Last week the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime turned some heads. In a much-publicized press conference in La Paz, the UN announced Bolivia had reduced the amount of land planted with coca — the waxy leafed bush from which cocaine is made — for the fourth year running.
So far, so good, but (emphasis added),
Soon after the UN announced its survey, critics noted that the report focused on the coca leaf but omitted data on how much of the crop is being converted to cocaine. And without that data, the heralded fall in coca may be an optical illusion.
When it comes to trafficking and transport of cocaine,
One yardstick for the problem is the almost sevenfold rise in arrests for drug possession, up from 238 in 2000 to 1,456 in 2012, the last complete year for which Bolivia’s National Statistics Office has published statistics.
Another is the spiking volume of drugs seized by police: from 1,300 kilos of cocaine in 2005 to 4,175 kilos in 2012, according to the same census.
. . .
Former national drug control minister Ernesto Justiniano told a nationwide television show last week that Bolivia’s cocaine production amounts to a staggering 160 tons a year, double the figure for 2008.
Bolivia now sits alongside the second biggest consumer of illegal drugs in the world: Brazil. Bolivia also borders the world’s principal producer of cocaine, Peru, and South America’s primary producer of marijuana, Paraguay. Meanwhile, Argentina is experiencing ballooning domestic drug consumption, particularly of “basuco” or “paco,” a form of crack cocaine which can be produced in Bolivia. Even the domestic drug markets in Chile and Peru are growing.
With a week to go for the primaries in Argentina, Cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez was accused of involvement in drug trafficking by those implicated in ephedrine trafficking in a television program, Periodismo para Todos (Journalism for Everyone), or PPT.)
3. And what’s more Scioli, the govt’s candidate and guarantor of future immunity, is likely to become the next president.
Nearly 14 months before crime boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán escaped from his maximum-security cell through a tunnel, one of his Sinaloa Cartel lieutenants broke out of another prison in the same way. (emphasis added)
The passage through which Adelmo Niebla González and two underlings busted out of a prison in Culiacán, capital of Sinaloa state, in May 2014 shared many of the same technological and building styles.
We’re talking about a cartel known for its elaborate tunnels under the U.S.-Mexico border, but Mexican authorities put them all on ground-floor because,
“No one can say it was obvious this would have happened,” Mr. Rubido, whose more than three decades included several stints as Mexico’s top spy chief, said of Mr. Guzmán’s escape.
Over eggs at a San Antonio café, a reporter listens as former law enforcement officials and one ex-drug cartel operative swap theories about El Chapo’s latest escape and what it says about the U.S. and Mexico
Sinaloa became the McDonald’s of the drug trade. Customers could find its products — cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines — everywhere. Operations ran so smoothly that after Chapo’s arrest in February 2014, many experts predicted that they’d continue to hum along without him. However, hopes ran high in the United States and Mexico that Chapo’s arrest would herald a new era of trust between the two governments. The arrest was seen as a sign that Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was serious about ending a long history of government corruption, and that Washington, after some skepticism, could trust him.
Chapo’s latest spectacular escape seems to have put an end to any such illusions.
“It’s time for us to ban together to protect El Chapo. It’s important for our people to remain strong through the American media disrespecting our people and culture. El Chapo’s escape from prison was on the first step to our rise as Mexican people.
“The Sinaloa Cartel, with permission from El Chapo, is offering $15 Million Dollars to any Mexican-American willing to provide a safe haven for El Chapo. We will give $10 Million Dollars to any other American person willing to assist El Chapo, and $7 Million Dollars to anyone who can successfully get El Chapo across the Mexican-American border without detection. Send this message to everyone affiliated.”
Interesting nationalistic wording (“El Chapo’s escape from prison was on the first step to our rise as Mexican people“) aside, the announcement leads to conjecture on what factors may be behind it:
El Chapo’s already in the U.S. and the announcement is a red herring
there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
When prisoners manage to tunnel out of their confinement, their tunnels are rudimentary, dangerous, and short. This tunnel resembles those that cross the US-Mexico border, or those in Gaza leading into southern Israel. It’s clear that a number of people tunneled in to get Guzman out, and those people spent a lot of money to do so. Guzman wasn’t going to be able to install electricity and ventilation, after all.
This week the FARC attacked Colombia’s oil infrastructure, the major way the Colombian economy is not held hostage by the narco-terrorist group. The worst attack was an explosion at a pipeline in the southeastern Nariño province.
A FARC attack on an oil pipeline in the southwest of Colombia has caused the country’s biggest environmental disaster in the past decade, said the country’s environment Minister on Thursday.
Alleged FARC rebels blew up a pipeline in the southeastern Nariño province on Monday, causing the spilling of more than 400,000 gallons of crude oil into nearby rivers, streams and mangroves.
. . .
Not only does the oil threaten the local ecosystem, it has cut off the water supply of the approximately 160,000 inhabitants of the town of Tumaco who depend on the polluted waters for their drinking water.
The FARC’s motive is thought to be a show of strength to force the government to agree to a bilateral cease-fire, something the Santos government has refused to do until a overall peace agreement has been signed, said Bruce Bagley, a Colombia specialist at the University of Miami.
