drugs

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.

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!!     🙂

Mexican cartels poisoning US national parks through hidden pot growing operations: report

Mexican cartel members – who for years have carried out large scale, hidden pot-growing operations in U.S. national parks in California – are poisoning water and wildlife through the use of illegal pesticides banned by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a new report published Tuesday. Two Mexican nationals and suspected cartel members were arrested in September during a raid on an illegal marijuana operation hidden beneath the thick tree canopies in California’s Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Authorities found 8,656 growing marijuana plants and 232 pounds of processed marijuana, Monterrey, Calif.’s KQMS reported. About 3,000 pounds of trash, including discarded clothing, propane tanks and spent cans of insecticide, in addition to three miles of plastic irrigation pipes and open bags of fertilizer were also discovered at the site, suggesting the operation had been in use for years, National Public Radio reported. “The true crime here is the fact that they’re killing off basically America’s public lands, killing off the wildlife, killing off our water,” Kevin Mayer, a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement assistant special agent in charge, told NPR. “This is stuff that, you know, it’s not going to repair itself.” Though California’s national parks have been plagued by illegal pot-growing operations in the past, some of which were operated by hippies, the cartel operations are usually larger scale, well organized and use heavy-duty, illegal poisons to more vigilantly protect their cash crop from rodents and insects. Wildlife ecologist Greta Wengert, who was called in to survey the operation after September’s raid, told NPR she discovered gallons of concentrated carbofuran at the site. Carbofuran is banned by the EPA, European Union, Canada and Brazil for all legal purposes. It is produced in the U.S. by Pennsylvania-based FMC Corp and exported to Mexico, India and other nations. “It is incredibly toxic,” Wengert told NPR. “A quarter-teaspoon could kill a 600-pound black bear. So obviously just a tiny amount can kill a human. It remains in an ecosystem for a long period of time.” She said she’s detected these deadly toxins in cannabis plants, native vegetation, water, and infrastructure. Exposure to these chemicals can prove deadly for humans and wildlife alike. A California coalition – made up of environmentalists, law enforcement agents, politicians, wildlife ecologists and members of the legal cannabis industry – have joined forces to clean up the pollution caused by illegal cartel operations, according to NPR.

Wow..   Consider the irony here…  The next time you see someone smoking pot, tell them they’re hurting the environment.  When they go, “huh?”…point them to this article.   🙂

San Francisco saw 150 percent spike in fentanyl-related deaths last year, report says

The number of deaths from fentanyl overdoses in San Francisco jumped by nearly 150 percent last year, according to a report by the city’s public health department made public this week. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 89 deaths in the city were attributed to fentanyl overdoses, up from 37 deaths in 2017. By comparison, 70 people died from prescription opioid overdoses and 60 deaths were attributed to heroin overdoses. A preliminary report released in June attributed 57 deaths to fentanyl overdoses, but health officials told the Chronicle they had expected that figure to increase as the city medical examiner determined the cause of more deaths. The city has experienced an uptick in fentanyl-related deaths since 2008, when five deaths were reported. In 2010, six deaths were attributed to the drug, which killed 22 people in 2016. “It’s not a huge surprise to see this, although it’s certainly disappointing and sad to have lost this many lives in the city,” Dr. Phillip Coffin, the director of substance use research for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, told the Chronicle.“Unfortunately, there is no locality that can withstand the introduction of fentanyl without some increase in mortality.” In its legal form, fentanyl is used to treat patients recovering from surgery. However, the synthetic drug is often mixed with other drugs like heroin and cocaine in powder form for those looking to get high, KTVU reported in June. “In San Francisco, that’s how fentanyl came to us. In counterfeit pills at first a few years ago. At this point it is its own drug supply,” Kristen Marshall from the Drug Overdose Prevention & Education Project told the station. Fentanyl is a highly addictive opiate that is 100 times more potent than other prescription opioids like morphine, according to the paper. “It has taken over heroin as the number one choice for opioid,” Dr. Chris Colwell, chief of emergency medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, told the station. Coffin said fentanyl has “become more and more prevalent as the opioid that people are using in San Francisco” and “is a riskier opioid compared to prescription opioids.” A Drug Enforcement Administration report said drug companies shipped billions of painkillers across America without proper oversight for several years, exacerbating the opioid crisis. The report said 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were shipped to mostly rural and working-class communities in the Appalachian region, which has become the epicenter of the crisis.

Just add this to the list of failures in San Francisco, which has been under solid Democrat party control for over half a century.  Yeah..  over half a century.  Everything from the homeless crisis there, to the drug needles in the streets and people defecating in the streets..to out-of-control crime, and now fentanyl..all due to failed public policies of Democrats who have a stranglehold on what was once a thriving and beautiful city.  And, with an over 10-1 Democrat voter registration advantage, that won’t change anytime soon.

