Thursday, February 2, 2012

Four Charged in Plot to Smuggle el-Qaddafi Son to Mexico

Two Mexicans and two foreign nationals have been charged with trying to smuggle the son of former Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi into Mexico last November. According to the AP, the plot involved smuggling al-Saadi Gadhafi out of Libya, on a plane that would have taken off from Mexico. The first escape attempt in July 2011 fell through, after the hired pilot refused to conduct a secret landing inside the North African country. The conspirators hatched a second plot, but the authorities were tipped off and the suspects were arrested last November.

The conspirators also planned to buy luxurious properties in Mexico where al-Saadi Gadhafi would have found refuge. The properties included a $1.25 million apartment in Mexico City, and a beachfront house in Puerto Vallarta with an estimated value of $600,000. Puerto Vallarta, a Pacific resort popular with celebrities, cruise ship tourists and flashy businessmen, presumably would have supplied al-Saadi an easy place to blend in and lie low.

The Mexican government first announced the arrest of the suspects last December, identifying a Canadian woman as the leader of the group. A Canadian security company also helped with the arrangements, sending the company CEO to inspect the Mexican properties meant to house the dictator’s son. At the time, the security company CEO told Canadian newspaper the National Post that the plan was to be conducted with the approval of the Mexican government, which was to supply the required documentation. The Mexican government has denied these allegations and there is no evidence to suggest that this was the case. But the accusation did speak to concerns that Mexico, struggling with problems related to money laundering and organized crime, could be perceived as an appealing hideout for international criminals.

News Briefs
  • A bomb exploded Wednesday outside a police station in Tumaco, NariƱo, among Colombia’s most troubled regions, reports Semana. At least 70 people were injured in the attack. The municipality has the highest rate of coca production in the country, according to a 2010 UNDOC report. The coca trade has fed the armed conflict in the area, where all of the main actors in the Colombian conflict -- the FARC, the ELN, and BACRIM groups the Rastrojos and Aguilas Negras -- are present. According to the Minister of Defense, the Rastrojos collaborated with the FARC in carrying out the attack. By Thursday morning bomb attacks were registered in two other towns in other parts of the country. Colombia Reports has the update.
  • The AP reports on Bogota’s 90-day ban on carrying weapons in public. Skeptics argue that the measure may do little to reduce violence and crime inside the capital for the long term, contending that the ban does little to address the availability of illegal weapons. According to think-tank Nuevo Arco Iris, only 10 percent of Bogota’s homicides are committed with the 160,000 guns that are legally registered inside the city.
  • Remittances sent from abroad to Mexico rose 7 percent last year, the LA Times World Now Blog reports. This is the biggest increase registered since 2006, when remittances began to drop and in some cases reverse, with families in Mexico wiring money to support unemployed family members living outside the country.
  • A political movement linked to Peruvian rebels the Shining Path have withdrawn their request to become a formally recognized political party, reports the AP. The group, known as Movadef, is headed by the attorney who once represented the Shining Path’s leader, Abimael Guzman, currently serving a life sentence in prison.
  • An editorial in the Washington Post critiques the recent ruling by a Haitian judge which said that former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, aka “Baby Doc,” should only stand trial for corruption charges, not for human right abuses.
  • Miguel Pinedo, the former president of Colombia’s Congress, was convicted for ties to paramilitary ties, from Colombia Reports. The article includes a nice timeline of how Colombia’s “parapolitica” scandal has developed over the years. According to Verdad Abierta, after serving as the head of Congress from 1999 to 2000, Pinedo sought aid from paramilitary leaders to help win re-election in 2002.
  • The Washington Times reports on China’s expanding agricultural investments in Latin America, particularly in Argentina and Brazil, where China imports millions of tons of soybeans each year.
  • Two US missionaries were killed inside their home just outside Monterrey, Mexico, in what appears to have been a violent burglary, reports the BBC and the AP. It is the second killing involving US missionaries in a year in Mexico’s northern border states, following the murder of another couple in January 2011 in Tamaulipas state.