Entries in Drugs (21)


Former Mexican President Wants Marijuana Legalized

Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg via Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- A former Latin American president has once again said that drugs should be legalized. This time it was Vicente Fox who was the president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006.

Fox was in Seattle on Thursday, as a guest speaker for Don Pellicer, a new company that wants to set up marijuana stores in Washington state and Colorado, and aims to create America's "largest" marijuana brand. The former Mexican president spoke in a press conference in which Don Pellicer's CEO [a former Microsoft executive] sought money from investors, and unveiled plans to buy marijuana dispensaries.

After praising Don Pellicer and its head honchos for their "initiative," Fox described marijuana prohibition as a "trap," that has increased violence in Mexico.

He said that policies that legalize the drug's consumption represent an "opportunity," to stop that violence, and welcomed the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Washington and Colorado.

"This state of Washington has decided to lead a new path," Fox said. "In Mexico we welcome this initiative because the cost of the war [against drug cartels] is becoming unbearable."

Many politicians in Latin America are also talking about taking new paths in drug policy, and demanding that the U.S. also consider legalization as an international strategy.

Some, like Fox, are former presidents, who fought drug cartels tooth and nail in their time, and now have little to lose by saying that drugs should be legalized.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has been working to convince Central American countries to legalize many drugs, even cocaine. In a February 2012 speech, Molina said, "We've seen that when we capture a drug boss, cartels get reorganized and business continues. ... While there is demand in the United States, drug trafficking will continue [in Latin America]."

Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Pepe Mujica of Uruguay have also worked to push legislation that would legalize marijuana.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


‘Godmother of Cocaine’ Gunned Down in Colombia: Reports

Florida Department of Corrections(WASHINGTON) -- A 69-year-old woman known throughout the drug world as the “Godmother of Cocaine” was gunned down by an assassin on a motorcycle in Colombia Monday, according to international news reports.

Griselda Blanco, once listed alongside Pablo Escobar as one of the “most notorious drug lords of the 1980s” by the Drug Enforcement Administration, was fatally shot as she left a butcher’s shop in western Medellin Monday afternoon, according to a report by Univision and El Colombiano. Colombia’s El Espectador reported authorities are looking for Blanco’s killers and are investigating possible motives for the killing.

Blanco served nearly 20 years in an American prison on drug trafficking charges and was at one point tied to as many as 40 murders in the U.S., according to a 1997 Senate testimony given by then-director of DEA international operations Michael Horn. Horn said that Blanco ordered a Florida mall shooting in 1979 that left two dead and four injured, and she apparently enjoyed her line of work.

“To foster her reputation as the ‘Godmother’ of cocaine, [Blanco] named her fourth son Michael Corleone, after the fictional mob character portrayed in the movie The Godfather,” Horn said.

Court documents filed in 1988, three years after Blanco was caught, detail the shadowy, decade-long hunt for the queenpin that involved federal agents chasing false identities and checking Miami hospitals for gunshot wound victims that matched Blanco’s description. But she wasn’t able to elude them forever and after being captured in 1985 in Irvin, Calif. and serving nearly two decades behind bars in America, Blanco was released from prison and deported back to Colombia in 2004.

The DEA referred all inquiries into Blanco’s death to Colombian authorities, telling ABC News, “she served her time here.” The Colombian National Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this report.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Alleged Drug 'Queenpin' Extradited from Mexico, Appears in Florida Court

Comstock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- The alleged "queenpin" of Mexico's West Coast drug trade, once celebrated in song as the "Queen of the Pacific," appeared in a U.S. courtroom Friday to face drug trafficking charges after being extradited from Mexico City to Miami.

Sandra Avila Beltran, who allegedly once controlled cocaine traffic from Colombia via Mexico to the U.S. Pacific Coast, had been held by Mexican authorities since she was pulled over and arrested in her BMW in 2007.

She was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2004 on two counts of cocaine trafficking. She had fought extradition while in Mexican custody, but arrived in Florida earlier Friday and appeared in court that afternoon to hear the charges read. She is scheduled to be arraigned next Tuesday.

Until her arrest Beltran, the niece of a notorious organized crime figure, allegedly reigned over a profitable business from her Mexico City apartment for years, while also having affairs with Colombian and Mexican drug kingpins. Her personal relationships, her sex appeal and her business savvy allegedly helped her control the cocaine conduit from Colombia. She was arrested soon after Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched his war on drugs.

