Archive for the ‘drugs’ Category

Puerto Rico: rising volume of drugs coming from Venezuela UPDATED

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

The Economist has a report on Drugs trafficking in the Caribbean
Full circle
An old route regains popularity with drugs gangs

The final destination is likely to be North America or Europe, sometimes via West Africa. Puerto Rico is a way-station, physically in the Caribbean but within United States’ customs barriers. The French territories of Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana do the same for Europe

Clink on the map for the full article:

UPDATE:
One thing that has been bothering me since I posted this is how the map shows no information on Cuba. Are we to believe Cuba is not involved in drug trafficking?

Mexico: Vigilantes not disarming

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Imagine, if you may, that you live in a country with some of the most stringent firearms laws in our hemisphere. A country with police so corrupt that the government over the drug enforcement function to the marines. A police so impotent with the local drug lords that you and your neighbors, out of desperation, have armed yourselves illegally, and driven out the local drug gang.

Now the government wants you to turn in your guns.

Would you?

Hell, no.

So the compromise was to register the weapons and an invitation to join a new rural police force:

Mexico vigilantes register weapons, are to disband

For the first time in modern Mexican history, an armed civilian band has ejected a drug cartel from its environs. For now, members of the so-called Knights Templar are lying low, challenged by rebelling citizens — including some who have returned to their families’ homes from California — finally fed up with unrelenting extortion, kidnapping, arson, rapes and killings.
. . .
Saturday was the federally imposed deadline in Michoacan for thousands of “self-defense” forces, as they call themselves, to register their weapons and formally disband. They are being allowed to keep their handguns and assault weapons (but no rocket launchers or bazookas) and will be invited to join a new rural police force. As of the weekend, at least 3,316 people had signed up and more than 6,000 weapons were registered.

That too is unprecedented; no other Mexican state allows ordinary citizens to legally retain AK-47s and other military-style assault weapons.

Mexico Tries to Demobilize Vigilante Movement
Mexico is trying to demobilize a vigilante movement of assault-rifle-wielding ranchers and farmers that succeeded in largely expelling the Knights Templar drug cartel from their area when authorities couldn’t.

The new rural forces are designed to be a way out of an embarrassing situation, in which elected leaders and law enforcement agencies lost control of the state to the pseudo-religious Knights Templar drug cartel. Efforts to retake control with federal police and military failed. Eventually government forces had to rely on the vigilantes because of their knowledge of where to find the cartel gunmen.

Since the commissioner, Alfredo Castillo, was named in January, federal forces have arrested or killed three of the main leaders of the Knights Templar. The fourth, Servando “La Tuta” Gomez, is in hiding and rumored to be in the rugged hills outside his hometown of Arteaga.

But the vigilante movement has been plagued by divisions, and its general council dismissed one of the founders, Dr. Jose Manuel Mireles, as its spokesman earlier this week because of an unauthorized video he released directed at President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Meanwhile, no one is giving up their guns, even assault weapons prohibited under Mexican law.

Here’s Mireles’s YouTube (in Spanish):

Mireles alleges that his police protection was ceased due to his criticisms of the government.

Meanwhile, this local report alleges that some of the vigilantes are protecting and transporting Servando Gómez Martínez “La Tuta”, leader of the Knights Templar (video in Spanish). Allegedly a meeting of the Knights and “los Viagras” – yes, really – vigilantes took place on May 5th, at a place the federal police knew about (9:00 into the video).

The man being interviewed alleges that Mireles was dismissed for not colluding with the Knights.

Slide show here.

Colombia: Santos campaign chief resigns

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Today’s top news in Latin America:
J.J. Rendón, who has managed some of the most successful political campaigns in Latin America (and the failed campaign for Henrique Capriles in Venezuela, which he did pro-bono), has resigned as campaign manager for Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos on allegations that Rendón had negotiated with drug traffickers an offer to surrender in 2011 and shut down their operations.

Who is J.J. Rendón?

Rendón is THE topmost campaign advisor in Latin America. He plays to win, and plays hardball. Here’s his talk on neo-totalitarianism:

Who is the accuser?
The man making the accusations, Javier Antonio Calle, was one of Colombia’s most hunted drug traffickers. He turned himself in to the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2012 and is now in jail in the U.S.

The firestorm:
Since Colombia is holding a presidential election on May 25, this has generated a political firestorm.

