An Excerpt of Fabio Ernesto Carrasco's Testimony

April 6, 1990

On October 31, 1996, the Washington Post ran a follow up story to the San Jose Mercury News series titled "CIA, Contras and Drugs: Questions on Links Linger." The story drew on court testimony in 1990 of Fabio Ernesto Carrasco, a pilot for a major Columbian drug smuggler named George Morales. As a witness in a drug trial, Carrasco testified that in 1984 and 1985, he piloted planes loaded with weapons for contras operating in Costa Rica. The weapons were offloaded, and then drugs stored in military bags were put on the planes which flew to the United States. "I participated in two [flights] which involved weapons and cocaine at the same time," he told the court.
Carrasco also testified that Morales provided "several million dollars" to Octaviano Cesar and Adolfo "Popo" Chamorro, two rebel leaders working with the head of the contras' southern front, Eden Pastora. The Washington Post reported that Chamorro said he had called his CIA control officer to ask if the contras could accept money and arms from Morales, who was at the time under indictment for cocaine smuggling. "They said [Morales] was fine," Chamorro told the Post.
From the National Security Archive
The Contras engaged in "attacks on purely civilian targets resulting in the killing of unarmed men, woman, children and the elderly—premeditated acts of brutality including rapes, beatings, mutilations and torture—and individual and mass kidnappings of civilians for the purpose of forced recruitment into the Contra forces and the creation of a hostage refugee population in Honduras; — assaults on economic and social targets such as farms, cooperatives and on vehicles carrying volunteer coffee harvesters; — intimidation of civilians who participate or cooperate in government or community programs such as distribution of subsidized food products, education and local self-defense militias; — and kidnapping, intimidation, and even murder of religious leaders who support the government, including priests and clergy-trained lay pastors."
"Contra terror in Nicaragua: report of a fact-finding mission,
September 1984 - January 1985" By Reed Brody, 1985

The United Stated District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma
United States of America, plaintiff, V. Jose Rafael Abello Silva, Defendant.
Reporter's transcript of proceedings had on April 6, 1990
Jury Trial Morning and Afternoon sessions
Before the Honorable Thomas R. Brett, Judge.

For the plaintiff:
Mr. Tony H. Graham, United States Attorney, and Mr David E. O'Meilia, Assistant United States Attorney
3600 United States Courthouse
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74103

Q. (By Mr. Williams) Did you bring — did you participate, Mr. Carrasco, in over five planeloads of cocaine having 300 to 400 kilograms of cocaine into the United States while you were working for Mr. Morales in 1984 and '85?

A. That's right.

Q. You were in charge of bringing all that cocaine, weren't you?

A. That's correct.

Q. You watched and kept track of it, didn't you?

A. That's right.

Q. You flew with the Hippie in planes loaded with guns and weapons and ammunition, didn't you?

A. That's right.

Q. And you took those weapons down to Costa Rica, didn't you?

A. That's right.

Q. And you landed and then unloaded the weapons in Costa Rica and then loaded up the airplanes in Costa Rica with dope, didn't you?

A. That's right.

Q. And you flew that dope back from Costa Rica with the Hippie, didn't you?

A. That's right.

Q. And landed in the United States with that dope, didn't you?

A. That's right.

Q. And nobody bothered you, did they, at the time?

A. No one.

Q. It was your belief, wasn't it, Mr. Carrasco, that you were doing this dope bringing into the United States with the knowledge of the United States CIA, isn't that correct?

Mr. Graham: Objection as an improper form of the question. It calls for hearsay by its very nature.

Mr. Williams: I'm asking him his opinion, your honor, what his belief was.

Mr. Graham: No basis or foundation for that whatsoever.

Mr. Williams: It's already been laid. He said that the man worked for the CIA.

THE COURT: Excuse me, Mr. Williams. Since he's asking what his belief was, whether it's true or not is not the issue. The objection will be overruled. I'll permit him to ask him what he thought.

Mr. Graham: I would ask the court to admonish the jury that this not being offered or accepted then for the truth of any matters but rather only for this witness's state of mind and under what belief he was operating.

THE COURT: That's my understanding, and the jury will be so advised, and that's the nature of the question.

THE INTERPRETER: I'm sorry, Mr. Williams, do you have that question, or —

Mr. Williams: Probably not, but I'll try to get it.

