Chile From Within

Monzer al-Kassar gets 30 and Chilean sidekick Luis Felipe Moreno Godoy sentenced to 25 years.

Posted in chile, Chile culture, Chile military, Corruption, mierda, Pinochet by tomasdinges on February 25, 2009

More Chilean criminals in international news. The party is starting to be over for all these holdovers from the privilege and arrogance of the Chilean military dictatorship. Although in the wonderfully lucrative and innocent business called arms sales thrives in democratic Chile as well and is detailed in the recent article by Miguel Paz for El Mostrador, here.

The Chilean, Luis Felipe Moreno Godoy, was a long time associate of the international arms dealer Monzer Al-Kassar who today was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for participating in a plan to sell arms to undercover Drug Enforcement Agents that were to be used to “kill americans in Colombia,” according to the press release.

Al-Kassar was sentenced to 30 years and ordered to forfeit all of his assets. His mansion in Marbella, Spain, el Palacio Mifadil, is currently up for sale for 17.5 million Euros.

Kassar and Moreno were found guilty after a three-week trial culminating on November 20, 2008 of  “(1) conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals; (2) conspiracy to murder U.S. officers; (3) conspiracy to acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles; (4) conspiracy to provide material support and resources to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the “FARC”), a designated foreign terrorist organization; and (5) money laundering,” according to the release.

“As part of an undercover DEA sting operation, between February 2006 and June 2007, AL KASSAR and MORENO GODOY agreed to sell to the FARC more than 12,000 weapons — including thousands of machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and surface-to-air missile systems, or “SAMs” — along with 2 million rounds of ammunition.”

Moreno, 60, was caught in Bucharest a couple years ago, but had been living in Spain, where he was working for Al-Kassar as a personal assistant for many years, according to court documents and Chilean press reports.

He left Chile “clandestinely” in 1987, according to a short report in El Mercurio newspaper, after accumulating debts related to a money exchange business. Separated from his wife and far from his family his daughter commented to the press, “that it has been a long time since we have heard from him.”

Moreno Ocampo was an agent or assistant to the Chilean intelligence services, the CNI, during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, according to a report in La Nacion newspaper in 2007.

“Moreno, según un ex oficial de la Central Nacional de Informaciones (CNI) que conversó con LND, fue uno de sus hombres de confianza que trabajó con él en Chile en los años ochenta,” according to the article.

He was introduced to Al-Kassar by a friend of the CNI and of Al-Kassar, Edgardo Bathich Villaroel, in the late 1980s, according to the news report in La Nacion which used a former agent of the CNI as a source.

Bathich is of Syrian origin who met Al-Kassar in the early 80s in visits to their mutual town of origin, according to news reports, and are related by the marriage between distant family members.

Through Bathich is also a web of connections that links the son of deceased dictator of Chile Augusto Pinochet, the brother of a leading right wing politician, the son of the general of the Air Force, and a cousin of Jesus Ochoa Velasquez of the Medellin Cartel, and others to a car parts business, Focus Motors, which was accused of being a front company for a massive cocaine trafficking and money laundering business from 1986 to 1991. Much of this, as well as Al-Kassar’s participation, is detailed in the book Linea Delgada Blanca, or the Thin White Line, by Rodrigo de Castro and extensive articles in La Nacion and by Juan Gasparini. They were ordered to pay 170 million peso fine and serve 200 days in prison for tax evasion and fraud charges.

In 1992 Bathich was caught with a fake passport as a he traveled through a Spanish airport along with Al-Kassar. It was reported that similarly manufactured fake passports were used by the family members of Pinochet to hide their international travel.

Bathich was let go, but Al-Kassar was taken to be processed accused as a financier and arms supplier of a terrorist operation which hijacked the Achille Lauro luxury liner in 1985.

