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Monday, 31 October 2011

Chicago area had the most heroin-related hospital visits in the nation.


2010 study by Roosevelt University researchers found the Chicago area had the most heroin-related hospital visits in the nation. The drug is cheap, and it's attracting users everywhere including some who are very young. Today's heroin can be snorted or smoked -- not just injected -- and that's led to a change in the typical user. Increasingly, today's addict is young, female and from the suburbs. And the roots of their addiction can be found in their family's medicine cabinet. For many, the road to dependence begins at independence --one of a handful of West Side exits off the Eisenhower serve as the gateway to the nation's busiest heroin corridor. "The ride there you're just anxiety, just, 'Oh I can't wait to get there. I can't wait to get it. I can't wait to feel better,'" said a 19-year-old female heroin addict whose scar are more than skin deep. She grew up far from the west side's rough and tumble streets, amidst the manicured lawns of the far west suburbs which seems an unlikely breeding ground for a new crop of heroin users. "I always thought of them as homeless and not caring about what they look like and real skinny and everything," the 19-year-old addict said. Heroin has never been cheaper and more pure. Just $100 can buy a two day supply. "I knew. The first time I did it I was like, 'This is bad. I like this way too much. And this is going to be bad," said the 19-year-old addict, whose identity ABC7 has hidden. DEA Agent Jack Riley says powerful Mexican drug cartels have partnered with Chicago street gangs to make heroin easily available. "If I had to liken anything to a weapon of mass destruction, it would be heroin," Riley said. After smuggling the drugs here, Riley says the cartels often operate in Spanish-speaking areas near Midway Airport. "They can assimilate into these hard working neighborhoods. They can appear to be great citizens, take care of their lawn, put Christmas lights up," Riley said. The cartels need the gangs to distribute the drugs but officials say fights between the two groups are increasingly to blame for the near-daily violence plaguing some neighborhoods. "What we consider to be senseless violent acts, many of them may be actually connected to the cartel's operations in Chicago," Riley said. It seems the danger is of little deterrent to users. "Within two weeks I was getting sick physically without it, and I needed it," the 19-year-old addict said. It wasn't until an overdose nearly killed her that she began treatment a few weeks ago at New Hope Recovery Center in Geneva. In four years, the facility has seen a seven-fold increase in heroin cases and many involve teens first hooked on prescription painkillers. "They'll run out, and someone will say 'Well, snort some heroin. It'll help you, so you won't go through withdrawals,'" said Jake Epperly, New Hope Recovery Center. That may have been how Billy Roberts began using. The Homer Glen 19-year-old died of an overdose two years ago and his father now warns of heroin's dangers. "I do it for him," said the victim's father John Roberts. "And I'll continue doing it as long as I'm alive. To give my son's life meaning. A former Chicago cop, Roberts says it's time for new solutions. "We need help. The police cannot do this alone. We need a comprehensive, strategic approach to this problem if we're ever going to see these numbers turn downward," Roberts said. To put in perspective how big the problem is here, the Chicago DEA has secured funding for a 90-person strike force to combat the operation run by the cartels and gangs in the city. Officials say it's the only such strike force outside of the U.S.-Mexico border. The 19-year-old woman interviewed by ABC7, who is currently in treatment, says she knows at least 20 other kids her age, from her community, who are current or former users.

men, women and children descend on passing go-fast boats to offload bales of cocaine destined for the United States.

  • Map locates the Mosquitia coastal area and Copan area in Honduras Photo: AP / AP
    Map locates the Mosquitia coastal area and Copan area in Honduras Photo: AP / AP


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.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

“El Gallito” or “The Little Rooster”. Heavily tattooed, El Gallito appears more mature than his age, prosecutors said. State Attorney General Gaspar Garcia Torres said the boy claimed to have been in charge of the lucrative Isla Mujeres drug market


Mexican police arrest 15-year-old alleged drug-gang operator in murders of 2 women  Prosecutors said Saturday that a 15-year-old boy has confessed to running a drug trafficking gang on the Mexican resort island of Isla Mujeres and murdering two women who reportedly worked as drug dealers. It was the second time in less than a year that an extremely young male has been detained as a purported drug gang killer in Mexico. Last November, soldiers arrested a 14-year-old U.S. citizen who confessed to killing four people whose beheaded bodies were found hanging from a bridge. Comments Weigh InCorrections? Mexican officials say the involvement of youths in such crimes reflects the difficulty drug cartels are having in recruiting adults, but it also raise fears that Mexico’s drug violence may have accustomed young people to extreme levels of violence. The Isla Mujeres cases involve a youth who prosecutors in the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo identified only by his nickname, “El Gallito” or “The Little Rooster”. Heavily tattooed, El Gallito appears more mature than his age, prosecutors said. State Attorney General Gaspar Garcia Torres said the boy claimed to have been in charge of the lucrative Isla Mujeres drug market for a local gang known as “Los Pelones,” equivalent to the Bald or Shaved Heads. The gang is reputedly fighting the Zetas cartel for control of the area around the coastal resort of Cancun. A spokesman for the prosecutors office said the boy told investigators that he and two older associates slashed the throats of the two women at a hotel on Isla Mujeres. Their women’s bodies were found before dawn Thursday, and El Gallito was detained Friday. “He confessed to having full participation in carrying out these deeds, and from the start he claimed to have been in charge of drug sales in the area, in this case for the Pelones, and that his duties were to receive the drugs,” said the spokesman, who was not allowed to be quoted by name. The women were purportedly killed after they betrayed the Pelones gang by selling drugs they obtained from other sources. The boy was turned over to a youthful offender facility to face homicide charges. Because of his age, he cannot be identified or tried as an adult. In most parts of Mexico, youths are tried and sentenced in juvenile courts, but cannot be held after they turn 18. Last year’s case involved a 14-year-old U.S. citizen, who was identified by his family as Edgar Jimenez Lugo, known as “El Ponchis.” He was sentenced in July to three years in prison for homicide, kidnapping and drug and weapons possession. It was the maximum sentenced allowed for a minor. Authorities say the teenager confessed to working for the South Pacific cartel, which is allegedly led by Hector Beltran Leyva.

