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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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Peru has become the world’s largest COCA producer

As reported

Peru has overtaken Colombia as the world’s largest coca crop cultivator, reinforcing its position as the world’s primary cocaine producer and highlighting the growing demand for the drug in Europe and regional markets.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) annual report “Peru: Cocaine Cultivation Monitoring 2012,” more than 60,000 hectares of coca crops were cultivated in Peru in 2012, compared to 48,000 hectares in neighbouring Colombia. Although coca cultivation decreased in both countries when compared to the previous year, in Peru it only dropped by 3.4 per-cent, while Colombian cultivation fell by 25 per-cent.

As in neighbouring Bolivia, Peru has a sizeable domestic demand for unprocessed coca leaves. However, according to the report, that demand could be met with less than 7,000 hectares of coca crop, suggesting that the vast majority of coca produced is destined for drug processing.

 PeruCoca9912

The Analysis

Peru’s newfound position as the number one cultivator of coca reinforces its status as the world’s primary producer of cocaine, a position it previously attained through growers’ use of coca strains that produce a higher cocaine yield. Even without these advantages, Peru would likely remain the world’s biggest cocaine supplier as interdiction rates are a fraction of those seen in Colombia.

The emergence of Peru as the world’s main supplier has been boosted by changing consumption patterns. Most Peruvian cocaine is destined for consumption in Brazil and Argentina or export to Europe — all markets that have grown substantially in recent years. In contrast, the US market has declined, but remains predominantly the domain of Colombian cocaine, which accounts for 95 per-cent of all imported product, according to US government estimates.

While cocaine production has been booming, prices have fallen to levels much lower than those seen in Peru’s rivals, to the extent that much of the cocaine that arrives in Argentina and Brazil from Bolivia now originates in Peru.

The thriving cocaine sector has inevitably attracted the interests of international organized crime groups, research in the country revealed the presence of Colombians, Mexicans and Russians. However, this has not yet led to growing violence, and Peru has yet to see the sort of criminal conflicts that still plague Colombia.

The Peruvian government has pledged to fight trafficking, announcing a hard-line anti-drug strategy in 2011. However, their efforts have yielded questionable results. Though authorities eradicated 12,000 hectares in the first half of 2013, it is unclear whether such efforts actually decrease the total cultivation area or if growers simply move elsewhere.

 
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Posted by on 09/28/2013 in Crime Watch, 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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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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Mario Armando Ramirez Trevino, “X-20”, alleged leader of the Gulf Cartel, was arrested

x2017082013_pMEXICO CITY, August 17. – Mario Armando Ramirez Trevino, “X-20”, alleged leader of the Gulf Cartel, was arrested at 21:34 hours last evening and was delivered to the Deputy Attorney Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (SEIDO) of PGR. Amid tight security, involving Mexican military vehicles and military personnel, the suspect was transferred from the International Airport in Mexico City, where he arrived from Tamaulipas, the building located at Avenida Paseo de la Reforma number 75.

Trevino Ramirez was captured Saturday during a raid by the Mexican army in Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas.

The Department of Justice United States offered a reward of five million dollars to anyone who furnish information leading to his capture, since it is set by authorities in that country for various crimes. Ramirez Trevino is expected shortly to make a statement to the federal prosecutor, who will determine within the next few hours his legal status. SEIDO facilities were guarded by military personnel and the side of the Paseo de la Reforma was temporarily closed to traffic, because at that place are military vehicles.

 
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Posted by on 08/18/2013 in Crime!

 

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EL Chapo back in the news

Sprint Antiballistic Missile

Sprint Antiballistic Missile (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Members of “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel tried to buy high-powered weaponry, including surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank weapons, according to US government reports, suggesting that the powerful drug trafficking syndicate is seeking to make a quantum leap in its military capacity.

According to the US Justice Department, the Sinaloa Cartel, the Zetas and the Familia Michoacana all established arms trafficking networks that allowed them to import high caliber assault weapons and military equipment from the United States, reported Mexico’s El Universal.

In three of the 25 cases detailed, which span from 2007 to 2012, undercover agents with the US Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco (ATF) bureau managed to prevent Sinaloa Cartel operatives from obtaining weapons including Stinger surface-to-air missiles and various anti-tank weapons.

Over the time period, US security forces broke up several arms trafficking cells, arresting a number of men on both sides of the border. Among the US arrests were ex-military personnel. The various trafficking cells operated out of Texas, Florida, Arizona, New Mexico and California.

