Colombia’s Unburied Corpses

Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES — TV series and soap operas are the two audiovisual products most widely consumed by Latin American audiences. A favorite topic for both is the issue of drug trafficking, as programs such as El cartel de los Sapos (“The Sapos Cartel”), La ruta blanca (“The White Path”), El Capo (“Crime Boss”), La Reina del Sur (“Queen of the South”) and others attest to.

These, we should bear in mind, are merely works of fiction that dramatize the issue of drug smuggling, from Colombia to the United States.

In 2012, thousands of people here followed every new chapter of the Colombian TV series Pablo Escobar: el patron del mal (“Pablo Escobar: Evil Mastermind”) aired by Canal Caracol and seen in Cuba thanks to Internet pirating. The series dramatized the biography of Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, the proverbial drug lord, resurrected once again for the lead in a mini-series.

Though some names were changed, the series was quite accurate in the chronology of events and in the identity of the victims, particularly the most renowned public or political figures in Colombia at the time.

Stock footage and outstanding performances by the cast breathed new life into the Colombian anti-hero. It would seem, however, that Escobar is not the only one who has come back from the grave. Another notorious character, Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, has been taking TV screens by storm since the last months of 2013.

The series Alias: El Mexicano (“Alias: The Mexican”), co-produced by RCN Television and FOX Telecolombia, is based on the life of another infamous mafioso from that somber period in Colombia’s history.

Glossing over this criminal’s life entails a look at hair-raising episodes in Colombia’s history during the 1960s, when thuggery became a livelihood for many in the country.

Back in the days when the Bank of Colombia supposedly controlled the prospecting for emeralds in Boyaca, thousands of treasure hunters fought and killed each other over the precious stones.

This fearful crime-boss, whose innumerable crimes turned him into one of Colombia’s most wanted, cut his teeth as a henchman for one such band of treasure hunters, in the war for control over the green gold. In the 90s, he was killed by the army.

It is probably no accident that Venezuela’s TV channel Telesur is currently airing a documentary series titled Las victimas de Pablo Escobar (“The Victims of Pablo Escobar”), a program that includes interviews, photographs and stock footage related to Escobar. Its aim is to again show us how monstrous drug trafficking can be and the corruption, lawless violence, acts of terror and suffering it can lead to.

Such efforts, however, aren’t enough. We know too well that Escobar, The Mexican and quite a few others have regrettably become icons for many. Today, many young Latin Americans look on these crime bosses as idols.

Combatting drug trafficking has become a priority for some governments in the continent. Other governments, in contrast, reap the “benefits” this ill offers them and play along, because of the immense amounts in bribes they secure.

The truth of the matter is that revisiting the lives of these criminals can have nefarious consequences, because we can’t be certain whether the examples they set will inspire good or evil. It will always depend on the moral backbone of the viewer (and their social status as well, of course).

Colombia should be wary of its unburied corpses.

Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.


28 thoughts on “Colombia’s Unburied Corpses

  • January 19, 2014 at 5:03 pm
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    IC,
    If you are a liberal you certainly support both capitalism and the foreign policy objectives of the United States both of which are anathema to anyone who is a socialist, communist or anarchist .
    If you are a liberal in the United States you are on the center-right of the political spectrum which runs from communism, socialism and anarchism on the left to the far right such as Cheney, Limbaugh et al.
    Of course it is normal for the corporate media which is owned by the very wealthy to term anyone to the left of Limbaugh as left and to totally omit mention of the left as represented by Noam Chomsky and others who are socialists, communists or anarchists and who are banned from the corporate media. ,
    You are absolutely correct in saying that we , on the left , have no effect on today’s political scene but we will have the last laugh as capitalism will see its end within 15 years and we , on the left, don’t have to lift a finger to have it happen of its own doing.
    I am far from frustrated as I plan on being around to see it happen and , in fact, I AM seeing it happening in ways that will blindside you . I have never been so pleased with the way things are going in my 45 years of activism .
    You can Google up “when machines replace humans ” , the “technological future of labor ” and things like that and get a good look at the future and it does not, cannot possibly include capitalism .
    The super-human AI and very advanced robotics that will be developed in ten years time guarantee an end to most human labor and you cannot have capitalism without paychecks for humans to spend.
    Yeah, yeah, YOU think its not possible , that it’s science fiction but do look into it deeply enough, spend four or five days researching the advance of the machines and you’ll see what is coming and much sooner than you think.
    It also means the end of U.S. imperialism.

