Category Archives: Organized crime

State Department sternly warns on travel to Mexico


As the holidays draw near, if you’re thinking of heading south across the border to catch a little fun and sun in Mexico, you might want to think again: the U.S. State Department has issued a strong warning advising against it.

Or at least to some parts of a nation wracked by unprecedented levels of violence.

From Spain’s El País:

The US travel warning comes against a backdrop of rising violence in Mexico, with 29,000 murders registered in the country in the year to the end of September. Of those murders, 16,749 were assassinations. If that trend continues for the rest of the year, 2016 will be the most violent 12 months since Mexico’s embattled President Enrique Peña Nieto came to office in 2016.

A UCLA study published in January said the rise in the number of homicides in Mexico from 2000 to 2010 has reduced the average life expectancy of its citizens.

According to the study, life expectancy among men who live in the north, the most violent part of the country, had fallen by three years over the period.

Mexico continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. Recently, police in Mexico’s Gulf Coast state of Veracruz said 14 criminal suspects had been killed in a gun battle with a patrol of Mexican marines.

Spelled out in dire terms

Singled out in the warning are some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

From the advisory:

U.S. government personnel and their families are prohibited from personal travel to all areas to which the Department recommends “defer non-essential travel” in this Travel Warning. As a result of security precautions that U.S. government personnel must take while traveling to parts of Mexico, our response time to emergencies involving U.S. citizens may be hampered or delayed.

Gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities have taken place on streets and in public places during broad daylight. The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations and has engaged in an extensive effort to counter criminal organizations that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. There is no evidence that criminal organizations have targeted U.S. citizens based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes.

U.S. government personnel are prohibited from patronizing casinos, sports books, or other gambling establishments in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit.

Kidnappings in Mexico take the following forms:

  • Traditional: victim is physically abducted and held captive until a ransom is paid for release.
  • Express: victim is abducted for a short time and commonly forced to withdraw money, usually from an ATM, then released.
  • Virtual: an extortion-by-deception scheme where a victim is contacted by phone and coerced by threats of violence to provide phone numbers of family and friends, and then isolated until the ransom is paid. Recently, hotel guests have been targets of such “virtual” kidnapping schemes.

U.S. citizens have been murdered in carjacking and highway robberies, most frequently at night and on isolated roads. Carjackers use a variety of techniques, including roadblocks, bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop, and running vehicles off the road at high speeds. There are indications that criminals target newer and larger vehicles, but drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the United States are also targeted. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from intercity travel after dark in many areas of Mexico. U.S. citizens should use toll roads (cuotas) whenever possible. In remote areas, cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent.

The Mexican government has deployed federal police and military personnel throughout the country as part of its efforts to combat organized criminal groups. U.S. citizens traveling on Mexican roads and highways by car or bus may encounter government checkpoints, staffed by military or law enforcement personnel. In some places, criminal organizations have erected their own unauthorized checkpoints, at times wearing police and military uniforms, and have killed or abducted motorists who have failed to stop at them. You should cooperate at all checkpoints.

One region singled out is the of Guerrero, where 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College on 26 September 2014 are still missing [previously].

The report warns:

Personal travel to the state of Guerrero, including Acapulco, is prohibited for U.S. government personnel with the exception of travel to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo by air. In Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, U.S. government personnel must remain in tourist areas. The state of Guerrero was the most violent state in Mexico in 2015 for the third year in a row, and self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable.

Cartel victims overflow morgues in Guerrero


In Mexico’s state of Guerrero, cartel victims are falling so rapidly that morgues in one city have no place left for them.

Guerrero is the same state when students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College vanished after a violent abduction on the night of 26 September 2014.

From Borderland Beat:

The bodies of the 10 men executed yesterday found in the Chilpancingo area,  remain lying on the parking and entrance area of the Forensic Medical Service of the capital (Semefo), because there are no room in the morgue freezers. The weather in the city is averaging 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

The storage capacity has been exceeding capacity because of the runaway violence that has  plagued the region and reflects the failure of the federal security strategy that directs the Army to gain stability in the  state and assist municipal authorities to combat drug trafficking. All three government entities, have long been accused  of corruption and being in collusion with organized crime.

In the Semefo of Chilpancingo, which depends on the state Health Department, there are two cold storage units with the capacity to store 100 bodies each  and both are typically near or over capacity.

Therefore, the 10 executed bodies found yesterday in Chilpancingo,  remain lying in the parking lot of Semefo, in the capital of Guerrero, due to the lack of space to ensure decent treatment for victims of the drug war, that has engulfed the state in one of the worst ever crises of insecurity, similar to 2012 violence, where the official number of intentional homicides exceeded two thousand that year.

Fidel Castro is gone, the man the U.S. tried to kill


In the end, the killer was one that awaits us all, humanity’s finite lifespan.