Beltran was lauded as the "Queen" in a "narcocorrido" -- a drug ballad -- by the group Los Tucanes de Tijuana. The song describes how "La Reina del Pacifico" lands at a luxe party in the mountains in a helicopter: "The boss ordered everyone to hold their fire. Out came a beautiful lady, dressed in camo and [carrying] and [AK-47]. ... She was the famous Queen of the Pacific and its shores, the strong lady of the business, a true heavyweight. "

Beltran was also reportedly the inspiration for a 2004 novel called "The Queen of the South," about an enterprising Mexican woman who rises from drug smuggler's girlfriend to queen of her own empire.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Judo Fighter Expelled After Testing Positive for Marijuana

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- American judo fighter Nicholas Delpopolo was expelled from the Olympics today for failing a drug test, which he said was caused by mistakenly eating something that had been baked with pot.

"My positive test was caused by my inadvertent consumption of food that I did not realize had been baked with marijuana before I left for the Olympic Games," Delpopolo, 23, said in a statement released by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Delpopolo's expulsion from the games came after he placed seventh in the 73-kilogram judo event on July 30. Immediately after competing, Delpopolo, who is from New Jersey, provided a urine sample that tested positive for a chemical found in marijuana. Delpopolo is the first of the 10,500 athletes in London to fail an in-competition drug test.

The International Olympic Committee disqualified Delpopolo from the event and ordered that his diploma be reallocated to the fighters who placed beneath him.

"I apologize to U.S. Olympic Committee, to my teammates, and to my fans, and I am embarrassed by this mistake," Delpopolo said in a statement. "I look forward to representing my country in the future, and will rededicate myself to being the best judo athlete that I can be."

The U.S. Olympic Committee released a statement supporting Delpopolo's disqualification.

"[The USOC] absolutely committed to clean competition and stringent anti-doping penalties," spokesman Patrick Sandusky said. "Any positive test, for any banned substance, comes with the appropriate consequences and we absolutely support the disqualification."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Huge US-Mexico Drug Tunnel Discovered

DEA(YUMA, Ariz.) -- Authorities in Arizona have discovered a lighted, ventilated cross-border drug smuggling tunnel more than two football fields long just steps from an official border-crossing checkpoint between Mexico and the U.S.

Local and federal officials found the tunnel's entrance hidden under a water tank in a one-story building in San Luis, Arizona, near Yuma. The tunnel then plunged 55 feet down before turning south for Mexico. The 240 yard tunnel, which had six-foot ceilings, lighting and ventilation, surfaced across the border inside an ice factory in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents had been monitoring the building on the U.S. side since January, after seeing what they considered suspicious activity "that indicated the site was being used as a potential stash location," said the DEA in a statement. On July 6, local law enforcement stopped a pick-up truck carrying 39 pounds of methamphetamine, and then traced the vehicle back to the San Luis building.

"The recent discovery of this sophisticated drug smuggling tunnel is yet another reminder of how desperate these criminal organizations are and the extent they will go to further their drug dealing operations and endanger the security of our citizens, said Doug Coleman, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA's Phoenix Field Division. "The DEA continues to work with our counterparts nationally and internationally to bring to justice these drug trafficking organizations as well as to block their smuggling routes into this country."

After U.S. officials discovered the four-foot-wide tunnel entrance in San Luis, which was surrounded by drums full of the dirt removed from the tunnel, the Mexican military traced the tunnel to its entrance inside the Mexican ice plant. Bags of dirt removed from the tunnel were stacked to the factory ceiling.

Three suspects have been detained in the U.S. in connection with the tunnel.

The San Luis tunnel is the first fully operational smuggling tunnel found in the Yuma area, according to the DEA. In the past 10 years, 89 cross tunnel borders have been found in Arizona and 50 in neighboring California.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the first sophisticated smuggling tunnel was found in Douglas, Arizona more than 20 years ago. Many tunnels have included lighting, ventilation and beam-supported walls and ceilings. In the past seven years, 119 tunnels have been discovered on the southern U.S. border. Only one tunnel has been found on the U.S./Canada border.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mexico Drug War: More Families Buying Armored Cars

ABC News(MEXICO CITY) -- Eighty million citizens in Mexico headed to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president at a time when drug war violence remains a crucial issue.  Some of them likely took that journey in their own armored vehicles.

More than 50,000 people have died in Mexico’s drug war, causing the armored car business to boom, allowing regular families with enough pesos the opportunity to make their vehicles safe havens.

“I would say in the last four years, the business is up 1,000 percent.  It’s huge,” an auto shop owner in Mexico told ABC News’ Cecilia Vega.

A midsize SUV outfitted with armor is bullet-resistant and can withstand 15 to 20 rounds of bullets fired from a handgun.

These so-called “family tanks” are a sign of the violent drug war that has become a top issue in Sunday’s election.

Frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto has said he wants to focus on curbing violence in the streets and less on catching cartel leaders and blocking the flow of drugs into the United States.

Peña Nieto is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).  The party ruled nearly uncontested for seven decades until it was defeated in 2000 by Vicente Fox, ushering in 12 years of conservative leadership.

