Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Great Heroin Coup - Chapters Eighteen and Nineteen

Changing the Middleman
by Linda Minor

President Nixon had already announced the concern of the United States in fighting drugs by the summer following his initial inauguration in 1969. Needing an excuse to take federal action against what was essentially a state crime, he told Congress:
Effective control of illicit drugs requires the cooperation of many agencies of the Federal and local and State governments; it is beyond the province of any one of them alone. At the Federal level, the burden of the national effort must be carried by the Departments of Justice, Health, Education, and Welfare, and the Treasury. I am proposing ten specific steps as this Administration's initial counter-moves against this growing national problem.
Since three Cabinet officials were cooperating in this effort, a committee of those officials was created September 7, 1971, called the Cabinet Committee on International Narcotics Control (CCINC). The timing of this occurred almost simultaneously with President Nixon's revelation that he was considering a devaluation of the dollar as well as cutting the connection of the value of gold from the value of the dollar. (See article at bottom of this post.) The two issues--international narcotics trade and protecting the American trade balance were, in fact, inextricably intertwined, and the Central Intelligence Agency worked covertly on both issues through the various agencies administered by the executive branch of the U.S. government.

The history of how the new drug enforcement agency's need for intelligence about international drug traffickers began to draw upon the resources of other federal agencies was recounted to Chairman Otis Pike's Select Committee on Intelligence by Jerry N. Jenson, whose testimony began on November 13, 1975. When DEA developed its intelligence division, it first incorporated the Office of National Narcotics Intelligence set up in 1972 under former FBI agent William Sullivan. It also had at its disposal the Customs Agency's facilities along the border with Mexico, called El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), as well as Federal Aviation Administration's air intelligence. Jensen implied that once the CCINC was created, the DEA began to cooperate with the Central Intelligence Agency in acquiring information about international narcotics trafficking.

The truth, however, is that even more than the concern about the health and safety of drug users, the United States was much more anxious about how the organization of the drug traffic routes was affecting the international monetary structure. The following excerpt from an article by Christopher Matthew appeared in December 1971 of a magazine styled European Community:

The concern is clear. Every month $10 million was being sent from the United States to the French treasury and was helping to to create a devastating drain of America's dwindling gold supply into France. It was significant enough for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to become involved in the issue of narcotics traffic since it was resulting in the collapse of the Bretton Woods system created in 1944.

As the United Nations, pursuant to 1532(XLIX) of 24 July 1970, began to take concerted action on 11 November 1970 to control international drug abuse, it acknowledged the need to establish a fund the UN could draw upon. To establish the fund, it added to its resolution a request to then Secretary General U Thant of Burma:
in keeping with the recommendation of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, to establish, as an initial measure and as a matter of urgency, a United Nations fund for drug-abuse control to be made up from voluntary contributions, such fund to be initially used for the purposes which were approved by the Commission and administered by the Secretary-General pending the development and consideration by the Council of the proposed long-term plan of action, including permanent arrangements for administration and financing...
President Nixon found himself as soon as he took office having to deal with a persistent deficit in the balance of payments, which did not fluctuate or disappear despite several actions which had been taken to alleviate it. His war against heroin was not technically an effort to end the drug trade per se. That would have meant ending the anti-Communist military actions in Indo-China, which were financed by opium produced there. Rather, President Nixon's administration was working toward changing the middleman from French heroin refineries to those controlled by Americans, i.e. through CIA proprietaries.

It's what I refer to as "following the money."

Selected Excerpts from
By Henrik Kruger; Jerry Meldon, Translator
South End Press©1980: Box 68 Astor Station, Boston, MA 02123
ISBN 0-89608-0319-5
240pps - one edition - out-of-print; Orginally published in Danish
Smukke Serge og Heroien; Bogan 1976

Previous chapters:



In early 1973 the Department of Health, Education and Welfare estimated the number of U.S. heroin addicts at 600,000. By the end of that year, Dr. Robert Egebjerg, director of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Health Administration, placed the number at 300,000. And in June 1974 DEA international operations chief John T. Cusack, testifying before the House Committee on International Narcotics Control, said that the addict population was down to 200,000.[1]

