Tag Archive | "drug cartels"

Heroin mill. Credit: dea.gov

Drug cartels and the US: ‘corruption is strangling the land’

Heroin mill. Credit: dea.gov

Heroin mill. Credit: dea.gov

HSBC laundered billions for drugs cartels, and merely had to pay fines. No one went to prison. The federal government is essentially running a protection racket. Dirty companies pay large fines (which are mostly trivial for them), promise to sin no more then use new methods to continue doing what they were doing. Sure, there are law enforcement officials in the trenches working hard to break the cartels. However, much of what they do gets undone at a very high level by the refusal of the federal government to put corrupt bankers in prison. This means the entire system has been compromised.

Cartel operatives would sometimes deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in a single day using boxes designed to fit the exact dimensions of the teller’s window at HSBC branches in Mexico.

The bank ignored basic anti-money laundering controls, as the investigation found. In 2007 and 2008, the bank’s personnel in Mexico wired $7 billion dollars to corresponding U.S. dollar accounts in New York. These were more dollars than even larger Mexican banks wired to U.S. accounts. ICE says some of it was drug proceeds.

California is now the primary conduit for meth into the US. A primary cause is huge cutbacks in the California Dept of Justice. Now, golly, why would there be huge cutbacks at an agency. Oh wait, because billions more dirty money can then flow into the US and into greedy corrupt banks and hedge funds?

Posted in Banksters


Young Thai men emulating Mexican cholos


It’s a fashion thing, apparently. A subculture of Thai men think it’s empowering to dress up like Mexican gangsters. However, their version of a gang seems more like a fellowship club, as they stress they never do anything wrong. Do they have any clue just how violent drug cartels are?

A curious new trend has emerged in Bangkok, where young Thai men are dressing up as Mexican gangsters. Most of these men say they are motivated by their passion for the “gangster” lifestyle and clothes. Coconuts TV met up with three “gangs” – Balcony Pain, Fratez and D Sixty – for a photoshoot and to learn more about the phenomenon.

Posted in News


Ultra violence, societal collapse in Mexico has echoes in the US


Borderland Beat ponders the deranged violence in Mexico, fueled by drug cartels and corruption, and wonders how it ever got so crazy. What they say applies here in the States. No, we don’t have the same sickening levels of violence, with thousands of young teen torturers and killers. However, too many of our financial institutions benefit hugely from laundering drug cartel money. And that is one reason why Mexico went off the tracks. The elites in Mexico  initially profited from the drug trade and corruption (and still do) so they were willing to be complicit. Then their own children got addicted, tortured, and murdered – or became killers themselves – and suddenly they were in far too deep to get out.

Today, our outlook is dominated by poverty, inequality, social exclusion, lack of opportunity, corruption, impunity, weak institutions, and meager economic growth. Thanks to these variables, the violence associated with organized crime and drug trafficking found favorable footholds to flourish and obtain million-dollar earnings at the cost of the destruction of forward-looking perspectives and the development of the entire country.

Inequality, as we all know, is rising fast in the US too. A protected 1% elite has corrupted the government and remains mostly above and outside of) the law.

The family ceased to be the cornerstone of society, social ties became increasingly fragile, and our values—which once distinguished us in the world—were replaced by anti-values such as hatred, intolerance, and individualism.

This is happening here too. What used to bond and hold us together is disappearing.

The Polish philosopher and sociologist Zygmunt Brauman states in his book Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age:

“When an electric circuit is overloaded the first part to burn is the fuse… The effectiveness and the duration of the entire circuit—and as a consequence, the electricity that it is capable of absorbing and the work that it is capable of performing—cannot be greater than the resistance of the fuse. Once the fuse blows, the entire circuit fails.”

Are the circuits about to fail here too? We also need to ask, just why does the United States have such an insatiable demand for drugs?

Posted in News

CIA wanted to seize drug cartel money, White House blocked it


The US government despite blusterings to the contrary is intent on insuring the flow of drugs continues from Mexico, along with  billions of  dollars of dirty money. As for Rule of Law, well, I guess that’s just for the little people. All that drug cartel money flowing into our financial is just too juicy to ignore. And if thousands get tortured to death each year because of it. oh well.  Keeping the banksters happy is the most important goal.

“Anxious to counterattack, the CIA proposed electronically emptying the bank accounts of drug kingpins, but was turned down by the Treasury Department and the White House, which feared unleashing chaos in the banking system.”

This happened under Bush. Obama is no better. Geithner has pointblank said big banks will not be criminally prosecuted for the very same reason, because it would hurt and upset all the corrupt banks and hedge funds.