One of the reasons El Chapo has managed to evade capture for so long is thanks to his small army of private security, which in 2009 consisted of 300 personal bodyguards, according to a US diplomatic cable obtained by Wikileaks.

With El Chapo believed to favor isolated hideouts, the type of high-powered weaponry mentioned in the reports would help repel security forces raids before they even came within touching distance of the infamous drug lord, while surface to air missiles would offer protection against raids carried out with helicopters.

The reports also highlight what is a broader and ongoing issue — the trafficking of arms from the United States to Mexico. The price and accessibility of arms in the United States makes it an ideal source country, not only for Mexico, but also for other crime-plagued Latin American countries, including Colombia, where there have been numerous cases showing how US-purchased weapons end up in the hands of Colombian gangs and drug trafficking organizations.

 
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Posted by on 08/12/2013 in Mexican Drug Cartels

 

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Rafael Caro Quintero, responsible for killing of DEA agent in 1985 Released

A Mexican court’s releasing of a drug lord who killed a Drug Enforcement Administration agent in the 1980s is sparking outrage this weekend among U.S. law enforcement officials. Rafael Caro Quintero, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison for ordering the 1985 killing of DEA agent Enrique Camarena, was released earlier this week by a Mexican court that overturned the conviction, saying he had been improperly tried in a federal court for state crimes.

The Justice Department said it found the court’s decision “deeply troubling.” “The Department of Justice, and especially the Drug Enforcement Administration, is extremely disappointed with this result,” the agency said in a statement. The Justice Department also said it “has continued to make clear to Mexican authorities the continued interest of the United States in securing Caro Quintero’s extradition so that he might face justice in the United States.”

The DEA said separately it “will vigorously continue its efforts to ensure Caro Quintero faces charges in the United States for the crimes he committed.” Caro Quintero still faces charges in the United States. Meanwhile, the Mexican government said Friday it was reviewing what legal moves it might take in the case, according to The Wall Street Journal. The country’s attorney general’s office said in a statement it disagrees with the immediate liberation and the court should have handed over the case to the proper court for review. The office also said Caro Quintero’s charges were too serious to free him without exhausting all legal channels. In recent years, Mexico has stepped up extraditions of alleged drug kingpins to the U.S., usually after they have served some prison time in Mexico, according to The Journal.

The whereabouts of the 61-year-old Quintero is unclear, after serving 20 years and walking out of prison. The Association of Former Federal Narcotics Agents in the United States said it was “outraged” by Caro Quintero’s early release and blamed corruption within Mexico’s justice system. “The release of this violent butcher is but another example of how good faith efforts by the U.S. to work with the Mexican government can be frustrated by those powerful dark forces that work in the shadows of the Mexican ‘justice’ system,” the organization said in a statement.

Mexican authorities did not release the full decision explaining the reasoning of the three-judge panel, in the western state of Jalisco, in setting free Caro Quintero. But some experts said the ruling may have been part of a broader push to rebalance the Mexican legal system in favor of defendants’ rights, from both law-enforcement officials and the independent judicial system.

Mexico’s Supreme Court has issued several recent rulings overturning cases while saying due process wasn’t followed. However, Mexican and current and former U.S. officials alike expressed deep skepticism that correct procedures were followed in the decision to free Caro Quintero. Caro Quintero was a founding member of one of Mexico’s earliest and biggest drug cartels. He helped establish a powerful cartel based in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa that later split into some of Mexico’s largest cartels, including the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels. But he wasn’t tried for drug trafficking, a federal crime in Mexico. Instead, Mexican federal prosecutors, under intense pressure from the United States, put together a case against him for Camarena’s kidnapping and killing, both state crimes. Mexican courts and prosecutors have long tolerated illicit evidence such as forced confessions and have frequently based cases on questionable testimony or hearsay.

Such practices have been banned by recent judicial reforms, but past cases, including those against high-level drug traffickers, are often rife with such legal violations. Mexico’s relations with Washington were badly damaged when Caro Quintero ordered Camarena kidnapped, tortured and killed, purportedly because he was angry about a raid on a 220-acre (89-hectare) marijuana plantation in central Mexico named “Rancho Bufalo” – Buffalo Ranch – that was seized by Mexican authorities at Camarena’s insistence.

Camarena was kidnapped in Guadalajara, a major drug trafficking center at the time. His body and that of his Mexican pilot, both showing signs of torture, were found a month later, buried in shallow graves. Caro Quintero was eventually hunted down in Costa Rica.

 
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Posted by on 08/11/2013 in Crime!, Mexican Drug Cartels

 

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