1 The Americas 64:21 September 2007, 1-44 Copyright by the Academy of American Franciscan History THE PRE-COLOMBIAN ERA OF DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THE AMERICAS: COCAINE, * Before anyone heard of Colombian narcotraficantes, a new class of international cocaine traffickers was born between 1947 and 1964, led by little-known Peruvians, Bolivians, Chileans, Cubans, Mexicans, Brazilians, and Argentines. These men and often daring young women anxiously pursued by U.S. drug agents, pioneered the business of illicit cocaine, a drug whose small-scale production in the Andes remained legal and above board until the late 1940s. 1 Before 1945, cocaine barely existed as an illicit drug; by 1950, a handful of couriers were smuggling it by the ounce from Peru; by the mid-1960s this hemispheric flow topped hundreds of kilos yearly, linking thousands of coca farmers across the eastern Andes to crude labs, organized trafficking rings, and a bustling retailer diaspora in consuming hot-spots like New York and Miami. The Colombians of the 1970s, the Pablo Escobars who leveraged this network into one of hundreds of tons, worth untold billions, are today notorious. Yet historians have yet to uncover their modest predecessors or the actual start of Colombia s role: cocaine s pre-colombian origins. My aim here of identifying these narco intermediaries means that this article cannot treat, in limited space, a number of other worthy topics. This is not, for example, a social history of coca-growing peasants, the colonizing migrants who by the mid-1960s became a force in the emerging econ- * The research for this article was done as a fellow of the Wilson Center, Washington, in ; Fred Romansky at the U.S. National Archives helped declassify Record Group 170 (DEA historical records). Joseph Spillane, Isaac Campos, Pablo Piccato, and William Walker III all gave critical readings. I presented early versions of this paper in at the Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales (UNAM); Simon Fraser University; the New York City Latin American History Workshop; Boston Area Latin American History Workshop (Harvard); Workshop on Latin America: History, Economy & Culture (New School University); and the European Social Science History Conference (Amsterdam). 1 For a longer perspective, Paul Gootenberg, ed., Cocaine: Global Histories (London: Routledge UK, 1999). 1
2 2 PRE-COLOMBIAN DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THE AMERICAS omy of cocaine. This is also not a systematic study of U.S. anti-cocaine policies or activities during the era, nor of changing North American drug tastes and demand, though all impinged on cocaine s rise. As seen elsewhere, escalating American efforts against Andean cocaine, a kind of secret war actually launched around 1947, was an unwitting spur for the profit incentives and geographic dispersal that led into the drug boom of the 1970s. 2 Even as I focus my lens on narco middlemen, it is hard to convey a rounded sense of their underworld, on their own cultural or personal terms. By necessity, this new narrative about early traffickers derives from scores of fragmented international policing reports, primarily of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) and BNDD, forerunners of the 1970s DEA. In exploiting these new sources, I try to move beyond as much as possible their official categories and language of drug control, as well as the inherently speculative or exaggerated nature of such documents, based on a trail of suspects and informers filtered through police eyes. As historians as distinct as Richard Cobb and Carlo Ginzburg suggest, even flawed policing or inquisition testimony can lend critical clues to the real past men and women who inspired them. 3 What this article does try to decipher are the new middlemen traffickers and cocaine-makers chemists who emerged in the transnational space between coca-growing peasants and cocaine-hunting drug agents during the post-war era. They constituted a new class, articulating in newly-clandestine markets, highly local conditions for drug trades with the 2 Paul Gootenberg, Between Coca and Cocaine: A Century of More of U.S.-Peruvian Drug Paradoxes, Hispanic American Historical Review 83:1 (Feb. 2003), pp ; for use of Group 170, DEA historical documents, Luis Astorga, Drogas sin fronteras: Los expedientes de una guerra permanente, México y Los Estados Unidos, (Mexico: Grijalbo Ed., 2003); a survey of historical inter- American drug issues (written prior to access to DEA-FBN papers) is William Walker III, Drug Control in the Americas (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press: 1981/89); FBN s secret war also in Douglas Valentine, Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America s War on Drugs (London: Verso Press, 2004). 3 Richard Cobb, The Police and the People: French Popular Protest, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970); Carlo Ginzburg, The Inquisitor as Anthropologist in Clues, Myths and Historical Methods (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992). On drugs discourse, see Marek Kohn, Narcomania: On Heroin (London: Faber & Faber, 1987); Luis Astorga, Mitología del Narcotraficante en México (Mexico: Plaza y Valdés, 1995); Paul Gootenberg, Talking Like a State: Drugs, Borders and the Language of Control, in Itty. Abraham and Willem van Schendel, eds., Illicit Flows and Criminal Things (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), pp Drug traffickers are rare subjects of historical research (besides Astorga on Mexico): Kathryn Meyer and Terry Parssinen (Asian) Webs of Smoke: Smuggling, Warlords, Spies and the History of the International Drug Trade (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998); Alan A. Block, European Drug Traffic and Traffickers Between the Wars: The Policy of Suppression and its Consequences, Journal of Social History 23/2 (1989), pp ; or (in part), Eduardo Sáenz Rovner, La conexión cubana: narcotráfico, contrabando y juego en Cuba entre los años 20 y comienzos de la Revolución (Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2005).
3 PAUL GOOTENBERG 3 new obstacles and incentives planted by overseas and state interests. I will try to convey here two larger transnational perspectives on these early traffickers. First, this smuggling class, which came together across a vast expanse of shifting geographies, and as they learned, shared, and invented new tools of the trade, represented a new form of pan-american networking. This was a surge of local agency that would eventually transform the global drug trades. Second, in larger political terms, cocaine s new transnational geographies pertain to the cold-war history of the Americas, since these political tensions structured the major spaces for and movements of illicit activities. Illicit cocaine was a specific pan-american product of the high cold war. 4 To observe these deeper political trends, I divide the postwar decades of cocaine s resurgence into two stages, and Illicit cocaine began on one end with the advent of the cold war and stepped-up international campaigns to extend coca-cocaine prohibitions to the Andes. Illicit cocaine surfaced in eastern Peru in when anti-communist regimes suppressed a long legitimate industry; run out of Peru, it incubated after 1952 in the revolutionary chaos of neighboring Bolivia. Loose smuggler corridors sprang up across Chile, Cuba, Brazil, and Argentina, linking Latin American cities with urban drug scenes. Early cocaine resembled criminologists spontaneous disorganized crime or petty ant trades, taking root in the gray area between legitimate and criminal commerce, and dependent on older Andean coca circuits. 5 In the second phase from , cocaine consolidated itself into more systematic growing, processing, and smuggling circuits. Its watershed was the 1959 Cuban revolution, which sent veteran Cuban drug mafiosos across the Americas, including into the United States. After 1960, when Bolivia, then cocaine s incubator, fell under U.S.-style drug control, coca-growing peasants flooded into lowland jungles, lending the export a now unstoppable social base. By 1965, at the height of U.S.- backed modernizing regimes in the region, a commodity chain built by unsung chemists and smugglers linked Amazonian peasants to distant pleasure users in the north. 4 For transnational optics, Gilbert Joseph, Catherine LeGrand, Ricardo Salvatorre, eds. Close Encounters of Empire: Rewriting the Cultural History of U.S.-Latin American Relations (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998); for U.S.-Andean cold-war, Frederick B. Pike, The United States and the Andean Republics (Cambridge: Harvard University Press,1977), chs Peter Reuter, Disorganized Crime: The Economics of the Visible Hand (MIT Press, 1983); Mark H. Haller, Illegal Enterprise: A Theoretical and Historical Interpretation, Criminology 28:2 (1990), pp ; Michael Kenney, From Pablo to Osama: Trafficking and Terrorist Networks, Government Bureaucracies, and Competitive Adaptation (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007), chs. 1-2.