THE INTERPRETER: You honor, can Bec (United States Court Reporter) just read it back for him?

THE COURT: We'll let Mr. Williams restate it. It was what his belief was concerning the involvement of supposedly the United States Government concerning letting the drugs come in, right?

Mr. Williams: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: Proceed.

Q. (By Mr. Williams) When you flew black in with the Hippie with these loads of drugs from Costa Rica, it was your belief that your boss, George Morales, was operating with the knowledge and consent of the U.S. CIA, correct?

A. Are you asking for my personal opinion?

Q. Yes, your belief at that time.

A. That's right.

Q. You also, sir, were operating with the belief in your mind that the owners of the cocaine that you flew back from Costa Rica in exchange for the weapons and ammunition were the Contra leaders in Nicaragua, correct?

Mr. Graham: May we have the same objection and ask the jury to understand that this is a continuing admonition, that it's not for the truth of the matter asserted but only what the witness believed.

THE COURT: Very well. As I understand it, that's what he's asking, what the witness believed. Whether it was true or not, that's not the issue. The question is what did he believe. Go ahead, Mr. Williams.

A. That's right. (Continuing answer in spanish by the witness, not translated.)

Q. (By Mr. Williams) I don't need to have any volunteering. You can just answer the question. In the years—

Voir Dire
From the French "to see to speak," the examination of a proposed witness or juror to ascertain the person's competence to give or hear testimony, either because of knowledge of the facts, acquaintanceship with parties, witnesses or attorneys, occupation which might lead to bias, etc.

Mr. Graham: Judge, excuse me. May I ask a voir dire question of the witness?

THE COURT: Surely.

Mr. Graham: Sir, do you believe that the balance of the answer that you were giving was cut off was a portion of the answer to the last question Mr. Williams asked you?

THE WITNESS: It is to clarify that I am giving personal opinions and that I don't want them later to be taken as fact for this case, since he is asking me what I believe.

THE COURT: Proceed.

Mr. Williams: Thank you.

Q. (By Mr. Williams) Was it your belief, Mr. Carrasco, that the flying down to Costa Rica to deliver these guns and weapons was to help the Contra war? Is that correct?

A. Right.

Q. Do you recall how the cocaine was brought back to the United States, in what kind of containers when you brought them back from Costa Rica with the Hippie?

A. It came in military bags, green in color.

Q. Could you tell us what size they were?

A. About this long (indicating).

Mr Williams: For the record, the witness reached his arms extended about as far as I guess they could go, which would be four or five feet. Fair?


Q. (By Mr. Williams) Did you see the loading of the cocaine onto the airplane there in Costa Rica?

A. I loaded it.

Q. You loaded it yourself.

A. Well, assisted by somebody else, right?

Q. Do you know the location of the airport where you landed in Costa Rica?

A. No.

Q. Do you know who owned that airport?

A. Yes.

Q. Who?

"John Hull was a central figure in Contra operations on the Southern Front when they were managed by Oliver North, from 1984 through late 1986. Before that, according to former Costa Rican CIA station chief Thomas Castillo's public testimony, Hull had helped the CIA with military supply and other operations on behalf of the Contras. In addition, during the same period, Hull received $10,000 a month from [Contra Leader] Adolfo Calero of the FDN--at North's direction. … Five witnesses testified that Hull was involved in cocaine trafficking."
Selections from the Senate Committee Report on Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy chaired by Senator John F. Kerry, Released April 13, 1989

A. I don't remember the name. I think if was John Hull.

Q. H-U-L-L.

A. Uh-huh.

Q. When you flew down to Costa Rica, did you leave an airport in Florida?

A. That's right.

Q. Would that be Fort Lauderdale?

A. That's right.

Q. Did you ever leave from airports other than Fort Lauderdale?

A. That's right.

Q. What other airports in Florida did you leave from to fly down with guns and ammunition for the Contras to Costa Rica?

Mr. Graham: Objection to the form of the question. It assumes facts not in evidence.

THE COURT: I take it that's technically correct. You ought to lay a little predicate on that.

Q. (By Mr. Williams) Each time that you left Florida in an airplane loaded with guns and weapons, it was your belief, Mr. Carrasco, that these items were going to the Contras, correct?

