What drug trafficking allegations was CIA aware of, and when,
involving Contra organizations? How did CIA respond to this information, and
how was this information shared with other U.S. Government entities?
15th of September Legion--Justiniano Perez/Manuel Porro/Juan Francisco
Rivera/Hugo Villagra/Fernando Brautigan/Felix Alcides Espinoza/Edwin Hoocker
- Background. The military arm of the Nicaraguan Revolutionary
Democratic Alliance (ADREN) was known as the 15th of September Legion. It was
formed in 1980 and its principal leaders were Enrique Bermudez and Justiniano
Perez Sala. Other leaders included Guillermo Mendieta Chaves,
Alcides Espinoza, Ricardo "Chino" Lau, Manuel Porro, Manuel Villalobo,
and Hugo Villagra.
- In May 1981, a Central American Station reported that the ADREN,
Nicaraguan Democratic Union (UDN) and MISURASATA had agreed in principle to
combine forces in a new organization. They would continue to use the name 15th
of September Legion for the organization's military arm. The new
organization, the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN), was established in
September 1981. The FDN General Staff included Enrique Bermudez, Justiniano
Perez, Ricardo Lau, and Juan Francisco Rivera. The merger of the UDN
and the ADREN, including its 15th of September Legion, into the FDN was
completed in early 1982. Former ADREN leader Guillermo Mendieta Chaves was
excluded from the new organization because he was suspected of being a
- The 15th of September Legion included a unit called the Special Secret
Operations Command (OES). The Coordinator of the OES was Justiniano Perez.
Other members included Fernando Brautigan, Alcides Espinoza, Edwin Hoocker,
Ricardo Lau, and Gerardo Martinez Gutierrez. The unit was organized to increase
ADREN's operational capabilities both within and outside Nicaragua.
- The ADREN to some extent engaged in kidnapping, extortion and robbery to
fund its operations. A June 1981 Central American Station draft
field intelligence report stated that ADREN leaders "see themselves as
being forced to stoop to criminal activities in order to feed and clothe their
cadre." The ADREN also engaged in the bombing of Nicaraguan
civilian airliners and airliner hijackings as methods of attacking the
Sandinista Government. The Station reporting from June 1981 through
March 1982 identified the following 15th of September Legion members as having
been involved in criminal activities: Brautigan, Hoocker, Lau, Martinez, Perez,
Porro, Rivera, and Villagra.
- A September 1981 cable to Headquarters (discussed in more detail later in
this section) indicated that ADREN had decided to engage in drug trafficking to
the United States to raise funds for its activities. ADREN members Alan Downs
and Edwin Hoocker reportedly had been involved in an initial delivery of drugs
to Miami in July 1981.
- The leader of the ADREN/OES, Justiniano Perez, resigned from the FDN in
November 1981. Perez wrote a resignation letter in which he stated
that he was leaving because of internal dissension and mistrust within the FDN
leadership. A June 1982 cable to Headquarters reported that Enrique
Bermudez, Chief of the FDN General Staff, had stated that the OES was involved
in armed assaults and thefts to collect funds. According to Bermudez, Perez
disclaimed responsibility but admitted he had lost control of the group.
- According to a March 1982 Headquarters cable, the FDN had ceased using
the name "15th of September Legion" by early 1982. The
name had become associated with a small splinter group led by Perez, Porro,
Rivera, and Villagra. Its personnel were principally former members of the
ADREN/OES. The group reportedly continued to conduct criminal activities to
support its operations against the Government of National Reconstruction (GRN)
and identified itself as the 15th of September Legion.
- Justiniano Perez Sala. In June 1982, Headquarters
requested an assessment as to whether Perez "could be influenced to employ
tactics other than those used by terrorists," if he were to be
re-integrated into the FDN. In November 1982, with the support of
MISURASATA leader Stedman Fagoth Mueller and the concurrence of the FDN, Perez
re-joined the Nicaraguan Resistance (RN) as the Military Advisor to the
- A January 1984 cable reported that "Perez is the only person in
Honduras and in the entire FDN with the leadership, charisma, and military
tactical ability to make the movement go forward in the manner CIA would like."
However, beginning in December 1983, two Stations reported that Perez became
involved in a disinformation scheme, along with Francisco Rivera, Hugo Villagra
and a Cuban-American U.S. citizen that was directed against the political and
military leadership of the FDN. In May 1984, Perez withdrew from
active service with the MISURASATA, returned to Miami, and had become
associated with a dissident Nicaraguan exile group led by Hugo Villagra and the
Cuban-American citizen that eventually became known as the Nicaraguan Coalition
of Opposition to the Regime (CONDOR).
- Manuel Porro Rubiales. A June 1982 cable identified
Manuel Porro as a member of the FDN General Staff support unit. He
was identified as an instructor at the FDN NCO School in an October 1982 cable.
A September 1986 cable discussed Adolfo Calero's hiring of Porro as an
assistant. A September 1987 cable indicated that Porro also
reportedly handled Adolfo Calero's funding transactions between Miami and San
Jose, Costa Rica, banks.
