The US government's pretext for the invasion of Panama in December 1989 was the alleged involvement in drug trafficking of Panamanian President Manuel Noriega. That pretext is now becoming seriously unstuck with revelations that Noriega's replacement, the US-installed Guillermo Endara is himself closely linked to the narcotics trade.
The Brazilian publication Jornal do Brazil's correspondent Manuel Britto broke the story in January 1990. Britto indicted the entire Panamanian aristocracy, including Panama's first vice-president, Ricardo Arias Calderon, and second vice-president Guillermo Ford. He charged that they had been involved in drug smuggling and money laundering over the past two decades.
Earlier this year, the opposition Revolutionary Democratic Party called for a legislative investigation of Endara, based on testimony last August of a US Drug Enforcement agent before a grand jury in Miami, Florida. The agent testified that, according to affidavits from 35 witnesses, two traffickers involved in smuggling cocaine into the US since 1978 control a number of corporations based in Panama. In all of them, he said, Endara appears as treasurer and director.
Meanwhile, a US Senate subcommittee report charged that Panamanian authorities had not moved to halt the sale of Israeli-made weapons to Colombian drug lords. Major news magazines have documented Israeli involvement in gun running to the Medellin cocaine cartel.
According to US investigative journalist Jane Hunter, editor of the independent monthly Israeli Foreign Affairs, what became known as the Harari Network was set up in 1982 by the Reagan administration and the Israeli government to run a secret aid program for the Nicaraguan contras. It was headed by long-time Mossad official Mike Harari.
In April 1988, the subcommittee on narcotics, terrorism and intelligence operations of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony from José Blandon, a former Panamanian intelligence officer who said that the Harari Network shipped guns to the contras and smuggled cocaine from Colombia to the US via Panama.
On April 7, 1988, ABC news interviewed a US pilot who had flown drugs from Colombia to Panama. He stated that he had regarded Israel as his primary employer and the US as his secondary employer. A month later, an Oregon businessman and ex-CIA operative who was also involved in the Harari network corroborated the guns-for-drugs operation, stating that it went by then vice-president George Bush's office.
[Information based on a Radio Havana broadcast reprinted in the US magazine World Perspectives.]