  • January 18, 2014 at 4:43 pm
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    Not sure what “Left” you belong to but it has very little to do wih my liberal beliefs. And I consider myself quite liberal in many respects. I even…shock of shocks…wish and have actively promoted dropping the embargo.

    But you? Thank goodness you and your ilk are as fringe as you can get and will never able to effect any change in this country. Must be terribly frustrating for you.

  • January 17, 2014 at 9:06 pm
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    There are no reliable sources as regards Fidel dealing drugs that come from the U.S corporate media which includes PBS ( Public Bull Shit as we on the left call it.)
    Miami based sources have an obvious axe to grind and a particular audience to which they can sell anything that badmouths Cuba.
    Scholarly ?
    Please.
    These accusations never came to anything did they?
    The court decided that they had insufficient evidence to proceed.

  • January 15, 2014 at 9:31 am
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    If you can find a lie as said by Fidel Castro is any of the books or speeches by him, feel free to post them.
    Absent such proof, you’re blowing smoke .
    The Cubans , as a sovereign people , have a right to any arms they deem necessary and especially in the face of past and present U.S foreign policy history.
    In the case of Cuba dealing with the madman regime in North Korea, the enemy of my enemy is my friend is the operative thinking .

  • January 15, 2014 at 7:34 am
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    I don’t care about what the public opinion, I’m not a public figure so I don;t have to pander to others for a living. Besides, in this particular case, the divide between Havana and Miami is so deep that you can’t rationally trust even the news sources, almost everything is plain propaganda sprouting from people with specific interests in keep the status quo, so the information should not be trusted and any kind of public consensus formed is based on misinformation.

    And I don’t care about video confessions, numbers can’t hide the truth. Information about routes, timelines, bank accounts and so on is what matters.

  • January 14, 2014 at 10:51 am
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    Slick argument, but that is not what happened. The truth is that the Castros ever present error in dealing with the US was in assuming that all Cubans were as ideologically committed as they were. In fact, given the scores of high level defections, this was and is not the case. There REALLY are scores of former low-level soldiers and sailors who saw all sorts of suspicious activities. The Castros were careful to limit to only a few people those who can attest to their personal involvement but there are lots of exiled Cubans who shut off radar monitors, loaded drugs off planes and onto boats, or provided room service in luxury hotels to high-roller Colombian drug runners. That drugs passed through Cuba is undeniable. That Fidel himself oversaw the operation will likely forever remain hard to prove in a court of law. However the court of public opinion will not be so discerning. You may choose to wait for a full videotaped confession before you believe that Fidel sold out for drug money and the hope to do harm to American society. I don’t need to go that far. Any one who would order a nuclear strike against the US, fully aware that the US would respond in kind killing millions of Cubans would have no problem authorizing drug trafficking. You may change your mind as well.

  • January 13, 2014 at 11:01 pm
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    That almost never happens IRL. The ringleaders can’t simply assign random soldiers to do the grunt work; they must be before anything else trusted people, otherwise the whole thing blows out the water.

    In short, although that scenario is not completely impossible, there would not be such thing as low-level grunts and whoever is in charge of the operation would guarantee plausible deniability from the Cuban leaders, otherwise the risk overshadows any potential benefit,

    Besides, in the article I linked is clear that the drug bust came to the light as a side effect of the background check for the potential promotion of Ochoa as head of the western army:

    Quote from the article:

    “Five years later, Ochoa was chosen by Defense Minister Raul Castro to become the head of Cuba’s Western Army. Since this branch of the military protects Cuba’s capital city, Havana, and its top leaders and installations, the position would have made him the third most powerful military figure on the island, after Commander in Chief Fidel Castro and General Raul Castro. What was expected to be a routine background check prior to the announcement of his appointment began to unravel, however, when some close associates accused the revolutionary hero of corruption which included, but was not limited to, the sale of diamonds and ivory from Angola and the misappropriation of weapons in Nicaragua. As the investigation continued, links were found to other military and Ministry of the Interior officials who were engaged in even more serious crimes: taking pay-offs from South American drug-traffickers in exchange for letting them use Cuban territorial waters for drug drops and pick-ups. General Raul Castro, who was very close to Ochoa personally, later said he pleaded with Ochoa on a number of occasions to come clean, reveal everything, so they could move forward. When Ochoa refused to cooperate, on June 12, the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces announced his arrest and investigation for serious acts of corruption, dishonest use of economic resources, and abetting drug trafficking.”