This giant cover‑up hid the fact that Nixon's heroin war was no more than window‑dressing. On 7 October 1974, six weeks after Nixon's resignation, the head of the White House Special Action Office on Drug Abuse Prevention, Dr. Robert Dupont, was pressured to release a secret report that the number of addicts had in fact risen, reaching even into formerly untouched middle class suburbs.[2]

On 27 April 1976 President Gerald Ford said in a message to Congress: "By mid‑1973 many were convinced that we had turned the corner on the drug problem. Unfortunately, while we had won an important victory, we had not won the war on drugs. By 1975 it was clear that drug use was increasing, that the gains of prior years were being lost, that in human terms narcotics had became a national tragedy. Today, drug abuse constitutes a clear and present danger to the health and the future of our Nation."

In February 1977 the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control reported that the addict population totalled some 800,000. And in 1978 New York City's special narcotics prosecutor, Sterling Johnson, spoke of a heroin epidemic worse than that of the late sixties and early seventies.[3] But the cover‑up hadn't stopped in 1974.

DEA Lied about Source of Heroin

Cusack targeted the French, who made all the money.
From 1975 until the end of 1978 the DEA consistently maintained that between 80 and 90 percent of the heroin consumed in the U.S. was Mexican. However, the claim doesn't stand up against the following facts: 
  1. 80 percent of the world's heroin--exactly the figure exported from Marseille until 1972 --was, at least until late 1976, produced from opium harvested in the Golden Triangle and distributed via Bangkok, Singapore, and Hong Kong;[4] 
  2. the number of arrests of couriers en route from Southeast Asia increased steadily after 1973;[5] 
  3. reports from New York and other big cities testified to the arrival of large shipments of white heroin from Southeast Asia
  4. the market's supply of heroin did not dwindle despite aerial destruction of an estimated 60 percent of Mexico's poppy fields in early 1976;[6] 
  5. an effective tidal wave of Golden Triangle heroin began flooding Europe in 1973, while many couriers en route to the U.S. and Canada were nabbed by European police; 
  6. the DEA was aware of Santo Trafficante's dealings in Southeast Asia, as well as the later Mafia summit in Palermo where large sums of money were set aside for investment in the Golden Triangle; 
  7. it was easy to verify the narcotics flow from Mexico, since the border was subject to close surveillance, but to conclude that most of the heroin on the U.S. market originated in Mexico was a stretch of logic.
Even the DEA had to admit the tenuousness of its claims. On 24 February 1976, the DEA's John Cusack admitted that his agency's estimate that only 8 percent of U.S. heroin came from Southeast Asia was surprising, considering the region's prolific opium production. He added:
Jack Cusack, 1955
"We are also concerned about our detection during 1975 of substantial quantities of white no. 4 heroin moving directly from Bangkok to the United States. In December, for example, forty‑six kilograms of heroin were seized in Bangkok, concealed in the household effects shipment of a returning U.S. serviceman. Follow‑up investigation in the development of an extensive conspiracy prosecution has identified twelve additional shipments entering the United States since 1974."
Twelve such shipments meant 552 kilos, or more than the entire 470 kilos confiscated in the U.S. in 1975 ‑and from only one of many Southeast Asian smuggling networks. Cusack went even further:
 "It appears almost certain that the bulk of the white heroin found during 1975 in the inner‑city areas of our eastern cities has been Asian no. 4 smuggled from Bangkok."[7]
Why then did the DEA continue to overstate Mexico's role and minimize Southeast Asia-‑even after the publication, in 1972, of Alfred McCoy's The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia? Perhaps to justify the great expenditure in support of right wing military and police forces in Latin America. (The later boom in Colombian cocaine would also provide justification.) Southeast Asia was downplayed so as not to jeopardize relations with America's loyal, if corrupt, allies — most of all Thailand, Taiwan, and the latter's overseas agents. They were allowed to profit from opium and heroin in relative peace.

