U.S. intelligence activities in the Americas

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See also: Director of National Intelligence
See also: Central Intelligence Agency
See also: U.S. government training of foreign police

This article deals with activities of the United States intelligence community in the region of Americas; since the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, not all activities are strictly associated with the Central Intelligence Agency. Some activities are focused more on law enforcement rather than the classic concept of national intelligence.

Due to the amount of material, this article covers historical and regional issues, and the shorter country-specific material. There are subordinate articles for individual countries of the American sub-regions when the material on an individual country grew unwieldy.

  • Caribbean sub-region: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras
  • Central American sub-region: Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua
  • South America sub-region: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela

Intelligence History

During World War II, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been the primary US intelligence agency for Latin America, with some involvement with the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of CIA. After the war, the CIA developed strong operations in Latin America. For issues regarding possible improprieties in police training, see Latin American police training.

Caribbean sub-region

Radio Swan was a Caribbean radio station generally associated with the US and Honduras, and, during the [[Bay of Pigs invasion operation, apparently to assist with covert communications. After the invasion failed, however, it changed to a generally anti-Castro, but not inciting to revolution, station until 1968.

In 1962, a Special National Intelligence Estimate addressed "The threat to US security interests in the Caribbean area.[1] Potential threats were seen as "Threats to US interests could arise from a variety of sources: the vulnerability of the area to attack from outside the hemisphere; the establishment of a military presence within the area by hostile powers; attempts by the Communist powers, with the help of the present Cuban Government, to spread Communist revolution to other parts of the area by military action or subversion; the growth of indigenous radical nationalism; and instability rising from attempts by governments in the area to interfere in the affairs of their neighbors or to impose their will upon them." It foreshadowed the potential of the Cuban Missile Crisis with the general assessment "the USSR can and probably will augment its naval, air, and communications capabilities in the area by the development of arrangements or facilities not openly identifiable as Soviet military bases. For example, the improvement of Cuban naval and air installations would provide facilities suitable for Soviet use, and special installations and arrangements could be set up for intelligence collection or subversive purposes."


See also: CIA activities in Cuba

After its revolution, Cuba sent forces to Africa and South America, in support of rebel forces.[2]

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic 1961

There was CIA involvement in the assassination of the President of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, but declassified reports conflict about the extent. In a report to the deputy attorney general, CIA officials described the agency as having "no active part" in the assassination and only a "faint connection" with the groups that planned the killing.[3] However, an internal CIA memorandum states that an Office of Inspector General investigation into Trujillo's murder disclosed "quite extensive Agency involvement with the plotters."[4]

Dominican Republic 1967

A report to President Lyndon B. Johnson refers to the guerrilla problem being dormant in the Dominican Republic, and US training being provided there. Cause and effect were not analyzed. "There are no active guerrillas although there are indications that the Communist MPD and 14th of June Movement would like to open a front. The Dominican armed forces are keeping a close watch on their activities. Balaguer has given strong support to our efforts to help him develop special anti-guerrilla units. In recent months Dominican authorities have obtained documents from Cuban-trained agents showing that Cuba is furnishing money and training for guerrilla activities."[5]

A little later, Rostow referred to a problem with one of the Dominican officials. "With the full cooperation of Balaguer and the armed forces, we have made good progress in our internal security programs. No additional measures by us are necessary. It would help if Balaguer got rid of his thuggish Chief of Police. Covey Oliver will ask John Crimmins to make the pitch."[6]


Haiti 1963

In a White House meeting, DCI McCone suggested that this looked like the Cuban policy in July 1959 which gave the Soviets an opening into Cuba, and suggested the US have a complete diplomatic relationship that was visibly informal. The President agreed, ordered Ambassador Thurston recalled, and reserved the decision as to whether he should be returned or another Ambassador returned.

The aid program apparently involves only $3 million or $4 million for airport construction in Haiti, the administration of which is in the hands of Pan American.

"CIA was asked to explore the exile group possibilities and to determine what action, if any, should be taken." [7 lines of source text not declassified] The DCI said "most insurgents were political has-beens or influential Haitians who desire to regain property that has been lost through expropriation or otherwise. "[7]

Haiti 2005

Intelligence analysis

According to Porter Goss' testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, "the outlook is very cloudy for legitimate, timely elections in November 2005 in Haiti--even with substantial international support."[8][8]

Central American sub-region


CIA has had a long history with Guatemala, as shown by several hundred records were released by the CIA on May 23, 1997 on its involvement in the 1954 coup in Guatemala.[9]. For details, see CIA activities in Guatemala.


Guyana 1966

In an NIE focused on the short term, the major conclusions were:

There was a potential for violence after British troops leave in October 1966, which the NIE said Guyanese security forces probably can control if the violence is sporadic. The probability of violence will depend on Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, leader of the Negro party (the PNC), and of Cheddi Jagan, leader of the East Indian party (the PPP). Burnham's moderate government has kept Jagan's side in control. The estimate said that if violence went out of control, and the US agreed, Britain would probably send troops on Burnham's request.

British Guiana will probably make a relatively smooth transition to independence, but racial suspicions between East Indians and Negroes will continue to dominate Guyanese politics...The governing coalition of Burnham, a professed but pragmatic socialist, and the conservative United Force leader, Peter D'Aguiar, will continue to be a tenuous one. ...chances are that a common fear of Jagan will hold the coalition together.The governing coalition of Burnham, a professed but pragmatic socialist, and the conservative United Force leader, Peter D'Aguiar, will continue to be a tenuous one. Friction between the partners over patronage and fiscal issues will probably be intensified after independence, but chances are that a common fear of Jagan will hold the coalition together.