4 4 PRE-COLOMBIAN DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THE AMERICAS Based on newly-declassified DEA archives, this article revolves around these shifting transnational geographies of nascent cocaine. The first section deals with the politics of cocaine in Peru from , during the drug s final turn from a legal commodity to an illicit one after World War II. The second section turns to the emerging narco corridors crossing the borders of 1950s Chile, Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico by 1960, a pan-american smuggling class catering to novel tastes for cocaine. The essay ends on Bolivia s revolutionary merger of peasant coca and cocaine, prelude to illicit cocaine s take-off of the mid-1960s. PERU: BIRTH OF THE ILLICIT The lush montaña of east-central Peru below the town of Huánuco, botanic cradle of the coca plant, was for six decades after 1890 the capital of Peru s legal cocaine industry. The same site became, after 1950, the seedbed of illicit cocaine that would famously flourish in the Huallaga valley during the 1980s. By 1947, Peru s clutch of surviving cocaine-makers, led by trader Andrés A. Soberón, saw few prospects ahead through encroaching anti-cocaine politics and law. In May of 1949, after drying a final 77-kilo load, Soberón ended a 30-year quest to revive the industry, officially closing his Huánuco factory. At the same time, his son Walter, the mayor of Huánuco, resigned from the hounded left-wing Peruvian APRA party. Soberón retired to Lima, ceding his equipment to the new state lab at the Ministry of Public Health. 6 As cocaine-making became off-limits, another option arose: petty contraband up the Pacific coast. These highly local changes were the outcome of global shifts in the history of cocaine stretching back to the turn of the century, when Huánuco had placed on world markets 10 tons of crude cocaine sulfides using simple Peruvian technologies. Advancing world legal restrictions on cocaine, a missionary movement spearheaded by the United States since 1911, were finally taking effect here. Without going into all the motives or mysteries behind the American turn against cocaine, a drug once embraced by American medical authorities and consumers, after 1906 cocaine came under a strict domestic control regimen for shrinking medicinal uses. By 1922, all imports of cocaine halted. U.S. diplomats, who greatly wanted to, had a harder time, however, convincing the rest of the world of the evil or urgency of cocaine, producers and refiners such as Peru, Germany, Japan, and Dutch Java. By the mid-1920s, anti-cocaine strictures existed on paper in League 6 Archivo Provincial de Huánuco (Peru) (APH), Prefectura, Expediente 463, 1949 Oficio 82, Soberón s bankruptcy statement; Legado 80/Exp.1212, 1948 (last shipment).
5 PAUL GOOTENBERG 5 of Nations narcotics conventions and in early U.S. aspirations to stem it at the raw material source. Little came of these crusades, save for a steady global de-legitimation of the drug, long ignored in countries like Peru and Bolivia. Until 1945, a multipolar cocaine world prevailed, with distinctive legal drug regimes actively coexisting in various corners of the globe. World War II ended this tolerance of cocaine: warfare and U.S. occupations obliterated the relic circuits of Europe and Asia, and the United Nations, closer to American drug ideals, immediately put coca and cocaine on its agenda. 7 In , the UN organized, for pliable cold-war regimes in Peru and Bolivia, a visiting Commission of Enquiry on the Coca-Leaf, which brought home to these holdout nations the need to ban cocaine and rein in the cultivation and chewing of native coca. By 1950, Peru, under highly political circumstances, outlawed cocaine and issued a range of punitive drug controls. Bolivia, rocked by revolution, and more nationalist about its coca-leaf, took another decade to comply with the U.S. campaign to close cocaine s last legal spaces. What is striking about that fading multipolar world was the scant impulse it gave to illicit cocaine. To be sure, there had long been some recreational use of cocaine, and illicit sales, but both fell into severe decline by the 1920s. Cocaine had never spawned any organized form of illicit production or systematic traffic from producing zones. The United States suffered a wellknown cocaine epidemic at the turn of the century, during the drug s legal era, yet for dimly-understood reasons cocaine use plummeted after The prohibitions of the 1914 Harrison Act may have helped in a limited domestic sense, but other factors prevailed: strict self-regulation by pharmaceutical firms and dentists, a tightly organized political-economy of cocaine control based on the regulated centralized import of coca by two cooperative New Jersey firms, and even the timely lure to criminal gangs by 1919 alcohol prohibition or more addictive heroin during the 1920s. Cocaine fiends died out or switched vices and contraband, if at all, came from locally-diverted medicinal stock. In Europe, colorful urban cocaine scenes persisted longer into the 1920s and 1930s, but invariably relied on sporadic heists of pharmacy vials. During the 1930s, accusations sounded of a Japan-sponsored stealth Asian narcotics trade from colonial Formosa, but the evidence is scant for cocaine. The notable fact was the absence of border-crossing cocaine trades after the initial bans on cocaine. For example, the State Department s infamous 7 In-depth analysis is Paul Gootenberg, Reluctance or Resistance: Constructing Cocaine (Prohibitions) Peru, , ch. 3 in Gootenberg, Cocaine; for the politics of control, Paul Gootenberg, Secret Ingredients: The Politics of Coca in US-Peruvian Relations, , Journal of Latin American Studies 36:2 (2004), pp
