Following the capture of Roger Khan, US Ambassador Roland Bullen told Washing-ton that the now convicted drug lord had been protected by two senior government officials and he also said that persons had related to the embassy that they had seen Khan leaving the Office of the President.
In perhaps his frankest comments on the relationship between Khan and government officials, Bullen was asked to respond to a series of questions by Washington including the following “Is there evidence, beyond possible conjecture, that Khan enjoys some level of political protection from senior officials of the Guyanese Govern-ment and, if so, from whom?
Bullen’s response in a cable classified as secret but revealed by the WikiLeaks website was that “Khan did enjoy political protection from GoG officials at the highest levels”. At a minimum he cited two officials.
One official, he said, had orchestrated Guyana’s death squads in 2002-3 and the other had intervened and ordered the authorities to release Khan and return the spy equipment he had been captured with in 2002. He then said that eyewitnesses had said they had seen Khan leaving the Office of the President.
Bullen – who had publicly said while stationed here that more needed to be done by the government to fight drugs – told Washington that ever since Khan’s May 2006 indictment in the US on drug charges the Government of Guyana had tried “assiduously to distance itself from him”.
The US envoy was also dismissive of government’s efforts to fight drug traffickers.
“Even in the unlikely event that the GoG and the security forces were on the same page and determined to go after narco-criminals, their ability to do so is extremely limited.
“The narco-criminals have entourages of highly-trained, well-armed ex-tactical squad members at their disposal. The GPF cannot compete with them. In addition, corruption and tip-offs are so rampant that the GPF and GDF rarely enjoy the element of surprise.
“Even if these challenges were overcome, a successful arrest would stand little chance of progressing through the judicial system. Guyana has not convicted a single drug trafficker of note,” Bullen declared.
Robin Hood figure
Contending that Khan had pursued active public relations and tried to paint himself as a Robin Hood figure, Bullen said Khan had polarized Guyanese public opinion.
Bullen said that in private conversations PPP insiders had revealed “their paranoia about the security forces’ connections to the political opposition…In this environment, Khan finds an Indo-Guyanese audience willing to believe that he is their protector.”
However, there were limits to this, Bullen said, as he pointed out that recent demonstrations organized and bankrolled by Khan protesting the conduct of joint services raids on the properties of suspected criminals fizzled out quickly.
Washington also asked, “What is Khan’s ability to help destabilize the Guyanese Government and/or elections?”
Said Bullen: “While active in Guyana, destabilizing elections did not seem to be a priority for Khan. Keeping a pliable PPP in power through a successful re-election suited his interests. However, even in custody Khan could potentially cause great embarrassment to — or even bring down — Guyana’s government by revealing his links with the PPP and the skeletons in its closet.”
Who would succeed Khan?
This communication to Washington addressed two other major issues: who might succeed Khan as the new drug kingpin and what was the relationship between Khan and Desi Bouterse, former coup leader and convicted drug trafficker and now the President of Suriname.
On the question of who might succeed Khan, Bullen related aspects of a conversation with a senior government official. Bullen cited two leading candidates who were older than the “upstart Khan” and had been active in drug trafficking for years.
One was described as the “godfather” of organized crime in Guyana. Bullen said that the government official was eager to share views on the risk and instability that Khan’s capture caused in Guyana. The official said that one of the possible successors had been keeping very quiet and was rumoured to have been working with the US.
In his comment on the possible succession, Bullen said, “GoG leaders were comfortable with Khan because they thought he was on their side; the possibility of a new kingpin allied with the political opposition makes them very nervous indeed”.
On the question of Khan’s relationship with Bouterse, Bullen was asked about Bouterse’s relationship with the ruling PPP. Bullen replied that he was unaware of any link between Bouterse and the PPP but that Bouterse had links with the PNCR. Bullen said a government official had told him that Bouterse’s link with Buxton was a “key factor” for Guyana and Suriname because so much “revolves around”. In his own note at this point, Bullen said: “(Note: Buxton, an Afro-Guyanese community about 10 miles east of Georgetown, is a hot-bed of criminal/militant activity. Desi Bouterse’s son Dino organized a Surinamese soccer team’s trip to Buxton a few years ago. It is believed that the team bus carried weapons to Buxton.)”
Bullen also told Washington that he did not believe Guyana would grant Bouterse asylum or provide him with other support.