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Honduras and the Narco Islands!

English: West End of Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras

English: West End of Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Islands off the coasts of Honduras and Belize, two of the poorest Central American nations, offer drug traffickers respite and a ready-made labour force to move their product.

The 31 bales were hidden among a stack of rickety wood. For three days, they had been harassed by the Honduran navy in La Mosquitia, in the Caribbean, which was looking for the 775 kilos of cocaine that had arrived in Caratasca. The clues pointed to the brothers Kork Anderson and Antonio Oscarealis Wrist Lucas, who come from Roatan, the main enclave of the Bay Islands.

They had hidden the 25-foot boat, which had two 200-horsepower motors, in Cayos Vivorillo, a naval zone with many small islands that drug traffickers use. They were carrying eight barrels of fuel; they also left their ID’s at home.

“It was an intense operation with good results,” Minister of Defense Marlon Pascua announced after the seizure.

Pascua added that the drugs were on their way from the Bay Islands to the north of Honduras and then, most likely, to the United States. But Pascua knew the brothers would likely be freed and not face charges.

“Normally these people are released because of bad [police] procedures,” he admitted.

Honduras: The Sieve

As in Panama, the Honduras’ islands of Cayos Vivorillo, with little police or military oversight, are a regular Caribbean drug transit point. The area has more than ten little islands and sandbanks, which form part of the province Gracias a Dios on the border with Nicaragua.

According to the United States government, up to 80 per cent of the cocaine that transits Mexico goes through Honduras first. Over the last few months, drug traffickers have changed their routes in order to bring drugs into Honduras and then to the United States. This is part of what the United States labels the drug triangle: from Colombia to Honduras to Mexico.

The coastal route has scattered maritime access, and within Honduras authorities do not rule out the existence of mini-cartels on Roatan (the biggest island), Utila and Guanaja, in the Caribbean Sea; and in the south bordering Nicaragua. Honduras has gone from being a narco-bridge to a drug reservoir.

Under the pretext of promoting tourism, the Bay Islands have been left without a gatekeeper. The police are mostly absent, and much of the drugs trafficked by sea flows to the islands without the type of government vigilance as you see in other areas.

According to local officials, 90 per cent of the Honduran fishing fleet is concentrated in these three islands. But the fishermen have learned to swap shellfish and lobster for the drugs that come from Colombia, particularly San Andres, and the Colombian islands off the coast of Nicaragua.

The fishermen return to the Bay Islands without the fish, but with a lot of drugs. These drugs are also used to pay for the services of the local traffickers, producing small but important flows of micro trafficking in the country, and fomenting tourist and local consumption.

The problem repeats itself throughout the region: a neglected area, a forgotten and poverty stricken population, and a tourist market combine to create a drug haven. According to CEINCO – the Honduran Armed Forces Information Centre — there are sectors in La Mosquitia that participate in and cover up this activity. But the authorities cannot criminalize poverty.

All around them there are signs of the narco-influx. Suspected drug traffickers are buying properties in the provinces of Gracias a Dios, Colon and all along the Honduran Atlantic coast. Few seem to check the provenance of the cash used to buy these properties, which are often promoted by US real estate agencies.

Belize: The Hinge

Belize is the hinge. With islands located between the borders of Mexico and Guatemala, it has become a nest for drugs and weapons shipments that cross part of the Rio Hondo. This river traverses numerous islands and cays in the southeast where Mexican groups such as the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) operates. The BLO seems to thrive in places like this: they also operate in Acapulco and Cancun in Mexico.

Drug operations are focused on the jungles of Peten and Los Cayos — a chain of 450 small coral islands — where criminal groups traffic narcotics, people, weapons, wood and exotic animals.

The tourist island of Cozumel, considered to be one of the 18 connecting points for the movement of drugs to other parts of the country, is a clear example. The network of Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias “El Chapo,” is allegedly in charge of this stretch.

Belize seems to have been swallowed by its neighbours’ problems. In 2012, there were 146 murders in a country that only has a population of 321,115 people — a murder rate of 44 per 100,000 people, double that of Mexico.

Written by:  Lourdes Ramirez

 
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Posted by on 10/06/2013 in Crime!

