by David Kirsh
According to an article in Honduras This Week (Dec. 20, 1997), a retired US Army major is charging that School of Americas (SOA) students are allowed to pass with minimal scrutiny into the US, bringing large quantities of cash and probably illegal drugs.
Major Joseph Blair, who retired from service in 1989 after 20 years with the Army, taught logistics to Latin American officers at SOA from 1986 to 1989.
"...The SOA became the best location in the US for Latin American military to launder drug money and other funds obtained illegally in their countries. Throughout the 1980s students attending the SOA routinely arrived with large quantities of US cash which did not pass through any Latin American central banks. Every day of the week foreign soldiers whose commanding officers earn about $1000 a month, entered the US with tens of thousands of dollars stuffed in their pockets, uniforms, duffel bags."
"...Narcotics were only one of many sources, including extortion, protection rackets, bribes and rake-offs from their budgets. Occasionally, one would brag, 'hey, we take ten grand a pop for every plan that lands.' A big part of the attraction to studying or teaching at the SOA was the opportunity to shop. Visiting officers would get multiple-entry visas. If they were here five days, they'd spend four shopping.....
"SOA students could walk into any Fort Benning branch bank and be given a cashier's check to purchase a new car without having to apply for a loan....
"They would routinely make multiple deposits in a single week of between five and nine thousand dollars to avoid a paper trail of these transactions [limited to $10,000 by the US Treasury Department].
"Given what we know about the ties between the military and drug traffickers...I would not be surprised if they weren't bringing in coke [sic]. It defies the laws of probability that they weren't, and I can't believe that the American officers who commanded the School weren't aware of the threat. Yet, I never saw any attempt to check visitors' bags or any close surveillance or security on arrival or departure."
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