6 6 PRE-COLOMBIAN DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THE AMERICAS Name file of inter-war drug traffickers lists hundreds of suspects for heroin and other opiates and not one wanted for cocaine; similarly, a 1930s League of Nations campaign to suppress illicit labs never found any for cocaine. 8 The sole Andean on the U.S. blacklist was Carlos Fernández Bácula, a Peruvian diplomat who plied heroin in Europe. The FBN s annual reports of the 1930s celebrated cocaine s disappearance measured in ounces if found, and by 1938 so small as to be without significance as if this were due to the Bureau s vigilance. The economy of cocaine also fell in steep decline. The legal Andean boom of the 1890s spurred efficient rival colonialist coca-cocaine industries in Java and Formosa. Peruvian prospects dampened by the 1920s, when it sold a mere 500-1,000 kilos per annum, at plummeted prices, mainly to Germany or France. Colonial competition vanished in the 1940s, but advancing U.S., League, and UN restrictions and quotas pushed legitimate medicinal demand under 400 kilos by the late 1940s, easily covered by war surplus. 9 Most producers, the 8-10 part-time workshops left in Huánuco, a few elsewhere in Peru, and none in Bolivia, diversified into other ventures. Yet despite a rising outcry against a now backward coca habit, Peruvian coca crops grew from 6 to 10 million tons in the 1950s alone, oriented to a thriving peasant home market. Bolivia s 2 million-ton harvest soared in the late 1950s, linked like Peru s, to colonizing Amazon frontiers. The first documented case of South American cocaine smuggling dates from Undercover officers on Brooklyn s 16th Street pier nabbed Ramón Urbina, a Chilean sailor, after he offered his Puerto Rican partner a 250gm sample of cocaine carried from Chile. The evidence went overboard during a scuffle with crewmen of the Copiapó, but Urbina later pled guilty, receiving 2 1 / 2 years. The next incident, eight years later, marked more of a 8 Joseph F. Spillane, Cocaine: From Medical Marvel to Modern Menace in the United States (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), chs. 6-7 or Karch (Japan) or Kohn (London) in Cocaine; David F. Musto, America s First Cocaine Epidemic, Wilson Quarterly (Summer 1989), pp Bertil Renborg, International Drug Control: A Study of International Administration by and through the League of Nations (Washington D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1947), pp U.S. National Archives, Record Group 59 (Dept. of State, hence RG59) LOT Files (Office Files), 55D607 Far East, Subject Files, Name File of Suspected Narcotics Traffickers, ; also Meyer and Parssinen, Webs of Smoke, pp ; U.S. Treasury, Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), Traffic in Narcotics and Other Dangerous Drugs (Washington D.C.), all 1930s, quote, Paul Gootenberg, Cocaine in Chains: The Rise and Demise of a Global Commodity, , Z. Frank, C. Marichal, and S. Topik, eds., From Silver to Cocaine: Latin America Commodity Chains and the Building of the World Economy, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), ch.12; or economic laments in C.E. Paz Soldán, La Coca Peruana: Memorandum sobre su situación actual (Lima: SNA, 1936).
7 PAUL GOOTENBERG 7 trend: in October 1947, Peruvian informants warned that the Santa Cecilia, a Grace Line ship, had cocaine onboard. Police seized steward Ralph Roland in Weehawken, N.J. in possession of slightly over a pound of cocaine. Betrayed, he confessed that Peru was wide open for purchase of cocaine from customs agents in Callao. Two months later, Alfonso Ojen, a naturalized American ship-waiter was arrested in Callao harbor with 2 bottles containing 14.4 gms cocaine hidden in his bunk. 10 Ojen s steamer the Santa Margarita sailed on to Brooklyn, where he was questioned by FBN agents, who were unable to trace his source. FBN reports of collate eight such ship seizures of probable Peruvian origin. Something new was afoot. In December 1948, Salvadore C. Peña, a New York customs agent, filed a Confidential Memo to the FBN based on a special two-month undercover operation. In this dirty work he had befriended various Latin traffickers and smugglers. They confirmed suspicions of dangerously increasing smuggling of cocaine into the United States (emphasis in original). Peña claimed to eye-witnessed the open trafficking in cocaine especially among the extensive Puerto Rican, Cuban and Spanish population in New York City.... The report, a masterpiece of the genre, warts and all, merits excerpting for its sketch of the sailor-driven drug circuit: SOURCE: The principal and easiest source of supply for cocaine is located at El Callao, Peru, and at Valparaíso, Chile.... principle [sic] ports of call for boats making the South American run... it is believed the coca leaves produced in Peru are processed on a large scale, possibly with the under-cover protection of corrupted officials. INTERMEDIARY DISTRIBUTING POINTS: The loads of contraband cocaine secured by the traffickers at Peru, Chile and Bolivia are sometimes brought directly to the United States when the boats make a direct run, or if the contraband is transferred to other boats at Bilbao [Panama] and Havana, Cuba.... Information secured from seamen... supplied names and addresses of some of the traffickers handling loads of cocaine at Havana, Cuba and at Callao. SMUGGLING: When the boats arrive... loads of cocaine are brought ashore, especially in the port of New York, by longshoremen... because longshoremen are not searched going through customs.... Cocaine is also smuggled on passenger planes, some traffickers make special trips by car to Miami, where they received their loads, 2 or 3 kilos at a time. 10 RG59 LOT 55D607 Far East , Urbina, R., July 1940; RG59 State Dept. Decimal Files (Consular reports, hence RG59 DecFile), , Narcotics-Peru, 7 Oct 1943; , ; , 23 Jan.1947, 2 Jan FBN, Traffic in Drugs, reports. For bebop and cocaine, see Miles Davis (with Quincy Troupe), Miles: An Autobiography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989), pp. 86, 95.
