Criminal Psychology essay

THE “PRE-COLOMBIAN” ERA OF DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THE AMERICAS: COCAINE, 1945-1965* Gootenberg, Paul . The Americas ; Berkeley 64.2 (Oct 2007): 133-0_7.

ProQuest document link


Before anyone heard of Colombian narcotraficantes, a new class of international cocaine traffickers was born

between 1947 and 1964, led by little-known Peruvians, Bolivians, Chileans, Cubans, Mexicans, Brazilians, and

Argentines. These men-and often daring young women-anxiously pursued by U.S. drug agents, pioneered the

business of illicit cocaine, a drug whose small-scale production in the Andes remained legal and above board until

the late 1940s.1 Before 1945, cocaine barely existed as an illicit drug; by 1950, a handful of couriers were

smuggling it by the ounce from Peru; by the mid-1960s this hemispheric flow topped hundreds of kilos yearly,

linking thousands of coca farmers across the eastern Andes to crude labs, organized trafficking rings, and a

bustling retailer diaspora in consuming hot-spots like New York and Miami. The Colombians of the 1970s, the

Pablo Escobars who leveraged this network into one of hundreds of tons, worth untold billions, are today

notorious. Yet historians have yet to uncover their modest predecessors or the actual start of Colombia’s role:

cocaine’s “pre-Colombian” origins.

My aim here of identifying these narco intermediaries means that this article cannot treat, in limited space, a

number of other worthy topics. This is not, for example, a social history of coca-growing peasants, the colonizing

migrants who by the mid-1960s became a force in the emerging economy of cocaine. This is also not a systematic

study of U.S. anti-cocaine policies or activities during the era, nor of changing North American drug tastes and

demand, though all impinged on cocaine’s rise. As seen elsewhere, escalating American efforts against Andean

cocaine, a kind of “secret war” actually launched around 1947, was an unwitting spur for the profit incentives and

geographic dispersal that led into the drug boom of the 1970s.2 Even as I focus my lens on narco middlemen, it is

hard to convey a rounded sense of their underworld, on their own cultural or personal terms. By necessity, this new

narrative about early traffickers derives from scores of fragmented international policing reports, primarily of the

Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) and BNDD, forerunners of the 1970s DEA. In exploiting these new sources, I try

to move beyond as much as possible their official categories and language of drug control, as well as the

inherently speculative or exaggerated nature of such documents, based on a trail of suspects and informers

filtered through police eyes. As historians as distinct as Richard Cobb and Carlo Ginzburg suggest, even flawed

policing or inquisition testimony can lend critical clues to the real past men and women who inspired them.3

What this article does try to decipher are the new middlemen-“traffickers”-and cocaine-makers-“chemists”-who

emerged in the transnational space between coca-growing peasants and cocaine-hunting drug agents during the

post-war era. They constituted a new class, articulating in newly-clandestine markets, highly local conditions for

drug trades with the new obstacles and incentives planted by overseas and state interests. I will try to convey here

two larger “transnational” perspectives on these early traffickers. First, this smuggling class, which came together

across a vast expanse of shifting geographies, and as they learned, shared, and invented new tools of the trade,

represented a new form of pan-American “networking.” This was a surge of local agency that would eventually

transform the global drug trades. Second, in larger political terms, cocaine’s new transnational geographies pertain

to the “cold-war” history of the Americas, since these political tensions structured the major spaces for and

movements of illicit activities. Illicit cocaine was a specific pan-American product of the high cold war.4

To observe these deeper political trends, I divide the postwar decades of cocaine’s resurgence into two stages,

1947-59 and 1959-64. Illicit cocaine began on one end with the advent of the cold war and stepped-up international

campaigns to extend coca-cocaine prohibitions to the Andes. Illicit cocaine surfaced in eastern Peru in 1948-49

when anti-communist regimes suppressed a long legitimate industry; run out of Peru, it incubated after 1952 in the

revolutionary chaos of neighboring Bolivia. Loose smuggler corridors sprang up across Chile, Cuba, Brazil, and

Argentina, linking Latin American cities with urban drug scenes. Early cocaine resembled criminologists’

spontaneous “disorganized crime” or petty “ant trades,” taking root in the gray area between legitimate and

criminal commerce, and dependent on older Andean coca circuits.5 In the second phase from 1959-64, cocaine

consolidated itself into more systematic growing, processing, and smuggling circuits. Its watershed was the 1959

Cuban revolution, which sent veteran Cuban drug mafiosos across the Americas, including into the United States.

