In the noise and confusion attending the extradition to the US on the same day last week of three women involved in cocaine trafficking from South America, questions raised by the family connection of one to the former President of Colombia went unanswered.
Did Alvaro Uribe okay the loading of 3.6 tons of cocaine at an airport he controlled in Rio Negro Colombia onto a “former” CIA Gulfstream (N987SA) jet from St. Petersburg Florida that crashed in the Yucatan in 2007?
Why did two successive U.S. Administrations lavish billions of dollars to stop drug trafficking on a President of Colombia who was himself involved in the drug trade?
While any further emphasis of the ties to the drug business of a global elite of the parasitic rich seems unnecessary at this late date, all three of the extradicted women belong to the families of legendary drug-trafficking dynasties.
A Godfather, a Tiger, and Sandra Avila
Receiving the lion’s share of last week’s media attention was femme fatale Sandra Avila Beltran, known as the Queen of the Pacific, whose seductive persona has fascinated Mexico for much of the past decade.
Avila, who faces charges of money laundering and drug trafficking, belongs to the Beltran-Leyva family, which has been involved in drug trafficking for three generations.
She is the niece of the man known as the original "Godfather" of Mexico’s drug business, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, currently in prison in Mexico.
Avila's "claim to fame" is that she, and her significant other, Colombian Juan Diego Espinoza Ramirez, alias El Tigre, established ties between the Sinaloa Cartel and Colombia’s dominant Cartel del Valle.
“She used her physical attributes to do business and gain allies,” says noted journalist Ricardo Ravelo. "Her character is violent and manipulative; she has a very active social life, loves parties, jewels and pleasures.''
Quietly extradicted, almost as an afterthought
By contrast, Dolly Cifuentes-Villa and her daughter Ana Maria Uribe Cifuentes flew in under the radar, almost unnoticed.
Yet, shockingly, both belong to the family of the former President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, and were actively involved in drug trafficking while Uribe was at the same time being paid $8 billion by the U.S.’s Plan Colombia to pursue a war against that country’s cocaine traffickers.
She is charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute narcotics between 2003 through 2009, as well as laundering drug money through shell companies and real estate in Colombia, Panama, and Mexico.
She was either married or the long-time mistress—accounts differ—of Jaime Uribe, Alvaro Uribe’s brother. Their daughter, Ana Maria, also a part of the family business, is Alvaro Uribe's niece.
She is the sister of a clan of drug trafficking Cifuentes Villa brothers, led, until his 2007 assassination, by Francisco Cifuentes, known as “Don Pancho,” who cut the historic deal with Sandra Avila's assistance, to distribute Columbian cocaine into the U.S. through Mexico with Sinaloa Cartel honcho El Chapo Guzman.
That deal, cut shortly after Guzman’s “escape” from prison while Vicente Fox was president of Mexico, has led to Mexico’s current horrific drug war, as rival Mexican cartels scramble for their share of Colombia’s business.
The tangled past of George W. Bush's 'great good friend' Alvaro Uribe
If having close family members involved in drug trafficking was the first taint of corruption to besmirch the reputation of Alvaro Uribe, it might be possible to explain it by saying he is not responsible for the actions of others in his family.
If this were just the second time that charges of involvement in drug trafficking have been leveled against him, there might still be an innocent explanation, however implausible, that could be used.
But this is at least the the fourth time credible allegations of involvement in drug trafficking have been leveled against Uribe.
A declassified report made public in 1991 by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), directly linked then-senator Alvaro Uribe to Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel (as well as naming Saudi financier Adnan Khashoggi as a trafficker).
The report referred to Uribe as “a Colombian politician dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high levels,” claiming Uribe was “a close personal friend” of Escobar’s.
Using US money to take out the competition
Then in 2007 another US intelligence report was leaked to the LA Times by a CIA official described as “unhappy that Uribe's government had not been held to account by the Bush administration.”
According to this report, Uribe tasked his defense minister, General Mario Montoya, with leading a controversial counterinsurgency push in the city of Medellin in 2002 which relied heavily on the support of a right-wing paramilitary group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), which was itself involved in drug trafficking.
While Uribe’s rival cocaine barons in Colombia were being hunted, their coca sprayed, and their flights regularly interdicted, officials in both the US and Colombia turned a blind eye to Uribe-backed traffickers who the U.S. now says sent 500 tons of cocaine to the U.S.
According to a 2004 U.S. Government Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) indictment, the Norte del Valle cartel exported more than 1.2 million pounds – more than 500 tons – of cocaine worth in excess of $10 billion from Colombia to Mexico and ultimately to the United States for resale.
But the organization, according to a senior official of the National Police of Colombia who spoke to a Colombian journalist, was not pursued between August 2002 and August 2010, during Uribe’s two terms in office.
In the past three years, say Colombian police, the Cifuentes Villa brothers’ Norte del Valle cartel, with operations in five countries, has sent 30 tons of cocaine into the United States.
Dolly Cifuentes’s story, which US officials will no doubt dissuade her from telling, makes clear that the $8 billion in Plan Colombia money was criminally wasted.
It presents a potentially major embarrassment to the US Government, threatening the very premise behind America’s War on Drugs while raising the specter that the U.S. is engaged in selective prosecution, favoring some drug traffickers while prosecuting others.
The War on Drugs, whose $40 billion a year price tag is footed by US taxpayers, benefits just a small group of insiders who are able to command the official complicity of their governments in their drug trafficking endeavors.
This would all be a huge scandal, if we had a free press.