Archive for the ‘Drug Trafficking’ Category

March 21, 2013

“If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are you’ll go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life. But evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night. Every single individual associated with this, and I just think it’s just fundamentally wrong.”

Elizabeth Warren is still waiting for an answer.

During Senate testimony Liz Warren asks how much drug-laundered money it takes before banking regulators consider shutting down a bank. Hilarity ensues. And no one ever answers the question.

Witnesses were:

1. David Cohen, Sec. for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, U.S. Treasury

2. Thomas Curry, Comptroller, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

3. Jerome H. Powell, Governor, Federal Reserve System

May 7, 2013

President Obama, during a recent visit to Mexico, pointed the finger at American’s use of illegal drugs and guns for Mexico’s plague of violence. “Much of the root cause for violence that has been happening here in Mexico, for which so many Mexicans have suffered, is the demand for illegal drugs in the United States,” Obama said. He continued, “Most of the guns used to commit violence here in Mexico come from the United States.”

The fact is, this story goes much deeper. It is true that there is a demand for drugs in the united states, but we should ask these vital questions: Who has facilitated this situation? Who is supporting the drug lords? Looking into this story, we can reasonably conclude that the American people are scapegoats for the crimes of money laundering banks and the ATF.

As reported by Bloomberg in 2010, mega banks including Wells Fargo (Bailed out with $36 billion in taxpayer money in 2008) and Bank of America (Which began giving credit cards to illegal aliens with no social security numbers in 2007) were caught laundering money to Mexican drug cartels. In total over $300 billion was laundered in operations that were blatantly ignored by Wachovia, now part of Wells Fargo. Among other illegal activities, the money bought planes used to deliver narcotics. After paying a measly $160 million in fines – and “promising not to do it again” – Wachovia is officially off the hook for its crimes.

Drug lords would have a hard time exerting their authority without armaments. Fortunately for them, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) kindly supplied weapons in operation Fast and Furious. The operation allowed guns to be sold to suspected Mexican drug dealers to be “tracked.” Not surprisingly, Fast and Furious weapons have been found at crime scenes in Mexico. Can this be chalked up to a “botched operation,” or is there a conscious intent to use it for wider objectives?

CBS news uncovered documents in 2011 that showed the ATF discussing Fast and Furious as a means to justify tighter gun control measures. Now, President Obama is pointing to this violence and proclaiming the same objectives. In his version of reality the American people – in their wanton lust for guns and drugs – are to blame.

It is vitally important that the official narrative on this issue be deconstructed. The establishment will ride on its white horse proclaiming ignorance of any wrongdoing. In fact, it will use the violence it generates to elevate itself over the people even further.

From April 27, 2011

The “logistical coordinator” for a top Mexican drug-trafficking gang that was responsible for purchasing the CIA torture jet that crashed with four tons on cocaine on board back in 2007 has told the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago that he has been working as a U.S. government asset for years.

Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla is the son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, one of the top kingpins of the Sinaloa drug-trafficking organization. Niebla was arrested in Mexico in March 2009 and extradited to the United States to stand trial last February.

“The indictment pending against Zambada Niebla claims he served as the “logistical coordinator” for the “cartel,” helping to oversee an operation that imported into the U.S. “multi-ton quantities of cocaine … using various means, including but not limited to, Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, private aircraft … buses, rail cars, tractor trailers, and automobiles,” writes Narcosphere’s Bill Conroy.

In a two page court pleading filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, Niebla claims that he was working on behalf and with the authority of, “The U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”); and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”); and the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”),” since January 1, 2004.

Niebla is also connected to the Gulfstream II jet that wrecked with four tons of cocaine on board on September 24, 2007. European investigators linked the plane’s tail number, N987SA, to past CIA “rendition” operations. The bill of sale for the Gulfstream jet, sold weeks before it crashed, listed the name of Greg Smith, a pilot who had previously worked for the FBI, DEA and CIA.

The plane was purchased by Niebla’s Sinaloa drug-trafficking organization through a syndicate of Colombian drug-traffickers that included a CIA asset named Nelson Urrego, according to another undercover CIA operative, Baruch Vega, who was involved in the deal.