 

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Mexican cartels growing operation in Northern Triangle of Central America

The diversion of precursor chemicals used to produce drugs has gained a growing importance in the Northern Triangle of Central America, formed by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras

marihuana_0The Mexican cartels exert a growing influence in Central America , a field of operation “very easy” for the diversion of precursor chemicals used in drug production, Costa Rican authorities warned today.

“The Mexican cartels are acting more active in the region,” said Emilia Ramirez, head of the Precursor Control Unit of the Costa Rican Drug Institute (ICD).

Ramirez said that even though Costa Rica “does not suffer the ravages of drug trafficking”, the process has gained a growing importance in the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America, formed by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras .

“It took a lot of strength in what is called Northern Triangle,” the official said on Tuesday at the “Seminar on Prevention of diversion of precursors and chemicals used in the illicit manufacture of drugs” in the Nations’ capital.

This seminar will examine actions to shore up coordination to respond to the phenomenon.

Ramirez said the cartels “is very easy to divert them precursors of the Northern Triangle, the controls are very weak and its proximity to Mexico.”

He added that Costa Rica “is trying to act preventively and not expect the problem to get our country.”

The event also involved the drug commissioner of Costa Rica, Mauritius Boraschi, who said that the seminar is organized in order to “strengthen and coordinate the efforts of the participating entities to improve the national response to the problem.”

The “diversion of chemical precursors and precursors for illicit drug manufacture transcends borders and has been spreading to neighboring countries, neighboring or not, drug-producing countries, “he said.

“That’s why we involve judges, prosecutors, police and experts involved in the issue of precursors, washing and issues related to the phenomenon of drugs,” said Boraschi.

 
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Posted by on 03/20/2013 in Crime!

 

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Mexican Drug cartels operating in 16 countries on the American Continent

In Mexico, the dispute over control of the territories being waged between eight drug cartels

operating throughout the country have consolidated their expansion projects and organized their cartels into a transnational presence and partnerships with local criminal groups from Canada to Brazil covering 16 countries in the Western hemisphere.

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Though the fight against drug trafficking undertaken by the Calderon government, in which 22 of the 37 most wanted leaders and operators have been detained-from March 2009 until today.

In recent years the eight Mexican cartels consolidated their internationalization presence. In a report by the PGR updated to August this year, reveals that Mexican transnational organizations have partnerships operating in 16 countries in the hemisphere .

“El Chapo”, with the largest or the Sinaloa cartel Pacific, led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, has hegemony. Until now has expanded its presence to 13 countries on the continent: Canada, United States, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Venezuela.

The closest competitors of the organization “El Chapo “are Gulf cartel and” Zetas “(formerly antagonistic allies and today), operating in a total of nine nations, as documented by the Mexican federal government sharing intelligence with the authorities in these countries.

Both groups are in the United States, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia and Bolivia, seeking to control territory. It has also documented the presence of “Los Zetas” in Honduras, Argentina and Brazil, while their rivals now Gulf cartel operating in Belize, Costa Rica and Peru.

The other criminal groups also have operations in some of these nations, but not at the same level. For example, the once powerful as the Arellano Felix cartel, is present only in the United States and Peru, while Juarez is on American soil, maintaining its alliances in Colombia, as well as Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, and has Argentina reached.

In this drug map, the recent criminal group “The Knights Templar“, which grew out of “The Family” in 2011, in just one year operates in the U.S., while the group from which emanated Michoacan has ramifications on U.S. soil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

Beltran Leyva, after separating from “El Chapo” hold its own network in the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia. Colombia remains, together with Bolivia and Peru, as the epicenter of the production of cocaine.

While Ecuador and Venezuela, see how the Mexican and Colombian cartels used as transit countries, with the consequences of violence on the rise, while Chile with Argentina-seen as a haven for the supply of precursor chemicals, are used as ports output to export the drug to Africa and Europe. Brazil is the largest consumer just Latin America, but also the largest supplier of chemical inputs to process cocaine.

Bruce Bagley, director of the Center for Latin American Studies, said that Mexican cartels are in control in the Andean region and the Northern market. “There is something very clear: instead of letting traded intermediary groups (drug), they (the Mexican narcos) are already hands in the dough.”