8 8 PRE-COLOMBIAN DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THE AMERICAS CONSPIRACY: Generally a group of Puerto Ricans or Cubans get together and pool several thousand dollars which are given to a seaman going to South America.... The price usually paid at the source is from $200 to $250 per gram of pure cocaine. The retail price in New York is from $250 to $300 per ounce, cut cocaine.... The peddling of this cocaine... is usually uptown among the Puerto Rican, Negro and Cuban section of New York and around the bars and the Latin night clubs around the Times Square area. 11 Thus by 1948 cocaine was moving beyond individual or opportunistic smuggling, as Peña details in credible terms, a loose diaspora of Latin cocaine smugglers from Callao to Havana into New York. What is absent from his account is the refining of Peruvian crude cocaine into marketable powder, or the origins of this new Latin taste for the drug, which was also starting to seep into New York s be-hop jazz scene. Peña notes the difficulty, lacking informers, of cracking such mobile groups. He drew up an actual plan, which involved sending Spanish-speaking undercover agents to Peru acquainted with the idiosyncrasies of the Latins, by which he meant the corruptibility of local officials. A four-month mission to Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Panama, and Cuba would gather the data necessary to bring in diplomatic sanctions against the trade. The problem could be blocked at its mysterious source, akin to operations against prohibition-runners in 1920s Cuba and opiates in 1940s Mexico. Whether or not Agent Peña got the assignment, within months dramatic cocaine busts from the Huallaga to Harlem became front-page news. The sensational August 1949 arrests of the so-called Balarezo Gang were the first modern international cocaine scare. On August 20, New York s Daily Mirror headlined SMASH BIGGEST DOPE RING HERE Seize Leader in City, Peru Jails Tied to Peru Revolt. Amid the affair, Time dubbed cocaine Peru s White Goddess. Balarezo, 49, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was a ship-steward for the Grace Lines with a slew of contacts in New York and Lima. Born in Lambayeque in 1900, Balarezo was described in Peru as a bowlegged zambo (black cholo). He had resided several years in New York, reputedly crossing paths even with crime boss Lucky Luciano. After raids on nine houses, he was picked up while boarding a boat to Italy. According to the federal prosecutor who arrested Balarezo and six accomplices, he began smuggling cocaine in Business expanded in 1947 and by 1949 moved some 50 kilos of pure cocaine a month, worth a reported $5 million, focusing on the Harlem district using two couriers 11 RG59, Subject files, Bureau of Narcotics, 0660 South America, Box 30, Confidential , Peña, 14 Dec.1948; Cocaine Renaissance, RG170 Box 63, Drugs Cocaine, 27 Feb
9 PAUL GOOTENBERG 9 named Edelstein and González. This was surely the Grace Line circuit sketched by Peña in Only 13 kilos were captured in New York, said to possess an adulterated street value of $154,000 per kilo. Balarezo owned a mansion on Long Island, cavorted with Peruvian dignitaries, took on a young mistress, and easily posted a $100,000 bond. In Peru, the sweeping arrests, including Balarezo s wife Carmen, were engineered by Capt. Alfonso Mier y Terán, head of the PIP (Peru s FBI), who had spent two months in New York pursuing leads. Among those detained were prominent Peruvian businessmen, one of them a known Customs official. The FBN depicted the trade as an International Cocaine Smuggling Ring with some 50 links in greater New York and Puerto Rico. It took less than a month to convict Balarezo, who received five years and a $10,000 fine, and other sailors, with the testimony of turncoat Geraldo Tapías Chocano. In a high profile crossover from cold-war politics, Balarezo s prosecutor was Joseph Martin, who at the same time was leading the prosecution of Alger Hiss. FBN Director Harry J. Anslinger waxed triumphant for years: The suppression of this traffic has averted a serious crime wave he claimed, and wrote glowingly of his action in his various drug-fighting books. The scope of the operation, from New York to Callao and Huánuco, led by New York narcotics agent Garland H. Williams, one of Anslinger s top field office managers, revealed new forms of U.S.-Peruvian cooperation, involving on its end Peru s first active drug squad. FBN threat magnification aside, this business had clearly moved beyond the work of solitary sailors. In Peru, however, the scandal over illegal drugs was eclipsed by its politics: the claim that Balarezo was an Aprista militant, ally of legendary APRA chief Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre and his brother Edmundo. Balarezo had allegedly funneled $50,000 of drug money into APRA s failed 1947 naval uprising, which had led to the right-wing coup of Gen. Manuel Odría. Fed by FBN leaks from New York, the anti-apra Peruvian military regime and conservative press reveled in this timely link of narcotics, Communism (i.e., the moderating APRA party), and Haya de la Torre, then holed up in Lima s Colombian embassy. Drugs, arms, and luxury contraband, all traded by a sinister APRA cell in customs, became the focus of Odría s outcry against the Regimen de los Apristas, the former Bustamante government. Peru demanded extradition, as Balarezo reputedly bragged of killing seven loyalists singlehandedly during the 1947 mutiny. For its part El Partido del Pueblo vehemently denied any connection to drugs, and soon APRA, outlawed in Peru, began a hemispheric press campaign to clear its name. Alarmed State Department officials, like Harold Tittelman, ambassador to Peru, distanced themselves from the FBN. Not only was the evidence
10 10 PRE-COLOMBIAN DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THE AMERICAS suspect about Haya de la Torre s ties to Balarezo in New York, but starting in the mid-1940s U.S. officials were quietly cultivating Haya and APRA as possible anti-communist allies. Diplomatic historian Glenn Dorn has recently untangled the byzantine politics of the affair. 12 The contradictory and fabricated anti-apra drug charges, in his assessment, were invented by anti-communist PIP chief Mier y Terán, and broadcast in New York by the reasoned ex-oss officer Williams. Anslinger jumped into the fray not only to invigorate his new anticocaine campaign with cold-war passions, but also to forge a working antidrug relationship with Odría. Peru was still not a strong ally on drugs. The State Department, on the other hand, enjoyed sensitive ties to APRA and fragile Latin American democracies generally. Embarrassed by publication of the case s internal documents and spreading anti-u.s. protests, they demanded retractions from Anslinger and Odría s ambassador. Outgunned, in April 1950, Anslinger quietly withdrew, but never formally rescinded, the APRA drug charges. A key question, apart from the actual scale of the trade, is where Balarezo s group got its cocaine. Where did illicit cocaine first spring up in the Andes? In a zeal to criminalize the industry, American reports cast suspicion upon a reported eighteen legal or unregistered cocaine factories. Williams talked of two large plants in Huánuco producing $2 million a year, as well as a chemist who may work in basements. They converted the area s sulfate-cake staple, crude cocaine an intermediate product akin to today s pasta básica de cocaína into saleable cocaine hydrochloride. William s claims about the capacity of Peruvian cocaine were wildly inflated, as was most of the evidence filtered through local informers. Sources named for Balarezo included Orestes Rodríquez of Fereñafe, husband of Alicia Martínez, young go-between her uncles the Torres and Balarezo, and possible FBN plant. Julio Vázquez reportedly sold 3 kilos to the group in early In mid-1949, Hoover s FBI looked into Gustavo Padros, a worker in northern cocaine plants and repeated visitor to New York, who began sup- 12 Glenn J. Dorn, The American Reputation for Fair Play : Victor Raúl Haya de la Torre and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, The Historian 48 (2003), pp RG59 DecFile , Peru- Narcotics, esp. Memo of 24 Aug On APRA, RG59 LOT , Chile, , Apristas Protest Bureau of Narcotics Correspondence. Also in polemical Luis Enríquez, Haya de la Torre: La estafa política más grande de América (Lima: Ed. Pacífico, 1951), pp RG59 DecFile , Chile, enclosure #3, pp. 3, 15, March 1950; DecFile , Peru-Narcotics, , esp. Williams, Illicit Cocaine Traffic, 17 May 1949; 1 Nov.1948, 7 June 1949, 14 Dec Williams evoked a 27-kilo daily capacity, or 7 illicit tons a year worth $35 million in New York, though Peru s output of the 1940s was less than half a ton.