Man dead after N. Portland gang shooting


A man who suffered life-threatening injuries in a gang-related shooting in North Portland Friday night died early Monday morning. An autopsy was planned for Monday for Deandre Clark, 25, according to Lt. Robert King. Police responded just after 10 p.m. to a shots fired call near N Haight Avenue and N Emerson Street, according to King. Officers arrived to find a group gathered in the street around a man who had been shot. Medical crews arrived and took Clark to a nearby hospital with life-threatening injuries. Police set up a perimeter around the scene and called in a K-9 unit to assist with the search, but did not find any suspects.

Brooklyn Woman's Death Result Of Feud Between Gangs


Police officers on rooftops (NBC New York)
As police try to find the suspect whoseFriday afternoon shooting from a Brooklyn rooftop left a woman dead and another woman and an 11-year-old girl injured, the slain woman's family remains bereft. Zurana Horton, 34, was killed when picking up a child from P.S. 298 in Brownsville, at Pitkin Avenue and Watkins Street, and apparently died trying to shield other youngsters. One of Horton's children told the Post that she actually walked by the crime scene, not realizing her mother was the victim, "I was wondering where my mother was. I found out later [the body] was my mother. My little sister [Alexis] said, ‘Mommy died. She got shot.’"


According to the Post, the violence is due to a feud "stemmed from an ongoing beef between two warring factions, the Hoodstars and the Waves. Members of both gangs told The Post that they consider themselves the modern-day Bloods and Crips -- and sources say their violent feud has been raging for several years." Apparently residents are too afraid to call 911 and say the violence is worse at night, when the gangster "do not hesitate" to shoot.

While neighbors said that Horton, who had 13 living children (a 14th died of pneumonia a few years ago), was pregnant, but the ME's office said that she was not. Still, the tragedy is huge, as her children  will be split up between Horton's mother and her ex-boyfriend, Oniel Vaughn, the father of eight of the children,who told the Daily News, "She gave her life for those kids, and she would have done it all again because that's just the kind of person she was. She was worried about the violence. She said she wanted to move and buy a house for her kids. Those kids were her life." He added, "I didn't tell the younger kids yet. The older ones know. They're devastated."

Police smash gun supply ring operating out of tiny suburban tobacco shop


POLICE have smashed an alleged black market gun supply ring operating out of a tiny suburban tobacco shop. Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad detectives arrested the alleged leaders of the syndicate last week after a covert buy-up of the weapons and ammunition. The men allegedly used a Lakemba tobacconist shop, King of the Pack, as a front. Detectives are testing three firearms that the police bought to see if they had been used in any crimes, documents tendered in court reveal. George Boulos, 27, and Said Rawdah, 36, charged with numerous offences relating to possessing and supplying illegal firearms, were refused bail in court on Friday. Tobacconist Ayman Said, 50, charged with similar offences, was also refused bail. Instead of an undercover detective, police from Strike Force Snaidero enlisted a "registered source" who was given pre-counted "buy money" to purchase weapons. The court heard that on July 18 the registered police source, known only by a code name, went to the tobacconist and asked the owner, Ayman Said, if he could buy a gun. They negotiated a price of $5000, with Said allegedly telling the buyer the next step would be introducing him to a dealer. The following Monday, police say their source was introduced to Rawdah - the alleged dealer - who handed over a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver for $5000. Police later found it had been in circulation for more than 13 years. It was reported stolen from a break and enter on January 31, 1998.   On August 20, the informant went back to the tobacco shop and, after asking for more guns, was introduced to Boulos, of Padstow, who told the informant he had access to plenty more weapons, including military-grade firearms, the court heard. "Those firearms were a 9mm pistol, a .22 calibre pistol, an AK-47 machinegun and numerous SKS assault rifles," police facts state. "Twelve days later, the pair met at Lakemba railway carpark, where for $13,000 the police source allegedly received a .22mm Jennings pistol, a 7.62mm pistol and ammunition. The buyer viewed the guns in a white van which was driven by an unknown man who was summoned with a phone call from Boulos, Burwood Local Court heard. Last Thursday, police arrested the trio at various locations.   All three will reappear in court in December.

