Archive for the ‘cocaine’ Category

Venezuela: The ministry of Supreme Happiness

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

The news on the latest scheme to waste oil money on propaganda made me wonder if they introduced it by having a Judy Garland impersonator singing this,

But noooo, it was created in honor of the late Hugo Chavez

The supreme happiness office, created in honor of the late president Hugo Chavez and the country’s revolutionary figure, Simon Bolivar, will serve the elderly, children, people with disabilities, and the homeless, according to local news reports. The minister will begin imposing cheer on December 9, in time to coincide with the first ever “Loyalty and Love to Hugo Chavez Day.” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called the agency a “social advance in the struggle against the perfidy of capitalism.”

Zounds! “The perfidy of capitalism?” More like the day after the municipal elections, which are scheduled for December 8.

The article mentions that

The Earth Institute’s 2013 World Happiness Report placed Venezuela as the happiest country in South America (for the second year in a row) and twentieth worldwide.

Clearly the Earth Institute’s researchers managed to find folks that are blissful over cloth feminine pads, empty supermarket shelves and no toilet paper. The rest of the Venezuelans? Not so much.

It’s not quite clear just how supreme the happiness goes,

While there have been no details as to what the office will do, I can think of so many ways that it can celebrate and promote the happiness of all Venezuelans, particularly by pointing out happy events around the country, of which there are so many.

As an example, the Vice-Ministry could make sure to interview on TV anyone who managed to buy a package of corn flour, which has become one of the supreme moments of any Venezuelan’s life in the the last few months. And even if you think that finding toilet paper is another such happy moment, the Vice-Ministry could celebrate not only the finding of the roll of toilet paper by those citizens that lacked it, but more importantly recreate the moment of supreme happiness that represents using it for the first time after not having any for a while.

Feeling unhappy, try Orwellian Venezuela: Maduro creates the “Supreme Happiness” office
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the creation of the “Supreme Happiness Under Secretary” to address social debt shortcomings and which was in honor of the late Commandant and president Hugo Chavez and the country’s liberator, Simon Bolivar.
As mentioned abovem timing is everything:

The Orwellian and Kim Il Sung style announcements coincide with the creation of the “Loyalty and Love to Hugo Chavez Day” and come a few weeks ahead of the 8 December municipal elections which could bring surprises to the Bolivarian revolution ravaged by the most serious economic shortcomings in a decade particularly the lack of sufficient food and basics in the country’s stores.

“Social debt shortcomings,” indeed.

Indeed; the Supreme Happiness is headed by a military officer (a.k.a. “Viceministerio para la Suprema felicidad social del pueblo venezolano“), as are also the office of Sovereign People, the Superior Office for the Defense of the Economy, and the Strategic Superior Centre for Homeland Security and Protection.

Happiness all around! How Venezuela’s Military Tried to Fly A Ton of Cocaine to France

police in France, Italy and Spain had launched a joint investigation some months previous, operating undercover in Europe and Venezuela without the knowledge of the Venezuelan government. “They could not tell the Venezuelan government what was going on, because they knew that high-ranking Venezuelan military officials were involved.”

Italian police managed to infiltrate the criminal operation, she said, getting details from informants about collaboration between the Venezuelans and the Ndrangheta, the powerful Italian mafia who are estimated to control 80 percent of the cocaine coming into Europe. The ‘Ndrangheta were due to receive the shipment, which Camero believes was originally purchased by the GNB from the FARC in the border state of Apure.

Happiness, 31 suitcases worth.

Linked to by Dustbury, and by Cherokee Gothic. Thank you!

Mexico: Why the Sinaloa Cartel {hearts} Chicago

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Jason McGaahn reports on Why Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel Loves Selling Drugs in Chicago
Chicago is key to a business moving tons of drugs for billions of dollars. Here’s how the whole operation works
.