Another reason: the DEA could not expose the Southeast Asia connection without compromising the CIA. A secret 1977 House Government Operations subcommittee report accused the CIA of helping an Asian opium ring smuggle drugs into the United States and then lying about it to Congress. Puttaporn Khramkhruan, a Thai national, was arrested in 1973 for smuggling fifty‑nine pounds of pure opium into the U.S. via JFK airport. Citing national security interests, the agency had the case squelched, and Khramkhruan was sent back home. However, the House subcommittee eventually established that he was a CIA operative in Thailand.[8] In fact, he was on the payroll of a CIA proprietary using the Agency for International Development (AID) as a cover for training the corrupt Thai border police.[9] Furthermore, Khramkhruan told a DEA investigator that he had been an officer in the KMT army and guarded opium mule caravans. His CIA contact was the U.S. consul in Chiang Mai, Thailand.[10] In its report, the House Committee stated: "It was ironic that the CIA should be given the responsibility of narcotics intelligence, particularly since they are supporting the prime movers."[11]

The Thai Connection Origins
[Editor's Note: To understand the history of CIA action in Thailand, we turn to Dr. Peter Dale Scott. The following is an excerpt from his Operation Paper:
The United States Helps Rebuild the Postwar Drug Connection

To appreciate the significance of the connection we are discussing, we must keep in mind that, by 1956, the KMT had been driven from the Chinese mainland and that Chinese production of opium, even in remote mountainous Yunnan, had been virtually eliminated. The disruptions of a world war and revolution had created an opportunity to terminate the opium problem in the Far East. Instead, U.S. covert support for the Thai and KMT drug traffickers converted Southeast Asia, for more than two decades, into the world’s major source of opium and heroin.

The origins of the U.S. interface with these drug traffickers in Thailand and Burma are obscure. They appear, however, to have involved principally four men:
  • his British ally Sir William Stephenson, the organizer with Donovan of the World Commerce Corporation (WCC);
  • Willis Bird (both veterans of OSS China). After World War II, Sir William Stephenson’s WCC “became very active in Bangkok,” and Stephenson himself established a strong personal relationship with King Rama IX.31 [footnotes at bottom of paper]
Stephenson recruited James Thompson, the last OSS commander in Bangkok, to stay on in Bangkok as the local WCC representative. This led to the WCC’s financing of Thompson’s Thai Silk Company, a successful commercial enterprise that also covered Thompson’s repeated trips to the northeastern Thai border with Laos, the so-called Isan, where communist insurrection was most feared and where future CIA operations would be concentrated.32 One would like to know whether WCC similarly launched the import-export business of Willis Bird, of whom much more shortly.
In the same postwar period, Paul Helliwell, who earlier had been OSS chief of Special Intelligence in Kunming, Yunnan, served as Far East Division chief of the Strategic Service Unit, the successor organization to OSS.33 In this capacity he allegedly “became the man who controlled the pipe-line of covert funds for secret operations throughout East Asia after the war.”34 Eventually, Helliwell would be responsible for the incorporation in America of the CIA proprietaries, Sea Supply Inc. and Civil Air Transport (CAT) Inc. (later Air America), which would provide support to both Phao Sriyanon of the Northern Army in Thailand and the KMT drug camps in Burma. It is unclear what he did before the creation of OPC in 1948. Speculation abounds as to the original source of funds available to Helliwell in this earlier period, ranging from the following:

    1.  The deep pockets of the overworld figures in the WCC. Citing Daniel Harkins, a former USG investigator, John Loftus and Mark Aarons claimed that Nazi money, laundered and manipulated by Allen Dulles and Sir William Stephenson through the WCC, reached Thailand after the war. When Harkins informed Congress, he “was suddenly fired and sent back [from Thailand] to the United States on the next ship.”35

    2.  The looted gold and other resources collected by Admiral Yamashita and others in Japan36 or of the SS in Germany.

    3.  The drug trade itself. Further research is needed to establish when the financial world of Paul Helliwell began to overlap with that of Meyer Lansky and the underworld. The banks discussed in the chapter 7, which are outward signs of this connection (Miami National Bank and Bank of Perrine), were not established until a decade or more later. Still to be established is whether the Eastern Development Company represented by Helliwell was the firm of this name that in the 1940s cooperated with Lansky and others in the supply of arms to the nascent state of Israel.37

