On February 10, the military aircraft of the Air Force of the United States, C-17 Globemaster III, registration 77187, landed at the Ezeiza international airport of the Argentine capital. From the Boeing’s bottomless carcasses the custom officers began to take out heavy boxes delivered from the base of the 7th Special Forces Group in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. A routine check went on quietly and in a friendly atmosphere. Weapons, ammunitions, night vision equipment and many other items were intended for training of the military students of Federal Special Operations Group (GEOF) by US instructors.
Suddenly one of the Argentine officers exclaimed: “There are undeclared boxes here!” The check revealed that about one third of the cargos were not mentioned in the invoices. The military and defense attaches, Colonels Edwin Passmore and Mark Alcott tried to reach an “amicable settlement”. Let’s not make a fuss about nothing! We are partners, we should trust each other!
But the thing is that a similar incident with considerable surplus of military cargo on board of an American military aircraft took place in the Ezeiza airport in August 2010.Then US Ambassador in Argentina Vilma Martinez resolved the conflict. She admitted that the claims of custom officers were grounded and ordered an immediate return of the aircraft to North Carolina with the all the cargo onboard. She said she was ashamed of such a behavior of the US military men. In Argentina her words were taken as a reflection of a hidden fight between the Pentagon and the State Department for the right to determine the US’ policy in South America.
Now – a suspicious repetition. Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández ordered to act strictly in compliance with the national law and to do everything to have the “valise” checked. Americans were given time to think over the only possible decision.
Next day after intensive consultations with Pentagon and the State Department the US embassy had to bow to pressure. Argentineansopenedtheundeclaredcontainer. Inside they found devices for secret communication, encryption and audio interception, GPS, software and a wide range of psychotropic and narcotic substances. According to Argentinean experts, all these devices and materials were intended for intelligence and diversionary work. The opening of the “valise”, its contents as well as boxes with smuggled weapons (“the property of 7th Special Forces Group”) – all this was shown on the national TV. In order to prevent the escalation of the conflict, the Argentinean authorities allowed the US Boeing to leave the country with the “legal part of cargo” and the instructors.
The history of the 7th Special Forces Groupwas written in blood. The group was formed 18 months after the victory of Fidel Castro on Cuba. The group was put in charge of the Central and South America. The “service record” of this group includes training of “death squads” for putting down the revolts in Honduras and Salvador, fighting drug cartels in Columbia, Bolivia and Peru. The group members took part in the “Just Cause” operation in Panama (overthrowing of president Noriega), invasion to Grenada (liquidation of the socialist government). The group’s regular training missions in Argentina and other countries of South America can be regarded as a preparation for similar operations in the “zone of responsibility” in future.
Argentinean political analysts could not miss the fact that “foreign military experts” with a wide experience of repression campaigns were allowed to train the students of the Federal police showing them “the latest methods of releasing hostages and fighting kidnapping”. In Argentina such operations within the Defense and Interior ministries are illegal. In the years of the military dictatorship this kind of “cooperation” led to hard consequences: 30,000 killed and missing-in-action! The US instructors were directly involved in it. Many Argentinean officers underwent training in the “School of the Americas” where the main subject was “Manual de Interrogatorio” (“Interrogation manual”).
The scandal in Ezeiza did not let the instructors of 7th Special Forces Groupshare their experience of using the latest version of the manual with Argentinean policemen. But it is never late. In October, when the presidential elections are to be held in Argentina the US embassy and “the fifth column” will do their best not to let “populist” Cristina be reelected for the second term in Casa Rosada.
All countries members of UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) expressed their solidarity with Argentinean authorities over the events in the airport of Buenos Aires. Bolivia’s President Evo Morales said that the presence of these US planes was “an attack to South America’s sovereignty and not only to Argentina,” he also said that the presence of an Air Force plane carrying unauthorized materials in Argentina “demonstrates how the United States negotiates with drugs all around the world”. That is why the US does not have a moral right to speak about our nations’ fighting this evil, he added. Morales said that the delivery of weapons to Argentina was aimed at destabilization, overthrowing of democracy and legally elected constitutional governments in the region.
The Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said the following: "I am absolutely sure that plane gringo who came to Buenos Aires and wanted to enter here illegally in violation of the laws and everything (…) is that they will do everything possible so that Cristina does not follow the front of the Argentine government". During the first election campaign of Cristina Fernándezthe US security forces also made such attempts.
Then a memorable incident with the “detection” of case with $800,000 at the border control happened. It was claimed that the case’s owner, an American-Venezuelan entrepreneur Antonini Wilson was going to hand over the smuggled money to Cristina Fernández for her election purposes.
Wilsonmanaged to escape punishment and leave the country using a reserve passport. He brought his dollars back home and became “a star” of an international scandal aimed at compromising Cristina. She named all this staging, information mess and accusations in her address as “a garbage operation” against her. In fact all the people who witnessed in the US court were either the workers of agents of the FBI. CIA residents in Buenos Aires and Karakas were collecting “evidence” to prove that it was PDVSA – Venezuelan state oil company that financed Cristina’s election campaign.
After the incident at the Ezeiza airport in Februarysome Argentine mass media wrote that Fernández had revenged for the garbage operation against her. She could not forgive the offenses caused by the administration of Obama. One of the most frequent quotes (obtained from WikiLeaks) is a query made by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the US embassy in Buenos Aires about “physical and psychological health of Cristina”. A humiliating context of this document is unlikely to be compensated by routine apologizes. May be that is why Argentina is not on the list of the South American states Barack Obama is to visit in March. The US president plans to visit Brazil, Chile and Salvador.
In a week after the airport incident reporters mainly lost interest in it. High ranking officials of the State Department and Pentagon also softened their anti-Argentine comments: “This was just a misunderstanding”. But the Internet discussion around a mystery cargo on board of Globemaster III № 77187 is going on. Uncontrolled presence of the US air forces in the region assumes a threatening character for South American countries. Pentagon planes are quite at home in the air and in the airports of the continent. They make flights undercover of various agreements signed in different time and under different excuses. Almost every airdrome in South America has a reserved site to offer landing to a US combat aircraft. The cargos and passengers on these planes are not checked so meticulously, as it was at the Ezeiza airport. How can it be different? We should trust our partner, who took a heavy burden of fighting drug cartels and terrorism in the Western hemisphere.
The history of secret operations of the Pentagon in South America is far from being over. The boxes with unregistered weapons at Ezeiza remind me of some episodes of the war against “the Red expansion”. In order to compromise the leftist government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala (1951–1954) Americans made caches with Soviet arms on the territory of the country to accuse the insubordinate president of collaboration with the Red Empire.
Now the times have changed. It is likely the Venezuelan President Hugh Chavez is the candidate N1 for such accusations. He was already accused of supplying weapons to guerillas of FARC in Columbia, Zapatistas in Mexico, rebellions in Paraguay and Peru. On one the websites I came across a version that the weapons from Globemaster III plane were intended for the Mapuche indigenous people in Chile and Argentine, who are actively demanding the autonomy and have a plan to establish their own state of Mapu from the Atlantic coast to Pacific coast. This is a touchy issue for many people in Chile and Argentina and a “detection” of a cache with weapons from Chavez or of a laptop with secret plans of the Mapuche leaders may come as a bombshell.
In the valise of Globemaster III they found a brochure with a phrase written in 15 languages: “I am a soldier of the US army. Please tell my embassy that I was arrested in your country”.I would not be surprised in this phrase was also translated in the Mapudungun language.