Scholars Stage comments on the above quote:

This one sentence betrays Washington’s distorted foreign policy priorities. The CIA proposal had several clear benefits: drug lords forced to pull their investments would have less incentive to stay in the game, cartels would be robbed of operating funds, and most importantly of all, the proposal could be implemented with minimal American involvement. [2] There would be no need for more boots on the ground. The drawbacks were also clear: folks on Wall Street would lose money. The White House took Wall Street’s side in the debate, and favored a policy designed to kill or capture the “high value targets” whose bank accounts were not to be touched.

There is only one word that explains this and that is “corruption.”

Posted in Banksters

Drug cartels are in thousands of US cities. How can this be? Hmm

Drug cartel penetration in the US. Click to view larger

Drug cartel penetration in the US. Click to view larger

Follow the money. Major US banks have been caught laundering money from drug cartels and received slap on the wrist fines and no criminal prosecutions. If that happened in Mexico, we’d call it corruption, wouldn’t we? There are plenty of dedicated law enforcement officials working hard to stop the cartels but the fix is in at the highest level.

If the US government really wanted to stop drug cartels expanding into the US it would crack down hard on money laundering by big banks and file criminal charges against those responsible. Put a few dozen of them in prison after seizing their assets and I’m guessing the banks would clean up fast. But they know they have Get Out of Jail Free cards.

“While Chicago is 1,500 miles from Mexico, the Sinaloa drug cartel is so deeply embedded in the city that local and federal law enforcement are forced to operate as if they are on the border,” Jack Riley, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chicago office, told CNN.

Posted in News

Drug cartels are transnational, sophisticated, corporate

Rafael Cardenas Vela, an important member of the Gulf Cartel, is testifying in Brownsville TX, hoping to avoid decades in escape-proof US prisons. The organization structures of the drug cartels are like that of big businesses (which they surely are.) Thus, arrests of key members don’t cripple the organization because new people simply fill the roles.

The younger Cardenas testified that it cost him about $1 million a month when he ran the Rio Bravo plaza to cover payroll, rent, vehicles and bribes. He had to recruit, train and equip his own gunmen. When they were killed, he continued paying their salaries to their families.

Bribes went to every level of law enforcement, the press, members of the military and corrupted U.S. officials, he said.

In addition,drug cartels are known to be skilled at money laundering.

In The Money and the Power. The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, an FBI agent said 1950’s mobsters went’t smarter but that they would do things the rest of us won’t do. The same holds true of the drug cartels. It is a huge mistake to assume they are a bunch of street corner thugs. In reality, they have highly sophisticated drug and human smuggling operations and make money from extortion and kidnapping as well. They corrupt thousands on both sides of the borders and move billions around the planet.

And somehow our government seems strangely mute about the money laundering.

Posted in News

Gulf Cartel boss: Everyone including US Border Patrol worked for me

Tamaulipas, Mexico

Gulf Cartel boss Rafael Cardenas Vela doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in prison so he’s testifying  in Brownsville TX against everyone, including childhood friends and fellow cartel members. Prisons in Mexico are notoriously corrupt and magical “escapes” are common. However, this is not so in the US. Cartel leaders can and do get decades long-sentences in impregnable US super-max prisons, something which explains why they’ll sing like canaries to avoid dying in prison thirty years from now. You would too, probably.

In troubling testimony, Cardenas says the corruption reaches across the border into the US. This could be bravado but I doubt it. There is simply too much money involved as well as threats to loved ones if you don’t cooperate.”Our silver or our lead.” Emphasis added:

In continuing testimony Friday, Rafael “Junior” Cardenas Vela described how he ruled over the city in Tamaulipas, where even topless dancers were on the take, paid to spy on drunken players leaking drug-world secrets. As for U.S. authorities, there always was a Border Patrol agent or Customs officer to be bought, he said, adding: “All of them had to work for me.”

Multiple recent arrests have cripple the already faltering Gulf Cartel, which controls a crucial part of northeast Mexico, the border state of Tamaulipas. Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel are expected to fight to control the area. Tamaulipas effectively has no law as we know it here in the US. You do not go to the police if a crime has been committed because they might have done it.

And now things there will get much worse, as other cartels move in to fill the void.

Posted in News

US military intervenes in Guatemala Drug War

Guatemala – Mexico border. Credit: Google Maps

In a major escalation of the war against drug cartels, US Marines are now involved in the Guatemala drug war, aiming to stop drug shipments by airplane and boat. About 200 Marines are there with the express permission of the Guatemala government.

It’ll be the Marines vs Los Zetas drug smugglers. The Zetas are well-trained, possess serious weaponry, and are extremely violent. This will not be a cake walk for the Marines, who so far can only shoot in self-defense. But that can and probably will change. Mexico, home of the Zetas, is completely opposed to US troops being in their country.

More on IVN

Posted in News

El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency. (The drug cartels)

Author Ioan Grillo wrote El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency after spending years researching the drug cartels in Mexico, often at great risk to himself. He traveled to opium-growing areas in the Sierra Madres, talked with assassins and smugglers, and explains how the various cartels grew. His central point is that the drug cartels are no longer just traditional crime organizations (like the Mafia) but instead are criminal insurgencies that threaten the entire legal and economic structure of Mexico.

