Archive for the ‘cocaine’ Category

Colombia: The FARC negotiations

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Two different views on the ongoing negotiations:

Peace Signs in Colombia
Can Bogotá and the FARC Finally Overcome Their Differences?
which concludes with,

Polls published by the Colombia media indicate that the majority of Colombians support ending the conflict with the FARC by diplomatic means. Unfortunately, there has been little public discourse about the potential struggles that the nation will face if the FARC lay down their arms. Although Cuba and Venezuela have publicly expressed their support of Colombia’s peace efforts, regional tensions remain high, especially when it comes to relations with the United States. For now, then, even if a peace agreement is signed, it does not mean that peace will prevail.

and,
Colombia’s Bet on Peace With Guerrillas President Santos explains why he is negotiating with the FARC.

The president is talking about a paradigm shift. “Many people are accustomed to the war but I don’t accept that,” he told me. “I think Colombia deserves to have peace and I am quite certain that we will achieve it.”

Part of his optimism stems from his conviction that the rebels “are weakened and they don’t have an alternative.” Actually they do have an alternative, which is to stay out in the jungle and die with their boots on. Still, Mr. Santos is the FARC guerrillas’ best hope for getting a deal that will offer them some leniency. Should he walk away or fail to win re-election in May, they are not likely to fare better under the next government.

Mr. Santos’s critics, including former president Alvaro Uribe, doubt the FARC’s good faith. As I reported in June, they also worry that the government will sacrifice justice for peace and will get neither.

As far as I can see,

  • The FARC are not interested in disbanding. To the contrary, they are seeking alliances with the ELN
  • The FARC are calling for a “restructuring of the Colombian state“, including a major redesign of the Colombian Constitution
  • The FARC are not interested in ceasing its operations as a drug crime entity
  • As the O’Grady article states, the FARC’s goal is “to force the government to designate the area an autonomous zone that it could control”
  • And, inspired by their Cuban hosts, they are in it for the long run.

What kind of peace, then, could these negotiations yield?

South American cocaine’s African routes

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

This will not come as a surprise to long-term readers of this blog: Al-Qaeda’s at the center of drug trafficking.

Revealed: how Saharan caravans of cocaine help to fund al-Qaeda in terrorists’ North African domain
The 37 foreign workers who died in the assault on an Algerian gas plant were victims of terrorists whose weapons may have been paid for by cocaine users of Britain and Europe, reports Colin Freeman.

Unlike their ancestors’ cargoes of spices, salts and silks, the contraband that Gao’s smugglers bring in today from Colombia is deemed strictly “haram”, or forbidden, by Islam.
Yet the city’s ever-zealous Islamist morality police have a good reason for turning a blind eye. For it is thanks to the trans-Saharan cocaine trade that Islamist groups like al-Qaeda have become a power in the region, building up formidable war chests to buy both arms and recruits.

The cocaine trade first exploded in this region five years ago, as Latino cartels, faced with a saturated market in the US, sought new routes to get their product to Europe’s borders. First the drug is shipped or flown across the Atlantic to lawless, corrupt coastal states like Guinea Bissau, then it is moved thousands of miles across the Sahara to Algeria, Morocco and Libya.

Now, though, the trade’s potential to wreak far wider havoc has become horrifyingly clear, in helping to bankroll the al-Qaeda movements behind both the Islamist take-over of northern Mali and the murder of western workers at the Algerian gas facility earlier this month.

The planes into Gao fly in directly from Venezuela, drugs’ #1 point of departure in Latin America.

In addition to the profiting, al-Qaeda terrorists use stimulants – cocaine, meth – during battle.

The war on terror and the war on drugs have joined into a new stage.

Read the whole report.


Kenya: Venezuelan ambassador murdered

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

… and the murder may be related to the drug trade.

Venezuelan Charged in Diplomat’s Killing in Kenya

NAIROBI—Kenyan authorities on Monday charged the first secretary of Venezuela’s embassy with the murder of that country’s acting ambassador to Kenya in what police believe was a killing motivated by a battle over embassy leadership.

Dwight Sagaray was charged in court with the murder of acting Venezuelan Ambassador Olga Fonseca. He pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutor Tabitha Ouya also charged Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Sagaray’s friend and an alleged co-conspirator who has gone into hiding, with Ms. Fonseca’s murder.

Mr. Ouya said that on the night of July 26 to 27 the two suspects strangled Fonseca. The prosecutor said others were also involved in the killing, though he didn’t name them.

Judge Florence Muchemi issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Hassan and remanded Mr. Sagaray into custody until his bail application is heard. Venezuelan officials previously agreed to waive Mr. Sagaray’s diplomatic immunity so that he could be charged.

