Saturday, October 10, 2009

When it rains it pours: Klaus Barbie was behind a coup in Bolivia in 1980

I seem to be finding lots of books in libraries dealing with post-war Nazi activity in South America, first one at the Seattle Public Library outlining how a former French Gestapo agent in Paraguay became one of the world's top heroin traffickers, now "The Fourth Reich", not to be confused with the recent book of the same name, by Magnus Linklater, Isabel Hilton, and Neal Ascherson. This one deals specifically with Klaus Barbie and his activities in South America before his capture and extradition to Europe. Barbie was the head of internal security for Bolivia, and in 1980 organized a coup in Bolivia along with Italian terrorist Stefano delle Chiaie , and other terrorists from Argentina and Italy that put a military dictatorship in power. Lest you think this is a conspiracy theory, ye olde Wiki has an interesting article about the leader of the military government, Luis Garcia de Meza that gives an outline and mentions Barbie's role. If you don't believe that, the google "Luis Garcia de Meza", like This and read about him for yourself. The coup appears to have happened because Bolivia had gone back to civilian rule after being a military dictatorship for an extended amount of time and because not surprisingly the left won 38% of the vote in the elections. The book goes into extreme detail about how it happened and what their goals were, the primary goal being a straight out transformation of Bolivia into an Italian style Fascist state.

The book outlines assassinations and death squad activity that the people working for Barbie committed. Also outlines how the Fascist members of the group, which operated out of Bolivian Military Intelligence, acted as unofficial ambassadors to Europe with the goal of hooking up with neo-fascist groups there, and adds interesting tidbits like the fact that Argentina and South Africa immediately recognized the coup government as official. Also, that Stefano delle Chiaie attended an ultra-right congress of Central and South American governments and met Salvadoran death squad organizer Roberto D'Aubuisson, who called him a professional and said that his armed forces could learn from him. Deals were struck with cocaine traffickers for a cut of the money.

To give a kind of taste of the depth of all of this, here's a passage from the book describing the extravagantly named "Fiances of Death" paramilitary squad that Barbie helped found:

"Jose recalled some of the members:

There was Manfred Kuhlmann, a Rhodesian mercenary, who came from Paraguay with Fiebelkorn and Fiebelkorn's wife, Linda. He was Fiebelkorn's favourite. Hans Stellfeld, a former SS man and an old friend of Klaus Barbie. Then there was Ike Kopplin, an old Nazi and a sadist who enjoyed beating prisoners with the butt of his revolver. Ike liked living in the wilds. He was a tactical genius in open country. he was a Nazi too.

And then there was Napo -- Jean "Napoleon" Le Clerc -- who used to think everybody was a Communist and would talk about killing all the time." (The Fourth Reich, pg 273)

From, which is an online version of the Country Studies books put out by the U.S. government:

From the article "Bolivia--Transition to Democracy"

"The process was disrupted on July 17, 1980, however, by the ruthless military coup of General Luis García Meza. Reportedly financed by cocaine traffickers and supported by European mercenaries recruited by Klaus Barbie, former Gestapo chief in Lyons, the coup began one of the darkest periods in Bolivian history. Arbitrary arrest by paramilitary units, torture, and disappearances--with the assistance of Argentine advisers-- destroyed the opposition. Government involvement in cocaine trafficking resulted in international isolation for Bolivia. Cocaine exports reportedly totaled US$850 million in the 1980-81 period of the García Meza regime, twice the value of official government exports. The "coca dollars" were used to buy the silence or active support of military officers. But García Meza, who failed to gain support in the military, faced repeated coup attempts and was pressured to resign on August 4, 1981."

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