May 6, 2021

Hugo Banzer’s Human-Rights Politics | by Jerry Meldon | High Times, date unknown


The future looked dim for General Hugo Banzer Suarez back in July of 1980. While fellow Bolivians savored a rare hiatus of civilian rule, the government in La Paz was preparing to indict Gen. Banzer – whose diminutive stature accounts for his nickname, “El Petiso” – for corruption and human-rights violations during his prior dictatorship, from 1971 to 1978.

But Banzer had powerful friends. Two of them, whom he had introduced originally, were Bolivia’s incipient cocaine king, Roberto Suarez Gomez of Santa Cruz, and Herr Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo chief of Lyons during the Nazi occupation of France. When Barbie wound up in South America, Banzer had protected him from French war-crimes prosecutors, and Suarez and Barbie were to engineer a coup d’etat that would repay the favor: the Cocaine Coup of July 17, 1980.

This past August 4, just 17 years later, the Congress in La Paz rehabilitated the 71-year-old El Petiso by confirming him as President of the Republic. Americans, who over that same time have squandered over $1.5 billion on narcotics “control” in Bolivia – which recently overtook Peru as the world’s number two producer of cocaine – might like to know more about this president and his longstanding ties to Washington’s national-security establishment.

These ties can be traced to young Hugo Banzer’s student days in the mid-1950s at the Pentagon’s famous “School of the Assassins,” as their Panama installation, “School of the Americas,” was known throughout Latin America. (It was moved to Ft. Benning, GA, in 1984.) SOA cadets were instructed in torture, kidnapping, blackmail and the murder of dissidents through detailed texts that were not declassified by the Pentagon until 1996. Their selection of Banzer for SOA training was well-timed, because in a 1952 a rebellion, led by tin miners and the Movimento Nacionalista Revolucionario, had vanquished the oligarchy and replaced their armed forces with popular militias.

Since official US doctrine prescribed military dictatorship as prophylaxis against Communism, and Hugo Banzer matched their profile of a promising potential caudillo, the young Petiso found himself being groomed for future authoritarian rule by US Army officers at SOA and then at Ft. Hood, TX. Later he would be Bolivia’s military attaché in Washington, and the Pentagon would award him its Order of Military Merit.

The training and grooming paid off in 1971, when Banzer overthrew the left-leaning regime of Gen. Juan Jose Torres, who had offended Washington by reaching out to Fidel Castro, trading with Russia, expelling the Peace Corps and nationalizing US-owned tin mines. After a first unsuccessful coup attempt, Banzer organized his second with the clandestine assistance of an Air Force major, Robert Lundin, who put the US Air Force radio at the general’s disposal for his successful coup that August.

Banzer repaid Washington by severing ties with Cuba and denationalizing the tin industry. He also imposed a reign of terror, arresting 2,000 dissidents and dispatching CIA-style hit squads around the world to assassinate about 500 exiled Bolivians. “All fundamental laws protecting human rights were regularly violated,” observed a New York Times report, and torture was “commonly used on prisoners [who were] beaten, raped and forced to undergo simulated executions.”

But Banzer reserved his most potent venom for “liberation theology” clergy, who were then supporting the struggle against authoritarian regimes worldwide. After the Bolivian Catholic Church denounced a government massacre of striking tin miners in 1975, the memorable “Banzer Plan” was hatched. Clergymen were individually targeted, with the CIA providing “information on certain priests,” according to Penny Lernoux’s Cry of the People—“personal data, studies, friends, addresses, writings, contacts abroad, et cetera.”

Nine dictatorships in Latin America officially adopted the Banzer Plan in 1977, and before 1980, 30 theologians had been slain across the continent, with government forces and rightist civilian death squads implicated.

But the Banzer Plan was only one element in a broad repressive strategy linking Latin America’s dictatorships in a transcontinental extermination program. “Operation Condor,” designed to silence prominent opposition leaders, was conceived by the DINA secret police of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the CIA-installed caudillo running Chile. The US Senate Foreign Relations committee described Condor’s modus operandi in 1979, in a classified report eventually leaked to Jack Anderson’s column: “Special teams from member countries [are] assigned to travel anywhere in the world to non-member countries, to carry out ‘sanctions,’—including assassination—against Condor enemies.”

Among identifiable Condor targets were Banzer’s leftish predecessor, Juan Jose Torres, who had fled to Buenos Aires, and was gunned down there; and prominent Pinochet opponent Orlando Letelier, who was blown up in his car on a Washington street.