A. That's right.

Q. Were you present when the guns, ammunition and weapons were loaded onto the airplane?

A. No.

Q. Do you have personal knowledge as to where those weapons came from?

A. Nothing that's for sure.

Q. Tell the jury, if you can, your recollection of the kinds of weapons that we're talking about.

A. Well, they were all weapons—they were war weapons, not personal type weapons. There were submachine guns and I think grenade launchers.

Q. Anything other than that that you can recall?

A. No.

Q. Were there rockets?

A. Well, that's what I call grenade launchers, right?

Q. If that's right.

A. I think so.

Q. Did you see machine guns that you thought were like K-19 (Sic? mk-19? —History Is A Weapon) or M-16?

A. That's right.

Q. Did you ever meet anyone of these contra leaders or anybody that identified themselves to you as a contra leader?

A. Of course.

Mr. Williams: I'm sorry?


Q. (By Mr. Williams) Where?

A. I met them in Miami.

Q. And were you with?

A. Jorge Morales.

Q. Where did you meet these Contra leaders?

A. At a restaurant called the Rusty Pelican.

Q. Do you recall their names?

Adolfo Jose Chamorro Cesar, also known as "Popo," fought in the revolution to overthrow Somoza. Following Somoza's ouster in 1979, he served as an official of the FSLN. Chamorro's tenure as a government minister was short-lived, however, due to his arrest in 1981 in connection with a counter-revolutionary plot against the Sandinista Government. He then went into exile in Costa Rica. There he joined forces with Eden Pastora, his former FSLN commander, and the anti-Sandinista organization ARDE. In June 1983, Chamorro became the chief of military intelligence for ARDE, one of the Contra paramilitaries.

A. Popo Chamorro.


A. I'm sorry. This is going to be used in another case. I wouldn't want to say or provide names or details.

Mr. Williams: If the Court please, the question stands. The witness seemlingly objected without the government saying anything. I would ask that the witness be made to answer.

Mr. Graham: I thought he already did. He asked him a name and he gave a name.

Mr. Williams: I asked for other names, and he said he didn't want to answer.

Mr. Graham: I can only—my recollection of the state of the record was he asked him for a name, it got a name, and then the witness did make a voluntary statement. I don't know what to object to or what to do until there's another question.

THE COURT: Why don't you restate the question, Mr. Williams, so we're all attuned to it.

Q. (By Mr. Williams) Do you recall the name of somebody called Octaviano?

Mr. Graham: Objection based on relevance.

THE COURT: Overruled. Proceed.

A. That's right.

Q. (By Mr. Williams) What is Octaviano's name?

A. Cesar.


A. (Witness and interpreter confer in Spanish.)

THE INTERPRETER: I'm inquiring. I'm not sure what he's trying to say.

Octaviano Cesar was Contra leader Alfredo Cesar's brother and played a role in the Southern Front.

A. I know that the name is Octaviano Cesar. I don't know if Cesar is actually a surname or a middle name. He was called Octaviano Cesar, and he's known that way.

Q. Were there other persons at that meeting that you believed to be Contra leaders?

A. That's right.

Q. Did you recall their names?

A. That's right.

Q. Tell me who they were.

Mr. Graham: Objection based on relevance and also based on 403.

THE COURT: If he knows the names of witnesses or the people he's been asking for and there is no other objection than that stated, it will be overruled. He should answer that if he knows.

Q. (By Mr. Williams) You may respond.

Mr. Graham: Before he responds, may I make a specific objection at the bench.

THE COURT: Surely. Ladies and gentleman, I see it's 10:20, so let's take our midmorning break at this time. We'll start back in about 20 minutes at 10:40, and you may be excused, remembering the admonition I've given you.

Q. You mentioned Octaviano and Popo. Do you recall those names?

A. That's correct.

Q. You paid millions of dollars to those people, didn't you?

Mr. Graham: Objection based on relevance.

THE COURT: Overruled.

A. That's correct.

Q. (By Mr. Williams) Could you tell the jury approximately how many millions of dollars that you were participating in paying over to these people?

Mr. Graham: May I ask one voir dire question before he answers? Are the transactions involving those two individuals still currently the part of an ongoing investigation?

THE WITNESS: I believe so.

Q. (By Mr. Williams) Does he know so? I'm sorry, does he know?

A. As far as I know, that case is still being worked on, but I don't belong to the prosecutor's team or any group like that that could be aware of what's happening exactly.