Adding to the fire, there’s also the 18-month old FARC negotiations in Havana, Rendón’s opposition to Chavismo (he’s Venezuelan), and speculation as to what role international players may have had in the release of this news. One may also have to consider Calle’s motivations, too.

The Espectador story:
Last Sunday El Espectador newspaper published an article claiming that Rendón was given $12 million for submitting a proposal to end 90% the country’s lucrative drug trade

According to El Espectador, the former drug lord, Javier Antonio Calle, alias “Comba,” has told prosecutors that several of the country’s drug traffickers made ​​a deal in 2011 with Rendon in order to submit the proposal to the government.

The proposal outlined a route to shutting down 90% of Colombia’s drug trade, with the surrender of top capos and their henchmen. Among those who participated in the proposal were some of Colombia’s top drug lords, such as Luis Enrique Calle, alias “Comba,” alias “Cuchillo,” Diego Rastrojo, and Loco Barrera.

The 2011 document called ”Agenda for solving the problem of drug trafficking and the violence it generates,” allegedly shows that Rendon officiated as a general strategist for the proposal, which was facilitated by former ELN guerrillas Francisco Galan and Jorge Castañeda. Other sources consulted by El Espectador confirmed that Rendon was actively involved in creating the plan.

Rendon subsequently told El Espectador that there was no exchange of money, that he “acted as a simple messenger”. He insists that he only recently learned the details of the proposal, adding that he will take legal action in response to the allegations.

In the dossier held by El Espectador, Rendon is described as the “general strategist” charged with “damage control, crisis management and facilitator of the negotiations.”

When asked by the journalist Daniel Coronell of Semana Magazine if money had been involved, Rendon replied that, “if there was money involved it must have been in the hands of those who put him in touch with representatives of the narcos: the then senior presidential advisor for political affairs German Chica.”

Rendón has tweeted seven points in response, which I translate (Rendón’s tweets posted below the fold)

1. I received from F[rancisco] Galán a request to communicate to the Government the illegal groups’ proposal to submit to justice.

2. I communicated to Mr. President @JuanManSantos in the presence of prosecutor @Viviane_Morales and General Naranjo their intention.

3. Mr. President @JuanManSantos requested that I channel to the Prosecutor’s Office the documents of that intention to submit to justice.

4. So I did: transparently and officially. With the document # 2011-100-001832-3 dated 7/5/2011 at the General Prosecutor’s Office (Despacho de la Fiscal General).

5. The document was on the hands of the competent authority, for study and follow-up. That was the extent of my part in that matter.

6. I firmly insist that I have not received any money, stipend or benefit, and I dare anyone who says I have to prove it.

7. I am fully willing to collaborate with the competent authorities to clarify anything they may consider relevant, as always!

Uribe’s tweets:
Former president Álvaro Uribe, who is staunchly opposed to negotiations with the narcoterrorists, in turn tweeted,

Pres. Santos has been carrying a long dialogue with ELN in spite of that terrorist organization’s continuous crime, adding it to the FARC’s impunity.”

and,

Pres. Santos announces reform to Prosecutor’s [Office] on the day they ordered to investigate him.”

My question:
Never mind Santos; Who gains the most by taking down Rendón?

(more…)

Ecuador: Adiós, Security Cooperation Office

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Ecuador Expels Pentagon Group Attached to U.S. Embassy
Move Further Strains Relationship Between Correa, Obama Administrations

Ecuador has ordered 20 U.S. Defense Department employees attached to the U.S. Embassy in Quito to leave the country next week, U.S. officials confirmed, further straining an already rocky relationship between President Rafael Correa and the Obama administration.
. . .
In January, Mr. Correa had said that Pentagon workers were used to “infiltrate” Ecuador. The order ousting the Americans came days after Mr. Correa wrapped up a U.S. tour that included talks at Yale and Harvard universities and television interviews where he described himself as a “modern socialist” who wanted to improve relations with the U.S.

While the above article mentions that

Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas policy group in Washington, said the number of embassy officials Ecuador ordered to leave is noteworthy. “In the past, it has been limited to kicking out an attaché or a couple of officials but this is clearly designed to get attention,” Mr. Farnsworth said. “There will have to be a tit-for-tat retaliation. There will have to be some kind of response.”

the AP reporter says

As there is no accusation of espionage, U.S reciprocation is not anticipated.

