Jul 1 1987

Klaus Barbie the Businessman

Klaus Barbie's Bolivian secret police ID

Klaus Barbie’s Bolivian secret police ID

On the eve of the French trial which recently convicted Klaus Barbie of war crimes, a New York Times Magazine piece (5/10/87) by Ted Morgan chronicled Barbie’s alliance with American intelligence during the early years of the cold war. Citing declassified US government documents, Morgan reports that Klaus Barbie escaped to South America on a “rat line” supervised by the Vatican and the CIA.

One error in an otherwise excellent article, when describing Barbie’s 32-year exile in Bolivia: “Barbie led a normal businessman’s life as a member of La Paz’s large German colony, under the protection of successive Bolivian regimes.” While adding that Barbie remained an unrepentant Nazi, Morgan failed to mention Barbie’s continuing role as a CIA asset. Nor was this indicated in the Times article (7/4/87) which listed the “key dates” in the Barbie case.

During the 1970s, Barbie served as an adviser to Bolivian strongman Gen. Hugo Banzer, a staunch US ally. According to The Nazi Legacy, coauthored by a team of journalists from the London Times and London Observer, the Bolivian Interior Ministry passed information to the CIA that had been supplied by Barbie.

CIA documents cited by the British reporters reveal that Barbie provided the Agency with a list of every KGB operative based in the southern cone of South America. The CIA considered the list to be accurate.

Barbie was instrumental in the Bolivian “cocaine coup” which installed a fascist military junta in 1980. He was one of the leaders of the “Fiancés of Death,” which trained Bolivian security forces in torture techniques and helped protect the cocaine trade that financed the junta’s activities. Barbie’s CIA contact during this period, according to Der Spiegel, was Tom Ward, an employee of CAUSA, the political arm of the Moonies.

As for Barbie’s activities as a businessman—they were hardly normal. While in Bolivia, he represented Merex, an arms firm which supplied weapons to right-wing Italian terrorists in the mid-1970s (Parapolitics, 3/31/82).

“Merex” popped up recently in the Iran/Contra scandal. The Los Angeles Times (3/31/87) reports that 3 million rounds of ammunition destined for the Contras (while a ban on US military aid was in effect) were linked to a mysterious Merex Corporation. L.A. Times reporter Michael Wines told Extra! that he couldn’t pin it down, but he suspects it’s the same West German firm which had employed Klaus Barbie. It’s a lead worth pursuing.