Ms. Fonseca was found strangled in the embassy’s official residence. She reported to Kenya on July 15 to replace former Ambassador Gerardo Carillo Silva, who left his posting in Kenya and soon faced allegations of sexual harassment by Kenyan male workers from the embassy residence.

Police said they believe the motive behind Ms. Fonseca’s killing was a battle for leadership of the embassy after the ambassador’s departure.

However, Narcotics drugs cited in envoy’s murder (emphasis added)

Police are pursuing clues linking drug traffickers to the murder of Venezuela acting ambassador Olga Fonseca who was found strangled in her residence on July 27. Multiple sources said they had received reports indicating that some official or officials at the embassy had been using their diplomatic privileges to traffic in drugs.

They said that changes introduced by the envoy soon after she arrived in Kenya on July 15 may have displeased some of these officials who no longer had access to the diplomatic parcels. Fonseca replaced ambassador Gerardo Carillo- Silva who left the country in May soon after he was accused of sexual harassment by some of his staff at the embassy residence.

According to the police, the envoy’s decision reportedly caused friction in the embassy and may have contributed to her murder. The sources who did not want to be identified however said the investigators were wary of aggressively pursuing the drug trafficking allegations for fear of causing a diplomatic row between Kenya and Venezuela.

According to the information they had received, the police linked some of the embassy staff, a few locals and some foreigners in drug trafficking. The sources said the drugs were being brought into the country as diplomatic parcels which, under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, are not subjected to security checks.


Bolivia: The Cocaine Republic

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Inter-American Security Watch has an excellent translation of Revista Veja’s report on present-day Bolivia, The Cocaine Republic

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales is proud to encourage the cultivation of coca, the raw material for more than half of the cocaine and crack consumed in Brazil, arguing that its leaves are used to produce tea and traditional medicines. However, the United Nations (UN) estimates that only one-third of the coca planted in the country is necessary to meet this demand. The rest is used for drug trafficking and, consequently, contributes to corrupting the lives of nearly one million Brazilians and their families. Recently, evidence has emerged that the Bolivian government’s complicity with drug trafficking goes beyond a simple defense of the cocaleros, or coca growers. VEJA magazine had access to the reports produced by an intelligence unit of the Bolivian police which reveal, among other facts, a direct connection between Morales’ confidante, Minister of the Presidency Juan Ramón Quintana, and a Brazilian drug trafficker currently serving a sentence in Catanduvas, a maximum-security prison in Paraná.

A must-read for those wanting to know what is going on in South America. Read the whole thing.

The racing Zetas

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Like something out of a crime novel, All American Futurity, “the Kentucky Derby of quarter horse racing”, was used by the Zetas for money laundering:

Ginger Thompson reports for the NY Times how a Mexican Cartel Hides Millions in Horse Races, U.S. Alleges

Newcomers rarely make it into the winner’s circle at the All American Futurity, considered the Kentucky Derby of quarter horse racing.

Yet in September 2010, a beaming band of men waving Mexican flags and miniature piñatas swept into Ruidoso, N.M., to claim the million-dollar prize with a long-shot colt named Mr. Piloto.

Leading the revelry at the track was Mr. Piloto’s owner, José Treviño Morales, 45, a self-described brick mason who had grown up poor in Mexico. Across the border, Ramiro Villarreal, an affable associate who had helped acquire the winning colt, celebrated at a bar with friends.

As for the man who made the whole day possible, Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, he was living on the run, one of the most wanted drug traffickers in the world.

Mr. Treviño, a younger brother of José Treviño, is second in command of Mexico’s Zetas drug trafficking organization, say law enforcement authorities on both sides of the border. Thin with a furrowed brow, he has become the organization’s lead enforcer — infamous for dismembering his victims while they are still alive.

The race was one of many victories for the Treviño brothers, who managed to establish a prominent horse breeding operation, Tremor Enterprises, in the United States that allowed them to launder millions of dollars in drug money, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials.

Using Miguel Ángel Treviño’s cash, José Treviño’s legal residency and Mr. Villarreal’s eye for a good horse, Tremor bought a sprawling ranch in Oklahoma and an estimated 300 stallions and mares. The Treviño brothers might have kept their operation quiet, given the criminal connection, but their passion for horses and winning apparently proved too tempting. In the short span of three years, Tremor won three of the industry’s biggest races, with prizes totaling some $2.5 million.

