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Tag: Drugs

Ross Parker: The Collision Between Drugs and Environmental Forces in Central America

Ross Parker

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.
 
By Ross Paker
ticklethewire.com

Two months ago this column discussed the effect that America’s insatiable appetite for drugs was having on two contrasting Central American nations—violent and impoverished Honduras and peaceful and idyllic Costa Rica.

Because of the success of DEA and the U.S. military at interdicting South American drug shipments by sea, the Colombian cartels and the Mexican Mafia now move virtually all drugs from South America by land, transporting it through those two countries. The under-resourced law enforcement systems of Honduras and Costa Rica have proven to be no match for the well-armed smugglers.

The latest evidence of this struggle for control in Costa Rica has been a violent incident resulting in the collision between the cartels and powerful environmental forces, a collision likely to accelerate the enhancement of law enforcement resources in that country in its fight against the smugglers.

During the night of May 30th, a popular young biology student, Jairo Mora Sandoval, along with four female volunteers (three Americans and one from Spain), were patrolling a beach on the Caribbean coast to protect the nests of Leatherhead turtles, whose eggs were constantly subject to poachers in the area. The Leatherhead is an endangered species whose eggs illegally sell for a dollar a piece to buyers who believe them to be an aphrodisiac. They are also a dining delicacy in restaurants and sidewalk cafes.

Mora had been an outspoken advocate for increased law enforcement in the area both against poachers and also drug trafficking in nearby Limon. As reported in the earlier column, Limon was the location where two policemen were recently murdered as part of the increased criminal atmosphere in that district. An atmosphere fueled by the invasion of drug smugglers into this peaceful country.

Costa Rica is one of the most eco-friendly places on the planet. The result is that a sizeable portion of the nation’s GDP comes from eco-tourism. A threat to its abundant natural resources is likely to mobilize thousands of environmentalists, as well as threaten an important source of revenue for this prosperous country. Cries for action from both of these sources shake and shape the government’s policies in all respects.

As the five volunteers traveled along the remote Caribbean beach, they were seized by five armed kidnappers. The women were able to escape from the abandoned house where they had been tied up, but Mora’s body was found the next day, tortured and bludgeoned to death. The murder is believed to be a threat by poachers and smugglers to frighten other environmentalists.

The connection between poaching and the drug smugglers has several facets. The cartels use the same beaches where the turtles lay their eggs, in order to bring their product in from boats off the coast for transport to Mexico and the United States. They employ locals for warehousing and overland shipment and frequently pay them with cocaine. This has created a drug user population that often resorts to smuggling the turtle eggs to feed their habit. The population also spawns the other social problems ancillary to drug activity.

Read more »

Weekend Series on Crime: The Deadly Los Zetas Drug Organization

httpv://youtu.be/00DimMKganQ

America’s Drug Appetite Helps Make Honduras One of the Most Dangerous Places on the Globe

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

Ross Parker

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras —  I spent last week in Honduras with a couple dozen friends under the watchful and protective eye of a Honduran woman who has dedicated her life’s work to bettering the lives of the indigenous peasants of her country.

Despite State Department warnings we felt safe and welcome in the rural villages. The villagers were shyly courteous and grateful for any help to improve their living conditions. Their children were curious, achingly beautiful, and always up for any kind of fun activity which overcame the language barrier. They delighted in regularly beating me in lively rock-scissors-paper contests.

As in so many parts of the world today, individual Americans are well regarded here. The American government not so much. Many American NGOs, like Heifer, International and the Presbyterian Church, to name a couple, have made a real contribution in providing permanent housing, sustainable agriculture, education, and health care to the rural Mayans, whose lives have changed remarkably little in centuries.

On the flip side, Americans have played an important part in making Honduras one of the most dangerous places on the globe. It has the highest murder rate in the world. The city we flew into and out of, San Pedro Sula, is considered to be the most violent city in the world. Urban gang violence, overflowing prisons, robbery and kidnaping—all are endemic in this small country. Add to this the ancillary ills to which drug crime contributes—corruption, unstable governments, inadequate health care, and a weakened economy unable to cope with natural disasters like floods and earthquakes.

