- Alberto Fujimori Wins the Presidential Elections
- The CIA agent Vladimiro Montesinos
- The Emergence Of Demetrio Chavez Peña Herrera “The Vaticano”
- Pablo Escobar Finds A Gem
- Pablo Escobar Takes Over Peru
- The Peruvian Huallaga Valley Turns Into A Colombian Colony
- The Fall Of Pablo Escobar
- The Controversial Birthday Party
- Vaticano Is Tortured Until He Loses His Mind
- The Return Of Fujimori’s Dynasty
Peru: The Narco State
The Presidential Elections,1990
In 1990, Alberto Fujimori had just been elected president of Peru. His election was a shocking event for serious political analysts. Fujimori was actually a mediocre presidential candidate, who even lacked a government program. But during his presidential campaign, Fujimori happened to meet a Peruvian lawyer named Vladimiro Montesinos.
Vladimiro Montesinos and Alberto Fujimori-Image Source: Elpais
The unknown Montesinos had suddenly come out of the shadows. He was a former lawyer of Peruvian Cartels bosses, and had plenty of powerful connections. He also had a secret financial source that was significant to provide media exposure and propaganda outlets for Fujimori. Montesinos’ influence was such, that Fujimori passed from being an obscure candidate to become the top favorite in a matter of two months.
It was strange that such an intelligent man as Montesinos could be unknown. The fact was that Vladimiro had been a secret CIA agent as early as 1976. Once Fujimori got elected, CIA agent Vladimiro Montesinos was the real architect behind all his government policies.
Vladimiro understood something crucial: In the realm of Peruvian politics, almost everyone had a price. Consequently, using his secret financial sources, Montesinos bribed most members of Peruvian Congress, the media, and every influential political figure.
Vladimiro was also the head of the National Intelligence Service (SIN), which handled all sorts of unlawful operations, such as torture, extortion, and murder. In addition, Montesinos constantly sought illicit ways to increase his wealth.
Image Source: Lamula
How Pablo Escobar Made All His Money
The Upper Huallaga Valley And “The Vatican”
During the late eighties and early 1990’s, Peru was a major export producer of cocaine base. But this hegemony only lasted until 1995, when the government set up a program of eradication. The program not only included shutting down coca labs and confiscation of merchandise, but also a massive media campaign against cocaine consumption. These measures, added to the reduction of foreign demand, made farmers cultivate other crops.
Ironically, the government anti-drugs campaign was only a form of theatrics. The story was very different behind the curtain. As an efficient CIA agent, Montesinos practically fooled everybody. While the government promised coca eradication, Montesinos truly promoted cocaine trade with Cartels from all over the world. This was one of his major sources of revenue.
Back then, the region of Upper Huallaga, located in the jungles of Northern Peru, was a major area of coca cultivation. The Huallaga Valley was controlled by a mafia capo named Demetrio Chavez Peña-Herrera. Also known as “el Vaticano”, Peña-Herrera owned an airplane runway where massive cocaine shipments were flown overseas. Vaticano (‘The Vatican’) was in charge of the Peruvian drug trading business.
Demetrio Chavez Peña Herrera “The Vaticano”-Image Source: PrisaEdiciones
At the height of his power, Vaticano made dealings with 15 different drug cartels (Escobar’s Medellin Cartel was one of his biggest clients). Vaticano’s airstrip was one of the busiest drug trafficking spots in the world during the late eighties and early nineties, with dozens of airplanes shipping cocaine base all day and night.
Pablo Escobar Finds A Gem
Pablo Escobar would probably not have done much without Vaticano’s assistance. During that period, Peruvian mafias were the main providers of cocaine base for Colombian Cartels. The conversion of the base into pure cocaine was the exclusive business of Colombian cartels.
During the mid-eighties, Pablo Escobar had been through a lot of headaches trying to find cocaine base suppliers from Peru. He was totally irritated by the irresponsibility, carelessness and lack of work ethic of Peruvian Narcos. But everything changed when Escobar met Vaticano.
One day, in 1989, Vaticano visited Escobar’s lavish Colombian estate called “Hacienda Napoles”. Escobar had invited him there after hearing that Vaticano was so meticulous in his work, that he even kept professional accountants to assist him. Escobar was very curious to meet this “rare” Peruvian Narco.
Pablo Escobar in his private jet-Image Source: Celebritynetworth
That evening, Escobar gave Vaticano a tour of his immense estate and showed him the Zoo with the animal species he had acquired from all over the world. Walking around the estate, Escobar told Vaticano: “You have to make poor people love you. Without their support, you can’t achieve anything. And the only way to get that kind of support is through public works. Begin building roads, parks, schools, sports fields.. and you will see.”