In Chicago, the cartel has a near monopoly. “I’d say 70 to 80 percent of the narcotics here are controlled by Sinaloa and Chapo Guzmán,” says Jack Riley, director of the DEA’s Chicago office. “Virtually all of our major investigations at some point lead back to other investigations tied to Sinaloa.”

Because of four factors: transportation, ethnic makeup, size, and gang culture.

Chicago is the transportation hub of America, a fact not lost on the Mexican cartels (just as it wasn’t on Capone and his fellow bootleggers almost a century ago). It’s ideally located within a day’s drive of 70 percent of the nation’s population. Six interstate highways crisscross the region, connecting east and west. Only two states (Texas and California) have more interstate highway miles than Illinois.

As for rail transport, Chicago welcomes six of the seven major railroads and accounts for a quarter of the country’s rail traffic. Water? The Port of Chicago is one of the nation’s largest inland cargo ports, and the city is the world’s third-largest handler of shipping containers (after Singapore and Hong Kong). And let’s not forget about Midway and O’Hare: More than 86 million passengers and 1.5 million tons of cargo passed through these airports combined in 2011, the latest year for which data are available.

Second, the Chicago metro area has a large Hispanic immigrant population, making it easy for Mexican cartel operatives to blend in. (Only Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Houston have more residents of Mexican descent, according to the 2010 census.)

Because many of these immigrants—especially those who are here illegally—are poor or underemployed, the area provides a fertile recruiting ground for cartel operatives.

Third, the city is a huge market in its own right. Chicagoans’ taste for drugs is as big as—if not bigger than—that of most other Americans. For example, according to a report by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 86 percent of people arrested in Cook County in 2012 tested positive for at least one illegal narcotic—the highest percentage of any big city. Twenty-two percent tested positive for more than one.

Finally, Chicago’s deeply entrenched street gangs offer a ready-made retail network. Law enforcement officials estimate the number of street gangs in the city at more than 70 and the number of members at between 70,000 and 125,000. The DEA’s Jack Riley likens them to “100,000 Amway salesmen” for cartel-supplied drugs.

Read the full article here.

The city of Chicago registered more homicides than any city in the nation in 2012.

Brazil: Dilma fires foreign minister

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Brazil’s Foreign Minister is out of a job, a Bolivian senator has asylum, and the Bolivian government is displeased (emphasis added):
Brazil Fires Its Foreign Minister
Antonio Patriota Lost His Job on Monday Amid Rising Diplomatic Tension with Neighboring Bolivia.

Brazil’s foreign minister, Antonio Patriota, was fired on Monday amid rising diplomatic tension with neighboring Bolivia after a Brazilian diplomat helped a Bolivian opposition senator who faced criminal charges flee the country over the weekend.

The senator, Roger Pinto, took refuge in Brazil’s embassy in La Paz last year, saying he received death threats after making public leaked Bolivian documents allegedly showing collusion between government officials and drug traffickers. Spokespeople for Mr. Morales have denied the allegations. Brazil granted Mr. Pinto asylum in June 2012, but Bolivia didn’t provide permission for Mr. Pinto to leave Bolivia.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff removed Mr. Patriota in part because she only learned of Mr. Pinto’s extraction after he was already in Brazil, a person familiar with the decision said. Mr. Patriota has been offered a post at Brazil’s U.N. mission, according to a statement from Ms. Rousseff.

Forensic evidence conclusively proves that a majority of the cocaine consumed in Brazil comes from Bolivia (60%).

Postscript:

An additional point of analysis, as several people including Rio Gringa and Paulo Sotero have noted, is that Patriota was never particularly close to Dilma. He was one of the few remaining holdovers from Lula, gradually phased out during Dilma’s term. So this issue could also just be an excuse for a long desired cabinet shuffle by the president.

The third Monday in August Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, August 19th, 2013

LatinAmerARGENTINA
Argentina’s primary elections
Bad dress rehearsal
Cristina Fernández has an uphill struggle ahead of mid-term elections

BAHAMAS
Bahamas deports 24 Cuban refugees
The government of the Bahamas deports back to Cuba 24 refugees who had applied for asylum in the US and other countries.

