"Those who know Castaño know
that any statement that places in doubt his claim of a distance
from drug trafficking can provoke attacks of rage." -- El Nuevo Herald (9/25)
The Narco News Bulletin
Name of Our Country is América"
¡Ya Basta! -- Enough Already! -- with the media and government complicity
in protecting América's most savage War Criminal.
If the mere suggestion that Castaño
is a narco provokes this unstable individual into attacks of
rage, according to El Nuevo Herald of Miami, this report
ought to give him a heart attack.
Here, we document the
facts and provide links for our readers to other reports and
documents that leave no doubt: Castaño is more than just
a narco. Carlos Castaño-Gil is the boss of one of the
largest and the most violent drug trafficking organization on earth.
Not since Nicolai Caucescu
-- the Romanian dictator who appeared on national television
every night (until the popular revolt when, in a poetic turn
of media history, he himself was shot to death on Christmas day
1989 on live TV) -- has a war criminal been able to use the media
so effectively to postpone judgement for his crimes against humanity.
For years it was an accepted
fact -- admitted even by Castaño -- that he and his paramilitary
troops in Colombia protected narco-trafficking (not just coca-growers,
but traffickers), charged a tax on their illicit income, and
used to profits to enrich themselves personally. Indeed, although
he claims modest roots, Castaño lives in luxury, sends
his kids to private school in England, and is a major landowner
throughout Northern Colombia -- land from which he helped displace
tens of thousands of peasants.
has tried to give himself a public relations make-over, posing
as a "drug warrior," railing against the narco-traffickers,
while still collecting a percentage on their profits for the
protection that he and his armed thugs rent to them.
In this, Castaño's
hypocrisy is similar to that of US Colonel James Hiett -- our April 2000 Narco-of-the-Month -- because he peddles in "anti-drugs"
and drugs alike, with the support and backing of the US and Colombian
The guerrilla movements
that Castaño and governments oppose also collect a percentage
on peasant coca growers and some manufacturing labs in the jungle.
A difference in their political position, however, is that the
FARC, Colombia's largest guerrilla group, calls for legalization
of drugs -- the only policy that would remove the profits. Castaño,
as a narco-trafficker, knows that legalization would pull the
rug out from under him. And so, like the governments that are
complicit in the drug trade, advocates drug prohibition: to keep
those profits coming in.
is a quintessential drug-war hypocrite and, despite all his macho
bluster, he is a coward. The Narco News Bulletin steps
forward to condemn Castaño and his war crimes -- countless
massacres against unarmed civilians, assassination of non-violent
social leaders, forced displacement of tens of thousands of Colombian
peasants as part of real-estate deals that he and his gang have
profited from beyond the dreams of the impoverished farmers and
Indians they have terrorized and ruined.
Narco News has not named a Narco-of-the-Month
since May. The case is so strong against Carlos Castaño
that we hereby designate him Narco-of-the-Months for June, July,
August and September of 2000.
Here are the facts about
Carlos Castaño Gil, narco-trafficker, narco-war criminal,
Just like the governments
and false "journalists" who protect him.
We say, ¡Ya Basta!
This Narco-Emperor has
From somewhere in a country
The Narco News Bulletin
Send the War Criminal
an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Don't
know Spanish? Key words: Narco, Cobarde, Asesino, Criminal de
accept that anybody, absolutely nobody, without valid arguments
and sustainable facts can accuse me of being tolerant of drug
trafficking and much less drug traffickers, simply because I
have never been involved with this despicable practice."
-- Carlos Castaño
Gil, in a September 2000 email message to El Nuevo Herald
Castaño Collects Commission from the Narco
The Narco News Bulletin has previously criticized the
Miami Herald's coverage of Colombia, especially over its
apologies for the brutal paramilitary death squads.
In general, El Nuevo
Herald, the Spanish-language edition out of Herald Plaza
in Miami, has offered better -- not perfect by any means, but
-- more comprehensive coverage of Plan Colombia than its English-language
This week, Herald
correspondent Gerardo Reyes, brought to light US government documents
and wiretaps that make a liar out of narco-trafficker Carlos
The series now underway
by Reyes -- who has enjoyed special access to Castaño
in the past -- reports the following information. Note how Castaño
-- a fugitive from Colombian justice with a million-dollar reward
for anyone who delivers him hanging over his head -- knows that
he has complete immunity from United States officials.
More from El Nuevo Herald:
In the same (e-mail) message,
Castaño said that he is ready to present himself before
any judicial institution in the United States "if it knows
of any participation of mine in drug trafficking activities."
that the "self-defense" groups receive financial support
from drug traffickers that live or have properties in the regions
below its military dominance. What he ignored is that the US
government has proof of the strict financial control that he
maintains over the income of the drug capos.
At least that is what
suggests a conversation audiotaped by the Colombian National
Police and DEA agents in which a presumed drug trafficker is
heard asking another what how to possibly evade that Castaño
would know about their drug business because they would have
to pay him a percent of the profits.
The conversation was taped
in June of last year in an office in Bogotá of the presumed
head of the Alejandro Bernal drug traffickers organization, who
faces charges of drug trafficking and money laundering in a federal
court of Miami.
The network was dismantled
last October as a result of a publicized operation known as "Milenio."
The details of the conversation
were supplied by DEA agent Paul Craine, in a motion for extradition
of Bernal obtained by the Herald. According to what was written
by the agent, an unidentified individual that worked for one
of the accused drug traffickers in the operation (Ramiro Vanoy)
told Bernal that it would not occur to him to tell Castaño
the fact that an airplane with cash, the product of cocaine sales
in Mexico, landed on a clandestine airfield in Caucacia, State
of Antioquia, Colombia. If he knew, said the individual, "they
would have to pay Castaño a quota for the use of the airfield,
which would raise the costs for Bernal and logically reduce the
In the same conversation,
Bernal, now prisoner in Bogotá, analyzed the possibility
of using the same plane to bring arms to Colombian paramilitary
groups from Mexico.