No matter who was in power, Guyana would need foreign capital. Burnham, while a neutralist by nature, would keep "tolerable terms with the US, UK, and Canada. If Jagan took power, he would still need to get help, and while his Marxist affiliations would get some help from the Communist bloc, "they probably would furnish only token quantities of aid.[10] 421. /1/

Guyana 1967

A covert action to help Burnham retain power was proposed to the 303 Committee: "It is established U.S. Government policy that Cheddi Jagan, East Indian Marxist leader of the pro-Communist People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in Guyana, will not be permitted to take over the government of an independent Guyana. Jagan has the electoral support of the East Indians, who are approximately 50% of the total population of Guyana. It is believed that Jagan has a good chance of coming to power in the next elections unless steps are taken to prevent this...Since we believe that there is a good likelihood that Jagan can be elected in Guyana unless the entire non-East Indian electorate is mobilized against him, we also believe that campaign support must be provided to Peter D'Aguiar, the head of the United Force (UF) and Burnham’s coalition partner."

The proposal said that Burnham had taken steps to ensure the absentee votes of supporters, but not those of the opposition. "Burnham has initiated steps for electoral registration of Guyanese at home and abroad,In a meeting [deleted] on September 16, 1966, Burnham requested money for various political purposes and outlined his plans to issue identification cards to all Guyanans above the age of 10, and to identify and register all Guyanans of African ancestry in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States in order to get their absentee votes in the next elections.

"Conversely, Burnham acknowledged with a smile, East Indians living abroad may have trouble getting registered and, if registered, getting ballots." and has requested financial assistance [deleted] for the PNC campaign. It is recommended that he and his party be provided with covert support in order to assure his victory at the polls. At the same time, it is believed that support to Peter D’Aguiar and his United Force (UF), the minority party in the coalition government, is also essential in order to offset Jagan's solidly entrenched East Indian electoral support.

The 303 Committee was asked to approve the proposed actions, whose cost was deleted from the declassified document. According to an April 10 memorandum for the record, 'the 303 Committee approved this proposal at its April 7 meeting. [deleted] emphasized during the Committee’s discussion the importance of starting early in the implementation of the proposal. The urgency came from the mechanisms by which Burnham could call for elections, which must take place before 31 March 1969 but could take place whenever the Prime Minister dissolves Parliament.

Burnham has taken personal responsibility both for organizing his inactive party in Guyana, as well as sending an advisor to survey the amount of expatriate support on which he can rely.

"Burnham believes that he would have great difficulty ensuring his own re-election without support from the U.S. Government. He has requested financial support [deleted] for staff and campaign expenses, motor vehicles, small boats, printing equipment, and transistorized public address systems. He also wishes to contract for the services of an American public relations firm to improve his image abroad and counteract Jagan's propaganda in the foreign press. See document for non-redacted parts of plan.[11]


Honduras 1984

Declassified documents, from the CIA Inspector General, begin with a heavily redacted 21 July 1984 cable to the National Security Council, stating that Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, head of the Honduras military, ordered the establishment of the 316th Military Intelligence Battalion (316 MI Bn).[12]

Honduras 1987

Florencio Caballero was a former Honduran Army sergeant and interrogator until 1984. He stated that he had trained by the Central Intelligence Agency, which the New York Times confirmed with US and Honduran officials . Much of his account was confirmed by three American and two Honduran officials. may be the fullest given of how army and police units were authorized to organize death squads that seized, interrogated and killed suspected leftists. He said that while Argentine and Chilean trainers taught the Honduran Army kidnapping and elimination techniques, the C.I.A. explicitly forbade the use of physical torture or assassination.[13]

Caballero described the CIA role as ambiguous. "Caballero said his superior officers ordered him and other members of army intelligence units to conceal their participation in death squads from CIA advisers. He added that he was sent to Houston for six months in 1979 to be trained by CIA instructors in interrogation techniques.

"They prepared me in interrogation to end the use of physical torture in Honduras - they taught psychological methods," Mr. Caballero said of his American training. "So when we had someone important, we hid him from the Americans, interrogated him ourselves and then gave him to a death squad to kill."

"The C.I.A. had access to secret army jails and to written reports summarizing the interrogation of suspected leftists, according to Mr. Caballero and two American officials. The Americans also said the C.I.A. knew the Honduran Army was killing prisoners. The American officials said that at one point in 1983 the C.I.A. demanded the killings stop. In 1984, a C.I.A. agent was recalled from Honduras after a prisoner's relative identified him as having visited a secret jail, two American and one Honduran official said. According to Mr. Caballero, the agent was a regular contact between the interrogators and the C.I.A. Thus it seems likely that the C.I.A. was aware that killings were continuing.

Honduras 1995

In 1995, "The special prosecutor for human rights brought charges in July against eight retired and two active-duty members of the armed forces for their role in the kidnapping, torture, and attempted murder in 1982 of six student activists.... They survived their captivity in a clandestine prison because two of those abducted were the daughters of a government official....With the exception of one suspect, those under investigation were connected with Battalion 3-16, a secret Honduran military unit whose members were instructed by and worked with CIA officials...Although Human Rights Watch/Americas has pressed for several years for an accounting of U.S. involvement, the Clinton administration did not take steps to begin to examine the complicity of the United States in Honduran abuses until 1995. In mid-June, CIA Director John Deutch began an internal review of the agency's relationship with the Honduran military during the 1980s. Deutch stated that the investigation, which he characterized as an "independent review," would yield "new information" and "lessons about how not to do things while I'm director and in the future."

Deutch's announcement came after the Baltimore Sun published a four-part series in June on U.S. support given to the 316 MI Bn. Sun staff correspondents Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson obtained formerly classified documents and interviewed three former 316 Bn members to document the breadth and depth of the battalion's close relationship to the CIA. The Sun series followed revelations in March that linked the CIA to serious human rights violations in Guatemala."[14]

He was removed from his post at the end of March 1984. According to the cable, a Honduran human rights group claimed the battalion was responsible for almost all disappearances. At first, the new military leadership was going to dissolve the battalion, but they later decided to replace senior officers and keep it intact.

The CIA Inspector General investigator posed questions including whether any CIA employee was present during torture or hostile interrogation, and what was known about some disappearances and killings. It was also questioned if an employee lied to the House Intelligence Committee.

