BY KEVIN D. WILLIAMSONVenezuela had a good run of it for about five minutes there, at least in public-relations terms. When petroleum prices were booming, all it took was a few gallons of heating oil from Hugo Chávez to buy the extravagant praise of House members, with Representative Chaka Fattah (D., Philadelphia) issuing statements praising Venezuela’s state-run oil company “and the Venezuelan people for their benevolence.” Lest anybody feel creeped out by running political errands for a brutal and repressive caudillo, Joseph Kennedy — son of Senator Robert Kennedy — proclaimed that refusing the strongman’s patronage would be “a crime against humanity.” Kennedy was at the time the director of Citizens Energy, which had a contract to help distribute that Venezuelan heating oil — Boss Hugo was a brute, but he understood American politics.
Posts Tagged ‘Narco-trafficking’
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
MEXICO CITY — The leader of the Zetas — a Mexican criminal group notorious for its brutal murders — was arrested Wednesday without a shot fired in northern Mexico, as the authorities toppled yet another kingpin in a long and aggressive campaign against the group.
Federal police officers and soldiers swooped in on the leader, Omar Treviño Morales, known as Z-42 in the group’s militaristic system of code names, in San Pedro Garza García, an affluent suburb of Monterrey, Mexico, a business and industrial hub.
Mr. Morales, 38, had not led the group for long. In July 2013, his brother, Miguel Angel Treviño Morales — considered one of the gang’s most ruthless enforcers — was arrested just a year after taking over from another top leader, Heriberto Lazcano. Mr. Lazcano died in a shootout with the Mexican Navy in ... Read More
By Will Grant
It was clear from the very start that many Chavez supporters weren’t so sure about Nicolas Maduro.Shortly after his untimely death from cancer on 5 March 2013 – and just days before the presidential election that saw Mr Maduro elected by the narrowest of margins – I visited the charismatic socialist leader’s stronghold of 23 de Enero in Caracas.
Inside her government-built apartment, local Socialist Party (PSUV) women’s cooperative leader Judith Vegas fought back the tears at the mere mention of Hugo Chavez.
His death was as raw to her as the loss of a member of her own family.
But when it came to his chosen successor, her attitude noticeably hardened.
She would vote for Mr Maduro as Mr Chavez had asked, she said, but he wasn’t guaranteed her unflinching support simply because he had been by Chavez’s side.
Fast-forward two years, and even committed “Chavistas” like Judith are losing the faith.
By Anahi Rama
MEXICO CITY, Feb 27 (Reuters) – Mexico has captured the country’s most wanted drug lord still at large, Servando “La Tuta” Gomez, police said on Friday, in a boost for President Enrique Pena Nieto as he grapples with grisly gang violence.
Gomez, 49, was the prime target of Pena Nieto’s drive to regain control of Michoacan, a violent western state wracked by clashes between Gomez’s Knights Templar cartel and heavily-armed vigilantes trying to oust them.
His arrest comes a year after the capture of Mexico’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most powerful drug smuggling gangs in the world.
It also comes as Pena Nieto seeks to quell outrage over violence, impunity and corruption in Mexico after the abduction and apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers by corrupt police in league with gang members.
By Anahi Rama
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico has captured the country’s most wanted drug lord still at large, Servando “La Tuta” Gomez, police said on Friday, in a boost for President Enrique Pena Nieto as he grapples with grisly gang violence.
The 49-year-old former teacher was the prime target of Pena Nieto’s drive to regain control of Michoacan, a violent western state wracked by clashes between Gomez’s Knights Templar cartel and heavily-armed vigilantes trying to oust them.
The arrest came just over a year after the capture of Mexico’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, head of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most powerful drug smuggling gangs in the world.
A convicted drug trafficker and former captain of the Dominican Republic’s army told a local TV station Thursday that he donated millions of dollars to former president Leonel Fernandez.
A man who identified himself as Quirino Ernesto Paulino told TV station Teleradio America on a video call that he donated some $4.6m in cash from 2002 to 2004 that was delivered in suitcases. Fernandez was elected president for a second time in 2004 after serving from 1996 to 2002.
Paulino was arrested in December 2004 following the seizure of nearly 1,400kg (3,100lb) of cocaine, the largest ever at that time. He was extradited to the United States in 2005 on charges of money laundering and of allegedly importing 30 metric tonnes of cocaine into that country. He served a 10-year sentence following a plea deal and remains in the US to testify in other cases.
BY DAVID GAGNE
Mexico’s Tijuana Cartel is reportedly marshaling its forces in an attempt to gain back some of its lost glory, according to one security official, providing a look at the current state of a once powerful criminal empire that has since fallen into decline.
Some leaders of the Tijuana Cartel have left prison and are once again engaging in criminal activities in the border city, Tijuana’s Public Security Minister Alejandro Lares Valladares told investigative magazine Zeta Tijuana. Juan Lorenzo Vargas Gallardo, alias “El Chan,” is in charge of restructuring the organization, the magazine reported. However, several other former heads of the cartel have also taken on leaderships roles, including Manuel Lopez Nunez, alias “El Balas,” and Pedro Quintero Velazquez, alias “El 5-8.”