Florida a top source of guns linked to crimes in other states


2,000 Florida guns last year were linked to crimes committed around the country, and experts say they likely came from the cars and homes of law-abiding Floridians. In 2010, law-enforcement officers around the country traced 2,251 crime guns to Florida, one of the states with the most guns traced in out-of-state crimes. It follows Georgia's 2,568 guns and Texas' 2,301, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Related Top states for crime guns Broward crime rises in first half of 2011 Video: Crimes caught on camera Photos Close calls: Crime artist's sketches Topics Personal Weapon Control Gun Control Interior Policy See more topics » That's because Florida has a huge number of gun owners, and burglars find the weapons when breaking into their homes and cars, authorities said. Video: Mother of pit bull attack victim discusses son's condition "In almost any burglary to a residence, a gun will turn up," Boynton Beach Police Sgt. Sedrick Aiken said. "There's a lot of stolen guns out there." In fact, South Florida last year had the most reported stolen guns in the state. That's 2,310 guns reported stolen in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, according to state records. The number does not include guns reported stolen and then recovered. Typical was the recent arrest of two suspects in Boca Raton, accused of taking $3,750 worth of hunting guns in the burglary of a home in Jupiter. The owner of the guns told police he kept them in a gun safe that was broken into. Richard Sasso, 23, and a 17-year-old boy were arrested in connection with the September burglary. The Sun Sentinel is not naming the juvenile because of his age. He told police they traded the guns for marijuana. It's unclear where the guns ended up. Stolen guns often are sold to criminals, who may end up crossing state lines, experts said. Florida guns also end up in the wrong hands in other states when people come to Florida because gun laws here are more relaxed, Aiken said. Unlike New York, for example, Florida does not require gun buyers to get a permit and allows people convicted of violent misdemeanors to own a gun. Florida also prohibits municipalities from enacting their own gun-control measures. New York is where most of Florida's crime guns — 358 — ended up last year. Not all guns used in crimes are traced through ATF, and not all guns traced are directly used in crimes. They could be guns found at a crime scene or in the possession of a suspected criminal. Marion Hammer, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association in Florida, said Florida's laws have nothing to do with guns turning up in out-of-state crimes. Many state laws regulate who can sell a gun and to whom a gun can be sold, she said. "If anything, it's lax law enforcement," Hammer said. "I don't know if it's ATF or [the Florida Department of Law Enforcement] or who isn't enforcing it." In December 2009, Washington, D.C., police and FBI agents arrested dozens of alleged gun traffickers and seized 123 guns in an undercover sting, according to The Washington Post. Authorities posed as gun traffickers interested in buying illegal guns to sell to Mexican cartels. In the end, 44 people were arrested in the sting, and the trafficked weapons were traced to Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina and Kentucky. Federal authorities blamed the out-of-state guns for much of the violent crime in the capital. Gary Kleck, professor of criminology and criminal justice at Florida State University, said large-scale, interstate gun trafficking is rare, and often overblown by politicians who want to blame crime on outside factors. Rarely do criminals travel to Florida because they think it's easier to buy guns down South, he said. "This is not about gun trafficking. It's interstate migration," said Kleck, who has interviewed convicted felons and studied the movement of crime guns across state lines. The most common scenario is when someone buys a gun legally in Florida, moves out of state and has his or her weapon stolen in a home burglary. Or a burglar in Florida steals a homeowner's guns and sells it to a someone in another state. "The chances of a burglar coming across a gun here is that much greater than in other states," he said.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Rival gangsters pack Vancouver courts


Members of the Gang Task Force were used to boost security at the Vancouver Law Courts Thursday as four separate gang cases went ahead with rivals appearing on different floors. Eight members of the uniformed GTF arrived for a bail revocation hearing for accused drug trafficker Sukhveer Dhak. One floor below, a cocaine conspiracy trial continued for Dhak rival Jarrod Bacon. Supt. Doug Kiloh, of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, said the GTF officers were on hand because "there is clearly unresolved conflict between gangs." "Do we have concern when we bring them together? Yes, and clearly that poses a public safety risk," Kiloh said. "Even at the Bacon trial, there is going to be conflict internally there." Kiloh said that when any case like that of Bacon and coaccused Wayne Scott has wiretaps being played, things can be tense because of what one party says about the other. Earlier this week, a tape was played in court of Scott saying Bacon's parents were aware of his criminal enterprise, and profited from it. "There are a number of security precautions we are taking," Kiloh said of the Bacon-Scott case. Not only were Dhak and Bacon in separate courtrooms Thursday, but the Greeks gang murder case continued in high-security Courtroom 20 a few floors below. And another case, involving men linked to the United Nations gang, was in pre-trial hearings next door to Dhak. Kiloh said CFSEU has several other big cases and that more charges are expected to be laid in coming weeks. "We know we have been pushing Crown hard. We know they have their hands full," he said. "We hope to have more charges in the coming weeks and months in high-profile cases involving gangs and organized crime." And Kiloh said law enforcement will continue to move forward with major gang prosecutions because "it reduces the threat of public safety issues." Just last month, GTF head officer Supt. Tom McCluskie issued an extraordinary public warning that anyone associating with Dhak or those in the affiliated Duhre group could be at risk because of escalating gang tensions. The Dhaks, Duhres and some members of the UN gang are aligned against an opposing group consisting of some Hells Angels, Red Scorpions and the Independent Soldiers. On Sept. 16, Dhak associate Jujhar Singh Khun-Khun was shot several times in a targeted Surrey shooting that police say may have been in retaliation for the Aug. 14 attack in Kelowna that left Red Scorpion Jonathan Bacon dead and Hells Angel Larry Amero and Independent Soldier James Riach wounded. Dhak was originally charged in October 2008 with production of a controlled substance, possession for the purpose of trafficking and conspiracy to commit indictable offence. He is due to go to trial in that case next April. But he was arrested Sept. 18 for allegedly driving while prohibited related to an incident on July 30, 2011. He is also before the courts on another breach allegation related to a Kelowna incident in March 2011 and was charged in December 2010 with one count of counselling to commit the indictable offence of aggravated assault. Justice Brenda Brown reserved her decision on Dhak's bail until next Wednesday. Dhak, dressed in red prison garb, whispered through Plexiglas to his girlfriend at the morning break Thursday. Police sat in the front row, several seats away from Dhak's mother, sister and girlfriend. Details of submissions and arguments at the two-hour hearing are covered by a publication ban. Kiloh said top police officers from around the Lower Mainland met Thursday to discuss the level of gang tensions. He said the situation is very fluid, with unresolved conflicts between some, and others making new associations that police are trying to assess.