Of these the best available evidence points tentatively to Nazi gold. We shall see that Helliwell acquired a banking partner in Florida, [Edward Philip] E. P. Barry, who had been the postwar head of OSS Counterintelligence (X-2) in Vienna, which oversaw the recovery of SS gold in Operation Safehaven.38 And it is not questioned that in December 1947 the National Security Council (NSC) created a Special Procedures Group “that, among other things, laundered over $10 million in captured Axis funds to influence the [Italian] election [of 1948].”39 Note that this authorization was before NSC 10/2 of June 18, 1948, first funded covert operations under what soon became OPC.
E. P. Barry and Helliwell
What matters is that, for some time before the first known official U.S. authorizations in 1949–1950, funds were reaching Helliwell’s former OSS China ally Willis Bird in Bangkok. There Bird ran a trading company supplying arms and materiel to Phin Chunhawan and Phin’s son-in-law, Phao Sriyanon, who in 1950 became director-general of the Thai Police Department. By 1951 OPC funds for Bird were being handled by a CIA proprietary firm, Sea Supply Inc., which had been incorporated by Paul Helliwell in his civilian capacity as a lawyer in Miami. As noted earlier, Helliwell also became general counsel for the Miami bank that Meyer Lansky allegedly used to launder proceeds from the Asian drug traffic.
Some sources claim that in the 1940s, Donovan, whose link to the WCC was by 1946 his only known intelligence connection, also visited Bangkok.40 Stephenson’s biographer, William Stevenson, writes that because MacArthur had cut Donovan out of the Pacific during World War II, Donovan “therefore turned Siam [i.e., Thailand] into a base from which to run [postwar] secret operations against the new Soviet threat in Asia.”41
William Walker agrees that by 1947–1948, the United States increasingly defined for Thailand a place in Western strategic policy in the early cold war. Among those who kept close watch over events were William J. Donovan, wartime head of the OSS, and Willis H. Bird, who worked with the OSS in China. . . . After the war, Bird, . . . still a reserve colonel in military intelligence, ran an import-export house in Bangkok. Following the November [1947 Thailand coup] Bird . . . implored Donovan:
Willis Bird
“Should there be any agency that is trying to take the place of O.S.S., . . . please have them get in touch with us as soon as possible. By the time Phibun returned as Prime Minister, Donovan was telling the Pentagon and the State Department that Bird was a reliable source whose information about growing Soviet activities in Thailand were [sic] credible.42
Bird’s wishes were soon answered by NSC 10/2 of June 18, 1948, which created the OPC. Washington swiftly agreed that Thailand would play an important role as a frontline ally in the Cold War. In 1948, U.S. intelligence units began arming and training a separate army under General Phao, which became known as the Thai Border Police (BPP). The relationship was cemented in 1949 as the communists captured power in China. The generals demonstrated their anticommunist credentials by echoing U.S. propaganda and killing alleged leftists. At midyear a CIA [OPC] team arrived in Bangkok to train the BPP for covert support of the Kuomintang in its continuing war against the Chinese communists on the Burma-China border. Later in the year the United States began to arm and train the Thai army and to provide the kingdom general economic aid.43
Walker notes how the collapse of the KMT forces in China led Washington to subordinate its anti-narcotics policies to the containment of communism: By the fall of 1949 . . . reports reached the State Department about the inroads communism was making within the Chinese community in Thailand as well as the involvement of the Thai army with opium. Since the army virtually controlled the nature of Thailand’s security relationship with the West, foreign promotion of opium control had to take a back seat to other policy priorities.44
On March 9, 1950, when Truman was asked to approve $10 million in military aid for Thailand, Acheson’s supporting memo noted that $5 million had already been approved by Truman for the Thai “constabulary.”45 This presumably came from the OPC’s secret budget: I can find no other reference to the $5 million in State Department published records, and two years later a U.S. aid official in Washington, Edwin Martin, wrote in a secret memo that the Thai Police force under General Phao “is receiving no American military aid.”46 [footnotes at bottom of paper]
Read this and other books by Alan A. Block.

