Saturday, October 31, 2009
Reportedly, this is what is now happening.
The arms embargo was in response to the recent assault upon political protesters by Guinea's military.
But chillingly, there are signs that one of the worst features of Mexico’s war on drugs—law enforcement officials on the take from drug lords—is becoming an American problem as well.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Forgers have been duping the art world for generations, but advances in computer technology may sound the death knell of this illicit industry — and, at the same time, make it easier for collectors of major artworks to know if they are getting what they pay so handsomely for.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
PITTSBURGH - The United Steelworkers (USW) and MONDRAGON Internacional, S.A. today announced a framework agreement for collaboration in establishing MONDRAGON cooperatives in the manufacturing sector within the United States and Canada. The USW and MONDRAGON will work to establish manufacturing cooperatives that adapt collective bargaining principles to the MONDRAGON worker ownership model of "one worker, one vote."
"We see today's agreement as a historic first step towards making union co-ops a viable business model that can create good jobs, empower workers, and support communities in the United States and Canada," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "Too often we have seen Wall Street hollow out companies by draining their cash and assets and hollowing out communities by shedding jobs and shuttering plants. We need a new business model that invests in workers and invests in communities."
Josu Ugarte, President of MONDGRAGON Internacional added: "What we are announcing today represents a historic first – combining the world's largest industrial worker cooperative with one of the world's most progressive and forward-thinking manufacturing unions to work together so that our combined know-how and complimentary visions can transform manufacturing practices in North America."
Highlighting the differences between Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) and union co-ops, Gerard said, "We have lots of experience with ESOPs, but have found that it doesn't take long for the Wall Street types to push workers aside and take back control. We see Mondragon's cooperative model with 'one worker, one vote' ownership as a means to re-empower workers and make business accountable to Main Street instead of Wall Street."
Both the USW and MONDRAGON emphasized the shared values that will drive this collaboration. Mr. Ugarte commented, "We feel inspired to take this step based on our common set of values with the Steelworkers who have proved time and again that the future belongs to those who connect vision and values to people and put all three first. We are excited about working with Mondragon because of our shared values, that work should empower workers and sustain families and communities," Gerard added.
In the coming months, the USW and MONDRAGON will seek opportunities to implement this union co-op hybrid approach by sharing the common values put forward by the USW and MONDGRAGON and by operating in similar manufacturing segments in which both the USW and MONDRAGON already participate.
Click here for the full text of the Agreement.
The MONDRAGON Corporation mission is to produce and sell goods and provide services and distribution using democratic methods in its organizational structure and distributing the assets generated for the benefit of its members and the community, as a measure of solidarity. MONDRAGON began its activities in 1956 in the Basque town of Mondragon by a rural village priest with a transformative vision who believed in the values of worker collaboration and working hard to reach for and realize the common good.
Today, with approximately 100,000 cooperative members in over 260 cooperative enterprises present in more than forty countries; MONDRAGON Corporation is committed to the creation of greater social wealth through customer satisfaction, job creation, technological and business development, continuous improvement, the promotion of education, and respect for the environment. In 2008, MONDRAGON Corporation reached annual sales of more than sixteen billion euros with its own cooperative university, cooperative bank, and cooperative social security mutual and is ranked as the top Basque business group, the seventh largest in Spain, and the world's largest industrial workers cooperative.
About the USW:
The USW is North America's largest industrial union representing 1.2 million active and retired members in a diverse range of industries.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
China plans to disrupt the American military, not destroy it. China takes for granted that they will be on the defensive, and forced to deal mainly with American air and naval forces. Methods discussed include attacks via the Internet (hacking and such) and electronic warfare (jamming and deceptions). China has been very active in controlling its domestic Internet users, and an increasing number of hacker attacks on U.S. military targets are being traced back to China.
Looting Mali’s History. As demand for its antiquities soars, the West African country is losing its most prized artifacts to illegal sellers and smugglers
According to Malian officials, skyrocketing prices for West African art and artifacts, along with the emergence of sophisticated smuggling networks, threaten to wipe out one of Africa’s greatest cultural heritages. “These [antiquities dealers] are like narcotraffickers in Mexico,” says Ali Kampo, a cultural official in Mopti, a trading town in the Inland Niger Delta. “They’re running illegal networks from the poorest villages to the European buyers, and we don’t have the resources to stop them.”
If West Africa should be any bellwether, then craft production of firearms has a future. According to The Illicit Arms Trade in Africa:
Finally, the unauthorised craft production of firearms by local
gunsmiths is a significant source of illicit small arms in some areas. A recent study of craft production in Ghana by Emmanuel Kwesi Aning found that the country’s unlicensed gunsmiths have the collective capacity to produce up to 200,000 firearms a
year, some of which are reportedly “of a quality comparable with industrially produced guns”.