Vanoy is identified by
the DEA agent as a "high ranking member of the rightist
paramilitary groups of Colombia" together with Nelson Alberto
Giraldo Palacios, another of the accused men.
Once again, the US government
speaks with a forked tongue. As US DEA officials have already
assembled the evidence on Castaño -- and, as this dossier
shall report, other US officials have also expressed their awareness
of the high-level drug trafficking activities by Castaño
and his paramilitary squads -- the Clinton administration's $1.3
billion dollar "Plan Colombia" seeks only to eliminate
Castaño's competition, thus giving a narco-monopoly to
the War Criminal.
Thus explained exiled
Colombian journalist Alfredo Molano to Narco News in a
July 31 interview conducted in Barcelona. Molano,
Sunday columnist for the daily El Espectador in Bogotá,
had to leave his country because the same paramilitary groups
made threats against his family in an attempt to silence his
The creation of "paramilitary"
forces -- a term for criminal organizations supported by governments
to do their dirty work for them -- obeys the strategy of US Pentagon
manuals on counter-insurgency and "low intensity warfare"
published in Spanish for use in Latin América.
are known to US and Colombian officials. For a fraction of the
price of Plan Colombia, they could apprehend him and bring him
to justice for his chain of massacres and atrocities, not to
mention being a drug boss. In most of the United States, he would
receive the death penalty just for the crimes he has admitted
But they don't go after
Castaño. That's because, as Castaño himself tacitly
acknowledges, he acts with their support.
Official Knows Castaño is a Narco but Does Nothing
From the US Embassy in
also have clear ties to important narcotics traffickers, and
obtain much of their funding from traffickers. Carlos Castaño,
the paramilitary leader, has been previously identified as a
significant narcotics trafficker in his own right."
-- Randy Beers,
Assistant Secretary of State, testimony before Congress
Narco News analysis: Beers, another narco-hypocrite
in the US government, key operative in Plan Colombia, nonetheless
is helping to orchestrate a plan that protects Castaño
and, in fact, offers him a greater percentage of illicit drug
Again, the drug war is
not about fighting drugs nor drug abuse. Here in our América,
it is about imposing continued colonial rule by economic interests
from the US, a plan in which Castañó and his paramilitaries
are treasonous soldiers against Bolivar's América.
Admitted That He Takes Narco Profits
from REASON magazine *
The Drug War's Southern
Colombia, cocaine, and
U.S. foreign policy
By Timothy Pratt
For at least 50 years,
those mountains have also been home to right-wing paramilitary
forces. The most recent army, founded in the '80s, is Colombians
United in Self-Defense (AUC), led by Carlos Castaño, a
man in his 30s who permits only photos of his back in the press.
The comandante and his troops--who Castaño claims "would
die for me"--have a single-minded military mission: to hunt
and kill guerrillas and anyone who supports them. In the last
several years, their forces have doubled; they now have close
to 7,000 men.
Castaño has ordered
the massacre of entire towns where, he always insists to journalists
afterward, "We had information that there were guerrillas,
there was kidnapping, there were combats, they were holing up
in people's houses." He avers, "By killing one rebel,
we save others whom they were going to kill later." AUC,
he insists, is not paramilitary; it's just "self-defense
forces." It is financed, he says, by "the people who
have no police, no army, no state. They are fishermen, lumbermen,
freight companies, businessmen, small cattle ranchers, and large
landowners...plus the money from the coca growers."
Regarding the latter,
the comandante explains, "Listen, that's the nature of the
economy here. The FARC finance themselves with the same money.
So I have to take their sources away and finance my troops. [But]
the self-defense forces don't produce drugs, or protect laboratories,
or export drugs. For a long time now, there's a tendency in Colombia
to treat our problems and solutions as if it was all about narcotics
and nothing else."
AUC's military stronghold
is in northern Colombia; it is staffed, in part, by former officials
from the armed forces. At least one of these says he was trained
at Georgia's notorious School of the Americas. Human rights organizations
in Canada and the United States, including Human Rights Watch
and Amnesty International, have expressed concern over the links
between the Colombian army and AUC. Some Clinton administration
officials and members of Congress have urged withholding aid
from the armed forces until those links are investigated.
The army has responded
to these concerns in recent months by taking human rights courses
with U.S. advisers at the Tolemaida military base, south of Bogota.
Meanwhile, Castaño's group is trying to distance itself
from the army. At its last national convention, held three years
ago, a document leaked to the press complained how "participation
by members of the Armed Forces in our operations has become a
In the same meeting, the
AUC leadership called for a bigger political presence, given
that "the movement...is still at the margin of politics
and the law, even though many of our collaborators, founders,
helpers, backers, and leaders are part of the day-to-day political
Seeks Monopoly Control of Cocaine Trade
Colombia's powder keg
policy could hurt human rights and fuel the drug trade.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
BY ROBERT D. LAMB
"There are mountains
of evidence" of collaboration, says Carlos Salinas, Latin
America advocate for Amnesty International. "And it happens
to this day," he adds, citing a June incident when FARC
guerrillas attacked a region controlled by Carlos Castaño,
the notorious leader of a right-wing paramilitary alliance, and
the Colombian army airlifted soldiers to the region to combat
the guerrillas. Congress' own research service published a report
last month noting that such collaboration continues.
"The only people
who don't seem to know about it are Colombian and U.S. officials,"
Amnesty's Salinas says.
Another chilling specter
haunting military-centric aid proposals is that paramilitary
groups have proven ties to the drug trade. The Drug Enforcement
Administration last winter identified Castaño himself
as a trafficker. Castaño has even admitted he has accepted
money from coca growers, although he insists he is not a drug
trafficker. "It's the money that finances the FARC,"
he told a reporter for the Colombian daily El Espectador. "I
have to take that money from the FARC and finance myself."
That's why winning the
war against the guerrillas -- whether on the battlefield or at
the negotiating table -- will do little to stem the flow of drugs
into the United States. The drug trade is notoriously resilient.