Despite this being one of Mexico’s cleanest elections, voting did not go entirely as planned.  One polling place visited by ABC News opened two hours late.  Nevertheless, voters waited in a line that stretched down the block.

“This country needs a change,” said voter Javier Rojas.

Preliminary results Sunday night show Peña Nieto with a comfortable lead over his opponents: former Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador and former cabinet secretary Josefina Vázquez Mota.  Although Peña Nieto appears to be the victor, it will be a few days before the official results are in.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Swimsuit Model Accused of Heading International Drug Ring Captured

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SYDNEY) -- The international swimsuit model accused of being the mastermind of a worldwide drug ring run out of a Hollywood apartment has been arrested in Australia after skipping out on bail over a month ago.

Simone Farrow, who was once the face of the Ed Hardy brand of bikinis, used 19 different aliases to ship methamphetamine around the world by FedEx and even the postal service, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency and Australian police.

The 37-year-old, who was arrested in Queensland on Australia's Gold Coast and extradited to Sydney last week, denied the charges and claims that she was in hiding after running for her life.

"The only reason I've done this is because someone was trying to murder me," Farrow told Australia's Sunday Telegraph. "I've been in ... relationships with numerous underworld figures or whatever you want to call them and I feel that maybe they feel threatened by my situation."

Farrow was first arrested in October 2009 after flying to Australia while the United States DEA was raiding her Sunset Boulevard apartment, allegedly seizing drugs and documents.

After having a friend post her $150,000 bond in February, Farrow skipped bail. Police in Australia finally caught up with Farrow last week, at a cheap Gold Coast hotel.

Under the stage name Simone Starr, Farrow was a bikini model, pin-up girl and a Penthouse magazine "pet," while making FHM magazine's Sexiest Women In The World list three times. Farrow was also promoting herself as a singer/songwriter, and on her website, as a would-be reality show star.

Australian authorities now insist that behind that high-fashion facade, Farrow was leading a double life trafficking high-grade crystal meth, hiding them in shipments of bath salts.

"It's not uncommon in the modeling and entertainment industry," former special agent Brad Garrett told ABC News. "If your skill set doesn't take you any place else, where's it going to take you? A quick buck would be distributing methamphetamine. It tells me that she was not that sophisticated, and she may be desperate for money."

Investigators are saying that Farrow was the brains behind the "ongoing criminal enterprise," which they purport involved at least seven people.

One of the members of the alleged drug syndicate committed suicide in a Hollywood motel after being contacted by U.S. authorities, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Drug Lord Escapes Again: Who's Tipping Him Off?

STR/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- American officials have become so frustrated with a Mexican drug lord's ability to elude capture that they've started telling jokes about it.

Time and again, U.S. drug agents have provided Mexican law enforcement with precise intelligence about the safe houses where Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, is hiding. And every time the Mexicans raid a house, the man that the U.S. government calls "the most powerful drug trafficker in the world" manages to escape at the last minute through the back door.

"Every time he gets away, they tell us, 'He got out the back door,'" said one American official. U.S. drug agents have started to joke that "there is no word for 'surround' in Spanish."

Behind the jokes, however, is concern that someone in Mexican law enforcement is tipping off Guzman, allowing him to escape just ahead of the raids. During the 1990s, problems with leaks of U.S. intelligence helped delay the capture or killing of several top players in the Colombian drug cartels.

In El Chapo's latest escape, he apparently went out the back door of a mansion in the beach resort of Los Cabos just before Mexican Federal Police raided the house. Several of his alleged associates were arrested and are in custody. The raid in late February came just a day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other foreign dignitaries were in town for a meeting, and the U.S. was able to provide Mexican officials with precise intelligence about Guzman's whereabouts.

In another recent near miss, according to U.S. officials, the Mexicans came so close to catching Guzman that his coffee was still warm.

U.S. intelligence about Guzman's whereabouts is typically pinpoint, say officials. The U.S. might, for example, be able to find the city block where the kingpin is staying, and then narrow his location down to two or three houses.

The U.S. holds the information closely until Guzman's exact address is known. The U.S. then shares the information with only a few key people in the Mexican federal police and the military who have been reliable allies in the drug war. Each time the Mexicans mount a raid, however, El Chapo escapes.

One possibility, say officials, is that after receiving the intelligence the Mexicans are simply slow off the mark, giving Guzman time to flee before the raiding party arrives. After so many close calls, however, there has been unavoidable speculation about another possibility, that there is leak somewhere in the chain, and someone is warning Guzman. Despite the concerns, efforts to catch Guzman, and the sharing of intelligence, continue.

Guzman, whose nickname means "Shorty," has long been ranked among the richest men in the world by Forbes, and the DEA says he has surpassed late Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in power. The State Department has offered $5 million for his capture.