11 PAUL GOOTENBERG 11 plying quite detailed accounts of the industry. Another lead, Héctor Pizarro, had brothers said to run a cocaine lab in Amazonian Pucallpa. Sales moved via El Chino Morales, a notorious figure in later drug rap-sheets. Peru s leading daily, El Comercio, printed similar sorts of allegations. Odría used such news to tighten both the screws against APRA, with some 4,000 political detainees by 1949, and cocaine. In April 1949, the last nine licensed cocaine factories closed for good under special anti-narcotics decrees. Mass roundups followed under Peru s new anti-subversive Law of Internal Security. From late April through May 1949, well before break-up of the Balarezo gang, the military mounted drug sweeps from Lambayeque, Huánuco, and Huancayo to Lima. Mug shots of the narcos ran in Lima dailies, which hailed the offensive and the timely degrees of the Junta Militar. Authorities uncovered five clandestine factories in varied parts of the country. Peru s 1950 narcotics report to UN details those arrested and convicted for cocaine running, though it is hard to tell, given the politics hysteria and legal ambiguity of the drug, who was a true trafficker. That said, among the 70-plus cocaine-related arrests listed for are a number of likely sources: the northern Ayllon clan; Soberón s associate in Lima Guillermo Carter Silva ( a chemist with a clandestine laboratory ); the eight-man gang of El Chino Morales and Panamanian businessman José Steel. The UN also names Julio Vázquez and six others linked to Balarezo, notably supplier Orestes Rodríguez, whose getaway imperiled the criminal case in Peru. A driver, Pedro García Céspedes was picked up in Huánuco in June 1949 with cocaine refined in Chorrillos. Leandro Ferreyra, caught on the New York route, pointed to Rodríguez s clandestine factory in Ferreñafe for drugs sold to the crews of Grace Line Vessels... of Cuban, U.S., Panamanian and Porto-Rican [sic] nationality. Even without any captured goods, Ferreyra got five years and a $16,000 fine. 14 Other cases include Cuban José Flaifel Mubarack, a very active courier of the 1950s, a local French prostitute Angela Pasqüero, and a Peruvian laundress, probably small-time users. Some ties emerged between the former legal cocaine industry and newly illicit cocaine. By definition, legal businesses of the 1940s became illegal ones, though a gray area of commerce until Odría s mid-1949 and dragnets, which netted another 110 drug arrests. Some families, like the venerable Durand clan, had long diversified from cocaine, becoming prominent in national public life. Several recognizable chemists and minor figures were 14 El Comercio (Lima), all April-May 1949; UN CND E/NR 1950/07, Peru, Annual Report for 1950, pp , add. Cocaine and Crude Cocaine, 17 Jan 1952.
12 12 PRE-COLOMBIAN DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THE AMERICAS among the scores arrested, fairly or not. Some may have viewed stocks of cocaine as hard-won severance pay when the industry ended, and tried to pawn them on the black market. Others unwitting sold legally-registered cocaine to traffickers. García Céspedes crude cocaine came from Huánuco. Soberón, after retiring in mid-1949, was charged in 1950 with supplying chemist Carter Silva, and sentenced to six months and a 20,000 soles fine. Known figures in illicit sales, Prados (tracked by the FBI in New York), or Rodríquez, had worked in the legal sector. 15 By the mid-1950s, veterans of Peru s legal cocaine surface in new Bolivian exploits. The tropics beyond Huánuco made for easy escape, so Peru s cold-war campaign against cocaine, inflamed by hatred of APRA, simply scattered its seeds. Local archives fill a few gaps. For example, the Huánuco Prefecture shows that in July 1948, after state plans to monopolize cocaine, José Roncaglioclo of the Bolívar Crude Cocaine Factory, registered to dispatch cocaine to the Health Ministry in Lima, consigning 21 kilos to one César Balarezo, a possible relation or illicit cover. In northern Peru, an anonymous tip denounced the Fabricación de cocaína clandestina on the Sacamanca Hacienda in August 1948, whose license may have lapsed. The owner s sons Ricardo and Santiago Martín Ayllon engaged in suspicious acts: there was cocaine stashed under farm goods in transit to Trujillo, buyers and couriers in Lima and Bolivia, and visits to the Hotel Bolívar, Lima s favored watering place for foreigners. The informer duly listed addresses for all the principles. Authorities seized 44 kilos, despite rumors of official protection. In April 1948, this cocaine lair became front-page news in Peru. Sixty year-old Santiago Ayllon, long invested in legal cocaine, received 18 months from the National Executive Council in 1950, his sons and accomplices lesser terms. 16 The most remarkable allegation, from the FBN itself, concerns Huánuco cocaine patriarch Andrés Avelino Soberón, dedicated to this trade since If at all true, these could make Soberón, then 68, the Johnny Coca- Seed of South American cocaine. In mid-1949, Odría s men closed Huánuco s factories, yet a number of those implicated later that year as refiners of cocaine paste acquired their stock there. Soberón, now retired, was soon picked up with other merchants and despite his pleas of innocence, sentenced. 15 RG59 DecFile , 7 June 1949 (Prados) and DecFile , Fabricación de cocaína clandestina (Ayllon); DecFile Narcotics, No. 302, 7 Dec APH (Huánuco), Prefectura, Leg. 80, #905, 3 July DecFile , Peru-Narcotics, 25 Aug 1948, Clandestine Traffic... ; UN CND Peru, Report for 1950, pp
13 PAUL GOOTENBERG 13 Not much is heard of Soberón until 1953, when a U.S. agent posted a series of secret reports via Ecuador about the advent of cocaine-manufacturing in Bolivia. He charged that the cocaine sold freely at nightclubs and restaurants in downtown Lima, especially Silvio Canata Podestá s at Manco Capac 590, originated with Andrés and Walter Soberón. The operation seemed sizable: paste (presumably crude cocaine) was manufactured in kilogram lots which they store in an isolated area some 40 miles northeast of Huánuco. The Soberóns, with a prior arrest, work discreetly. Most dramatic was his claim that they are responsible for the operation of a clandestine cocaine laboratory in Bolivia since they sent two cocaine manufacturing experts to the country in Nelson Alfred López, a FBN agent in Lima assigned to Carlos Avalos, head of Peru s narcotics squad, soon launched an inquiry. He reported that after the crackdown, cocaine known in Peru as PICHICATA became a staple at such Lima hot-spots as the Embassy Club, Penguino, and Negro-Negro. The agents then traveled 600 miles overland to Huánuco to interview its ex-mayor Walter Soberón. Posing as members of a large Chicago syndicate, they overcame Walter s reluctance, leading to a night ride to a jungle gathering of the Soberón clan. There, the hosts unveiled a sort of hot-house where on a platform about two feet high and covered with leaves and jute... he was shown 28 bricks of a dark yellow paste purported to be cocaine paste Soberón demanded an all-or-nothing deal for the drug cache. 17 Later, for a delivery plan, agent López contacted one Raúl Wissmar, as usual in the Hotel Bolívar, a Peruvian about 32 years old, who will act as future liaison man with Soberón. Agents also mingled in Huánuco, where locals blamed Soberón for the town s troubles. A storekeeper recounted local rumors of two expert workers, Alvaro Salvatierra and Uvalde Recavarren, sent to Cochabamba or La Paz, Bolivia, in an operation shielded there by a Czech diplomat or Patiño tin operatives. This amazing exposé ended by recounting Soberón s earlier offer to the Ministry of Health to unload one ton of cocaine, and warnings of protection high in Peru s regime. I am still unsure what to make of these documents, given the unreliability of much FBN analysis. Little came of it. Soberón was not rearrested, and the family pursued an exemplary life in Lima. Perhaps political protection was at play, as several Peruvian officials were later implicated in aiding traffickers. Perhaps Soberón, bitter over his 1950 persecution, sold off aging 17 Documents stumbled on in RG170 Subject files 0660, Ecuador, Box 8, Illicit Narcotic Traffic in Peru, 7 May 1953; López to Anslinger, 30 April 1953; and A Report on Observation in Peru regarding Illicit Drug Traffic, 24 April Mario Vargas Llosa, A Fish in the Water: A Memoir, transl. Helen Lane (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1994), p.147, for an account of same local cocaine scene.