From the New York Times:

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday. He was 90.

His death was announced by Cuban state television.

In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when he was felled by a serious illness. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raúl Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother’s closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.

Fidel Castro had held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.

More from the Guardian:

Castro’s younger brother Raúl, who assumed the presidency of Cuba in 2006 after Fidel suffered a near-fatal intestinal ailment, announced the revolutionary leader’s death on television on Friday night.

“With profound sadness I am appearing to inform our people and our friends across [Latin] America and the world that today, 25 November 2016, at 10.29pm, Fidel Castro, the commander in chief of the Cuban revolution, died,” he said.

“In accordance with his wishes, his remains will be cremated.”

Raúl Castro concluded his address with the famous revolutionary slogan: “Onwards to victory!”

On Saturday, the Cuban government announced that Fidel Castro’s ashes will be interred at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba on 4 December. The cemetery is the resting place of 19th century Cuban independence hero José Martí and numerous other leading figures in the country’s torrid history.

Hundreds of assassination attempts foiled

Castro lived a charmed life, surviving hundreds of would-be assassins, many of them dispatched by a U.S. government outraged that a revolutionary regime could challenge its hegemony and flourish just 90 miles off its shore.

Powerful U.S. corporations had seen their lucrative Cuban assets nationalized, and the mob lost its casinos, infuriating syndicate heads in Chicago, Miami, and New Orleans, as well as notorious money launderer Meyer Lansky, who lost his own casino.

Other governments as well loathed Castro for his backing of revolutuonary regimes and dispatched their own killers.

And all of their attempts failed, as documented in this 2013 report from Britain’s Channel 4 News:

638 Ways To Kill Castro

A noteworthy legacy

So we bid farewell to Fidel, who created a national healthcare system that’s one of the world’s best [the island nation’s infant mortality rates are much lower than those of the U.S., a fact the CIA acknowledges], and where the U.S. sends troops to maintain its dominance over the globe, Cuba sends doctors to heal folks in some of the world’s poorest lands and assist when disaster strikes.

Barred by a trade embargo from importing food from the U.S., Cuba developed the world’s best system of agroecology, raising crops without pesticides and an over-reliance on synthetic fertilizers, while turning vacant lots into rich urban farms.

While the American right has long demonized Castro as a despot, the truth is that he accomplished much good for the Cuban people and countless numbers of the sick and the afflicted in other lands.

And now we bid him farewell, a man whose legacy is — like that of all of us — mixed, but one that is far better than so often portrayed in the U.S. media.

Drew Sheneman: Donald Trump’s Jedi mind tricks


From the editorial cartoonist of the Newark Star-Ledger, capturing The Donald on one of the many occasions he’s buddied up to wise guys:

blog-sheneman

Abby Martin tackles John Podesta and his emails


In one of her most important efforts yet, Abby Martin digs beneath the rhetoric to show the real importance of the cache of Wikileaked emails from the account of Democratic National Committee chair John Podesta.

What she reveals is the heart of darkness beating beneath the skin of the American political system, the same system that has given us a presidential race pitting the two most unpopular candidates since polling began.

In an attempt to discredit the emails and what they reveal, the mainstream media have presented without questioning claims that the hack was executed at the behest of the Russian government without offering any verification for their assertion.

But no less than James Bamford, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst and attorney who became the most distinguished journalist ever to cover and blow the lid off illegal spying programs by the National Security Agency, Bamford questioned the government’s claims in an incisive essay for Reuters, where he writes:

The problem with attempting to draw a straight line from the Kremlin to the Clinton campaign is the number of variables that get in the way. For one, there is little doubt about Russian cyber fingerprints in various U.S. campaign activities. Moscow, like Washington, has long spied on such matters. The United States, for example, inserted malware in the recent Mexican election campaign. The question isn’t whether Russia spied on the U.S. presidential election, it’s whether it released the election emails.

Then there’s the role of Guccifer 2.0, the person or persons supplying WikiLeaks and other organizations with many of the pilfered emails. Is this a Russian agent? A free agent? A cybercriminal? A combination, or some other entity? No one knows.

There is also the problem of groupthink that led to the war in Iraq. For example, just as the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the rest of the intelligence establishment are convinced Putin is behind the attacks, they also believed it was a slam-dunk that Saddam Hussein had a trove of weapons of mass destruction.

Consider as well the speed of the political-hacking investigation, followed by a lack of skepticism, culminating in a rush to judgment.

But what is certain, beyond question, is that John Podesta represents everything that’s wrong about American politics, where claims of democratic openness are belief by secret deals in which big banks and powerful corporations, not workers and their families, are the real beneficiaries.

And Abby Martin is on the story.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Abby Martin Exposes John Podesta

Program notes:

With the Wikileaks release of thousands of emails belonging to John Podesta, very little is known in US society about Podesta himself. While he’s maintained a low profile, John Podesta is actually considered one of Washington’s biggest players, and one of the most powerful corporate lobbyists in the world.