“The Gulfstream II jet, according to Mexican authorities, was among a number of aircraft acquired by the Sinaloa drug organization via an elaborate money laundering scheme involving a chain of Mexican casa de cambios (currency exchange houses) overseen by alleged Sinaloa organization operative Pedro Alfonso Alatorre Damy, according to Mexican government andU.S. media reports,” writes Conroy.

Sinaloa bought the jet by wiring money through the U.S. banking giant Wachovia, now a subsidiary of Wells Fargo. “In total, nearly $13 million dollars went through correspondent bank accounts at Wachovia for the purchase of aircraft to be used in the illegal narcotics trade. From these aircraft, more than 20,000 kilograms of cocaine were seized,” states Wachovia’s deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. Wachovia was forced to pay a penalty of around $160 million dollars for allowing the money to be laundered through its correspondent bank accounts.

“So, the criminal cases pending against alleged Colombian narco-trafficker Urrego, accused money-launderer Damy and Sinaloa organization logistics chief Zambada Niebla all appear to connect through the Gulfstream II cocaine jet at some level,” summarizes Conroy.

Another private aircraft that was full of cocaine crashed in New Mexico on Sunday morning, but the plane has yet to be identified.

In addition to smuggling narcotics into the United States, Niebla is also accused of obtaining weapons from the U.S. with the intent to use them to cause violence in Mexico City, leading to the murders of several innocent people. Despite the fact that the Obama administration has cited the flow of guns from the U.S. into Mexico as an excuse with which to attack the second amendment rights of Americans, it was recently revealed that the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives deliberately allowed guns to be smuggled from the U.S. into the hands of Mexican drug lords under “Operation Fast and Furious”. President Obama later denied that he had any knowledge of the program.

Niebla’s assertion that he smuggled drugs from Mexico into the United States while working for the U.S. government adds further weight to the already voluminous body of evidence that confirms the CIA and U.S. banking giants are the top players in a global drug trade worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year, information made public by the likes of Gary Webb, who it was claimed committed suicide in 2004 despite the fact that he was found with two gunshot wounds to the head and after Webb himself had complained of death threats and “government people” stalking his home.

For more background information on the story, be sure to read Bill Conroy’s excellent article over at Narco News entitled Mexican Narco-Trafficker’s Revelation Exposes Drug War’s Duplicity.

16 Maps Of Drug Flow Into The United States

Despite growing momentum for drug policy reform in Latin America, continual carnage in Mexico and a U.S. government-sponsoredstudy that rips U.S. drug policy, America’s 40-year war on drugs is still raging. 

This week retired Colombian police Gen. Mauricio Santoyo turned himself in to the DEA on charges that he helped drug gangs and right-wing paramilitaries smuggle cocaine to Mexico and the U.S. while he was the head of security for the president of Colombia.

We’ve covered how cocaine gets from the fields in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia to the world’s largest drug market.

The U.N.’s World Drug Report 2012 showed us how the U.S. has high demand formarijuanacocaine and painkillers. Ironically, the more America spends on the drug war, the cheaper drugs become.

All this got us thinking about how drugs make it from Latin America to American cities, so we put together a series of maps to get a better idea.

Most of the drugs that enter the U.S. come from Central and South America

Mexico is the transit zone between the biggest source of drugs and the biggest consumer

95 percent of American cocaine imports are brought by Mexican cartels through Mexico and Central America

The drugs are shipped in a variety of ways

The drugs are shipped in a variety of ways

STRATFOR

And flow through a variety of cartels

And flow through a variety of cartels

STRATFOR

Despite wars between cartels, most shipments make it through Mexico to the U.S. border

Despite wars between cartels, most shipments make it through Mexico to the U.S. border

STRATFOR

Here’s a look at which cartels tends to handle which drugs (though the dominant Zetas are conspicuously missing on this map)

Here's a look at which cartels tends to handle which drugs (though the dominant Zetas are conspicuously missing on this map)

STRATFOR

The battle to control the border claims the most lives

As a comparison, here’s how heroin makes it to its largest markets

Demand is geographically skewed in the U.S. as the West prefers methamphetamine (red) and the east prefers cocaine (blue)

The supply routes for meth follow the demand

The same goes for coke so sellers can reap the biggest possible profit

Marijuana distribution, like preference for it, is more balanced

And the same goes for heroin

Here are the aggregate answers from local law enforcement agencies when asked: “What drug poses the greatest threat to your area?”

