In a violent incident whose explanation daily grows more murky the two "U.S. embassy officials" wounded by Mexican Federal Police officers in an attack outside Cuernavaca were revealed to be CIA agents by major Mexican news organizations earlier this week.
What has remained undisclosed —until now —is ths: one of the agents is linked to the drug trafficking operation out of St Petersburg Florida in which two CIA-connected airplanes were seized—in separate incidents in 2006 and 2007—on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula carrying a total of ten tons of cocaine.
The wounded agents connection to earlier CIA operations was first discovered by Mexico City newspaper La Jornada, which noted that one of the agents, after being taken to a hospital for treatment of his wounds, listed his home address as a Post Office Box in Dunn Loring, Virginia.
In a major embarrassment for the CIA, that same address, incredibly, had earlier been used in a CIA operation that received maximum worldwide public exposure: the extraordinary rendition of Al Qaeda prisoners to secret prisons around the world, after the attacks of September 11, 2001, on a fleet of secretly-owned CIA airplanes.
"Sloppy tradecraft" a continuing problem
In the Mexican press, where the words “CIA” and “drug smuggling” occur together almost as often as “cookies” and “milk,' the CIA’s failure to invest in a new P.O. Box as part of the two wounded agents 'cover' was viewed with some surprise.
In fact, however, the gaffe, while extraordinary, was hardly unique.
What intelligence circles call “sloppy tradecraft” was one of the hallmarks of the rendition-linked drug trafficking operation, which escaped becoming a major scandal in the US only through the efforts (or non-efforts, or collusion) of America’s major media.
For example, one of the CIA planes frequently used in the rendition operation, a Gulfstream II (registration number N987SA) did double duty running drugs. It crashed with maximum publicity in the Yucatan in September of 2007, splitting apart and spilling 3.7 tons of cocaine across a rural area 30 miles from Merida, the Yucatan State capital.
Even worse, the downed CIA drug plane shared interlocking ownership with a second American-registered plane from St Petersburg, FL, a DC-9, that had also made headlines in Mexico when it too was busted on the Yucatan Peninsula carrying a massive 5.5 tons of cocaine.
Occuring almost back-to-back, the two well-publicized incidents proved to be a major turning point, and an investigation by the Mexican Attorrney General’s Office led to the discovery of a massive money laundering effort by major US banks.
One result was the collapse and forced sale in 2008 of Wachovia Bank, then America’s 4th largest.
Another has been playing out currently, as federal prosecutors contemplate unprecedented criminal sanctions against the world's fifth largest bank, Great Britian’s HBSC, for its massive involvement in money laundering for Mexican drug cartels.
Having two of everything can usually solve the problem
The coup de grace (of sorts) occurred when Mexican newspapers attempted to refresh their readers' recollections about the extraordinary rendition program to which they had just connected one of the two CIA agents wounded in the ambush near Cuernavaca by linking to a 2005 story in the New York Times explainng the scandal, headlined “C.I.A. Expanding Terror Battle Under Guise of Charter Flights.”
Beneath the headline in the story is a picture of a CIA rendition plane sitting on a runway, bearing the caption “A Casa 235 about to take off from Ruzyne Airport in Prague on a flight to Afghanistan operated by the C.I.A.-connected Aero Contractors.”
Clearly visible in the photograph is the registration number of the plane, N168D. What makes this registration number so significant?
This: while the CIA-sponsored rendition airplane in the photo was ferrying Al Queda operatives to secret prisons around the world, a plane bearing the exact same registration number was flying tons of cocaine between Colombia and the United States, a fact discovered when it was abandoned by drug traffickers in a field in Nicaragua after they had unloaded what authorities said was more than two tons of cocaine.
The current situation in Mexico also clears up another mystery concerning the St Petersburg drug trafficking operation, and will be covered in a story this Sunday. But before delving further into the officially-sanctioned drug trafficking by the CIA (and others) that operated there, here are a few rapidly-evolving developments in the story of the ambush.
Beltran-Leyva discover meaning of "cartel du jour"
Contrary to initial assertions that it was an accident, last Friday's attack on the American agents on a mountain road between Mexico City and Cuernavca was a well-planned ambush by a squad of as many as two dozen men from the Mexican Federal Police (PFP), in which they blocked the American's SUV before unleashing a barrage of point-blank rounds directly into the vehicle.
The two Americans, as well as a Captain in the Mexican Marines, the only force trusted by American officials, were traveling in a heavily-armored SUV, which saved their lives during the attack as the vehicle took hundreds of rounds fired at close range.
A plausible reason for the attack, cited first by Mexico City newspaper Proceso, is that the men were hunting fugitive Mexican drug cartel kingpin Hector Beltran-Leyva, thought by security experts to be at large somewhere nearby.
Adding credibility to this account are the recent American moves in the “drug war” which directly targeted the Beltran-Leyva cartel, including the extradition to the US of Mexican drug queen Sandra Sandra Avila Beltran, where she has rock star status and is known as the "Queen of the Pacific;" as well as the sensational charges recently brought against four Mexican Generals accused of protecting Beltran-Leyva drug trafficking operations, primarily in Cancun and the Yucatan.
Moreover, the American CIA agents were ambushed near Cuernavaca, once known only as a popular weekend retreat for Mexico City residents, but now seen as a stronghold of the Beltran-Leyva cartel. Cuernavava was the site of the famous shootout in 2009 between Mexican Marines and the bodyguards of Beltran-Leyva kingpin Arturo Beltran Leyva, who died in the assasult.
"The police here have been heavily infiltrated by organized crime," one local man told an American reporter. His statment was no more surprising than a prediction that the sun will rise tomorrow morning in the east, but he still declined to be identified.
The Beltran-Leyva cartel became priority targets of Mexican anti-drug efforts since they broke several years ago with Mexico’s ‘capo de capo’s’ Shorty “El Chapo” Guzman, who many Mexican journalists see as receiving official protection, with his Sinaloa Cartel, seen as the current ‘cartel du jour.’
While the Beltran-Leyva Cartel may be about to become yesterday's news, the savage attack seemed to indicate that it would not be without serious “collateral damage."
And there has already been a far-too-serious amount of that.
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