14 14 PRE-COLOMBIAN DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THE AMERICAS cocaine stock, since an actual Huallaga factory sounds far too risky. As for the link to Bolivia, it is during this period that illicit cocaine labs pop up in that country s clandestine industrialization of coca, though this does not require much technical prowess. Peruvians and Bolivians meshed there during the 1950s as did numerous Cuban and Chilean smugglers. Such links are circumstantial, yet if true, show the wide repercussions of Odría s war on cocaine. For the rest of the 1950s, repressive Peru was no longer the center of illicit cocaine-making. Peru had played its decisive role transforming a historical regional culture of crude cocaine into a new class of product, the cocaine paste of international traffickers. Interested Cuban mafia men continued to scout Peru and repeated arrests and allegations registered, suggesting the forming of a few criminal careers in cocaine. At least a dozen colorful reports of smugglers issued from Peru in the decade But it is not until the early 1960s, after the impact of the Bolivian and Cuban revolutions, that cocaine began to return in force to eastern Peru, in Uchiza, Pucallpa, Tingo María, this time dispersed and socially entrenched, as roads and peasant agriculture advanced into the Huallaga valley. In Peru, 1940s smuggling from decrepit factories was crushed with military efficiency by 1950, fanned by the cold-war passions of the first pan-american trafficking scandals. Suppression of legal cocaine swiftly dispersed the nascent trade across borders, with revolutionary Bolivia the next site of cocaine s evolution as an illicit drug. Before examining that key 1950s development, I want to turn to the protagonists and spaces of the new pathways north of illicit cocaine through Chile, Cuba, Mexico, and beyond. CHILE: COCAINE CLANS Chile, with Cuba, was the major and now forgotten transit route for illicit cocaine throughout the 1950s. In fact the Chilean corridor, linked to Bolivia, grew sporadically until the early 1970s, when the 1973 coup finally propelled the cocaine trade to Colombia. Chile s northern desert outposts, Tarapacá, Antofagasta and Arica, far from the capital, bordered Peru and served as Bolivia s outlet to the sea. Valparaíso sailor clubs had long offered delicacies like cocaine and it was a port of call for the Grace Line freighters that plied the Pacific coast to the United States. 18 Cases from RG59 DecFile, Peru/Narcotics, all (various, press clippings); plus RG170 Box 30, Trafficking, Mexico, March 1961.
15 PAUL GOOTENBERG 15 As early as , the FBN speculated from seizures that Chile was the source for the cocaine being smuggled to New York. It was not until the early 1950s, with Peru fading and Bolivia in turmoil, that Chilean narcos moved beyond courier roles to emerge on their own as risk-taking empresarios. Newly-founded Bolivian labs sent cocaine-sulfates or pressed coca down the mountains to Arica for refining and smuggling. Authorities complained that traditional Bolivian coca sales to workers in northern mining camps, banned in 1957, facilitated illicit trade. By the mid-1950s, Chilean and American authorities clearly identified the multitudinous Huasaff-Harb clan as the dominant force of the Bolivian trade, a position they held until a major international bust in (There were many spellings: Huasoff, Huassaf, Harv yet one race: Arabian in U.S. consular classification.) César Harb, his wife, and four sons formed the nucleus of this so-called syndicate, starting out with the sailor circuit of the late 1940s. In 1952 they reputedly built their first two cocaine labs in northern Chile. Rubén Sacre Huasaff, the eldest son, became the chief refiner, based in Antofagasto and Valparaíso. Luisa Huasaff Harb, his aunt, frequently visited ostensible relatives in Connecticut; Amanda, another sister, was the owner-manager of the most renowned house of prostitution in Valparaíso, according to a detailed 1959 exposé in Vistazo and has interests in her right in the traffic of cocaine. The Huasafs are the Borgias of cocaine. The article noted her son René Harb Huasaff as another large dope distributor. Their family enjoyed direct ties to Bolivia where Amanda s brother Ramis had settled. The ring operated with complicity of pharmacists and compromised Chilean police. Indeed, they eluded arrests for many years with tip-offs from federal police, where they found an ally in Carlos Jiménez, the Sub-Prefect of Investigations. 19 Exports through Arica complemented a bustling domestic pleasure market, with cocaine available in most night spots in Santiago, from local celebrities as the Cuban bongodrummer known as Jimmy. In Chile, it was said no hay fiesta sin cocaína. The Huasaffs typically used women, overlooked in border searches, as couriers from Bolivia, although two exceptions were nabbed in Their Bolivian connection was no small fish: Luis Gayan, Chileanborn friend of Amanda s brother Ramis in Bolivia, who had incredibly risen after the 1952 revolution to chief of the National Identification Service, or political police, under Paz Estenssoro. His business, involving cross-border 19 RG59 DecFile Narcotics-Chile (1955) , Control of Narcotic Drugs (Jan. 1959); RG170 Box 19, Drugs Cocaine, (excerpt); Vistazo 331, 20 Jan. 1959; also Soy un Traficante de Drogas Heroícas Vea, 29 Jan INTERPOL Illicit Traffic, UN CND E/CN.7.388, p. 79 (also 1962); FBN, Traffic in Drugs, 1959.