Al-Kassar has also been accused of aiding in the attempted assassination of an Israeli spy, and supply the Somali and Bosnian civil wars with Ak-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, according to an extensive report in the Village Voice in 2007. But until now he has always beat the charges. According to an interview by Aram Roston of NBC news in 2006,

” Kassar told me he became an arms dealer back in the 1970s, when the government of Communist Yemen, a Soviet client state, gave him a diplomatic passport. He shrugged, as if it was all no big deal.  “I’m not here now to remember, of course,” he said. “I’ve worked more that 20 years in the arms business. I have never seen a gun. Believe or not. You go to the ministry, on the catalog, they give us the code or the name: ‘We want ak47’ and we go and sign the ministry.”

Bathich had fled Chile in late 1992 and sought refuge in Al-Kassar’s home, the Mifadil Palace, a 16 bedroom  over 3200 square meters and on a property of 10,000 square meters, guarded by three mastiffs.

The connections between Bathich and the intimate circles of the Pinochet dictatorship are extensive. Bathich even flew a helicopter in a detention operation run by the CNI to capture of leftist militant accused of kidnapping in the late 1980s.

So what’s the point? One, that the web of deep connections between bad guys around the world is legitimate, Two, that the Chileans, products of the military dictatorship of Pinochet were in the thick of it, and Three, that now these guys are going down, like never before.

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Death and the Mountain: Video of mountain guide dying on Aconcagua

Posted in Andes Mountains, chile, mountaineering by tomasdinges on February 18, 2009

Tricuspide

Mountain climbing and rescue tactics on Aconcagua.

Federico Campanini, also known by his nickname “Fede” was an internationally certified mountain guide who died after two days caught in a furious storm near the summit of Aconcagua, one of seven tallest peaks in the world at 22,841 feet. At age 31 he was alive and as  of January 8th, 2009, he is dead. After a botched rescue, documented on a video released to Argentine media last Friday, he died of hypothermia, dehydration and an edema.

A 38-year-old Italian woman, Elena Senin, also died. She was part of a five-person group being led by Campanini to the top of Aconcagua, where it began to snow heavily minutes after beginning their descent. Participants, according to a youtube video, include Mirco Affasio and Mateo Refrigerato.

Annually, two-to-three people die yearly on Aconcagua, but this year has been extracted a steep toll.  Five people have died so far this year, according to an article by the Associated Press. Six hundred people had signed up to climb the mountain.

Accounts state that the group faced winds up to 70 kph, temperatures of -25 Celsius and driving snow all the while mixing their own urine with snow to rehydrate themselves after two days of being trapped.

The video detailing his death was released by his father this past Friday in Argentina. It was given to him by an anonymous individual and subsequently released to local Argentinian media outlets.

It has ignited public commentary, a lawsuit and a Facebook group filled with public indignation over perceived ineptitude in rescue tactics.

In the United States Campanini worked for the Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.  as a guide which has since set up a memorial fund in his name. From Mendoza, Argentina, the largest town to Aconcagua, he was an UIAGM guide who had moved to Utah in 2006 to

According to an online posting by fmiranda on the Chilean mountaineering listerv Tricuspide, it happened like this, and I paraphrase the translation:

“It appears that they went up the Gran Canaleta, to arrive to the North Peak, but at 4:30, a POOR time to summit a peak, and were caught by a storm. They returned, and made a mistake, coming down towards the Glaciar los Polacos. At that point a pair of Italians slipped, and one died on site, all of which was communicated by radio.  They were still caught in the elements, without chances of escape and appropriate equipment for a couple of nights, during which temperatures dropped to -20 Celsius.”

According to an account in The Deseret News, of Utah, Campanini descended into the crevasse where the Italian woman fell and was stuck under a large piece of ice.  It was there when his respiratory problems began.

The video shows the rescue group pulling Campanini up a slope. Apparently this is because they had found him down near the Polacos, and by that route would not have been able to have taken him further. They were trying to climb 400 meters to get the other, secure, route.

One begins to think of the intensity of mountaineering in these situations, in which each decision has to do with the preservation of life, cost and benefit, a risk calculus like one has never done before. Each step, or significant advance, is to proceed to another level or degree of exposure in which the calculus changes, and once again one has to re-evaluate the opportunity for life and the risk of death.