Canada’s top organized crime groups are recruiting workers at Pearson and other major airports to help them smuggle drugs and contraband into the country,

aiportPolice and other agencies at Pearson are working to identify workers who are breaking the law.

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Canada’s top organized crime groups are recruiting workers at Pearson and other major airports to help them smuggle drugs and contraband into the country, says the former head of a national security committee.

Agents of notorious crime groups, including the Hells Angels and Vietnamese gangs, are flexing their muscles to get a bigger share of the lucrative drug-smuggling operation run by corrupt workers at Pearson, police and security officials said.

“Organized crime activity has gotten worst at Pearson,” said Sen. Colin Kenny, former head of a Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. “They are actively recruiting people to work for them.”

The RCMP in a 2008 study identified 60 gangs that have infiltrated airports in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Police said agents of the gangs work at “corrupting existing employees or by placing criminal associates or even spouses or relatives into the airport work force.”

A RCMP witness “said categorically that gangs such as Hells Angels have infiltrated Pearson,” the committee said in a report on Canadian airports.

“If the Hells Angels can get their people in place at airports, what’s to stop Al Fatah?,” Kenny asked. “Any holes that criminals open in security perimeters make them more vulnerable to all who wish to circumvent them.”

The committee toured Pearson following the 9/11 terrorist attacks to study safety procedures and found gaping holes in security.

“The security gaps may be wide open at Pearson,” Kenny said. “There is a lot of money to be made and crime groups are getting their own people hired to work there.”

RCMP Const. Michelle Paradis said police and other agencies at Pearson are working to identify workers who are breaking the law.

“We have been working diligently to identify smuggling groups and target them,” Paradis said on Thursday. “These investigations take a lot of manpower and resources.”

The Mounties have smashed several drug rings involving ramp handlers, airline groomers and catering staff who were removing drugs from aircraft and smuggling the bags out of the facility in their vehicles unchecked.

Five ramp handlers and a Jamaican police officer were among nine people arrested in Dec. 2010 by the RCMP after they squashed a ring allegedly smuggling kilos of cocaine and marijuana into Canada.

Police accuse the Jamaica Constabulary Force officer of planting drugs on aircraft that were allegedly removed here by handlers and smuggled from the airport.

Kenny said one way to curb the flow of illegal drugs is to examine all staff and their vehicles arriving and leaving the airport.

“They can check all travellers why can’t they check employees entering and leaving,” he said. “Their vehicles also have to be checked as well.”

Kenny said drugs are still flowing freely through the use of inter-Canada air courier service that promise 24-hour delivery to customers as reported in the Toronto Sun on Monday.

“Very little if anything is being done to examine domestic courier packages,” he said. “They are all virtually unchecked.”

Kenny said a third party, such as the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, which is responsible for passenger and baggage security, should screen packages.

There are about 90,000 people working at Canadian airports and police estimate about 1,000 of them are intent on “infiltrating the airports to facilitate criminal activity.”

Monday, 17 October 2011

Mexico opposition may work with criminals


Mexican President Felipe Calderon has said politicians in the main opposition party may consider deals with criminals, opening an inflammatory new front in the nation's presidential election campaign. Calderon's blunt remarks about the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which is favored to win the July 1, 2012 election, are unusual in a country where the president is expected to stay largely aloof from party politics. Centering on the policy that has dominated his presidency -- an aggressive army-led crackdown on drug cartels -- his comments risk polarizing opinion on how to restore stability to Mexico, where the drug war has killed 44,000 in five years. Leading members of Calderon's conservative National Action Party (PAN), other PRI opponents and political analysts have accused the once-dominant party of making secret deals with drug cartels in the past to keep the peace in Mexico. In a weekend New York Times interview published a day after he said a state governed by the PRI had been left in the hands of a drug gang, Calderon was asked whether the opposition party might pursue a corrupt relationship with organized crime. "There are many in the PRI who think the deals of the past would work now. I don't see what deal could be done, but that is the mentality many of them have," said Calderon, whom the law prevents from seeking a second six-year term. Calderon's office later issued a statement saying the newspaper had expressly noted when posing the question that the PRI had a reputation for making deals with organized crime. His office underlined that the president recognized many in the PRI did not favor this approach and supported his policy. Analysts say Calderon is bitterly opposed to the PRI, which dominated Mexico for seven decades until PAN won the presidency in 2000 under its candidate Vicente Fox. The tide of drug war killings has eroded support for the PAN, and the PRI's main hopeful, the telegenic former governor of the State of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, has around twice the support of his nearest rival. NAMING NAMES The PRI has attacked Calderon for the spiraling death toll, and analysts said the president's remarks were tailored for the election, putting in jeopardy any hope of passing many pending reforms that have been stalled in Congress. "This is really serious," Javier Oliva, a political scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), said of Calderon's comments about the PRI. "The president has an obligation to prove this now. To name names." "The president is regressing into a negative stance of being president of the PAN, and not president of Mexico." The Times noted that Calderon "looked disgusted at the mere mention of the PRI" during the interview. The statement issued by his office said Calderon mentioned the ex-PRI governor of Nuevo Leon state, Socrates Rizzo, as someone who had pointed to the existence of such pacts. Rizzo's comments, which were reported early this year, were rejected by leading PRI figures at the time. The PRI's national chairman, Humberto Moreira, told El Universal's Sunday newspaper his party did not want to make deals with organized crime and that Calderon was trying to exploit the issue of public security for political ends.

