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June 18 , 2009

I Ran Drugs for Uncle Sam

Map Points and Secret Moves of the Contra War


A Behind-the-Scenes Look into CIA Espionage and Drug Smuggling to Arm the Nicaraguan Contras

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Smallpox, malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, and yellow fever were ever-present dangers in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Arkansas. The Public’s Health is a narrative history of the health and disease of the people of Arkansas, what they faced, and how they dealt with it.

Robert “Tosh” Plumlee, who has lived in the San Diego area off and on since 1976, decided to come forward with the details of his work as a pilot in Central America during the time the U.S. government was secretly arming the Nicaraguan contras.

From 1979 to 1986, between his assignments – ferrying cargo and people into the jungles of Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama, sometimes returning to the U.S. with shipments of cocaine and marijuana – Plumlee had a blue-collar job in San Diego. He says he made drug deliveries all over the American Southwest, including cocaine on four different occasions to Homestead Air Force Base. Flying CIA-supplied airplanes, Plumlee was able to cross the border into the States unimpeded by U.S. Customs, which lifted inspection requirements for such government-sanctioned aircraft.

He and his colleagues, many of whom had flown for CIA-backed airlift operations in Southeast Asia (and some of whom, including Plumlee, had even worked together 30 years ago running guns to Cuba), believed that they were working on sting operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. “We’d deliver the drugs, and then we’d wait for the bust, and we waited and waited, but the busts never came,” Plumlee says. “Come to find out, the drugs were being sold to support the contras, and our government knew it.

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