Nicaragua: Police confiscate cocaine stashed among toys, candy

Police display packages of the 334 kilograms (736 pounds) of cocaine found hidden among boxes of candy and toys in a van entering Nicaragua from neighboring Costa Rica on Dec. 24. (Inti Ocon/Reuters)

Police display packages of the 334 kilograms (736 pounds) of cocaine found hidden among boxes of candy and toys in a van entering Nicaragua from neighboring Costa Rica on Dec. 24. (Inti Ocon/Reuters)

By Ezra Fieser and Olga Vélez for Infosurhoy.com—29/12/2010

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Police have confiscated 334 kilograms (736 pounds) of cocaine that arrived in the country from Costa Rica hidden in boxes of candy and toys, officials said.

The seizure occurred at the Peñas Blancas border crossing in southern Nicaragua on Dec. 24, National Police spokeswoman Vilma Reyes said, according to EFE.

The cocaine, which was discovered inside 50 boxes containing candy and 250 bags of toys, was being transported in a truck allegedly registered to Jimmy Gumercindo Almendarez of Managua.

The alleged driver of the vehicle, who has been identified as Gregorio Antonio López, fled when police started searching the truck, officials said, according to EFE.

Guatemala: 22 suspected narcotics traffickers arrested

GUATEMALA CITY – Law enforcement officials have apprehended 22 suspected narcotics traffickers, automatic weapons and small jets during raids against Mexican cartels that use the Central American nation as a hub for their criminal enterprises.

“These individuals were not just preparing to confront the security forces, they were preparing to take control of the country,” Guatemala’s President Álvaro Colom said at a media conference last week after deploying hundreds of soldiers and police to the state of Alta Verapaz to crack down on the cartel.

Los Zetas cartel, one of the largest traffickers of narcotics in the Americas, has a presence in 75% of Guatemala, security officials said, according to Reuters.

The government is fighting Los Zetas by allowing law enforcement officials to arrest or interrogate suspected criminals without a warrant. Since Colom declared a “state of siege” for Alta Verapaz, police officers have confiscated 239 assault weapons, explosives, 28 vehicles and five small jets, according to Reuters.

Colom said his country does not have enough police or military personnel to extend operations into neighboring departments but wants to increase the army’s size from 17,000 to 21,000 troops in 2011.

Colombia: Number of children transporting narcotics increasing

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – The number of minors being used to transport small amounts of narcotics has risen 18% this year compared to 2009, according to the National Police.

The National Police reported that 7,682 minors have been apprehended on charges of transporting narcotics as of Dec. 5 after 6,509 were arrested last year.

Col. Fabio Castañeda, who heads the police department in the central department of Cundinamarca, said it’s common to see children swim across the Magdalena River to transport drugs to the other side. They are paid as much as $15,000 pesos (about US$8).

Sen. Gilma Jiménez, an advocate of children’s rights, said narcotics traffickers prey on children because the Penal Responsibility System for Adolescents, which was created in 2006, did not establish any penalties for minors involved in trafficking drugs.

Colombia: Suspected regional boss of Los Urabeños arrested

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – The alleged regional boss of the Los Urabeños narcotics gang has been apprehended, according to the Army News Agency.

The man, who is only known by the alias “El Enano,” was taken into custody on Dec. 26 in the municipality of Tiquisio in the northern department of Bolívar.

The man was transported to Cartagena, Bolívar’s capital, where he’ll be tried on murder, extortion and narcotics charges, according to the army.

Los Urabeños, which officials said has about 700 members, has a presence in the majority of the departments along the Caribbean coast, including the department of Antioquia, home to Medellín.

Venezuela: Arrests of suspects of drug-related crimes growing

CARACAS, Venezuela – The number of suspects arrested in connection with drug-related crimes has risen significantly in the Andean nation this year, according to the National Anti-Drug Office.

Officials said 12,376 suspects have been detained this year as of mid-December after 8,741 were taken into custody last year.

The government said the arrests show Venezuela has increased its fight against narcotics trafficking, as the nation often is used as a hub in the smuggling of drugs to the United States and Europe.

The government said 17 of the suspects apprehended this year have been classified as major traffickers, including the alleged leader of the Colombia-based Norte del Valle cartel who was extradited to the United States in September.

Officials did not release the data regarding how many suspects had been tried or convicted. But they said the National Anti-Drug Office confiscated 24.6 metric tons (27.1 tons) of cocaine this year through the middle of this month. Last year, it confiscated 27.7 metric tons (30.5 tons) of cocaine.

Guatemala: Suspected Los Zetas associates threaten attacks

GUATEMALA CITY – Associates of the Mexico-based Los Zetas cartel have warned the Guatemalan government they will attack civilians if it continues to impose the state of siege in the northern state of Alta Verapaz.

Reporters for radio stations in Alta Verapaz said on Dec. 28 they have received text messages threatening possible attacks on malls and other public places if the country’s security forces don’t stop fighting narcotics trafficking in the area.

Nery Morales, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said officials are searching for those responsible for making the threats and the siege in Alta Verapaz will continue, according to EFE.

President Álvaro Colom started the 30-day state of siege on Dec. 19 with the intention of entirely ridding the state of Los Zetas.

Los Zetas is using Alta Verapaz as a hub for trafficking cocaine from South America through Central America to the United States.

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