And one wonders, does at some point, a survival and individualistic instinct kick in, and make some members of the group want to go down by themselves, escape the group, clearly lame and left to die?

What were the rescuers thinking, exhausted, at almost 7000 meters, and apparently unprepared for this adventure where even there lives are put in danger by the rescue?

According to listserv discussion the poor conditions prevented other rescue groups from going up to the mountain. The rescuers were those guides or porters near that stage of the mountain and did not appear to have been in the position of preparedness for a rescue.

But a personal testimony might be best. “Rockney” was the guide for the last group to have seen them before the accident. My translation.

Notapor Rockney el 16 Feb 2009 01:14

“Unfortunately, I knew the group of seven which attempted the summit that day, they left at 6:30 am on Monday the 6th of January, from the Berlin Refugio, at 5900 meters. The day was windy like none other, and according to the forecast, Sunday was the strongest day of a storm that on Monday would subside. I was with some Polish clients and we decided to attempt the summit when the intensity of the wind subsided. We left at 8 am, my group was fast and at first we saw no problem in leaving a little bit late and not facing the strong wind that was earlier. It also gave me a sense of security to know that I was not alone in the path above.

Around 6300 meters we passed one of the guides  with an Italian girl who was going much slower than the rest. Neither of them passed the Independence Refugio at 6400 meters and descended.

We got to the rest of the group in the windy pass named “the finger” y and “the cave” (at the beginning of the small ravine and protected from the wind)  and began to walk when they had arrived, reaching the summit around 4 pm and we began to come down when the Italian group hadn’t fully arrived. The Argentine guide came to me and said if you want, we can descend together…and in an immediate decision I said no.  I had already been a half-hour on the summit and I couldn’t wait any more, and to mix my group with another, apparently slower group, would have put us in danger. (I must say that in the two times that I came to speak with the other guide his attitude was quite indifferent. At one point I offered my help with a client of his who was going faster (as they do in Volcan Villarica) and didn’t respond.

But, five minutes after we left the summit the storm unleashed. The greatest problem I had was that my sunglasses nor goggles worked, and instinctively I went down the small ravine, in “the cave”, and I realized that the Italians had left their backpacks and had summited only with what they were wearing (a very bad idea). We took the Windy Pass and we got lost. We were barely able to keep ourselves together, the visibility at that moment was about a half meter beyond our feet. Fortunately my GPS had marked the Independencia Refuge and still was difficult to find, and seriously endangered my life and that of my clients (who always are with a whistle that isn’t metal,) arriving destroyed to the Berlin Refuge. That night I couldn’t sleep, attentive to the arrival of the Italian group and because of the cold (within Berlin the thermometer registered -20 Celsius!)

In the morning I heard the helicopter which convinced me that something had happened. I went down with my clients without them knowing a thing.

Below, in the “Nido de Condores” we ran into a porter from Grajales and he said that a porteo was going up and that some Italians were lost, and at that point there was no doubt.

That night in the the Plaza de Mulas they speculated about many things, including that they were all dead. In the morning, on Wednesday, only then…!!!ONLY THEN!!!, did they begin to get together and send up the rescue teams (the strongest guides and porters)…and they had already been up there for two nights at -20 Celsius. Some left from Plaza de Mulas and other in the helicopter that left them in Berlin and from there an advance group went up, and a group of support/relief.  It is difficult to go up to the summit and then descend down the possible mistaken routes, there were various rescuers (rescue team members) with altitude sickness and the weather was really bad, as can be seen in the video.

-the work of the rescuers is pretty hard, what you can see in the video is very limited, and one would need to know how long it takes for the rescuers to get to a safe place without the rescued person, “if the rescue puts in risk the rescuers, unfortunately that is where the rescue stops.”

-in these types of rescues you don’t need people with technical capacity, but human mules who are capable of supporting and carrying great weight(which was not noted in the video.)

-after the second night only then did they begin to “get together” and send up the rescue group, even though the Helicopter had already seen them after the first night. What do you think of that?

-very deficient the rescue gear and material, 500 dollars to enter the park and the cots are for decoration.