“We had no major problems capos here, and now, we speak here of cartels and mini-posters . The crops also appear in Zulia, Tachira, Apure. ” Hernan Matute , coordinator of the Drug Free Chair of the Institute of Caracas.”

This phenomenon of ‘paid assassins’ was not observed in Argentina, becomes a worrying situation that goes together with increased drug trafficking. ” Eduardo Amadeo , deputy national Peronist Front.

 
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Posted by on 09/18/2012 in Crime!, Mexican Drug Cartels

 

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Precursor drugs from China destined for Honduras seized in Mexico!

The seized substance came from China, bound for Honduras

Precursor drugs destined for Honduras seized
Precursor drugs destined for Honduras seized

Semar reported the incident in Michoacan, part of a joint operation in the port of Lazaro Cardenas

MEXICO CITY – Federal authorities said 748 barrels of precursor chemicals used in the preparation of various synthetic drugs, as part of a joint operation in the port of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, Semar reported. The Secretary of the Navy of Mexico (Semar) explained that the substance seized was in seven containers, where they stored barrels 136,250 kilograms of monomethylamine and methyl phenyl acetate, precursor chemicals used to manufacture synthetic drugs.

Precursors, coming from China and having a final destination of Honduras, were made available to the Public Prosecutor of the Federation of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, so AP/PGR/MICH/LC/074/2012 an investigation was opened.

The precursor chemicals are stored, at the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and the Tax Administration Service (SAT).

 
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Posted by on 05/14/2012 in Crime!, Drugs

 

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344 thousand children detected at the border of Central Chihuahua

 

travelling alone with no documentation

travelling alone with no documentation

344 thousand children detected at the border of Central Chihuahua

On average each day, four children alone trying to cross the border into the states have been deported by the authorities of the USA.

A total of 344 thousand American children traveling unaccompanied by an adult, and trying to reach the United States by the frontier of Chihuahua have been deported this year, immigration authorities.

The National Migration Institute (INM), through its delegate, Humberto Francisco Uranga Urias said that from January 2010 to November 2011 amounted to 2,959 foreign minors traveling alone detected and without documentation.

The average removals of children during the first 11 months of this year is four per day, while last year was five per day, and then were returned to their homes under 796 , he said.

According to figures from the INM, for the past 23 months have also been deported 23,942 adults who traveled to the states without documentation establishing their legal status, 70 percent of them from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Uriah Uranga reported that when a child is found traveling alone, INM specialized staff contacts the family through the embassies, to ensure they arrive safely to their places of origin.

The official pointed out how easy it is to visit Mexico and get even permanent residence, for even in the airports there INM modules where permits are issued.

The Institute reported that in the state of Chihuahua 7,500 legally resident foreign nationals from over 60 countries, mainly U.S. and Canada.

Uriah Uranga said that besides the above countries legally resident in Chihuahua native of China, Brazil, Kenya, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Egypt, France, Morocco, Cuba, El Salvador, Ukraine and 46 countries

 
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Posted by on 12/11/2011 in Human Trafficking

 

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New cocaine capital, Honduras!

the drug trail!

the drug trail!Image via Wikipedia

On Honduras’ swampy Mosquitia coast, entire villages have made a way of life off the country’s massive cocaine transshipment trade. In broad daylight, men, women and children descend on passing go-fast boats to offload bales of cocaine destined for the United States.

Along the Atlantic coast, the wealthy elite have accumulated dozens of ranches, yachts and mansions from the drug trade.

And in San Pedro Sula, local gangs moving drugs north have spawned armies of street-level dealers whose violence has given the rougher neighborhoods of the northern industrial city a homicide rate that is only comparable to Kabul, Afghanistan.

Long an impoverished backwater in Central America, Honduras has become a main transit route for South American cocaine.

“Honduras is the number one offload point for traffickers to take cocaine through Mexico to the U.S.,” said a U.S. law enforcement official who could not be quoted by name for security reasons. A U.S. State Department report released in March called Honduras “one of the primary landing points for South American cocaine.”