The business was “so far out there it’s hard to believe,” said Morris Panner, a former prosecutor who handled drug cases, and officials said it amounted to a foothold in the United States for one of Mexico’s most dangerous criminal networks. “Maybe they were using some kind of perverse logic that told them they could hide in plain sight, precisely because people wouldn’t believe it or question it,” Mr. Panner said.

The Justice Department moved against Tremor on Tuesday morning, dispatching several helicopters and hundreds of law enforcement agents to the company’s stables in Ruidoso and its ranch in Oklahoma. Jose Treviño and several associates were taken into custody and were expected to be charged later in the day, authorities said.

An affidavit prepared before the raids said the Zetas funneled about $1 million a month into buying quarter horses in the United States. The authorities were tipped off to Tremor’s activities in January 2010, when the Zetas paid more than $1 million in a single day for two broodmares, the affidavit said.

The New York Times became aware of Tremor’s activities in December 2011 while reporting on the Zetas. The Times learned of the government’s investigation last month and agreed to hold this story until Tuesday morning’s arrests.

Thompson explains how the Zetas have expanded their reach to South America and West Africa, while their stronghold is Nuevo Laredo, right across the US-Mexico border, with Miguel Ángel Treviño as their money manager. The Treviño brothers have been involved in the drug trade for at least two decades.

This is a must-read.

And, the NYT’s finally got a reporter!


Ecuador: The new hub for international crime

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Must-read article at Deutsche Welle on the upcoming report by The Financial Action Task Force (FATF),
Ecuador emerges as hub for international crime
Ecuador is emerging as a focus for transnational criminal groups, according to US and European officials. Colombian and Mexican drug traffickers as well as Chinese and African human traffickers use it as a business hub.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the inter-governmental body responsible for combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism, is expected at its meeting in February in Abu Dhabi to include Ecuador on its high-risk jurisdiction list at the request of G20 finance ministers.

Why?

Ecuador attracting transnational crime
FARC’s penetration of Ecuador’s government and judiciary, the country’s weak institutions and anti-money laundering laws and its nonexistent anti‐terror financing laws as well as its porous borders with its drugs producing neighbors have turned Ecuador into a place where transnational criminal organizations from Latin America, Russia, China, India and Africa can conduct business, according to a just-released report by the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC).

The report goes on to say that Ecuador is “increasingly attractive for Russian organized criminal groups, both for weapon sales to the FARC and to launder money” and that “Chinese triads, particularly those involved in smuggling human beings, have greatly increased their presence in Ecuador.” The Financial Action Task Force warned in 2007 that Ecuador had failed to comply with 48 of its 49 recommendations on money laundering and terrorist financing.
The officials say the lifting in 2008 of visa requirements for nationals of most countries and the adoption in 2000 of the US dollar as Ecuador’s national currency make it easy for Russian, Chinese, Indian and African criminal organizations to operate in Ecuador.
The dollarization of Ecuador’s economy, lax restrictions on the movement of large amounts of money and some of world’s strongest bank secrecy laws enable the laundering by Russian crime groups of proceeds of Mexican drug and Asian and African human traffickers. A recent study by Quito’s San Francisco University concluded that annually up to $1billion (0.7 billion euros) are laundered through Ecuador. US law enforcement officials say the figure could be substantially higher.
The lifting of visa requirements has allowed Chinese triads as well as Indian and African human traffickers to process people they are trafficking through Ecuador, the Washington institute’s report says. US diplomats say that virtually every non-Latin American immigrant caught since the lifting entering the United States from Central America and Mexico has transited through Ecuador. “They are mostly Africans or Central Asians, which raises security concerns,” one diplomat said.

DW also explains some of the shady financial dealings with Iran, and the corrupt judicial system.

If you are one of the many Americans considering retirement in Ecuador, I urge you to read this article.

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Where the coke comes from

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

This weekend’s Wall Street Journal has a must-read on drug production in Latin America
Cocaine: The New Front Lines
Colombia’s success in curbing the drug trade has created more opportunities for countries hostile to the United States. What happens when coca farmers and their allies are in charge?

What happens is that now Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia are producing the drugs:

Since 2000, cultivation of coca leaves—cocaine’s raw material—plunged 65% in Colombia, to 141,000 acres in 2010, according to United Nations figures. In the same period, cultivation surged more than 40% in Peru, to 151,000 acres, and more than doubled in Bolivia, to 77,000 acres.

More important, Bolivia and Peru are now making street-ready cocaine, whereas they once mostly supplied raw ingredients for processing in Colombia. In 2010, Peru may have passed Colombia as the world’s biggest producer, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Between 2009 and 2010, Peru’s potential to produce cocaine grew 44%, to 325 metric tons. In 2010, Colombia’s potential production was 270 metric tons.