    So is pretty clear that the whole thing was the result of an internal investigation and if the Cuban leaders were involved in any way, they would never have considered the potential promotion that triggered the inquiry in the first place, much less official prosecution and public trial.

    As for the rest of the argument, there are thousands of people in the US alone that report UFO abductions, with some of them describing similar experiences and I don’t see you arguing that their testimony has any validity whatsoever.

    As I mentioned before, eyewitness testimony is barely useful to corroborate known facts; ignoring malicious intent from the witnesses, you still have the problem of interpretation of perceptions, incorrect inference of facts and last but not least that human memory is inherently unreliable and every time you recall something you modify your memory.

    Not to mention that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, the more extraordinary the claim, the greater amount of evidence required to convince people of the veracity of the claim. And when an accusation is this serious, you need hard evidence to back that position and AFAIK, such evidence does not exist.

    So if you are impartial and base your conclusions on the existing evidence, you don’t have other choice than assume them innocent for the time been. Feel free to revise your position if new evidence surfaces.

  • January 13, 2014 at 12:38 pm
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    Okay, in a courtroom you are probably right. But in the real world AC, there are simply too many people with no particular ax to grind who support these allegations. Think about all the soldiers who helped load and unload the drugs. How about the Cuban sailors on board Cuban vessels who escorted these “fastboats” to and from Cuban ports to the open sea? After years of sacrificing for the revolution, imagine how many of these low-level participants have gotten a visa to migrate to Miami to live with family. Over a few drinks in some Little Havana bar, how hard would it be to get this Cuban to tell his or her story about what they saw and did? Miami is full of Cubans who saw this stuff take place before their eyes. I agree that it is still anecdotal and individually unreliable. But if 20 people say the same thing? Or 50, or even 100, does credibility seep in a little for you? It’s too bad that there were no hidden iPhones in those days to record digital video of cocaine shipments transiting through Cuban ports. As a result, Castro will likely never have to answer for this crime before any international court. But thousands of Cubans know the truth first hand. Intellectually, I believe so do you.

  • January 13, 2014 at 11:55 am
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    Sorry for busting your bubble, but eyewitness testimony is the most unreliable form of evidence and thats particularly true in issues were the waters are muddled by political agendas like is the case of Cuba.

    I don’t know whether the current Cuban government has been involved in drug traffic, some officers (including general Ochoa) where tried and convicted of drug traffic some 25 years ago or so and the ringleaders ostensible executed, but there was no evidence linking the government leadership with the drug operations and the way they dealt with the issue reinforces that position.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnaldo_Ochoa

  • January 12, 2014 at 8:04 pm
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    Tell it to Ochoa and the other Cuban officers running the drug trade in Cuba at the time. They should have known that when things went south they would be wacked, just like general Mondiondo ( involved in the arms transfers to North Korea). ….. Let me guess, there was only sugar on board, or better yet, they were sending brand new equipment to be fixed in North Korea. After all Castro wouldn’t lie, would he?

  • January 12, 2014 at 6:53 pm
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    I am confused as to what Ronald Reagan has to do with Cuban involvement in the drug trade, other than an obvious attempt to “muddy the watters”. I think the link between Castro and the drug trade has been well established. No need to find other mythical news sources that meet your anarchist sensibilities to show one thing different. I also don’t hold much stock in what Fidel has to say, after all he also once said he wasn’t a Communist and that he would restore the 1940 constitution and hold free elections. ….oh we’ll.

    It is you who are being “testaduro” (hard headed) as there are many scholarly articles, news stories and accounts from defectors, smugglers and drug dealers that clearly show ties between drugs the Cuban military and the Castros.