In March 1977 the DEA began to speak of "major maneuvers in the international Asian narcotics market for a share of the U.S. drug scene" and of a "coalition between the U.S. Mafia, the Corsicans and the Chiu Chao Chinese Triad."[12] The coalition had, in reality, existed at least since 1970 and perhaps as early as Trafficante's 1968 journey to the East and it had functioned effectively, shipping large amounts of heroin to the U.S., since 1972‑73. The difference was that the Corsican arm of the coalition, their own umbrella organization having been smashed, was now essentially reduced to some 100 men working with the U.S. Mafia and the Chinese, most of them as chemists in Thailand's mobile heroin labs.[13]

Who has controlled the Golden Triangle opium traffic and heroin production since the establishment of the Mafia‑Chinese coalition — besides the CIA, that is? The answer is the Kuomintang (KMT) Chinese and overseas Chiu Chao syndicatemen such as Chang Chifu [Khun Sa], Lo Hsing‑han, Tsai Chien Cheng and older, more familiar figures like General LiMi.[14] Still head of what's left of the KMT forces, General Li resides in luxury outside Chiang Mai and received official visits there from the United States as recently as late 1976.[15]

In 1976‑77 a minor war was about to erupt over the control of the region's opium traffic and mobile refineries. Potential combatants were Chu Chi‑fu's United Shan Army (of rebels against the Burmese regime) and KMT forces under General Li. However, the opposing leaders were brought together by a senior Thai officer and an agreement was reached on the marketing of drugs and supply of arms to fight Communist forces in Burma's Shan states.[16] Again we see the connection between narcotics and anti‑Communist paramilitary operationsalbeit Chu Chi‑fu later pulled out of the agreement, was arrested in Thailand, and eventually extradited to Burma.

The DEA's Golden Triangle unit, SNO, [Special Narcotics Operation] made many whole and half‑hearted attempts to eradicate the narcotics plague. All failed. Production has been great, the world's heroin market having multiplied in the seventies. SNO won't say outright that the CIA is undermining them, nor that politics underlies their constant failures. A SNO agent, nevertheless, came close to doing so in this 1976 statement to Alfred McCoy:
"If they were selling shares in Golden Triangle Heroin, Inc. in five, ten and twenty‑year bonds, I would put my money on a twenty‑year bond. The only thing that would end the whole Golden Triangle business would be a communist takeover in Thailand. If that happened, I'd sell my stock."[17]
Southeast Asia was initially the sole supplier to the rapidly growing European market. Until 1972 heroin abuse was essentially an American problem. But since the heroin shift from Marseille to Southeast Asia, the European habit has rapidly worsened. In 1972 ten kilos of Golden Triangle "brown sugar" were confiscated in Europe. By 1975 the figure was up to 227 kilos. The country hardest hit has been West Germany, where the large U.S. troop concentration serves as a magnet for heroin, where it is estimated that some 60‑80,000 Germans use hard drugs, and where there were over 500 hard drug-related deaths in 1979.

In the summer of 1977, we might note, the administration of Jimmy Carter rejected a proposal by a consortium of rebel army leaders in northern Burma that the U.S. spend $36 million over a sixyear period to purchase and destroy the Southeast Asia opium crop.[18]

Among the official explanations was the alleged policy of the United States to deal only with recognized local governments — a policy which in its time had found a number of exceptions, like the overseas Kuomintang Chinese.[19]

pps. 171-176


1. 1. Frank and G. Richardson: "Epidemic," Penthouse, September 1977.

2. Ibid. In light of recent years' revelations of CIA mind control experimentation with LSD, it's worth noting the enormous spread of the hallucinogen in 1971‑72. Behind it was the cover organization, Brotherhood of Love, whose backers, like Gulf Oil heir William Mellon Hitchcock, exploited and manipulated self‑styled LSD prophets like Timothy Leary. The Brotherhood was directly connected to the Robert Vesco‑controlled Fiduciary Trust Company of the Bahamas. LSD proceeds were laundered through the usual Syndicate banks in Geneva. See Der Spiegel, No. 39, 1974.

3. B. Herbert: "The Fleetwood Kids," Penthouse, August 1978.

4. A. McCoy: "The New Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia," Oui, December 1976.

5. F. Robertson: Triangle of Death (Routledge and Keagan Paul, 1977).

6. Politiken, 27 March 1976.

7. Drug Enforcement, Spring 1976.

8. J. Anderson and L. Whitten, Boston Globe, 3 October 1977.

9. J. Hougan: Spooks (William Morrow, 1978).

10. J. Burgess: "The Thailand Connection," Counterspy, Vol. 2, No. 4, 1976.

11. Anderson and Whitten, op. cit.

12. San Francisco Examiner, 9 December 1977; Robertson, op. cit.

13. Robertson, op. cit.

14. Lo Hsing‑han and his supporters at one time aided the Burmese government in its fight against Communist insurgents in northwest Burma. However, when the government asked him to disband his organization in 1973, Lo Hsing‑han refused and signed a pact with the rebels. The Burmese army eventually pushed him and his army into Thailand where he was arrested and extradited back to Burma. In the fall of 1977 he lost his final appeal to Burma's highest court to quash a death penalty for treason. (New York Times, 7 November 1977).