Here in the States we occasionally have criminal gangs shooting at police. But in Mexico, drug cartels sometimes have six-hour battles with police using machine guns, grenade launchers, and AKs with 100 round clips. The cartels, especially the Zetas, are well-trained in military tactics. Indeed, the original Zetas were Mexican soldiers trained in special forces tactics. (Their training was in Mexico and in the US.) This is not some rag-tag street gang that can’t shoot straight but something more like professional soldiers.

The cartels had their start decades ago in the lawless Sierra Madres. The area is good for growing opium poppies, remote, and hostile to outsiders. From there the cartels grew. The PRI, the Mexican ruling party for decades, basically kept them in line with show trial arrests and the bribe money kept everyone happy, at least for a while. But when the PRI lost power in 2000, everything changed. The existing relationships, the institutionalized corruption, was no longer valid. The new president Vicente Fox, went after the cartels with a vengeance. But this didn’t wipe them out. Instead, they morphed, grew more powerful, and now threaten to become a shadow government.

In some areas the shakedown money extorted from innocent local businesses is sent to the drug cartels first who then dole it out to those in police departments and the government. Police officers often are working for a drug cartel. The level of corruption is far worse than anything in the US, where sure, we may have some dirty cops, but we don’t have entire police forces that are corrupt.

The level of violence is of course horrific. The blameless are just as likely to be brutally tortured and murdered as anyone else. Kidnapping is a growing source of income. The author recounts watching a video sent to the parent’s of a kidnapped 13 year old boy. It showed him being brutally beaten for a long time, this as a warning to the parents to get the ransom money quickly.

In God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre, author Richard Grant chronicles his travels through the Sierra Madre in the 1990’s. He predicted the current violence based on the hyper-machismo he found there.

At one point, a guide remarks that Mexico seems to be moving towards democracy. In a prescient comment, Grant said he thought Mexico was moving the other way, towards the lawlessness and blood feuds of the Sierra Madre. If you want to know where the insane and escalating violence in Mexico border towns now comes from, look to the code of machismo of the Sierra Madre.

Where does all this end? Mexico is in genuine danger of becoming a hollowed-out state. The only solution, it seems to me, is complete legalization of all drugs.

Posted in Book reviews

El Sicario. Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin

El Sicario killed and tortured hundreds of people for a Mexican drug cartel. After years of debauchery, violence, and unquestioned obedience to the cartel bosses he finally couldn’t do it any more, became a Christian, and left the life knowing one false move means he will be their prey and that he and his family will be horribly tortured then killed.

Respected crime writers Molly Molly and Charled Bowden edited El Sicario. Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin. It consists of interviews with El Sicario (who is never named, “El Sicario” is Spanish for “the assassin.”) They let him speak in his own voice. He was a mid-level killer for a cartel.  The book is difficult to read for many reasons. The violence is appalling. But what is much worse is his matter-of-fact documenting of corruption at all levels of Mexican government and military.

One reason the cartels are so good at tracking and killing people is because their members were often trained at military and police academies in Mexico and the US. When they graduate, many go directly to work for cartels while others stay in law enforcement to act as eyes and ears for the cartels. El Sicario did most of his killing and torturing while a member of law enforcement.

More recently though, the cartels been recruiting from gangs like Mara Salvatrucha since fewer in Mexico go to police academies because they know they will be offered “our silver or our lead” by the cartels. Take our money or we kill you. That police academies have been almostly completely infiltrated by the cartels indicates a complete breakdown of law and order.

I lived in Los Angeles for a while and have no love of LAPD. But if a dead body appeared on my doorstep there I could call LAPD and know they’d handle it in a professional manner. In Juarez most people in a similar situation probably wouldn’t call the police for fear the police might well be the killers.

The corruption reaches the highest levels of governments and the cartels start corrupting children barely in their teens. By the time the children are 20, the cartel is their family, it’s all they know.

The turning point for El Sicario came when cartels began using women to carry drugs and kill. Up until then, women and children were off limit. But no more. Once women started being in the game then they also became targets to be kidnapped, tortured, raped, and killed. He says torturing men is bad enough but torturing women is far far worse. At about this time he stopped drinking and using drugs, found a church and Christians who helped him,and walked away from it all.

Now he lives in the United States as a fugitive. One cartel has a quarter million dollar contract on his head. Another cartel is trying to recruit him. He speaks as a free man and of his own free will – there are no charges against him. He is a lonely voice – no one with his background has ever come forward and talked. He is the future – there are thousands of men like him in Mexico and there will be more in other places. He is the truth no one wants to hear.

Posted in Book reviews


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