Indeed, the figures indicate that much of Britain’s burgeoning night-time economy, worth as much as �30 billion, and employing about one million people, is inextricably linked to the night-long consumption of illegal drugs. The trend is such that the main clubbing nights have been moved from Saturdays to Fridays specifically to allow people to recover in time for work or lectures on Monday morning.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Things have deteriorated to a point were some bus crews charge a regular 'border fee' to facilitate passengers passing through the border without declaring their goods. Bus crews collect money, outside the regular bus fare, for the purpose of bribing ZIMRA officers so that they don't search buses thoroughly. This way goods for which duty should be paid can pass through the border without even being inspected.
Also notorious for tax evasion and smuggling are the class of informal couriers known as "malaitshas." These people openly promise clients that no duty will be paid for goods they ferry to Zimbabwe. They charge exorbitant fees and pocket all the money, to the general detriment of the taxpaying and law-abiding public. They operate in cahoots with corrupt ZIMRA officers to arrange crossing the border during the witching hours of night when fellow officials are least alert.
Limerick is a tale of two cities -- a vibrant place with a bustling urban centre, a modern university campus and a rebuilt 27,000-seater Thom-ond Park. But in Limerick's rundown estates, it's a different story. Two shanty towns, Southill and Moyross, one at each end of the city, have been ravaged by the gangland war and remain caught in their grip of fear.
This will last until the next outbreak of violence, to be followed by yet another ceasefire...;.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
This provides one alternative for Episcopalians concerned that the current Episcopal Church is effectively making a religion out of political correctness.
However, consider the following points:
- We have not read the fine print.
- Conservatives have their own form of PC, which they can also worship.
- The Eastern Orthodox Church has already done something like this.
- The Old Catholic Church of Utrecht is, like the Anglican Communion, a church that has split off from Roman Catholicism but which maintains the Apostolic Succession.
All this points to a concerted effort to maintain a financial structure in Latin America that will allow Iran to withstand, and withstand with some ease, any future financial sanctions by the United Nations, the EU or the US.
This episode illustrates how sanction regimes serves to stimulate illicit or alternative modes of business. As I have been predicting regarding announced arms boycotts of Guinea, the likely result would be to cause Guineans to deal with Africa's well established gun smugglers.
Nowadays, to cut someone off from normal commerce is neither to isolate them nor to set them adrift.
Friday, October 23, 2009
The Europol Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA 2009) is now available online on www.europol.europa.eu
The OCTA is an assessment of current and expected trends in organised crime affecting the EU and its citizens. It is drawn up in order to enable decision-makers to prioritise and take appropriate action.
Based on analysis Europol assess that the most significant criminal sectors are drug trafficking, trafficking in human beings, illegal immigration, fraud, counterfeiting and money laundering.
Europol has identified five criminal hubs in the EU with wide-spread effects reaching beyond national borders and shaping criminal markets:
1) The North West criminal hub. It is a distribution centre for heroin, cocaine, synthetic drugs and cannabis products. Its influence extends to the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany and the Baltic and Scandinavian countries.
2) The South West criminal hub. The impact of this market is felt especially in the criminal markets of cocaine, cannabis, trafficking in human beings and illegal immigration. West and North West Africa as well as other parts of this continent have emerged as significant feeders for either the South West criminal hub or, increasingly, directly to important markets and distribution centres in the EU.
3) The North East criminal hub. This area is and will continue to be strongly influenced by feeders and transit zones located just outside the eastern EU borders (the Russian Federation/Kaliningrad, the Ukraine and Belarus). Illicit flows may be traced from the East towards the West (women for sexual exploitation, illegal immigrants, cigarettes, counterfeit goods, synthetic drugs precursors and heroin) but also vice versa (cocaine and cannabis products).
4) The Southern criminal hub. The role of this hub is central in relation to cigarette smuggling, the smuggling and distribution of counterfeit products and the production of counterfeit euro banknotes.
5) The South East criminal hub. This area is based upon its geographical location between Asia and Europe. Logistically, the importance of the Black Sea and related waterways define the hub and will create opportunities for both legal trade and organised crime. Opiates reach Europe through the Balkan routes and the Northern Black Sea route across Central Asia and Russia. The significance of the port of Constanta in cocaine traffic is growing, and cocaine seems to be increasingly arriving into the EU via Turkey and/or the Balkans. This may also be the effect of the already well-established role of West Africa as a transit zone.