After 1960, when Bolivia, then cocaine’s incubator, fell under U.S.-style drug control, coca-growing peasants

flooded into lowland jungles, lending the export a now unstoppable social base. By 1965, at the height of U.S.-

backed modernizing regimes in the region, a commodity chain built by unsung chemists and smugglers linked

Amazonian peasants to distant pleasure users in the north.

Based on newly-declassified DEA archives, this article revolves around these shifting transnational geographies of

nascent cocaine. The first section deals with the politics of cocaine in Peru from 1947-50, during the drug’s final

turn from a legal commodity to an illicit one after World War II. The second section turns to the emerging narco

corridors crossing the borders of 1950s Chile, Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico by 1960, a pan-American

smuggling class catering to novel tastes for cocaine. The essay ends on Bolivia’s revolutionary merger of peasant

coca and cocaine, prelude to illicit cocaine’s take-off of the mid-1960s.


The lush montana of east-central Peru below the town of Huanuco, botanic cradle of the coca plant, was for six

decades after 1890 the capital of Peru’s legal cocaine industry. The same site became, after 1950, the seedbed of

illicit cocaine that would famously flourish in the Huallaga valley during the 1980s. By 1947, Peru’s clutch of

surviving cocaine-makers, led by trader Andres A. Soberon, saw few prospects ahead through encroaching anti-

cocaine politics and law. In May of 1949, after drying a final 77-kilo load, Soberon ended a 30-year quest to revive

the industry, officially closing his “Huanuco” factory. At the same time, his son Walter, the mayor of Huanuco,

resigned from the hounded left-wing Peruvian APRA party. Soberon retired to Lima, ceding his equipment to the

new state lab at the Ministry of Public Health.6 As cocaine-making became off-limits, another option arose: petty

contraband up the Pacific coast.

These highly local changes were the outcome of global shifts in the history of cocaine stretching back to the turn

of the century, when Huanuco had placed on world markets 10 tons of “crude cocaine” sulfides using simple

Peruvian technologies. Advancing world legal restrictions on cocaine, a missionary movement spearheaded by the

United States since 1911, were finally taking effect here. Without going into all the motives or mysteries behind the

American turn against cocaine, a drug once embraced by American medical authorities and consumers, after 1906

cocaine came under a strict domestic control regimen for shrinking medicinal uses. By 1922, all imports of cocaine

halted. U.S. diplomats, who greatly wanted to, had a harder time, however, convincing the rest of the world of the

evil or urgency of cocaine, producers and refiners such as Peru, Germany, Japan, and Dutch Java. By the mid-

1920s, anti-cocaine strictures existed on paper in League of Nations narcotics conventions and in early U.S.

aspirations to stem it at the raw material “source.” Little came of these crusades, save for a steady global de-

legitimation of the drug, long ignored in countries like Peru and Bolivia. Until 1945, a multipolar cocaine world

prevailed, with distinctive legal drug regimes actively coexisting in various corners of the globe. World War II ended

this tolerance of cocaine: warfare and U.S. occupations obliterated the relic circuits of Europe and Asia, and the

United Nations, closer to American drug ideals, immediately put coca and cocaine on its agenda.7 In 1947-49, the

UN organized, for pliable cold-war regimes in Peru and Bolivia, a visiting Commission of Enquiry on the Coca-Leaf,


which brought home to these holdout nations the need to ban cocaine and rein in the cultivation and “chewing” of

native coca. By 1950, Peru, under highly political circumstances, outlawed cocaine and issued a range of punitive

drug controls. Bolivia, rocked by revolution, and more nationalist about its coca-leaf, took another decade to

comply with the U.S. campaign to close cocaine’s last legal spaces.

What is striking about that fading multipolar world was the scant impulse it gave to illicit cocaine. To be sure, there

had long been some recreational use of cocaine, and illicit sales, but both fell into severe decline by the 1920s.

Cocaine had never spawned any organized form of illicit production or systematic traffic from producing zones.