While the findings were heavily redacted, apparently one employee knew that torture had gone on, but not who was present. An individual was later identified, who denied participation. The Inspector General concluded there was no CIA participation in torture.

The IG did verify that a Honduran Hostage Rescue Force had captured and executed one individual who had been freed under an amnesty; it was unclear from the report if he had rejoined an insurgency. Another case concerned Father Carney, a priest who had renounced his American citizenship, and died under questionable circumstances while being pursued by the HRF. He had been reported to be "cadaverous" and may have died of starvation, or may have been killed by the HRF. The IG concluded no US personnel had been involved with this HRF operation.

Further Congressional inquiries generated more responses. It became clear that the HRF definitely executed some guerrillas, including the aide to the priest. The details were redacted, but there was some, but not conclusive, evidence that Father Carney had starved. The IG concluded the cause of his death is unknown.[12]


See CIA activities in Nicaragua. Nicaragua, through the Iran-Contra affair, has had a major affect on U.S. oversight over covert operations.

South American sub-region

Regional issues

South America 1975

An intelligence-sharing arrangement among Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay was established in 1975. It was called Operation Condor, and the U.S. appeared to have some access to it.[15]

South America 1980

The landmark Filártiga v. Peña-Irala ruling of 1980[16] "made history by awarding the first criminal damages against a torturer (a Paraguayan police agent) found to be in the United States. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit established that, under the 1789 Aliens Tort Claims Act, U.S. courts have jurisdiction over claims for torture brought by aliens against torturers found to be in the United States."[17] This decision opened up a new avenue for appeals of actions that took place outside the US.

South America 1992

In 1992, Congress codified these legal advances in the Torture Victims Protection Act, which holds liable for damages any "individual who, under actual or apparent authority, or color of law, of any foreign nation... subjects an individual to torture." During the decade between these important events, U.S. jurisprudence was largely shaped by Argentine cases.[17]


Argentina has had a special influence on South American police and intelligence traditions. For a detailed chronology, see CIA activities in Argentina. See CIA transnational human rights activities for Argentinian methods used elsewhere in the Americas]].


The 5412 Special Group and the 303 Committee were different names for the same committee, which approved covert actions.

Bolivia 1964

On 8 August 1963, the Special Group approved a request to provide a covert subsidy in the amount of [deleted] to take the necessary covert actions to overcome the emergency situation which existed in Bolivia at that time and, once the situation normalized, to enable Paz to consolidate his control. In late December, the United States Ambassador and the CIA [deleted] requested an additional sum of [deleted] to wrest control of labor organizations away from Juan Lechin Oquendo, the MNRI, and the PCB. On 8 January 1964, the CIA [deleted] discussed the request for additional funds with Assistant Secretary Edwin W. Martin [for Inter-American Affairs] and it was mutually agreed that an increase in the subsidy was justified. A discussion of this plan is contained in a January 9 memorandum prepared by J.C. King, Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division in CIA (DDP) The United States Ambassador was informed that Special Group approval would be requested at the earliest possible date.[18]

Bolivia 1965

According to a 303 Committee memo, "Barrientos, due to his popularity and power position, appears to have the best chance for organizing behind him a national consensus which would provide the needed unity to proceed with the development of Bolivia. [deleted] this sum of money will expedite and help other negotiations currently being undertaken by the Embassy and the AID program. Barrientos has requested U.S. Government help in his election campaign. [deleted] The Embassy in La Paz, the Department of State, and the CIA all concur that in the present circumstances the best possibility for stability in Bolivia is the ascendency to the Presidency of Barrientos with a return to constitutionality."[19] The 303 Committee approved the recommendation by a vote by telephone on February 5. According to a February 10 memorandum [text not declassified] to ARA, Barrientos was informed on that date of the decision and of the U.S. Government view "that relations between sovereigns should be based upon dignity and mutual respect rather than financial considerations; but in order to dispel any doubts" in Barrientos’ mind "of our attitude toward him, his request was approved as a one-shot affair. It is proposed to provide in appropriate stages the total sum of CIA supplies USD 1,000,000 to support election of President René Barrientos

Bolivia 1967

In a July 5, 1967, memorandum to Special Assistant Walt Rostow, William Bowdler of the National Security Council Staff summarized the current U.S. military training role in Bolivia: "DOD is helping train and equip a new Ranger Battalion. The Bolivian absorption capacity being what it is, additional military assistance would not now seem advisable. [deleted]" Bowdler recommended that "a variable of the Special Strike Force acceptable to the Country Team be established. It might be part of the new Ranger Battalion." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Guerrilla Problem in Latin America) The Country Team objections were transmitted in telegram 2291 from La Paz, May 24. The team stated that a strike force would be viewed by the Bolivians as a "magical solution" and a "substitute for hard work and needed reform."[20] "As the training of the Ranger battalion progressed, weaknesses in its intelligence-collecting capability emerged. The CIA was formally given responsibility for developing a plan to provide such a capability on July 14...Although the team was assigned in an advisory capacity, CIA "expected that they will actually help in directing operations." The Agency also contemplated this plan "as a pilot program for probable duplication in other Latin American countries faced with the problem of guerrilla warfare." (Memorandum for the Acting Chief, Western Hemisphere Division)"

Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms reported, to State, Defense, and White House Officials in a memo drafted by W.V. Broe and [deleted] in the Western Hemisphere Division and approved by Thomas H. Karamessines, Deputy Director for Plans.

"1. You are aware of the published accounts concerning the death of Ernesto "Che" Guevara which were based in essence on the Bolivian Army press conference on 10 October attributing Guevara's death to battle wounds sustained in the clash between the Army and the guerrillas on 8 October 1967.On October 9 Rostow informed President Johnson the "tentative information" that the Bolivian unit trained by the U.S. "got Che Guevara," but that information was inconclusive and based primarily on press reports from Bolivia. Guevara was said to be in a coma when captured and to have died shortly thereafter, the heat of battle having prevented early or effective treatment by Bolivian soldiers.