  • January 12, 2014 at 6:14 pm
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    I.C.,
    That “bottom-up management style ” is also synonymous with democracy, which, as supporters of both capitalism and the U.S. oligarchy, you and Moses unalterably oppose.
    Think about what you’re saying which is that democracy can’t work.
    Do you really mean that ?

  • January 12, 2014 at 6:11 pm
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    I used the link and it worked this time but did not before .

    I read the entire article and to, no surprise, found it not believable.

    Fidel stashed his drug money in Panama ?

    That’s as stupid as saying he stashed arms in Grenada to use to foment revolutions which turned out to be a Reagan lie.

    If Fidel made millions from drug money, what would he do with it, why would he need it. He has a nice house and lives rather simply as history has shown since that 1990s article.

    The article came MIAMI , used the Miami Herald as a prime source , used the testimony of indicted drug smugglers who turned state’s witness in exchange for their freedom and then there is this gtaken from the article :
    “Although the draft indictments were prepared, they were not executed.

    Legal scholars were to later opine that the U.S. case was weak given the credibility

    of witnesses considered crucial for a successful indictment. Former Panamanian

    strongman Manuel Noriega refused to testify against Raul Castro and convicted

    drug smuggler Carlos Lehder’s testimony would be considered tainted.”
    GET IT ? No case , lack of believable evidence .
    When the U.S. invaded Panama they could easily have gained access to the bank records where Fidel allegedly had his drug money but did not.
    I could go point by point over about twenty discrepancies in the article but I will not bother since you two will choose to believe that Fidel was a drug smuggler regardless of the lack of credible evidence that forced the GOUSA to admit it had no case.
    Who would have thunk it ?
    A Miami organization with Miami based -sources telling lies about the Cuban government ?
    What possible reason could they have for that ?

  • January 12, 2014 at 5:44 pm
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    The story cited Cuba’s attempts to spread revolution in the hemisphere as the reason they sought drug money.
    That has long been shown to be inaccurate to be polite.
    Fidel himself is quoted way back in the 80s as saying that you can neither foment revolution if conditions are not there already nor can you stop it If those conditions are present.
    Che Guevara thought otherwise and as a result had to go off on his own to attempt what Fidel was proven absolutely correct in saying and believing..
    One of Ronald Reagan’s 13 lies used to justify the Grenada invasion was that they had absolute proof that the Cubans were storing arms in Grenada to supply the various rebel groups active in Latin America and to foment revolutions .
    After the invasion, the warehouse in which these arms were said by Reagan to be stored was opened to the media and all that was there were small arms such as any small country would have for its own use and many were of WWI vintage .
    WE, on the left regard Public Television as part of the corporate media and PBS is laughingly termed Public BS by us because it sells the same BS as the corporate media .
    Its sponsors are mostly huge trusts and foundations owned by very wealthy corporations and families who would hardly support anti-imperialist ( the truth) programming.
    I personally cannot watch the Gwen Ifill nightly news or whatever it is called because of its content or lack thereof ..
    How many people on the left appear on that show as opposed to right-wing think tank people, generals , retired politicians and the occasional liberal ( center right all) to supposedly offset the extreme right majority of the guests .
    Yesterday I heard them term the finally dead Ariel Sharon , the butcher of Sabra and Shattila as
    ” controversial”.
    Please.

  • January 12, 2014 at 5:01 pm
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    Where was that ranch of his? …probably wouldn’t be any good anyway. What with that bottom up management style of his nothing probably ever gets done at the place! 😉

  • January 12, 2014 at 11:45 am
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    Given the breadth and depth of scholarly and unbiased information available on the internet on the Castros involvement in the drug trade, have you changed your views regarding Fidel’s innocence?

  • January 12, 2014 at 11:42 am
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    Thanks for the reference. It points to the scores of pilots, sailors, dock workers and others who have been eyewitnesses to Cuba’s involvement in the drug trade. Yet Castro sympathizers like JG persist in defending the regime.

  • January 12, 2014 at 10:29 am
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    If you google “Fidel Castro and the Drug Trad” you will find numerous scholarly publications on the matter. There are publications from FIU, UM, a number of International Studies Groups, even an article from PBS’s Frontline.

  • January 12, 2014 at 10:24 am
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    Not sure why you are having problems. Just click on the link Moses provides and it takes you directly to the article in question from the University of Miami

  • January 11, 2014 at 3:52 pm
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    It does NOT take you to anything but the home page.
    Just print the very end that is missing and not the entire beginning of the address.