A criminal hub is a conceptual entity that is generated by a combination of factors such as proximity to major destination markets, geographic location, infrastructure, types of organised crime groups and migration processes concerning key criminals or organised crime groups in general.
"The OCTA is a core product of the intelligence-led law enforcement concept and its drafting is one of Europol's top priorities. Many experts in EU Member States and other EU agencies have helped Europol produce this report. Partners from the private sector and academia have also delivered valuable input to the OCTA," says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.
The Director also thanks Europol's partners in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Croatia, the FYROM, Israel, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, the USA and Interpol for their co-operation.
This special one-day workshop will explore the history of art theft, and the lessons that it can offer to contemporary investigators and security personnel. Over the past forty years, art crime has consistently been the third highest-grossing criminal trade worldwide. Most art crime since the 1960s has involved organized crime, funding other operations, including the drug and arms trades, and even terrorism.
Art crime is little studied, from an academic and an investigative perspective. The combination of scholarly historical analysis with experience in the field can provide the best means to understand and curb this serious threat to not only our cultural heritage, but to impede organized crime overall.
The first half of the program will take you on a tour through the history of art crime with a focus on fine art theft, investigation, and museum security. The second half of the workshop will detail practical methods of using the lessons learned from history's master thieves, and from the successes and failures of investigators and security programs, to suggest better ways to investigate and protect art in the future.
Seminar starts 900am and will be located in Dodds Auditorium on the University of New Haven campus. This seminar is open to law enforcement officers, educators, and the public. Tuition is $100.00 and light refreshments will be served.
Noah Charney holds advanced degrees in Art History from the Courtauld Institute in London and the University of Cambridge in Great Britain. He has worked closely with law enforcement agencies across Europe to study the phenomenon of art crime and is the founding director of ARCA (Association for Research into Crimes Against Art). Recently a Visiting Lecturer at Yale University, he has just joined the faculty of the American University of Rome as Adjunct Professor of Art History. He lectures and teaches worldwide on the subject of art crime and is the editor of Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
A concise discussion of how Mexico's drug cartels, in response to Mexico's current drug war, are shifting operations south to Costa Rica and Panama.
Of course, they also are shifting to Guatemala and Honduras.
Madoff shares prison with mobster, lawsuit reveals | Business | guardian.co.uk
The disgraced Wall Street fund manager Bernard Madoff has swapped a cocaine-fuelled life of luxury for a prison regime in which he eats pizza cooked by a child molester and shares a prison cell with a 21-year-old drug offender, according to court documents.
Madoff, 71, spends time with a Brooklyn-born mobster, Carmine 'the Snake' Persico, and the former US navy analyst Jonathan Pollard, convicted of spying for Israel in the 1980s.
But consider the technical expertise these fellows are exchanging with each other. Perhaps these particular individuals will never emerge from prison, but they remain in contact with associates on the outside--Associates who can deploy this new expertise.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
“This is the most dangerous place in the world,” one of the cops said. “It’s more dangerous than Afghanistan or Iraq. But you have to be careful when you shoot. Here if you get shot at, you can’t just open up, because there are people everywhere.”
Even though I have covered wars in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, I have never seen so many high-powered automatic weapons as I witnessed then being carried openly in the streets by civilians in what is ostensibly not a war zone.
Smugglers should be able to exploit the resulting weaknesses.
The most likely result: an uptick in arms smuggling into Guinea.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Rather than to travel directly to India from Africa or South America, they are proceeding indirectly via Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, or Indonesia.
Because these Southeast Asian countries imposed the death penalty for drug possession, Indian authorities place less scrutiny on travelers from there.
They have developed quite an organised set-up, in terms of identifying local people who provide them with accommodation and have a good knowledge of the area.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Security inside the prisons is also being questioned. The widespread trade in drugs and mobile phones behind bars is said to be endemic, while the Serious and Organised Crime Agency has warned that criminal gang bosses are running their empires from behind bars. Corrupt practices by a small number of prison staff raise repeated concerns about the service's ability to investigate its employees. Islamist prisoners sympathetic to al-Qaeda have been the target, and the cause, of major prison disturbances.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
When pressed, they typically state that they want to restore some sort of Victorian order of things.
Accordingly, it becomes pertinent to inquire as to what sort of drug use Queen Victoria herself was engaged in.
And apparently she used drugs to relieve her PMS:
Queen Victoria was the first woman to use marijuana for PMS.