16 16 PRE-COLOMBIAN DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THE AMERICAS protection rackets, scandalized Bolivia in the early 1960s. According to leftist Vistazo: All cocaine is sent to Arica, from there it goes to the north, diverting only what is necessary for Santiago... the raw material arrived in [...] Santiago s airport, in police envelopes, marked confidential. Other detectives [...] were involved in the handling of these raw materials. The cocaine also arrived by other methods, including automobiles and passenger aircraft. Bolivian cocaine is yellow and of a disagreeable odor [sulfides, Peruvian product too strong.] After treatment it acquires a white, almost metallic color. It is then mixed with boric acid and bi-carbonate so that a kilo of pure cocaine is converted into three of Pichicata [i.e., Peruvian term]. One package of cocaine contains a gram. That same year, 1959, Chile accounted for half the cocaine seizures at U.S. borders, some 985 gms alone on the hapless Humberto Figueroa and Jesse Colson. In Chile, INTERPOL reported 1.2 kilos captured from a seven-man Santiago gang, aptly composed of five Chileans, a Cuban, and a Bolivian. Authorities rounded up more Bolivian-Chilean traders in 1960 and 1961, and in 1962 recovered 288 kilos of coca from a public highway, on a donkey s back, plus 800 kilos of leaf netted during a police raid in Arica. In 1962, a courier named Williams was convicted for a kilo of Chilean coke found in a New York safety-deposit box. A 1962 UN report quoted authorities in Chile about a growing trend with 6 HCl seizures totaling 3 kilos between June and July 1960: illicit traffic in Chile is much greater than previously thought... our efforts must be continued and steadily intensified. 20 Ramis Harb, self-described hijo de árabes, later testified about the routes of this family enterprise. The clan initially piggy-backed on the welltrodden Panama-Cuba route. By 1952, Ramis was ferrying cocaine from Bolivia directly to Mexico on his own account, where he carefully placed 1-2 kilo packets in safety-deposit boxes of the National Financiera and Banco Mercantil of Monterrey. He enjoyed more than three Mexican passports. Under the assumed names, he would personally deliver or send by courier to his New York contact Enrique Sierra. 21 Members of the Huasaff- Harb clan were arrested at least twice during the 1960s, after the 1959 downfall of their police protector Jiménez. Their prosecution, however, mainly served to disperse cocaine into a more competitive enterprise employing hundreds of Chileans. After 1960, ever more cocaine moved via Mexico. In 20 UN EC.SOC, E/CN.7/420 add. 1, The Question of the Coca Leaf: Report by the National Health Services of Chile, 2 March 1962, p RG170, Subject files, Box 30, Trafficking, Mexico, 13 March 1961.
17 PAUL GOOTENBERG 17 early 1963, a woman ensnared in Mexico with 4 kilos from Arica led police, in the words of Antofagasta s consul, to the house of Huasaff, a complete laboratory for processing of cocaine. The center of distribution activities was a restaurant known as El Pollo Cojo [The Lame Chicken]... Huasaff declared that the drug laboratory was a legacy of his father and that he had not been involved in the drug traffic for years. Those last words suggest a true family business. Captured records showed many forays to Bolivia. A peculiar fact of the case was the defense of the group by Arica s Departmental attorney. 22 The Huasaffs last hurrah came in June 1966, when the core of the clan was caught with a large clandestine laboratory after a botched late 1964 bid to run10 kilos through Kennedy Airport using the mule Juanita Bradbie. The conviction of six local New York co-defendants, including Sybil Horowitz, reveals a burgeoning U.S. network. A massive sting in Chile soon brought down Luisa Huassaff, her husband René Hard- Huasaff, brother Rames, and his live-in companion. Chileans had evolved from part-time smugglers into organized international drug rings, with many emulators across the Andes by the mid-1960s. In 1966, the UN, reviewing local police reports, counted more than 460 Chilean cocaine runners, with more arrests to come in Cracking the Huasaff clan had opened a floodgate. They tagged the Chilean corridor as one of three thriving cocaine routes to the United States (along with Peru- Panama-Mexico and Bolivia-Brazil-Caribbean). Bustling border barter trades laundered drug profits, helping sellers adapt to the turbulent early 1970s. UN experts dubbed Chile an important producer of cocaine with a dozen significant organizations. A proverbial cartel de Santiago lured foreign mobsters like Uruguayan Adolfo Sobosky. 23 Rising political tensions with the United States put drugs into the optic of anti-communism. Yet, a congressional report of 1973 lauded the drug policy cooperation of the Allende regime, even after the politically-tainted 1970 Squella-Avendaño smuggling affair. Chile s path in democracy and drugs was interrupted by the events of September 1973, which became the final push to the opportunities grabbed by Colombians in coming years. 22 RG59 Dec File , Chile , 29 Jan.1963; UN GEN/NAR/64Conf.2.6, Inter-American Consultative Group on the Coca Leaf, Chile report Illicit Traffic in Cocaine, 1 Sept 1964, pp 6, 14. FBN, Traffic in Drugs, 1964, pp.18, UN TAO/LAT/72, Report of the UN Study Tour of Points of Convergence of the Illicit Traffic in Coca Leaf and Cocaine in Latin America, 28 Feb.1967, pp.14, 44; Committee on Foreign Affairs, Study Mission to Latin America., The World Narcotics Problem: The Latin American Perspective; cf. Senate Judiciary Committee, 14 Sept.1972, World Drug Traffic and its Impact on U.S. Security, for $10 million Miami cocaine find on Squella-Avendaño, former air-force officer slated to receive an important post in Allende government. E-Com., Daniel Palma A. (Santiago) Feb
18 18 PRE-COLOMBIAN DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THE AMERICAS CUBA: COCAINE CULTURE Cuba was the hub for burgeoning international cocaine traffic and tastes during the 1950s, a role that is better known than Chile s. Havana was among the first post-war global sin capitals, with roots in Prohibition, where offshore gangsters rubbed shoulders with their Latin counterparts from Chile, Panama, Argentina, and Mexico, amid the haven of corrupted regimes of Prío, Grau and Batista ( ). Havana s notorious gambling and pleasure clubs, and freewheeling prostitution industry, became the era s pioneer test-markets of cocaine. The spreading modern taste for cocaine, including among curious American tourists, was a Cuban invention, worthy of its own cultural history. A vibrant new pan-american mambo culture superceded the relic blues inflection of prior recreational cocaine. 24 By 1950, Cuban couriers were venturing out in search of cocaine s ingredients, and by the mid-1950s Cuban labs prepared Andean cocaine for distribution in the United States. The 1959 revolution, by driving out drug dealers, marked a sea-change for cocaine, as this Cuban capitalist diaspora sought havens from Mexico to Miami. Cuban traffickers, such as Abelardo Martínez del Rey had been scouting Peru by , and as opportunities arose in revolutionary Bolivian paste, they quickly shifted operations there. By the mid-1950s, Havana had emerged as the capital of this inter-american cocaine culture and commerce. In 1954, Cuba saw two major seizures over 3 kilos. Mi Conlico estate near Havana housed a lab; police seized prepared cocaine, raw cocaine, coca, a false-bottom suitcase, and ether, camphor, acetone and laboratory apparatus such as test-tubes and fake labels marked Merck. Chemist Aulet Curbelo, 50, got away, but police later apprehended accomplices including Oscar Méndez Pérez in Brooklyn, who received five years. A 1956 seizure of 2.7 kilos in New York originated in Cuba. By now, INTERPOL regarded Cuba as the main staging-point for Bolivian cocaine entering the United States. In 1957, alarms sounded with the seizure of more than 12 kilos of coke in Cuba, an enormous haul for the time. In 1958, police came upon a clandestine laboratory with 700 gms of finished HCl at the Residencia Fontanar in Havana. The possessor and chemist was José Ríos Benze, alias El Gallego Ríos. However, Cuba s most talked about traffickers were 24 Rosalie Schwartz, Pleasure Island: Tourism and Temptation in Cuba (Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1997) p. 24; Enrique Cirules, The Mafia in Havana: A Caribbean Mob Story (Melbourne: Ocean Press, 2004); Sáenz Rovner, Conexión cubana, chs. 2, 6, 8; Mary K. Crabb, Critical Care: An Ethnographic Journey into Health, Health Politics and Revolution in 20th-Century Cuba, ms., ch. 12.