Meanwhile, Venezuela and Ecuador are rising as smuggling hubs.

Those of you who think this cocaine is only produced for consumption outside Latin America, do take note that Brazilian police say 80% of that country’s cocaine supply comes from Bolivia.

Additionally, crime, terrorism and drugs go hand-in-hand. Hezbolla’s deepening involvement in the drug trade was the subject of a New York Times report last month.

Noteworthy was a comment by Lebanon’s drug enforcement chief, Colonel Adel Mashmoushi, who stated that one path used by Hezbollah’s drug trafficking friends into Lebanon was “aboard a weekly Iranian-operated flight from Venezuela to Damascus and then over the border [from Syria].” The air bridge between Caracas and Tehran has long been a significant security concern.

Is it a coincidence that Bolivia has the largest Iranian embassy in the hemisphere, and that Ahmadinejad has visited the region five times – last week stopping in Ecuador and Venezuela?

UPDATE,
Linked by Maggie’s Farm. Thanks!


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The cocaine-Hezbollah-Lebanon connection

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

The NY Times has a graph on
Money Laundering at Lebanese Bank
The chart below shows the intricate money-laundering system the Lebanese Canadian Bank used to divert money to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, according to United States officials.

The report: Beirut Bank Seen as a Hub of Hezbollah’s Financing

At the same time, the investigation that led the United States to the bank, the Lebanese Canadian Bank, provides new insights into the murky sources of Hezbollah’s money. While law enforcement agencies around the world have long believed that Hezbollah is a passive beneficiary of contributions from loyalists abroad involved in drug trafficking and a grab bag of other criminal enterprises, intelligence from several countries points to the direct involvement of high-level Hezbollah officials in the South American cocaine trade.

The revelations about Hezbollah and the Lebanese Canadian Bank reflect the changing political and military dynamics of Lebanon and the Middle East. American intelligence analysts believe that for years Hezbollah received as much as $200 million annually from its primary patron, Iran, along with additional aid from Syria. But that support has diminished, the analysts say, as Iran’s economy buckles under international sanctions over its nuclear program and Syria’s government battles rising popular unrest.

Yet, if anything, Hezbollah’s financial needs have grown alongside its increasing legitimacy here, as it seeks to rebuild after its 2006 war with Israel and expand its portfolio of political and social service activities. The result, analysts believe, has been a deeper reliance on criminal enterprises — especially the South American cocaine trade — and on a mechanism to move its ill-gotten cash around the world.

Venezuela plays a part, too,

According to Lebanon’s drug enforcement chief, Col. Adel Mashmoushi, one path into the country was aboard a weekly Iranian-operated flight from Venezuela to Damascus and then over the border. Several American officials confirmed that, emphasizing that such an operation would be impossible without Hezbollah’s involvement.

It doesn’t end there.

Go read the whole thing.

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Mexico’s cartels vs bloggers, part 3

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Interestingly, at the same time that the cartels (the Zetas in particular?) are killing bloggers, Startfor reports that on September 8 the Mexican navy dismantled the Zetas’ communication network in Veracruz (link by subscription only).

On the massive raid, the navy seized seven trailers that served as base stations, along with computers, encryption devices, solar cells, and other equipment.

Los Zetas have more sophisticated networks than most cartels due to their origins with the military, and they use their knowledge (and massive proceeds from the drug trade) to avoid regular cell phones and other devices that are easily monitored.

The location of the raid, Veracruz, makes it tactically valuable, for its vicinity to population-dense Mexico City and its financial institutions.

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Mexican cartels now going after bloggers, part 2

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Yesterday I posted on how the Zetas allegedly tortured and killed a man and a woman, who still remain unidentified, for posting on the internet on drug violence in the country.

However, the two victims are not the first bloggers to be murdered because of their posting: Last month Humberto Milan Zalazar, who ran a website, was killed also because of his posting.

The Economist comments on the most recent murders,

It isn’t clear how the killers selected their victims, as such blogs usually allow anonymous comments.

I’ll let the techies discuss how hard or how easy it would be to find the IP address of a post or a comment and compare it to the IP address of a smart phone from someone you have kidnapped. However, it is clear that the narcos are driving their point of dominance by terror.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, and for bloggers.

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On a side note, while I visit Instapundit every day and am grateful for his links, it’s a sad day to see this entry,

IN AMERICA, WE HAVE ATTACKWATCH.COM. In Mexico, a deadly threat to ‘scandal mongers’ using social media.

Attack Watch – a White House website that quickly has become a joke – doesn’t disembowel and hang anyone a few miles from the US border.

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