Banzer himself was overthrown, amidst nationwide strikes and political chaos, in July 1978, by an Air Force general who charged him, absurdly, with sacrificing the country to international Communism. El Petiso was hiding in Argentina when the fledgling democratic government of Hernan Siles Zuazo moved to have him indicted in 1979, whereupon coca king Roberto Suarez and fugitive gauleiter Klaus Barbie providentially provided finance and muscle for the Cocaine Coup.

To recapitulate, Barbie was spirited out of Europe after the defeat of the Third Reich with the help of the Vatican and the US Army Counterintelligence Corps. The US CIC had briefly used Barbie to oversee an anti-Red network of erstwhile Nazis like himself, but the French, recalling all the tortures and murders and concentration-camp deportations he’d engineered while running the Lyons Gestapo, were hot on his trail. So the CIC enlisted Dr. Krunoslav Draganovic, a Croatian priest running a Vatican “ratline” by which hundreds of SS and Gestapo notables escaped from Europe, to fabricate exit papers for Barbie to flee from Germany to Bolivia as “Herr Klaus Altmann.” By the time Nazi hunters tracked him down there, Banzer, the School of the Americas graduate, was running Bolivia, and he rejected their repeated requests for Barbie’s extradition.

Following the Cocaine Coup of 1980, Roberto Suarez put Gen. Luis Garcia Meza and Col. Luis Arce Gomez on his payroll as figurehead rulers, and Barbie in charge of the nation’s secret police. Thugs hand-picked and trained by Barbie terrorized political dissidents against the Garcia Meza narcoregime, and also enforced Suarez’s supremacy in the cocaine trade. Among these enforcers was Stefano delle Chiaie, a hero of the Fascist International who, in 1980, had planted a bomb in the central train station in Bologna, Italy, that killed 80 people. [This was also the regime which was personally congratulated by Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina for their anti-Communist zeal. See accompanying article.]

But like Bolivia’s 190 or so earlier dictators, narcotraficante lackeys Garcia Meza and Arce Gomez ruled incompetently, and briefly. With the country on the verge of bankruptcy in August of 1981, they were both ousted. While Garcia Meza is still at large, Arce Gomez is currently serving a 30-year cocaine sentence in the USA. Barbie died of leukemia in 1992 while awaiting his war-crimes trial in France. Roberto Suarez, busted in 1988, is serving 15 years.

Fortune has been kinder to Hugo Banzer Suarez, who during the Garcia Meza reign assumed leadership of the Accion Democratica Nacionalista party. He was briefly embarrassed in 1983, when a civil tribunal in Argentina, trying some recently deposed military torturers there, accused him of having authorized the delivery of a woman to them, who “disappeared” in the course of their interrogations. But Banzer was never extradited. In fact, shortly afterwards he returned to the School of the Americas briefly, to be inducted into its Hall of Fame.



The secret gears that drive our foreign policy | by Jerry Meldon | Publication unknown, date unknown


Shortly after its birth as the Cold War heated up, the Central Intelligence Agency found its calling propping up dictators like Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-Shek and South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem (before arranging the coup during which he was assassinated), and subverting legitimate governments like those of Chile’s Salvador Allende and Haiti’s Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

            Such covert actions have invariably clashed with both the ethics and priorities of most Americans – who have seen America’s good name lost in the translation from anti-communist doctrine into anti-democratic policy. Then how has the Agency survived a seemingly endless succession of scandals? Part of the answer recently stared us in the face.

            In March, the Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the United States Intelligence Community – appointed by Congress and President Clinton when the Aldrich Ames scandal knocked the C.I.A. against the ropes – issued its report and recommended little more than cosmetic changes at the Agency.

            Appointing a commission had once again meant spin control. It had taken the C.I.A. years to realize that Ames, a senior Agency official, had paid cash for his Jaguar and sprawling home … that he’d gotten the money from Moscow in return for a Who’s Who in U.S. spying … and that even years after realizing it had been penetrated like Swiss cheese, the Agency fed Washington lies served up by Soviet agents.

            You might have expected a self-respecting Commission to shut down the C.I.A. or at least order a house-cleaning. Then again … “If you want to make foreign policy, there’s no better fraternity to belong to than the Council on Foreign Relations, C.F.R..” So wrote Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist J. Anthony Lukas. “The influential but private C.F.R. … has long been the C.I.A.’s principal ‘constituency’ in the American public.” So wrote former C.I.A. agent Vincent Marchetti.

            True to form, the C.F.R. helped bail out the Agency.

            Of the Commission’s 17 members, the chair, former Defense Secretary Harold Brown, vice chair, former Republican senator Warren B. Rudman, and five others belong to the New York-based Council. Likewise, five of the eight members of the 1975 Rockefeller Commission that investigated illegal C.I.A. domestic spying on opponents of the war in Vietnam were members of the C.F.R.