All things considered, the drug superhighway is running smoothly as cocaine is causing more trouble than ever in its largest markets (U.S. and Europe)

What’

Posted July. 24, 2012

A Mexican state government spokesman told Al Jazeera that the CIA and other international security forces “don’t fight drug traffickers” as much as “try to manage the drug trade,” Chris Arsenault reports.

“It’s like pest control companies, they only control,” Chihuahua spokesman Guillermo Terrazas Villanueva told Al Jazeera. “If you finish off the pests, you are out of a job. If they finish the drug business, they finish their jobs.”

Chihuahua, one of Mexico’s most violent states, borders on Texas.

Arsenault quickly notes that Villanueva is not a high ranking official and that the mayor of Juarez, Chihuahua, dismissed the accusations as “baloney.”

Nevertheless, a government official going on the record with such claims is rare.

And a mid-level official with the Secretariat Gobernacion in Juarez (i.e. Mexico’s equivalent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) told Al Jazeera the allegations were true based on discussions he’s had with U.S. officials working in Juarez.

Arsenault highlights that the defense attorneys for Jesús Zambada Niebla – a leading trafficker from the Sinaloa cartel currently awaiting trial in Chicago – stated, as part of his defense, that “United States government agents aided the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel.”

Other high-level members of the Sinaloa cartel – Mexico’s oldest trafficking organization – have made similar claims that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel leader and one of the world’s most wanted men, works closely with U.S. authorities.

Upwards of 55,000 people have died from drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006.

Leaked emails from the private U.S. security firm Stratfor cite a Mexican diplomat who says the U.S. government works with Mexican cartels to traffic drugs into the United States and has sided with the Sinaloa cartel in an attempt to limit the violence in Mexico.

Many people have doubted the quality of Stratfor’s intelligence, but the information from MX1—a Mexican foreign service officer who doubled as a confidential source for Stratfor—seems to corroborate recent claims about U.S. involvement in the drug war in Mexico.

Most notably, the reports from MX1 line up with assertions by a Sinaloa cartel insider that cartel boss Joaquin Guzman is a U.S. informant, the Sinaloa cartel was “given carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago,” and Operation Fast and Furious was part of an agreement to finance and arm the Sinaloa cartel in exchange for information used to take down rival cartels.

An email with the subject “Re: From MX1 — 2” sent Monday, April 19, 2010, to Stratfor vice president of intelligence Fred Burton says:

I think the US sent a signal that could be construed as follows:

“To the [Juárez] and Sinaloa cartels: Thank you for providing our market with drugs over the years. We are now concerned about your perpetration of violence, and would like to see you stop that. In this regard, please know that Sinaloa is bigger and better than [the Juárez cartel]. Also note that [Ciudad Juárez] is very important to us, as is the whole border. In this light, please talk amongst yourselves and lets all get back to business. Again, we recognize that Sinaloa is bigger and better, so either [the Juárez cartel] gets in line or we will mess you up.”

In sum, I have a gut feeling that the US agencies tried to send a signal telling the cartels to negotiate themselves. They unilaterally declared a winner, and this is unprecedented, and deserves analysis.

Bill Conroy of Narco News reports that MX1’s description matches the publicly available information on Fernando de la Mora Salcedo — a Mexican foreign service officer who studied law at the University of New Mexico and served at the Mexican Consulates in El Paso, Texas, and Phoenix.

In a June 13, 2010, email with the subject “Re: Get follow up from mx1? Thx,” MX1 states that U.S. and Mexican law enforcement sent their “signal” by discretely brokering a deal with cartels in Tijuana, just south of San Diego, Calif., which reduced the violence in the area considerably.

It is not so much a message for the Mexican government as it is for the Sinaloa cartel and[the Juárez cartel] themselves. Basically, the message they want to send out is that Sinaloa is winning and that the violence is unacceptable. They want the CARTELS to negotiate with EACH OTHER. The idea is that if they can do this, violence will drop and the governments will allow controlled drug trades.

