SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador –U.S. President Barack Obama pledged US$200 million in assistance to help Central American countries fight the rise of drug trafficking and gang violence.
President Obama announced the Central American Citizen’s Security Partnership after meeting with Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes on March 22. Obama said the money would be used for initiatives to combat poverty and address structural social problems that lead young people to organized crime.
“The U.S. wants to be a partner in this process,” Obama said. “We want El Salvador to be successful.”
El Salvador has become a key country in the trafficking of narcotics from South America en route to Mexico and the United States.
El Salvador, which has been targeted by Mexican drug cartels as a hub in narcotics trafficking, has been nicknamed “El Caminito,” the little pathway, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times.
El Salvador has become a hotbed for the narcotics trade because it has a highway that traffickers can use to move drugs north via land, as they no longer need to rely solely on using boats and submarine-type vessels to transport their product.
The highway enables narcotics traffickers to avoid the military sea patrols, and it allows traffickers to move their product more easily into other nations.
Cartels and organized crime gangs are engaged in a violent turf war for control of El Salvador’s lucrative smuggling routes.
“Mexico’s organized crime is a threat in all of Central America,” Salvadoran Attorney General, Romeo Barahona said after meeting with his counterparts in Mexico to discuss the situation.
Colombia: Army seizes 2.3 tons of FARC’s marijuana
BOGOTÁ, Colombia – The army seized 2.3 tons of marijuana allegedly belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and destroyed several greenhouses thought to be used by the terrorist group to grow the narcotic in the department of Cauca, military officials said.
The marijuana was discovered in the municipalities of Miranda and Corinto, where it had been pressed into 20-kilogram (44-pound) packets that were ready to be distributed by the FARC’s 6th Front, said Gen. Rafael Alberto Neira, the commander of the Army’s Third Brigade, according to the Colombian daily El Espectador.
Colombia: 700 kilograms of cocaine seized
BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Police seized 700 kilograms (1,540 pounds) of cocaine allegedly belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC) 6th Front after inspecting a dump truck in the northern department of Cauca on March 19.
Police stopped the truck at a checkpoint in the municipality of Miranda. The cocaine was hidden under sand and wrapped in plastic bags. Police arrested a 39-year-old man in connection with the confiscation of the cocaine, which had a street value of about $5 billion pesos (about US$2.67 million), according to the Colombian daily El País.
Col. Carlos Ernesto Rodríguez, Cauca’s police commander, said the FARC uses rural municipalities as avenues to traffic narcotics, particularly cocaine and marijuana, according to Caracol Radio.
Honduras: Police seize weapons arsenal bound for Mexican cartel
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Police have seized a cache of weapons, including grenades and assault rifles, in the northern city of San Pedro Sula that allegedly was bound for the Los Zetas cartel in Mexico.
National Office for Combating Drug Trafficking agents and military personnel raided the basement of a business in an industrial area of the city.
They found six boxes of M-16 assault rifles, 618 M-16 magazines, 13 grenades, 11 rocket propelled grenades able to shoot down a helicopter, AK-47 assault weapons, police uniforms and other weapons and ammunition, according to the Honduran daily La Prensa.
Authorities said the weapons were in the possession of a local criminal group and likely were bound for members of the Los Zetas cartel in Mexico, according to La Prensa.
René Osorio, the head of military joint chiefs, said the bust is a huge step toward dissipating the links among Honduran gangs and Mexican cartels.
Colombia: Army dismantles cocaine lab
BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Army troops have destroyed a cocaine laboratory in the department of Vichada that had the capacity to produce two tons of cocaine hydrochloride monthly, officials said.
The laboratory belonged to deceased narcotics trafficker Pedro Oliviero Guerrero Castillo, authorities said.
The facility had a kitchen, a dining room, a warehouse of supplies, and a production area and could provide accommodation for about 14 workers, officials said, according to CM&.com.
Troops seized 2,240 gallons of isopropyl acetate, 18 gallons of sulfuric acid, 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of activated coal, 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of calcium chloride, 5,000 units of latex for packaging, eight microwaves, two stoves, 76 plastic containers, two distillation towers, two dryers, a hydraulic press, a power plant and two industrial compressors.
Panama: Police seize 637 kilograms of narcotics
COLÓN, Panama – Panamanian authorities arrested nine suspects in connection with the seizure of 637 kilograms (1,401 pounds) of narcotics found in an abandoned garbage dump in the province of Colón police said.
“A total of 637 packets of [various illegal drugs] were seized” by police last week, in a landfill near a dock in the Cristóbal sector, in the province of Atlántica de Colón, according to the police report.
Bartolomé Agüero, the province’s police chief, said the narcotics had been hidden or neglected, according to La Estrella.com.
Police apprehended eight Colombians and a Panamanian in connection with the confiscation, Agüero said, according to El Universal.com.
Officials said 80% of the narcotics that enter the U.S. pass through Central American nations en route to Mexico.
Venezuela extradites suspected narcotics traffickers
CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela has extradited a suspected Colombian narcotics trafficker to the United States and five other suspects to Colombia and the Netherlands, where they are expected to stand trial for an array of charges, ranging from drug trafficking to murder.
Gloria Rojas Valencia, a 53-year-old who was handed over to U.S. officials, allegedly is a member of Mexico’s Los Zetas cartel, according to The Associated Press.
Rojas Valencia, who was apprehended in January, also is allegedly aligned with suspected narcotics trafficker Luis Frank Tello Candelo, who was extradited to the U.S. in 2010.
Colombia: Weapons belonging to FARC seized
BOGOTÁ, Colombia – A joint raid conducted by the Colombian Attorney General’s Office and the army led to the seizure of weapons allegedly belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the town of Soacha, officials said.
Law enforcement agents confiscated 18 mortar rounds during the raid on March 18, said Carmen Maritza González, the chief of the Attorney General’s Office’s Unit of Investigations, according to EFE.
González said agents found documents indicating the weapons belonged to the FARC, one of the region’s biggest narcotics traffickers.
The FARC, Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, has been fighting the state since the 1960s. But Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has made fighting the FARC one of his top priorities, just as his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe did during his eight years in office.
González said the FARC also was using the house as a place to hide and treat rebels who had been injured in combat, according to EFE.
The weapons will be destroyed, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
200 kilograms of Colombian cocaine seized in Albania
BELGRADE, Serbia – Albanian officials said they’ve arrested five suspects in connection with the confiscation of 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of Colombian cocaine valued at more than €15 million (US$21.27 million) stashed in vats of palm oil.
The truck was stopped at Gjirokastra, Albania, about 220 kilometers (136 miles) south of Tirana near the border with Greece. The narcotic had been dissolved in more than 10 tons of palm oil that had been imported into the country by a pastry company, according to Agence France-Presse.
The narcotic arrived in Albania after traveling through several nations, including Spain, Belgium, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia, according to the truck’s paperwork, AFP reported.