With the publication (in Italian) of Stefano Delle Chiaie‘s memoir ‘L’aquila e il condor‘ (The Eagle and The Condor — see filmed interview below – with SDC (aka ‘Shorty’), Ugo Maria Tassinari of Forza Nuova, Michele La Torre, and Manuel Grillo), a Bolivian comrade asked us to establish from SDC’s account what he (‘Shorty’) claims he was doing during his time in South America. We asked Paul Sharkey to share his thoughts/notes on the memoirs of this particularly pernicious character. Of equal interest is what ‘Shorty’ didn’t say about the Bolivian paramilitary death squads known as Los Novios de la Muerte, nor was there any satisfactory explanation as to his links with Klaus Barbie or how he was able to access such high political and military levels in Spain and Latin America.
‘In 1979 SDC was in Argentina when he found that Bolivian “comrades” Gloria Candia and Ramiro Loza were looking for him. They invited him to La Paz. He stayed a few days during which he met with personnel from the FSB (Bolivian Socialist Phalanx) and MNR (Revolutionary Nationalist Movement, founded in 1937 with Third Reich support). Candia’s father had been in Hugo Banzer’s cabinet. They gave him a run-down on the political scene in Bolivia and talked about the prospects of revolution there. He returned to Argentina, promising to engage in propaganda work on their behalf abroad. In Argentina he received an envoy from Roberto D’Aubuisson, De Sola whom SDC then introduced to the high command in Argentina plus personnel “from our movements”. “They all promised their support. It was even anticipated that a volunteer corps might be raised to collaborate discreetly with D’Aubuisson forces in the field.” “The volunteers left for El Salvador and the guerrilla forces backed off from the final stage of subversion.”
Shortly after that SDC travelled to France on a false Argentinean passport as Alfredo De Marco
He then moved to Bolivia in the autumn of 1980, Pierluigi Pagliai being there ahead of him. “The revolution in Bolivia represented another for us to take a hand in things.” Due to its borders with 5 countries, it offered great opportunities for “our continental project”. 17 July 1980, there was a coup that hoisted Luis Garcia Meza Tejada into power. “”A revolution in which the people’s role was extensive and widespread, the peasants’ league, housewives’ league and consumers’ league, the hauliers, the free trade union and upwards of 50% of the miners backed the coup.” The nationalist factions, the MNR and the FSB were especially active.
The new govt’s first move was to order a study of miners’ asset sharing and mine safety arrangements. According to SDC even prior to the coup the US embassy had made premises available to the ousted president and his supporters. Five State Department agents had tried to build a broad coalition to stave off the coup (“revolution”). A CIA agent was caught in possession of papers indicating that outside interests had designs on Bolivian resources. The US severed diplomatic links.
SDC offers no explanation for his appearance on the scene but notes: “On arrival at the general staff I noted there was no psy-ops branch. I raised this with President Meza who commissioned me to form one and introduced me to Col. Zurita who would be in charge of it. Zurita, however, was none too quick on the uptake and never grasped the importance of the task.”
This new unit was Unit VII. I no time it was up and running, churning out policy documents and leading opinion at home and handling PR having become “ think-tank and analysis unit”. “I called upon the collaboration of some 20 FSB and MNR comrades and saw to it that some personnel from the MIR were added to them.”
Unit VII’s partner was a National Council, a broadly based, work-based organ, in existence from before the coup. Its first policy document was endorsed by Meza and by Col. Rodrigo from the General Staff and issued to all military personnel and media outlets. It was published in No 2 of Despertar (“a pamphlet run by Abel, an individual from the pro-Chinese sector”), which was, for a time, the mouthpiece of the JNB (Bolivian Nationalist Youth); “its front page displayed the Avanguardia logo.” The document stated: “Support for the new regime in Bolivia amounts to embarking on a fight for a third way between Marxist socialism and multi-national capitalism”. According to SDC the opposition kept running to the IMF whereas the regime resisted IMF plans to turn Bolivia into a fiefdom.
A representative from the UN Human Rights Council arrived from Geneva and President Meza, aware of my experiences in Italy and thus of my ingrained hostility to persecution of any sort, held that I was the person best suited to accompany him throughout his stay”.
While frequenting the Lafe La Paz SDC met Barbie, going by the name of Altman. Barbie allegedly talked about his admiration for Jean Moulin and how the communists had set up Moulin.
In early October 1980, the Interior minister, Lucio Arce Gomez, arranged foe SDC to meet some of Ronald Reagan’s advisors in Bolivia (Reagan was running for the presidency at the time). “I turned up for the meeting with Pierluigi Pagliai on 10 October on the premises belonging to an Italian on the shores of Lake Titicaca.” Both advisors were senators, one of Ukrainian origin; the latter did most of the talking, explaining how George H Bush’s nomination as VP weakened the Trilateral Commission which was linked to Jimmy Carter. And explained how victory for Reagan would put paid to TC plans to hike up taxes levied on S. American countries and how all of S America would benefit for RR’s victory.
Impressed by a Unit VII report, Meza asked SDC to form a civilian-military Coordinating Council to follow through the revolution. “This council was empowered to summon members of the government to account for and brief upon the revolution” Col.. Rodrigo was appointed to head it.