Mr. Williams: If the court please, I would submit if the prosecutor would look on page 55 that that matter has been waived by virtue of the sworn statement that was given by this man to his lawyer and the customs officer.

THE COURT: Well, this witness, as I understood it, just said he doesn't know anything specifically about an ongoing investigation, so he shouldn't be inquired of about that if he doesn't know anything specific about it, but in reference to your prior question of were substantial sums of money paid to these men, proceed.

Mr. Williams: Yes, sir.

Q. How many millions of dollars did you tell the jury that you paid or caused to be paid by these two men, Octaviano and Popo?

A. Several million dollars.

Q. Where was this money handed over?

A. In hotels, restaurants, Jorge Morales' home.

Q. And in what nation?

A. The United States, Panama, Costa Rica.

Q. Could you tell us how many times over the period of years we're talking about —you're talking about '83, '84, '85, into '86, is that correct?

A. We're talking about '84, '83 is not included in that.

Q. Thank you. '84, '85?

A. Uh-huh. '84 and '85.

Q. Was '86 involved?

A. Yes, but I did not deliver any money in '86.

Q. For the years in '84 and '85, how many times did you deliver any money to Popo and Octaviano?

A. Many times.

Q. Could you give us an estimate? More than twenty?

A. That's right.

Q. More than 50?

A. Between 30 and 40 times.

Q. Why were you giving these millions of dollars to these two men, Octaviano and Popo?

A. I was ordered to deliver it to them.

Q. By whom?

A. George Morales.

Q. Do you know why George Morales was paying these huge sums of money to these men?

Mr. Graham: Objection to the form of the question without laying some form of predicate, and further it would involve hearsay.

THE COURT: Overruled. If he knows, he may answer the question.

A. Yes, paying for merchandise.

Q. (By Mr. Williams) What kind of merchandise?

A. Cocaine.

Mr. Williams: If the interpreter will bear with me I'll try to ask a question involving a Spanish sounding organization.

Q. (By Mr. Williams) Are you familiar with a company named Frigorificos de Punta Arenas?

A. That's right.

Q. What is that company?

A. It's a company that deals in vegetables and fruits.

Q. Was it a CIA front to your knowledge?

A. I don't know whether it belonged to the CIA or not.

Q. Did it have a place in the your drug operation when you were flying down there with weapons and bringing back cocaine?

THE INTERPRETER: May I ask the court reporter to repeat the question, please or reread it to me?

Mr. Williams: Yes.

THE COURT: Restate it if you would, Mr. Williams.

Q. (By Mr. Williams) Did this company have a role in your drug operation dealing with the contras and the weapons that you believed to be involved with the CIA?

A. It did in my opinion.

Q. And what was its —to your knowledge what was its purpose?

Mr. Graham: Object as to relevance, inquiring into specific instances of conduct unrelated to the indictment under rule 508.

THE COURT: Overruled. Proceed.

A. In the shipment of cocaine in containers.

Q. (By Mr. Williams) Is that in the shipment of cocaine from Costa Rica.

A. That's right.

Q. That you would bring back on airplanes in exchange for weapons?

A. Well, we did fly back with cocaine but not with containers full of cocaine.

Q. What was the purpose then of this company's containers being involved in your cocaine trafficking?

A. They had nothing to do with it.

Q. To make sure I understand, is this company Frigorificos de Punta Arenas in any way involved in drug trafficking?

A. That's correct.

Q. In what way was it involved?

A. As I have said, they would load cocaine inside the containers which were being shipped loaded with vegetable and fruits to the united States.

Q. Where were these items loaded? In what country, Costa Rica?

A. That's correct.

Q. Panama?

A. No.

Q. Just Costa Rica?

A. As far as I know.

Q. How many flights do you recall participating in flying weapons to Costa Rica and bringing back cocaine?

A. I participated in two of them which involved weapons and cocaine at the same time.

Q. How many flights did you participate in bringing back cocaine to the United States while you were working with people you believed were affiliated with the CIA and the Contras?

A. Between five and seven.

Q. What would be the average amount of drugs on each of those trips?

A. As an average, between three and four hundred kilos.

For More Information

The National Security Archives has a large number of resources about this chapter and related histories. To find out more, visit their Electronic Briefing Book.

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