In this episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin explores John Podesta’s political rise, his vast network of corporate connections and his think tank “Center for American Progress.” Learn why the Podestas and the Clintons are a match made in ruling class heaven.

Philippine legalized lynching slammed by U.N.


The victims, slaughtered by the hundreds, are suspected drug dealers, and journalists have also been warned they may become the next targets of President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office 30 June.

And no one should’ve been surprised.

As Time reported Tuesday:

In a span of six weeks, the Philippines’ new President, Rodrigo Duterte, has made international headlines for the hundreds of suspects killed in his war on crime. Since he took office on June 30, an average of 13 people a day have been either assassinated in public by masked assailants, killed by police without further investigation, or found as unidentified bodies on the streets, often balled up in packing tape with signs saying variations of: “Don’t follow me, I’m a criminal.” Duterte’s supporters celebrate these killings as necessary comeuppance, while his critics condemn the violence as precarious violations of due process and human rights. Yet the President’s seemingly outrageous actions are merely part of the Philippines’ deeply entrenched culture of impunity. What is frightening is that so few people realize that yet.

President Duterte’s approval rating was recently a historic 91%, and he is seen by fans and foes alike as decisive and effective, promising sweeping reforms and bringing about the surrender of tens of thousands of drug users and self-confessed dealers before they can be killed. Yet Duterte has also vowed to pardon any police and military involved in the extrajudicial killings, while also pledging to pardon himself. He has ensconced his daughter and son as mayor and vice mayor of the city that he ruled for two decades, while also refusing to fully answer allegations about hidden wealth.

More alarmingly, in what seems an effort to systematically undermine the traditional democratic checks and balances to his authority, Duterte has threatened to shut down the legislature if it hinders his plans, invoked the specter of martial law when criticized by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and insulted concerned foreign ambassadors. He has chipped at the influence of the Catholic Church by emphasizing its corruption. And he has warned that members of the media are not protected from assassination: “The Constitution can no longer help you,” Duterte told reporters, “if you disrespect a person.”

And earlier this month, the New York Times reported, Duterte:

publicly accused scores of judges, mayors, lawmakers, military personnel and police officers of involvement with the illegal drug trade, giving them 24 hours to surrender for investigation or, he said, be “hunted” down.

Mr. Duterte rejected calls last week from international human rights groups to observe due process in the war he has declared on both sellers and users of illicit drugs, after a photograph of a drug user shot and killed by vigilantes made it to the front pages and became a symbol for the bloody antidrug campaign.

“I ordered the listing. I ordered the validation,” he said Sunday in a nationally televised speech at a naval base, referring to the roughly 150 people he mentioned by name. “I’m the one reading it, and I am the sole person responsible for these all.”

Al Jazeera reported remarks Duterte made shortly before his announcement:

Earlier on Saturday, Duterte had vowed to keep his “shoot-to-kill” order “until the last day of my term, if I’m still alive by then”.

“I don’t care about human rights, believe me,” he said, according to official transcripts released by the presidential palace.

About 800 people have been killed since Duterte won a landslide election in May, according to reports by the local press, which has been tracking reports of extra-judicial killings.

Before his assumption of the presidency, Duterte had been mayor Davao City, where under his watch he had encouraged vigilante groups, known as the Davao Death Squads, believed responsible for more than a 1,000 murders.

Duterte made no bones [or, rather he did, in Mafia parlance, declaring in 2009, “If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination.”

Duterte, who some have called the Philippine Donald Trump, has brought his ruthless policies onto the national stage with his assumption of presidential powers.

And now he’s giving the finger to the United Nations

The latest development, reported by United Press International:

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened Sunday to leave the United Nations over criticism of his pursuit of drug dealers.

In his hometown of Davao City, where he spent two decades as mayor before becoming president in a landslide election in May, Duterte suggested the Philippines could align itself with China and African countries to form a more useful international body.

“Maybe we’ll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations. If you are that insulting, we should just leave. Take us out of your organization. You have done nothing anyway. When were you here last time? Nothing. Never. Except to criticize,” he told the Davao City audience.

Two U.N. human rights specialists last week called Duterte’s orders an “incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law.” U.N. Secretary General; Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime were critical of Duterte’s “apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Agence France Presse has more on the U.N.’s rebuke

The UN’s special rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard, last week said Duterte’s promise of immunity and bounties to security forces who killed drug suspects violated international law.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June also strongly criticised Duterte, who during the election campaign promised to kill 100,000 people and dump so many bodies in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat from feeding on them.

“I unequivocally condemn his apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Ban said.

Duterte frequently peppers his public comments with swear words — he has also called Pope Francis and the US ambassador to Manila sons of whores — and days after his election win used typical language to criticise the UN.