Correa threw them out because there were ‘too many of them.’

A lack of response from the U.S. will signal further erosion of American influence in our hemisphere.

In other Ecuador news, Correa is refusing to accept more funding from USAID, since they are required to utilize the funds to promote gay marriage acceptance in the predominantly Catholic country.

Over in Germany, police have 265lb of cocaine hidden among crates of bananas in a container shipped from Ecuador – their second big seizure of the drug from South America this year.

UPDATE:
Linked to by Pirate’s Cove. Thank you!


Colombia: Santos throws the towel

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Methinks he’s really hankering for a Nobel Peace Prize:
Colombian President Santos Seeks New Path on Drug War
Leader Says He Hopes for Breakthrough on Drug War in Peace Talks With FARC Guerrillas

The Colombian leader, who faces a critical re-election test in May, said that an important breakthrough in the war on drugs would be achieved if, as expected, negotiators for his government and for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, reach an agreement on stamping out drug trafficking by the guerrillas, the third point in a proposed peace plan.

The FARC, which the U.S. considers to be a terrorist and drug trafficking organization, relies heavily on cocaine trafficking to finance its activities. The two sides have been locked in tough negotiations for the last 17 months in Havana to end the five-decade guerrilla insurgency.

“I expect to reach an agreement on that third point in the near future,” he said. If the FARC stops drug trafficking and becomes a partner with the government in eradicating drugs, it would have “enormous implications repercussions for Colombia and the world,” he said.

It sounds like Santos believes that the FARC will throw away its hugely profitable main source of revenues, everybody will hold hands, and a choir of potheads stoned on legal pot will Kumbaya as peace breaks out all over the land.

Forgive my cynicism, dear reader, but I visualize a slightly different scenario: The FARC signs whatever agreement will get them into congress (since Santos wants them in congress without being elected), legalizes all its drug activities consolidating power, and Colombia kisses the rule of law good-bye.

Álvaro Uribe’s not buying Santos’s tripe:
Pres. Santos forgot to tell the BBC that he promised secure democracy and he has allowed terrorism to advance

Mexico’s Radio Tecnico: How The Zetas Cartel Took Over Mexico With Walkie-Talkies

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Fascinating article in Popular Science on Radio Tecnico: How The Zetas Cartel Took Over Mexico With Walkie-Talkies
Inside the communications infrastructure of the ultraviolent syndicate

Why walkie-talkies? To enable communication even in locations without cellular service.

How Jose Luis Del Toro Estrada was tapped to develop the covert radio network also remains a mystery, but as his system grew, it supplied the Zetas with what’s called a command-and-control capacity. “It essentially linked all the different members of the cartel—the people doing the trafficking and the people doing the protection—so there was a communication between them,” says Pike, the DEA special agent. Armed with handheld radios, the cartel’s street-corner halcones, or hawks, could help commanders avoid arrest by alerting them whenever police set up checkpoints. A midlevel boss in Nuevo Laredo could monitor a semitruck carrying several tons of cocaine as it trundled across the border into Texas. Most crucially, Zetas gunmen could use the system to attack and seize plazas, or smuggling corridors, held by other drug gangs.

And,

The Zetas’ military training and ultraviolent tactics were crucial for propelling their rise to power, but one other factor was essential: After splitting from the Gulf Cartel, it was the Zetas who maintained control of the radio network.

Read the whole thing.

Venezuela-Cuba Military Cooperation and the Narco-Terrorist Connection

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Pedro Roig writes on Venezuela-Cuba Military Cooperation and the Narco-Terrorist Connection
Key Figures at the Head of the Oppressive Alliance

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Castro regime was in dire need of cash that would replace the Soviet subsidies. During this period, drug trafficking routes involving Nicaragua and Panama became prime operational areas. These drug trafficking links surfaced in the indictment against Carlos Lehder who admitted meeting with Raul Castro to coordinate drug shipments. Lehder also testified in the Southern District of Florida that Cuba controlled cocaine trafficking in Nicaragua.

The Cuba-Venezuela Drug-Trafficking Connection

In 1999, Hugo Chávez’s rise to power in Venezuela changed the Castro brother’s focus to South America. The Cuban government became not only interested in the large subsidies provided to them by Chávez’s government but also on the profitable drug trafficking routes already existent on the Colombia-Venezuela border. Cuba’s prior involvement in narcotics trafficking proved to be a valuable component in a growing partnership between Colombian and Venezuelan drug cartels

Read the rest here.