The guerrillas are just the traffickers' "defenders of the
moment," as the Center for International Policy's Isacson
puts it. Get rid of the guerrillas tomorrow, and the drug lords
will simply create their own private armies, as they did in the
1980s. Or maybe they'll offer Castaño the job.
Plotted Massacre of Unarmed Civilians
from the Public i
Pentagon Trained Troops
Led by Officer Accused In Colombian Massacre
By Frank Smyth and Maud
From: The Public i, March
of Investigative Journalists
The Center for Public Integrity
for maps and
letters to Senator Leahy]
(Washington, 30 March)
Pentagon officials, under pressure to
investigate alleged links between elite U.S. military trainers
Colombian forces implicated in a 1997 civilian massacre, have
confirmed that they trained soldiers commanded by the officer
accused of masterminding the attack.
With a $1.6 billion counternarcotics
aid package for Colombia
making its way through the U.S. Congress, there is increased
scrutiny over whether U.S. military assistance has been or could
be turned against Colombian civilians in that country's decades-
long civil war.
In November 1997, Congress
enacted the "Leahy amendment,"
prohibiting assistance to any foreign military unit if there
evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human
Four months earlier, 49
residents of Mapiripán, a village in the coca-
growing region of southeastern Colombia, were killed over a five-
day period by suspected paramilitary forces allegedly operating
under the direction of Colombian Army Col. Lino Sánchez
Carlos Castaño, leader of Colombia's right-wing paramilitary
forces. Colombian prosecutors have formally accused Sánchez
and Castaño of being the "intellectual authors"
of the massacre.
Sánchez and two
other Colombian army officers are in prison,
awaiting trial on charges in connection with the massacre.
Castaño, Colombia's most notorious rightist paramilitary
accused of numerous civilian atrocities and drug trafficking,
remains at large.
A Pentagon official, speaking
on condition that he not be identified,
confirmed that Sánchez was commander of the 2nd Mobile
Brigade, which received training by U.S. Special Forces at a
base about 80 kilometers from Mapiripán. The Defense Department
has said it is investigating further to determine whether Sánchez
himself was trained by U.S. Special Forces.
The Bogotá daily
El Espectador reported on Feb. 27 that Sánchez's
2nd Mobile Brigade received U.S. Special Forces training in June
1997 while he was planning the Mapiripán massacre. The
newspaper said the goal of the attack was to turn over control
the guerrilla-held Mapiripán, in a region that produces
percent of the world's coca, to paramilitary forces, which have
ties to the Colombian army.
'Teach Guerillas a Lesson'
A report by Colombia's
Counternarcotics Police Intelligence Office,
cited by the newspaper, said Sánchez first engineered
a plan on
June 21 to introduce paramilitary forces into the region, using
spraying of coca crops as a cover, in order to "teach the
The El Espectador investigation
was based on a review of 4,500
pages of Colombian government documents on the Mapiripán
massacre by reporter Ignacio Gómez, who is also a member
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. It has
prompted inquiries on Capitol Hill, where Congress is debating
aid package that would train and equip Colombian army
counternarcotics battalions and provide money for more than 60
helicopters for army and police forces.
Human rights groups are
worried that the military aid might be used
against Colombian civilians. Robert E. White, former U.S.
ambassador to El Salvador and Paraguay and president of the
Center for International Policy, warned in a Feb. 8 commentary
The Washington Post that the aid package "puts us in league
Colombian military that has longstanding ties to the drug-dealing,
barbaric paramilitaries that commit more than 75 percent of the
human rights violations" in Colombia.
paramilitaries were joined by others, and the force
totaled about 100 men by the time it reached Mapiripán,
two-hour drive to the northeast. El Espectador, citing the
prosecutor's report, said two paramilitary soldiers also crossed
Guaviare River in stolen boats past a Colombian marine infantry
base checkpoint attached to the Barrancón facility. U.S.
Seabees built the marine base in 1994, and the U.S. Navy
continues to train Colombian forces there. The boats then met
with the rest of the paramilitary force across the river from
Mapiripán. At no time did Colombian civilian or military
challenge the paramilitary forces, the newspaper said, even
though such groups are illegal in Colombia.
At dawn on July 15, 1997,
the paramilitary forces surrounded
Mapiripán, and their siege of terror and torture lasted
until July 20,
when the International Committee of the Red Cross dispatched
plane to the village.
is a virtual ghost town.
Sought Deal With Narco Castaño
from The Irish Times
Published on Wednesday,
August 23, 2000
Clinton's 'Plan Colombia':
Disturbing Questions Concerning The Real US Agenda
Narco News Solidarity
Ana Carrigan is one of the only foreign journalists that courageously
reports authentic truth of what is happening in Colombia. We
always look forward to her reports.
by Ana Carrigan
Serious allegations have
emerged that agents of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have
offered to subsidise the "paramilitary" leader, Carlos
Castaño, in return for his support in combating the traffickers.
Speaking on national television
from his northern fiefdom, Castaño said he did not know
whether a request for his help reflected US policy or came from
agents acting on their own initiative. A DEA informant, who says
he acted as translator at meetings between DEA agents, traffickers
and members of Castaño's paramilitaries, claims it was
agreed that US officials should meet Castaño to conclude
"They [the DEA agents]
were supposed to bring US Army officials, even people from the
Department of State, and a series of politicians [to meet Castaño],"
he said. "They spoke of 10 or 12." The story may be
a fantasy, as the Clinton administration claims, but it would
not be the first time US intelligence agencies have had dealings
with Carlos Castaño. In 1993, while working for the Cali
Cartel, he collaborated with the CIA and the Colombian police
to bring down the fugitive drug baron, Pablo Escobar.
Paramilitaries have been
endemic to Colombia since President Betancur began peace talks
in 1983. When Betancur opened a door to the guerrillas, the army
sought allies for a dirty war to derail the talks. They turned
for help to the Medellin cartel.