Meanwhile Pagliai was close to the Argentinean delegation in Bolivia, which was led by Col Julio Cesar Duran [later in charge of psyops in connection with the Falklands invasion] Meanwhile SDC dealt with two Venezuelan delegates making friendly overtures to Bolivia. “I struck up a lasting friendship with them all, especially with Rodolfo Perez Chirino and Gerardo Bustamante and they stood by me four square later when I was to be forced out to Venezuela.”
Then the US media launched a campaign against Bolivia, alleging brutality and narco-trafficking connections. Unit VII replied “with advice from one of its collaborators, Dr Gaston Ponce Caballero” with a suggestion put to the White House. Bolivia would use foreign funds top buy out the coca harvest. But the US wanted it wiped out with Agent Orange.
The IMF then called for Bolivia to sell of nationalised industries to multi-nationals, to sack 30% of public employees, do away with the subsidy on basic necessities, change the exchange rates, free up prices and freeze wages. The IMF delegation tried to force these conditions on Bolivia. At one dinner SDC was seated beside the chief of the delegation. “I was introduced as an Italian business operator come to Bolivia in search of investment opportunities.” The IMF chief allegedly told him; “These Indians must let us have their mines for a few dollars” SDC created a scene. Bolivia was then subjected to an economic blockade. Obstacles were place in B’s way in releasing its gold on to the world market. Likewise its oil.
An old comrade, Ciolini, asked to come to Bolivia to escape “business problems”. SDC found him a job as French & Italian interpreter for the Information & Tourism minister, Fernando Palacios.
SDC then received a tip-off that the “Cochabamba Column” of the Bolivian resistance was out to assassinate him. “.. I was not overly worried. I could call on the support of a strong organisation of comrades, armed and available across almost the whole country. To whom militants from other countries had been added. The strongest unit was in Santa Cruz, under the command of Piki Otero and Erik Fernandez, with a corps of German associates based at the Bavaria beer-hall.
SDC was involved with Luis Cenedo Reyes, Jose Manuel Loza, Jaime Gutierrez and others in launching the Euro-America Cultural Institute for Political and Social Studies, producing a Bolivian version of Confidentiel edited by Armando Leyton Calderon and Ramiro Loza.
SDC was granted the concession of an opencast gold mine in Mapiri, plus 9,000 hectares of land in Chapare.
SDC suggested that Meza approach the USSR to get relief from the economic blockade. Nothing came of this.
In early 1981 SDC was asked by Meza and Col. ‘Tinino’ Rico Toro (the latter close to the esoteric Thule Order of the Andes Foundation) to use his good offices to heal relations with Venezuela. He met with Perez and Bustamante and was introduced to Maximo Juvarra, secretary of the COPEI party and was referred to Aristides Calvani, Foreign minister back in the 1960s, an admirer of Mussolini.
SDC alleges that the Carter administration in one final operation had lodged money in the Bolivian American Bank for General Lucio Agnes for use in a coup to overthrow Meza. In June 1981 some officers from the Rangers regiment from Santa Cruz threatened a coup if Meza did not step down. Piki Otero warned that something was afoot in Santa Cruz. SDC travelled down to Santa Cruz with Gary Alarcon and confirmed that a coup was planned against Meza. In September Meza was replaced by General Celso Torrelio Villa. In Unit VII Zurita was replaced by Col. Carlos Estrada “with whom I was on the best of terms”. SDC was asked to stay on with the Unit and the Coordinating Council.
Through Bustamante of Venezuela, SDC offered Bolivia the chance of investment of funds raised from the US Black Muslims but Torrelio declined this, fearful of IMF reaction.
SDC helped draft a proposal aligning Bolivia without the non-aligned bloc of nations, asserting national; sovereignty and looking for a third position internationally.
“Coincidence or not, right after that Ambassador Corr (USA) asked Torrelio to expel me from Bolivia The General Staff opposed this and Torrelio ignored the “instruction” from Corr. But the Coordinating Council was forced to wind down.
Next there was a “failed attempt on the life of Corr”, with leaflets in Spanish claiming responsibility but with spelling mistakes suggesting an Italian hand in the affair. “ One member of the US embassy staff, political advisor Gregory Spro, who disliked Corr, let us know that at the time of the supposed attack the ambassador had been inside the embassy and he also cited the names of those who had been “listed” to stage it” “Colonel Estrada called the embassy and warned that further provocations would not be tolerated.”
SDC was also able to arrange for Argentina to take in a Bolivian expellee, Carlos Valverde, after trying initially to get Roberto D’Aubuisson in El Salvador to help in this.
During the Falklands War SDC made airfields available to Argentina, without telling Torrelio. In July 1982 Torrelio was forced to step down by Rico Toro. Rico Toro handed over to Vildoso and SDC began to get hints of the US preparing to take action against him. The Italian secret services had given his former comrade Ciolini cash to hire French mercenaries to snatch or kill him. At the same time SDC was negotiating with Libya for a loan to help out Bolivia. He needed Rico Toro in the presidency to reassure the prospective lenders and organised a meet between Rico Toro and COB leader Juan Lechin at the Sheraton hotel. A further meeting was arranged. SDC then left for Venezuela to meet the Libyan investment chief only to hear of the murder of Pierluigi Pagliai. He states that he had been out of contact with Pagliai for some time. This incident scared off the Libyan.
“I felt Bolivian and I knew what it means in concrete terms that my homeland is wheresoever the fight for my ideas goes on.”
(Translated and annotated by Paul Sharkey)