BRAZIL
Brazil Concerned About Hotel Price Hikes at WCup

CHILE
Chile strike at BHP Billiton’s Escondida mine ends

COLOMBIA
Colombia`s police force, corrupt and incompetent?

A small red raccoon? No, an olinguito. Olinguito: ‘Overlooked’ mammal carnivore is major discovery
Scientists in the US have discovered a new animal living in the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador.
Watch the video at the link.

CUBA
Namibia pays its debt to Castro Kingdom with endangered wildlife

2 Cuban political prisoners sentenced to more time in Castro gulag

The revolución‘s Royalty and Servitude

ECUADOR
Plan to Ban Oil Drilling in Amazon Is Dropped

LATIN AMERICA
Terror Threat in Latin America

MEXICO
Mexico Steps Up Security After Drug Lord’s Capture
Arrest of Gulf Cartel Kingpin Is New Blow to Criminal Groups

Mexican oil workers fear Pemex proposal

Energy reform in Mexico
Giving it both barrels
The government has made a promising start, but it may struggle to bring an historic reform to fruition

NICARAGUA
Colombia and Nicaragua’s Maritime Dispute Intensifies

Domestic and regional political repercussions will heavily influence Colombia’s response. The threat of a second territorial maritime loss to Nicaragua would further weaken President Juan Manuel Santos’ reelection prospects. Inaction against Nicaragua, when combined with slow-moving negotiations with the FARC rebel group could cost Santos’ political party the presidency in 2014.

PANAMA
Panama May Hit North Korea with $1 Million Fine for Illicit Arms Transport. Good luck collecting it!

PARAGUAY
Paraguay’s New President Woos Foreign Investment

PERU
How Peru became the cocaine capital of the world
The recent arrests of British women in Lima highlight the large numbers of foreigners in the country’s jails facing smuggling charges and the Andes’ growing importance in the drugs trade

The rise of the Peruvian cocaine trade has also been driven by market forces. In recent years, demand for the drug has fallen substantially in the US, which was traditionally served by the Colombian trade. Peru, on the other hand, exports the majority of its illicit product to Brazil (where it is turned into the cheaper and more addictive crack), and to Europe. Unlike their American counterparts, British appetite for cocaine almost doubled during the Noughties.

PUERTO RICO
Social Security Disability Fraud in Puerto Rico

URUGUAY
Canadian bank abandons Uruguay following raid on its office on request from Argentine judge
The Royal Bank of Canada, RBC, is abandoning Uruguay following a raid in its offices at Zonamerica ordered by a Uruguayan magistrate on request from Argentina during which computers, documents on clients and even cell phones from staff were seized by the intervening party which included on-watching Argentine treasury police.

VENEZUELA
Tyrants and their enabling laws:
Showdown looms in Venezuela over decree powers plan

Maduro, who narrowly won an April election to replace his late mentor Hugo Chavez, says he is ready to change “all the laws” if necessary to stamp out widespread graft that is denting his popularity with some core supporters.

Venezuela central bank head replaced amid corruption claims

By subscription: Venezuela’s President Seeks Expanded Powers
Ruling by decree would enable Maduro to deal with deep economic and social problems.

The week’s posts and podcast:
Venezuela’s ruined agricultural industry

Cuba: 54 years of Revolución, for what?

Venezuela: The perils of hyperinflation

Pisco, the next tequila?

Venezuela: Unleashing homophobia

Puerto Rico: DoJ, FBI Disability fraud investigation under way

Mexico: Caro Quintero, and Fast & Furious

Mexico: Will the proposed energy reform be enough?

Mexico: Oil industry overhaul?

Panama: No deal with North Korea

Mexico: From exchange student in Iran to political refugee in 5 easy steps

Podcast:
Chile and other US-Latin America issues


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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