Escobar and his partners
provided the money and the generals contracted crack Israeli
and British mercenaries to come to Colombia to run a death squad
school. Carlos Castaño was the school's star pupil.
He has never been out
of a job: hit man for Escobar; drug trafficker; death squad leader
contracted by the army to cover their tracks while they eliminated
the Unión Patriótica party in the late 1980s; founder
of a paramilitary group in the 1990s which he used to murder
his way to control a neo-feudal empire stretching across half
of northern Colombia. Castaño's criminal career neatly
encapsulates Colombia's institutional collapse.
Today Castaño is
in a process of metamorphosis, from psychopathic gangster to
political icon. In the last two years he has unified the disparate,
autonomous, regional paramilitaries into a national force of
some 10,000 men in uniform. Under his leadership, this army provides
the muscle for a shadowy, fascist political movement, whose civilian
leadership is invisible though its goals are not: first, to close
down the peace talks between the government and FARC; then, to
provide a launching pad for a military-civilian "national
Castaño now controls
territory and population in the Middle Magdalena valley, right
up to the strategic oil refinery river port of Barrancabermeja.
Since April, he has mobilised "popular protests" against
the establishment of a neutral zone where talks with ELN leaders
could begin. The talks have been blocked for months. Last month,
when the Swiss government invited the Colombian government to
come to Geneva with the ELN leaders and a civic society delegation
to start peace talks in neutral territory, some of Castaño'
s friends came too.
His paramilitaries almost
wrecked the conference through a savage onslaught on ELN villages
timed to coincide with the talks. After the conference, two men
cornered the sound engineer in a hotel elevator and made off
with the only official recordings of the two-day peace meetings.
Castaño's CIA contacts are back in business. Such fears
may be paranoid or they may not. But one thing is clear: in the
midst of chaos, Castaño is the only political actor who
is consistently gaining gound. He now has a large, rapidly growing
following in among the middle class in Colombia. Castano personifies
what happens to societies in failed states.
Uses Drug War to Steal Peasant Lands
From the Geopolitical
Also see the full original
report by the late Observatory:
Control by the Paramilitary Groups
While all eyes are on
the regions held by the FARC, extreme-right paramilitary groups
are extending their influence throughout the country with the
complicity of the administration, the financial support of drug
traffickers and logistical support from some military officers
- a situation that is regularly condemned by human rights organizations.
What is called "paramilitarism"
in Colombia is organized in a very structured way around two
families, one headed by the Castaño family and the other
by the two Carranza brothers. The Castaños - including
Carlos who is today the leader of the Self-Defense of Urabá
and Córdoba (ACCU) group - were ad hoc allies of the Cali
cartel within the Persecuted by Pablo Escobar Group (PEPES),
which was really responsible for Escobar's defeat and death.
They control that part
of the Urabá region that stretches through the Choco and
Antioquia departments from the Panamanian border to their shores
on the Caribbean and the Pacific.
It also includes the departments
of Córdoba, Sucre and part of César. Now, with
the support of Medellín traffickers who escaped their
conflict with Pablo Escobar, the Castaños are running
that city's biggest criminal gangs and the kidnapping racket.
They are also taking advantage of the eclipse of the Cali cartel,
whose leaders are now in jail, to expand their influence into
the north of the department, of which Cali is the capital. The
emerald-mining Carranza family controls Meta, Vichada, Boyacá,
the Magdalena Medio area in Santander department, and the southern
parts of Bolívar and Sucre. The two groups have only one
shared objective: fighting the FARC. The Carranzas, relying on
what looks very much like a private army, are intent mainly on
protecting their mining and farming empire, keeping up a façade
of legality that enables them to monopolize the emerald trade.
Nevertheless, the conjunction of these two forces forms a belt
of political and administrative control that reaches from the
Amazonia region (on the frontiers with Venezuela and Brazil)
to the Atlantic coast. It is a traditional drug- and arms-smuggling
area through which runs a projected inter-ocean canal allegedly
to replace the Panama canal. Moreover, this strategic belt has
enabled the Castaño and Carranza groups to seize between
3 to 3.5 million ha of land, specialists say, by means of assassinations
and massacres. This represents about a third of the country's
best agricultural land and their strong-arm methods have been
described as "counter-land reform".
For the Castaño
brothers, this expansion of influence goes beyond economic and
military control to embrace an extreme-right anti-insurrectional
political goal. They have the support of political circles in
Colombia but until now they have apparently been ignored by the
American authorities. It seems to be the case that in the ZEOPs
the main U.S. aim is the fight against drugs, whereas in Urubá
its economic interests make fighting the guerrillas the top priority.
Urubá is an oil-producing area where American and British
companies are active and it also has large gas reserves. It is
noteworthy that for several years the expansion of the paramilitary
groups, which have close ties with the drug trade, has very closely
paralleled that of the oil drilling and production areas, in
Urabá as in the rest of Colombia.
For example, British Petroleum
(BP) was accused in October 1996 of bankrolling "death squads"
with the support of the military. The oil company allegedly paid
$1.5 per barrel in exchange for military protection for its premises.
According to Ian Stewart, BP's spokesperson, the Colombian military
thus received $5.4 million in "war taxes" during the
last three years.
The Alliance of a New
Cartel with the Paramilitary Groups
In 1994 the Cali cartel
put its weight behind the Liberal Party's presidential candidate,
Ernesto Samper, providing financial backing for his campaign.
The arrangement meant a tacit alliance between the criminal organization
and the faction Samper is leading within the Liberal Party, implying
in particular that, following "arranged" arrests, the
cartel's leaders would enjoy the benefit of the significantly
reduced sentences awarded to those who collaborate with the authorities.
