Baruch Vega, a long-time CIA operative, has raised a red flag over the incoming president of Mexico’s decision to employ the former head of the Colombian National Police, Gen. Oscar Naranjo, as his security advisor in the war on drugs.
“I do not think Naranjo will be running a war against drugs,” Vega contends. “He will be running a war to protect Mexican drug traffickers.”
Vega contends there is a real danger that Mexican president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto is on a path to recreate a similar corrupt alliance between government security forces and major narco-traffickers — many shadowed in the trappings of legitimate business interests — as existed in the early to mid-2000s in Colombia during Naranjo’s rise to power in the Colombia National Police (CNP) while he also allegedly was assisting elements of the infamous North Valley Cartel.
In addition to the role Naranjo will play in helping to cultivate Mexico’s drug-war strategy for Peña Nieto, the president-elect has already made public his plans to stand up a paramilitary force, composed of ex-soldiers, that would be some 40,000 strong. Peña Nieto also hopes to created a single, consolidated national police force. With these tools, he says, the Mexican military can be replaced as the primary enforcer of security in the drug war in Mexico and the battle can be refocused from hunting down the top narco-capos to stemming street violence and other crimes against the community, such as extortion and kidnappings.
The elements of Peña Nieto’s plan, however, as Vega has already exposed in Colombia while working as a US government asset, are almost identical to what gave birth to what Vega calls the “Devil’s Cartel.”
Vega told Narco News that between 1997 and 2000, the FBI and DEA each employed him as an operative in separate investigations focused on the North Valley Cartel leadership. At the same time, Vega claims, he also worked as a foreign counterintelligence source for the CIA. Those facts are verified in US federal agency judicial-hearing documents [link here].
During the course of those DEA and FBI investigations, Vega claims he discovered the operations were being compromised by corrupt players within both DEA and U.S. Customs — a federal law enforcement agency whose investigative arm has since become U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. ICE is part of the US Department of Homeland Security.
Vega’s allegations are supported by a US Justice Department memo obtained by Narco News in 2008, known as the Kent Memo. That memo, drafted by Department of Justice attorney Thomas M. Kent, contains some of the most serious allegations ever raised against U.S. antinarcotics officers: that DEA agents on the front lines of the drug war in Colombia are on drug traffickers’ payrolls, complicit in the murders of informants, and directly involved in helping Colombia’s infamous paramilitary death squads to launder drug money.
Vega alleges that in the late 1990s and early 2000s, agents in the DEA office in Bogotá, as well as someone within U.S. Customs, were leaking information about ongoing U.S. law enforcement investigations to key players in the Colombian National Police. Vega says those corrupt CNP officials were aligned with North Valley Cartel narco-traffickers, in particular a faction of that cartel led by an individual named Wilber Varela.
In the aftermath of the information being leaked, there was a bloodbath, Vega says, resulting in numerous informants and cooperating sources being assassinated. Similar allegations are made in the Kent memo.
“I have had three contracts on my life …,” Vega told Narco News previously. “I am one of the few survivors in this whole ordeal. Almost all of the people in my group (cooperating sources and other informants) are now dead.”
Vega says the many pieces of this dark mystery make it appear very complicated to unravel.
“But, if they are lined up in the right way, it becomes easy to understand,” he adds. “It’s a matter of putting the right players in the right place.”
The way things lined up, according to Vega, involved what amounts to the perfect narco-trafficking organization, or the “Devil’s Cartel.”
This so-called Devil’s Cartel was an alliance of North Valley traffickers under the capo Varela, many of them, like Varela himself, former CNP officials, along with active members of the CNP under the direction of a corrupt CNP colonel named Danilo Gonzalez. Vega also contends that Naranjo, who served in the CNP with Gonzalez, was also a key part of this circle of corruption.
Paramilitary forces under the leadership of Carlos Castaño, who headed the murderous paramilitary force called the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (the AUC), provided the muscle and protection for this Devil’s Cartel and its operations, Vega contends.
The intelligence arm of this Devil’s Cartel, Vega claims, was composed of corrupt U.S. federal agents with DEA and U.S. Customs.
The goal of the Devil’s Cartel alliance was to protect its highly profitable narco-trafficking business, which grew out of the ashes of the Pablo Escobar narco-empire, and to neutralize rival drug traffickers. Among the chief organized rivals at the time was the Cali Cartel, which eventually was overshadowed by the North Valley Cartel.
Naranjo, of course, denies Vega’s allegations and contends that it is Vega who is corrupt. Narjano concedes “making dark alliances,” according to a past Associated Press report, but only to advance Colombia’s national security.
Vega, though, insists that Naranjo is in it for himself, not for the cause of the Colombian people, and contends his role in Mexico, as Peña Nieto’s “security advisor,” is not likely to benefit the Mexican people either.
And, Vega adds, the fact that Naranjo remains a US law-enforcement favorite son to this day is a mirage created for a gullible US mainstream media. The pretense is designed to guard against any move to indict Naranjo for his crimes, because to do so, Vega explains, also would expose US law-enforcement corruption in Colombia that to this day has been covered up.
