One of the greatest
escapes since the Great Houdini was locked in handcuffs and
leg-irons, nailed inside a crate, and lowered to the bottom
of New York’s East River reached its conclusion two weeks
ago, when a drug pilot who has escaped from custody in three
different countries and eluded an international manhunt was
arrested in a van with 70 kilos of cocaine in a parking lot
at the Radisson Hotel in Caracas, Venezuela.
Vasquez-Guerra, the pilot on two of the most infamous and
controversial drug flights of the past decade, was taken
into custody by Venezuelan police without incident, along
with two other men, ending an incredible five-year long saga
featuring repeated arrest... but little detention.
During that time
Vasquez-Guerra was arrested, and then inexplicably released
from custody, in not one...not two... but in three
different countries, located on two separate continents.
astounding ability to slither out of serious trouble raises
disturbing questions about who's winning—and losing—the war
Carmelo Vasquez-Guerra—in global drug
trafficking—is The Great Houdini II.
so, when his time ran out, and his run from the law finally
ended, he went out, not with a bang…
A Tweet from the Minister of Funny Walks
in Caracas by the CICPC: Carmelo Guerra Vásquez," twitted
Tarek El Aissami, Venezuela’s Minister for the Interior and
Justice. "Wanted by Interpol with a Red Notice for drug
Fans of El Aissami
on Twitter presumably know the significance of an Interpol
But even the
uninitiated can make a good guess.
Vásquez-Guerra, the most notorious drug pilot in the world,
was in custody. It was an important event in a crucial
struggle, because, when he talks, what he has to say will be
of crucial importance in a larger arena.
Two combatants are
locked in a death match: the American Drug Enforcement
Administration, the DEA... and a man whose red beret has
prompted more heartburn in the U.S. than anyone since Che
Hugo Chavez is
either Venezuela’s “President,” or Venezuela’s “strongman,”
depending on your—or your native country’s—point of view.
He was democratically elected, but is highly controversial,
even feared, in his own country, and by large segments of
his own people.
The 'kingpin of kingpins' in a global jihad?
Now, under the
intense glare of a worldwide media spotlight, some big
questions about Hugo Chavez are about to receive answers.
through cronies like countrymen Vasquez-Guerra and Walid
Makled—recently called the ‘kingpin of kingpins’
by the U.S. Attorney in New York—a major global drug
Is he collaborating
in drug trafficking with elements of Al Qaeda, as the DEA
charges, creating a drug pipeline from Venezuela through
West Africa and the Sahara to Europe?
With the arrest of
Carmelo Vasquez-Guerra (who, the government of Venezuela
would like you to know, is the 60th drug trafficker being
sought by Interpol caught in Venezuela since 2005), the
possibility even exists that answers may be forthcoming.
extradites him to any of a number of countries where he
is wanted for drug trafficking, Chavez will be throwing down
the gauntlet—or at least the red beret—in front of the
the world wants to know from the captured pilot are a few of
his slippery secrets, which no one doubts he possesses, to
illuminate the real politick of the global drug trade
for those of us not initiated, or "read into," the "clandestine mysteries.'
Because much of the
global war on drugs is a propaganda war, his answers will have reverberations that
may affect the balance of power in global drug trafficking
for a generation.
Mexico and the U.S., for example, weren't sure of
much when the DC9 from St Petersburg was busted in
Campeche. But they were sure of one thing...the 5.5 tons of
cocaine, they felt certain, didn't belong to cronies of
George W. Bush or Vicente Fox.
It belonged to the
A DTO All Star
What makes Carmelo
Vasquez-Guerra such a standout clean-up hitter for a team of
Drut Trafficking Organization All Stars?
first gained notoriety when he piloted the DC9 from St.
Petersburg Florida. The plane was on its way back to the U.S.
from Caracas when it was busted in April 2006 in the state
of Campeche, Mexico
soldiers were seizing his airplane, arresting the four other
members of the crew, and setting up a perimeter ringing the
out-of-the-way airport in Ciudad del Carmen, Vasquez Guerra somehow managed to...
just slip away.
It was the first
indication of just how slippery—and how
well-connected—he would turn out to be, and
it marked the beginning of a 5-year long quest to re-capture
him, a quest which finally ended when authorities 'slapped
the cuffs' on him two weeks ago.
The most suspicious
indication, among many, which gave the drug flight away to
Mexican soldiers, was that the flight which carried no
passengers, but nonetheless had a
cargo of 128 identical black leather suitcases. Stuffed
inside those 128 suitcases, Mexican authorities discovered,
was a stupefying 5.5. tons of cocaine.
For a short time at
least, it was Christmas in Campeche.
Puzzling vagaries in
128 black leather suitcases stuffed with 5.5 tons
of cocaine once again highlighted the “puzzling vagaries” in
the U.S. Government’s official story about the war on drugs,
where the "bad guys" somehow manage to slip more than 300
tons of cocaine a year into the country under the nose of a
government that can read the make of a golf ball from outer
And of course there were
the numerous unexplained 'anomalies' in Vasquez Guerra’s
‘escape’ that left unanswered questions, and a bad
smell, given the “sensitivity” of the
circumstances., which were special circumstances, indeed.
Take the DC9's appearance, for example: An official-looking
Seal beside the door, with an image of a U.S. Federal Eagle
in the center, read: SKYWAY AIRCRAFT. PROTECTION OF
It was so close to
being identical to the seal of Homeland Security that it had
led aviation observers, and even eagle-eyed
planespotters, to repeatedly conclude, in the
two years before it was caught, that it belonged to the U.S.
