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  HOME | Latin America (Click here for more)

Book: Castro helped Escobar
BOGOTA (EFE) – A book coming out in Colombia this week about Pablo Escobar, based on revelations by his erstwhile lieutenant, says the slain king of cocaine enjoyed the collaboration of Cuba’s Fidel Castro in the shipment of tons of drugs to the United States.


John Jairo Velásquez Vásquez, known as “Popeye” and considered “the man closest to Escobar,” says the links between the late drug kingpin and the Cuban leader were forged in the 1980s in Sandinista-ruled Nicaragua.
Escobar was killed in a Dec. 3, 1993, shootout with police in Medellín.
“They never speak in person, but they maintain permanent and fluid communications via letters and third parties,” Velásquez says in the new book, “El verdadero Pablo – Sangre, traicion y muerte...” (The Real Pablo: Blood, Betrayal and Death).
The book, written by Astrid Le-garda, details “the confessions” of Escobar’s right-hand man, who is doing time in a Bogotá prison.
In the book, which goes on sale Thursday, Velásquez tells Legarda about his experiences during one of the most violent periods in Colom bia’s history, a time when Escobar declared war on the government and paid for a wave of bombings and assassinations targeting politicians, officials, police and journalists.
The former leader of the Medellín cartel “always looks for ways to get his drugs on U.S. streets, by way of non-allied governments or enemies of the United States,” according to excerpts from the book published in the magazine Semana.
“He wants to do it on a grand scale, and has done it via Nicaragua,” Velásquez says, adding that Escobar sent one of his men to Cuba to talk with Cuban Defense Minister Raúl Castro, the brother of Fidel Castro.
In Cuba, an agreement was reached allowing Escobar to move large quantities of cocaine over two years from the Colombian port of Buenaventura to the Mexican coast.
The cocaine was packed in condoms strapped together in one-kilo bundles, according to Velásquez, who said the packages were flown to Cuba from Mexico in shipments of up to 10 and 12 tons.
Once in Cuba, the shipments were placed under the control of the Cuban military. Army Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa and Interior Minister Col. Tony de la Guardia were responsible for the operation on the Cuban end.
The drugs were later sent by boat to the U.S. coast, where Medellín cartel employees received them.
Velásquez said that after the Cuba route was discovered by U.S. authorities, who seized a large shipment of cocaine, Castro ordered “a farse of an investigation” of Ochoa and several others. After a show trial on corruption and drug trafficking charges, Ochoa and De la Guardia, along with two others, were executed by firing squad in 1989.
Velásquez said Alvaro Fayad and Iván Marino Ospina, the late leaders of Colombia’s defunct M-19 guerrilla group, acted as go-betweens for Escobar and Castro.
The two rebels, according to Velásquez, asked Escobar to finance the M-19’s operation to seize the Palace of Justice in Bogotá.
The drug kingpin agreed, promising to give them $2 million, even though he believed a takeover of Congress would be more effective, according to the book.
The guerrillas attacked the Palace of Justice in November 1985. More than 100 people, including Supreme Court justices and the rebels, died in the operation.
Velásquez said Escobar proposed in vain that the guerrillas allow two of his men to go along on the mission to burn the documents relating to his possible extradition and assassinate all the justices.
The book also details Velásquez’ recollections about some of the killings ordered by Escobar, such as the assassinations of El Espectador editor Guillermo Caño and presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, as well as the shootdown of a commercial airliner.
 

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