-regarding the insulting words of the rescuers I personally don’t give it much importance, I take it as a desperate measure, even though I would desperately have been trying to drag him in some way, as some of the other forum members have noted.

-the fallen guide was a UIAGM guide, I am only an ENAM guide, so we return to the debate over the value of a piece of paper, “where the potatoes get hot.”

-the Guide that went down with the Italian (I believe his name was Rolo) is a guide born and raised in Aconcagua, and surely would not have made the mistake in the path, and that he went down only to comply with the roles of the guides and assistant, and if there was more humility, the guide with more experience would have been the leader.

-…well you can continue extracting conclusions, and I leave you with the doubt.

and so to finalize my extensive testimony I thank you for the patience for reading this and I invite you to see a video that is a bit more optimistic, maybe the other side of the coin.

Rony.

According to one letter by a local guide, the current state of the Aconcagua rescue system is poor, as guides supply there own rescue gear and rescue teams don’t have a satellite phone nor a Mariner rescue sled. Rescuers work with a large plastic container split in half as their rescue sled for injured or dead.

Here is an interview with the father of the dead guide:

Common Carrier aka The Transporter aka Mazza Alaluf aka the Colombian who took the Amazing Race tapes

Posted in chile, Chile culture, Chile film by tomasdinges on February 17, 2009

Do you know the movie The Transporter (I, II and III)? A movie that revolves around an ex-Special Forces guy, his martial arts skills, incredible cars and his ability to drive them, but most importantly his business of transporting things, like money, bodies, human-trafficking objects, drugs, flowers, children…well, anything, without asking questions.

Well, he has an official name, according to Bank Secrecy Act of the United States, a ‘Common Carrier.” It’s not sexy, but when you consider the possibilities of their job descriptions you may get a sense.

According to:

31 CFR B Chapter 1, Part 103FINANCIAL RECORDKEEPING AND REPORTING OF CURRENCY AND FOREIGN TRANSACTIONS

(g) Common carrier. Any person engaged in the business of transporting individuals or goods for a fee who holds himself out as ready to engage in such transportation for hire and who undertakes to do so indiscriminately for all persons who are prepared to pay the fee for the particular service offered.

I’ll detail for you two cases of “Common Carriers,” Mazza Alaluf and a Colombian in a white shirt and a gold chain that flew in to Calama to fly out a suitcase of recorded tapes of the 11th episode of the Amazing Race, Amazing Race All-Stars.

After the intense whirlwind of the Amazing Race passing through Calama airport and San Pedro de Atacama, there was a problem. The recorded tapes from the multiple fixed cameras, the specialty cameras mounted in the cabins of front-loaders, the eight camera’s following each team member, and the aerial footage from the Cessna; every single recorded moment since they had arrived two days earlier in Chile at four o’clock in the morning, since they had flown to Calama and raced careening through the hard desert, to the garage where 25-foot-high Caterpillar dump trucks and their massive tires dwarfed a dwarf and everyone else, to the largest open-pit mine in the world, into the eroded passages through Valle de la Luna, and finally to the illusive tranquility of San Pedro de Atacama, would be lost if it were not for this Colombian transporter.

He carried a small bag and a medium-sized black suitcase that he handled loosely and lightly as if it were empty as he walked through the customs area that a few days earlier desperate contestants had run through in a dash for their first challenge.

He wore a white shirt and had a gold chain.  He had dark skin and was from Colombia. He didn’t speak much and his movements were deliberate and slow.

Me and another producer took him to our hotel room, where the tapes would be handed over.

His flight out of Calama was at 1:30, two hours after his arrival to the northern part of a country that touches the end of the world.

An entire episode of the Emmy-award winning show, primetime on CBS on Sunday nights, the product of two-and-a-half-months advance preparation, countless cups of coffee and sleepless nights and exasperating fights, not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars and the professional reputation of the producers and the creators, Burt (friend of Jerry Bruckheimer), his wife, and Screetch, would be lost if the transporter did not do his job and safely board the flight with his now-filled suitcase, fly to Santiago, where another flight would take him to Los Angeles to deliver his cargo.