This occurred a few months after Dr. O’Shaughnessy brought cannabis to England about 1840. It was a new highly efficacious drug so lets try it. It was prescribed by a Dr. Sir Russel Reynolds physician to Queen Victoria. The Queen had previously used Opium, Coca (raw cocaine), wine and chloroform. I hope ladies will cringe when they read this.
The Queen obviously found that cannabis/marijuana worked well. She used it also for morning sickness and obstetrical anesthesia with no harm to fetuses. It seems that ABC TV News is way behind on PMS therapy. The new most promising therapy for PMS was discovered by Queen Victoria about 1850.
IRIN Africa | West Africa | Guinea-Bissau | GUINEA-BISSAU: Fighting crime without police or prisons | Economy Governance Conflict Urban Risk | News Item
Friday, October 16, 2009
However, we now learn a Venezuelan guerrilla group calling themselves the Bolivarian Armed Liberation Force is supposedly responsible for the kidnapping of a number of Colombian amateur football players, and is allegedly backed by the Venezuelan government.
This certainly support Farah's thesis.
Of course, none of this goes to the merits - or lack thereof - of Chavez' apparent action against Columbia. That mostly depends upon one's opinion about the War on Drugs, Columbia's role in that, American business interests in Latin America, America's military posture in the world, and similar factors.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
As previously reported, a Ghanese chemist has announced a new technique to produce the cocaine precursor, potassium permanganate, domestically in Ghana.
Heretofore, West Africa has been a transit point for drug smuggling into Europe; so this suggest it is moving up the food chain.
Coca can be grown in West Africa, so do not be surprised if - as the drug war intensifies in Latin America - it actually begins to be grown there.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
ED asks IB to probe Jain's Pak links- TIMESNOW.tv - Latest Breaking News, Big News Stories, News Videos
BusinessWeek describes this operation more fully.
Apparently this is the first instance we have proof that drug traffickers use hawala instead of couriers to transfer drug money.
Recently, Guinean soldiers attacked a crowd of 50,000 protesters, killing about 150, wounding more than a thousand, and raping many women.
The deal would improve Guinea's infrastructure.
With all the talk about United States developing a policy of counterinsurgency - one would hope that we might - just might - consider pro insurgency as a policy option with respect to Guinea.
Concededly, John McCain wold not be able to thump his chest over this and the defense contracts would be pretty thin, but it would be ever so refreshing if just for once we were the guys setting off the IED's.
Art collectors Richard Weisman, whose ten Andy Warhol's were recently stolen, has reportedly abandoned a $26 million insurance claim for the theft, because the claims process would delve into his private financial affairs.
These four include Protection Strategies Inc (PSI), DynCorp International, AECOM and Pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE).
According to the State Department:
The program encompasses logistics support, construction, military training and advising, maritime security capacity building, equipment procurement, operational deployment for peacekeeping troops, aerial surveillance and conference facilitation. Potential contractors must possess a broad range of functional regional expertise and logistics support capabilities. The intent is to have contractors on call to undertake a wide range of diverse projects, including setting up operational bases to support peacekeeping operations in hostile environments, military training and to providing a range of technical assistance and equipment for African militaries and peace support operations. These tasks will be implemented in countries throughout the African continent, as designated by the DOS, and in conjunction with specific DOS programs and policies. Potential contractors must possess the following capabilities: demonstrated capability for ?in house? construction work, experience working in a third world environment, stability operations support experience, military training, logistics support, equipment procurement institution building, strong financial management processes, proven adherence to timelines, strong HQ support for field, thorough vetting of employees in the field, solid program management, and medical support.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Their financial distress increases the probability that at least some will seek to ease that distress by enabling smuggling.
Coke heads a "garrison" in Kingston. Garrisons might be best understood as "Tammany Hall on Steroids." They are slum areas which rely on garrison strongmen such as Coke and closely linked to various Jamaican political parties.
The United States has indicted Coke on drug and weapons charges, but so far Jamaica has yet to extradite him.
There has been actual violence associated with the government's potentially extraditing him. Many assert that Coke is so vital to his garrison that massive civil unrest would result should he depart.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
`Doing cocaine or drinking heavily is part of the City culture; you work hard and you play hard and you get rewarded because your bonus is fantastic....'
Friday, October 9, 2009
The meeting, held in the EU peacekeeper’s camp Butmir near the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, took place amidst the biggest political crisis since the end of the Bosnian war. Vicious political rhetoric between local political leaders, that began in the run up to the 2006 general elections, has over the past three years continued to escalate, and has intensified over past months.
Perhaps the most poignant point he makes is that Guinea Bissau was born from a guerrilla uprising against Portugal. Given its current descent into the clutches of Global Guerrillas, this makes one ponder.
