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Confessions of an
Economic Hit Man
John Perkins

BERRETT-KOEHLER
San
a BK

PUBLISHERS, INC.

Francisco
Currents

book

Copyright (o 2 0 0 4 by John Perkins
A l l rights reserved. N o part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or
transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other
electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the p u b lisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain
other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to
the publisher, addressed "Attention: Permissions Coordinator," at the address below.
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.,
235 Montgomery- Street, Suite 650, San Francisco, C A 94104-2916
Tel: (415) 288-0260 Fax: (415) 362-2512 w w . b k c o n n e c t i o n . c o m
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOOING-IN-FUBLICATION DATA

Perkins, J o h n , 1945
Confessions o f an economic hit man / by John Perkins,
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-10:1-57675-301-8: ISBN-13: 978-1-57675-301-9
I. Perkins, J o h n . 1945-

2. U n i t e d States. National Security Agency—Biography.

3. Economists—United States—Biography. 4. Energy consultants—United S t a t e s Biography. 5. Intelligence agents—United States—Biography. 6. Chas. T. M a i n , Inc.
7. W o r l d Bank—Developing countries. 8. Corporations, American—Foreign countries.
9. Corporations, American—Corrupt practices. 10. Imperialism—History—20th century.
II. Imperialism—History—21st century
UB271.U52P47 2 0 0 4
332'.042'092-dc22

I. Title.

[B]

2004045,353

First E d i t i o n

09 08 07 06 05

2 0 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11

Cover design by M a r k van Bronkhorst. Interior design by Valerie Brewster.
Copyediting by Todd M a n z a . Indexing by Rachel Rice.

To m y m o t h e r a n d f a t h e r , R u t h M o o d y a n d J a s o n P e r k i n s ,
w h o t a u g h t m e a b o u t love a n d l i v i n g a n d instilled
i
/

i n m e the courage t h a t enabled m e
to write this book.

CONTENTS

Preface
Prologue

P A R T I:
1

ix
xvi

1963-1971
A n E c o n o m i c H i t M a n Is B o r n
"In for Life"

3

12

2

Indonesia: Lessons for a n E H M

4

Saving a C o u n t r y from C o m m u n i s m

5

Selling M y Soul

P A R T II:

20
23

28

1971-1975

6

M y Role as Inquisitor

7

Civilization o n T r i a l

8

Jesus, Seen Differently

9

Opportunity of a Lifetime 5 2

37
42
47

10

Panama's President a n d H e r o

11

Pirates i n the Canal Zone 6 3

12

Soldiers a n d Prostitutes

13

Conversations w i t h the General

14

E n t e r i n g a N e w a n d Sinister Period i n
Economic History

58

67
71

76

15

The Saudi A r a b i a n M o n e y - l a u n d e r i n g Affair

16

Pimping, and Financing Osama bin Laden
vii

PART M i : 1975-T981
17

P

18

Iran's K i n g of Kings

19

Confessions of a Tortured A l a n

20

T h e Fall of a K i n g

21

C o l o m b i a : Keystone o f L a t i n A m e r i c a

22

A m e r i c a n Republic versus G l o b a l E m p i r e

23

T h e Deceptive Resume

24

Ecuador's President Battles B i g O i l

25

I Quit

P A R T IV:

C a n a l Negotiations and G r a h a m Greene
108
113

117
120
124

131
141

146

1981-PRESENT

26

Ecuador's Presidential Death

27

P a n a m a : A n o t h e r Presidential Death

28

M y Energy Company, E n r o n , and George W. B u s h

29

I Take a Bribe

30

The U n i t e d States Invades Panama

31

A n E H M Failure i n Iraq

32

September 11 and its Aftermath for M e , Personally

33

Venezuela: Saved by S a d d a m

34

Ecuador Revisited

35

Piercing the Veneer

Epilogue

153

Notes
Index

158
162

167

196

203
211

221

230
240

A b o u t the A u t h o r

248

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

173

182

John Perkins Personal History 2 2 6

viii

101

189

PREFACE

Economic h i t m e n { E H M s ) are highly p a i d

professionals

w h o c h e a t c o u n t r i e s a r o u n d t h e g l o b e o u t of t r i l l i o n s of
dollars. They f u n n e l m o n e y f r o m the W o r l d B a n k ,
U.S. A g e n c y f o r I n t e r n a t i o n a l D e v e l o p m e n t