Almost half of the cocaine that reaches the United States is now offloaded somewhere along the country’s coast and heavily forested interior – a total of 20 to 25 tons each month, according to U.S. and Honduran estimates.

Authorities intercept perhaps 5 percent of that, according to calculations by The Associated Press based on official estimates of flow and seizures.

The flow is hard to stem, said Alfredo Landaverde, a former adviser to the Honduran security ministry, because there are few other sources of cash income here.

“We have to recognize that this society is very vulnerable,” Landaverde said. “This is a country permeated by corruption, among police commanders, businessmen, politicians.”

The country’s isolated, impoverished Atlantic coast, remote ranches and largely unguarded border with Guatemala – where much of the cocaine is taken – also make it a haven for traffickers.

“When the traffickers are unloading a go-fast boat in (the Atlantic coast province of) Gracias a Dios, you can sometimes see 70 to 100 people of all ages out there helping unload it,” said the U.S. law enforcement official. “The traffickers look for support among local populations.”

In the past year, authorities seized 12 tons of cocaine, according to the Honduran government – a vast improvement from previous years, but still a small portion of the estimated 250 to 300 tons that come through annually.

Most of the cocaine arrives in Honduras via the sea, in speedboats, fishing vessels and even submersibles. In July, the U.S. Coast Guard, with Honduras’ help, detained one such craft that had been plying the waters with about 5 tons of cocaine per trip.

Fishermen who once worked catching lobster now look instead for a much more prized catch, the so-called “white lobster” – bales of cocaine jettisoned by drug traffickers to either escape detection or to be picked up by another boat.

Honduras is also by far the region’s biggest center for airborne smuggling. Of the hundreds of illicit flights northward out of South America, 79 percent land in Honduras, said the U.S. official. Ninety-five percent of those flights hail from Venezuela, which also has become a link for cocaine produced elsewhere.

Landing aircraft in Honduras was once so profitable and planes so easy to get that traffickers would sometimes simply offload the drugs and burn the aircraft, rather than take off again from dangerously rudimentary clandestine landing strips.

Last year, however, they started reusing the planes to ferry loads of bulk cash back to Colombia, the U.S. State Department report said. Authorities found one load of $9 million in U.S. cash stuffed in plastic bags in the trunk of a car, and millions at a time in suitcases at local airports.

Earlier this year, as aircraft became more difficult to obtain, traffickers stole a military plane from the San Pedro Sula army base on the Atlantic coast, said Landaverde, adding that soldiers were accomplices to the theft.

“The plane is left outside,” he said. “Some guys turn it on and take off. Nobody leaves a plane like that, ready to fly.” In fact, one of the soldiers involved in that incident was later arrested in September with other ex-soldiers as they allegedly waited to meet a drug flight on the country’s Atlantic coast.

It is not just poverty-stricken fishermen and corrupt soldiers who are the beneficiaries of the emergent cocaine republic. Last week, authorities seized 13 luxurious homes and ranches and 17 boats in the first such mass raid since the country enacted a drug-properties seizure law in 2010. All were owned by local people.

Key members of the region’s business community who have hotel, real estate and retail holdings have been named as associates of the cartels, often for money laundering. Nor are the drug trade’s ripple effects restricted to the coast.

Copan, a Guatemalan border province popular with tourists because of its Mayan ruins, is a lawless area dominated by business interests tied to the drug trade, said a radio station owner who asked not to be quoted by name for security reasons.

“These people move without shame in politics and the business world,” the station owner said. “They are involved in large-scale businesses in tourism. This region has been separated from the nation’s territory. It is their lair.”

At the other end of the economic spectrum are local street gangs, who are often paid in drugs as well as cash to move drugs north. Their ranks are growing and competition among them has pushed up the country’s escalating homicide rate to one of the highest in the world.

The country of 7.7 million people saw 6,200 killings in 2010. That’s the equivalent of 82.1 homicides per 100,000 people – well above the 66 per 100,000 in neighboring El Salvador.

Others are becoming players in the bulk trade, the U.S. official said, remarking that, “Lately, we’ve seen some gangs that will purchase the cocaine and resell it.”

