Friday, September 9, 2011

Top Stories: September 9th, 2011

  • In a three part series, In Sight Crime posted a recent report covering the Zetas drug cartel and its increasing presence in Guatemala. The three parts cover the history, modus operandi, and the future of the group in the country, including video, maps, and links to past posts on the subject.
  • U.S. Representative Jim McGovern called for ‘accounting and oversight’ of U.S. aid to Colombia’s Department of Administrative Services after recent accusations of illegal activities within the Colombian DAS. American funds may have been used to support wiretapping, illegal surveillance, and extortion. Along with Congresswoman Janice D. Schakowsky, McGovern sent a letter to the Obama administration calling for an in-depth investigation into the case. Read the full text of the letter here.
  • Fidel Castro broke a long silence with the media after conducting an interview with a Venezuelan television station on Thursday. He appeared to be in good health, ‘alive and kicking,’ according to the journalist that interviewed him.
  • Brazil’s defense minister called for a 15% reduction in U.N. peacekeeping troops in Haiti following allegations of the sexual assault of a young Haitian man by Uruguayan troops. Protests in Haiti are demanding the immediate pullout of U.N. forces. Former President Bill Clinton visited Haiti in support of the U.N. mission, Minustah, urging Haitians not to ‘put off’ what happened on the entire mission.
  • The U.S. government has accused a ‘powerful Venezuelan general, an intelligence official, and two political allies of President Hugo Chavez’ of close collaboration with the Colombian rebel group, the FARC. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the four officials were providing arms, security and training to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Chavez’s relations with the Colombian revel group had been a major point of contention between Venezuela and former Colombian President Uribe. The documents obtained by the Treasury Department reveal connections to an ‘arms-for-drugs route with the FARC’ and ‘coordinated security’ efforts for the guerrillas. The Venezuelan government strongly rejected the accusations as part of the ‘permanent aggression’ against Venezuela by the United States.
  • Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was denied his request to meet with Bill Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor arrested for illegally bringing in communications equipment to Cuba. Gross’ continued detainment has stalled improvement of US-Cuba relations. Richardson’s visit was seen as a hopeful attempt to make progress in the case.
  • Mexican navy officials dismantled a Zetas telecommunications system set up in the state of Veracruz and arrested 80 people, 6 of whom were police officers. Officials confiscated 13 antennae set up by the cartel, seven amplifiers, power supplies, batteries, solar panels and wiring, seven trailer trucks, clothing and groceries. The discovery is an example of the kind of extensive networks and communications systems the Zetas have been able to establish.
  • Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal barred the Partido Patriotica from further campaign spending after ruling that it had exceeded the spending cap. The party’s candidate, Otto Perez Molina, has a strong lead in the polls, with 42.6% of the vote. The first round of elections is scheduled for this Sunday, September 11th.
  • As the investigation of the murder of two female journalists in Mexico continues, authorities are considering possible criminal links to one victim’s money-exchange business. Also, the fact that both women were journalists speaks to the growing danger facing reporters in Mexico, with at least 59 murdered journalists under Felipe Calderon’s administration. Mexico City, where the bodies of the two women were found, has typically been seen as immune to the drug violence in Mexico.