But two years later, whatever the content of those agreements
may have been, they no longer have much practical use for either
side because a powerful new coalition now has effective control
of half the country: the alliance between the cartel from the
north of the Valle department (whose capital is Cali) and the
paramilitary group led by Carlos Castaño. The new Colombian
godfather of godfathers, Orlando Henao, a former police officer,
assisted by his brother Arcángel, heads a formidable army
of killers and declared a merciless war on the Rodríguez
Orejuela brothers when they gave themselves up. Even though Miguel
and Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela's collaboration with the
courts has been minimal, Orlando Henao has unleashed reprisals
to punish them for what he sees as a betrayal. William, Miguel
Rodríguez Orejuela's elder son, was seriously wounded
in April 1996 in an attack that cost six of his friends and bodyguards
their lives. Alarmed by this burst of hostility, Miguel Rodríguez
sent an open letter from his prison cell to President Samper
demanding protection for members of his family. Meanwhile the
Cali cartel, or what is left of it, has its back to the wall,
and the north Valle cartel is taking over its routes and markets.
This takeover has been
made much easier by the ties forged between Hernao and the extreme-right
drug and paramilitary group ACCU led by Carlos Castaño.
Thanks to this alliance, the group's military influence, which
already extended all over north-western Colombia has spread right
along the Pacific coast, from Panama to the border with Ecuador.
As a result the cocaine and marijuana export routes leaving the
Pacific (the maritime route), the Caribbean (with a strong trend
toward air and sea transit through Cuba) and Ecuador (the air
and sea route) for the United States and Europe are meeting ever
fewer obstacles. The paramilitary and drug traffickers receive
weapons via the same routes (with a marked increase in this type
of contraband from Ecuador), in the opposite direction.
Televised Admission that He Is a Narco
Translation from Television
Interview with Castaño by Claudia Gurasatti of RCN TV
in Colombia conducted last Spring
Note: This and other texts
below are excerpted and translated from the version that appears
on Castaño's own Spanish-language web site. There are
numerous elipses in that version and we suspect that it may itself
Interviewer: Señor Carlos Castaño,
in our 7 p.m. broadcast we featured an interview with Baruk Vega,
who at this moment is free on bail in the United States, investigated
for making deals between Colombian drug traffickers and North
American authorities. He publicly admitted that your delegates
of the Autodefensas (paramilitaries) have had conversations with
US DEA agents. Why are the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC)
interested in getting close to US authorities?
Castaño: This kind of situation creates
confusion. First I must make clear to the country that I have
not supplied you with this information and I suppose that it
comes from Baruk Vega's declarations, a supposed link between
DEA agents and some drug traffickers that some important newspapers
in this country have published. First, I have never had contact
with members of the US Department of State or any other US agency,
whether the CIA, FBI, DEA or any other. I have never spoken with
Simply, on one ocassion
a rancher arrived with information in which he told me that he
had a drug trafficker friend that was talking with some DEA agents
that sent a message through him saying there had been a possibility
to stop drug trafficking in Colombia. I listened attentively
and saw that I could play an important role in this situation.
Interviewer: We are speaking of Nicolás
Castaño: We are speaking of Nicolás
Interviewer: Is he very close to you and the
Castaño: He is a rancher who has plantations
in Autodefensa regions and for that he has to contribute economically
to the Autodefensas to enjoy the security that we provide. This
man, it seems he had some connections with drug trafficking in
the past, wanted to fix his problem. He spoke with the men of
the DEA. I recieved the call that they made to me and it is that
the United States has opened the door for Colombian narcos to
submit themselves to North American justice and that, in any
case, they needed an important force in Colombia to help in this
so that these people would go their way.
I have been an enemy of
drug trafficking. I always have said that drug trafficking is
what sustains the political conflict in Colombia. What I have
been involved in, and I said, caramba!, if there is the
possibility to end drug trafficking without a bomb, without assassinating
a Colombian, and the drug traffickers opt to submit themselves
to North American justice, whether there is impunity or not,
this is a question of US Justice. Drug trafficking essentially
damages North Americans because that is where the drugs go.
It was then I gave a kind
of ultimatum to the drug traffickers and told them, men, you
are contributing to the guerrilla. Sooner or later the Autodefensas
will get to you. In this order I gave, that caused some drug
traffickers, through someone I don't know, as I don't know any
of them, are alleged, simply...
Interviewer (interrupting): But what is your role in the mediation
of this delivery by drug traffickers to US authorities?
Castaño: My role was not as mediator. My
role was to make the drug traffickers understand that sooner
or later, US support against subversion and the anti-subversive
fight of the Autodefensas inevitably will get them. That puts
us in a very complex situation. I have understood that the drug
traffickers would go there, but they would go only if they receive
less than five years in prison. I say this from the reports of
Mr. Baruk Vega who was the supposed intermediary. I don't have
any proof that this is the policy of the DEA as an institution,
nor of the US government as a State, or whether, to the contrary,
they were some isolated DEA agents. This shouldn't create confusion
for the Colombian people because it is more speculative than
Interviewer: Even if they had more than 10
meetings in Central America and Caribbean islands with DEA agents
like Larry Castillo, David Tinsley, Billy Gómez and Arthur
Castaño: Well, I know what the Colombian
newspapers and media have published... that there had been meetings
between drug traffickers and DEA agents... It's public knowledge
that there are some in the US who are disposed to do it. Now,
my call is, if there is sensibility on the part of the US and
Colombian governments and if the narcos want to go in a parade
to the United States to turn themselves in, they will be received
there. The problem of the narcos and the US government is what
to do with them.
Why, then, would they
abort a project that is so noble? I think that it's not about
there being impunity nor that someone is tossing a life raft
to the drug traffickers. No. I am friendly to the idea that if
the violence can be stopped and that it doesn't lead to impunity
this method is welcome.
Interviewer: Baruk Vega spoke of a memorandum
that US authorities knew about in which you asked them for military
aid and advisors for the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia. In
exchange you would collaborate with this, with the delivery of
these drug traffickers to North American justice...