Whatever the truth of these competing allegations may be, note that, in particular, Venezuelans assert that their having installed a new radar system has slowed cocaine smuggling via airplane to Africa.
Meanwhile, recently reports have surfaced to the effect that much less cocaine is now being smuggled through Africa. These reports may be faulty, and it is difficult to cite any reason why this slowdown should have taken place. However, if they are correct, then the Venezuelan radar would be one of the few plausible explanations for such a slowdown.
"Yet it fits perfectly with Chavez's conception of the coming asymmetrical battle agains the United States and the need his forces will have to retreat to the hinterlands to wage guerrilla warfare.
One countermeasure the United States might deploy to offset any threat these militias might pose to the troops would be to refrain from invading Venezuela in the first place.
Update: In fairness to Farah, note that he goes on to assert that Chavez' guerrillas could aid the FARC guerrillas in neighboring Columbia. Assuming Chavez did want to aid FARC, he would not need to form militia units to do so.
But this is very early in the day for such an award. And Col. Patrick Lang and a lot of other folks have been blogging furiously about whether Obama might be about to attack Iran and escalate in Afghanistan and such.
And even if Obama has no intention of escalating Iran or Afghanistan - Neville Chamberlain looked like Peace Prize material right after Munich.
It is one thing to award the prize to Jimmy Carter after a long and well documented career; but to award such a prize to any brand new president looks a lot like investing in bundles of mortgage derivatives.
- It's valuable;
- It's portable;
- Sentences are lighter than for drugs, gun running, or money laundering;
- Stolen art can be ransomed;
- Art can be used as a bargaining chip in exchange for cash or drugs.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
We only have his side of the story, but here it is:
The Invisible Tide: Towards an International Strategy to Deal with Drug Trafficking Through West Africa
- Increase attention at the political and strategic levels;
- Develop a state-based Forum on West African Drug
- Increase social resilience; and
- Create international law enforcement to complement the nations' of West Africa's enforcement.
Prosecutors allege he has had links to organized crime and received approximately $160,000.00 in bribes to ignore drug trafficking.
provides a concise description of a customs interception of a drug smuggling operation:
In the early hours of January 27, 1994, the U.S. Customs Service Air Branch dispatched two aircraft to the southeast of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands after learning that an air drop of contraband was to take place. The plane making an air drop was not found, but a vessel was detected in the suspected area, east of Puerto Rico, by a Customs NOMAD maritime surveillance and search aircraft equipped with a 360-degree radar ("Omaha 05"). Pilot Mark Jackson first observed the vessel from his window at approximately 3:33 a.m., aided by bright moonlight. He testified that the vessel was traveling without lights and quickly, leaving behind observable waves. The air interdiction officer who assisted him, Leslie Robb, immediately located the vessel using a forward looking infrared (FLIR) system. This equipment senses heat energy emitted by objects and produces black and white images which can be recorded on videotape, as was done here.
Omaha 05 tracked the vessel for about forty-five minutes until it reached Cayo Luis Pena, an uninhabited key near the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. During this period the vessel occasionally stopped; Officer Robb testified that smugglers often use this tactic of going "dead in the water" (DIW) in order to listen for surveillance aircraft and avoid detection. Omaha 05 lost track of the vessel at least twice during this period. Contact resumed within a few minutes each time, according to the videotape and testimony by Robb.
After the vessel reached Cayo Luis Pena, Officer Robb observed at least three people moving to and from the shore. The vessel departed seven to ten minutes later, at about 4:30 a.m. It traveled westward without lights at a gradually increasing speed. Omaha 05 tracked the vessel for about forty minutes and then lost contact at 5:09 a.m. for twelve minutes. Officer Robb explained at trial that he lost the target vessel when it went DIW and his attention was focused on the radar, instead of the FLIR (a manual tracking system), in order to direct a Customs marine unit to the target vessel. Robb temporarily was unable to detect any vessel in the area. He then located the Customs marine unit and a fuerzas unidas rapida accion (FURA) vessel of the Puerto Rican Police Department, and at 5:21 a.m. reacquired the target vessel on the FLIR. The vessel was less than one mile from the point where it was lost. Robb testified that no other vessels were detected in the area.
Omaha 05, assisted by a FURA helicopter, guided the Customs marine unit to intercept the target vessel. Pedro Vicens, a special agent and criminal investigator on the Customs boat, testified that four individuals were aboard the twenty-four foot fishing boat which had two seventy-five horsepower engines. The vessel had two large gas tanks built into the area that customarily stores fishing equipment or bait. Approaching the vessel, Vicens sensed a strong odor of gasoline. He soon observed that the boat was full of fluid and gasoline: the fuel line had been cut, gas was coming from the tank, and individuals aboard appeared to be bailing out gasoline from the bottom of the vessel and moving as if to wash something. He testified that washing the deck to conceal any smell or residue of narcotics was a common practice of drug smugglers.