"2. [deleted] contrary information from [deleted]probably Felix Rodriguez the Bolivian Second Ranger Battalion, the army unit that captured Guevara. According to [deleted] Guevara was captured on 8 October as a result of the clash with the Cuban-led guerrillas. He had a wound in his leg, but was otherwise in fair condition. According to the text of a message sent by [deleted] on the scene, Guevara’s fate would be decided on October 9 by the highest Bolivian military authorities. "I am managing to keep him alive," he reported, "which is very hard." He was questioned but refused to give any information. Two Bolivian guerrillas, "Willy" and "Aniceto," were also captured.

"3. At 1150 hours on 9 October the Second Ranger Battalion received direct orders from Bolivian Army Headquarters in La Paz to kill Guevara. These orders were carried out at 1315 hours the same day with a burst of fire from an M-2 automatic rifle. In an October 11 memorandum informing President Johnson of the killing of Che Guevara, Rostow remarked: "I regard this as stupid, but it is understandable from a Bolivian standpoint, given the problems which the sparing of French Communist and Castro courier Regis Debray has caused them." Rostow pointed out that the death of Che Guevara would have a strong impact in discouraging further guerrilla activity in Latin America. He also noted: "It shows the soundness of our ‘preventive medicine’ assistance to countries facing incipient insurgency-it was the Bolivian 2nd Ranger Battalion, trained by our Green Berets from June-September of this year, that cornered and got him." On October 13 Rostow informed Johnson of confirmation that Che Guevara was dead.

Copies of this memorandum in CIA files indicate that it was drafted by Broe and [deleted] in the Western Hemisphere Division and approved by Karamessines. (Central Intelligence Agency, DDO/IMS, Operational Group, Job 78-06423A, U.S. Government-President)[deleted] was an eye witness to Guevara’s capture and execution.

Felix Rodriguez, a CIA officer on the team, with the Bolivian Army that captured and shot Guevara. Che Guevara by the Bolivian Army in October 1967[21] Rodriquez said that after he received a Bolivian presidential execution order, he told "the soldier who pulled the trigger to aim carefully, to remain consistent with the Bolivian government's story that Che had been killed in action during a clash with the Bolivian army." Rodriguez said the US government had wanted Che in Panama, and "I could have tried to falsify the command to the troops, and got Che to Panama as the US government said they had wanted," said Mr Rodriguez.

He chose to "let history run its course" as desired by Bolivia.[22]

In a supplementary memo drafted by Broe and [deleted], approved by Karamessines, and signed by Helms, Guevara refused to be interrogated but permitted himself to be drawn into a conversation with [deleted] during which he made the following comments:

a. Cuban economic situation: Hunger in Cuba is the result of pressure by United States imperialism. Now Cuba has become self-sufficient in meat production and has almost reached the point where it will begin to export meat. Cuba is the only economically self-sufficient country in the Socialist world.
b. Camilo Cienfuegos: For many years the story has circulated that Fidel Castro Ruz had Cienfuegos, one of his foremost deputies, killed because his personal popularity presented a danger to Castro. Actually the death of Cienfuegos was an accident. Cienfuegos has been in Oriente Province when he received a call to attend a general staff meeting in Havana. He left by plane and the theory was that the plane became lost in low-ceiling flying conditions, consumed all of its fuel, and crashed in the ocean, and no trace of him was ever found. Castro had loved Cienfuegos more than any of his lieutenants.
c. Fidel Castro Ruz: Castro had not been a Communist prior to the success of the Cuban Revolution. Castro's own statements on the subject are correct.
d. The Congo: American imperialism had not been the reason for his failure there but, rather, the Belgian mercenaries. He denied ever having several thousand troops in the Congo, as sometimes reported, but admitted having had "quite a few".
e. Treatment of Guerrilla Prisoners in Cuba: During the course of the Cuban Revolution and its aftermath, there had been only about 1,500 individuals killed, exclusive of armed encounters such as the Bay of Pigs. The Cuban Government, of course, executed all guerrilla leaders who invaded its territory. . . . (He stopped then with a quizzical look on his face and smiled as he recognized his own position on Bolivian soil.)
f. Future of the Guerrilla Movement in Bolivia: With his capture, the guerrilla movement had suffered an overwhelming setback in Bolivia, but he predicted a resurgence in the future. He insisted that his ideals would win in the end even though he was disappointed at the lack of response from the Bolivian campesinos. The guerrilla movement had failed partially because of Bolivian Government propaganda which claimed that the guerrillas represented a foreign invasion of Bolivian soil. In spite of the lack of popular response from the Bolivian campesinos, he had not planned an exfiltration route from Bolivia in case of failure. He had definitely decided to either fall or win in this effort.

4. According to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] when Guevara, Simon Cuba, and Aniceto Reynaga Gordillo were captured on 8 October, the Bolivian Armed Forces Headquarters ordered that they be kept alive for a time. A telegraphic code was arranged between La Paz and Higueras with the numbers 500 representing Guevara, 600 meaning the phrase "keep alive" and 700 representing "execute". During the course of the discussion with Guevara, Simon Cuba and Aniceto Reynaga were detained in the next room of the school house. At one stage, a burst of shots was heard and [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] learned later that Simon Cuba had been executed. A little later a single shot was heard and it was learned afterward that Aniceto Reynaga had been killed. When the order came at 11:50 a.m. from La Paz to kill Guevara, the execution was delayed as long as possible. However, when the local commander was advised that a helicopter would arrive to recover the bodies at approximately 1:30 p.m., Guevara was executed with a burst of shots at 1:15 p.m. Guevara's last words were, "Tell my wife to remarry and tell Fidel Castro that the Revolution will again rise in the Americas." To his executioner he said, "Remember, you are killing a man."

The [deleted] on site, reporting on Guevara’s execution, indicated that "it was impossible keep him alive."

