Contra leaders say CIA not involved in drug sales
November 26, 1996
From Correspondent Carl Rochelle
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Nicaraguan Contra leaders testified Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, denying that the CIA was connected to the sale of crack cocaine to raise money for their cause.
"I could have never suspected that any of the CIA officials that I admit I worked with would be capable of ever going into such kind of illegal or immoral or criminal activities," said former Contra leader Adolfo Calero.
The purpose of the hearings was to look into allegations that the CIA was linked to the influx of crack that poured into the United States beginning in the mid-1980s. According to those accusations, money from drug sales was sent to the U.S.-backed Contras to aid their battle against the communist Sandinistas.
The allegations surfaced in August when the San Jose Mercury News published a series of articles purporting to trace the crack cocaine's beginnings in the United States to a pair of Nicaraguan drug traffickers linked to the Contras.
Calero said that promoting drug sales would have been irresponsible for the Contras, and detrimental to their cause.
"Had they done it," he said, "I would have been the first to call them to ... denounce the thing."
The hearing was disrupted, however, by members of the audience who believed that the senators were not asking the right questions of the right people. In an unusual move, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus who had been in the audience, was invited to the Senate table to ask questions of the witness.
She asked Calero about his association with convicted drug dealer Norwin Meneses, a Nicaraguan living in California who had been linked to the Contras.
Calero said Meneses "never offered a penny," but another former Contra leader, Eden Pastora, said that he had taken money from Meneses on two occasions.
"We talked about the situation in Nicaragua," Pastora testified through a translator. " I asked him for help and he gave me help."
None of Tuesday morning's witnesses made any connection between the CIA and drug sales to fund the Contra army.
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