Castaño: First, I am not delivering the
drug traffickers. My war is against the subversives. To the extent
that the drug traffickers continue supporting the guerrilla the
confrontation will have to be brought to them. I think that they
must opt for this process of submitting themselves.
With respect to the memo,
I don't know about it. It would be wrong for me to ask for support
of the US government when Robert Helmart, when doctor Madeleine
Albright, are always saying that the Autodefensas are financed
with drug trafficking. It can not be denied that the Colombian
conflict is economic, that it has stopped being political, that
it is sustained with an illicit economy. End the illicit economy
of drug trafficking and the political conflict ends. Thus, I
repeat: I think that, to the contrary, the attitude of some North
Americans is as hostile toward me as it is toward the guerrilla.
Interviewer: Fighting against drug trafficking
also could be a double-edged sword for you because in the end
you have been very clear and have also recognized that the fight
of the Autodefensas, your growth, has been sustained with illicit
money. In part, it's not convenient to you that drug trafficking
Castaño: It's important to the entire country
that drug trafficking is stopped, for all Colombians. I believe
that it is very important to advance the fight against drug trafficking,
to advance against all forms of financing for this conflict,
thus, I repeat, to stop drug trafficking is to end the conflict.
It's not that it's convenient to me. What's good for me is what's
good for the country. I am really a defender in the Autodefensas
because we have a country in conflict. Without drug trafficking,
we would return to social normality in this country.
Interviewer: Are you in the position to tell
the country how much money comes to you for the entire chain
of drug trafficking to the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia?
Castaño: It's very difficult to measure,
but I will give you statistics that in La Gabarra and in San
Lucas there are 600 million in taxes collected from the coca
growers and those two fronts collect the financing there. They
have to finance the entire North Bloc of the AUC. This doesn't
make me a drug trafficker, not in any way, I am a good and interesting
example for the country....
Interviewer: Plan Colombia has begun. It's
going to bring money for military aid to eradicate the crops.
How do you receive it?
Castaño: With Satisfaction.
War Criminal, Praises Clinton and the US
Q. What's your opinion of the visit of Bill Clinton?
Are you afraid of the decided support of the United States in
the anti-drug fight, knowing that you admit to be financed by
taxes upon drug traffickers? Is there anything good for the country
about the Clinton visit?
Castaño: Good international relations are
of enormous importance for the current development of nations
and that a leader of a powerful and democratic nation visits
us is, without a doubt, praiseworthy, especially being Bill Clinton
who in his years of governing has been a defender of democratic
Still a Narco
From a September 2000
Nobody doubts that the
illegal economy is the most common lubricant material in irregular
wars. We have never denied that our Fronts are financed from
the dominant economy in each region, and, as a consequence, in
coca-growing zones that have clamored for our presence and forces,
those who sustain the Autodefensa groups economically are the
inhabitants of those regions, some of them connected with the
chain of production of illegal drugs.
"Objectivity" Plus Egos Created this Monster
From "A journalist's
mission in Colombia: Reporting atrocities is not enough"
Note by CNN: Maria Cristina Caballero is an
investigative editor for the Colombian weekly newspaper, Semana.
Currently on leave, she is Mason fellow at Harvard's John F.
Kennedy School of Government and is writing a book about the
civil war in Colombia. In 1999, she was honored by the Committee
to Protect Journalists with an International Press Freedom Award.
A slightly different version of this article appeared in the
May/June 2000 issue of the Columbia (University) Journalism Review...
By Maria Cristina Caballero
Special to CNN.com
...The so-called "paramilitary"
forces -- private armies that oppose the guerrillas, mostly by
terrorizing villages that allegedly aid them -- have between
5,000 and 7,000 troops. The paramilitaries also are financed
by "taxes" on and protection of drug growers.
Narco-terrorism, of course,
has been a problem for two decades in Colombia. And when terror
has not been enough, there is always cash -- government officials
at all levels have been implicated in bribery scandals.
In such a troubled country,
the role of the journalist has always been open to debate. Do
we simply report the atrocities, or try to find ways to stop
them? Just reporting what goes on in my country is perilous enough
-- 50 journalists have been killed trying to do their jobs in
the past decade, five in 1999.
Yet, as bad as things
are for Colombians in general and journalists in particular,
there are some signs of change. Representatives of the FARC recently
went to Europe to talk with officials and private entrepreneurs
about alternative economic models. The FARC's political leader,
known as "Tirofijo," or "sure shot," met
with Colombian business leaders. The leader of the paramilitaries,
Carlos Castaño, recently showed his face, for the first
time ever, during a television interview. Millions of Colombians
have demonstrated in the streets, asking for peace.
What lies behind this
new openness? Perhaps a good part of it is the result of stories
by journalists who have been trying to report on ways to solve
our country's problems. At the leading daily newspaper, El Tiempo,
a special reporting group, the Peace Unit, was created a year
ago. Media for Peace, a new network of journalists, has influenced
reporters to write more balanced accounts.
Of course, trying to actively
point to solutions to problems is a dangerous role for journalists
-- in March my colleague (and former boss) Francisco Santos,
editor in chief of El Tiempo, had to flee Bogotá for Miami.
Many others have been forced to flee -- I was one of 13 journalists
who left last year after receiving death threats.
A journalist's responsibility
Still, despite all the
risks, I strongly believe that journalists have a duty not only
to expose injustices but also to try to improve the situation
of their countries. "The Social Responsibility of the Journalist"
was the title of my thesis when I graduated from Javeriana University
in Bogotá in 1984; carrying out that mission has been
my goal ever since.
As a journalist, I must
try to find out, from all the factions, what their perspectives
are, no matter how dangerous that is for me personally. So I
have interviewed not only the leader of the paramilitary forces,
but also the military leader of the FARC.
My first interview with
Castaño, in 1997, is seared in my mind because that meeting
led to an unprecedented report, "Peace on the Table,"
that shows there is hope to find a way out of the daily horror.