- Rebels kidnap somebody or otherwise disrupt things;
- Nigerian government counterattacks;
- A ceasefire is declared;
- The rebels call the ceasefire off;
- Repeat the above.
So the following headline is pretty routine:
Nigerian militants vow to resume attacks next week - washingtonpost.com
But enquiring minds would like to know what is really going on.
Reportedly she is someone:
“who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.”
Sounds like great fun.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Scuffle With Security Contractors Highlights Iraqis' New Clout in Green Zone - washingtonpost.com
Hearing on Transnational Drug Enterprises: Threats to Global Stability and U.S. National Security from Southwest Asia, Latin America, and West Africa :: Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs :: United States House of Representatives
On Thursday, October 1, 2009, the Subcommittee held an oversight hearing entitled, “Transnational Drug Enterprises: Threats to Global Stability and U.S. National Security from Southwest Asia, Latin America, and West Africa.” This hearing, the first in a series, explored the global trade in narcotics as a transnational issue and examined the relationship between drugs, failed and weak states, and related threats to U.S. national security. The hearing featured witnesses with expertise in counternarcotics operations, regional drug traffic patterns, and drug trade as a driver of conflict.
•Eric Olson, Senior Advisor, Security Initiative, Mexico Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars;
•David Mansfield, University Research Fellow, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, the Kennedy School at Harvard University;
•Douglas Farah, Senior Fellow, International Assessment and Strategy Center and former West Africa Bureau Chief of the Washington Post; and
•Vanda Felbab-Brown, Ph. D., Foreign Policy Fellow, Brookings Institute and Adjunct Professor, Security Studies Program, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.
To view a webcast of the hearing, please click on the link below:
Documents and Links
* Testimony of Mr. Eric L. Olson (61 KB)
* Testimony of Mr. David Mansfield (78 KB)
* Testimony of Mr. Douglas Farah (246 KB)
* Testimony of Dr. Vanda Felbab-Brown (48 KB)
* Written Statement of General Barry McCaffrey (Ret.) (73 KB)
As Mexico’s drug wars spread south beyond Guatemala and Honduras, normally peaceful countries have fallen under the crossfire, Samuel Logan and John P Sullivan write for ISN Security Watch.
By Samuel Logan and John P Sullivan for ISN Security Watch
Colombia and Costa Rica reaffirmed counternarcotics cooperation on 16 September, underscoring the reality of a new threat to security facing Costa Rica, a country known as the Switzerland of Central America.
While most analysts consider Central America’s northern triangle countries - Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras - to be the most affected by the regional drug trade, Costa Rica and Panama have in 2009 become de facto passageways, warehouses and money laundering fronts for both Mexican and Colombian organized crime.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that seizures of cocaine have increased dramatically in Panama and Costa Rica over the last few years.
In 2000, seizures of cocaine in Panama and Costa Rica amounted to 7,400 and 5,871 kilograms, respectively. By 2007, this quantity had risen to 60,000 and 32,435 kilos for both states, respectively.
This surge dramatically underscores the growing importance of these nations in the cross-Hemisphere drug trade. They have been caught in the crossfire of Mexico’s drug wars.
Many analysts observe that Panama could be an emerging narco-battleground. In addition to a suspected 2,000 coastal hideouts for maritime traffickers, there is an emphasis on overland drug routes.
“Around 65 percent of the drug smuggling traffic through Costa Rica and Panama is maritime, and most of the rest is over land,” Paul Knierim, an Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with experience in Central America and currently working as the staff coordinator in congressional and public affairs, told ISN Security Watch.
Extreme violence is also on the upswing. In April, alleged members of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel abducted two suspected Envigado Cartel members outside Panama City’s Metro Plaza mall, just one sign of the country’s burgeoning drug trade. It is fueling a new generation of gangs (108 gangs at current count), paid ‘in-kind’ with drugs by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other traffickers.
Costa Rica: Encroaching on paradise
On 30 September, it was announced that Costa Rica would receive an additional $1 million in Merida funds to combat drug trafficking (this is on top of an initial $4.3 million allocated earlier this year). The funds are targeted to bolster the police and enhance efforts to counter money laundering.