You can read a transcript of Cuba and Cocaine here.

Mexico: How Chapo was nabbed

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014


Alfredo Corchado, Mexico Bureau Chief for the Dallas Daily News, and one of the foremost experts in the subject, relates how Mexico nabs top drug kingpin in operation with U.S. without firing a shot. Also important is the timeline,

TIMELINE: Detentions and killings of reputed Mexican drug kingpins

Top Mexican drug cartel captures or killings in recent years:

SATURDAY: Authorities said Mexican and U.S. officials captured the world’s most powerful drug lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, in the beach resort of Mazatlán.

JULY 15, 2013: Authorities in northern Mexico captured Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, alias “40,” leader of the brutal Zetas cartel.

OCT. 7, 2012: Mexican marines killed Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, alias “El Lazca,” a founder and top leader of the Zetas. His body was later stolen from a funeral home. Treviño Morales took over the Zetas.

OCT. 6, 2012: Mexican marines arrested alleged Zetas regional leader Salvador Alfonso Martínez Escobedo, who was suspected of involvement in massacres and the killing of U.S. citizen David Hartley in 2010 on Falcon Lake, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border.

SEPT. 12, 2012: Mexican marines captured purported top Gulf cartel leader Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez, alias “El Coss.” U.S. authorities had offered a $5 million reward for his arrest.

DEC. 9, 2010: Mexican federal police killed Nazario Moreno González, leader of La Familia Michoacana cartel, during a gunfight in the village of El Alcalde. His body was never recovered, and rumors have persisted that Moreno, known as “the Craziest One,” is still alive.

JULY 29, 2010: Mexican army troops raided a house in the town of Zapopán and killed Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, one of the top leaders of the Sinaloa cartel.

DEC. 16, 2009: Mexican marines killed Arturo Beltrán Leyva, leader of the Beltrán Leyva cartel, in a shootout in Cuernavaca.

Read the whole article, buy Corchado’s book.

Related:
Will El Chapo Rule From Prison?

Mexico: El Chapo caught

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

El Chapo, Most-Wanted Drug Lord, Is Captured in Mexico

Mr. Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel is considered the largest and most powerful trafficking organization in the world, with a reach as far as Europe and Asia, and has been a main combatant in a spasm of violence that has left tens of thousands dead in Mexico.

How investigators turned the screw on ‘El Chapo’

On Feb. 13, a man known as “19,” whom officials called the new chief of assassins for Zambada, was arrested with two other men on the highway to the coastal resort city of Mazatlan. Four days later, a man described as a member of the Sinaloa cartel’s upper ranks was seized along with 4,000 hollowed-out cucumbers and bananas stuffed with cocaine. In the middle of this week, a 43-year-old known by the nickname “20″ and described as Zambada’s chief of security, was arrested transporting more cocaine-stuffed produce.

By the middle of the week at least 10 Sinaloa henchmen had been seized.

A U.S. law enforcement official said Saturday that at least some were actually security for Guzman, and authorities used them to obtain information that helped lead to the head of the cartel.

The article says that US DEA and Marshals Service were “heavily involved” in the capture.

As Allies Fell, Noose Closed on ‘El Chapo’ Guzman

Mexico: Michoacán vigilantes to join with police

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

and El Tio, one of the Knights Templar bosses, was arrested,
Mexico Reaches Pact With Vigilante Groups
Self-Defense Groups in Michoacán State Agree to Join Rural, Town Police as Security Forces Capture a Top Cartel Leader

Since the government intervened two weeks ago, federal forces have detained more than 100 people, but the detainees hadn’t included any of the top leaders of the Knights Templar, which takes its name from a medieval organization of crusading warrior monks. The vigilantes have demanded the government capture the Templars’ top leaders as a prerequisite for their laying down their arms.

Aside from their drug profits, the Knights Templar made tens of millions of dollars from extorting Michoacán’s lime and avocado growers, cattlemen, hoteliers and other businessmen. Many of the state’s towns and cities were forced to give a 10% cut of their budget to the criminal organization, local officials say.

El Tío, Dionisio Loya Plancarte, is not to be confused with this other Tío,