- Juan Francisco Rivera Aguirre. In a May 1982 cable to
Headquarters, Rivera was identified as FDN Chief of Logistics. A February 1983
cable reported that an FDN investigation had found Rivera guilty of
misappropriating funds. According to a March 1983 cable, Rivera had
contacted Carol Prado and indicated that he would leave the FDN and travel to
Miami. In May 1983, a Station reported that Rivera was alleging that
the FDN was "coming apart" due to internal conflicts, cliques and lack
of control by CIA.
- A June 1983 cable indicated that Rivera moved to Miami where he became
one of the leaders of the dissident Nicaraguan exile group that eventually
became known as the CONDOR group. According to a December 1984
Headquarters report, Rivera was active, along with Perez, Villagra and the
Cuban-American citizen, in a disinformation campaign that attempted to ferment
distrust between the Honduran military leadership and the FDN in Honduras. The
CONDOR group's ultimate goal was to supplant the FDN leadership with its own
- Hugo Villagra Gutierrez. A November 1982 cable
identified Hugo Villagra as the FDN Chief of Operations. In August
1983, he was appointed as the Tactical Field Commander of FDN Forces in
- A December 1983 cable reported that Villagra had resigned from the FDN,
claiming that he was not being supported by the FDN political and military
leadership. Villagra moved to Miami and, according to a June 1984
Headquarters cable, became one of the leaders of the dissident Nicaraguan exile
group that eventually became known as the CONDOR group.
- Other 15th of September Personalities: Fernando Brautigan.
No information has been found to indicate that Brautigan joined the FDN after
the demise of the 15th of September Legion in 1982. However, an April 1983
Central American Station cable to Headquarters concurred in his appointment as a
Military Advisor to Emery Hudson's Miskito Resistance organization in Costa Rica
as requested by Miskito leader Norman Campbell. Brautigan was
identified as a member of the dissident Nicaraguan exile CONDOR group in a May
1986 cable to Headquarters.
- Felix Alcides Espinoza Rodriguez. According to a June
1983 cable to Headquarters, Alcides Espinoza was FDN Commander of Sagitario Base
in June 1982. A November 1984 cable indicated that Espinoza was
senior Military Adviser to MISURA.
- Edwin Hoocker Coe. No record has been found to indicate
that Hoocker joined the FDN after the demise of the 15th of September Legion in
1982. However, an April 1983 Central American Station cable to Headquarters
concurred in his appointment as a Military Adviser to Emery Hudson's Miskito
Resistance organization in Costa Rica as requested by Miskito leader Norman
Campbell. A June 1984 FBI name trace request to CIA indicated that Hoocker had
recently immigrated from Nicaragua and had taken up residence in Texas.
- Allegations of Drug Trafficking. In September 1981, a report to
Headquarters relaying information obtained from an asset stated that the ADREN
leadership had made a decision to engage in drug smuggling to the United States
in order to finance its anti-Sandinista operations. Reportedly an initial trial
run had taken place in July 1981 when ADREN member Alan Downs carried drugs in a
suitcase on a flight to Miami. Once the drugs were delivered and paid for,
Downs reportedly turned over the proceeds to Edwin Hoocker in Miami. No other
information concerning Downs has been found. Reportedly the drugs belonged to
an unidentified Honduran who was a native of the Bay Islands and who operated
out of San Pedro Sula.
- A May 1982 cable from the FBI to CIA stated that reportedly "Justiniano
Perez is a close friend of 'Paisa' (nickname) who is a Drug Trafficker."
According to the cable, Perez told Paisa that "if [Perez] received
financial assistance from Paisa he would make business concessions to him when
and if Nicaragua were to be liberated."
- A February 1982 Headquarters cable, in response to a name trace request,
indicated that members of the splinter group of the 15th of September Legion
Group who had refused to join the FDN were using the Legion name in conducting
robberies, drug smuggling and hijacking.
- CIA Response To Allegations of Drug Trafficking. No information
has been found to indicate any action to follow-up or corroborate the
allegations concerning ADREN/15th of September Legion drug smuggling into the
United States. However, the September 1981 and February 1982 information
against ADREN/15th of September Legion stemmed from a single source, and in
October 1982, Headquarters issued a cable indicating that the source was thought
to be untrustworthy and a possible agent of the Government of Nicaragua. A
January 1982 Headquarters cable noted that an Agency asset should not meet
Justiniano Perez and Francisco Rivera "who represent the 'Renegade'
splinter group of the 15th of September Legion."
No information has been found to indicate that the Agency
pursued any action to follow-up or corroborate the May 1982 FBI information
concerning Justiniano Perez's alleged close friendship with a reputed drug
trafficker named Paisa and Perez's alleged promise to help Paisa later in return
for financial assistance. No record of any individual named Paisa has been
found in CIA records.
- Information Sharing with Other U.S. Government Entities. The
September 1981 report that the ADREN intended to engage in drug smuggling to the
United States was disseminated as an intelligence report on October 28, 1981 to
the Departments of State and Treasury, FBI, U.S. Customs, Defense Intelligence
Agency (DIA), and NSA. The report also was disseminated to the Ambassador and
DEA representative in Tegucigalpa and to USCINC South. Several
intelligence reports concerning the ADREN/15th of September Legion's criminal,
non-drug trafficking, activities also were disseminated to U.S. law enforcement
and intelligence community organizations between June 1981 and March 1982. No
information has been found that this reporting was shared with Congress.