The United States suffered a well-known cocaine “epidemic” at the turn of the century, during the drug’s legal era,

yet for dimly-understood reasons cocaine use plummeted after 1917. The prohibitions of the 1914 Harrison Act

may have helped in a limited domestic sense, but other factors prevailed: strict self-regulation by pharmaceutical

firms and dentists, a tightly organized political-economy of cocaine control based on the regulated centralized

import of coca by two cooperative New Jersey firms, and even the timely lure to criminal gangs by 1919 alcohol

prohibition or more addictive heroin during the 1920s. Cocaine “fiends” died out or switched vices and contraband,

if at all, came from locally-diverted medicinal stock. In Europe, colorful urban cocaine scenes persisted longer into

the 1920s and 1930s, but invariably relied on sporadic heists of pharmacy vials. During the 1930s, accusations

sounded of a Japan-sponsored stealth Asian narcotics trade from colonial Formosa, but the evidence is scant for

cocaine. The notable fact was the absence of border-crossing cocaine trades after the initial bans on cocaine. For

example, the State Department’s infamous “Name file” of inter-war drug traffickers lists hundreds of suspects for

heroin and other opiates and not one wanted for cocaine; similarly, a 1930s League of Nations’ campaign to

suppress illicit labs never found any for cocaine.8 The sole Andean on the U.S. blacklist was Carlos Fernández

Bácula, a Peruvian diplomat who plied heroin in Europe. The FBN’s annual reports of the 1930s celebrated

cocaine’s disappearance-measured in ounces if found, and by 1938 “so small as to be without significance”-as if

this were due to the Bureau’s vigilance.

The economy of cocaine also fell in steep decline. The legal Andean boom of the 1890s spurred efficient rival

colonialist coca-cocaine industries in Java and Formosa. Peruvian prospects dampened by the 1920s, when it sold

a mere 500-1,000 kilos per annum, at plummeted prices, mainly to Germany or France. Colonial competition

vanished in the 1940s, but advancing U.S., League, and UN restrictions and quotas pushed “legitimate” medicinal

demand under 400 kilos by the late 1940s, easily covered by war surplus.9 Most producers, the 8-10 part-time

workshops left in Huánuco, a few elsewhere in Peru, and none in Bolivia, diversified into other ventures. Yet despite

a rising outcry against a now “backward” coca habit, Peruvian coca crops grew from 6 to 10 million tons in the

1950s alone, oriented to a thriving peasant home market. Bolivia’s 2 million-ton harvest soared in the late 1950s,

linked like Peru’s, to colonizing Amazon frontiers.

The first documented case of South American cocaine smuggling dates from 1939. Undercover officers on

Brooklyn’s 16th Street pier nabbed Ramon Urbina, a Chilean sailor, after he offered his Puerto Rican partner a

250gm sample of cocaine carried from Chile. The evidence went overboard during a scuffle with crewmen of the

Copiapó, but Urbina later pled guilty, receiving 2 ½years. The next incident, eight years later, marked more of a

trend: in October 1947, Peruvian informants warned that the Santa Cecilia, a Grace Line ship, had cocaine onboard.

Police seized steward Ralph Roland in Weehawken, N.J. “in possession of slightly over a pound of cocaine.”

Betrayed, he confessed that “Peru was wide open for purchase of cocaine” from customs agents in Callao. Two

months later, Alfonso Ojen, a naturalized American ship-waiter was arrested in Callao harbor with “2 bottles

containing 14.4 gms cocaine” hidden in his bunk.10 Ojen’s steamer the Santa Margarita sailed on to Brooklyn,

where he was questioned by FBN agents, who were unable to trace his source. FBN reports of 1945-47 collate

eight such ship seizures of probable “Peruvian origin.” Something new was afoot.

In December 1948, Salvadore C. Pena, a New York customs agent, filed a Confidential Memo to the FBN based on a

special “two-month undercover operation.” In this dirty work he had befriended “various Latin traffickers and

smugglers.” They confirmed suspicions of “dangerously increasing smuggling of cocaine into the United States”

(emphasis in original). Pena claimed to eye-witnessed “the open trafficking in cocaine especially among the


extensive Puerto Rican, Cuban and Spanish population in New York City. . . .” The report, a masterpiece of the

genre, warts and all, merits excerpting for its sketch of the sailor-driven drug circuit:

SOURCE: The principal and easiest source of supply for cocaine is located at El Callao, Peru, and at Valparaiso,

Chile. . . . principle [sic] ports of call for boats making the South American run … it is believed the coca leaves

produced in Peru are processed on a large scale, possibly with the under-cover protection of corrupted officials.