5. At no time during the period he was under [deleted] observation did Guevara lose his composure.

A National Intelligence Estimate of September 14 stated:[23] "The present insurgency in Bolivia is organized and supported by Cuba. Its seriousness lies in the possibility that the insurgents may eventually provide a rallying point for many disaffected elements which hitherto have been unable to coalesce. The threat posed is more a function of the inherent fragility of Bolivia’s political, economic, and social structure than of the insurgents’ own strength and capabilities."

The estimate held that neither the Barrientos government nor the insurgency would gain clear control. There were concerns that this continued stalemate would impair the development of Bolivia and lead to increasing dependence on U.S. aid, but Barrientos would resist military intervention by the Organization of American States (OAS), Bolivia's neighboring states, or the United States.


Brazil 1964

With increasing warning of the impending coup against President João Goulart, US President Lyndon Baines Johnson, according to an audio tape, directed taking "every step that we can" to support overthrow of Goulart, who had been democratically elected but followed an independent foreign policy: he was opposed both to the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban actions in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The US Ambassador, Lincoln Gordon, in consultations with the President, asked for covert preparation to assist the revolutionaries, who installed a military dictatorship. [24] Gordon's cables "also confirm CIA covert measures "to help strengthen resistance forces" in Brazil. These included "covert support for pro-democracy street rallies…and encouragement [of] democratic and anti-communist sentiment in Congress, armed forces, friendly labor and student groups, church, and business." Four days before the coup, Gordon informed Washington that "we may be requesting modest supplementary funds for other covert action programs in the near future." He also requested that the U.S. send tankers carrying "POL"-petroleum, oil and lubricants-to facilitate the logistical operations of the military coup plotters, and deploy a naval task force to intimidate Goulart's backers and be in position to intervene militarily if fighting became protracted."

Intelligence collection

Prior to the 1964 Brazilian coup d'état coup, an information cable from the Sao Paolo CIA station [25] predicted a military coup against President João Goulart within the week; the coup started the following night.

Overt and Covert Action

A naval task force was sent but not needed, and the CIA covert action resources were not used.


The CIA, led by the National Intelligence Council, filed an informative report in response to requirements of Section 311 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (Hinchey Amendment). Reviewed were relevant CIA records of the period predominantly from recent document searches; Congressional reports about US activities in Chile in the 1960s and 1970s; memoirs of key figures, including Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger; CIA’s oral history collection at the Center for the Study of Intelligence; and consulted with retired intelligence officers who were directly involved. From this information, a retrospective report about CIA activities in Chile was written. [15] For further details, see CIA activities in Chile.


Colombia 1991

As part of transnational counterdrug activity, the CIA financed a military intelligence network in Colombia in 1991.[26] Speaking on behalf of the Deputy Director for Intelligence, David Carey, director of the DCI Crime and Narcotics center, spoke about

  • trends in transnational criminal activity
  • the impact of crime and corruption on political and economic stability in foreign countries
  • expanding international networks and cooperation among criminal organizations.

Carey described that the illicit drug trade could spill over into other areas, including the smuggling of illegal aliens. "Although organized crime groups appear to be only peripherally involved in the gray arms market--which is dominated by freelance brokers, corrupt exporters, and import front companies--conflicts in the Balkans and in the former Soviet Union have encouraged Italian and Russian criminal organizations in particular to expand their involvement in arms trafficking.

"As criminal organizations grow in sophistication and expand their networks, they could become increasingly involved in supporting proliferation and terrorist activities. Their networks and mechanisms for illicit financial deals could also make them greater players in international sanctions violations.

Dr. Bruce Michael Bagley, of the University of Miami, found that US counterdrug policy in Colombia was counterproductive.[27]

This essay examines the impact of U.S. and Colombian government drug control policies on the evolution of drug cultivation, drug trafficking, and political violence in Colombia during the1990s. Its central thesis is that the Washington/Bogota-backed war on drugs in Colombia over the decade did not merely fail to curb the growth of the Colombian drug trade and attendant corruption, but actually proved counterproductive. Among the most important unintended consequences were the explosion of drug cultivation and production activities, the dispersion and proliferation of organized crime, and the expansion and intensification of political violence and guerrilla warfare in the country. As a result, Colombia at the outset of 2000 faced more serious threats to its national security and political stability than it had in 1990. ... the massive escalation of the flawed anti-drug strategies of the past decade proposed by the Clinton administration in January 2000 is more likely to worsen Colombia’s ongoing problems of spiraling violence and insecurity than to resolve them.

One author, independent journalist Frank Smythe, writing in The Progressive, a journal with a pronounced leftist perspective, alleged that CIA counter-narcotics efforts were linked with covert support for right-wing death squads:[28]

In the name of fighting drugs, the CIA financed new military intelligence networks there in 1991. But the new networks did little to stop drug traffickers. Instead, they incorporated illegal paramilitary groups into their ranks and fostered death squads. These death squads killed trade unionists, peasant leaders, human-rights monitors, journalists, and other suspected "subversives." The evidence, including secret Colombian military documents, suggests that the CIA may be more interested in fighting a leftist resistance movement than in combating drugs.

Colombia, like many Latin American countries, has problems with violent groups on the left and right. "This wasn't a romantic act -- it was a realistic one," said Fernando Cubides, a sociology professor, while applauding the squads' disarmament, doubt that their motives are altruistic[29] "He explained that a series of death-squad leaders had been killed, beginning with the shooting in July of Gonzalo Perez, founder of the so-called civilian self-defense groups. Mr. Perez's son Henry, who became acting leader, was killed two weeks later, and two other sons died in an October attack. The Perez family, with army approval, helped create the organizations in the 1960's and 70's in the Magdalena Valley in central Colombia. In those days they were simple peasant bands, protecting each other from guerrillas who kidnapped land owners."

The Times article continued,"..in the 1980's, drug traffickers began buying huge tracts of land in the region and poured money into these armed groups so that their interests, too, would be safeguarded. The peasant bands turned into private armies...Human rights organizations believe that in their zeal to rid the area of guerrillas and their supporters, these private armies have carried out some of the worst massacres in recent Colombian history.

A Human Rights Watch article[30]from 1994 does speak of very real abuses in Colombia, but does not mention non-Colombian sources.

