Judge orders CIA to release files on drug kingpin Pablo Escobar
August 24, 2012 1 Comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In the late 1980s, it was nearly impossible to sit through a primetime news bulletin without coming across the name ‘Pablo Escobar’. Born in 1949 in the town of Rionegro, Colombia, Escobar rose to become the leader of the Medellín cartel, history’s most notorious narcotics smuggling ring. By 1986, the Medellín cartel controlled over 80 percent of the global cocaine market, shipping daily around 15 tons of the drug (worth an estimated street value of $500,000) to the United States. In 1989, Forbes magazine included Escobar on his list of the world’s richest persons, with an estimated net worth of $3 billion. By that time, the Medellín cartel had become powerful enough to directly threaten the very institutional integrity of the Colombian state. At the same time, Escobar carefully cultivated his ‘Robin Hood’ image by regularly building hospitals, schools, and churches in some of Colombia’s most impoverished regions. He was thus able to surround himself with a sea of grateful and devoted supporters, who directly depended on his generosity for their livelihood. They also shielded him from the reach of the Colombian and United States government forces, which repeatedly went after him without success. Eventually, the Colombian government, in association with the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the Central Intelligence Agency, managed to stop Escobar by creating a rival organization called Los PEPES —a Spanish-language acronym that stands for ‘People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar’. Los PEPES, which consisted of members of rival drug smuggling cartels, as well as trained mercenaries belonging to Colombian rightwing militias, went after Escobar’s closest associates with indescribable ruthlessness. They hunted down and eventually tortured and killed several of his relatives, advisors and bodyguards. Ultimately, in 1993, they helped the Colombian National Police corner Escobar and shoot him dead at a Medellín barrio. The celebrations in Washington and Bogotá didn’t last long; as soon as Los PEPES disbanded, many of its leading members regrouped to found the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a rightwing paramilitary group that has since killed thousands of civilians in Colombia’s bitter civil war. The AUC, which funds its operations through kidnappings and drug trafficking, is today a designated terrorist group by most Western governments, including the United States and the European Union. Which is ironic, because many researchers believe that the AUC owes its very existence to the United States government, which allegedly continued to support it for several years after the break-up of Escobar’s Medellín cartel. In light of these allegations, the Washington-based think-tank Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2004, asking the CIA to release its internal records on Escobar. Two years later, the think-tank sued the CIA, accusing the agency of failing to respond to its 2004 FOIA request in good faith. Earlier this week, US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth agreed with the IPS’s view that the CIA’s response to the 2004 FOIA was “legally inadequate”, and ordered the Agency to “perform an adequate search”. The CIA will now have to go re-summon its ‘weeders’ (redaction specialists) to sift through thousands of pages of classified material, prior to releasing them, probably sometime next year.