INTERMEDIARY DISTRIBUTING POINTS: The loads of contraband cocaine secured by the traffickers at Peru, Chile

and Bolivia are sometimes brought directly to the United States when the boats make a direct run, or if the

contraband is transferred to other boats at Bilbao [Panama] and Havana, Cuba. … Information secured from

seamen … supplied names and addresses of some of the traffickers handling loads of cocaine at Havana, Cuba

and at Callao.

SMUGGLING: When the boats arrive . . . loads of cocaine are brought ashore, especially in the port of New York, by

longshoremen . . . because longshoremen are not searched going through customs. . . . Cocaine is also smuggled

on passenger planes, some traffickers make special trips by car to Miami, where they received their loads, 2 or 3

kilos at a time.

CONSPIRACY: Generally a group of Puerto Ricans or Cubans get together and pool several thousand dollars which

are given to a seaman going to South America. . . . The price usually paid at the source is from $200 to $250 per

gram of pure cocaine. The retail price in New York is from $250 to $300 per ounce, cut cocaine. . . . The peddling of

this cocaine … is usually uptown among the Puerto Rican, Negro and Cuban section of New York and around the

bars and the Latin night clubs around the Times Square area.”

Thus by 1948 cocaine was moving beyond individual or opportunistic smuggling, as Pena details in credible terms,

by a loose diaspora of “Latin” cocaine smugglers from Callao to Havana into New York. What is absent from his

account is the refining of Peruvian crude cocaine into marketable powder, or the origins of this new Latin taste for

the drug, which was also starting to seep into New York’s “be-hop” jazz scene. Pena notes the difficulty, lacking

informers, of cracking such mobile groups. He drew up an actual plan, which involved sending Spanish-speaking

undercover agents to Peru “acquainted with the idiosyncrasies of the Latins,” by which he meant the corruptibility

of local officials. A four-month mission to Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Panama, and Cuba would gather the data necessary

to bring in diplomatic sanctions against the trade. The problem could be blocked at its mysterious source, akin to

operations against prohibition-runners in 1920s Cuba and opiates in 1940s Mexico. Whether or not Agent Pena got

the assignment, within months dramatic cocaine busts-from the Huallaga to Harlem-became front-page news.

The sensational August 1949 arrests of the so-called “Balarezo Gang” were the first modern international cocaine

scare. On August 20, New York’s Daily Mirror headlined “SMASH BIGGEST DOPE RING HERE-Seize Leader in City,

Peru Jails 80 … Tied to Peru Revolt.” Amid the affair, Time dubbed cocaine “Peru’s White Goddess.” Balarezo, 49, a

naturalized U.S. citizen, was a ship-steward for the Grace Lines with a slew of contacts in New York and Lima. Born

in Lambayeque in 1900, Balarezo was described in Peru as a bowlegged zambo (black cholo). He had resided

several years in New York, reputedly crossing paths even with crime boss “Lucky” Luciano. After raids on nine

houses, he was picked up while boarding a boat to Italy. According to the federal prosecutor who arrested Balarezo

and six accomplices, he began smuggling cocaine in 1946. Business expanded in 1947 and by 1949 moved some

“50 kilos of pure cocaine” a month, worth a reported $5 million, focusing on the “Harlem district” using two couriers

named Edelstein and Gonzalez. This was surely the Grace Line circuit sketched by Pena in 1948. Only 13 kilos were

captured in New York, said to possess an adulterated street value of $154,000 per kilo. Balarezo owned a mansion

on Long Island, cavorted with Peruvian dignitaries, took on a young mistress, and easily posted a $100,000 bond.

In Peru, the sweeping arrests, including Balarezo’s wife Carmen, were engineered by Capt. Alfonso Mier y Terán,

head of the PIP (Peru’s FBI), who had spent two months in New York pursuing leads. Among those detained were

“prominent Peruvian businessmen, one of them a known Customs official.”

The FBN depicted the trade as an “International Cocaine Smuggling Ring” with some 50 links in greater New York

and Puerto Rico. It took less than a month to convict Balarezo, who received five years and a $10,000 fine, and

other sailors, with the testimony of turncoat Geraldo Tapias Chocano. In a high profile crossover from cold-war


politics, Balarezo’s prosecutor was Joseph Martin, who at the same time was leading the prosecution of Alger

Hiss. FBN Director Harry J. Anslinger waxed triumphant for years: “The suppression of this traffic has averted a

serious crime wave” he claimed, and wrote glowingly of his action in his various drug-fighting books. The scope of

the operation, from New York to Callao and Huanuco, led by New York narcotics agent Garland H. Williams, one of

Anslinger’s top field office managers, revealed new forms of U.S.-Peruvian cooperation, involving on its end Peru’s

first active drug squad. FBN threat magnification aside, this business had clearly moved beyond the work of

solitary sailors.