By coincidence, on the
very same day I went back to my job as editor of investigations
at the weekly magazine Cambio 16 -- having just finished a Nieman
fellowship at Harvard, where I had organized a big conference
on violence in Colombia -- we received the first reports of a
terrible massacre in a town called Mapiripán.
over the course of five days had terrorized the inhabitants,
cutting some of them into pieces. "I will go," I said.
Some of my colleagues tried to dissuade me, saying it was too
dangerous. Getting from Bogotá, where I lived, to Mapiripán
would be a difficult journey, and who knew what I would find
there? But I decided to go.
What I found there sickened
me -- decapitated bodies left to rot in the cemetery, and blood
still visible in the dusty streets. Many of the men had been
tortured until they died. The bodies that weren't dumped at the
cemetery were thrown in the river.
Mapiripán was a
ghost town, with the inhabitants initially afraid to talk with
anyone. Some days later, though, I had enough interviews to file
But I was left with a
nagging question: Why? Why were Colombians doing this to one
another? As I was leaving Mapiripán, a very old man without
shoes ran to me and said, "Wait!"
"All of my sons are
dead," he told me. "Three of them joined the guerrillas
and two joined the paramilitaries .... Perhaps they killed each
other." With tears in his eyes, he said, "Please help
us .... Guerrillas and paramilitaries are killing all our children
.... All our future."
All I could say was, "I
Narco News Publisher's
Note: We sympathize
and agree with most of what Maria Cristina Caballero writes above;
the importance that journalists go beyond merely recording the
horrors of our daily world and that we seek to help solve them.
But in the next passage
of Cabellero's report, we see two journalistic vices colliding
to make for an unintended atrocity: the myth of "objectivity"
in journalism held by Caballero and too many others now crashes
into the reality of protagonism by journalists who lack analysis
and moral compass.
A journalist who tries
to bring fascists to a peace table is naive and has failed to
undertake any serious analysis of what is fascism. A journalist
who to tries to be "objective" or "fair"
with war criminals becomes their publicist, manipulated by them.
And a journalist who convinces herself that the dishonest words
of a fascist war criminal and narco-trafficker like Castaño,
as told to her, have somehow moved the peace process forward
has created more violence and misery that existed before her
1997 interview with Castaño.
It has also provided the
opportunity for Castaño to give himself a public relations
makeover that defies logic: High level narco and drug warrior!
Assassin in favor of rule of law! Murderer of unarmed civilians
who praises Clinton as a "democratic" leader! Patriot
who welcomes foreign intervention on his land? Castaño
is a sick and confused thug who has already proven himself dishonest
and unworthy of any benefit of the doubt for anything he says.
We acknowledge that we
go against the grain with this judgement; Caballero is the toast
of the "official" international journalism club. But
in our analysis, it was precisely Caballero who opened the floodgates
to so much truly rotten coverage of Castaño by Larry Rohter
of the New York Times and others, for which those journalists
will be judged very harshly by history. And yet in the short
term, some are awarded for it. Such is the state of what passes
as modern journalism.
We do see Caballero as
more sincere than Rohter (who doesn't know how to write a story
without checking in with Senator Jesse Helms' staff to receive
the party line -- more on that NYT-Helms axis in a future report)
and hope that she, at least, will do some serious soul searching
on these two ethical dilemmas: the intellectual dishonesty of
"objectivity" and the danger of journalistic protagonism,
especially when it looses any compass of what is evil in this
Read the following excerpt
from Caballero's article and watch how objectivity and protagonism
by a journalist created a Frankenstein monster named Castaño:
That promise to the old
man led me to pursue the interview with Castaño, the notorious
paramilitary leader. Castaño has been indicted several
times on charges he masterminded assassinations of politicians
and human rights workers and ordered the massacres of villages
by his troops.
Over six months I cultivated
contacts. In December 1997 I was finally able to meet with Castaño
himself. At the time Colombia's government had prohibited any
contact with Castaño and was offering the equivalent of
U.S.$1 million as a reward for his capture.
I flew to the northern part of the country and then rode in three
different cars, apparently without any fixed route, until the
driver received a radio signal authorizing our approach. We followed
very precarious roads and passed over improvised "bridges"
built with only two tree trunks.
Hours later, while surrounded
by mountains and streams and gripped by the overpowering mid-day
heat, we observed a short, athletic man dressed in a camouflage
uniform leading, with a quick step and an inscrutable glance,
the 300-odd armed-to-the-teeth soldiers of his personal guard.
"Welcome. I am Carlos
Castaño," he said with an energetic voice, shaking
my hand firmly and smiling mysteriously.
Our interview lasted almost
five hours, with no breaks. During the interview Castaño
denied being a monster and rejected allegations that he had committed
massacres. "I have performed selective murders, which is
very different," he insisted.
Castaño also told
me that he had been fighting since the age of 16, when he swore
vengeance against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
-- the FARC -- who had kidnapped and killed his father. To my
surprise, he said that he was tired of the violence and ready
to sit at the negotiation table.
I asked Castaño
if he did not see himself in the faces of the orphans of his
victims, if he did not think that those children were swearing
to themselves that they would exact revenge against the paramilitary
leader for having killed their parents. Stammering a little,
Castaño confessed that this had been precisely the topic
of a disagreement with his brother Fidel, the first known leader
of the paramilitary forces.
Castaño said that
he had just annihilated the brother of one of the commanders
of the FARC when, upon entering the house, they found five children
aged 3, 4, 5, 15 and 17. Fidel told his brother that they would
have to kill the 15- and 17-year-olds because they were in a
position to start doing just what Fidel and Carlos had done.
Nevertheless, Carlos Castaño
realized that the same thing could be said of the 5-, 4- and
3-year-olds. "I just couldn't do it," Castaño
said. "Of course I saw myself in their faces. There is a
great internal contradiction."
This was the first time
that Castaño talked so openly about himself and his own
conflicts. Castaño also said that he had realized that
if this vicious cycle of war continues, in 20 years his own children
would be killing off the children of the current FARC commanders.