How is this, in part, the responsibility of Americans? Our insatiable cocaine habit has for decades produced the market demand fueling the multi-billion dollar export business from Colombia and Peru. With the success of U.S. law enforcement in maritime interdictions, the transit route has increasingly come through Central America to Mexico and then across our southern border. Transportation by the cartels now runs right through this relatively defenseless little country. The weak governments and overwhelmed law enforcement system are no match for the resources of the ruthless drug syndicates.

Honduras, which stretches from the Caribbean to the Pacific, is a battleground between the South American and Mexican drug cartels who violently confront each other in this neutral midpoint over territorial control and market share. Honduran bystanders become victims. All of this to get to the lucrative business of the American consumers.

We unintentionally contribute to the violence in Honduras in two other ways beyond our drug habit. Our relatively lax gun control laws make it easy for cartels to obtain in the United States assault rifles, ammunition, and other weapons to be used as deadly tools of the trade in Latin America. Not all firearms of course since civil wars have produced many left over weapons.

But enough to contribute substantially to the 40,000 Mexicans killed in the last six years. Also, our porous borders have permitted more than a million Hondurans to enter the United States. Substantial numbers have committed crimes, received a criminal education in American prisons, and then were deported back to their native country. They become drug organization recruits as well as violent criminals of opportunity.

In an era of budget tightening American politicians seem to be incrementally reducing support for international law enforcement, indeed for law enforcement in general. Statisticians point out that cocaine use is down and that drug sources have increasingly become domestic, such as meth manufacture, marijuana, and pharmaceutical drug diversion. Anyway, cocaine consumption is said to be relatively benign, victimless, a matter for education and regulation, not police and federal agents. Americans are said to have these Latin American drugs under control.

But ask Hondurans and Mexicans whether the American drug habit is benign for them. Or is it a voracious, self-obsessed monster into whose maw countless and random Latin American lives are sucked in and chewed up?

Perhaps the effect of cocaine consumption is just one symptom of the fact that few Americans give a damn about Central America. When told we were going to Honduras, most of my friends hardly knew where it was or anything about the country. But Hondurans are a proud and courageous people who deserve a safe and satisfying life as much as any American.

Through an interpreter I asked a young Honduran farmer what his hopes were for his daughter. “I dream that she will be able to get an education and live a happy, peaceful life in our village,” he replied.

I could not have stated more eloquently my dreams for my own daughter.

 

 

America’s Drug Appetite Helps Make Honduras One of the Most Dangerous Places on the Globe

 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras —  I spent last week in Honduras with a couple dozen friends under the watchful and protective eye of a Honduran woman who has dedicated her life’s work to bettering the lives of the indigenous peasants of her country.

Despite State Department warnings we felt safe and welcome in the rural villages. The villagers were shyly courteous and grateful for any help to improve their living conditions. Their children were curious, achingly beautiful, and always up for any kind of fun activity which overcame the language barrier. They delighted in regularly beating me in lively rock-scissors-paper contests.

As in so many parts of the world today, individual Americans are well regarded here. The American government not so much. Many American NGOs, like Heifer, International and the Presbyterian Church, to name a couple, have made a real contribution in providing permanent housing, sustainable agriculture, education, and health care to the rural Mayans, whose lives have changed remarkably little in centuries.

On the flip side, Americans have played an important part in making Honduras one of the most dangerous places on the globe. It has the highest murder rate in the world. The city we flew into and out of, San Pedro Sula, is considered to be the most violent city in the world. Urban gang violence, overflowing prisons, robbery and kidnaping—all are endemic in this small country. Add to this the ancillary ills to which drug crime contributes—corruption, unstable governments, inadequate health care, and a weakened economy unable to cope with natural disasters like floods and earthquakes.

How is this, in part, the responsibility of Americans? Our insatiable cocaine habit has for decades produced the market demand fueling the multi-billion dollar export business from Colombia and Peru. With the success of U.S. law enforcement in maritime interdictions, the transit route has increasingly come through Central America to Mexico and then across our southern border. Transportation by the cartels now runs right through this relatively defenseless little country. The weak governments and overwhelmed law enforcement system are no match for the resources of the ruthless drug syndicates.

Honduras, which stretches from the Caribbean to the Pacific, is a battleground between the South American and Mexican drug cartels who violently confront each other in this neutral midpoint over territorial control and market share. Honduran bystanders become victims. All of this to get to the lucrative business of the American consumers.