15. McCoy, op. cit.

16. Far Eastern Economic Review, 15 April 1977.

17. McCoy, op. cit.

18. New York Times, 13 July 1977.

19. According to High Times magazine (April 1980), the Shan States rebels have long been subsidized by Taiwan intelligence. Moreover, the article goes on, intelligence sources in Burma have suggested that the DEA, in an aboutface attempt to weld together a local force against right wing opium armies, has approached Burmese Communist guerillas — who, having been abandoned by the current, less revolution‑minded Peking regime, had themselves taken steps toward moving in on the opium trade.



The exaggeration of Mexico's and the downplaying of Southeast Asia's roles as suppliers of heroin to the United States does not mean that Mexico was unimportant. But the DEA and the U.S. press compound the distortion by constantly asserting that the production and smuggling of heroin in Mexico is strictly a Mexican business. No U.S. Mafia is supposedly involved, other than customers on the other side of the border. Heroin shipments are allegedly controlled by seven large Mexican families: the Herreras, the Maciaces, the Romeros, the Favelas, the Sicilia‑Falcons, the Valenzuelas, and the Aviles‑Quinteros. [1] Let's take a look at one of them.

Alberto Sicilia‑Falcon, leader of the Sicilia‑Falcons, is not a Mexican at all; he was born in Matanzas, Cuba. He and his family left the island immediately after Castro's takeover to become part of Miami's Cuban exile milieu. After the Bay of Pigs invasion he was trained by the CIA at Fort Jackson for Operation 40.[2] From there his trail is faint for several years. However, according to Mexican police, he was in Chile helping the CIA to undermine the government of Salvadore Allende.

In mid‑1973 he turned up in Mexico, where in record time he established a gigantic heroin and marijuana ring. According to DEA director Peter Bensinger, in 1975 the ring numbered more than 1600, including film stars and international businessmen. Sicilia‑Falcon himself resided in villas in Tijuana and San Diego. Heroin was transported to San Diego from a warehouse in Culiacan, marijuana from a processing plant in Mexicali to a U.S. distribution center in Coronado Kays.

In late 1973 one of Sicilia‑Falcon's truckers was stopped on his way back to Mexico. The truck was loaded with arms bound for Nicaragua. According to a later report of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, one illegal weapons dealer in Brownsville, Texas alone supplied Sicilia‑Falcon with 12 million rounds of ammunition in 1974.

The guns‑for‑drugs traffic proceeded unhindered until early 1975, when the government of then President Luis Echeverria discovered that Sicilia‑Falcon's weapons shipments went to groups in Mexico. "External forces are attempting to destabilize our country," said Echeverria in a 1975 speech, in obvious reference to his neighbor to the north.

Then the Mexicans began an intense surveillance of Sicilia-Falcon, who, they learned, often met and conversed by telephone with a mystery man in Cuernavaca, some ninety kilometers south of Mexico City. When a lemonade bottle bearing the man's fingerprints was sent to the FBI, the bureau informed Mexican authorities that the man was Sam Giancana, the Chicago Mafia capo, heroin trafficker, and CIA collaborator. The Mexicans agreed to a French extradition request for Giancana, but when his Paris‑bound plane stopped over in Houston, Giancana was whisked away by U.S. agents. Soon thereafter he was found murdered in his Chicago mansion. Mexican interior ministry officials claimed the CIA had done all it could to prevent the mobster's extradition.

On 2 July 1975 Sicilia‑Falcon was arrested. Under rough interrogation he claimed to be an agent of the CIA, and that his drug ring had been set up on orders from and with the support of the agency. Part of his profits were to go towards the purchase of weapons and ammunition for distribution throughout Central America for the destabilization of "undesirable" governments. If true, U.S. heroin addicts were again footing the bill for clandestine paramilitary operations and anti-Communist terror campaigns. And Sicilia‑Falcon and his Syndicate associates were not short of funds. In his possession police found two Swiss bank books to the tune of $260 million.