Mexico’s military says soldiers freed 61 men being held captive by the Zetas drug cartel for use as forced labor


Mexico’s military says soldiers freed 61 men being held captive by the Zetas drug cartel for use as forced labor. The army says the men were found guarded by three Zetas kidnappers in a safe house in the border city of Piedras Negras on Saturday. Soldiers made the discovery during a security sweep in the area that also turned up an abandoned truck filled with 6 tons of marijuana. Loading... Comments Weigh InCorrections? In a press conference Sunday, Gen. Luis Crescencio Sandoval Gonzalez said one of the captives was from Honduras and others were from various parts of Mexico. He said the three kidnappers were arrested. Piedras Negras sits across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, in the Mexican state of Coahuila, which has been the scene of ongoing battles between drug gangs.

Four former members of the Colombian army's special forces are training members of Los Zetas


Four former members of the Colombian army's special forces are training members of Los Zetas, considered Mexico's most violent drug cartel, the Bogota daily El Tiempo reported Sunday. The retired soldiers - two captains and two sergeants - served time in Colombia for human rights violations. "The identities of the soldiers have not been released because charges have not been filed against them," El Tiempo said, adding that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Mexican police and Colombian police were tracking their movements.

You shoot a police officer, you’re going to get shot back at


A little before dawn on a sticky summer night in June, one of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s Ranger Reconnaissance Teams was running a clandestine operation along the Rio Grande when its surveillance squad came across a Dodge Durango pickup truck loaded with bales of Mexican marijuana. Bad idea, messing with Texas. 37 Comments Weigh InCorrections? inShare Gallery  The Texas governor is seeking the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Gallery  Mexico's ongoing drug war continues to claim lives and disrupt order in the country. More On This Story Read more on PostPolitics.com Rick Perry a hawk on Texas border security Perry and Romney dominate GOP fundraising Cain defends ‘9-9-9’ tax overhaul plan View all Items in this Story The lawmen chased the truck along the river, with a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter swooping overhead and Texas game wardens roaring down the Rio Grande in boats, state authorities said. In minutes, the traffickers had ditched the truck in the muddy water and were rafting the dope back to Mexico. Then the shooting started. Alone among his Republican rivals running for president, the Texas governor has a small army at his disposal. Over the past three years, he has deployed it along his southern flank in a secretive, military-style campaign that his supporters deem absolutely necessary and successful and that his critics call an overzealous, expensive and mostly ineffective political stunt. A hawk when it comes to Mexican cartels, Perry said in New Hampshire this month that as president he would consider sending U.S. troops into Mexico to combat drug violence there and stop it from spilling into the United States. The June incident along the Rio Grande was typical of Perry’s border security campaign: a lot of swagger, with mixed results. The initial news release said the Texas Rangers team came “under heavy fire” by members of the Gulf cartel, though officials later said it was “four to six shots.” The Texas Rangers and their multi-agency task force, which included U.S. Border Patrol agents, returned fire — big time — lighting up the Mexican riverbank with 300 rounds. “You shoot a police officer, you’re going to get shot back at,” said Steven McCraw, Perry’s homeland security chief and director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Frightening 'Drug Threat Assessment' for the USA and Mexico


