Celerino Castillo

Web: http://powderburns.org/


[2004] Interview of Kevin Booth and Cele Castillo

[1994] Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras and the Drug War by Celerino Castillo & Dave Harmon

"The connections piled up quickly. Contra planes flew north to the U.S., loaded with cocaine, then returned laden with cash. All under the protective umbrella of the United States Government. My informants were perfectly placed: one worked with the Contra pilots at their base, while another moved easily among the Salvadoran military officials who protected the resupply operation. They fed me the names of Contra pilots. Again and again, those names showed up in the DEA database as documented drug traffickers.
"When I pursued the case, my superiors quietly and firmly advised me to move on to other investigations."
Powder Burns, 1994

With every day spent on the streets, Castillo's hatred for drugs grew with increasing vehemence. Castillo witnessed addicts of every ilk, sometimes as young as fourteen, constantly throwing their lives into the toilet so drug dealers could get rich. It would be a hard slap of reality to later discover that the United States government was instrumental in saturating American streets with life destroying drugs.
    Working the jungles, although frustrating for Castillo, was a welcome change from Manhattan's steel maze and reminiscent of Vietnam. Stymied by the DEA's advisory status in foreign countries, however, Castillo was unable to probe too deeply into Peru's narco underworld. The Peruvian military thought their American advisor would be satisfied torching small labs and shooting down traffickers' planes. Castillo demanded to bust the big labs, the factories run by the cartels. Peru's military however, conveniently kept the larger fields and refineries off-limits to American investigation. The military claimed that the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, the Maoist guerrillas whose reign of terror included cocaine smuggling and numerous murders of government officials and civilians) controlled the areas of major cocaine production.
    The last thing Peru's government wanted was to have an American agent killed by Sendero, which would jeopardize future military aid. Castillo later learned their caution was merely a smokescreen used to protect Columbian cartel-controlled airstrips and refineries from American intervention. The military, like most Peruvian governmental agencies, was largely dominated by Colombia's cartels who were adept at greasing palms and instilling fear in the hearts of potential drug enforcement heroes. DEA'S FINEST DETAILS CORRUPTION By John Veit

Trained at the US' School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia, Regalado often bragged of his trigger-man role in the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a globally beloved human rights activist, in March 1980. Regalado was also a torture expert, frequently using his skills as a dentist to extract information from notable "subversives." Much to Castillo's disgust, the death squads' most notorious human butchers and drug dealers became his students and colleagues. While Castillo's classes dealt primarily with surveillance, raid tactics and firearms training, others detailed explicit torture methods. Deemed "interview techniques," students were instructed how to use cattle prods and hoses and to submerge suspects' faces in buckets of water until nearly causing drowning.
    Death squad drug busts made the Mexican federales seem tame by comparison. Standard procedure involved Castillo doing the intelligence gathering for a bust, after which the military would swarm in, interrogating and torturing the traffickers to death before absconding with a portion of the drugs.
    One such bust happened on September 25, 1987, when Castillo's unit busted a cocaine ring run by Guatemalan Congressman Carlos Ramiro de Paz. 3000 kilos of cocaine, the largest bust in Central American history, were found. By the time the coke got to headquarters, however, six hundred kilos were missing. A soldier laughingly admitted to Castillo that the G2 (Guatemala's elite military unit) had pilfered it. DEA'S FINEST DETAILS CORRUPTION By John Veit

The Iran-Contra scandal blared across American television and newspapers, but drug activity was rarely mentioned. The American public accepted the Reagan Administration's version of Iran-Contra, which maintained that weapons were covertly sold to Iran in order to generate funds for Contra mercenary soldiers seeking to overthrow the Nicaraguan Sandanista government. The money used by US Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and his entourage from weapons sales to Iran to fund the Contras was a "drop in the bucket," according to Castillo. He told the SHADOW, "To the best of my knowledge, most of the money to fund the contras came through narcotics trafficking."
    Tim Ross, a twenty-one year veteran broadcaster for the BBC in Colombia, connected what he called "Ollie North's mob" to drug dealing in that country as well. Ross told the SHADOW that "In late '84, early '85, North brought five Afghani military advisers to Colombia on a speaking tour, three left, two stayed. The two that stayed were chemists who introduced heroin manufacturing to Colombia. He also brought in an Israeli agronomist who helped to cultivate opium poppies."
    Ross said that when he started investigating too deeply for North's comfort, however, he was summoned to the US Embassy in Bogota and told, "You're going to lay off this story or you are going to die" by an "ex-marine, the type of guy who used to cut Vietcong throats with his thumbnail." Ross ran the story anyway, detailing Colombia's growing heroin epidemic, but North told his superiors that the story was nothing more than "fabrications, including trumped-up fake Mexican file footage." DEA'S FINEST DETAILS CORRUPTION By John Veit