The email went on to say that “the major routes and methods for bulk shipping into the US” from Ciudad Juárez, right across the border from El Paso, Texas, “have already been negotiated with US authorities” and that large shipments of drugs from the Sinaloa cartel “are OK with the Americans.”

In July a Mexican state government spokesman told Al Jazeera that the CIA and other international security forces “don’t fight drug traffickers” as much as “try to manage the drug trade.” A mid-level Mexican official told Al Jazeera that based on discussions he’s had with U.S. officials working in Ciudad Juárez, the allegations were true.

WikiLeaks has published 2,878 out of what it says is a cache of 5 million internal Stratfor emails (dated between July 2004 and December 2011) obtained by the hacker collective Anonymous around Christmas.

The rise of SOCOM – to train proxy forces in all the places where US projects its power – is alarming.

The recent news of a possible shift in the operation of drones from the CIA to the Department of Defense was by and large received with a shrug. Given that the programme would likely be operated by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and under conditions of strictest secrecy, and probably launched from inaccessible “floating bases” on especially configured naval vessels, the shift is not an indicator of a change in the US’ assassination policy. And to the putative victims of the drone strikes, it is largely an irrelevant organisational change.

The reason, however, that the shift is of relevance more broadly is that it signals the irresistible rise of the special operations community in the post-counterinsurgency era.  More than a year ago, in January 2012, President Obama inaugurated the US Defense Strategic Guidance. The document was strategically significant because it announced the “pivot to Asia” alongside continued commitments to the oil sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf.

Militarily, it clearly signalled the end of large-scale invasion and occupation of troublesome or intransigent countries in favour of the kind of operations in which the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and its counterterrorism component, the JSOC, excel. This ascendancy is confirmed by the planned expansion of the SOCOM by around 7.5 percent by 2015, from 66,100 civilian and military personnel in 2011 to 71,100 by 2015.

This expansion of the force, at a time when most US government departments – including the Pentagon itself – are contemplating possible sequestrations, speaks to the increasing importance of a force which can act in the shadows, leaving a “light footprint”.

A recent report by the Center for a New American Security describes the light footprints as a “minimalist” and “non-intrusive” approach to asymmetric warfare combining “air power, special operators, intelligence agents, indigenous armed groups and contractors, often leveraging relationships with allies and enabling partner militaries to take more active roles”. US Special Operations Command is perfectly suited for such tasks and is increasingly consolidating its hold over the broad spectrum of military tactics it entails.

‘Minimalist and non-intrusive’ approach

Established in 1980 and 1987 respectively, JSOC and SOCOM both have their origins in the US military’s failed hostage rescue mission in Iran in 1980.

The most prominent operations in which the SOCOM has participated or had leading roles have included the invasion of Grenada (1983), rescue operations during the Achille Lauro hijacking (1985), the invasion of Panama and the kidnapping of Manuel Noriega (1989), the Mideast during the Gulf War (1991), the operation to arrest Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Somalia (1993), re-installation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti (1994), classified missions in Bosnia and Kosovo (1996-2002), and of course Afghanistan (2001-present) and Iraq (2003-present).

The USSOCOM draws from the special operators of the various branches of the US military, including the US Navy SEALs, the Army’s Green Berets and the 75th Ranger Regiment, the Marine Corps’ Special Operations Regiment, and the Air Force’s special operators.

The JSOC, the wholly classified sub-unit of the SOCOM, includes even smaller and more elite groups of the Delta Force and the US Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group (or DEVGRU) which was responsible for the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. But while such operations capture the attention of mainstream media and Hollywood producers, other functions of the SOCOM are less commented upon but just as important.

In both the aforementioned CNAS report and the 2011 Congressional testimony of Admiral William McRaven, the SOCOM chief, such visible direct operations are said best complemented by indirect approaches.

The direct special operations approach usually includes the drone-led assassination programme, and secret special operations forays into a variety of official, unofficial and unannounced battlegrounds in countries around the world. At last count, these countries numbered 71, up from around 60 during the Bush administration.