The National Drug Intelligence Center, a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, recently released a document entitled the "National Drug Threat Assessment 2011."  You can read the document online here.  The document paints a gloomy picture for both the U.S. and Mexico. The Assessment's Executive Summary begins: "The illicit trafficking and abuse of drugs present a challenging, dynamic threat to the United States.  Overall demand is rising, largely supplied by illicit drugs smuggled to U.S. markets by major transnational criminal organizations (TCOs).  Changing conditions continue to alter patterns in drug production, trafficking, and abuse. Traffickers are responding to government counterdrug efforts by modifying their interrelationships, altering drug production levels, and adjusting their trafficking routes and methods. Major Mexican-based TCOs continue to solidify their dominance over the wholesale illicit drug trade as they control the movement of most of the foreign-produced drug supply across the U.S. Southwest Border. "The estimated economic cost of illicit drug use to society for 2007 was more than $193 billion...." One of the contributing factors is the high demand for drugs in the United States. This high demand finances the drug cartels, allowing them to spend more and expand their operations.   According to the 2011 Assessment, that demand is growing. The document reports that "The abuse of several major illicit drugs, including heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine, appears to be increasing, especially among the young."  Elsewhere it says that "Overall drug availability is increasing."  One exception to this tendency is cocaine - its availability and use are down.   The document states that "The Southwest Border remains the primary gateway for moving illicit drugs into the United States.  Most illicit drugs available in the United States are smuggled overland across the Southwest Border...."  The Southwest Border is comprised of the southern borders of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas with Mexico. Then there is the tunneling: "Despite enhanced detection efforts and better countermeasures, Mexican drug traffickers will continue to build tunnels under the Southwest Border." In the U.S., Mexican cartels have cornered the market.  The 2011 Assessment states that "Mexican-based TCOs [transnational crime organizations] dominate the supply, trafficking, and wholesale distribution of most illicit drugs in the United States."  Elsewhere, it predicts that "Major Mexican-based TCOs and their associates are solidifying their dominance of the U.S. wholesale drug trade and will maintain their reign for the foreseeable future." The Mexican cartels are active in many urban areas.  The Assessment calculates that "Mexican-based TCOs were operating in more than a thousand U.S. cities during 2009 and 2010...." And, "Mexican-based trafficking organizations control access to the U.S.-Mexico border, the primary gateway for moving the bulk of illicit drugs into the United States.  The organizations control, simultaneously use, or are competing for control of various smuggling corridors that they use to regulate drug flow across the border. The value they attach to controlling border access is demonstrated by the ferocity with which several rival TCOs are fighting over control of key corridors, or ‘plazas.'" The document says that seven major Mexican drug cartels are supplying the United States, but that "... the Sinaloa Cartel is preeminent - its members traffic all major illicit drugs of abuse, and its extensive distribution network supplies drugs to all regions of the United States." U.S.-based gangs are involved in the distribution north of the border: "The threat posed by gang involvement in drug trafficking is increasing, particularly in the Southwest Region. With gangs already the dominant retail drug suppliers in major and midsized cities, some gang members are solidifying their ties to Mexican TCOs to bolster their involvement in wholesale smuggling, internal distribution, and control of the retail trade." The Assessment reports that "Criminal gangs - that is street, prison, and outlaw motorcycle gangs - remain in control of most of the retail distribution of drugs throughout much of the United States, particularly in major and midsize cities." The document predicts that "Collaboration between U.S. gangs and Mexican-based TCOs will continue to increase, facilitating wholesale drug trafficking into and within the United States.  Most collaboration occurs in cities along the U.S.-Mexico border, although some occurs in other regions of the country. Some U.S.-based gangs in the Southwest Border region also operate in Mexico, facilitating the smuggling of illicit drugs across the border." The 2011 Assessment paints a gloomy picture of the drug trafficking situation, drug cartels, and the safety and security of both the U.S. and Mexico.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

NJ Town First to Consider Medical Marijuana


Medical marijuana could get a little closer to sprouting in the Garden State, as one licensed dispensary heads to the zoning board in the town of Maple Shade, NJ. Authorities in March licensed six non-profit alternative treatment centers across the state, but they’ve largely been in a holding pattern ever since. On Wednesday, Compassionate Sciences Inc. will be the first center to seek local approval. The firm wants to convert an old furniture store into a 5,000 square foot center, with consulting rooms for patients to discuss the controlled substance, a lab to conduct research and, as spokesman Andrei Bogolubov describes it, a very secure vault for the marijuana. “There's a lot of controls, a lot of safeguards, and the state's going to do a site visit to make sure those systems are in place before they issue the permit and let us open the doors,” he said. Even if it gets a local go-ahead, Compassionate Sciences and the other approved dispensaries are still waiting for New Jersey to issue final regulations. Each center will grow and harvest its own crop of marijuana and Bogolubov estimates it will take about nine weeks to generate enough to supply customers. About 30,000 of them are expected state-wide. Governor Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, has said he would not have signed the bill into law. He wants to make sure the drug only gets to people who need it for pain relief from illnesses such as cancer and multiple-sclerosis. He said he is determined to avoid “abuses” that he said have plagued medical marijuana programs in Colorado and California.

The Netherlands is embarking on a crusade against its multi-billion-euro marijuana industry


