Venezuela

Anti-gang 'mega-raids' in crisis-hit Venezuela

Posted on May 16th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

VenezuelaAs Venezuela lurches deeper into political crisis, President Nicolas Maduro has announced a new phase in the government's controversial "Operation Liberate the People" security program, pledging to cleanse the country of gang-related crime. Thousands of elite military troops have been deployed across Caracas, with five new “permanent” bases and over 130 checkpoints established in the city. Perhaps not coincidentally, this comes as Maduro has declared a "state of emergency" throughout the country in response to a supposed US-backed conspiracy against him by the political opposition, earning rebukes from Amnesty International, which called the declaration "alarming."

Empire strikes back against Belize?

Central America OK, we don't want to get too paranoid here. But last month, after years of studying the matter, the government of Belize took a big step toward cannabis decrim. On Feb. 19, the  cabinet formally handed recommendations made by the Decriminalization of Marijuana Committee, assigned to assess the matter, over to the office of the Attorney General for final review. This means introduction of a decrim bill is almost certainly imminent. Sources say the proposed legislation would allow for persons in possession of 10 grams or less to face a fine or community service. The fine is named as 15 Belizean dollars (US$7.50) per gram. The law would also be retroactive, expunging the records of those convicted in the past for possession within these limits. Former National Security Minister Doug Singh, who has pushed for a more lenient policy, said, "Too many young people have this following them, those who are seeking jobs."

Florida cops snared in Venezuela money-laundering op

Posted on January 2nd, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

VenezuelaWell, this is a little funny. The US has been eager to find any evidence that the left-wing government of Venezuela is tainted by narco-trafficking. But now it looks like a Florida police force may have been co-opted by the Venezuelan narco-networks. Federal authorities now say that for two years starting in 2010, police in Bal Harbour, Miami-Dade County, funneled millions in drug money into the bank accounts of Venezuelans—including William Amaro Sánchez, now special assistant to President Nicolás Maduro. The supposed goal was to disrupt the networks. But this supposed undercover sting operation generated millions for a local police task force and never made a single arrest.

DEA busts nephews of Venezuela's 'First Combatant'

Posted on November 13th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

VenezuelaTwo nephews of the wife of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro were arrested this week in Haiti, turned over to DEA agents and flown to the United States to face drug trafficking charges, the New York Times reports Nov. 11. The two men, Efraín Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas, are nephews of Cilia Flores—called by the populist Maduro the "First Combatant" rather than first lady. Flores is a powerful political figure in her own right, and is currently running for Venezuela's congress with the ruling party. The nephews are expected to appear this week in Federal District Court in Manhattan. They were charged in a sealed indictment accusing them of conspiring to ship 800 kilograms of cocaine to the United States, to be sold in New York City, according to a "person with knowledge of the matter."

Venezuela closes Colombian border after clash with smugglers

Posted on August 23rd, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , .

VenezuelaVenezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Aug. 21 indefinitely closed a busy border crossing with Colombia and declared a 60-day state of emergency in several nearby towns after three soldiers were shot and wounded in an apparent clash with smugglers. Authorities said two assailants on a motorcycle fired on a patrol in the border town of San Antonio del Táchira, wounding a civilian as well as the two army lieutenants and a captain. Maduro has mobilized some 15,000 troops the area, and says the Simon Bolívar International Bridge, over the Río Táchira that forms the border, will remain closed until the assailants are apprehended. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has protested the border closure, signaling another flare-up between the uneasy South American neighbors.

Colombia: Guajira crime lord falls, para links revealed

Posted on October 27th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , .

ColombiaColombia's President Juan Manuel Santos on Oct. 22 announced the capture of one of the country's top fugitive crime lords—Marcos de Jesús Figueroa AKA "Marquitos"—in the Brazilian jungle city of Boa Vista. The extraordinary operation was coordinated by police forces in both Colombia and Brazil. "Marquitos" was considered the reigning boss of the lucrative narco trade in Colombia's northern region of La Guajira, with access to both the Caribbean Sea and the porous Venezuelan border. He is held responsible for a long reign of terror by criminal gangs and their paramilitary allies in the region—personally culpable in at least 100 deaths, according to authorities. Santos took the apprehension of Marquitos as an opportunity to crow: "With this, we say to criminals that it makes no difference where you are, we are going to catch you." (El Tiempo, Oct. 23; El Espectador, El Tiempo, Oct. 22)

Colombia: FARC meets army brass, coke flow uninterrupted

Posted on August 24th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , .

ColombiaColombian military brass held their first meeting with FARC guerilla leaders at peace talks in Havana Aug. 22. The meeting focused on the specifics of implementing a ceasefire and the eventual demobilization of the guerillas.  Earlier in the week the guerilla leaders met, also for the first time, a group of war victims to discuss formation of a truth commission for the conflict. But Colombia's Prosecutor General Alejandro Ordoñez sent a letter to President Juan Manuel Santos criticizing creation of the Historical Commission on the Conflict and its Victims, fearing an outcome favoring the FARC’s version of events. (BBC News, Aug. 22; Colombia Reports, Aug. 21)

Aruba frees Venezuelan 'narco-general' wanted in US

Posted on August 4th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , .

VenezuelaVenezuela has scored a win in its ongoing diplomatic and propaganda war with Uncle Sam. The most recent flare-up started July 24, when authorities in Aruba arrested Gen. Hugo Carvajal, a top Venezuelan official wanted in the US on drug trafficking charges. Carvajal had been military intelligence chief under the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, and was accused by the US Treasury Department of using his position to protect cocaine shipments for Colombia's FARC guerillas. He had just arrived in Aruba after being appointed Venezuela's consul there—and was promptly detained at Washington's behest. Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro called the detention a "kidnapping," and demanded Carvajal's immediate release. And three days later, a judge on the island found that since Carvajal had a diplomatic passport, his arrest was illegal. He was sprung and quickly made the short flight back to Venezuela. "He's returning free and victorious. It's a triumph for sovereignty and legality," president Maduro said, praising the "bravery" of the Dutch government. (The Guardian, July 28; BBC News, July 27; Maduradas, July 24)

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