The high volume of drugs coupled with the alarming homicide rate is tough to address in a nation where many police and army officers are working with drug gangs.

Corrupt law enforcement officials had a fierce foe in the person of former Honduran Security Minister Oscar Alvarez, who was fired by President Porfirio Lobo in September after proposing a law to purge the police force of corrupt cops.

Alvarez had said publicly that some corrupt police essentially act as air traffic controllers for the drug flights. When a suspected drug flight was detected in August, Alvarez was quoted by a local newspaper as saying that two police officials not assigned to the district were in the area – their cellphone signals were traced to the control tower where the plane landed.

Alvarez claimed he was fired because of his campaign to clean up the police force, saying, “It was easier to get rid of a minister than to get rid of a corrupt cop.”

But his replacement, Pompeyo Bonilla, said that given Honduras’ highly protective labor laws, a mass firing of police officers probably would have been quickly followed by the reinstatement of many.

He also claimed that Alvarez overstepped his authority by sending his proposed police cleanup law to congress without even telling Lobo.

“The president heard about it on television,” Bonilla said.

Alvarez, who left for the United States soon after his dismissal, was not available for an interview, according to an unidentified woman who answered his U.S. cellphone number.

U.S. Ambassador Lisa Kubiske said she expects to work well with Bonilla. “President Lobo’s administration is totally serious about fighting the cartels,” Kubiske said. “When you talk to them, counternarcotics is almost the first word out of their mouths.”

Alvarez was accustomed to dropping bombshells, including the claim that fugitive Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman had visited Honduras’ border region next to Guatemala.

In March, police under Alvarez’s command raided a remote mountain lab in northeastern Honduras. Alvarez said the lab processed cocaine from the paste of partly processed coca leaves, the first time that would have been done outside South America and an ominous development for Honduras. The lab, however, had apparently not yet been put to use.

Bonilla said the lab was a small one, quickly dismantled, and no other such lab has been discovered in Honduras. “We are rather more a transit route” than a producer or processor, Bonilla said.

Some doubt the lab was intended to process coca paste; it may have been simply dedicated to cutting and repackaging imported cocaine, which is usually cut many times before it reaches the street.

“We haven’t seen any evidence of cocaine processing taking place in Honduras so far,” the U.S. official said, adding, “Twelve thousand kilos of cocaine were seized in Honduras this year, and we haven’t seen a single ounce of cocaine paste.”

 
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Posted by on 10/31/2011 in Crime!, Drugs, Mexican Drug Cartels

 

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Reynerio Flores the most notorious and important leaders of Perrones!

Reynerio Flores Lazo

While Reynerio Flores may still be under house arrest, he remains one of the most notorious and important leaders of Perrones, one of the most significant cocaine smuggling gangs in the El Salvador – Honduras corridor.

Like many of his fellow leaders of Los Perrones, Flores has humble beginnings in the world of Salvadoran crime: a native of the eastern border region, he started out bringing water in from Honduras by mule. He later linked up with other veterans of logistical networks that moved milk, cheese, and other basic staples across the Honduran border to form Perrones, which was also called the “Cartel de los Quesos.”

The Perrones have become one of the most important groups of “transportistas” thanks to their ability to slip shipments of drugs past the Honduran border and the Guatemalan borders, where they deliver loads to Mexican groups like the Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel. The group helps transport cocaine into the country via overland routes, through other Central American nations, in an armada of trucks owned by Flores’ trucking company.

Flores has long been fingered as one of the foremost leaders of the Perrones, and has attracted the interest of various foreign security agencies. He was first pointed out as a smuggler by Salvadoran customs officials in 2001. In 2004, Costa Rican authorities sent a report to their Salvadoran colleagues accusing Flores of running cocaine through the country with his trucking company. Nicaraguan officials also pressured Salvadoran authorities about Flores activities around the same time. By 2007, with the pressure mounting, Salvadoran prosecutors had begun to build a case against Flores.

After fleeing imminent arrest in his home country, Flores was arrested in 2009 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on charges of drug trafficking, and later extradited to El Salvador. Today he is under house arrest, and the case against him appears to on the verge of collapse.

 
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Posted by on 10/08/2011 in Crime!, Drugs

 

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