The Netherlands is embarking on a crusade against its multi-billion-euro marijuana industry, with significant implications both for its economy and its famously liberal approach to life. Along with tighter control of legalized prostitution and a swing to the right in attitudes toward immigration and Islam in recent years, the clampdown is seen as further evidence of an erosion of tolerance in a country known for its liberal social policies. The push to clamp down on soft drugs has come mainly from the Christian Democrats, the junior partner in the minority government and one of the larger parties in a fragmented political landscape. "There's clearly a shift in the moral debate. It's all about the culture of control," said Dirk Korf, professor of criminology at the University of Amsterdam. Instantly recognizable from the sickly sweet, burned-leaf smell that wafts out onto the street, the Netherlands' world-renowned "coffee shops" are almost as common as supermarkets in big cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam and in certain border towns. Like trained sommeliers, the staff or "bud tenders" are experts on the flavors and after-effects of whatever is on the menu -- white widow, vanilla kush, or hazers like amnesia "known for its extreme, almost paranoid psychedelic high, with an unforgettable strong fruity taste and smell." Counter staff do a brisk trade in plastic sachets of loose grass, ready-rolled joints and chunks of hashish for those who want take-away. The Netherlands tolerates the sale of up to 5 grams per person per day of marijuana and hashish in the controlled environment of the coffee shops. It also tolerates the home cultivation of marijuana plants, within a limit of five plants per person, but any cultivation larger than that is illegal. Strong demand has spawned secret cannabis plantations that provide a so-called back-door supply to the coffee shops and are a headache for Dutch authorities who have to find and raid them. DRUGS TOURISTS On a typical Saturday evening, the coffee shops in central Amsterdam are packed with smokers. The clientele is middle class, the voices mostly foreign -- Italian, Spanish, French, German, English. Concerned about this influx of soft-drugs tourists, not to mention what it sees as the associated crime, nuisance and health risks, the Christian Democrat Party wants to see the country's 700 or so coffee shops shut down, but for the moment is settling for introducing restrictions on their activities. A measure expected to be passed in parliament by the end of this year will have coffee shops operate as members-only clubs, meaning that only local residents will be eligible to register for "weed passes," effectively barring foreigners from buying soft drugs. Already, some cities have introduced tighter restrictions, limiting the coffee shops' proximity to schools or relocating them to the outskirts. On October 1, coffee shops in the southeastern city of Maastricht banned all foreigners except for neighboring Germans and Belgians, as a first step toward introduction of weed passes. Crime expert Korf says there is little justification for the clampdown, with scant evidence that the Dutch public supports the change. "No serious polls have been conducted, we don't know if opinions about coffee shops have even changed," said Korf. "Before coffee shops we had street dealing, they were selling marijuana in the street and ripping off tourists. The whole drug problem is nothing compared to (what we had in) the 1980s, 1990s -- we don't have a heroin problem." The Trimbos Institute, which studies addiction and mental health, said 5 percent of Netherlands citizens smoked weed or hashish in the past year, against an EU average of 7 percent. GLOBAL CONFUSION Policymakers around the world are seeking fresh ideas on how to combat drug abuse, opening up a debate on policies on soft drugs. In June, a high-profile group of global leaders declared the "war on drugs" a failure and urged governments to consider decriminalizing drugs in order to cut consumption and weaken the power of organized crime. The Global Commission on Drug Policy -- which includes former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and British billionaire Richard Branson -- said a decades-long strategy of outlawing drugs and jailing users while battling drug cartels had not worked. It recommended that governments experiment with the legal regulation of drugs, especially cannabis, citing the successes in countries such as the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland, where drug consumption had been reduced. Portugal, for instance, has gone much further than the Netherlands by decriminalizing all drugs, replacing jail time with counseling and treatment. The Christian Democrats disagree and say the Dutch policy has had a negative effect on public health and crime. "In other countries there is no tolerance. The Dutch coffee shops attract a lot of foreign drug tourists, especially in the border region, causing much nuisance," according to a statement published on the Christian Democrat Party website. The centrist party has cast doubt on the rationale for allowing coffee shops, which was to separate the soft and hard drugs markets, and said that people who smoke cannabis often turned to other drugs. It also argues the active substance in cannabis is much stronger than twenty years ago, putting it on a par with harder drugs -- a reflection of years of cultivation of new varieties by growers. A Dutch commission earlier this year found that hashish and marijuana on sale in the Netherlands contain about 18 percent of THC, the main psychoactive substance, and said a level above 15 percent put the drugs on a par with heroin or cocaine. Maxime Verhagen, a Christian Democrat who is deputy prime minister, said on October 7 the government would ban the sale of cannabis whose concentration of THC exceeds 15 percent. The Christian Democrats also want tougher regulations on the so-called cannabis plantations. In addition to illegally supplying the coffee shops, "much of the illegally cultivated cannabis in the Netherlands is exported abroad. There is an extensive network illegally created in the grip of organized crime," the party said in its statement. Dutch authorities already devote considerable resources to tracking down these large-scale plantations. The police work with the local electricity company to detect unusual consumption patterns, for example round-the-clock usage in sheds and attics, and have used tiny sniffer-helicopters which can detect the smell of pot plants wafting from ventilation shafts and chimneys, according to media reports. Rotterdam city council recently distributed "scratch and sniff cards" to households, hoping that concerned citizens would tip off the police if they recognized the smell of illegal cannabis plantations in the neighborhood. PUSHBACK AT HOME There is plenty of opposition to the crackdown. Dutch smokers do not welcome the idea of having to register for weed passes. "Many of my customers are locals, artists, writers, doctors, lawyers, professionals. They don't want their name on a register -- they don't know who could see it or use it. So they may go to other sources on the street," said Paula Baten, manager of the Siberie coffee shop in central Amsterdam. "This government is more Christian, more right-wing. They don't want drugs but they forget about the effects of alcohol." Already, there's talk of how foreigners can circumvent the new rules, for example by asking Dutch citizens to buy soft drugs on their behalf to take away, and concern that dealing in soft drugs will go onto the street. Some politicians oppose the proposals. Eberhard van der Laan, the mayor of Amsterdam, says restricting the activities of coffee shops would lead to greater health risks, nuisance and drug dealing on the streets. As mayor, he could simply choose not to enforce the weed pass regulations. "At the moment the mayor is in conference with the minister to convince him that the measures regarding coffee shops will be counterproductive for Amsterdam," the mayor's office said in a statement to Reuters. Others cite the likely economic impact. The Netherlands, like other European countries, has had to introduce austerity measures and cut spending in the wake of the credit crisis, when it pumped 40 billion euros into rescuing financial institutions. Tax revenue from the coffee shops is estimated at about 400 million euros a year. Studies by the finance ministry and academics estimated that if the Netherlands legalized the "back-door" supply, bringing it "above board," it could collect as much as an additional 400-850 million euros a year, including savings on the cost of law enforcement. Then there's the tourist revenue. In Maastricht, which gets a lot of day tourists because it is so close to the German and Belgian borders, a study commissioned by an association of coffee shop owners calculated that visitors to the city's coffee shops spent about 119 million euros a year, mostly on shopping and eating out. A study by Professor Korf of the University of Amsterdam found that tourists who visited coffee shops in central Amsterdam had similar spending habits to other tourists, and were just as likely to spend 200 euros or more on a hotel room, or splash out at smart restaurants or nightclubs. The Bulldog and Barney's -- the big names in the industry -- run coffee shop chains, and many coffee shop owners also make money from lodgings and related businesses. Hundreds of tourists attend the annual cannabis cup award for the best new strains, and the local edition of Time Out runs monthly weed reviews. Jackie Woerlee, who runs customized cannabis tours, said that among her recent tour guests were members of one of the Middle East royal families who rented a luxury apartment for several weeks and spent several thousand euros shopping at luxury stores. "Customers might easily spend 100 euros in a coffee shop, but it's not just that, it's the hotels, the eating out, renting apartments," Woerlee said. "These people spend."

