A young Salvadoran businessman indicted on charges of conspiring to smuggle almost $6 million in suspected drug money to El Salvador from Texas participated in a “very sensitive” meeting last May called by U.S. officials to stave off a right-wing assassination plot against the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Thomas R. Pickering, according to U.S. officials.
At that time, intelligence sources had picked up evidence that the assassination plot was directed by aides of right-wing political leader Roberto D’Aubuisson. To thwart any such plot, President Reagan dispatched retired Lt. Gen. Vernon A. Walters, former deputy director of the CIA, to El Salvador to speak with D’Aubuisson.
That meeting was recalled last week in a cable sent by Pickering to U.S. officials investigating the arrest of Francisco Guirola, 34, and the seizure of suspected drug profits by U.S. Customs agents in Texas on Feb. 6, according to a U.S. official close to the investigation.
Spoke With D’Aubuisson
In the cable, the official said, Pickering noted that he had spoken with D’Aubuisson after the seizure.
“When I asked Maj. D’Aubuisson if this wasn’t the same Mr. Guirola who he brought along to the meeting . . . he did indicate that it was the same man but attempted to dismiss the importance of their association.”
Guirola and two other men were indicted last week in Corpus Christi on charges of conspiring to smuggle the cash out of the United States in violation of U.S. Treasury reporting laws. They were arrested at a small Texas airport after U.S. customs agents found more than $5.8 million in used bills in their luggage.
Guirola is known to have helped raise and distribute money to paramilitary activists who have been linked to D’Aubuisson and to right-wing terrorists.
There is no evidence as to what purpose the money was to be used for once it reached El Salvador, according to federal investigators in Texas.