Most individuals have few defenses against crime. Far from being seen as society's protectors, Colombian police are often viewed as hoodlums. Repeatedly, government investigators and human rights groups have found evidence tying police to crimes and human rights violations.In Bogotá, a study by the mayor's Oficina Permanente de Derechos Humanos (Permanent Human Rights Office) found that one quarter of the complaints they received between March 1993 and March 1994 involved police, implicated in attempted murders, beatings, and illegal searches.

In that HRW article, however, there is no mention of any non-Colombian participation. The article describes a real problem in Colombia, but speaks of the abuses as coming from Colombians, sometimes anonymous, and also speaks of the failure of the Colombian government to control the abuses.

Smyth said,

But the CIA remains a Cold War institution. Many officers, especially within the clandestine operations wing, still see communists behind every door. They maintain warm relationships with rightist military forces worldwide that are engaging in." Later in the article, he gives a disclaimer that In 1994, Amnesty International accused the Pentagon of allowing anti-drug aid to be diverted to counterinsurgency operations that lead to human-rights abuses. U.S. officials including General Barry R. McCaffrey, the Clinton Administration drug czar who was then in charge of the U.S. Southern Command, publicly denied it.But back at the office, McCaffrey ordered an internal audit.

There is a reference to McCaffrey in a rather detailed paper by a University of Miami professor, Bruce Michael Bagley.[27] He introduces his article with

This essay examines the impact of U.S. and Colombian government drug control policies on the evolution of drug cultivation, drug trafficking, and political violence in Colombia during the1990s. Its central thesis is that the Washington/Bogota-backed war on drugs in Colombia over the decade did not merely fail to curb the growth of the Colombian drug trade and attendant corruption, but actually proved counterproductive. Among the most important unintended consequences were the explosion of drug cultivation and production activities, the dispersion and proliferation of organized crime, and the expansion and intensification of political violence and guerrilla warfare in the country. As a result, Colombia at the outset of 2000 faced more serious threats to its national security and political stability than it had in 1990. The essay concludes that the massive escalation of the flawed anti-drug strategies of the past decade proposed by the Clinton administration in January 2000 is more likely to worsen Colombia’s ongoing problems of spiraling violence and insecurity than to resolve them.

He concludes,

Clearly, Washington’s current strategy towards Colombia fully satisfies neither the hard-liners nor the reformers. In effect, it seeks to straddle the line between them. The drug war remains the formal priority and human rights monitoring a condition of U.S. aid. Yet the bulk of U.S. assistance will be channeled into the Colombian military rather than into socio-economic and institutional reforms. This "two track" strategy may well prove capable of propping up the Colombian political regime at least for the next few years, but it is unlikely to foster either lasting peace or enduring political stability in the coming decade.

Returning to Smyth's article,

It found that thirteen out of fourteen Colombian army units that Amnesty had specifically cited for abuses had previously received either U.S. training or arms.

According to Smyth, Amnesty made these documents public in 1996. There is no reference to them on Amnesty International's site. There was a 1999 annual report about death squads in Colombia,[31] but it did not mention any non-Colombian involvement, other than the UN Commission on Human Rights. "Some of these concerns were addressed in a statement by the Chairman of the Commission which expressed concern about the gravity and scale of human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law and, inter alia, urged the government to take steps to end impunity and to take effective action to prevent internal displacement. The Commission welcomed the agreement with the Colombian government to extend the mandate of the office of the un High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia until April 1999." The situation described by Amnesty, however, was:

More than 1,000 civilians were killed by the security forces or paramilitary groups operating with their support or acquiescence. Many victims were tortured before being killed. At least 150 people disappeared. Human rights activists were threatened and attacked; at least six were killed. Death squad-style killings continued in urban areas. Several army officers were charged in connection with human rights violations; many others continued to evade accountability. Armed opposition groups were responsible for numerous human rights abuses, including deliberate and arbitrary killings and the taking of hundreds of hostages. Conservative Party candidate Andrés Pastrana Arango was elected President and assumed office in August. He immediately announced his willingness to negotiate with armed opposition groups to end decades of armed conflict. During the presidential campaign both principal armed opposition groups – the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (farc), Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (eln), National Liberation Army – expressed their willingness to enter into talks with the incoming government.

Colombia 1999

When the Colombian military seized some rifles in mid-1999, the CIA helped trace them, and found they had been diverted from a that they had come from the Jordanian shipment to Colombia in 1998. That discovery was promptly reported to White House, State Department and Defense officials.

Colombia 2002

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, CIA has provided, to US policymakers, reports, not fully confirmed, the head of Colombia's U.S.-backed army, Gen. Mario Montoya Uribe cooperated with right-wing militias that Washington considers terrorist organizations, including a militia headed by one of the country's leading drug traffickers.[32][33]

The article says "Disclosure of the allegation about army chief comes as the high level of U.S. support for Colombia's government is under scrutiny by Democrats in Congress." Colombia is the third-largest recipient of US foreign aid, and, if the allegations are established, it could heighten pressure to reduce or redirect that aid because Montoya has been a favorite of the Pentagon and an important partner in the U.S.-funded counterinsurgency strategy called Plan Colombia.

According to the CIA document provided to the reporters, from an anonymous source an allied Western intelligence agency reported the existence of such links during a 2002 Medellín offensive carried out against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) (FARC) under the title of "Operation Orion".