“Contrary to the Mexico portion of the Merida Initiative, the Central American portion [also] includes a significant amount of funds for violence prevention. We were pleased to see that almost a third of the funding for the first year was earmarked for prevention and community policing efforts,” Adriana Beltran, senior associate for citizen security for the Washington Office on Latin America, told ISN Security Watch.
But Bruce Bagley, chair of the Department of International Studies with the University of Miami, remains cautious. “Costa Rica is a target of opportunity and must be aware of and alert to its institutional vulnerability,” he told ISN Security Watch.
Costa Rican police assigned to counterdrug duties had amounted to 183 officials assigned to the Policia de Control de Drogas (PCD). These officers are charged with combating a half-billion dollar drug trade that moves at least 1,000 tons of cocaine annually.
Since the second year of President Oscar Arias’ administration, when law enforcement registered a 400 percent increase in the amount of larger shipments - 500 to 1,000 kilos - moving through Costa Rica, the country has begun to organize a cohesive strategy to fight back, but observers are still concerned about what’s on the horizon.
Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua are not only shifting from transit to processing territories, they are becoming drug-consuming nations as well. The increased presence of drugs and drug gangs is stimulating a rise in crime and violence. Central America’s most peaceful countries may find a serious security challenge ahead.
"We haven't yet seen an escalation of violence, but there is concern, so we're focused on preventative maintenance and going after the kingpins," Knierim said.
Earlier this year, in March, gunmen stole some 320 kilos of confiscated cocaine from a guarded storage unit in Golfito, a commercial center near the border with Panama. Security measures failed again, in May, when a helicopter carrying an estimated 347 kilograms of cocaine crashed on Costa Rica’s notorious Cerro de la Muerte, allegedly en route to a warehouse located near Turrialba, a small town just east of the capital, San Jose.
At the time, Public Security Minister Janina del Vecchio stated that “the presence of Mexican cartels in Costa Rica is worrisome,” adding that the helicopter crash supported her analysis that Costa Rica is used for cocaine warehousing as much as it has been used for transshipment. Del Vecchio also recently told the Tico Times, that “[preventing drug trafficking] isn’t just a fight on the seas, it’s also a fight in the streets […].”
Despite concerns of corruption, Knierim remains very supportive of Costa Rica’s security forces. "In my time in Costa Rica, I've had the pleasure of working very closely with their drug police and judicial police, and they are some of the most professional, hard working cops in Central America," he said.
By land or sea
Drug traffickers have begun to use littoral routes on the Pacific side, as close as five to 10 miles off shore. At any sign of trouble, a number of estuaries and rivers provide cover. Some don’t manage to hide.
On 7 September, officers with Costa Rica’s Drug Control Police (PCD) stopped two fishermen steaming north about seven miles off shore and interdicted 1,095 kilos of cocaine. Just two weeks prior, officers seized 382 kilos of cocaine out of a boat parked on Garabito beach, near Jaco, a world renowned surf destination.
On land, the best route north into Nicaragua and beyond is through Peñas Blancas, the border crossing in Costa Rica’s northwestern corner. Both countries have placed a high priority on guarding this passage as it is considered a bottleneck for illicit shipments moving north over land.
One unintended consequence, however, is that more weight will pass through Costa Rica’s disreputable Limon port on the Caribbean coast, where officers seized 110 kilos of cocaine from four dock workers who were offloading a container that had arrived from the Colombian port town of Turbo, on the Uraba Bay, a long known drugs export zone.
Drug trafficking and the endemic criminal violence it breeds are a threat to the entire Western Hemisphere. The southern states of Central America are just encountering the risk involved.
At least two Mexican cartels, the rival Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels are active throughout Central America. It is near certain that the Zetas and others are active as well. Add to this the traditional Colombian cartels and transnational, third-generation gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha, and the potential for cross-border drug wars and criminal insurgencies rises.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Columbia's ambassador to the Dominican Republic states that Columbia's War on Drugs has caused drug traffickers to shift to the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations.
Monday, October 5, 2009
His comments reflect concern in Whitehall that the scale of organised crime in Britain is so vast that it outstrips the capacity of the criminal justice system. Between 25,000 and 30,000 individuals in around 4,000 criminal groups have been identified as running a black economy worth up to �40bn, according to a recent Cabinet Office report.