“F**k you, UN, you can’t even solve the Middle East carnage… couldn’t even lift a finger in Africa,” he said then.

Duterte flips the rhetorical bird at Uncle Sam

The controversial president also made clear how he feels about human rights advice from the U.S.

From RT:

The Philippine leader also attacked the US for more members of the public dying as a result of police violence.

“What do you think the Americans did to the black people there? Is that not rubbing off also? And (critics) say what?”

>snip<

He also wondered whether UN officials were indeed threatening to jail him and repeated that he was ready to sacrifice his life and presidency for his country.

Duterte has developed a reputation for being very outspoken and even rude at times. Earlier in August, he called the US ambassador in the country “gay” and a “son of a bitch.”

Nobody should’ve been surprised

Duterte made his post-election plans clear in a remarkable speech to some of the nation’s leading capitalists back in April while still on campaign.

From Politiko, a Philippine political website — and note that final paragraph:

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has a simple plan in carrying out extra-judicial plan to kill criminals and drugs lords if he takes over as president: sign 1,000 pardons a day.

In a profanity-laced speech before the Makati Business Club on 27 April 2016, Duterte said he would exploit to the hilt a Constitutional provision which allowed the President to grant absolute or conditional pardon or amnesty with the concurrence of Congress.

“I will tell (those who carry out his orders to kill without hesitation) to get a paper, it will be pre-signed and just put your name and you’re pardoned. I don’t mind giving 1,000 pardons a day. The Constitution did not say anything about limiting it to 5 or 10,” said Duterte whose simplistic proposal drew a loud applause and laughter from the audience.

He said he would ask all police and military who carried out his orders to kill any criminal or drug lord without any hesitation to just point to him as the one who gave the order.

“I will tell every military and police to go out, hunt them, arrest them, and if they offer violent resistance, do not hesitate to kill them. If you have a gun, use it and that will solve every crime,” said Duterte.

Duterte planned to absolve of all these crimes by granting himself an absolute pardon before he would step down from power in 2022.

To sum up his approach to office, we turn to that venerable political sage Alfred E. Newman: “What, me worry?” Or maybe it’s found in the words of the high school bully we remember all too well, who would purposely bump into folks, then declare arrogantly, “Well, pardon me all to hell.”

Mobbed-up Donald’s grandfather was a pimp


Yep, ol’ Friedrich Drumpf, the man who changed the name to the more palatable Trump, was a German draft dodger who fled to the U.S. and promptly entered the sex trade.

That’s just one of the revelations — including close ties to mafia figures — contained in Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston’s new book,  The Making of Donald Trump.

In this interview by Amy Goodman and Juan González of Democracy Now!, Johnston dishes the dirt on The Donald:

“The Making of Donald Trump”: David Cay Johnston on Trump’s Ties to the Mob & Drug Traffickers

From the transcript:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in your book, you go into a story, not about his father, who’s been well known and covered previously by other publications, but about his grandfather. Talk about Donald Trump’s grandfather.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Donald Trump’s grandfather, Frederick, when he turned 16 in 1885, was subject to mandatory military service in Germany, so he fled the country and came to America. And then he followed Horace Greeley’s advice: “Go West, young man.” And he went into the whorehouse business. And he ran bordellos in Seattle, in Everett, Washington, and in the Yukon Territory, until the Royal Canadian Mounted Police showed up. He then took his fortune, went back to Germany, married a young woman his mother didn’t approve of, came back to America. His wife didn’t like it. They went back to Germany. He figured, with all his money, he could buy his way in. And they said, “You’re a draft dodger. Get out,” and sent him back to America.

AMY GOODMAN: And then, talk about his father, Fred Trump.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, Fred Trump, whose father died when he was 12 or 13 years old, was a very industrious guy. When he was 15 years old, he started a business—technically owned by his mother, because he couldn’t sign contracts—building garages in the outer boroughs of New York for these newfangled thing called automobiles. When the market collapsed because of the Great Depression, he invented one of the first grocery stores. People used to have clerks give them their canned goods and stuff. He opened one where you did your own, and then sold it for a profit.

He built housing during World War II for shipyard workers and is said to be the first person in line to get federal money to build worker housing. He was a profiteer. Dwight D. Eisenhower personally went into a rage over what he had done, how he’d ripped stuff off, and he had a creative explanation when he was called before the U.S. Senate to justify what he did. He said, “I didn’t profiteer. I didn’t take the money. It’s in the bank account.” Strange way to think about things. And, of course, they discriminated against everybody who wasn’t white, and were proven to have done this in the ‘50s and in the ‘70s. And Woody Guthrie, the folk singer, “This Land is Your Land,” he wrote a song, which is in the book thanks to the generosity of the Guthrie family, about one of the all-white outer suburb projects owned by Fred Trump.