He repeated that this was why he wanted to start peace talks
as soon as possible. "This war cannot go any longer."
After that interview,
which made national and international headlines, I asked Castaño
to prepare a document explaining what he wanted to achieve with
his movement and proposing the key reforms the country needed
for peace. To my surprise, he agreed.
He even told me later
that he would like to present that document personally at a meeting
of representatives of the forces in conflict, a meeting I was
in theory hoping to organize in a neutral country with the support
of some academic and international organizations.
When Castaño told
me that he was willing to present a structured peace proposal,
I immediately contacted the International Red Cross. We also
contacted the National Commission of Conciliation, a group of
key representatives from different institutions looking for ways
to achieve peace. We agreed to at least try to ask all of the
forces in conflict for a similar document. All of them said yes.
This 60-page report, distributed
in May 1998 with an edition of Cambio 16, was titled "Peace
on the Table." For the same edition I wrote a cover story
titled: "So, Why Are They Fighting?"
Their proposals, their
dreams for the country were astonishingly similar. In their separate
wish lists, all of the players -- the assorted leftist groups,
the right-wing paramilitaries, the government -- spoke of land
reform, of opening the political landscape for new movements,
of investing more in education and health, and of Colombians
gaining greater benefits from the country's natural resources.
Even the right-wing paramilitaries questioned the value of an
unfettered free market. The similarities of the agendas raised
an obvious question: Why, if they agree on so much, are they
putting a bloody and fiery end to each other?
The document is still
on the table. The Colombian peace process is complex and turning
out to be a long one, affected by many interests and factors
such as a presidential election, and now by U.S. plans to dramatically
increase military aid, which would potentially also generate
risks for Colombia.
But what I have learned
personally is that journalism in countries like mine can go far
beyond reporting and writing. It is about more than getting scoops.
It is about trying to help create an environment in which peace
Big Lie Repeated Again and Again and Again
Dark Side of the Nuevo Herald Series on Castaño
Even as the Herald prints
the evidence that Castaño is a narco-trafficker and war
criminal, they repeat his own megalomaniacal version of his life
story as fact.
We suppose that, again,
this is owed to the factors of false "objectivity"
(the idea that "fairness" means one must say good and
bad about everything, including about evil) and protagonism (in
this case, the more banal version in which Gerardo Reyes of El
Nuevo Herald wishes to hang on to Castaño as a source).
In the September 24, 2000
Part I story in Sunday's El Nuevo Herald, Gerardo Reyes repeats
the glorified version of paramilitary boss Carlos Castaño's
perpetuated myth: that his terrorism is vengeance for the death
of his father, and his financial gain is unrelated.
Much of this first story
seeks to justify Castaño's "planting of terror in towns where they suspect
that subversives live."
"This just represents
my tragedy but it proves my dignity and commitment to Colombia," Castaño writes El Nuevo
Herald via e-mail from his heavily armed mansion.
The boss of the Autodefensas
Unidas Campesinas (AUC), or United Farmer Self-Defenders, with
its "more than
30 airplanes including 11 Cessnas, four cargo planes and surveillance
says Reyes of El Nuevo Herald, "left school when (the guerrillas) killed
His peaceful life of farmers had ended."
More quotes from that
"According to sources,
the Castaño method consists in eliminating the guerrilla
from the map and once the zone is 'pacified,' selling the plantations
to drug traffickers at prices ten times higher than those they
paid for them."
who acknowledges that his family has some 1,500 hectares of land
in the region, categorically denied this version."
Narco News Fact-Check: Castaño has admitted to
controlling 3.5 million hectares.
"Carlos has two children,
a girl of 14 and a boy, 9, who study in England and visit during
vacations, he said. His routine begins at 4 a.m. when he connects
to the internet with a satellite phone to read the most important
newspapers and dozens of email messages."
Send the War Criminal
an e-mail: email@example.com Don't
know Spanish? Key words: Narco, Cobarde, Asesino, Criminal de
"Later he listens
to radio news for an hour, after which he puts himself in front
of the microphone of a clandestine radio station to speak to
all the fronts of his organization
At 11 a.m. he begins
a marathon of meetings with subordinates and sympathizers and,
at 7:30 p.m. he goes to bed, but first after "having spoken
"He is a compulsive
reader and listens for hours to well-prepared advisors that teach
him the subjects he didn't learn in school. He likes the books
of Orianna Fallaci and the poetry of Mario Benedetti."
Narco News Commentary: We have read and studied Orianna
Falacci; the greatest authentic journalist of the 20th century,
who never feigned "objectivity" and always analyzed
her stories in the context of what she called "the struggle
between power and anti-power." She has never left any doubt
as to which side she is on. We wished her a happy 70th birthday
So here is Castaño,
seeking Power, and crushing the forces of anti-power, as re-invented
by techniques of Madison Avenue and political consulting: He
speaks to God every night (but apparently does little listening).
He reads poetry (but kills innocent children). The perfect sicko
personality for the media to glorify.
We can't tell who is more
cynical and dangerous to society: Castaño the narco-war
criminal? Or the official journalists who repeat this garbage
and treat him with kid gloves, in hopes of getting another interview?
It is they, and not Castaño by himself, who make it possible
for governments to lend covert support to this war criminal.
As we said when we opened
the envelope and declared Carlos Castaño Narco-of-the-Month,
Castaño is a coward. He seeks out only those journalists
whom he knows will play the game according to his rules.
But Castaño has
now gone too far in his manipulation of the media. His recent
denial of being a narco-trafficker when so many times in the
past he has admitted it has revealed his own single biggest fear:
that US public opinion will turn on him so as to force the US
politicians to offer his head in order to protect theirs.
This is only our first
report on this Narco and War Criminal named Carlos Castaño.
We welcome more links and files for this dossier from our readers.
And we call on Authentic Journalists throughout América
to begin, today, to hold Castaño responsible for his crimes,
and to call a narco a narco.
The Big Lie Stops