Sunday, 9 October 2011

British man arrested on Tenerife with 34 heroin capsules in his body


34 year old British man has been arrested at the Los Rodeos Tenerife North Airport after found to be carrying 75 capsules of heroin inside his body. News has just been released of the arrest which took place last Wednesday afternoon, and a statement from the Guardia Civil says the total weight of the drug recovered was 913 grams. Apparently when stopped by customs officials on arrival from the Spanish mainland, suspicions were raised when the Briton was unable to give a clear explanation as to the reason for his visit to Tenerife. The man, who has not been named in reports, was subjected to medical and police surveillance in the Canaries Universitario Hospital until all the capsules had been passed. That was checked by x-ray.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Mexican forces have arrested a man they say is a key figure in the country's most powerful drugs cartel.


Noel Salgueiro Nevarez is accused of running the Sinaloa cartel's operations in the northern state of Chihuahua, where drug violence is rampant.

Defence officials said his arrest would seriously weaken the cartel in Mexico and abroad.

The arrest was made on the same day as that of Martin Rosales Magana, who is accused of leading the La Familia gang.

The army said Mr Salgueiro Nevarez was seized in a carefully planned military operation, without a shot being fired.

Defence Ministry spokesman Ricardo Trevilla Trejo said Noel Salgueiro Nevarez was behind much of the extreme violence which has plagued Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's murder capital.

He said the suspect, also known as El Flaco (The Skinny One), led a gang of hitmen who extorted local businessmen, kidnapped for ransom, and tortured and killed members of a rival gang, the Juarez cartel.

'Criminal career'


The Sinaloa Cartel controls the production of large quantities of heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine (in the US) and boasts an extensive network of associates to facilitate its US trafficking operations, US officials say.

On Saturday, Texas Governor Rick Perry said he would even consider sending US troops into Mexico to combat drug-related violence and "keep the cartels off the border".

This is why the arrest of "The Skinny One" could be a severe blow to the Sinaloa cartel activity both sides of the fence.

It is also a public relations boost for Mexican President Felipe Calderon at home and in the US, amid growing criticism of his government's strategy to fight criminals and the drug trafficking.

Yet, the Sinaloa Cartel leader is still free. Joaquin "The Shorty" Guzman escaped from a maximum security prison in 2001, embarrassing the Mexican government.

Since then, he's become the number one target with a $3m reward for his capture.

The security forces say the bitter war between the two gangs was the trigger for most of the 3,000 killings in Ciudad Juarez last year.

Prosecutors said Mr Salgueiro Nevarez started his criminal career 15 years ago, producing marijuana for the Sinaloa cartel.

They said his gang had been exporting up to 15 tonnes of marijuana and two tonnes of cocaine per month to the United States.

The government had offered a three-million-peso ($220,000; £130,000) reward for information leading to his capture.

Security officials said his arrest, in the city of Culiacan in northwestern Sinaloa state, was a major blow to the Sinaloa cartel and its leader, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman.

Mr Guzman, 54, is Mexico's most wanted man and thought to be one of the country's richest.

Two years ago, he made Forbes magazine's list of the 67 World's Most Powerful People. At number 41, he was just below Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Crumbling cartel

Mr Salgueiro Nevarez's arrest was announced at the same time as that of another top figure in the Mexican drugs trade.

Martin Rosales Magana on 5 October 2011Police say Martin Rosales Magana lead the remnants of the La Familia cartel

Martin Rosales Magana, 47, was seized in Mexico state on Tuesday. Police say he is one of the founders of the once-powerful La Familia cartel.

Until the beginning of this year, La Familia ran much of the methamphetamine trade in Mexico.

It claimed to protect local communities and promote family values, but also engaged in gruesome violence.

The security forces say it has been almost entirely dismantled, with its top leaders either in jail or dead.

They say Mr Rosales Magana lead a number of small cells still loyal to the cartel, which had holed themselves up in a rural area between Michoacan and Mexico state.

At a news conference, federal police counter-narcotics chief Ramon Pequeno described how La Familia splintered after the security forces killed the cartel's then-leader Nazario Moreno in December 2010.

He said part of the gang set up a rival cartel, which they named Knights Templar, and which quickly took over many of the methamphetamine labs in the west and south-west of the country.

Mr Pequeno said Mr Rosales Magana and those loyal to him tried to regain control of the drugs trade in Michoacan state by forging an alliance with their long-time rivals, the Zetas cartel.

He told reporters how "they met with the Zetas to ask for operational assistance, weapons and salaries [for gunmen] and expenses money, in order to recoup important cities held by the Knights Templar".

However, according to police, the alliance soon faltered because Mr Rosales Magane no longer had access to the precursor chemicals needed to make methamphetamine, their main source of income.

Mr Pequeno said with La Familia severely weakened, police would now focus their attention on taking down the Knights Templar.

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