            Formed following World War I “for the study and discussion of international affairs,” the C.F.R. today has 3,000 individual members – primarily from the U.S., but also from Europe and Japan – plus 200 corporate affiliates that pay over $1 million in combined annual dues. Its members include politicians like Bill Clinton, academics, foundation directors and reporters, plus every living former – and the present – director of the C.I.A. Though women were long excluded, the C.F.R. now includes not only women, but progressive women like children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edelman.

            But the big wheels have always been business magnates like David Rockefeller, statesmen like Rockefeller’s protege Henry Kissinger, and Wall Street lawyer/bankers like John J. McCloy – who became chair of the Council, the Ford Foundation and the Chase Bank, all in one year.

            No less influential members were Eisenhower’s secretary of state John Foster Dulles and his brother, longtime C.I.A. director Allen W. Dulles.

            During World War II – as early as 1942, according to Christopher Simpson’s “The Splendid Blond Beast” – the Dulles’ lobbied for a peace settlement with German behind Stalin’s back. Allen – a C.F.R. director from 1927 to 1969 – ran the Switzerland-based operations of the C.I.A.’s wartime predecessor, the O.S.S.. Pushing for a separate peace in 1944, he engineered the liberation of SS General Karl Wolff from anti-fascist Italian partisans.

            Under the same Dulles, the C.I.A. executed its first major coup in Iran in 1953, its second in Guatemala in ’54. Each responded to a move to nationalize foreign holdings: of British and American oil companies in Iran, of the Boston-based United Fruit Company – to which both Dulles’ were connected – in Guatemala.

            There followed decades of repression: by the dictatorship of the Shah of Iran – which beat the 1979 Islamic revolution and taking of American hostages; and by military-dominated governments in Guatemala – where the C.I.A. is currently under fire for covering up the murder of a U.S. citizen by a Guatemalan army officer on Agency payroll.

            Indeed, apart from Indochina, where the CFR issued a stream of reports urging Washington to defend US business interests – ultimately with tragic consequences – Guatemala has borne the heaviest burden of CIA intervention.

            Are the C.I.A. and C.F.R. – or U.N. and C.F.R., as fantasized by those of the militia mentality – part of (dare I say it?) a conspiracy? No more than lobbyists and Congress are, for protecting corporations from personal injury lawsuits.

            The Council on Foreign Relations is merely the lodge of those with a vested interest in – and history of making – foreign policy. Its members don’t conspire. They simply fill strategic positions where foreign policy – and the survival of the agency that secretly carries it out – are decided.





May 5, 2021

German Watergate Leads to Bitburg | by Jerry Meldon | Published in The Jewish Advocate (undated) [incomplete]


“Bitburg: Tip of the Iceberg.” So reads the headline over Joe Conason’s article in the May 7 Village Voice on White House links to the Right wing’s outer fringe. A close look at the politics behind Ronald Reagan and Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s visit to the Bitburg cemetery uncovers deeper layers of this iceberg – starting with the massive payoffs to members of the Kohl administration from the industrial empire founded by war criminal Friedrich Flick.

            To understand Reagan’s decision to pay homage to German war dead, one must look beyond the President’s 1933-1945 blackout to present-day politics. The staunchly conservative Kohl has been the most vocal European supporter of Reagan’s escalation of the Cold War. He has welcomed Pershing missiles to German soil is is now a confirmed “Star Wars” advocate.

            In return, Reagan, through appearances with the Chancellor, has been boosting Kohl’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU) in a period of important local elections. This is particularly vital in light of the magazine Der Spiegel’s relentless exposure of payoffs to assorted officials in the Bonn coalition.

            The heads began to roll last June. Finance Minister Count Otto Lambsdorff resigned just prior to his official indictment for corruption. His predecessor, Hans Friderichs, who awaits trial for bribery and income tax evasion, resigned in February from the presidency of Germany’s second largest bank. The pockets of the two former finance ministers, according to Der Spiegel, were lined by Flick in return for a huge tax concession following the conglomerate’s sale of a 29 percent interest in Daimler-Benz, manufacturer of Mercedes cars.

            In 1975, the Flick Group, which controls an empire whose holdings range from steel and explosives to armored tanks, sold the Daimler-Benz shares to Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest, for $800 million. For a $175,000 payoff to Friderichs, Flick won a $175 million tax waiver. As Der Spiegel has documented, the payoff was just one part of an on-going corruption scheme that secured Flick a grip on the fiscal policies of the West German government.

            While Flick’s beneficiaries have included politicians of every stripe but the left-of-center, ecology-minded Greens, the most scandalous exposés, naturally, have touched those in power. The biggest star to fall so far has