We unintentionally contribute to the violence in Honduras in two other ways beyond our drug habit. Our relatively lax gun control laws make it easy for cartels to obtain in the United States assault rifles, ammunition, and other weapons to be used as deadly tools of the trade in Latin America. Not all firearms of course since civil wars have produced many left over weapons.

But enough to contribute substantially to the 40,000 Mexicans killed in the last six years. Also, our porous borders have permitted more than a million Hondurans to enter the United States. Substantial numbers have committed crimes, received a criminal education in American prisons, and then were deported back to their native country. They become drug organization recruits as well as violent criminals of opportunity.

In an era of budget tightening American politicians seem to be incrementally reducing support for international law enforcement, indeed for law enforcement in general. Statisticians point out that cocaine use is down and that drug sources have increasingly become domestic, such as meth manufacture, marijuana, and pharmaceutical drug diversion. Anyway, cocaine consumption is said to be relatively benign, victimless, a matter for education and regulation, not police and federal agents. Americans are said to have these Latin American drugs under control.

But ask Hondurans and Mexicans whether the American drug habit is benign for them. Or is it a voracious, self-obsessed monster into whose maw countless and random Latin American lives are sucked in and chewed up?

Perhaps the effect of cocaine consumption is just one symptom of the fact that few Americans give a damn about Central America. When told we were going to Honduras, most of my friends hardly knew where it was or anything about the country. But Hondurans are a proud and courageous people who deserve a safe and satisfying life as much as any American.

Through an interpreter I asked a young Honduran farmer what his hopes were for his daughter. “I dream that she will be able to get an education and live a happy, peaceful life in our village,” he replied.

I could not have stated more eloquently my dreams for my own daughter.

 

 

War on Drugs Goes to Africa

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The U.S. is expanding its war on drugs to Africa, the New York Times reports.

Targeting areas used to smuggle Latin American cocaine into Europe, the U.S. is training an elite unit of counter-narcotics police in Ghana and plans to do so with Nigeria and Kenya.

The aggressive position in Africa is a sign that the U.S. is increasing some operations while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, according to the New York Times.

“We see Africa as the new frontier in terms of counterterrorism and counternarcotics issues,” Jeffrey P. Breeden, the chief of the D.E.A.’s Europe, Asia and Africa section, told the New York Times. “It’s a place that we need to get ahead of — we’re already behind the curve in some ways, and we need to catch up.”

Feds Continue Crackdowns on Pot Dispensaries in California

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com
 

The continuing clash between state and federal officials over how to handle medicinal pot in states that legalized it arrived in Sacramento again with a raid on a dispensary, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Although the Obama administration pledged to respect state laws on medicinal marijuana, the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency executed a search warrant on the El Camino Wellness Center.

Four U.S. attorneys announced a crackdown in October on marijuana operations in California, saying medical pot operations were “hijacked by profiteers,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

Since then, federal authorities have conducted raids from Los Angeles to Oakland.

Medical pot advocates accuse the federal government of trampling on state marijuana laws that allow sick and injured people to obtain the drug for relief.

32 Guns Found at U.S. Airports in a Week

tsa photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

After Sept. 11, 2001, it’s still amazing to find how common it is for people to bring guns to airports.

On occasion, ticklethewire.com likes to check in to see just how many folks still bring guns.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, 30 loaded guns and two unloaded ones were discovered at airport checkpoints during the week of May 11 to May 17.

A TSA blog also noted that there were seven incidents in a week in which drugs were found on passengers using imaging technology.

“We’re not looking for drugs, but finding these nonmetallic items in areas where explosives could also be hidden is a testament that the technology works,” the TSA blog said. “In addition to these discoveries, there was also a passenger at Anchorage who attempted to sneak in a tube of toothpaste by placing it in her groin area. This was an attempt to get it through after we had already caught it in her bag earlier. If you’re not familiar with why toothpaste is prohibited, you can read about our liquid policies here.”

 OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

ATF Says 68,000 Guns Seized in Mexico Came From U.S.

atf file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The U.S. likes to think that it contributes positively to many countries. In Mexico, that’s not always the case.

ATF reports that 68,000 guns recovered by Mexican authorities between January 2007 and December 2011 were traced back to the U.S., USA Today reports.

The paper reported that many weapons were recovered after drug cartel shootouts or found in raids.

To read more click here.