Over the past years, it has been happening with frightening regularity that U.S. diplomats and CIA agents were caught pulling off operations involving illicit weapons supply in Latin America. The inescapable impression is that the U.S. Department of State has irreversibly learned to regard the Vienna Convention and various national legislations as rules which it has unlimited freedom to overstep.
Pressing for unchallenged hegemony in the Western Hemisphere, Washington keeps the populist regimes in Latin America under permanent pressure. Outwardly, the U.S. Administration pledges not to resort to military force to displace the ALBA governments in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, or Cuba, but in reality Washington's efforts to undermine them are a constant background of the continent's political picture. The activity began under president G. Bush and shows no signs of subsiding under president Obama. Supposedly, plans are being devised in the White House that a series of color revolutions will erupt across Latin America in 2013-2014 and derail the continent's advancement towards tighter integration in the security and other spheres. As the fresh experience of Libya showed with utmost clarity, Washington's new brand of color revolutions will – in contrast to the former coups which used to be accompanied with outpourings of pacifist rhetoric – involve ferocious fighting and massive fatalities.
The above should explain why U.S. embassies in Latin America increasingly often become epicenters of political scandals related to illicit weapons supplies. In a recent incident in Bolivia, the country's mobile patrol service (Umopar) intercepted in Trinidad, the capital of the department of Beni, a vehicle owned by the U.S. diplomatic mission and driven by two Bolivian nationals – chief of U.S. Embassy security Maj. Costas and Sgt. Garcia, a driver – which was found to be heading for the capital of the Santa Cruz province with three shotguns, a 38-caliber revolver, and a load of ammunition. Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero announced shortly thereafter that the U.S. embassy had not requested a permit for transporting weapons and, therefore, acted illegally and put Bolivia's National Security in jeopardy. It did remain unknown who was going to secretly receive the weapons seized in the district located hundreds of kilometers away from La Paz.
The Bolivian administration has serious reasons to be on the alert – slightly over a year ago, Ecuador's police which had been armed, funded, and otherwise courted by the U.S. embassy, used to launch missions directed by U.S. advisers – and gradually evolved to think of the national administration's control as purely nominal – organized a mutiny and, as the plot unraveled, president Rafael Correa narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. An investigation that followed when law and order were restored in Ecuador failed to clarify the origin of the sniper rifles used to fire on the president, which likely means that the CIA professionals left no trace of their involvement in the coup.
The US embassy in La Paz reacted to the Trinidad incident by releasing a statement to the effect that the Beni police had actually been notified about the supply of firearms to Santa Cruz and that the plan had been to pass them to Bolivian nationals employed as guards by US institutions. Minister Romero was as a result forced to reiterate that no license had been issued on the occasion and said that a probe would be opened into how the firearms and ammunition had crossed the Bolivian border.
For anyone familiar with the scope of the activity of the US intelligence community in Bolivia, the context of minister Romero's invectives is not hard to grasp. A shocking episode took place in Santa Cruz, a city with a reputation of a hotbed of separatism, in April, 2009 – back then, Bolivian special forces raided the Las Americas hotel and mowed down a group of terrorists who had arrived to the country from West Europe with the goals of fueling armed resistance to the populist regime and assassinating president Evo Morales. It transpired that the uninvited visitors had a record of fighting against the Serbs in the Balkan region, where the bunch of militants had formed strong links with the Western intelligence services. The Bolivian counter-espionage agency's investigation into various aspects of the case of the group's leader Eduardo Rózsa-Flores) – particularly the part of the probe meant to shed light on the channels via which firearms, grenades, explosives and ammunition had been smuggled into the country – is still underway. In a rather predictable development, a number of individuals who had assisted Rózsa-Flores, including Human Rights Foundation representative Hugo Acha (a.k.a Superman) – fled to the U.S. The Bolivian security service got a hold of the e-mail exchanges between Rózsa-Flores and a Belovays, a U.S. national and, reportedly, a career CIA officer whose profile also features a stay at the Balkans. The WikiLeaks regulations along with the reports submitted by Rózsa-Flores seem to indicate that Belovays had recruited Rózsa-Flores in the 1990ies and acted as his curator when the latter showed up in Bolivia.
The U.S. van with firearms on board ended up in the hands of the Bolivian police a month after the U.S. and Bolivian administrations penned a deal normalizing the diplomatic relations between the two countries and exchanged ambassadors. The lesson that Morales has to relearn under the circumstances is that – shifts in diplomacy notwithstanding – the staff of the U.S. embassy in Bolivia has no intention to stop playing its totally unfair game.
There's hardly a country in Latin America where U.S. agents have not been spotted trafficking firearms. A U.S. national was taken in custody last April in the proximity of the Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires for carrying three rifles, two of them with telescopic sights, in a vehicle with a diplomatic license plate. The U.S. embassy somehow explained away the incident with a reference to an unspecified emergency (no doubt, getting away with a similar offense so easily would have been out of question in the U.S.), and the perpetrator, a U.S. embassy contractor, in his own description, immediately hopped on a plane to the U.S. Argentina's police was keenly interested in the man's "hunting" trips to the regions of the country bordering Bolivia and Chile, considering that Argentinian laws strictly prohibit the conduct of intelligence operations, including those against drug trafficking, by foreign agents.
Speaking of Argentina, the loudest story played out about a year ago when boxes containing undeclared firearms, reconnaissance equipment, and narcotic substances were discovered aboard a U.S. Air Force Boeing in the Ezeiza airport. The U.S. mischief was impossible to deny, but, as in the majority of cases, the U.S. easily solved the problem, this time by asserting that all of the above was necessary to train Argentinian police.
It is a recurrent theme in the media that sizable arsenals are stored in U.S. embassies across Latin America. These days that the ostensibly anti-terrorist war has been raging globally for over a decade, nobody is taken aback when this type of information surfaces. A lot about the survival tactic prescribed to U.S. embassy staff in Latin America can at the moment be found in the materials posted by WikiLeaks. The perceived risks are pervasive, be it Mexico, Central America, Columbia, Brazil, or even Uruguay, and alarmist forecasts evidently proliferate. That must be the reason why, in just about every Latin American country, the U.S. embassies increasingly resemble military bases, with reinforced concrete walls, tiny windows, and underground shelters.