Spain’s ABC: Venezuela arranged drug trafficking access for Salvadoran FMLN

| Thursday, December 12th, 2013 | 6 Comments »

ABC Madrid-01José Luis Merino, a leader of the left-wing Salvadoran political party, arranged a drug lord’s meeting with the Colombian FARC on a flight coordinated with the office of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.

By Emili J. Blasco

Washington Correspondent

Diario ABC de Madrid

Two months before the presidential elections in El Salvador, new links between the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and international drug trafficking have come to light. After chavista aid failed to secure the Honduran presidency for the Zelayas two weeks ago, the reelection of the ruling FMLN would entail a radicalization of the political environment in El Salvador and its integration into the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), the international bloc promoted by the populist left in Caracas. Honduras and El Salvador are crucial transit points for the flow of drugs stemming from Colombia and Venezuela on its way to Mexico and the United States.

As new evidence reveals, when Nicolás Maduro occupied the post of Venezuelan Foreign Minister he worked to improve the FMLN’s access to drug trafficking. An email intercepted by foreign intelligence personnel shows the exchanges between Maduro’s office and that of FMLN strongman José Luis Merino, when they were trying to establish the details of a drug kingpin’s trip to Venezuela’s border with Colombia.

The email stated: “Brother! This is a request that we have made so that you can give us a hand with the flight permit. Comandante Ramiro [Merino’s alias] asks that you confirm with Nicolás the visit to Apure. Greetings.” The email listed the aircraft that would be used, and its passenger, Roberto Adamo, an individual linked by the FBI to the Calabrian mafia and narcotrafficking. The email was sent on March 4, 2011, by Erick Vega, Merino’s assistant, to Gustavo Vizcaino who was working with Maduro at the Foreign Ministry and who continues to work for Maduro in the presidency.

Merino, who adopted the nom de guerre Comandante Ramiro in his former guerrilla years, has previously been linked to drug trafficking due to his contact with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). “There is enough information which clearly presents Merino as someone with strong connections to the FARC, in fact his name appeared on the computer of FARC leader Raul Reyes, when he was killed in 2008,” said Michael Braun, an expert in the fight against drug trafficking due to his previous experience in the DEA, the U.S. antinarcotics agency. In addition, Braun recalled that the FARC terrorist group is “the biggest drug producer and distributor in the world.”

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“There is enough information which clearly presents Merino as someone with strong connections to the FARC, in fact his name appeared on the computer of FARC leader Raul Reyes, when he was killed in 2008.”

—   Michael Braun

Former DEA Director of Operations

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The email contained a series of documents, including passports belonging to the narcotrafficker Roberto Adamo (one of the several he uses) and the pilot, an Iranian-American, as well as the details for the business jet they used — registration N769M. The fact that there was no copilot, even though this is required by international regulations, and that their destination was the State of Apure in Venezuela, a place where the FARC operates with impunity and where the arrival of international flights is illegal, underlines the illicit reasons of their travel.

A series of email exchanges between Merino’s and Maduro’s aides dated between 2010 and 2012, reveal a tight coordination between the FMLN and chavismo. The emails detail plans for Merino’s travel to Caracas as well several issues related to cooperation efforts between both governments. The latter is evidence of how the ex-guerrilla member acts as the FMLN’s strongman, even when considering the fact that he does not hold a government position. Merino is the individual who coordinates Venezuelan aid to El Salvador through Alba Petróleos de El Salvador.

As Diario ABC de Madrid revealed a few months ago, FMLN leaders have been paying the oil debt they have contracted with PDVSA, the Venezuelan national oil company, with the delivery of loads of coffee valued at above market rates, an activity that provides an ideal space for covert activities. This is how FMLN municipalities across El Salvador have funded their agendas.

José Luis Merino is the muscle of the FMLN. To gain the presidency after years of guerrilla activity, in 2009 the FLMN chose the moderate Mauricio Funes as its candidate. Given constitutional limitations, Funes cannot run for reelection, and the party has launched Salvador Sánchez Cerén as its candidate for the February 2 presidential elections. The FMLN’s intention is to now accelerate their stride in their pursuit of the chavista model, Merino being the big driver behind this transformation.

Through Venezuela, Merino has not only established contact with the FARC for drug trafficking, he has also managed to the supply the Colombian guerrillas with arms. Among the emails found in 2008 on the computer of a reputed FARC leader, there were several weapons-related offerings made by Comandante Ramiro (Merino’s alias), through Australian weapons traffickers. “Ramiro’s friends have everything we need at very favorable prices,” said one of the messages.

The opposition ARENA party says part of the aid that the FMLN obtained from Venezuela is being devoted to the promotion of the presidential candidacy of former president Antonio Saca in order to split ARENA’s vote, the party which Saca was expelled from on charges of corruption.

Translated by IASW.  Original article here.

6 Comments

  1. [...] Via Spain's ABC (translation by InterAmerican Security Watch): [...]

  2. [...] EL SALVADOR Spain’s ABC: Venezuela arranged drug trafficking access for Salvadoran FMLN José Luis Merino, a l… [...]

  3. [...] is enough information which clearly presents Merino as someone with strong connections to the FARC,” Michael Braun, a former director of operations at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, [...]

  4. [...] is enough information which clearly presents Merino as someone with strong connections to the FARC,” Michael Braun, a former director of operations at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, [...]

  5. [...] The FMLN candidate, Sánchez Cerén (pictured), further complicates the situation. While the FMLN has never been known for being moderate, it has pushed the envelope by selecting an individual infamous for celebrating the 9/11 attacks and for being an unwavering supporter of the ALBA bloc — the anti-US, socialist Bolivarian Alliance. Concerns surrounding Sánchez Cerén emanate from his ideological position, but his connections to criminality and corruption are most troubling. Spanish newspaper ABCrecently published an article directly implicating his close confidant and high-ranking member of the FMLN, José Luis Merino, in a host of criminal activities. As the FMLN’s liaison to the FARC, evidence documented from a FARC camp shows that Merino has facilitated arms procurement for the terrorist organization and engaged in narcotrafficking. [...]

  6. [...] Colombian guerrilla force, through a to FMLN official, José Luis Merino, who allegedly arranged a meeting between drug dealers and FARC leaders in 2011.  The allegations are troubling for the [...]

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