Dept of Homeland Security.
sat on the tarmac at Clearwater-St. Petersburg International
Airport less than one hundred yards from the U.S. Coast
Guard’s major Caribbean air station...with no questions
asked. There was nary a peep from the Coast Guard (a DHW Agency).
"We never could figure out how they could get away with
that," one SkyWay employee told us.
"They had the same seal
on the fleet of Hummers, and local cops in Tampa pulled them
over and made them take it off. But not the Coast Guard.
questioned, officials at the Coast Guard Station
have repeatedly refused to
And then, of course, when the DC9 landed in Ciudad del Carmen,
it was met by a Falcon business jet belonging to the Mexican
Government, flown in by two pilots from the
Mexican Federal Government’s Water Commission.
The term used by
sociologists today to describe this particular set of circumstances is
usually "State-Sponsored Organized Crime."
"Say hello to my little friend."
Later, the paper
trail from the DC9 led Mexican investigators to the
discovery that the plane had been purchased
using drug money from a Mexican currency exchange which had
extremely close ties to former Mexican President Vicente
Worse yet, money from the currency exchange had been
knowingly laundered through the 4th largest bank
in the U.S.
Wachovia Bank, we
all learned a year ago, when it signed a consent decree with
the U.S. government, had laundered an orders-of-magnitude
and even-more stupefying amount of money than observers
could have guessed in their wildest imaginings.
The figure given
out was $385 billion. Some of it was used to buy the DC9.
All of it, the full
$385 billion, came from sources which federal
prosecutors said “cannot be verified.”
Money which “cannot
be verified” is usually presumed to come from Tony Montana,
whose business—the global drug trade—has weathered the Great
Recession somewhat better than most.
was allowed to plead guilty to laundering a fraction of that
amount, was fined $160 million, and then sold off to Wells
Wachovia's cut was for washing all that drug money is a
figure yet to be revealed.
bankers were tittering behind their hands all the way to
Salt Lake City, home of Wells Fargo.
The U.S. government is clearly still treating some elements
of the drug trade—the
more equal than others.
nasty habit of moving money around for Mexican drug
smugglers provided the clean cash
necessary for the purchase of a fleet of American planes,
including the DC9, which cumulatively flew at least 22 tons
Mexico's official drug
policy: Catch & release?
While the date
remains vague, Carmelo Vasquez Guerra was eventually taken into
custody by Mexican authorities.
And even in Mexico,
piloting 5.5 tons of cocaine would seem to call for more
jail time than robbing a corner liquor store.
So reporters there
assumed they’d heard the last of him for some time.
surprise, as well as their chagrin, when Francisco Gomez of
Mexico City's El Universal newspaper discovered Vasquez-Guerra had been released from prison
less than two years after being arrested.
And he was
just one of six high profile drug traffickers imprisoned in
Mexico who have been inexplicably released recently, Gomez
reported, before asking:
With certain favored drug traffickers, was the government of
Mexico's drug policy catch and release?
Questions about why
how the man got his freedom
were received with
official blank stares.
It wasn't just that
was no official explanation.
There was no explanation at all.
Reporter Gomez learned that Vasquez-Guerra was free by
reading his name in an international headline which said he had been arrested in Africa flying a plane
carrying 550 kilos of cocaine.
This was seen as proof,
according to the laws of physics, even in Mexico, that he
was no longer in prison.
Proof of Al Qaeda in the Magreb! Or maybe Fort Lauderdale
had flown a drug flight on a Gulfstream II business jet,
from Venezuela across the South Atlantic to Guinea-Bissau on
the coast of West Africa, where it was busted... by mistake.
The bust was 'pilot
error.' Vasquez-Guerra had landed at the wong airport,
meaning, an airport where the
Guinea-Bissau military weren't ready to back up a truck to
unload his plane when it landed.
officials were allowed to inspect the plane, and it was
Then... wonder of
wonders! Under circumstances more murky than a cloudy
night during a duststorm, he was once again released from jail.
And two weeks
later, after being busted in the neighboring country of
Mali, home of Timbuktu, he was released yet again.
where the interdiction of the Gulfstream became a key event
in the ongoing drama between the U.S. and Venezuela whose
reverberations are still being felt, because that's where an
official from the Dept. of Homeland Security announced the
discovery of a drug pipeline pumping cocaine from Venezuela
across the Atlantic to West Africa, where Al Qaeda in the
Magreb took over, delivering it to Europe.
The example the
official cited? Carmelo Vasquez-Guerra's flight aboard a
Gulfstream II, a plane whose home was the world-famous Fort
Lauderdale Executive Airport, not previously known as a
hotbed of Islamic jihadist activity. It was owned by a man
named Luis Bustamante.
From the FARC to Chavez to Al Qaeda... It was a terrorist
tri-fecta, and maybe
closest thing to a wet dream that grizzled old U.S. drug warriors
like General Barry McCaffrey have had since 1957, when Jane
Russell starred in “The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown.”
It's too bad that none of it;s true. But that hasn't seemed
saga of the DC9, completely ignored by the mainstream
media, was followed closely on this website—and only on this
website—until the same thing happened again eighteen months
Then a Gulfstream
II took off from the eerily-quiet Clearwater St.
Petersburg International Airport, just as the DC9 had... and
was caught in the Yucatan, just as the DC9 was... only this
time it wasn't carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine, but "only"
Tons, that is, of cocaine.
Gulfstream (N987SA) hadn't needed to get painted to fool
people into thinking it was a U.S. Government plane...
Because it had been one.
dead rats, Iran-Contra, & The Order of the White Elephant