On a Wednesday evening around 30 pensioners have gathered for a meeting in a long, brightly lit room in a largely abandoned shopping gallery in Santa Teresa, a rundown and overcrowded district in the centre of Caracas. After a video and some announcements, Alexis Rondón, an official of the Ministry of Social Movements and Communes, begins to speak. “Chávez lives,” he says. “Make no mistake: our revolution is stronger than ever.”
Mr Rondón’s rambling remarks over the next 45 minutes belie that claim. Saying Venezuela is faced with an “economic war”, he calls on his audience to check food queues for outsiders, who might be profiteers or troublemakers, and to draw up a census of the district to identify opposition activists and government supporters. “We must impose harsh controls,” he warns. “This will be a year of struggle”.
As its economic crisis grows more severe, Venezuela is paralyzed by a struggle among the political factions that make up its ruling elite. Since former President Hugo Chavez’s death, these groups have essentially ruled the country by committee. Caracas has been gridlocked on key policy decisions as a result. However, Venezuela’s precipitous economic decline will require some kind of action, making the political impasse unsustainable.
Though Venezuela’s economic and political future ultimately will depend on greater forces, such as global oil prices, the various factions will influence short-term events and decisions. These groups will face difficulties in the legislative election scheduled for October. A loss in that election could threaten their unity and lead them to challenge President Nicolas Maduro’s authority.Analysis
The roots of Venezuela’s fractured political system lie in the origins of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela. When he became president in 1999, Chavez counted on the backing of numerous leftist civilians who had ... Read More
(CNN) In Mexico’s male-dominated drug trade, her life story became a legend.
Now, after more than seven years behind bars, the woman known as “The Queen of the Pacific” is free. A judge ruled in favor of her appeal last week, Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said in a statement Saturday.
Sandra Ávila Beltrán’s story is the subject of a best-selling book and a popular ballad.
She was first arrested in Mexico City on September 28, 2007, smiling before cameras as authorities trumpeted her detention.
Later, Ávila made headlines when Mexican authorities said they were investigating a tip that she had received Botox treatments in prison.
Ávila is the niece of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, founder of the now-defunct Guadalajara cartel. She’s also related to drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, who was released from a Mexican prison in a controversial 2013 decision and now has ... Read More
As Venezuela drifts toward repression, the Obama administration has failed to “name and shame” human rights violators, as mandated by Congress last December. Robust U.S. action is more critical than ever, as authorities in Caracas last week approved the use of deadly force against Venezuelans protesting food shortages and fresh revelations on the criminality of regime leaders.
Career diplomats managing Venezuela policy have a record of favoring stability over freedom in that country. They fiercely resisted Congress’ call for sanctions against individuals using violence to quell student-led demonstrations last spring—giving regime gangs time to crush the unrest, leaving 44 dead, hundreds jailed, and thousands injured.
In the midst of the crackdown last March, Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson told a U.S. Senate hearing that opposition leaders opposed human rights sanctions against the regime—an assertion she was forced to recant within days. In an effort to forestall Congressional action last July, the Administration revoked ... Read More
BY DANIEL LANSBERG-RODRÍGUEZ
With its economic woes multiplying by the day, the last thing the Venezuelan government needs is another blow to its international reputation. But that’s exactly what it got yesterday, when the Spanish newspaper ABC reported that an ex-bodyguard of Diosdado Cabello, the speaker of the Venezuelan parliament, has provided information to U.S. authorities implicating his former boss as a kingpin in the drug trade. According to the report, Leamsy Salazar, a well-connected officer within the Venezuelan armed forces, has defected to the United States, and is set to serve as the star witness in an American investigation into ties between the Caracas government and powerful narcotics syndicates.
Given his background, Salazar certainly ought to be in the know. Prior to turning state’s witness, he spent over a decade as the head of Hugo Chávez’s personal security detail and sometime personal assistant; a YouTube video currently making the rounds on ... Read More
By MARIA VERZA, Associated Press
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Captured Sinaloa drug cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman will not be extradited to the United States anytime soon, Mexico’s top prosecutor said Tuesday.
Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said he was expecting to receive a formal request later in the day from Washington, which also wants to prosecute Guzman on drug trafficking charges. But U.S. authorities will have a long wait.
“I could accept extradition, but at the time that I choose. ‘El Chapo’ must stay here to complete his sentence, and then I will extradite him,” Murillo Karam told The Associated Press in an interview. “So about 300 or 400 years later — it will be a while.”
(Reuters) – Leaders of El Salvador’s main street gangs on Tuesday urged the government to begin a dialogue to reduce violence and tone down its tough stance against their members after the vice president said police could open fire on them if necessary.
Violence in El Salvador has jumped over the past year after a 2012 truce between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and rival gang Barrio 18 started to unravel, and last Wednesday Vice President Oscar Ortiz said police should respond with force “without any fear of suffering consequences” if threatened by gang members.