“All the traffickers that were surrendering and talking to the U.S. government [at the time Vega was working as a U.S. government asset] spoke of … CNP corruption — especially [by] colonels Danilo Gonzalez, and Oscar Naranjo [then head of intelligence for the CNP],” Vega alleges.
Other evidence has emerged in recent months, some of it in US court records, some revealed via DEA documents leaked to Mexican media outlets like Proceso, that bolster Vega’s allegations of the existence of the Devil’s Cartel.
For example, jury trial transcripts featuring the testimony of Gildardo Rodriquez Herrera, a top lietenant in the Diego Montoya Sanchez (a/k/a, “Don Diego”) faction of the North Valley Cartel — which was at war with the Wilbur Varela faction in the early to mid-2000s — reveal that Naranjo was very concerned that allegations of his corrupt involvement with Wilbur Varela might prevent him from ascending to the top position within the Colombian National Police.
Hence, according to the jury trial transcripts, filed in US District Court in Miami, Naranjo arranged a meeting with Rodriquez Herrera, not to arrest him, but to convince him to remove information from a website that implicated Narjano in the corruption.
Following are some excerpts from the jury trial transcripts, with North Valley Cartel narco-trafficker Rodriquez Herrera responding to questions asked by a defense attorney for another party in the case:
Q: You also said in an interview you had met with Oscar Naranjo, who was a high police official, in July of '04 in a hotel in Bogotá. Do you remember that?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And for a time reference, that would have been about three months after Danilo Gonzalez had been killed. [CNP Col. Gonzalez, who was about to be indicted by the US government in 2004, was assassinated after a meeting with his attorney, allegedly gunned down by individuals suspected of being affiliated with the Diego Montoya faction of the North Valley Cartel.]
A. More or less.
Q. Which hotel in Bogotá did this meeting [with Narnajo] take place in?
A. That was at the Capital Hotel.
Q. Who called the meeting, you or General Naranjo?
A. Naranjo is the one who was looking for Diego's people because he wanted to discuss some matters with them. …
Q. And did you meet with General Naranjo by yourself?
A. Yes, and another police officer.
Q. Was this an official police investigation from what you could tell?
A. No, it was more a personal matter, Naranjo's personal matter.
Q. Meaning what?
A. Two — how do you call those — two web pages came out, one from the Varela people and another one from Diego's people. That was on the Internet.
[Wilbur Varela was a major Colombian narco-trafficker who was killed in Venezuela in 2008 by still-unknown assailants. Both Wilbur Varela and Diego Montoya were leaders of the North Valley Cartel in Colombia whose respective factions went to war against each other.]
On Diego's web page, it stated that Naranjo was allied with Varela in the war against the Montoyas. At that time, Naranjo was still a colonel [in the CNP] and his promotion to become general was in proceedings before [the Colombian] Congress and he requested from me specifically that we should take his name out of that Internet web page because that was going to prejudice his possible promotion.
Q. In any event, as we sit here today [May 2011], he [Naranjo] is currently the general chief of police of Colombia, is he not?
A. Because we took him out of the web page.
Naranjo, in June 2012, retired as commander of the CNP and that same month agreed to take on the role of security advisor for then-presidential candidate Peña Nieto, who was subsequently, on July 1, voted in as president of Mexico in a process marred by allegations of media manipulation and election fraud. Peña Nieto will be sworn in as Mexico’s next president on Dec. 1.
Given the component parts of Colombia’s so-called Devil’s Cartel, as outlined by Vega, and the fact that Naranjo has been accused of being among the major players in that corrupt alliance, the drug-war plan being advanced by Peña Nieto should give all of us pause for concern.
Because, like the Devil’s Cartel, if president-elect Peña Nieto’s plan comes to fruition, Mexico would have the following elements in place:
1.) A large standing paramilitary force composed of former soldiers — many of whom have already been implicated in numerous human rights violations, and murders, as part of the drug war, not unlike the track record of Colombia’s paramilitary AUC;
2.) A centralized police force, not unlike Colombia’s CNP;
3.) Long-standing, entrenched narco-corruption within the government, involving officials who have the power, connections and money to control these new powerful tools (a paramilitary army and centralized police force) to achieve their political and profit-making goals — all under the cloak of a so-called drug war aided by billions of dollars in US assistance under programs such as the Merida Initiative.
It has played out before, in Colombia (which, of course, was aided by the US government’s multi-billion dollar Plan Colombia), and it was accomplished in Colombia with the help of corrupt US law enforcement agents, Vega contends, who also were enticed by the allure of money and power.
Why would human nature be any different in Mexico, where some 120,000 human beings have been murdered and/or disappeared since late 2006 — all in the name of a drug war that seems incapable of stopping either the flow of drugs, money or blood?
[Note: For more on the Devil’s Cartel, Vega’s role as a US government operative, US law-enforcement corruption in Colombia and the Kent Memo, check out Narco News’ past coverage of the “Bogotá Connection” at this link.]