the

(USAID),

a n d o t h e r f o r e i g n " a i d " o r g a n i z a t i o n s i n t o t h e coffers

of

h u g e c o r p o r a t i o n s a n d t h e p o c k e t s of a f e w w e a l t h y f a m i lies w h o c o n t r o l the p l a n e t ' s n a t u r a l resources. T h e i r tools
i n c l u d e f r a u d u l e n t f i n a n c i a l reports, rigged elections,
payoffs,

e x t o r t i o n , sex, a n d m u r d e r . T h e y p l a y a g a m e a s

o l d as e m p i r e , b u t one t h a t has t a k e n o n n e w a n d

terrify-

i n g d i m e n s i o n s d u r i n g t h i s t i m e of g l o b a l i z a t i o n .
I should know; I was an E H M .
I wrote that i n 1982, as the beginning of a book w i t h the w o r k i n g
title, C o n s c i e n c e of a n E c o n o m i c H i t M a n . T h e book was dedicated to
the presidents of two countries, men w h o h a d been m y clients,
w h o m I respected and thought of as k i n d r e d spirits — Jaime Roldos,
president o f Ecuador, and O m a r Torrijos, president of Panama. B o t h
had just died i n fiery crashes. T h e i r deaths were not accidental. They
were assassinated because they opposed that fraternity of corporate,
government, a n d b a n k i n g heads whose goal is global empire. W e
E H M s failed to b r i n g Roldos and Torrijos around, and the other type
of hit men, the CIA-sanctioned jackals w h o were always right behind
us, stepped i n .
I was persuaded to stop w r i t i n g that book. I started it four more
times d u r i n g the next twenty years. O n each occasion, m y decision to
begin again was influenced by current w o r l d events: the U.S. invasion
of Panama i n 1989, the first G u l f War,

Somalia, the rise of O s a m a b i n

L a d e n . However, threats or bribes always convinced me to stop.
In 2 0 0 3 , the president of a major publishing house that is owned
by a powerful international corporation read a draft of what h a d
now become C o n f e s s i o n s of a n E c o n o m i c H i t M a n . H e described it

as "a riveting story that needs to be told." T h e n he smiled sadly,
shook his head, a n d t o l d me that since the executives at w o r l d h e a d quarters m i g h t object, he could not afford to risk p u b l i s h i n g it. H e
advised me to fictionalize it. "We could market you i n the m o l d of a
novelist like J o h n Le Carre or G r a h a m Greene."
But this is not fiction. It is the true story of my life. A more courageous publisher, one not owned by an international corporation, has
agreed to help me tell it.
This story m u s t be told. W e live i n a time of terrible crisis — and
tremendous opportunity. The story of this particular economic h i t
m a n is the story of h o w we got to where we are a n d why we currently
face crises that seem insurmountable. T h i s story must be t o l d because only by understanding our past mistakes w i l l we be able to
take advantage of future opportunities; because 9/11 happened and
so d i d the second war i n Iraq; because i n addition to the three t h o u sand people w h o died o n September 11, 2001, at the hands of terrorists, another twenty-four thousand died from hunger a n d related
causes. In fact, twenty-four thousand people die every single day
because they are unable to obtain life-sustaining food. M o s t i m portantly, this story must be t o l d because today, for the first time i n
history, one nation has the ability, the money, and the power to
change all this. It is the nation where I was b o r n a n d the one I served
as an E H M : the U n i t e d States of A m e r i c a .
1

W h a t finally convinced me to ignore the threats a n d bribes?
The short answer is that m y only child, Jessica, graduated from
college a n d went out into the w o r l d on her own. W h e n I recently
t o l d her that I was considering p u b l i s h i n g this book a n d shared my
fears w i t h her, she said, "Don't worry, dad. If they get you, I ' l l take
over where y o u left off. W e need to do this for the grandchildren I
hope to give y o u someday!" T h a t is the short answer.
The longer version relates to m y dedication to the country where
I was raised, to my love of the ideals expressed by our F o u n d i n g F a thers, to m y deep c o m m i t m e n t to the A m e r i c a n republic that today
promises "life, liberty, a n d the pursuit o f happiness" for a l l people,
everywhere, and to my determination after 9/11 not to sit idly by any
longer w h i l e E H M s t u r n that republic into a global empire. T h a t is
the skeleton version of the l o n g answer; the flesh a n d b l o o d are
added i n the chapters that follow.
This is a true story. I lived every minute of it. The sights, the people,

x

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man


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