The following day, authorities registered no murders in the country for a 24-hour stretch, the first time that had happened in more than 2-1/2 years, according to the police.
[Translation by IASW]
By Antonio Maria Delgado
Leamsy Salazar, Venezuelan [navy] captain who was the head of security for the late Hugo Chávez, arrived Monday in Washington to assist in an investigation headed by U.S. authorities regarding the links between chavismo and drug trafficking.
Salazar, who spent much of his career alongside Chavez arrives in the United States as a protected witness and may provide the most devastating details presented so far about chavismo. According to sources close to the investigation, in his testimony, Salazar argues that the drug trafficking organization known as Cartel de los Soles (Cartel of the Suns) is led by President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello.
“This has been the hardest blow that has been given to chavismo. This is the man who has provided all the secrets. He was the head of security and chief of staff for Diosdado Cabello, and was the head of security of Hugo ... Read More
BY DOLIA ESTEVEZ
Washington has decided to request the extradition of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, who is now in a maximum-security prison outside Mexico City. Mexico’s Attorney General José Murillo Karam said he expects the U.S. government will ask for Guzmán’s extradition in the “next hours.” During a press conference in Mexico City on Tuesday, Murillo Karam said there will be “no problem to process the request to decide, at the right time, what would be most appropriate.”
The “right time,” according to Mexican sources, would be after Guzmán is fully prosecuted and sentenced in Mexico, where he faces eight active criminal cases. Guzmán, who topped the list of most wanted drug criminals in the world and was captured last year, would not need to finish serving his sentence in Mexico in order to be sent to the U.S., according to Mexican diplomatic sources. Therefore, if the prosecutions proceed as ... Read More
By Tristan Reed
Since the emergence of the Guadalajara cartel in the 1980s as one of the country’s largest drug trafficking organizations, Mexican organized crime has continued to expand its reach up and down the global supply chains of illicit drugs. Under the Guadalajara cartel and its contemporaries, such as the Gulf cartel, led by Juan Garcia Abrego, a relatively small number of crime bosses controlled Mexico’s terrestrial illicit supply chains. Crime bosses such as Miguel Angel “El Padrino” Felix Gallardo, the leader of the Guadalajara cartel, oversaw the bulk of the trafficking operations necessary to push drugs into the United States and received large portions of the revenue generated. By the same token, this facilitated law enforcement’s ability to disrupt entire supply chains with a single arrest. Such highly centralized structures ultimately proved unsustainable under consistent and aggressive law enforcement pressure. Thus, as Mexican organized crime has expanded its control ... Read More
By Perry Chiaramonte
Latin America’s drug cartels are leaving the U.S. Coast Guard in their wake, with new and faster speedboats law enforcement officials say are virtually undetectable by radar.
The new boats, nicknamed “Picudas,” after a tropical fish whose long, thin bodies they resemble, are made of fiberglass, making them invisible to radar and efficient with fuel. While older smuggling vessels took as long as three days to make the trip from Costa Rica to Jamaica, the Picuda can make the trip in two.
Dialogo, a newspaper published by the Pentagon’s Southern Command, quoted one Coast Guard source that called the craft “a wave-breaking go-fast wonder that defies radar detection.” The boats give the bad guys a leg up on authorities trying to cut off the flow of South American drugs, according to the article.
Venezuela is collapsing. President Nicolas Maduro’s dash-for-cash to Beijing last week was a humiliating failure. Half-mile food lines wind through the streets of Caracas and other cities. Maduro’s Cuban handlers are abandoning a ship they helped sink, while Venezuelan military officers are pondering the challenge of how to suppress angry, desperate protesters to buy time for an unpopular, incompetent regime.
Maduro is wrestling with popular unrest, food shortages, a real inflation rate of 90 percent, blackouts, crumbling infrastructure, and other domestic challenges. Ruinous policies ushered in by the late Hugo Chavez intentionally strangled the private sector — part of the Cuban formula to make Venezuelans too dependent on the state to resist its will.
The 40 percent drop in global oil prices has hit Venezuela hard, because Caracas relies on petrodollars to provide 96 percent of its export earnings and 45 percent of Venezuelan government revenues. The productivity of Venezuela’s state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, ... Read More
While critics protested outside the White House, President Barack Obama pledged to help Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto “eliminate the scourge and violence of drug cartels” like that suspected in the disappearance of 43 Mexican students.
Peña Nieto made his first visit to Washington Tuesday, accompanied by several Cabinet members, to tout his economic reforms such as the opening of the its oil and gas industry to private investment.
But his legislative feats have been overshadowed by the violence against 43 students, some whose bodies were said to have been later incinerated, and criticism of how his administration has handled the investigation of the students’ disappearance.
Mexican federal agents have arrested dozens of people, including the mayor of Iguala, Mexico, his wife and police. Detainees confessed they murdered the 43 kidnapped students and burned their bodies. But, the victims’ families have demanded more evidence, ... Read More