While the operation was considered a success, there were allegations that over 40 people had disappeared during the operation and that the impending power vacuum was filled by paramilitary forces. The Western intelligence agency mentioned in the report considered that, the source of the claim was yet-unproven. A Defense attaché to the United States Embassy in Bogotá told the Los Angeles Times that "this report confirms information provided by a proven source."[34][35][36]

General Mario Montoya was commander of the area police force during the operation. The report cites an informant who claimed that plans for the attack were signed by General Montoya and paramilitary leader Fabio Jaramillo, who was a subordinate of Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano, also known as Don Berna. Don Berna became known for taking over the drug trade around Medellín after drug kingpin Pablo Escobar was killed.[32]

President of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe (no relation to Montoya Uribe), has denied any links between his government and paramilitary forces.[35][34]

Colombia 2005
Intelligence analysis

As part of testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee in early 2005, Porter Goss mentioned that extremist groups in Colombia, with FARC heading the list, were of concern to the US. Pointing out that there would be an election in 2006, he warned that "progress against counternarcotics and terrorism under President Uribe's successful leadership, may be affected by the election."[8]

Colombia 2007

Reports on the 2002 event were not associated with the CIA, so it would appear that the funding does not come directly from the CIA, but from State or Defense. On April 16, according to HRW, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certified that the Colombian government and armed forces are making progress on human rights.[37] Until allegations of Montoya's possible collaboration are confirmed or denied, several organizations recommendthat the US Congress should maintain a hold on military assistance to Colombia until alleged links between paramilitary groups and state officials are thoroughly investigated, Amnesty International USA, the Center for International Policy, Human Rights Watch, the US Office on Colombia and the Washington Office on Latin America.

On April 16, the US Congress put a hold on the remaining fiscal year 2006 funding to the Colombian Armed Forces. Congress has apparently placed the remaining funding of $55.2 million on hold out of concern about alleged links between the head of the Colombian Army and the rightist paramilitary group known as United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a US-designated foreign terrorist organization. Its major opponents, also on the US list of terrorist organizations, are the leftist FARC and ELN.



Venezuela 2002

Ed Vulliamy of the British newspaper, The Observer, wrote that Washington approved and supported a coup against the democratically-elected Venezuelan government, acting through senior officials of the U.S. government, including Special Envoy to Latin America Otto Reich and convicted Iran-contra affair figure and George W. Bush "democracy 'czar'" Elliott Abrams. Vulliamy said both have long histories in the U.S. backed "dirty wars" of the 1980s in Central America, as well as links to U.S.-supported death squads working in Central America at that time.[38] In Vulliamy's article, he makes no mention of the CIA.

Former U.S. Navy intelligence officer Wayne Madsen, told the British newspaper the Guardian that American military attaches had been in touch with members of the Venezuelan military to explore the possibility of a coup. "I first heard of Lieutenant Colonel James Rogers [the assistant military attache now based at the U.S. embassy in Caracas] going down there last June [2001] to set the ground," Mr. Madsen reported, adding: "Some of our counter-narcotics agents were also involved." He claims the United States Navy assisted with signals intelligence as the coup played out and helped by jamming communications for the Venezuelan military, focusing on jamming communications to and from the diplomatic missions in Caracas. The U.S. embassy dismissed the allegations as "ridiculous".[39]Madsen made no reference to the attaches being associated with the CIA, although he did mention that the Navy may have provided SIGINT assistance, normally an NSA function.

In the year leading up to the coup the U.S. also funded groups, opposed to President Hugo Chavez, including the labor group whose protests sparked off the coup. The funds were provided by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED),[39] a nonprofit organization whose roots, according to an article in Slate trace back to the late 1960s when the public learned of CIA machinations to covertly fund parties and activists opposing the Soviets. Congress created the NED in 1983 which disburses money to pro-democracy groups around the globe and do so openly.[40] The State Department is now examining whether one or more recipients of the NED money may have actively plotted against the Venezuelan government.[41]

Bush Administration officials and anonymous sources acknowledged meeting with some of the planners of the coup in the several weeks prior to April 11, but have strongly denied encouraging the coup itself, saying that they insisted on constitutional means.[42] The BBC article makes no reference to the CIA.

Because of allegations, Sen. Christopher Dodd requested a review of U.S. activities leading up to and during the coup attempt. The OIG report found no "wrongdoing" by U.S. officials either in the State Department or in the U.S. Embassy.[43]

Venezuela 2005

In Porter Goss' statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, he said "President Hugo Chavez is consolidating his power by using technically legal tactics to target his opponents and meddling in the region, supported by Fidel Castro."[8]

Venezuela 2007

Venezuela claimed that the US embassy had sent a memo on Operation Pliers to the CIA, on November 26, 2007, which provided details on the activity of a CIA unit engaged in covert action to destabilize the national constitutional referendum This unit was also alleged to be coordinating the civil and military overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Venezuela.

The memo, entitled "Advancing to the Last Phase of Operation Pincer," was sent by Michael Middleton Steere addressed to the Director of CIA, Michael Hayden.[44] The US has called Venezuelan accusations of a CIA conspiracy "ridiculous".[45] Having an operations officer, such as Middleton, bypass several levels of management is not unprecedented, as with some of the Bay of Pigs operations bypassing the Western Hemisphere Division chief in the Directorate of Plans (now the National Clandestine Service). Nevertheless, that is unusual, and even in the Cuba case, the division chief was directly informed, but the addressee was the Deputy Director for Plans. See a description or the information flow on the Cuban operation. While the NCS organization is not public information, from past examples, it would not be unreasonable for this report to bypass a station chief in Caracas, the Venezuela branch, the Western Hemisphere Division (however currently organized), and possibly some immediate deputies of Hayden.[46]

Benjamin Ziff, an embassy spokesman said:[47] "We reject and are disappointed in the Venezuelan government's allegations that the United States is involved in any type of conspiracy to affect the outcome of the constitutional referendum." A CIA spokesman called the memo "a fake", while independent analysts and researchers doubt its authenticity. Jeremy Bigwood, an independent researcher in Washington, agreed:"I find the document quite suspect. There's not an original version in English, and the timing of its release is strange. Everything about it smells bad."


