Entries in Cartel (3)


How a Cartel Dominated a Mexican Town

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEPALCATEPEC, Mexico) -- A video published recently on YouTube provides a chilling account of how organized crime has evolved in Mexico. And it's getting a lot of play in the media, given the recent surge of violence in the western state of Michoacan.

In the video, a local doctor narrates the recent history of Tepalcatepec, a town in the Michoacan lowlands that has been hounded by drug cartels for the past 12 years.

The doctor, Jose Manuel Mireles, is now a member of a self-defense squad that has taken up arms to defend the town. He says that, initially, cartels in the region just fought each other over drug smuggling routes, and left civilians to their own devices.

That changed about four years ago, when a cartel called the Knights Templar won the local drug war, and forced smaller drug dealers to flee from the area.

The Knights Templar achieved territorial control, but found that with local drug dealers gone, it was difficult to run the drug business on their own. So they turned to taxing local businesses.

"Cattle ranchers had to pay 1,000 pesos [$80] for every cow they sold. And butchers had to pay 15 pesos [$1] for every kilo of beef they sold," Mireles recalls in the video.

"There were families that had to pay between ten to 20 thousand pesos per month, and we were also told to pay 500 pesos for every car we owned. Even children, from kindergarten to high school, had to pay 20 pesos every Monday."

Mireles said that local law enforcement officers didn't do anything to stop such abuses, because they were possibly allied with the cartel. But he said that the local population still found ways to endure the cartel's squeeze on the local economy.

"The cattle rancher and the butcher would simply raise the prices of their goods; they never lost out," Mireles said.

According to this doctor, armed rebellion against the Knights Templar cartel only began when this group started to rape local children, and abduct peoples' wives.

"The problem exploded when they began to come to our home, and tell us things like, 'I like your wife, I'll bring her back in a while...and while I'm gone, give your daughter a shower because she'll have to spend a few days with me, too."

Mireles said the reign of terror drove residents to action. The cartels would target the wealthy as well as the poor.

"That was what sparked the problems in Tepalcatepec. Because just as they'd approach a poor family, they'd also do the same to the richest cattle ranchers," Mireles says in the video.

Michoacan has been in the media spotlight since February, when several towns in the state took up arms and formed vigilante groups to defend themselves against cartels.

Local media was all over the story, calling on the Mexican government to do something to stop "anarchy" in this part of the country.

The government of Mexico responded by sending some 2,500 soldiers into the state. They've occupied Tepalcatepec and some surrounding towns, and gotten self-defense groups to agree to put their weapons away while the army is around.

But Mireles claims that this military surge has not been ambitious enough, with soldiers only occupying towns where the self-defense groups have already expelled cartels.

In his YouTube video, Mireles claims that Mexican soldiers are doing nothing to root out criminals that still dominate nearby towns.

"We've told the soldiers thousands of times, 'Look, the Knights Templar are in Apatzingan and Aguililla, why don't you go get them?" Mireles said. "And they tell us that their mission is only to protect our town."

"I think that they sent the soldiers here to take our weapons away," Mireles opined. "But not to defend us from those who've been attacking this area for the past 12 years."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Lebanese Drug Lord Charged in US: Links to Zetas and Hezbollah

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A Lebanese drug kingpin who allegedly has connections to the Zeta drug cartel and Hezbollah has been charged with drug dealing and money laundering, the Justice Department and DEA announced Tuesday.

Ayman Joumaa, a.k.a “Junior,” and his associates allegedly shipped an estimated 85,000 kilograms of cocaine into the United States and laundered more than $850 million in drug money coming out of Mexico from the Zeta cartel through front companies and The Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB).

In a federal indictment that was unsealed Monday, Joumaa was charged with cocaine distribution and money laundering.

In January, the Treasury Department designated Joumaa a major narcotics trafficker, alleging that he used cash exchange houses in Lebanon that had accounts with the Lebanese Canadian Bank.  A month later the LCB was designated by the Treasury as a “Primary Money Laundering Concern”

According to U.S. officials, Hezbollah has obtained financing from Joumaa and his associates. U.S. officials say some officers with the Lebanese Canadian Bank and subsidiaries have connections with Hezbollah.

The case shows the reach of Hezbollah’s financial support network. U.S. officials have long known about the group operating in South America’s tri-border area in Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, where the group runs drugs and large scale counterfeiting networks, according to U.S. officials. In recent years there has been more recent concern about the group establishing a footprint in Central America.

“The defendant’s coordination of money laundering activities occurred in the United States, Lebanon, Benin, Panama, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere,” the indictment alleged.

“According to information from sources, his alleged drug and money laundering activities facilitated numerous global drug trafficking organizations, including the criminal activities of the Los Zetas Mexican drug cartel,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in a statement.

The indictment alleges that Joumaa and his co-conspirators coordinated cocaine shipments from Colombia and Latin America to sell to the Zeta cartel and launder the drug proceeds, charging fees between eight percent and 14 percent for laundering the funds.

“During the course of the conspiracy, the defendant typically picked up between $2 [million] and $4 million at a time in Mexico City,” the indictment said of bulk shipments of U.S. currency that Joumaa and his associates would receive from the drug sales.

“Money fuels the drug trade, and Mr. Joumaa is alleged to be at the center of it all,” U.S. Attorney  Neil MacBride said. “Working with those producing the vast majority of the world’s cocaine to get their drugs safely into the hands of Mexican cartels, and then moving hundreds of millions in proceeds all around the world so the money can’t be traced back to them in Colombia.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mexico Drug King's Wife Has Babies in US

David De Lossy/Digital Vision(LOS ANGELES) -- The wife of Mexico's most powerful drug lord came to the U.S. to deliver twin girls in a Los Angeles hospital, according to a newspaper report Tuesday.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's wife, Emma Coronel, a dual U.S.-Mexican citizen, traveled to L.A. in July and delivered twin girls on Aug. 15, according to the Los Angeles Times. She then returned with her daughters to Mexico, where her husband is thought to be surrounded by heavily armed soldiers in remote mountain areas.

The space for "father's name" on the birth certificates was left blank, the paper reported.

Guzman is alleged by the Drug Enforcement Agency to be partly responsible for nearly 200 tons of cocaine smuggled into the U.S. and $5.8 billion in narcotics profits smuggled out of the U.S. since 1990.

The Drug Enforcement Administration told the newspaper they were aware of Emma Coronel's movements, but could not arrest her because there are no charges against her. They did not detain her for information about Guzman's whereabouts because he is thought to be too well-protected to arrest, according to the report.

Antelope Valley Hospital would not comment about Coronel's delivery, though a nurse in the Couplet Care department said she did not remember Coronel specifically and the press department was not immediately aware of any issues surrounding Coronel's stay.

Guzman, 54, married Coronel, 22, four years ago after he saw her in a beauty pageant, according to the report. Coronel was crowned Miss Coffee and Guava at the pageant, and the two married a few months later. Coronel is the niece of Guzman's former business partner, Igancio "Nacho" Coronel, who controlled the methamphetamine trade within Guzman's cartel. He was killed last year.

The U.S. Department of Justice offers $5 million for information leading to Guzman's arrest.

The DEA did not return calls for comment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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