At the end of their meeting, Pablo was truly impressed by Vaticano’s personality. Escobar shook Vaticano’s hand and said:
You are actually the first serious Peruvian Narco I ever met. I have very good feelings about you. From now on we will do great business together”- Pablo Escobar
Vladimiro, the Narco Leader
Vaticano, the most powerful drug lord in Peru, also had another business partner. Who was he? CIA agent Vladimiro Montesinos. Some theories even hold that Montesinos dictated all the rules for the Peruvian drug trade. Vaticano and Montesinos were allies, and even the Peruvian army participated in the proper handling and shipments of drug cargo.
Montesinos bribing officials, with stacks of cash-Image Source: Cja
Since 1990, Vaticano and Montesinos made a solid agreement. Vaticano would give 50 thousand dollars a month to Montesinos so that he could freely run his operations. Montesinos even attended Vaticano’s birthday party, among other powerful drug traffickers in Latin America. “The truth was that Peru was a narco-state, and I was only a part of the whole system”, Vaticano said, years later.
At this point, Vaticano had not informed Montesinos about his connections with Pablo Escobar. Those dealings were secret and discretion was a must. But had Montesinos also met Pablo Escobar before?
Pablo Escobar Takes Over Peru
Image Source: Tempus
Roberto Escobar, Pablo Escobar’s brother, testified that Pablo’s concerns about Peru had begun since the beginning of his drug operations. As early as 1983, various members of his Medellin Cartel had been arrested in Peru. Pablo Escobar was concerned because these members were efficient and performed fast tasks in Peruvian territory.
Pablo Escobar had vainly searched for ways to release his men. It was in 1984, that Pablo heard about the Peruvian lawyer Vladimiro Montesinos. Escobar was informed that Vladimiro had a long experience defending Peruvian cartel members. After corroborating this information, Escobar contacted Montesinos through the phone. Roberto Escobar confirmed that Montesinos visited the “Hacienda Napoles” to have a private talk with Escobar. What they talked about in that meeting we will never know. But since that day, Escobar nicknamed Montesinos as “Monte Cristo”.
Escobar and Montesinos’ alliance continued throughout the years. But in 1989, their bonds had solidified. On that year, Pablo Escobar allegedly donated 1 million dollars to Montesinos so that Fujimori could run an efficient presidential campaign. Insight crime also notes that the candidate Fujimori held a phone conversation with Escobar, assuring him that “if he became president, he would happily collaborate with Escobar whatever way he could.”
After being elected, President Fujimori allowed Escobar to continue working in Peruvian territory. Since the business thrived, the Peruvian government provided construction equipment for the maintenance of Vaticano’s airstrips. At this point, Vaticano was exporting the best cocaine base ever produced in the world. This cocaine base had the highest quality and was called “The Super Queen.”
Coca leaves in Peru-Image Source: Zotter
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The Huallaga Valley Turns Into A Colombian Colony
After Escobar’s endorsement of Fujimori, the Huallaga Valley became a major “Colombian Colony”. Vaticano, having gained Escobar’s trust, was still at the head of the drug trade. In these months, Vaticano also made negotiations with the Cali Cartel, which was the archenemy of the Medellin Cartel. Apparently, Pablo Escobar did not mind that Vaticano established connections with their enemies. But a cunning and greedy Vladimiro Montesinos found out about this, and began watching Vaticano with suspicion.
Recalling Escobar’s advice, Vaticano then planned the modernization of the Huallaga Valley. He began building roads and major parks, and installing basic services such as water and electricity. The Huallaga residents loved Vaticano and collaborated with him. Here was a man that “showed them that he truly cared”, fulfilling all their needs. “When Vaticano was here we felt, for the very first time, that we really mattered..”, Huallaga residents said.
It was speculated that Vaticano’s runway, with its hundreds of planes delivering coca base to the North, was almost as busy as the Peruvian National Airport.
Image Source: Theeconomist
Juan Pablo Escobar, the son of Pablo Escobar, said that the “supposed links” between his father and Fujimori were fabricated by his uncle. Juan Pablo assured that the DEA (The U.S Drug enforcement administration) had convinced his uncle to propagate that view. The DEA’s purpose to publicize such fabrication is unknown.
Sonia Medina, the Peruvian Drug Czar, said that, after an arduous investigation, there is a lot of evidence that indicates that Montesinos, Fujimori and Pablo Escobar had close links. Medina, an expert in drug trade operations, also dismissed the testimony of Escobar’s son. The version of Sonia Medina was also corroborated by Vaticano himself. Now in prison, the former Narco dealer also confessed that, during his birthday party, Montesinos had told him that “at some point he had worked with Pablo Escobar”.
The End Of The Alliance
The Fall of Pablo Escobar
Image Source: Wikiwand
Who played the main role in all these drug trade activities? Was it Montesinos, or Fujimori, or Vaticano or Pablo Escobar? The investigations still continue, but we can only analyze the facts.
