Leaders of the Medellin drug cartel in 1986 offered U.S. officials a deal under which they would halt drug trafficking and provide information on leftist guerrillas in Colombia in exchange for amnesty from prosecution, it was reported Wednesday.
The proposal in the fall of 1986 was never taken seriously or pursued by the Reagan Administration, the Washington Post reported, citing law enforcement sources and documents.
It said the deal was presented to an unidentified Miami lawyer, reported to the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration in Miami and then relayed to senior Administration officials in Washington.
“We don’t do business with international outlaws,” said Ann B. Wrobleski, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics, who acknowledged that she was familiar with the offer. “These people are the scum of the earth.”
Under the proposed deal, top leaders of the Medellin cartel offered to “work for American intelligence” and inform on guerrilla allies by supplying information on alleged Libyan arms shipments and Cuban personnel operating in Colombia, the newspaper said, citing DEA documents and sources.
The documents were obtained recently by a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee, which has been holding hearings on international narcotics trafficking.
During three days of hearings last week, the panel heard new testimony about the cartel’s expanding activities throughout Latin America, including buying protection from Panamanian officials, taking over businesses in Haiti and, in one 1984 incident, attempting to buy $4-million worth of surface-to-air missiles and a Bell helicopter on the international arms market.
“The picture one gets from all this is that of an emerging new government,” said Jack Blum, chief investigator for the panel chaired by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
Sentenced on Drug Charges
The DEA documents said the Miami lawyer attended two meetings in Colombia with cartel leaders Jorge Ochoa, Pablo Escobar and Carlos Lehder, who has been convicted and sentenced on drug charges in Jacksonville, Fla.
“Lehder appeared to be under the impression that he, Escobar and Ochoa can work for American intelligence by supplying information about guerrilla activities, thereby incurring amnesty for their efforts,” the DEA account said. “They then can return to their families and call an end to their trafficking activities.”
Lehder was captured three months after the meeting with the lawyer in a jungle shoot-out.
U.S. officials noted that similar offers had been floated by cartel leaders in the past. In 1984, they reportedly offered to pay off the Colombian national debt--then estimated at more than $9 billion--if the government would drop charges against them and scrap the country’s extradition treaty with the United States.