  1. , The threat to US security interests in the Caribbean area, Foreign Relations of the United States 1961-1963, Volume X Cuba, 1961-1962, 17 January 1962, Special National Intelligence Estimate 80-62
  2. Kornbluh, Peter, ed. (April 1, 2002), Secret Cuban Documents on History of African Involvement, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 67, George Washington University National Security Archive
  3. Justice Department Memo, 1975; National Security Archive
  4. CIA "Family Jewels" Memo, 1973 (see page 434) Family jewels (Central Intelligence Agency)
  5. Rostow, Walt (June 24, 1967), Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson in Texas, Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume XXXI, South and Central America; Mexico, xxxi: 59
  6. Rostow, Walt, Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson, Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume XXXI, South and Central America; Mexico, xxxi: 61
  7. Central Intelligence Agency (12 May 1963), Memorandum for the record documenting meeting about Haiti, vol. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volume XII, American Republics, FRUS XII-383
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Goss2005-02-16
  9. Doyle, Kate, CIA and Assassinations: The Guatemala 1954 Documents, Electronic Briefing Book No. 4, George Washington University National Security Archive
  10. , NIE 87.2–66 Guyana(British Guiana), Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Volume XXXII, Dominican Republic; Cuba; Haiti; Guyana, April 28, 1966, XXXII: 418, NIE 87.2-1966
  11. , Memorandum Prepared for the 303 Committee: Support to Anti-Jagan Political Parties in Guyana, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Volume XXXII, Dominican Republic; Cuba; Haiti; Guyana, March 17, 1967., XXXII: 418
  12. 12.0 12.1 CIA Inspector General (August 27, 1997). "Report of Investigation: Selected Issues Relating to CIA Activities in Honduras in the 1980s". George Washington University National Security Archive. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "NSAEBB27-4" defined multiple times with different content
  13. Lemoyne, James. Honduras Army linked to death of 200 civilians, May 2, 1987.
  14. Human Rights Watch. Honduras: Human Rights Developments.
  15. 15.0 15.1 National Intelligence Council (September 18, 2000), CIA Activities in Chile
  16. Dolly M. E. Filartiga and Joel Filartiga, v. Americo Norberto Pena-Irala,  630 F.2d 876 (United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit 30 June 198-)
  17. 17.0 17.1 , XI. The Role of the United States, Argentina: Reluctant Partner. The Argentine Government's Failure to Back Trials of Human Rights Violators, December 2001
  18. , Memorandum for the 5412 Special Group: Increase of Subsidy Provided to the Bolivian Government to support its Covert Action Projects designed to break the power of the National Revolutionary Movement of the left (MNRI) and the Communist Party of Bolivia (PCB), Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume XXXI, South and Central America; Mexico, March 10, 1964, XXXI: 148
  19. Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume XXXI, South and Central America; Mexico (January 29, 1965).
  20. , Editorial Note, Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume XXXI, South and Central America; Mexico, July 5, 1967, XXXI: 166
  21. Grant, Will. CIA man recounts Che Guevara's death, 8 October 2007.
  22. Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume XXXI, South and Central America; Mexico (Washington, October 13, 1967).
  23. Central Intelligence Agency (September 14, 1967), National Intelligence Estimate 92-67: The Situation in Bolivia, Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume XXXI, South and Central America; Mexico, XXXI: 166
  24. Kornbluh, Peter, ed., Brazil marks 40th Anniversary of Military Coup; Declassified Documents Shed Light on US Role, vol. George Washington University National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 118
  25. Sao Paolo Station, Central Intelligence Agency (30 March 1964), Plans of Revolutionary Plotters in Minais Gerais
  26. Testimony Before the House International Relations Committee on International Organized Crime by David Carey, Director, DCI Crime and Narcotics Center, January 31, 1996
  27. 27.0 27.1 Bagley, Bruce Michael (February 7, 2001), Drug Trafficking, Political Violence and U.S. Policy in Colombia in the 1990s Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Bagley2001-02-07" defined multiple times with different content
  28. Still Seeing Red: The CIA fosters death squads in Colombia. Third Word Traveler.
  29. "Gunmen Yield in Colombia; Is It Altruism or Necessity?", New York Times, December 10, 1991
  30. Human Rights Watch, Bogotá
  31. Amnesty International (Annual) Report 1999, Colombia. "This report covers the period January to December 1998", 1999
  32. 32.0 32.1 Richter, Paul & Greg Miller (March 25, 2007), "Colombia army chief linked to outlaw militias", Los Angeles Times
  33. Simon, Richard & Maura Reynolds (May 3, 2007), "Uribe seeks to allay concerns", Los Angeles Times
  34. 34.0 34.1 Romero, Simon (March 26, 2007), "Colombia Rejects Paramilitary Report", New York Times
  35. 35.0 35.1 Evans, Michael (April 4, 2007), "'Para-politics' Goes Bananas", The Nation Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Nation2007-04-04" defined multiple times with different content
  36. Markey, Patrick & Gilbert Le Gras (Mar 25, 2007), "Colombia army chief linked to militias: report", Reuters
  37. Human Rights Watch (Colombia: Congress Should Maintain Hold on Military Aid), April 18, 2007
  38. Vulliamy, Ed. Venezuela coup linked to Bush team, April 21, 2002.
  39. 39.0 39.1 Campbell, Duncan (April 29, 2002), "American navy 'helped Venezuelan coup'", The Guardian
  40. Koerner, Brendan I. (22 January 2004), "Bush Aims To Raise Whose Budget? The skinny on the National Endowment for Democracy.", Slate
  41. Campbell, Duncan, "American navy 'helped Venezuelan coup'", The Guardian
  42. "US denies backing Chavez plotters", BBC News
  43. US Department of State and Board of Broadcasting Governors, Office of Inspector General (July 2002), A Review of US Policy toward Venezuela, November 2001-April 2002, 02-OIG-003
  44. Petras, James. "Counterattack as Fateful Referendum Looms: CIA Venezuela Destabilization Memo Surfaces,", November 28, 2007.
  45. Venezuela waits for reform result, BBC News, 3 December 3 2007.
  46. Golinger, Eva (28 November 2007), "CIA Operation "Pliers" Uncovered in Venezuela: Psyop aims to destabilize Venezuela and overthrow President Chavez", Global Research
  47. Romero, Simon. In Chávez territory, signs of dissent, 30 November 2007.