In Peru, however, the scandal over illegal drugs was eclipsed by its politics: the claim that Balarezo was an Aprista

militant, ally of legendary APRA chief Victor Raul Haya de la Torre and his brother Edmundo. Balarezo had

allegedly funneled $50,000 of drug money into APRA’s failed 1947 naval uprising, which had led to the right-wing

coup of Gen. Manuel Odria. Fed by FBN leaks from New York, the anti-APRA Peruvian military regime and

conservative press reveled in this timely link of narcotics, “Communism”(i.e., the moderating APRA party), and

Haya de la Torre, then holed up in Lima’s Colombian embassy. Drugs, arms, and luxury contraband, all traded by a

sinister APRA “cell” in customs, became the focus of Odria’s outcry against the “Regimen de los Apristas,” the

former Bustamante government. Peru demanded extradition, as Balarezo reputedly bragged of killing seven

loyalists singlehandedly during the 1947 mutiny. For its part El Partido del Pueblo vehemently denied any

connection to drugs, and soon APRA, outlawed in Peru, began a hemispheric press campaign to clear its name.

Alarmed State Department officials, like Harold Tittelman, ambassador to Peru, distanced themselves from the

FBN. Not only was the evidence suspect about Haya de la Torre’s ties to Balarezo in New York, but starting in the

mid-1940s U.S. officials were quietly cultivating Haya and APRA as possible anti-communist allies.

Diplomatic historian Glenn Dorn has recently untangled the byzantine politics of the affair.12 The contradictory

and fabricated anti-APRA drug charges, in his assessment, were invented by anti-communist PIP chief Mier y

Terán, and broadcast in New York by the seasoned ex-OSS officer Williams. Anslinger jumped into the fray not only

to invigorate his new anticocaine campaign with cold-war passions, but also to forge a working antidrug

relationship with Odria. Peru was still not a strong ally on drugs. The State Department, on the other hand, enjoyed

sensitive ties to APRA and fragile Latin American democracies generally. Embarrassed by publication of the case’s

internal documents and spreading anti-U.S. protests, they demanded retractions from Anslinger and Odria’s

ambassador. Outgunned, in April 1950, Anslinger quietly withdrew, but never formally rescinded, the APRA drug


A key question, apart from the actual scale of the trade, is where Balarezo’s group got its cocaine. Where did illicit

cocaine first spring up in the Andes? In a zeal to criminalize the industry, American reports cast suspicion upon a

reported “eighteen” legal or unregistered cocaine factories. Williams talked of two large plants in Huanuco

producing $2 million a year, as well as a chemist who “may” work in “basements.” They converted the area’s

sulfate-cake staple, crude cocaine-an intermediate product akin to today’s pasta basica de cocaina-into saleable

cocaine hydrochloride. William’s claims about the capacity of Peruvian cocaine were wildly inflated, as was most

of the evidence filtered through local informers. Sources named for Balarezo included Orestes Rodriquez of

Ferenafe, husband of Alicia Martinez, young go-between her uncles the Torres and Balarezo, and possible FBN

plant. Julio Vázquez reportedly sold 3 kilos to the group in early 1949.13 In mid-1949, Hoover’s FBI looked into

Gustavo Padros, a worker in northern cocaine plants and repeated visitor to New York, who began supplying quite

detailed accounts of the industry. Another lead, Hector Pizarro, had brothers said to run a cocaine lab in

Amazonian Pucallpa. Sales moved via “El Chino” Morales, a notorious figure in later drug rap-sheets. Peru’s leading

daily, El Comercio, printed similar sorts of allegations.

