The Cocaine Coup and the Coca Revolution
The word mercy's gonna have a new meaning
When we are judged by the children of our slaves - Bruce Cockburn
I get many emails telling me I'm too negative. It's hard for me to disagree. Though what I want to be is just negative enough: neither stricken by paralysis nor buoyed up by cheap hope. That's a tough one.
So when good things happen - when real blows land against the empire and the last become first, at least for a while - they need acknowledgement. If only for the good of clearing my own head. Even sometimes at hope's "limited hangout" of electoral victory. Especially in Bolivia, when an indiginous man who talks like this is elected president:
When we speak of the "defense of humanity," as we do at this event, I think that this only happens by eliminating neoliberalism and imperialism. But I think that in this we are not so alone, because we see, every day that anti-imperialist thinking is spreading, especially after Bush's bloody "intervention" policy in Iraq. Our way of organizing and uniting against the system, against the empire's aggression towards our people, is spreading, as are the strategies for creating and strengthening the power of the people.
As Evo Morales begins to exercise his unambiguous mandate, it will be interesting, and quite likely disheartening, to watch how Bolivia suddenly becomes a topic of great concern in certain quarters; even possibly a crisis of national security demanding intervention.
Here's an early example from Jim Kouri, a Vice President of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, who's written an opinion piece entitled "Bolivian Thug Becomes President." He predictably bloviates that the win "will increase the destabilization of the South American continent," and that Morales is an "ally of the drug cartels and traffickers."
The continent enjoys far greater stability today - and in the mental health sense of the word, too - than in the days of death's head satraps employing the methods of the School of the Americas and answerable to none but Washington. And in an interview with Luis Gómez of Narco News, former Bolivian guerrilla leader and presidential candidate Felipe Quispe makes distinctions between coca and cocaine that undoubtedly would be lost on Kouri:
Coca has been, ancestrally, a sacred leaf. We, the indigenous, have had a profound respect toward it... a respect that includes that we don't "pisar" it (the verb "pisar" means to treat the leaves with a chemical substance, one of the first steps in the production of cocaine). In general, we only use it to acullicar: We chew it during times of war, during ritual ceremonies to salute Mother Earth (the Pachamama) or Father Sun or other Aymara divinities, like the hills. Thus, as an indigenous nation, we have never prostituted Mama Coca or done anything artificial to it because it is a mother. It is the occidentals who have prostituted it. It is they who made it into a drug. This doesn't mean that we don't understand the issue. We know that this plague threatens all of humanity and, from that perspective, we believe that those who have prostituted the coca have to be punished.
Kouri walks his readers right up to "regime change": "should [Morales's] coca policy show an increase of cocaine on US city streets, his regime will be seen as a national security threat and rightly so."
Funny, that. Or rather, like so many things these days, it would be funny if it didn't mean people's lives. Because on July 17, 1980, "los Novios de la Muerte" - narcotics traffickers and mercenaries recruited by fugitive Nazi and CIA asset Klaus Barbie - overthrew the democratic government of Bolivia in the "Cocaine Coup." Cocaine production increased dramatically and America was flooded with the cheap drug. In his essay on the drug war's shills in Kristina Borjesson's Into the Buzzsaw, 25-year DEA veteran Michael Levine writes that "there are few events in history that have caused more and longer-lasting damage to our nation." Bolivians could say the same.
Levine made headlines two months prior to the coup when his DEA sting netted Bolivian cartel leaders Roberto Gasser and Alfredo Gutierrez outside a Miami bank. He had paid them $8 million for the then-largest ever seizure of cocaine. Just a few weeks later Gasser and Gutierrez were released, thanks to pressure from the CIA and the State Department, and weeks after that both men and their cartels became principal financiers of the coup, and were rewarded by the new regime with squads of neo-Nazis to bully their competition.
And then there's Sun Myung Moon. Robert Parry remembers that one of the first international well-wishers who travelled to La Paz to congratulate the putschists was Moon's right hand Bo Hi Pak, former publisher of The Washington Times and "Koreagate" principal, who declared "I have erected a throne for Father Moon in the world's highest city." Later disclosures from the Bolivian government strongly suggested that Moon's organization had heavily invested in the coup, and Parry writes that in 1981 "war criminal Barbie and Moon leader Thomas Ward were often seen together in apparent prayer." Lt. Alfred Mario Mingolla, an Argentine intelligence officer recruited by Barbie, described Ward as his "CIA paymaster." His monthly salary was drawn from the offices of Moon's anti-communist umbrella organization, CAUSA. (As we've seen, Moon still has a huge stake in South America, having purchased the land above the world's largest fresh water aquifer, in Paraguay. These people play a long game.)
"Meanwhile," Parry adds, "Barbie started a secret lodge, called Thule. During meetings, he lectured to his followers underneath swastikas by candlelight." Old habits, hardly dying, and a polyglot web of fascist patrons unashamed to profit by the labours of their Nazi lieutenants.
And here's another would-be funny thing: there were no American headlines about all of that. None at all.
But maybe that's enough talk for now about a coup, while there's a revolution going on.