Honduras Coup General Was Charged in 1993 Auto Theft Ring

By Al Giordano

General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, who appeared on stage this week with Honduran coup “president” Roberto Michiletti, and who ordered the kidnapping and forced deportation of P resident Manuel Zelaya last Sunday, was charged with grand auto theft in 1993, Narco News has learned.

On February 2, 1993, the front page of the Tegucigalpa daily El Heraldo included this headline: “Eleven Members of the Gang of 13 Go to Prison”:

“Eleven individuals arrested for their alleged participation in the theft of 200 luxury automobiles… were sent to prison yesterday… (including) Colonel Wilfredo Leva Caborrea and Major Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, accused as alleged participants…”

(Narco News makes the document available for download by press and public here, including two interior pages of the newspaper that report on the case, each mentioning the then-major, now commander of the military coup in Honduras.)

The newspaper report further stated:

“…Major Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, connected to the theft of luxury cars in the ‘Gang of 13,’ will be imprisoned in the Central Penitentiary (PC, in its Spanish initials).”

Prior to his criminal acts, Vásquez attended the US School of the Americas in 1976 and 1984, when the school was located in Panama, but he did not graduate.

It was the same Honduran Congress that endorsed, after the fact, last Sunday’s military coup, and named Roberto Micheletti as the country's "president," that promoted this common car thief as head of the Armed Forces.

Memo to the General: Objects in the rear view mirror are closer than they appear...



The Devil in the Details

As in Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and beyond in Latin America, the Honduran military, at the highest levels, has a track record of taking its cut of profits from the global narco-trafficking market — with U.S. agencies in the thick of the mess, often with conflicting missions that pit covert operations against law enforcement objectives. And overseas, the covert operations carried out by the CIA — and Pentagon intel agencies — always trump law enforcement. And like trains, these covert ops are hard to stop once at full steam, even by a well-intentioned White House, given their intricacies and layers of compartmentalization — which make such dark operations the perfect breeding grounds for a fungus called corruption.

It’s something to keep in mind, history that is, and a nuance that it seems many who are quick to pounce on the Obama administration seemingly fail to consider — or even recognize. Operatives unleashed under the Bush administration [and even before then] now years deep into such missions in the region, who have found this line of work lucrative, might not be so easy to shut down as our high-school civics classes led us to believe. In places like Honduras, the future of democracy is under attack by this deep-seated corruption — which respects no borders and exists, sometimes thrives, within the framework of all governments, including our own.

Excerpts from a December 1997 report published by the Transnational Institute:

Unfinished Business: The Military and Drugs in Honduras

An ex-police officer recently commented that at the beginning of the 1990s, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) paid military officers for each kilogram of cocaine confiscated. It was common for "high ranking officers" to show up before large scale missions to "guard" the drugs, and, obviously, await their reward.

This DEA strategy changed when it was proven that many military personnel were in the business.

… A prosecutor from the Attorney General's office commented that they have evidence that several high-ranking officers control small drug rings. It is difficult to capture them because they operate under a veil of impunity. He noted, "They have controlled everything that is drug trafficking for many years and, as a result, are experienced at evading justice."

… At the same time, there is a perceptible increase in banking, construction, tourism, availability of credit cards, beauty contests, sports investments, and a series of mechanisms that give reason to believe that Tegucigalpa is becoming a strong zone for the laundering of profits from drug trafficking and organized crime.

… At the request of an American journalist, the DEA declassified fragmented information about Honduran soldiers involved in drug trafficking. The report mentions, among others, retired Gen. José Abdengo Bueso Rosa, an unconditional ally of the United States and a trained assassin. The documentation states that Bueso was found guilty of transporting 760 pounds of cocaine to Florida. According to the DEA report, the drugs were to be used to kill the Honduran president, Roberto Suazo Córdoba, whose term lasted from 1982 to 1984. Bueso was convicted in 1986 at the Miami District Court.

The same DEA documents mention the former chief of the Honduran armed forces, Gen. Humberto Regalado Herná ndez, suspected of protecting Colombian drug traffickers, as well as of diverting funds from US military aid to a personal account.

Relations between military personnel and drug traffickers are a type of nebulous mystery. When DEA agents found evidence of officers involved in the business in 1989, they were suddenly removed from their posts in Tegucigalpa. The organization's offices were then officially closed on that date, according to the bulletin of the Honduran Documentation Center (CEDOH).

From documents at The Natonal Security Archive:

José Bueso Rosa

Reagan administration officials interceded on behalf of José Bueso Rosa, a Honduran general who was heavily involved with the CIA's contra operations and faced trial for his role in a massive drug shipment to the United States. In 1984 Bueso and co-conspirators hatched a plan to assassinate Honduran President Roberto Suazo Córdoba; the plot was to be financed with a $40 million cocaine shipment to the United States, which the FBI intercepted in Florida.

Document 13 
Declassified e-mail messages indicate that Oliver North led the behind-the-scenes effort to seek leniency for Bueso . The messages record the efforts of U.S. officials to "cabal quietly" to get Bueso off the hook, be it by "pardon, clemency, deportation, [or] reduced sentence." Eventually they succeeded in getting Bueso a short sentence in "Club Fed," a white collar prison in Florida.

Document 14 (See page 76 of Document 6, the Kerry Report)
The Kerry Committee report reviewed the case, and noted that the man Reagan officials aided was involved in a conspiracy that the Justice Department deemed the "most significant case of narco-terrorism yet discovered."


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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.