Though he was arrested in 1993, he has been on the loose since escaping from prison in a laundry truck in 2001. Now in his 50s, he built the Sinaloa cartel into what law enforcement officials consider the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world. Based in Culiacan, Sinaloa, the cartel has taken control of drug trafficking in much of western Mexico, including the states of Baja California, Sonora and Durango, while the violent Zetas gang, which includes many gunmen with Mexican military training, dominates the east. The Sinaloa cartel deals in methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin and Colombian cocaine.

The Mexican government was thought to be zeroing in on Guzman ahead of July's presidential election. His capture would boost the fortunes of the ruling PAN party, which is trailing the PRI party in the polls.

The administration of current president Felipe Calderon had been accused of favoring the Sinaloa cartel while attacking lesser drug organizations. The Mexican government disputed the charge.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Report: Afghan Air Force Suspected of Drug Running

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. government has reportedly launched a pair of probes to determine whether Afghan officials have been using military planes — many of which are paid for by the U.S. — to illegally smuggle guns and drugs around the country.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, both the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan are separately investigating suspected illicit activities carried out under the noses of U.S. military advisers and possibly with the knowledge of high Afghan officials.

Suspicions about alleged corruption in the Afghan Air Force (AAF) were disclosed publicly in January in a U.S. Air Force special investigation report on the murder of eight U.S. Air Force personnel and one contractor by an Afghan officer who later turned his gun on himself in the Kabul airport in April 2011. The shooter in that case was identified as Col. Ahmed Gul, a cargo and passenger coordinator for the AAF with reported financial and mental problems.

In the Air Force report, two witnesses stated they believed the AAF to be a hotbed of “nefarious” activity where Afghan officials could make quick money by ferrying people or cargo around the country — often with little or no screening.

“There is a distinct lack of transparency in the way the Afghan Ministry of Defense [and the] AAF like to schedule and fly their missions,” one witness, only identified as a Lieutenant Colonel, says in the report. “The Afghans either don’t know or don’t want to tell us who or what they’re flying around the country. All this looks very suspicious to the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan mentors who have been in country for more than a few months.”

Specifically, the witnesses said the Afghan air officers would be paid directly to usher top Afghan officials around at the last minute. In its report, The Wall Street Journal quoted U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger as saying the current allegations also include the transport of narcotics and weapons “for the use of private groups” within Afghanistan. The United Nations estimates that Afghanistan is home to 90 percent of the world’s opium — the main ingredient in heroin.

Though the Air Force investigation did not find a singular motive for Gul’s sudden attack, when the shooting took place a new system “was being developed to ensure [AAF] flights were officially tasked through a legitimate [AAF] process,” the Air Force report said.

In a statement to ABC News, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force said Thursday it is working with its Afghan partners to “arrest and reverse criminal penetration in the [Afghan National Security Forces] and to ensure security ministries and their forces become sufficiently resistant to and insulated from criminal network interference and subversion.”

“ISAF takes seriously any allegation of impropriety on the part of its forces or those of the Afghan National Security Forces we mentor and partner with,” the statement said. The statement also noted that in the last year, 50 “criminal actors” had been discovered in the security forces.

A DEA spokesperson told ABC News that by policy, the administration does not confirm or deny any potential ongoing investigations. A spokesperson for the AAF and Afghanistan’s Minister of Defense, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, told The Wall Street Journal they were unaware of the investigations. The AAF spokesperson denied the allegations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Spring Break Travel Warning: Mounting Violence in Mexico

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As spring break nears, the U.S. government is warning Americans to stay out of much of Mexico because of rising drug-cartel violence -- and tells travelers to one of Mexico's most popular beach destinations to stay close to their hotels.

A newly expanded travel warning from the State Department says that U.S. travelers should avoid four entire states, as well as large areas of ten others, most in the north and west of the country.

The most popular destination affected by the warning is Acapulco, where the State Department urged Americans not to travel more than two blocks inland from the boulevard that runs along the popular beaches.

"We strongly advise you to lower your profile and avoid displaying any evidence of wealth that might draw attention," says the warning.

A warning issued last April listed 10 states as areas to avoid, but the State Department said the expanded warning, and stronger language, are a response to a rising level of drug-related violence that has claimed American victims, with crimes including "homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, car jacking and highway robbery."

According to the State Department, the number of U.S. citizens reported murdered in Mexico increased from 35 in 2007 to 120 in 2011. The death toll, coupled with the rising number of kidnappings and disappearances in the country, led the Department to take a stronger stance.

In its warning, the U.S. instructs travelers to "defer non-essential travel" to the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango and Tamaulipas, as well as parts or most of Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan and Nayarit.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio