Drug War

U.S. expands Navy presence in Caribbean. Is military action against Maduro more likely?

When President Donald Trump weighed the options earlier last year to address the political and humanitarian consequences of Nicolás Maduro’s tight grip on power in Venezuela, he realized his harsh rhetoric against the South American leader was not backed up by a show of force in the region. That was corrected Wednesday, as Trump, surrounded by the country’s top officials, announced an expanded military presence near the Venezuelan shores that had been unseen for decades. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, National Security Council Director Robert O’Brien and Attorney General William Barr all said during the press conference that the additional military is meant to crack down on “counternarcotics operations,” but is also aimed at denying funds to Maduro and his closest allies, who have been recently indicted in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges. “When we started the maximum pressure policy in January, the president analyzed what our military assets were in the Western Hemisphere because obviously, all the options were and are on the table,” a senior administration official told the Miami Herald. “There was no balance; most of our assets were in the Middle East, Asia, etc., so he asked to recalibrate those assets to have the necessary presence in the hemisphere to see where this situation was going” regarding Venezuela, he added. The move was in line with Trump’s longtime belief that the U.S. should not spend resources on faraway regions, the official said. The shift from considering Maduro “illegitimate” to being publicly labeled a “narco-terrorist” provided a rationale for the military moves, despite government data suggesting Venezuela is not a primary transit country for U.S.-bound cocaine. The official also cited the destabilization that the Venezuelan political and humanitarian crises have caused in the region, with millions of Venezuelans overwhelming neighboring countries such as Colombia, as another imperative to expand U.S. military presence in the hemisphere. Colombian President Iván Duque was one of the loudest voices asking for more support to deal with the migrants but also with the “narco-terrorists” of Colombia’s two main guerrilla groups, the FARC and the ELN, both harbored by Maduro in Venezuela. Esper published a list of the forces mobilized for the mission, including Navy destroyers, Coast Guard cutters, Navy littoral combat ships, helicopters, Navy P-8 patrol aircraft, along with Air Force E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS to carry out airborne surveillance, control, and communications. The operation includes security forces assistance brigades. At the press conference Wednesday, Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there were “thousands” of sailors, Coast Guardsmen, soldiers, airmen and Marines involved. Some experts have been surprised by some of the assets mobilized to the region. “There is some serious military hardware listed here,” said Adam Isaacson, the director of the Defense Oversight program at the Washington Office on Latin America. I can’t recall the last time there were U.S. Navy destroyers in the Caribbean or the eastern Pacific coast [on operations, not exercises]. And each E-3 AWACS plane costs more than a quarter-billion dollars,” he said on Twitter. According to the U.S. Southern Command, in charge of carrying out the operation in the Caribbean and the Pacific Eastern coast, those aircraft have been in use in the region. “AWACs is one of the aircraft we have used to conduct detection and monitoring operations in the past,” José Ruiz, a media relations officer at Southcom, told the Miami Herald. “Insofar as Navy ships are concerned, flight-deck capable ships are one of the assets that comprise the kind of force package that enables the disruption of illicit drugs flowing into the U.S.” Such Coast Guard “force packages” — patrol aircraft, ships with flight decks, helicopters and law enforcement detachments — are standard in counternarcotics operations, Southcom’s commander, Navy Adm. Craig Faller, has been advocating for more resources for counternarcotics operations in Central and South America. In a congressional hearing in March, he announced that U.S. military presence would increase in the region in terms of ships, aircraft, and security forces to “reassure partners” in combating “illicit narco-terrorism.” News of the operation has unsettled Venezuelan leaders and revived hopes within the Venezuelan population that a U.S. military action against Maduro is in the making.

Ya never know..  Maduro is probably terrified he might end up like former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, whom we captured back in 1989 for similar narco trafficking reasons, and put him in federal prison.  We’ll, of course, keep an eye on this developing story.  For more, click on the text above.

Venezuela President Maduro wanted by DOJ for drug trafficking, Barr announces

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday unsealed a searing criminal indictment against Venezuelan socialist leader Nicolas Maduro and several “co-conspirators,” accusing them of an array of narcotics and trafficking-related crimes, including efforts to smuggle drugs into the United States. At a press conference on Thursday morning, Department of Justice officials announced a slew of charges pertaining to Maduro’s conspiracy to commit narco-terrorism – which carries a minimum of 50 years behind bars. The DOJ underscored that while he is currently in Venezuela, the 57-year-old is known to travel outside and is now offering a $15 million reward for information that will lead to his capture. The DOJ, emphasizing that the latest round of indictments are the result of many years of investigation, charged a number of high-ranking “co-conspirators” and offered $10 million rewards for information leading to their capture. The department also accused the country’s Chief Justice of money laundering and bribery, which resulted in thousands of Venezuelans to lose their jobs and livelihoods, and Venezuela’s military head of further drug-trafficking violations. According to U.S. officials, Venezuela has long allowed Colombians connected with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish initials, “FARC,” to utilize its airspace to fly cocaine north through Central America and into North America. Moreover, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman claimed that the illicit cooperation between the Colombians and Venezuelans had been in place for over 20 years, and represented a deliberate endeavor by Maduro and his regime to “flood the United States with cocaine.” The announcement of the charges followed months of pressure by President Trump’s administration on Maduro’s regime, which the United States considers illegitimate following an election not deemed satisfactory by many world powers. While the United States and more than 100 other countries no longer recognize Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela – instead throwing their support behind opposition figure Juan Guiado – coupled with a laundry list of economic sanctions, Maduro has maintained his position at the helm in the capital Caracas, overseeing the socialist regime and commanding the security forces. The indictment of a functioning head of state is highly unusual and is bound to ratchet up tensions between Washington and Caracas. However, the U.S. has long accused Maduro and his government of human rights abuses, torture, corruption, and paving the way for cartels, terrorist groups and traffickers to exploit the oil-swathed nation, once the wealthiest in Latin America.

 

Feds arrest over 600 alleged Mexican cartel members

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced Wednesday that more than 600 arrests have been made as a result of an interagency operation cracking down on Mexican cartel activity. “Project Python,” a DEA-led initiative, targeted members of Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG). According to the DEA, over the last six months federal law enforcement officials have been monitoring the activities of the accused. The operation resulted in more than 600 arrests nationwide, 350 indictments and “significant seizures of money and drugs,” according to the agencies. “Project Python marks the most comprehensive action to date in the Department of Justice’s campaign to disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately destroy CJNG,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said in a statement. Benczkowski cited an executive order President Trump passed shortly after Trump was inaugurated in 2017 that condemned cartel operations in the U.S. and directed federal law enforcement to use the Threat Mitigation Working Group, which was put in place by the Obama administration in 2011. “When President Trump signed an Executive Order prioritizing the dismantlement of transnational criminal organizations, the Department of Justice answered the call and took direct aim at CJNG. We deemed CJNG one of the highest-priority transnational organized crime threats we face,” he said. “And with Project Python, we are delivering results in the face of that threat for the American people.” According to the DOJ, CJNG is active in major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Houston and Atlanta. The DOJ and DEA also announced a superseding indictment Wednesday on charges of alleged continuing criminal enterprise against Nemesio Ruben Oseguera Cervantes, also known as “El Mencho,” the leader of CJNG. Last month Oseguera Cervantes’s son was extradited from Mexico to the U.S. to be served drug trafficking charges. Two weeks ago, on Feb. 26, his daughter was arrested by federal officials for financial crimes.

Score one for the good guys!!     🙂

Report: Afghan District Bordering Iran Embracing Crystal Meth Production

Nearly 80 percent of all households in the Afghan district of Ghoryan, located in Herat province along the Iranian border, are involved in some stage of the crystal methamphetamine-making process that is currently fueling addiction epidemics plaguing Afghanistan and Iran, TRT World reported this week. TRT is the national broadcaster of the government of Turkey. According to the United Nations, Herat is the top crystal meth-producing province in Afghanistan. Herat lies on Afghanistan’s border with Iran where crystal meth use is rampant. TRT suggested that the crystal meth epidemic gripping Iran has spilled over to Afghanistan, noting that many Afghan meth “cooks” learned their skills in the Islamic Republic.

For more, click on the text above.  Crazy..

Trump signs sweeping opioids bill, says effort will make ‘big dent’ in deadly crisis

President Trump signed a mammoth opioids bill Wednesday designed to expand treatment options, fund nonaddictive painkillers and stop the flow of deadly synthetic drugs from abroad, calling it a critical piece of ongoing efforts to put a “big dent” in the crisis. The president offered handshakes all around after signing the bill in the ornate East Room of the White House, handing his pen to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, who steered the effort on his side of the Capitol. A bipartisan effort, the bill cleared both chambers by wide margins and offered a respite from partisan bickering over the Supreme Court and midterm contests. It also came hours after authorities intercepted mailed pipe bombs targeting CNN and past and present Democratic leaders. Mr. Trump told addiction survivors, law enforcement and other guests the bill capped “historic” efforts he’s taken in the last year to rein in the drug overdose epidemic, which killed a record 70,000 people in 2017. He cited indictments of Chinese nationals suspected of trafficking fentanyl, the launch of a Just Say No-style campaign against opioid use and a crackdown on doctors who wrote fraudulent prescriptions for opioids. And officials from a series of private companies, from Amazon to Facebook, shook hands with Mr. Trump while a narrator listed their efforts to combat addiction. “You won’t see the results immediately, but you’ll see the results in the future, and the very quick future,” Mr. Trump said. Dozens of lawmakers from both parties contributed to the legislative effort, which lifts cap on Medicaid funding for drug treatment, extends help to addicted mothers and empowers package inspectors to root out deadly fentanyl from China. Yet only one Democrat — Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire — was on hand for the signing, which comes less than two weeks before Election Day. A key part of the bill, the STOP Act, forces the U.S. Postal Service to collect advanced electronic data on packages entering the U.S. Private couriers such as UPS and FedEx already procure advanced data, which U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses to target suspicious packages that might contain fentanyl from clandestine labs in China and elsewhere. All packages from China, and 70 percent of the overall flow, must have the information available by the end of this year, and 100 percent global compliance is due by 2021. “This should cut down, almost immediately, the suspicious packages coming in from places like Mexico and China that contain illicit opioids like fentanyl,” White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway said. Officials say fentanyl has become the number-one killer in the drug-overdose crisis.

Nearly $900G in drug cash seized on plane bound for Mexico; two 19-year-olds held, authorities say

Two 19-year-old men were arrested Tuesday, accused of smuggling nearly $900,000 in suspected drug-related cash, authorities said. The suspects, identified as Joan Pablo Hoyos Avila and Rafael Gabriel Martinez Leal, each face a bulk-cash smuggling charge, for which they could get five years in prison if convicted, the San Antonio Express-News reported. Hoyos was identified as a business student at the University of the Incarnate Word, a private Catholic university in San Antonio. Acting on a tip, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents halted a private plane at San Antonio International Airport that was preparing to depart for Monterrey, Mexico, according to the newspaper. Authorities found the cash bundled inside sealed boxes aboard the plane, after asking the craft’s five occupants – including the pilot – if they had any valuables to declare, the report said. Martinez accepted full responsibility for the cash smuggling operation, according to an affidavit, while Hoyos told authorities that he had accepted cash from several individuals and stored it in his garage until Martinez was able to pick it up.

Coast Guard unloads more than 3 tons of cocaine worth $85 million in Florida

The Coast Guard unloaded 3.1 tons of cocaine worth about $85 million in Florida on Monday. The massive amount of drugs were snatched in the eastern Pacific before they were transported by Coast Guard cutters Escanaba and Decisive to Port Everglades, Local 10 News reported. “The offload represents the combined efforts of Escanaba’s crew, and those of our partners and allies,” Escanaba Cmdr. Michael Turdo said. “Stopping the illicit flow of drugs to our shores not only keeps them off our street but also keeps money from getting to these criminal organizations.” The Coast Guard has bolstered its occupation in the eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin due to the Western Hemisphere Strategy, an effort that aims to “protect the Nation from threats delivered by sea; and protects the sea itself,” according to a press release. The narcotics will be given to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Kudos to the Coast Guard for this big win!  Excellent!!

Border patrol catches woman smuggling 3 pounds of heroin strapped to buttocks

U.S. border patrol agents in Arizona nabbed a woman they said was trying to smuggle 3 pounds of heroin strapped to her backside. The 47-year-old Arizona resident, an illegal immigrant, was hoping no one would notice what was down her pants as she walked across the border in Nogales Tuesday, Fox 2 Detroit reports. The 3 pounds of heroin were taped to her backside under her jeans, the station reported. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the heroin had a street value of $45,000. The woman was one of several arrests at the Nogales border crossing Tuesday, the station reported. She and the others who were arrested were turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the station.

Mexican Cartel Violence Kills 10 near Texas Border

MATAMOROS, Tamaulipas — A series of recent gun battles and executions in this border city and in Rio Bravo led to nearly a dozen deaths as clashes with military forces and internal turmoil within the Gulf Cartel is reaching a boiling point. The violence began last week in the Buena Vista neighborhood of Matamoros when cartel gunmen clashed with military and police forces. As usual, the fighting led to blockades, where cartel gunmen hijacked various vehicles to choke chances of police pursuit down main avenues. In Rio Bravo, troops killed several gunmen throughout the city. The fighting and a series of apparent executions in both Matamoros and Rio Bravo led to the death of several men who are all believed to be part of one of the various factions that make up the Gulf Cartel. In the downtown area of Matamoros, authorities responded to a local business where they found four men killed. The four cartel members had all been shot in the head execution-style. In a separate attack, a team of gunmen killed three men in a second ordered hit. One of the victims was a street-level drug dealer while the other two remain unknown. A local college student was struck by a stray bullet and died shortly after. In Rio Bravo, Mexican marines killed two gunmen who were fleeing from authorities after they murdered a married couple. The couple was gunned down after getting in a car crash with the cartel gunmen.

For those of you wondering if we really should have a wall on our southern border, just re-read that article.  There are oh so many reasons why it is absolutely critical that we BUILD THE WALL NOW!!!  But, erecting a barrier to deter this kind of Mexican drug cartel violence from spilling on to U.S. soil is just as good a reason as any I can think of.

Mexican Cartel Gunmen Fire at Border Patrol Agent in Arizona

Unknown cartel gunmen operating in a known drug smuggling corridor in Southern Arizona fired multiple shots at an on-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent overnight. Breitbart Texas has been able to confirm that the shots struck the agent’s vehicle. The federal law enforcement officer was not struck by the gunfire. The agent was patrolling the area near the Brian Terry station in southern Arizona when unknown gunmen began firing. Cochise County Sheriff’s deputies and other Border Patrol agents arrived to the scene to carry out a manhunt for the suspected cartel gunmnen. Arizona local law enforcement officials confirmed they were not able to apprehend the cartel gunmen but continue investigating the attack. The Brian Terry station honors the name of a U.S. Border Patrol agent who was killed in a gun battle trying to apprehend a group of Mexican cartel gunmen who had been trying to steal a drug load from a rival smuggling group. Border Patrol agents are the most assaulted federal law enforcement officers, Border Patrol  Commissioner Mark Morgan aid in testimony before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee in November. Nearly 150 Border Patrol agents were assaulted during the first two months of fiscal year 2017 which began in October..

Very glad to hear the CBP agent was unharmed.  And, he was wise to resist the temptation to return fire over an international border.  That said, this is just another example of why it is SO critical that we BUILD THE WALL NOW!!!…and put U.S. Army National Guard troops physically ON the border with Mexico, where they should remain until that wall/fence is finally built…however long it takes.  These poor Border Patrol agents are grossly outgunned and outmanned, and need Army National Guard support until that southern border is secured once and for all.  Simultaneously, we need to be deporting illegal aliens already here in America by the hundreds of thousands, if not millions (and yes, you read that right)…paying particular attention to known gang members (i.e. MS-13, etc.), already convicted criminal aliens, and those determined by an immigration judge to be deported…regardless of age or gender.  As many of you know, we’ve been calling for that here at The Daily Buzz from day one…and we’re optimistic that the incoming President (elect) Donald Trump moves forward aggressively on both fronts.  The violent activities of the Mexican drug cartels only intensify the urgency of why we need to make securing our southern border out nation’s #1 national security priority.