Trump says wall needed to stem drugs, too

President Trump said Wednesday the sheer amount of drugs flowing across the border — from meth to cocaine to deadly fentanyl — bolsters his case for declaring an emergency at the border, as Congress prepares to complete its rebuke of his decision to go around lawmakers for funding. “We’ve got to get the wall up, otherwise it all doesn’t work,” Mr. Trump said. The administration is building the case for his wall — a core 2016 campaign promise — ahead of a Senate vote Thursday to disapprove of the emergency Mr. Trump declared to tap Pentagon funds for the project. The House already passed a resolution to overturn the declaration, and enough Republicans appear ready to join Democrats in the Senate to approve it, though not enough to override Mr. Trump’s expected veto. “We’ll see whether or not I have to do the veto,” Mr. Trump said. The president also downplayed his decision’s impact on Republicans, who’ve been forced to choose between supporting the White House and defending Congress’ power over the nation’s purse strings. “Nobody’s beaten up. I said, ‘Use your own discretion,’” he said. The president would prefer to avoid the embarrassing rebuke, however. He said Republican senators are “overthinking” the vote and should see it as a simple choice to bolster border security and prevent crime. “This is a vote on border security and drugs and trafficking and all of that,” Mr. Trump said. “I think most Republican senators fully understand that.” Also Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence visited a Customs and Border Protection training facility in West Virginia to build the case for the wall. “Despite the extraordinary work of all of you and those you represent in law enforcement, drug cartels and smugglers are exploiting this crisis to flood drugs into our country, tearing apart our families, claiming American lives,” he told officers.

Largest Fentanyl Seizure in U.S. History Occurs at Arizona Border Checkpoint

U.S. Border Customs and Border Patrol agents seized 254 pounds of fentanyl and 395 pounds of methamphetamine during a regular inspection of an 18-wheeler at the commercial border crossing in Nogales, Arizona Saturday. The seizure of fentanyl was the largest ever recorded at a U.S. port of entry. U.S. border agents assigned to the Mariposa Port of Entry made contact with a 26-year-old Mexican truck driver at approximately 8:50 am. Agents referred the male to a secondary inspection where the truck was scanned with a non-intrusive detection system. Agents detected irregularities within the cabin, specifically the rear floorboard, according to a statement by Michael Humphries, the area port director for the Nogales Port of Entry. A K-9 detection dog was brought in for further inspection and alerted to an odor. Agents discovered concealed cargo in an after-market compartment underneath a load of cucumbers. Authorities found 254 pounds of fentanyl and 395 pounds of methamphetamine, according to a Border Patrol press conference. The fentanyl was in 100 individual packages in powder form except for 10, consisting of pills. The methamphetamine was in 300 separate packages. The value of the fentanyl was estimated at $3.5 million with the methamphetamine valued at $1.2 million. “Fentanyl is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine and the size of a few grains of salt can kill a person very quickly,” according to Nogales Port Director Michael Humphries. He further stated, “This amount of fentanyl our CBP officers prevented from entering our country equates to an un-measurably dangerous amount of an opioid that could have harmed so many families.” The 26-year old driver was arrested and handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigators. The load of cucumbers was destroyed.

California pot taxes lag as illegal market flourishes

Deep in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new budget is a figure that says a lot about California’s shaky legal marijuana market: The state is expecting a lot less cash from cannabis taxes. The Democrat’s proposed spending plan, released Thursday, projects the state will bank $355 million in marijuana excise taxes by the end of June. That’s roughly half of what was once expected after broad legal sales kicked off last year. Industry experts say the diminished tax income reflects a somber reality: Most consumers are continuing to purchase pot in the illegal marketplace, where they avoid taxes that can near 50 percent in some communities. Tax collections are expected to gradually increase over time, but predicting what that amount will be remains something of a guess. Tax collections for “a newly created market are subject to significant uncertainty,” the budget said. Josh Drayton of the California Cannabis Industry Association credited Newsom with taking “a realistic look at the challenges” after a bumpy first year of broad legal sales. Newsom also recommended a sharp increase in spending for regulatory programs, although it’s an open question whether it will be enough to help steady the state pot economy. The budget recommends just over $200 million for marijuana-related activities in the fiscal year that starts July 1, which would be over a 50 percent boost from the current year. Initially “the state was too optimistic about how the implementation of legalization was going to work. This governor has paid attention to that,” Drayton said. That said, Drayton added that legal businesses need a break from hefty tax rates that are driving consumers to the illicit economy. Various proposals have been made to cut state pot taxes. State taxes include a 15 percent levy on purchases of all cannabis and cannabis products, including medical pot. Local governments are free to slap on taxes on sales and growing too, which has created a confusing patchwork of tax rates around the state. The state’s top marijuana regulator, Lori Ajax, has said the state intends to get more businesses licensed and operating in 2019, while cracking down on rogue operators who continue to proliferate across the state. At year’s end, California’s effort to transform its longstanding illegal and medicinal marijuana markets into a unified, multibillion-dollar industry remained a work in progress. By some estimates, up to 80 percent of sales in the state remain under the table, snatching profits from legal storefronts. Drayton said more than half the municipalities in the state do not have laws governing the industry. That means pot businesses cannot locate there, since companies are required to have a local license before seeking one from the state. The budget also includes an additional $2.9 million for the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration to help chase down tax cheats. Meanwhile, the courts budget includes nearly $14 million for resentencing of thousands of drug offenders whose offenses are no longer crimes since California legalized recreational pot. Newsom, an advocate for legalized marijuana, said it has long been expected the new market would take five to seven years to settle in, with twists and turns along the way. The issues he intends to look at include the distribution pipeline and claims that local governments are gouging the industry. The state will “move expeditiously at licensing more and more dispensaries, making sure we go after the bad actors,” he said.

Wow..  What a mess..  Typical California big government.  It only knows how to raise taxes; not how to solve anything.  The whole state is under solid Democrat control from the governor to the state legislature which has a supermajority of Dems…  No wonder the state is on the verge of bankruptcy.