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In search for Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán

MEXICO CITY –

Chapo Sinaloa Lady

Mexican Marines are nipping at the heels of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s – or at least that’s what the minister overseeing the Marines believes.

Since Oct. 6, thousands of soldiers have been sent to the area known as Mexico’s “Golden Triangle,” the remote, mountainous region where the states of Chihuahua, Durango and Sinaloa converge.

Most of them parachuted in.

The operation was reportedly triggered by information provided to Mexican authorities by U.S. drug agents who were monitoring cell phone activity.

Around 200 people from the region, presumably scared of getting caught in the crossfire between the Marines and the Sinaloa Cartel’s sicarios, have fled to the town of Cosalá.

“The Marines told us that they want to capture the Lord,” they told reporters, and mentioned talking about soldiers attacking civilians.

“People are frightened,” Cosalá’s representative in the state legislature, Lucero Sánchez López, told TV reporters, adding that at least eight people were missing.

The most interesting fact about Sánchez  is that she has been identified by the Mexican press and the Attorney General’s office, as Chapo’s newest lover and the mother of his youngest child, an allegation she has consistently denied.

For its part, SEMAR says there haven’t been any civilian attacks, but it doesn’t deny that the Marines are carrying out an operation in that sector of Sinaloa and across the state line in Durango – a state that’s governed by Ricardo Ochoa, whose sister, Emma Coronel, happens to be Chapo’s current wife.

The presumed romantic relationship between the 57-year-old Guzmán – the world’s most wanted drug kingpin – and a 26-year-old, thick-lipped and light-haired member of the National Action Party (PAN) – has spread ever since June, when it was first reported that she visited Chapo in Altiplano prison, some 55 miles from Mexico City, in May when she was pregnant.

At the time, authorities at the prison lodged a complaint with PGR saying that Chapo received a visit from a woman who used a fake ID who was not his wife. For her part, Sánchez says that the woman photographed with the drug lord isn’t her.

The newspaper Excélsior, suggested that Sánchez first met Chapo in 2013, at a party in the Golden Triangle that both attended. A few months later, her former husband and the father of her two sons, Rubén Chavez, 27, was shot to death.

A few days after Chapo’s second escape from a Mexican high-security prison in July, the Attorney General’s office (PGR in its Spanish acronym) leaked to the media a statement by one of Guzmán Loera’s attorneys confirming that Sánchez  visited his client to discuss details of where and how their child would be raised.

A veteran columnist from El Universal newspaper, Ricardo Alemán, wrote, “Very little is known for a fact about Chapo’s children … What we do know is that Chapo’s youngest kid is the son of Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López, presently a deputy in the Sinaloa Congress from the 16th district of Cosalá.”

He added, “It is also known that Mrs. Sánchez became deputy in the state congress by virtue of Chapo’s influence in Cosalá.”

Sánchez continues to deny having a relationship with Chapo. At a session of the Sinaloa Congress in July, she said the topic was “ridiculous” and condemned  the PGR’s “coarse leaks” and said she intended to “file a claim with the [Mexican] Human Rights Commission for defamation and moral injury to me, my children and the rest of my family.”

It isn’t known whether she has filed any claim or if she has been called into the PGR for questioning. Chapo’s wife, with whom the kingpin has twin daughters, has not made any public statement on the matter.

PAN leaders have stated that Sánchez will be removed from her post if it proves that she did, in fact, visit Chapo at Altiplano.

Whether or not Sánchez is involved with Chapo, few people doubt that he’s in the Golden Triangle. What’s less clear is that Mexico’s forces will be able to catch him a third time.

“There’s hardly any other place where he could feel more secure than the Golden Triangle, where he has not only friends but family and social protection,” analyst José Reveles, author of the Spanish-language book, “El Chapo: Surrender and Treason,” told Fox News Latino.

Gardenia Mendoza is a freelance reporter in Mexico City.

 
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Posted by on 10/17/2015 in Crime!, Mexican Drug Cartels

 

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Asia the Next target for the Drug Cartels

Mexican soldiers unload bundles of seized marijuana before incinerating the drugs at a military base in Tijuana, Mexico.