19 PAUL GOOTENBERG 19 two Lebanese merchants, with a long record and jail-time in opiate trades José Flaifel Moubarak and his father Nicolás Flaifel Yapur (alias Flyfel ) and José Gabriel Pérez Fernández. Flaifel was implicated in several Peruvian cocaine rings of the early 1950s and later Bolivia schemes. 25 The extended González clan (Esther, Armando, Ramón among them) also threw themselves into cocaine and by 1960 had dispersed to Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States. Bolivia s colorful trafficker, Blanca Ibáñez de Sánchez, worked her Bolivia-New York route with pit-stops in Cuba until her arrests after In 1958, a mysterious Bolivian, probably Ibáñez, bribed their way out of Cuba after caught with 26 kilos. Andean police archives of the 1950s trace the comings-and-goings of Cuban buyers, the trade s core intermediaries: Miguel González, Gustavo Portelo, Martínez del Rey, José Ara, Régulo Escalona, Méndez Marfa, all with trademark Cuban aliases, to name a few. It is hard to say how much organization there was to this new transnational crime. Few signs point to intervention by North American mafia figures in Havana. It seemed like a strictly Cuban or Hispano-American affair, of tough homegrown smuggling outfits, perhaps following the example of foreign heroin dealers. The first visible year of Andean contraband, 1947, was also the year of Lucky Luciano s post-war effort to settle offshore in Cuba, before FBN pressures forced him out because of his alleged ties to heroin trades. During the Balarezo case, Anslinger desperately sought to link the two flows. Meyer Lansky and company swelled 1950s Havana, mixing with the locals until both the revolution and the development of a new capitalist paradise in Las Vegas drew them away. Cocaine was a new natural sideline to the other entertainments of Batista s Cuba, gambling, cigars, women, and great music. Oral and popular mafia histories spin a similar tale: the proactive role of Cuban nationals, including those in the United States, promoting cocaine, in part as a result of the FBI assault on American mobsters after the 1950 Kefauver Hearings. In the 1960s, the American mafia then peacefully ceded domestic markets to Cubans cocaine retailers. Officials portrayed this as a highly-organized trade: Cocaine traffic in the United States is almost exclusively by Cuban nationals residing and operating in New York City. These violators cause large quantities of cocaine to be delivered through professional couriers, mostly passengers on commercial airliners, directly from Havana to New York.... Cuban Traffickers in New York City then distribute the cocaine to other ethnical 25 FBN, Traffic in Drugs, 1957, Cuba (also 1960, 1962 reports); INTERPOL, UN CND E/CN.7 Illicit Traffic, Clandestine laboratories reports,
20 20 PRE-COLOMBIAN DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THE AMERICAS groups [African-Americans?] and interstate to criminal associates in Chicago, Detroit and other large metropolitan cities. 26 Castro s 1959 Revolution marked a spike of cocaine found the United States, which rose to 6 kilos and 3 in Cuba, more than the previous halfdecade combined. Smuggling routes noticeably scattered across the Caribbean basin. Cubans fled to Argentina for secure bases near Bolivia, and left for Mexico to set up distributor labs. The core of this new professional international cocaine trafficking class was formed by Cuban exiles. In 1959, police netted no less than 11 Cuban cocaine traffickers, with their signature false-bottom suitcases. The revolution revived the once-rival Chile-Mexico corridor. By 1962, Miami had become a second port for cocaine, not surprisingly with its large exile population, which included gangsters taking what they could. The FBN reported two dramatic seizures that year, from Gabriella Giralt and eight others, with over 5.5 kilos concealed in Miami and Key West safe-houses. Pioneer dealers throughout the United States, such as New York s Felix Martínez ( Cubuche ) and his brother-in-law Miguel Uzquiano, were Cuban nationals. Tied in with Mexican mafioso Botano Zeijo, Martínez used a clothing firm as cover for heroin and cocaine sales from Chile, rising into a major distributor of narcotics in the New York area 27 The FBN was fully aware of this dispersing stimulus of Cuba s revolution, detailed in a special Cocaine Traffic memo of November Its collation of 24 prime cocaine suspects highlighted the Cuban role: In most of our cases, where we are able to trace the cocaine back to the source of supply in South America, there is usually a Cuban involved somewhere along the line. It appears that the Cubans are taking over as middlemen... smuggling the cocaine into this country. 28 Cubans reputedly managed all cocaine entering New York, the principal growth market, as the only people able to bring cocaine into this country in any quantity or regularity. In Central America, which in FBN geography included Mexico, laboratories are being set up by Cubans who left Cuba because of the Revolution. The memo noted the widening sources of cocaine, from Peru, Bolivia, 26 Hank Messick and Burt Goldlatt, The Mobs and the Mafia: The Illustrated History of Organized Crime (New York: T. Crowell Co., 1972), pp. 5, RG170 Box 54, Inter-American Conferences, , Statement of the USA Delegation, Rio, Feb FBN, Traffic in Drugs, reports. 28 RG170 Box 30, Subject file, Traffickers, Cocaine Traffic between South America, Central America and the United States, New York, 1961, enclosures, and 19 July 1960; RG , Country file, Cuba; RG170 Box 19 Drugs-Cocaine Thru Dec RG170 Box 54 Inter-American Conferences, file 0345, Correlation between Production of Coca Leaf and the Illicit Trafficking in Cocaine Hydrochloride, Nov
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