Page 16


her favorite charity with double-dipping retired military brass. In Roger’s latest proposal, he defines acceptable delivery systems more broadly, to include other quasi-non-governmental organizations besides the Red Cross, which would provide assistance directly through humanitarian flights between Miami and Havana. The Cuban government is not to intervene, and they’re probably not going to like that. It’s getting a little murky now, but Roger knows what he’s doing. In fact, he has a lot of experience with these sorts of things. He knows they can get sticky, too. That Contra business, for example, turned into a real snake pit. For one thing, two congressional panels began investigating repeated reports that drug traffickers were able to take advantage of the private aid network set up to support the Contras. Ramon Milian-Rodriguez, a Miami-based money launderer with ties to the Medellin Cartel, testified in 1988 that drug funds were laundered to the Contras through two companies he set up. The Senate committee investigating the charges subsequently identified $230,000 in “non-lethal” U.S. Contra aid money that went through the bank account of one of these companies. About that time with Roger’s help the U.S. Agency for International Development awarded a $750,000 grant to the Thomas A. Dooley Foundation/INTERMED. The grant was intended for non-political groups, who treated children injured in the Nicaraguan war. But Dooley/INTERMED’s president at the time, Dr. Verne Chaney, Jr., worked with members of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North’s private Contra network, and had been a medical coordinator for the Contras. In 1985, he had performed a survey of the Contras’ medical needs at the request of retired Army Major General John K. Singlaub, a key person in North’s illegal Contra supply network during the two-year cutoff of most U.S. aid. Chaney did the work together with Robert Owen, who later owned up to being the Washington bag man for Colonel North. The arrangement had another curious feature: aid shipments were not inspected to insure that they were non-lethal. The commission to be established for this purpose by the Organization of American States and the Catholic Church in Nicaragua bogged down in an AID-inspired dispute about how the inspection funds would be spent. But AID began its shipments anyway, using a Honduran air cargo company that had “made a small number of supply flights to the Contras in the past,” according to the Washington Post from the OAS and the Nicaraguan government, the shipments continued, and coincidentally, so did the war. After it all finally ended, Roger went to the increasingly helpless OAS to rest up. He landed a tax-free sinecure that paid more than $100,000 annually from 1992 to 1995. It was quite a windfall. No one knew exactly what he did while he was there, but many people noticed that after that, Helms stopped criticizing the OAS for cronyism. He continued to hit the UN . and UNESCO pretty hard for cronyism, though. After all, none of Jesse’s cronies were able to cash in there. Roger is an influential guy with excellent Capitol Hill connections, and he soon materialized working for Congressman Benjamin A. Gilman, Chair of the House Committee on International Relations. Noriega became the reigning Latin America specialist, with a sub-specialty in hassling Haiti. We next heard from him when he spearheaded an unsuccessful effort to implicate the security agents of former President Jean Bertand Aristide in a number of high-profile political killings in and around Port-au-Prince. Then, in May of 1996, Roger made the acquaintance of Dr. Patrick Elie, a former Haitian deputy Defense Minister, top security and anti-narcotics aide to Aristide. Elie cracked up in late 1995 and left the Haitian government. He subsequently traveled to Washington, where he acquired two high-powered rifles, a semi-automatic pistol, three other guns, and 165 rounds of ammunition. Thus equipped, he announced his intention to kill Jean Casimir, Haiti’s Ambassador to the White House and the OAS. After Roger went to call on him in jail in rural Warsaw, Virginia, Elie told reporters that Noriega offered to intervene in his case if he provided information implicating the Aristide government in political killings during 1995. Roger denied this, saying that he had simply dropped by to find out if Elie knew anything interesting. nd so, on to Cuba in 1998, where \(in much to be done. Pressure is building in Congress to end the embargo, after the Pope criticized it so strongly. Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd and California Representative Esteban Tones, both Democrats, are proposing legislation to allow the sale of food and medicine to Cuba, as well as other fundamental modifications. The legislation is supported by many powerful business groups both domestically and internationally. It obviously has Jesse and Roger worried. A new, non-lethal, people-to-people airlift could be just the ticket. The exercise should actually be simpler than the Contra nightmare, but even if it isn’t, Roger is probably still up to the job. As he put it when discussing his interest in humanitarian aid, “There’s more to helping people than doing good.” Nonetheless, if Congress is simply interested in doing good and helping Cubans, there are many effective ways to accomplish this. The Roman Catholic Caritas has 5,000 volunteers in Cuba and is widely seen as a neutral, independent organization. Caritas has a distribution network already in place, and was accredited last year to monitor the licensed sale of U.S. medicines and medical equipment. It doesn’t have to be that hard, but it’s probably going to be. Watch for this to get extremely nasty and complicated as many things seem to be, when Roger Noriega is involved. Gabriela Bocagrande reports occasionally for the Observer on the international scene, and observes the workings of politics in Las Americas from a ringside seat in Washington, D.C. UtilOti 110\(iti Labor Intensive Radio Radio of the union, by the union and for the union. \(News tips: call Paul Sherr at Tuesdays 6:30-7:00 p.m. KO.OP 91.7 FM MAY 22, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23