State Department Cable Release Sheds Light on Bogotá Connection Corruption
Posted by Bill Conroy - December 9, 2010 at 10:11 pm
Missive Made Public by WikiLeaks Invokes Name of CIA Asset Baruch Vega
WikiLeaks has produced yet another cable that offers a glimpse of the intrigue that defines the diplomatic circle.
This one invokes the name of a colorful fashion photographer who has a past track record of working as a key asset for the CIA, DEA and FBI and who has helped to broker plea deals between notorious Colombian narco-traffickers and representatives of the U.S. Justice system.
Last year, this individual, Baruch Vega, raised waves in the land of his birth by appearing on a major Colombian radio program and accusing a prominent businessman of being a narco-trafficker and subsequently writing a letter to that businessman (that became public) in which he also calls out allegedly corrupt members of the Colombian National Police.
Vega, in an interview with Narco News this evening, concedes that incident is likely a major contributing factor to his name being invoked in a Nov. 25, 2009, State Department cable sent from the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia, to the Secretary of State’s Office in Washington, D.C. — as well as to the CIA, DEA and the Secretary of Defense, among other destinations.
From the State Department cable recently disclosed by WikiLeaks:
SMEAR CAMPAIGN AGAINST NARANJO------------------------------8. (S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX said Baruch Vega, a drug trafficker who had served time in the United States and now resided in Miami, was conspiring with Don Mario and other extradited United Self- Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitaries to build a false case against him. He said that a number of his officers had reported being approached by these individuals seeking dirt on XXXXXXXXXXXX. He thought some smear was inevitable, and said he would share the information he had with U.S. law enforcement. [Emphasis added.]
Clearly, the description of Vega as a “drug trafficker,” seems a bit off, given Vega was employed by multiple U.S. law enforcement agencies in major undercover operations targeting narco-traffickers in Colombia. And as for having “served time in the United States,” the source, whoever Mr. X might be (and some media reports indicate it's Naranjo) is again resorting to exaggeration. Vega’s only conviction in the courts was on a misdemeanor charge of failing to file a tax return in the late 1990s — a charge Vega claims was in retaliation for his efforts, and those of several DEA agents who also suffered retaliation, to blow the whistle on corruption in the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá.
As far as his alleged conspiracy with “Don Mario,” Vega told Narco News: "I know his name, but he is one of my enemies who wanted to kill me. I never met him."
In fact, Vega contends the individual identified in the State Department Cable as being the target of a “smear campaign,” Naranjo [Gen. Oscar Naranjo, director of the Colombia National Police] “is part of the corruption.”
“All the traffickers that were surrendering and talking to the U.S. government [at the time Vega was working as a U.S. government asset] spoke of … CNP corruption – especially Colonels Danilo Gonzalez, and Oscar Naranjo [then head of intelligence for the CNP],”Vega alleges.
Vega was very involved with several U.S. law enforcement operations in 1999 and 2000 that sought to snare narco-traffickers with Colombia’s infamous North Valley Cartel.
Vega claims that corrupt U.S. law enforcement agents seriously compromised his role as government asset and that a number of his informants within Colombia’s narco-trafficking underworld were assassinated as a result.
This Bogotá Connection was revealed in a series of government documents uncovered by Narco News, including an internal U.S. Justice Department document known as the Kent memo, which advances detailed allegations of a criminal conspiracy involving corrupt U.S. law enforcers who are operating in league with key Colombian narco-traffickers.
Vega claims that syndicate of corruption also involved high-ranking members of the Colombian National Police (CNP), including, at the time, Naranjo.
Vega told Narco News that another of the key CNP players in that syndicate, which he calls the “devil’s triangle” was Col. Danilo Gonzalez. Vega says he met with Gonzalez in Aruba in the spring of 2003. That meeting was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to Vega.
At the time, Gonzalez was in the sights of the U.S. government for his corrupt activities and was willing to discuss cooperating with U.S. law enforcers. His meeting with Vega was an effort to test those waters.
Vega claims that during that meeting, Gonzalez laid out the entire backbone of the Devil’s Triangle, naming names, including the allegedly corrupt U.S. law enforcers with DEA and U.S. Customs and corrupt Colombian police who were assisting the narco-traffickers with a variety of tasks — such as leaking information about U.S. law enforcement operations in Colombia.
Vega says all of the information from that meeting with Gonzalez was turned over to the FBI.
Gonzalez eventually became the target of a U.S. indictment charging him with narco-trafficking, money laundering and murder. He was assassinated in Colombia in the spring of 2004 while preparing to surrender to the U.S. government.
Vega was sentenced in a Miami court of the misdemeanor tax charge within hours of Gonzalez’ murder.