David Maung | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mexican soldiers unload bundles of seized marijuana before incinerating the drugs at a military base in Tijuana, Mexico.

Latin American drug syndicates are sweeping into Asia, spurred by growing wealth, regional trade pacts that ease smuggling and some of the highest margins on offer.

Growth in the drugs trade, a significant part of an illicit economy worth more than $100 billion a year in east Asia alone, has led to a rapid rise in seizures: 254 million methamphetamine pills, for example, were intercepted in east and Southeast Asia in 2013 — a more than eight fold increase in just five years.

Officials warn that Asian law enforcement authorities are ill-equipped to cope with the rapid rise of drugs being smuggled across increasingly porous borders.

“Police and customs officials in Asia don’t often have connections in the Americas and have little knowledge of what may be coming their way,” said Jeremy Douglas, regional representative for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. “They don’t operate internationally. They’re about to have to.”

For those who are caught, the risks outweigh the rewards, with the death penalty operating for drugs offences in several Asian jurisdictions.

The Philippines, which has debated introducing the death sentence for drug offences, is the test bed for a pioneering case next month, when Mexican national Horatio Hernandez Herrera appears in court accused of being a high-ranking member of the notorious Sinaloa drugs cartel.

At a regional meeting in Bangkok last month, representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations raised red flags, saying that despite the potential for economic growth and trade, the region’s rapidly increasing connectivity could leave borders vulnerable to transnational trafficking and smuggling.

“Strengthening skills, capacity and cross-border co-operation among border and port security agencies is therefore essential to counter rapidly evolving transnational crime challenges,” said Jakkrit Srivali, a top official with Thailand’s foreign affairs ministry.

 

Growing wealth in Asia has translated into heightened demand for cocaine, with emerging pockets of consumption, trafficking and trade, according to a report last year from the UN office.

Mexico’s infamous Sinaloa cartel, whose head Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán staged a sensational jailbreak last month, has been pinpointed as a key supplier by authorities across Asia-Pacific.

The Jalisco New Generation cartel, an aggressive newcomer to Mexico’s drug wars that achieved notoriety in recent months after shooting down a military helicopter, is also targeting markets in Hong Kong and Japan, according to Canacintra, a Mexican business chamber.

“The severe penalties, such as life imprisonment or even the death penalty, for traffickers caught in Asia are reflected in the exorbitant price of the drugs there,” organisation president Rodrigo Alpízar Vallejo told media in Mexico.

Asia-Pacific economies offer much higher profit margins than the cartel’s traditional markets. In Hong Kong, a kilogramme of cocaine can sell for up to three times the price it would in the US. In Australia, it can be as much as six times, according to police and experts.

Meanwhile, according to financial crime investigators, the cartels will be closely studying regional trade deals, such as the landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership, for clues about the liberalisation of certain routes or the reduction of tariffs on certain goods, which could be used to hide contraband and assist in the trade-based repatriation of smuggling profits.

“Anything that is going to increase the volume of trade, the efficacy of trade, is also going to increase the opportunity and bandwidth of criminals to move their products and launder funds,” said Bill Majcher, who worked with American and Canadian federal police.

“Over the past few decades I have seen a dramatic increase in trade-based laundering closely correlated with the opening up of transnational trade zones and treaties,” said another investigator, who asked to remain anonymous due to ongoing operations.

Robert Evan Ellis, professor of Latin American Studies at the US Army War College and an expert on the region’s relations with China, said the deal would “expand opportunities for transpacific organised crime by increasing trade volume, and the number of banks and companies doing transpacific transactions”.

However, he noted that regional ties fostered by the deal would “indirectly help increase law enforcement and transpacific legal frameworks that will help combat the cartels”.

Credit; Bryan Harris Financial Times

 
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Posted by on 09/25/2015 in Crime!, Mexican Drug Cartels

 

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New U.S. Immigration laws make Kidnapping More Profitable!

New U.S. Immigration laws make Kidnapping More Profitable!

Repost: Criminal groups in Mexico have kidnapped and extorted migrants for years, but their ability to prey upon people embarking on the perilous journey to the United States may well be inadvertently facilitated by the very policies intended to keep migrants out: border security.