In 1991, Escobar had seen his power diminishing. He did not pay too much attention to the Colombian government; Escobar only feared the U.S authorities, and the paramilitary group of Los Pepes, who united efforts to kill him. Escobar was mainly terrified of the idea of being extradited to the United States.
After the Colombian senate passed some laws forbidding extradition, Escobar willingly surrendered to the authorities in 1991. Since then, Escobar confined himself in his luxurious prison called “The Cathedral.” But the authorities soon discovered that Escobar was still directing his drug trafficking operations from there.
The Colombian government then set up a plan to transport Escobar to a maximum security jail. Aware of those schemes, Escobar fled the Cathedral on July 22, 1992. He virtually stopped directing all drug trade operations since then. The “King of Cocaine” was basically out of the picture.
The Controversial Birthday Party
Surprisingly, a few weeks later, in 1992, Vaticano received a phone call by Montesinos. Vaticano was astonished by this phone call. Since 1991, his relationship with Montesinos had turned sour due to an unfortunate incident. The event took place during Vaticano’s birthday party.
According to Vaticano, both he and Montesinos had got really drunk that night, drinking ‘Dom Pérignon’ wine. Hours later, they both were left alone in the living room. All of a sudden, Montesinos behaved in a feminine manner and grabbed Vaticano’s genitals. Vaticano instantly laughed at this. But almost immediately Montesinos touched his penis again. This time, Vaticano got very angry and reacted badly.
This is why, a year later, Vaticano was taken aback by receiving a phone call from Montesinos. On the other end of the line Montesinos bluntly said:
Our former deal is over. From now on, instead of fifty thousand, you must give me one hundred thousand dollars a month. The DEA people is getting suspicious. One hundred thousand dollars or you are done.”
Vaticano refused abiding to the new deal. Montesinos then said “you go to hell, then”, and abruptly hanged up the phone.
Vaticano Is Captured
Months later, a special army force traveled to Huallaga with the mission of killing Vaticano. The Peruvian boss had no other alternative than fleeing to Colombia. Since his relationship with Escobar had dwindled at this point, Vaticano sought the help of his friends from the Cali Cartel. After contacting them, Vaticano joined their organization, in the city of Cali, Colombia.
Two years later, in January 1994, Vaticano was captured by the Colombian police. He had been driving an old Chevrolet truck, and wearing shabby clothing. Inside the truck, the police found 60 thousand dollars. Vaticano made a proposition to the officers. He offered to give them thousands of dollars if they let him go. The officers refused his proposition. He was sent to jail and, months later, extradited to Peru. Montesinos received the news with joy.
Image Source: Ecopolitica
At this time, Vaticano already knew that Montesinos and President Fujimori had dealings with Pablo Escobar in the past. If Vaticano revealed these secrets to the press, the entire country would have experienced a meltdown. Therefore, Montesinos had already arranged a specific place for him in his torture chamber.
As soon as Vaticano arrived, he was heavily sedated, psychologically abused and received extensive shock treatments. Vaticano was tortured so badly, that he lost his memory and went insane. By the time of his trial, he was already beyond help. He could hardly walk and behaved like a zombie, yelling incoherences in the court sessions, while the judge made fun of him treating him like a dog. Fujimori’s secrets were safe.
However, all dictatorships are doomed to fall sooner or later. Peru was not the exception. In the year 2000, Fujimori’s corruption was unveiled and his government fell apart. Eventually, under a new democratic government, Fujimori and Montesinos were imprisoned facing charges of corruption and human right’s abuses. Vaticano, who slowly recovered his memory, went through a new fair trial. His sentence was reduced; he will be released from prison in 2016.
The Likely Return Of Fujimori’s Dynasty
Nowadays, Vaticano, Fujimori and Montesinos remain in jail. Pablo Escobar’s exhumed body lies underground. Sadly, nothing new to tell. As Ecclesiastes said “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?”
The protagonists are born, grow and die. And new figures replace them in their roles. But the plot has always been the same: Theatrics, hypocrisy, deceit, and the rule of special interests, that’s what politics is all about. Nevertheless, there is a possibility that Fujimorismo, with its legacy of drug trafficking, human rights abuses and corruption, might eventually return.
Image Source: Lainformacion
Keiko Fujimori, the ex-president’s daughter, was a favorite to win the upcoming presidential election in 2016. Fortunately, she lost against the coalition headed by candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Kuczynski is now the official president of Peru. However, the legacy of Fujimorismo still persists. They have wide public support, mainly coming from poor sectors. It is believed that Kenji Fujimori, the president’s son and current congressman, may run for president in 2021.
Fujimori’s dynasty didn’t materialize. But we all should never forget their atrocious legacy. Peruvians must never forget the past. Memory is a treasure to be kept, because those who forget their past are condemned to relive it.
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