Dispatches from the international drug war.
Mexican feds: "Got Shorty!" El Chapo busted—at last
Mexican authorities on Feb. 22 announced the arrest of the country's top drug lord, the notorious Joaquin Guzmán Loera a.k.a "El Chapo" (Shorty)—who eluded capture for over 10 years, despite a supposed manhunt and a massive price on his head. Chapo was detained in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, and transferred by federal police helicopter accompanied by an escort of two armed forces helicopters to the top-security Federal Center for Social Rehabilitation No. 1 at Altiplano, México state. The prison has since been under escalated security measures, ringed by armed troops, with nearby highways patrolled by convoys of federal police vehicles.
El Chapo faces multiple drug charges in the United States and is on the DEA’s most-wanted list, although there has not yet been any talk of extradition. The DEA may have played a role in the operation that snared him. Mexican Prosecutor General Jesús Murillo Karam, in announcing the arrest, cited “collaboration with some agencies of the United States.”
Speculation had mounted in recent years that, supposed manhunt notwithstanding, Chapo was actually being protected by the Mexican authorities, who had developed a special relationship with the Sinaloa Cartel.
Colombian Police Announce 3.6-Ton Cannabis Haul
Although cannabis now plays a distant second fiddle to cocaine for Colombia’s lucrative drug cartels, the National Police continue to net massive hauls—all of which point to a booming trade, especially In the southwestern mountains. On December 19, police announced the confiscation of 3.6 tons of cannabis near Medellin. They had apparently staked out a parking lot after receiving a tip about a truck delivering the shipment. The cannabis packages were found hidden under bananas. Reports said the shipment had just arrived from the southwestern department of Cauca, a major cultivation area. The suspects, we are told, were able to escape.
US Suspends Spraying After Pilots Downed
News accounts revealed in December that the US-funded glyphosatespraying campaign in Colombia has been indefinitely suspended after presumed FARC guerrillas shot down two fumigation planes. One plane came down on September 27, killing the American pilot, whose name was not revealed. Reports were unclear about where this incident took place. The Los Angeles Times named the village of Tarra, along the Venezuelan border; Bogotá’s El Tiempo implied it was in the southern jungles of Putumayo. A second crop-duster was downed on October 5, apparently at a location in Caquetá— also in the southern
jungle. This prompted the US embassy to halt
the spraying, anonymous sources said. Neither the embassy nor the State Department confirmed the report.
At least six US pilots have been killed in the spraying program since 1995. The pilots are supplied by the contractor DynCorp in a deal with the State Department, and the planes have been fitted with armor to fend off attacks. The sprayingprogram, which is funded by the annual Plan Colombia aid package, costs about $50 million per year. At its peak in 2006, more than 425,000 acres were sprayed with glyphosate, a Monsanto product.
Turkey's Hashish Boom—Fallout From the Syrian War?
Turkish security forces say they seized 150 tons of hashish in 2013, including 89 tons seized in southeastern Diyarbakir province, the country’s Kurdish heartland. Authorities also claimed that a somewhat improbable 56 million cannabis plants were seized in Diyarbakir, and 382 people arrested. The provincial Counter-Narcotics Department called it a record-breaking year.
Turkey has long hyped a link between the hashish trade and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a separatist guerilla movement that has waged an insurgency in the country’s east for more than a generation. In March 2013, imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan declared a ceasefire after months of negotiations with the government. But in September, the PKK
announced that it was suspending the truce, accusing the government of failing to deliver on promised reforms guaranteeing Kurdish rights.
A1999 Canadian parliamentary study, “Conflict, Drugs and Mafia Activities,” also noted PKK involvement in narcotics trafficking, but added: “The Grey Wolves, an extreme right-wing organization which is often used by the army and the political parties for their ‘dirty jobs,’ use the same methods, while enjoying significant protection within the Turkish state.”
On January 9, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned of infiltration across the Syrian border of both AÍ Qaeda militants and fighters from the Democratic Union Party, the Syrian branch of the PKK. Davutoglu portrayed them as a unified threat, but in fact the two groups have been waging a war for control of Syrian Kurdistan. If this war spills over into Turkish territory, it portends a three-way conflict among the PKK, AÍ Qaeda and the Turkish state—each, we may be sure, seeking to corner control of the hashish industry. #
For updates on these and other stories, see Bill Weinberg’s websites, GlobalGanjaReport.com and WorldWar4Report.com.