Alberto "Al" Herreros, former president of Vortex/Universal, is cited in the "Kerry Report," which identified six companies that "had been owned and operated by convicted or suspected drug traffickers and were linked to the Contras."
Miami-based Vortex/Universal was one of those companies. Herreros was company president and Michael Palmer was vice president.
Posada Carriles, an anti-Castro militant who is accused of immigration fraud and other crimes, goes on trial on March 1.
When I reported on Jan. 19 that Herreros was paying for his charter flight to El Paso, I had no information on Herreros.
In a story published today, Jean-Guy Allard said Herrero's full name is Alberto "Al" Pardos Herrero, 82.
Some details of Herreros' exploits can be found in the Kerry Report, excerpts of which are posted in the CIA's electronic reading room. According to the report:
Herrero's associate, Michael Palmer, signed a contract with the U.S.-backed Nicaraguan Humanitarian Assistance Office, or NHAO, in November 1985.
Palmer agreed to transport supplies to the Contras, who were fighting against the left-wing Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
The FBI was investigating Palmer for drug smuggling at the time, the Kerry Report said, and "a federal grand jury was preparing to indict him in Detroit." But that didn't faze officials at the State Department, who paid more than $806,000 to known drug smugglers, by one estimate, so they'd carry humanitarian aid to the Contras.
The Kerry Report said Congress authorized the aid "in some cases after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges." In other instances, the "traffickers were under active investigation."
The Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations published the Kerry report in December 1988. It said Palmer described Herreros as an informant - "a law enforcement source of information." And it said Palmer:
also reportedly said that both he and Herreros were doing 'sting/scam' operations for DEA in April 1986.The Kerry report cites an April 28, 1987, DEA memo alleging that Herreros was "criminally associated" with a plane that "had been implicated in the suspected drug smuggling incident involving Palmer in Mexico."
The El Paso Intelligence Center alleges that Herreros bought the plane, with tail number N3434F, "for $125,000 in cash for the purpose of marijuana smuggling."
The Executive Intelligence Review gave another view, reporting in 1998 that Herreros had worked as a gun runner in Africa. Details are here.
I do not know Herreros' side to this story. Nor do I know definitively that the Alberto Herreros cited in federal documents as Posada Carriles' benefactor is necessarily the same Herreros accused of Contra, drug and weapons ties.
But it's a fascinating case, the stuff of movies - a purported freedom-fighting, marijuana-smuggling, gun-peddling character with possible ties to the CIA who helps fly his old friend to a Texas courtroom.
If the term "shadowy" is ever appropriate, this is it.
If you've got more information or insights into the case, please drop me a line.
If you'd like to read a bit more about what the Kerry Report said about Al Herreros, click here.
Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page