Guatemalan Death-Squad Kingpin
Linked to CIA, Drug Trade
BY JOHN VEIT
High Times Magazine Website
Rep. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) shocked reporters at a March press conference when he revealed that Michael Devine, an American innkeeper in Guatemala, was tortured to death with the approval of a US Central Intelligence Agency informant in 1990.
The informant, Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, a graduate of the US Army's School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, GA, was on the CIA's payroll for five years and is renowned as a "murdering spy," according to The New York Times. At the Flores military base in Guatemala's rainforest, Alpirez's troops killed countless suspected "subversives," says Amnesty International.
Alpirez's complicity in the deaths of Devine and the Guatemalan guerrilla fighter husband of American attorney Jennifer Harbury sparked media coverage detailing atrocities by the Guatemalan military, which was responsible for some 20,000 civilian deaths in the 1980s. Covert CIA aid took up the slack after Congress reduced military aid following Devine's killing.
A Guatemalan court convicted Captain Hugo Contreras and five soldiers in Devine's killing, but Contreras escaped before serving time. Harbury found out her husband was dead after a lengthly hunger strike to demanding information.
Devine is believed to have discovered military-protected smuggling of drugs and illegal rainforest timber. HIGH TIMES sources say Alpirez's unit was mired in the drug trade.
Former DEA agent Cele Castillo ("The Celerino Castillo Story," May '95 HT) recalls working the rainforest near the Flores base during the DEA's Operations Popeye and Olive Oil in the 1980s. "We used to fly our airplanes and helicopters for spraying missions out of there. There were a lot of marijuana plantations. We found out that Alpirez's unit was involved in cultivation and the payoffs for the marijuana. It was also heavily documented that they protected the opium plantations."
Alpirez denies any wrongdoing or complicity with the CIA, bellowing to reporters after his testimony to the Guatemalan attorney general, "Never, never have I worked for a United States agency. I receive my salary from the Guatemalan Army, not from any US institution." CIA spokesperson David Christian neither confirms nor denies that Alpirez worked for the agency, stating, "I am not at liberty to discuss these reports as we are conducting an internal investigation." The DEA, NSC, State Department and American in Guatemala Embassy are equally tight-lipped about the colonel's narco connections.