A recent feature story in the New Yorker magazine details how heavy policing of traditional border crossing routes has pushed migrants to use more dangerous pathways through the Arizona and Texas deserts.

Not only has this US strategy of “deterrence through prevention” increased the risks that migrants face, but so has the evolution of the human smuggling trade at the border. While smugglers, or “coyotes,” used to work alone or in small, family-run networks, as the price of crossing the border has gone up — from $6,000 to over $8,000, according to the Dallas Morning News — transnational criminal groups have moved in. These groups are increasingly kidnapping migrants and holding them for ransom, until family members in the United States or Central America cough up thousands for their freedom.

The New Yorker also found that migrant kidnappings happen on the US side of the border as well, not just in Mexico. In both countries, migrants are reluctant to report kidnappings and extortion for fear of being deported, although the United States has laws that protect witnesses in criminal cases from deportation.

As one aid worker told the New Yorker, “When organized crime kidnaps somebody rich, the media and police mobilize. Then the criminals feel the heat. So they realized that, rather than doing one big, flashy kidnapping of someone rich and powerful, it would be better to do a hundred small kidnappings of migrants whom nobody pays attention to.”

As the New Yorker details, there are two primary reasons why migrants crossing into the US are increasingly at risk. The first is that border security apparatus in the United States has made illegally crossing more dangerous and more expensive. Secondly, the fragmentation of Mexico‘s traditional criminal groups means that migrants are now seen as another revenue source.

A 2013 report from the Washington Office on Latin America found that the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas orchestrated a full takeover of the “mom and pop” coyote businesses along US-Mexico border. While the Sinaloa Cartel tends to be less violent, the Zetas are especially renowened for extorting and kidnapping migrants, and killing those who do not pay up.

According to Mexico‘s statistics agency, there were 682 reported migrant kidnappings in 2014, a 1000 percent increase from the year before. While the rise could be due to better compilation of data, another potential explanation is that some Mexican border states, like Tamaulipas, are Zeta strongholds and remain racked by insecurity.

 
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Posted by on 05/02/2015 in Crime Watch, Crime!

 

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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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Dolly Cifuentes linked with Joaquin El Chapo Guzman arraigned

An alleged Colombian drug trafficker accused of having ties to the Mexican organization Joaquin ” El Chapo “Guzman, the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, appeared before a federal judge in Miami on Monday , but the hearing was held behind closed doors by order of the judge.

Colombian Drug trafficker associated with Joaquin " El Chapo "Guzman,

Colombian Drug trafficker associated with Joaquin ” El Chapo “Guzman,

Immediately after the hearing started with Dolly Cifuentes , Judge Joan Lenard ordered the audience leave the room. Only a few people were present, including the defendant, her attorney Bonnie Klapper, prosecutor Andrea Hoffman, one interpreter and several policemen.

According to court records contained in the online system of the federal courts, Cifuentes Villa was due to Lenard to change the declaration of innocence that had been made in August 2012.

In 2010, the U.S. government accused Cifuentes, dubbed the “minor” with conspiracy to import and manufacture cocaine knowing that it would be imported into the United States, and to manufacture and distribute cocaine in Guatemala and Colombia and to import these drugs into this country .

In total, the authorities made five charges that carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

 However, due to an agreement between Colombia and the United States, Cifuentes cannot face a life sentence or death. At the hearings where the accused changed her initial statement of innocence to guilty, also typically announced a plea deal. Through these agreements undertake to cooperate with the authorities in ongoing investigations, in exchange for a lighter sentence and avoid a trial, a process that is usually longer.

Cifuentes, recently extradited more than a year from her country, would have been a brother’s girlfriend of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. After the hearing of nearly an hour, Klapper  the defense attorney refused to comment outside the courtroom to. Lenard said the judge had ordered court documents remain secret. Cifuentes entered the courtroom minutes before Lenard request removal of those present.