Odría used such news to tighten both the screws against APRA, with some 4,000 political detainees by 1949, and

cocaine. In April 1949, the last nine licensed cocaine factories closed for good under “special” anti-narcotics

decrees. Mass roundups followed under Peru’s new anti-subversive “Law of Internal security.” From late April

through May 1949, well before break-up of the Balarezo gang, the military mounted drug sweeps from

Lambayeque, Huanuco, and Huancayo to Lima. Mug shots of the narcos ran in Lima dailies, which hailed the


offensive and the “timely degrees of the Junta Militar.” Authorities uncovered five “clandestine factories” in varied

parts of the country. Peru’s 1950 narcotics report to UN details those arrested and convicted for cocaine running,

though it is hard to tell, given the politics hysteria and legal ambiguity of the drug, who was a true trafficker. That

said, among the 70-plus cocaine-related arrests listed for 1949-50 are a number of likely sources: the northern

Ayllon clan; Soberon’s associate in Lima Guillermo Carter Suva (“a chemist with a clandestine laboratory”); the

eight-man gang of El Chino Morales and Panamanian businessman José Steel. The UN also names Julio Vázquez

and six others linked to Balarezo, notably supplier Orestes Rodriguez, whose getaway imperiled the criminal case

in Peru. A driver, Pedro Garcia Céspedes was picked up in Huanuco in June 1949 with cocaine refined in Chorrillos.

Leandro Ferreyra, caught on the New York route, pointed to Rodriguez’s “clandestine factory” in Ferrenafe for

“drugs sold to the crews of Grace Line Vessels … of Cuban, U.S., Panamanian and Porto-Rican [sic] nationality.”

Even without any captured goods, Ferreyra got five years and a $16,000 fine.14 Other cases include Cuban José

Flaifel Mubarack, a very active courier of the 1950s, a local French prostitute Angela Pasqiiero, and a Peruvian

laundress, probably small-time users.

Some ties emerged between the former legal cocaine industry and newly illicit cocaine. By definition, legal

businesses of the 1940s became illegal ones, though still a gray area of commerce until Odria’s mid-1949 and

1950-51 dragnets, which netted another 110 drug arrests. Some families, like the venerable Durand clan, had long

diversified from cocaine, becoming prominent in national public life. Several recognizable chemists and minor

figures were among the scores arrested, fairly or not. Some may have viewed stocks of cocaine as hard-won

severance pay when the industry ended, and tried to pawn them on the black market. Others unwitting sold legally-

registered cocaine to traffickers. Garcia Céspedes’ crude cocaine came from Huanuco. Soberon, after retiring in

mid-1949, was charged in 1950 with supplying chemist Carter Suva, and sentenced to six months and a 20,000

soles fine. Known figures in illicit sales, Prados (tracked by the FBI in New York), or Rodriquez, had worked in the

legal sector.15 By the mid-1950s, veterans of Peru’s legal cocaine surface in new Bolivian exploits. The tropics

beyond Huanuco made for easy escape, so Peru’s cold-war campaign against cocaine, inflamed by hatred of APRA,

simply scattered its seeds.

Local archives fill a few gaps. For example, the Huanuco Prefecture shows that in July 1948, after state plans to

monopolize cocaine, José Roncaglioclo of the Bolivar Crude Cocaine Factory, registered to dispatch cocaine to the

Health Ministry in Lima, consigning 21 kilos to one César Balarezo, a possible relation or illicit cover. In northern

Peru, an anonymous tip denounced the “Fabricacion de cocaina clandestina” on the Sacamanca Hacienda in

August 1948, whose license may have lapsed. The owner’s sons Ricardo and Santiago Martin Ayllon engaged in

suspicious acts: there was cocaine stashed under farm goods in transit to Trujillo, buyers and couriers in Lima and

Bolivia, and visits to the hotel Bolivar, Lima’s favored watering place for foreigners. The informer duly listed

addresses for all the principles. Authorities seized 44 kilos, despite rumors of official protection. In April 1948, this

cocaine lair became front-page news in Peru. Sixty year-old Santiago Ayllon, long invested in legal cocaine,

received 18 months from the National Executive Council in 1950, his sons and accomplices lesser terms.16

The most remarkable allegation, from the FBN itself, concerns Huanuco cocaine patriarch Andres Avelino Soberón,

dedicated to this trade since 1917. If at all true, these could make Soberón, then 68, the “Johnny CocaSeed” of

South American cocaine. In mid-1949, Odría’s men closed Huánuco’s factories, yet a number of those implicated

later that year as refiners of cocaine paste acquired their stock there. Soberon, now retired, was soon picked up

with other merchants and despite his pleas of innocence, sentenced.

Not much is heard of Soberon until 1953, when a U.S. agent posted a series of secret reports via Ecuador about the

advent of cocaine-manufacturing in Bolivia. He charged that the cocaine sold freely at nightclubs and restaurants

in downtown Lima, especially Silvio Canata Podestá’s at Manco Capac 590, …

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