Luckily, the common perception that Hawala financing is paperless is wrong. The transfer of information regarding the funds often leaves digital (though heavily encrypted) trails. Couriers and "contract memorizers", gold dealers, commodity merchants, transporters, and moneylenders can be apprehended and interrogated. Written, physical, letters are still the favourite mode of communication among small and medium Hawaladars, who also invariably resort to extremely detailed single entry bookkeeping. And the sudden appearance and disappearance of funds in bank accounts still have to be explained. Moreover, the sheer scale of the amounts involved entails the collaboration of off shore banks and more established financial institutions in the West. Such flows of funds affect the local money markets in Asia and are instantaneously reflected in interest rates charged to frequent borrowers, such as wholesalers. Spending and consumption patterns change discernibly after such influxes. Most of the money ends up in prime world banks behind flimsy business facades. Hackers in Germany claimed (without providing proof) to have infiltrated Hawala-related bank accounts.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
For example, they say our ancestors' small canines mean they had touchy-feely sex lives:
Ardipithecus: We Meet At Last | The Loom | Discover Magazine
Those of you reading this post that have a Y chromosome have canine teeth that are about the same size as those of my XX readers. The same rule applies to the teeth of some other primate species. But in still other species, the males have much bigger canines than the females. The difference corresponds fairly well to the kind of social lives these primates have. Big canines are a sign of intense competition between males. Canine teeth in some primate species get honed into sharp daggers that males can use as weapons in battles for territory and for the opportunity to mate with females.
Men have stubby canines, which many scientists take as a sign that the competition between males became less intense in our hominid lineage. That was likely due to a shift in family life. Male chimpanzees compete with each other to mate with females, but they don’t help with the kids when they’re born. Humans form long-term bonds, with fathers helping mothers by, for example, getting more food for the kids to eat. There’s still male-male competition in our lineage, but it’s a lot less intense than in other species.
Which gives rise to the question of - if this is true - then what does that tell us about vampires?
Touchy-feely fellows vampires are not, but any survey of vampire literature would demonstrate they they have other uses for their canines besides hyper-macho contests for female vampires.
So let us drive a stake through all this overblown speculation about 4 million year old apeman sex - at least until we invent a time machine that would allow us to go back and observe things directly. All we have is one skeleton and a few other remains. Which by itself is fascinating, but which by itself tells us little.
* For those of you who do not follow these things, nowadays "brontosaurus" is called "apatosaurus" for some reason; and, no, birds are apparently not descended from them.
The economic problems that we face are just one side of a horrible equation of imbalance in the society. One is convinced that even if we should, by some miracle, cause our economic problems to evapaorate, we would still be in a terrible bind because our economic problems are just a symptom of a far more pernicious disease that is eating away at the fabric of the society.
To begin with, we have not even begun philosophically to understand what being a nation is all about. We are thrown together on a piece of real estate about 4,411 square miles large. In the main, we hold to a common ancestry of slavery. Outside of a sporadic burst of pride that comes when our athletes perform brilliantly abroad, or when necessity forces us together in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane, there is no patriotic fervour or loyalty that binds us together as a people.
There is no unifying vision around which we can organise to build a viable society. We hypocritically trumpet the cliché that we are our brothers' keepers, but deep down it is everyone for himself when the crunch time comes. We talk about justice, but we know deep down that justice is selective and can be bought if you have the right amount of cash. The ordinary man in the street knows that justice is divisible, that there is a justice for the rich and one for the poor and vulnerable. Often he can only get his version of it when he takes matters into his own hands by using his own version of mob justice.At a time when we should be pulling together, we are more fractured than we have ever been as a society
Friday, October 2, 2009
'Soldiers are prowling the neighbourhood [Bambeto, on 29 September]. When they see a resident they say: 'You move, we shoot'. They say: 'It's you, Peulhs, who want to get in our way. We are going to exterminate you all.''
[Peulh is one of Guinea’s main ethnic groups; junta leader Camara is Guerze, a group from the Forest Region]
Thursday, October 1, 2009
feel so threatened by narco traffickers that they want to become "faceless.">.
How To Launder Money (And Everything Else You Wanted To Know About Money Laundering) � The Velvet Rocket
Don't even think about secret accounts in safe havens such as Switzerland, Lichtenstein, or Guernsey. Regulators will catch you. Invoice fraud, exporting or importing over or undervalued goods and services, is the way to go. Regulators are not on top of this. Other money laundering techniques are mentioned.
Dubai’s struggles during the global financial crisis will only strengthen its underworld, according to Christopher Davidson, a lecturer in Middle East politics at Durham University and the author of Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success. “As Dubai’s efforts to fully liberalize its economy come undone and its attractiveness to foreign investors declines further, the international spotlight will eventually move away and it may become more attractive than ever to human traffickers, gunrunners, and money launderers,” he says. Dubai’s new smugglers may be Indian mobsters or Chechen strongmen instead of dhow sailors, but the old dual structure of legitimate and illegitimate business remains robust.