
It's about markets. It's really a war about markets--about production,
distribution, transportation--but mainly about markets.
It's a business rivalry.
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.
That ambition led Medellin to sink their billions into property, buying up huge
estates across Colombia.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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?
No, because they were protecting the land, the property, the lives against the
threat of the guerrillas.
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
So the guerrillas wanted to kidnap these 100 people?
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.
Well, I mean, the ones that didn't die.
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.
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.
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.
Well, you're a senator. Are you at risk now?
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
Is this why you're wearing a bullet-proof vest?
Oh, yes, I have a bullet-proof vest. Of course, it's one of the measures.
When do you wear it?
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.
The traffickers were anti-communist, 100 percent, see?
But you have been accused of being a Nazi Mr. LEHDER: Is that a crime? Not in
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.
They have had the support of the armed forces and police through corruption and
through the coincidence of strategies.
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
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.
So they killed 43 people because they voted the wrong way?
What has the U.S. done with regard to the extensively documented links between
elements in the military and the narco-traffickers?
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.
Even so, U.S. policy is to work closely with the Colombian military.
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.
What are they doing here?
The United States?
I don't know. We don't receive any information of what are the Americans doing.
I think that in my area, nothing.
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
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.
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
Father FLORES MIRO, Refugee Worker:
They feel fear and anger when they see these helicopters, because they know
they come to attack.
Father Flores Miro looks after refugees who have fled the countryside in the
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.
We came out because of the bombardment. We've been bombed five times.
Who were you bombed by?
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.
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.
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,
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
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?"
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But you're saying--
It's always like that. We always end up with the--if they gave Swiss cheese, we
end up with the holes.
Supposing that the war on drugs worked in Colombia, supposing they could stop
the cartels, would that stop cocaine coming to the U.S.?
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.
In fact, the Colombians are already moving across their borders, which will
stretch the administration's anti-drug budget still further.
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."
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.
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
Most people in your job would have quit by now.
Yes. I believe they would have. But somebody had to do this Job, and it
happened to be me.
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
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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