Meet the CIA: Guns, Drugs and Money

Photo by Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs | CC BY 2.0

On November 22, 1996, the US Justice Department indicted General Ramón Guillén Davila of Venezuela on charges of importing cocaine into the United States. The federal prosecutors alleged that while heading Venezuela’s anti-drug unit, General Guillén smuggled more than 22 tons of cocaine into the US and Europe for the Calí and Bogotá cartels. Guillén responded to the indictment from the sanctuary of Caracas, whence his government refused to extradict him to Miami, while honoring him with a pardon for any possible crimes committed in the line of duty. He maintained that the cocaine shipments to the US had been approved by the CIA, and went on to say that “some drugs were lost and neither the CIA nor the DEA want to accept any responsibility for it.”

The CIA had hired Guillén in 1988 to help it find out something about the Colombian drug cartels. The Agency and Guillén set up a drug-smuggling operation using agents of Guillén’s in the Venezuelan National Guard to buy cocaine from the Calí cartel and ship it to Venezuela, where it was stored in warehouses maintained by the Narcotics Intelligence Center, Caracas, which was run by Guillén and entirely funded by the CIA.

To avoid the Calí cartel asking inconvenient questions about the growing inventory of cocaine in the Narcotics Intelligence Center’s warehouses and, as one CIA agent put it, “to keep our credibility with the…

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