Still, the strange testimony of Alberto Sicilia‑Falcon did not end with his confession. His family's heroin and arms shipments continued and, on 26 April 1976, he and three of his lieutenants escaped from Lecumberri prison through an electrically lit, 100‑yard long tunnel dug from outside. They were recaptured three days later, at which time Sicilia‑Falcon, fearing for his life at the hands of the CIA, requested transfer to another prison and additional security.[3]

Echeverria and Sicilia‑Falcon each were right about the destabilization program. FBI documents released later disclosed that between 1970 and 1976 the FBI served as a secret link between the U.S.  embassy in Mexico City and the U.S. Border Patrol in California and Texas, "in order to help destabilize" the government of President Echeverria. J. Edgar Hoover had believed that Echeverria had surrounded himself with "old Communists and Communist Party sympathizers.[4] A memo from Hoover to the U.S. legal attache praises "the detonation of strategic and effective bombs in Mexico City" and "the wave of night machine‑gunnings to divide subversive leaders."[5]

Besides Echeverria's progressive attitude, another reason for U.S. hostility towards his government was the Mexican president's refusal to approve World Bank and International Monetary Fund plans for the exploitation of Mexico's newly discovered oil reserves. The first order of business of his successor Jose Lopez Portillo in 1976 was approval of the same plans. And the newspaper El Sol de Mexico wrote shortly after the latter's inauguration that year: "The new government is not interested in publicity regarding the Sicilia‑Falcon case. It will quietly extradite him to the U.S. as soon as the new extradition agreement between the two countries comes into effect."

In the Sicilia‑Falcon case the DEA and CIA struggled bitterly against one another. It was symptomatic of a split within the DEA's own ranks, a split rooted in the effective control of its narcotics intelligence division by transplanted agents of the CIA.

Since the DEA's emergence many of its agents have resigned in disgust with its modus operandi. Long‑standing conflicts between the CIA and BNDD and between the BNDD and Customs did not evaporate when all the narcotics agents were pooled in the DEA. Moreover, the CIA seems still to be guided by political interests incompatible with drug enforcement.

A 1975 Narcotics Control Action Plan for Mexico, drafted by the DEA, CIA and State Department, opened the way for new appropriations for fighting narcotics in Mexico through INC. Thirty helicopters as well as other aircraft and computer terminals were brought in, and extensive training programs were initiated. The notorious Operation Condor began in January 1976 with an army of DEA‑trained Mexican narcotics agents and their U.S. supervisors, mobilized to fight the drug traffic in the countryside. Reports of the operation reveal that U.S. taxpayers' money has in fact been used for political extermination; that DEA helicopters are used by private landowners to attack peasant revolutionaries with rockets, small‑arms fire and napalm;[6] that large groups of farmers and independent narcotics dealers have been murdered or tortured while the major narcotics families have been protected.[7]

House subcommittee investigators went to Mexico in 1975 to determine how organized internal corruption and payoff rings within the DEA had made possible the monopoly of Mexican heroin by a few powerful crime families. According to writer Ron Rosenbaum: "Some critics of DEA go even further than the subcommittee investigators and charge the protection of heroin profiteers is not caused by internal corruption but is, in fact, the true function of the agency under the present narcotics laws."[8]

DEA‑supervised killing and torture had not stopped as of 1978, when the Mexican Bar Association documented eighteen forms of torture applied by Mexican narcotics agents. Prisoners and Mexican agents alike affirmed that DEA agents not only knew of the torture, but at times were also present at the interrogations.[9]

pps. 177-180


1. D. Rosen: "The Mexican Connection," Penthouse, February 1977.

2. "Die gefahrlichen Geschafte des Alberto Sicilia," Der Spiegel, No. 20,1977. Much of the following story comes from this account.

3. Ibid.

4. High Times, August 1978.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. C. Pyes: "Legal Murders," Village Voice, 4 June 1979.
8. R.Rosenbaum: "The Decline and Fall of Nixon's Drug Czar," New Times, 5
September 1975.
9. Pyes, op. cit.

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