  • January 11, 2014 at 10:04 am
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    The link merely takes me to the home page and not to any article dealing with Fidel and the Colombian drug trade .
    The fact that you ended the address you gave with .mia….. indicates an unwillingness to be more specific and I could not find any link using Fidel/Colombia/drugs as a search .
    Please supply the complete address of that article you are citing.
    I did as you suggested and Googled Fidel and the drug trade and read about twenty of the articles coming away with only the accusations and no proof of a link between the Cuban government i.e. Fidel and any drug trading.
    There were many suggestions that Fidel was at the top of these drug smuggling operations but no proof .
    The primary source is someone named Betancourt , a former Cuban official who now or then headed Radio Marti -a counter-revolutionary radio station run by the U.S government and hardly a reliable source .
    I am quite familiar with the habit of drug smugglers using countries like Cuba and Jamaica as transshipment/refueling stops and which involve the bribing and cooperation of LOCAL officials . I have been to those clandestine airstrips in Jamaica and personally knew a Jamaican who was a ganja smuggler and as it is with Cuba, the prime minister knew these things were taking place but had no connection to the smugglers .
    In Jamaica as in Cuba there are plenty of near-deserted locales where these transshipments and refuelings take place without the knowledge of higher ups.
    In the U.S small planes regularly fly over the borders bringing in drugs without any official notice.
    During the Vietnam War the CIA actually flew drugs-heroin from southeast Asia into western Europe in their own planes .
    Again, I am willing to bet my house that that both Fidel never dealt in drugs nor that anything more than the testimony of well-known opponents of the revolution exist to make this claim and for their benefit only.
    Your sources so far are all right-wing, have ulterior motives for their spurious claims and are not , in any way reliable..
    I will continue my reading of the sites found under “Fidel and the drug trade ” but again will bet that there is nothing there of substance.
    General Ochoa’s execution by the Cuban government for cocaine dealing is just one indication of how serious Fidel was in his opposition to the drug trade .
    The fact that Cuba is nearly drug free and the U.S. is one of the heaviest drug using countries also speaks volumes.
    I’ve read a great many books of Fidel’s speeches and musings and ,it is exceedingly difficult for me to believe that the man who virtually eliminated drug use and trade in Cuba, along with gambling, prostitution ( since returned in the tourist enclaves) and Mafia power which brings in all those things , is the kind of man to deal in drugs to make money.
    You appear to be accusing him of things that are most common to the U.S government and the U.S. based gangsters since run out of Cuba.
    Please supply the complete web address you cited for the article on Fidel and the Colombian drug trade. .

  • January 10, 2014 at 11:01 pm
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    You will lose that bet.

  • January 10, 2014 at 11:00 pm
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    The link works just fine for me. Try again, If not, simply Google “Castro and the drug trade” There are scads of research reports of with dates, names and places.

  • January 10, 2014 at 7:48 pm
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    Moses,
    I went to the abbreviated website/source you posted and got nothing about Fidel Castro and the Colombian drug trade after about ten minutes of searching .
    You need to be more complete in that web address so I can read what you did.
    Please repost the complete source.
    Thank you

  • January 10, 2014 at 7:33 pm
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    I am willing to bet the ranch that Fidel never had any dealings with drugs.
    You both made the false accusation and then in the next breath said that this allegation has never been confirmed.
    You know nothing of the true character of Fidel Castro .
    That Fidel profited personally from the drug trade is simply ridiculous but then, the ridiculous is what you specialize in.
    I can’t wait to check out your source and report back on it.

  • January 10, 2014 at 1:59 pm
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    For obvious reasons, Dariela chose to ignore the elephant in the room and NOT mention Cuba’s well-documented involvement in the Colombian drug trade. Fidel Castro supported drug operations as a means of new revenue and as a way to destabilize American society. Eyewitnesses have testified before the US Congress that Fidel himself personally profited tens of millions of dollars from the drug trade although this allegation has never been confirmed. A balanced and well-documented report of Cuba’s integral role in the Colombian drug trade can be found at http://scholarlyrepository.miami.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1008&context=csa.

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