. . .
Adam Isacson, a Colombia researcher at the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank in Washington, said that despite the upsurge in violence, the odds are good that the peace talks will continue, noting that slow but incremental progress has been made. But the future hinges on whether the attacks continue.
The talks have stalled over the issue of
whether FARC commanders will stand trial and serve prison time for crimes against humanity, a prospect the rebels reject.
To an outsider like myself, the latest actions from the FARC make the answer to that crystal-clear.
Spanish police arrest man who allegedly sent liquid heroin from Colombia to the United States by implanting it in puppies
More headlines from Venezuela:
Sources tell me Leopoldo Lopez may suspend his hunger strike. He won’t be long of this world if he persists in starving himself. UPDATE: Indeed, he ended his hunger strike.
There are multiple problems with that. First off, UNASUR – the Union of South American Nations – was founded by Chávez and is widely seen as pliant to the Venezuelan regime. What’s more, “accompaniment” is not “monitoring”.
Venezuela’s government is a complex web of interlocking political relationships built during chavista rule. Several groups and individuals merit closer observation to determine how Venezuela’s immediate future will develop. The first person to consider is Cabello. As National Assembly speaker, he stands to lose immunity if the opposition sweeps the December elections — a possibility that is growing more likely as a majority of opinion polls show the ruling party trailing the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable. Cabello faces an investigation for cocaine trafficking through Venezuela to the United States — a crime entailing potential arrest and extradition if Cabello loses his immunity. Consequently, Cabello has joined Maduro in reaching out to the United States on the modest goal of appointing ambassadors, and Cabello likely will remain involved in this outreach to reduce his personal risk. Initially, Cabello was publicly absent from the negotiations. But in the face of growing political challenges from Maduro, Cabello seems to have inserted himself in the negotiations for the long run.
It’s not clear that a leadership change in Caracas will negate the goodwill China has built up, since Maduro might be replaced by a colleague from the USP. The political opposition might come into power at some point, but the next presidential elections are far off, and it seems hardly likely that Maduro will survive that long. Of course, few would want the thankless task of attempting to clean up the mess that is Venezuela, which might be the only thing preventing a palace coup.
However, even if Maduro is replaced by someone in his party who regards China favorably, there will almost certainly be a demand for debt renegotiation, simply because the Venezuelans can’t afford to repay what they owe.
Authorities in Tamaulipas state take down surveillance cameras installed by secret gang (emphasis added)
Recently, police announced that they had taken down 39 hidden surveillance cameras installed by traffickers at key points around the city to monitor movements by law enforcement authorities, rival gangs and ordinary citizens.
. . . One local cartel – whose name has not been made public – has acknowledged that it set up 38 other cameras to closely follow movements made by the army, navy, police and prosecutors, according to an official statement.
Since the cartel itself has acknowledged it, why haven’t the authorities named it? Most likely, it would be either the Zetas or the Gulf cartel,
The region’s two most powerful drug organizations, the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, have long battled for control of Tamaulipas’s 17 border crossings to ship narcotics to the north.
Not that these 39 cameras were the first – back in May authorities took down 30 others.
In addition to [Interior Minister Tarek] Mr. El Aissami, other powerful officials under investigation include Hugo Carvajal, a former director of military intelligence; Nestor Reverol, the head of the National Guard; Jose David Cabello, Mr. Cabello’s brother, who is the industry minister and heads the country’s tax collection agency; and Gen. Luis Motta Dominguez, a National Guard general in charge of central Venezuela, say a half-dozen officials and people familiar with the investigations.
In an appearance on state television Wednesday, Mr. Cabello said he solicited a court-ordered travel ban on 22 executives and journalists from three Venezuelan news outlets that he has sued for publishing stories about the drug allegations earlier this year.
Jaime Bayly interviewed one, Miguel Henrique Otero, editor and director of El Nacional daily, last night (video in Spanish),
Because let us all be clear about one thing: this has happened because Hugo Chavez, the hero of the left, has allowed for it to happen, has encouraged it to happen. Diosdado did not come out of thin air. That maybe he became too strong for Chavez to control is another story, but Diosdado Cabello is a Chavez creation, just one of the cogs in the drug machinery that Chavez set up to help the FARC against Uribe. And the cogs are many, including noteworthy high ranking pieces like current Aragua state governor.
Daniel expects that
Diosdado Cabello will take down with him as many as he needs to take down. He will take the country down with him if he needs to.
the unraveling of the Suns Cartel has tremendous implications for the power balance within chavismo.
Nagel calculates it’s a US$27 billion/year enterprise, which was “was anything but clandestine, and anything but competent,” and
Maduro has an obvious choice: either tie his sinking presidency to the fate of clumsy, leaky, “stocky and bull-necked” (loved that) drug smugglers, or turn Diosdado and crew over and save face. And just what do you think the Cubans will suggest he do? Maduro’s handlers, after all, are the folks who murdered Arnaldo Ochoa.
Of course, this is all speculative, but if you think Maduro isn’t mulling what to do at this point, then I think you’re being naive.
Nagel has the perfect photo and caption in his post,