What is Up with Carlos Cardoen??
What is up with Carlos Cardoen?
The arms dealer, top one relator with Iraq, banned from ever entering the United States, owner of vineyards and spur behind the formation of the Colchagua wine Valley to take the shape of a Napa Valley-esque appearance and form. My aunt says he is “de moda.” Fawning articles about his business savvy, high-class style, his wife´s manner of dealing with his colon cancer and wine business are abundant in the Chilean press.
A few weeks ago he was featured in a December 14th interview in La Tercera which I can´t reproduce because La Tercera is annoyingly tight with their archives, in which he spills the beans on what he really thinks about Pinochet. There were no hard questions asked.
Why is he so fucking special? Its clear that he is an accomplished man, but damn, he is an arms dealer who sold cluster bombs to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980’s. Maybe its because he also able to make money selling matches, (even with growth numbers in lighters) as the majority owner of the Compañia Chilena de Fosforos. That must take balls. Do you think that was the calculus behind why one of Chile’s former top models, Pilar Jorquera, married him, or was it love? It would be great if she did it because of his balls to sell, according to his estimations, “out of Chile alone, almost $150 million dollars worth of material,” to Iraq.
About his only meeting with Saddam Hussein, Cardoen says, “Honestly, he seemed to me a fairly balanced man, very well informed and with a great elegance and dignity. He gave off the impression that he was not a man who acted without full information.”
Cardoen alleges that the US was always informed of his relationship with Iraq. Although it is not clear whether they knew that according to a very exhaustively researched 2003 San Francisco Chronicle article by Jason Hibbard, his profits were being channeled through a Florida investment account called Swissco. This Department website. The charges levied the for illegal export of zirconium, an element used in nuclear facilities and as an incendiary device in cluster devices, resulted in fines of multiple millions of dollars, and an arrest order on Cardoen. The words of the prosecuter who opened the civil suit in 1992, according to the SF Chronicle article,
Customs Commissioner Carol Hallett read from a statement worthy of Fox TV’s “America’s Most Wanted”: “Like a black widow spider, Cardoen controlled a tangled but intricate web that circled the globe. His dark empire was spun from the profits of destruction. I am thankful that today we have finally dropped the bomb on him.” Hallett explained how Cardoen had set up a “sophisticated organization” of shell companies and trust accounts to conceal more than $200 million that Iraq had paid for cluster bombs that were made from illegally exported materials. Through its suit, the government aimed to seize $30 million worth of real estate Swissco had purchased with the proceeds.
Carlos Cardoen was an arms dealer. He designed and made weapons meant to kill on a large scale. His star money maker were cluster bombs. They were apparently good for countering the “human-wave” strategy of the Iranian soldiers. The killing range of the bombs was a few football fields in area.
This is just the story that I am missing, that the vast majority of the Chilean public either don’t care about him, or don’t care about the death and destruction that he reaps by having been the architect behind the construction of a cluster bomb factory. But why is he always popping up in the news?
Death is something here that just isn’t that important. Maybe it’s just a far and distant concept that people are used to hearing about, but not seeing or experiencing. Or at least the people close to Cardoen.
How could one hang out at a dinner party with someone complicit in murder and business dealings with Saddam Hussein, not to mention an indirect relationship with Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. (Although he does have reservations about Pinochet’s style). Also, there are at least two mysterious deaths, one by hanging and poison (the journalist Jonathan Moyle (also linked to the murder of Gerardo Huber) and the other, Cardoen’s US representative, Nasser Beydoun, in Brazil) linked to Cardoen’s people and deals.
The callousness and inhumanity that he represents is astounding.
But what is mind boggling is that he now cultivates and image of himself as a cancer survivor, a man whose priority is local culture, represented by the Museum of the Huaso in the city of Santa Cruz and general community interests. Even stranger, he wanted to set up a museum in homage to the deceased Chilean folk muse of the 1960’s and 70’s, Violeta Parra. See the La Nacion Domingo article for why and how this strange courtship fell apart.
After Ted Kennedy passed a bill prohibiting arms sales to Chile in 1976, Cardoen stepped in to fill the gap and began designing and commercializing weaponry and bombs for the Chilean market. It was a tense time.
But he is maybe, an interesting man. Is he an honorable man, even, as he affirms in this interview with Radio La Cooperativa last year. He accuses Pinochet of giving authorization to the government arms manufacturing and procurement agency, Famae, of making unauthorized copies of his bombs, and selling them to Iran. The reason for the sale to Iran, “According to what I have been told, everything points to Pinochet authorizing the sale of arms to Iran because there were economic incentives. Commissions.”
They were poor copies and according to Cardoen, resulted in a malfunctioning during a test run, exploding soon after deployment that killed a famous Iranian fighter pilot and destroyed the F-5 fighter plane.
He has had a chapter of his life in which he conversed routinely with Fidel Castro. He expresses respect and concern for him. Fidel intervened to get his bomb-makers safely out of Iraq. He sent him a letter recently hoping for his quick recuperation from his illness. Another sideshow on that story. His connection to Fidel was through Max Marambio, a former member of Salvador Allende´s security forces, the GAP, and member of the radical and violent leftist group the MIR. As is the case of Miguel Enriquez and his fancy in women, the line between the MIR and the right wing is only millimeters.
Recent news that a young film director, Igal Weitzman, is planning on setting his life to the big screen is gut-wrenching, sickening. More so when this young filmmaker, who is currently producing videos for James Iha, of the Smashing Pumpkins, and has sat down with Naomi Watts to pitch projects in New York City, describes the attraction of the story of Carlos Cardoen as thus: “To show a man born and raised in Chile, in which his destiny brings him to a moment of historical climax: the 90’s in Iraq with Saddam and Bush father, the two of which he faced with bravery. And later, he faced a second battle here in Chile, cancer.”
Pobrecito. Thats a great story to bring to the screen. I heart cluster-bombs. I heart Carlos Cardoen. I heart Saddam Hussein.