Although these operations get the press, and certainly seem to have a kind of pop culture glamour – with Hollywood clamouring to make films about special operators – the CNAS report helpfully tells us that:

“Drones and commando raids are the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Surgical strikes [sic] are only the most visible (and extreme) part of a deeper, longer-term strategy that takes many years to develop, cannot be grown after a crisis and relies heavily on human intelligence networks, the training of indigenous forces and close collaboration with civilian diplomats and development workers.”

The latter few items of the series above count as the kind of indirect operations that both McRaven and CNAS consider crucially important. The indirect tasks primarily include training and advising foreign security forces in a broad range of countries and operating alongside them. Altogether, by March 2012, according to Admiral McRaven, the US Special Operations Forces were present in some 100 countries.

In all accounts extolling the use of the “foreign internal defence” programmes, the special operators and their supporters like to use the training of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and participation in Plan Colombia as their exemplary cases.

In the Philippines, the special operators continue a long tradition of intervention in the country which began with the effective colonisation of the Philippines Islands between 1898 and 1946 and continued with counterinsurgency activities in the 1950s. Through this long period, the US forces have fought the Moros of southern Philippines in a variety of guises, both directly and indirectly.

The most recent incarnation of the fight has entailed the SOCOM training of the Philippines Special Operations Forces, and fighting alongside them against the Abu Sayyaf Islamists in southern Philippines.

The training began with the initial insertion of 1,200 Special Operations Forces into the country for advising, training and eventually engaging in military operations. Although the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines is still active in the Philippines, they now maintain a much lower profile.

Indirect approach and training programmes

Plan Colombia brought together the US State Department, USAID and more importantly, the US special operators, the DEA, the CIA and military contractors to train the Colombian military and the police to both fight the FARC guerrillas and assist the US in the interdiction of cocaine in Colombia (although the extent to which the intelligence agencies have been involved in interdicting drugs has been laid open to question when a plane previously used for rendition – presumably by the CIA – crashed in Mexico carrying Colombia cocaine).

The connections built in Colombia are particularly close and the US special operations activities there are so crucial that CNAS fellow and influential pundit Robert Kaplan has claimed that:

“The future of military conflict [is] better gauged in Colombia than in Iraq… In Colombia I was introduced to the tactics that the US would employ to manage an unruly world.”

Other regions of the world will follow the model established in Colombia and the Philippines in the first decade of the 21st century.

The US Special Operations Forces are now operating in Uganda, Libya, Mali, Yemen, and out of the US bases in and near hotspots throughout the world. Where they engage in training or special operations, their fields of activity become useful laboratories for development of special operations tactics and honing of special skills.

But the indirect approach and training programmes also establish long-term connections between military officers of various countries and their counterparts in the USSOCOM.  The CNAS report on “light footprints” hopefully offers, “as American advisers maintain relationships with their foreign counterparts over the years, lieutenants become captains, then colonels, then generals, and they begin to influence the partner nation’s military from within”.

Another cheerleader for the use of indirect approach by special operators, journalist Linda Robinson, tell us that:

“Colombian special operators act as valuable force multipliers since they speak the language and understand the culture of these places in ways that US forces might not. These Colombians are part of an expanding network of US-trained Special Operators that also includes forces from Middle Eastern and Eastern European countries and whose members are now participating in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere alongside traditional US partners from Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.”

In the same article, she recognises that the local forces trained and supported by the US can be corrupt, “incompetent or abusive”, but she argues that the use of these proxy forces is the “only realistic course for US security policy” short of expensive and unpopular large-scale military intervention.

The rise of US Special Operations Forces engaging in kinetic operations and direct action or in using their extensive military, psychological operations and war-fighting skills to train proxy forces in all the places where the US projects its power is alarming.

The ascendance of an elite clique of ultra-warriors protected by the cloak of secrecy and pushing off responsibility for acts of violence to their proxies and allies, means that the tip of the imperial spear can tear through the social fabric of many a country without associated costs in blood and treasure and hidden from the view of the press and the public.

And because such special operations do not require the sacrifices of an expansive force, the special operators can largely act without public outrage or demand for accountability.  The old/new military philosophy of a light footprint is useful precisely because it allows for the war in the shadows to continue unabated and with impunity.