She was dressed in a short sleeveless camisole and beige pants. Her face was pale. A woman who also left the room said it was the lawyer of Cifuentes in Colombia, who said that the defense of the accused had asked that the hearing be reserved. The woman, who spoke Spanish, was not to be identified by name.

 
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Posted by on 09/15/2013 in Crime!, Mexican Drug Cartels

 

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Jonathan Fernando Ramírez Villegas, alleged chief escort for the Gulf Cartel captured

Jonathan Fernando Ramírez Villegas, revealed that the charges against “El Comandante Pepe” include acts to extort, kidnap or commit murder and drug distribution.

CANCUN, September 5. – Investigations and intelligence work after the arrest of Jose Roberto Diaz Cornelius, alias “El Comandante Pepe”, was captured in Merida, Yucatan, Jonathan Fernando Ramírez Villegas, the alleged chief escort for the Gulf Cartel Square in Playa del Carmen.

The capture of ‘El Comandante Pepe’ led to the arrest of Jonathan Ramirez Villegas According to the state attorney, in his first statements the detainee revealed that the instructions in “El Comandante Pepe” to extort, kidnap or commit murder and drug distribution to the various vendors of Playa del Carmen, the received directly and after sort was responsible for the gunmen.

In a statement, the Attorney General of Quintana Roo said Villegas Ramirez also accepted membership in the criminal organization of the Gulf Cartel and being the second in command, when eight months ago “El Pepe” took command of head space Playa del Carmen.

The agency said that thanks to the reports provided by “Comandante Pepe” after his arrest, it was established that his alleged escort was in the city of Merida. José Roberto Diaz Cornelius has opened four preliminary investigations for alleged involvement in homicides in Playa del Carmen, as well as allegations of extortion.

 
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Posted by on 09/06/2013 in Crime Watch, Crime!

 

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Ten men with links with Mexican cartels and Los Zetas and the FARC, captured

Map of Mexican drug cartels based on a May 201...

Map of Mexican drug cartels based on a May 2010 Stratfor report. “Free Article for Non-Members”. Stratfor. 2010-05-17 . . Retrieved 2011-03-28 . Tijuana Cartel, red; Beltrán Leyva Cartel, orange; Sinaloa Cartel, yellow; Juárez Cartel, brown; La Familia Michoacana, green; Gulf Cartel, cyan; Los Zetas Cartel, blue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ten men reported to have links with Pacific Mexican cartels and Los Zetas and the FARC, were captured after the United States requested his extradition for crimes related to drug trafficking.

Those arrested include two policemen and John Eduarth Monk Alvarado, mayor of Milan, Department of Caquetá and 395 miles southwest of Bogota, said the director of the Technical Investigation of the Attorney General, Maritza Escobar.

“According to the investigation conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office with support from U.S. authorities, it was established that these people would be part of an international organization which exported 100 tons of cocaine a year, to Central America, United States, Spain and Australia,” the agency researcher in a statement.

The arrests took place in nine cities, including Bogota, Medellin and Cali

The report added that “it was determined that the structure would have ties to the Pacific Cartel and Los Zetas in Mexico as well as the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the criminal gang Los Urabeños“.

The arrests took place in nine cities, including Bogota, Medellin and Cali.

Five of the 10 captured belong to the same family.

The Colombian authorities have said that Colombian drug gangs supplied the drug to groups of Mexico, who are responsible for the drug across EU, but ruled that Mexican cartels have direct presence in the country.

Other arrests

The Colombian authorities have conducted other operations in which they have detected the presence of the Mexican cartels. – On January 13, 2011 was captured Julio Enrique Ayala Muñoz, one of the men close to Joaquin El Chapo Guzman in the Colombian city of Cali. Ayala, era conocido como El Cóndor. Ayala, was known as the Condor.

– On January 20, 2011, Colombia’s judicial police caught Carlos Arturo Cordoba, The Claw, responsible for getting the aircraft traveling to EU.

– On October 30, 2012 was arrested Colombian drug kingpin Henry de Jesus Lopez Londoño, My Blood “, considered the largest supplier of cocaine to Los Zetas.

 
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Posted by on 08/24/2013 in Latin America Drug kingpins, Mexican Drug Cartels

 

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