Posts tagged ‘Mexico’

LATIN AMERICA: On the Border, Gaza Fallout, Argentina Bonds, Venezuela Spy Chief

National Guard, Immigration Bill.

Border Patrol agents observe an Arizona National Guardsman training in the desert. (U.S. Army photo by

Border Patrol agents observe an Arizona National Guardsman training in 2010.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill)

Texas Governor Rick Perry has ordered up to 1,000 National Guardsmen to the border with Mexico to help deal with the crisis of thousands of children crossing over from Mexico.

More than 57,000 unaccompanied minors — mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have crossed illegally since October, reports USA Today, noting the influx of children has overwhelmed federal detention centers and Border Patrol offices.

The state acion is estimated to cost Texas taxpayers $12 million a month once it gets underway. No starting date has been set yet. Most of the children are reportedly fleeing  drug trafficking and gang violence in their home countries.

Meanwhile, at immigration bill meant to deal with the illegal child immigrant issue is on life suport on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner  called off a vote on a border assistance bill until Friday (August 1). The day Congress was supposed to take off for a month-long recess, according  to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. And a vote on the Senate version of the bill was blocked until after August.

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Gaza Fallout in Latin America

The fighting in Gaza beween the Israel Defense Force and Hamas may be a world away, but it is starting to have diplomatic repercussions in Latin America.

This week El Salvador became the fifth Latin American country to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv and not because of safety and security fears. San Salvador recaled its envoy to protest the  IDF’s continued operations in Gaza and the disastrous effect it is having on civilians.

Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru have previously called their ambassadors, according to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. Israel’s Foreign Ministry expressed deep disappointment with what it called  with their “hasty decision” to call diplomats hom for consultation. Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the ministry, told Haaretz that such actions “constitutes encouragement for  Hamas, a group recognized as a terrorist organization by many countries around the world.”

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Bond Battle

Argentina’s rocky economy may be in for another shock as the country is on the verge of defaulting on billions of dollars of government bonds. If Buenos Aires doesn’t  pay up, it will be country’s second default in 13 years.

Argentina has been battling a group of hedge funds since it defaulted on its bond obligations in 2001. Argentina offered new bonds worth much less than the orginal ones  but has been its obligations on them. A small group of bondholders want to be paid in full and the Argentine government has resisted. But a judge in New York has ruled  that banks using Argentina’s money to pay the holders of the lesser bonds would be in violation of a previous court order.

The dispute, which weighs heavilly on the Argentine economy, has most likely “pushed up borrowing costs for Argentine companies and depleted economic confidence in a country  that is already facing high inflation and sagging growth,” the New York Times explains.

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Venezuelan Official Faces Drug Charges

Colombia and Venezuela: Wikipedia image

Aruba, Colombia and Venezuela: Wikipedia

The former head of Venezuela’s military intelligence is accused of corruption and drug dealing by the United States. Hugo Carvajal was arrested on request
of the U.S. State Department when he got off a plane in Aruba last week.

But officials in the Caribbean Island nation had to let him go — because he had diplomatic immunity — and sent him back to Venezuela even though the U.S. wanted to extradite him. Indictments unsealed after his arrest accused him of being on the payroll of drug traffickers and coordinating massive cocaine shipments, the New York Times reported.

The indictments “open a window onto accusations of ties between Venezuelan military and law enforcement officers and Colombian drug traffickers, a connection that officials in Washington  have long warned about and that has been roundly dismissed by authorities” in Venezuela, according to the Times.

Carvajal was traveling on a diplomatic passport as Venezuela’s new consul in Aruba. He was a long-time confidant of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.

August 1, 2014 at 1:14 am Leave a comment

LAT AM REVIEW: Mexican Vigilantes, Ecuador’s Drone, Colombian Ceasefire Ends

Soldiers vs Vigilantes vs Drug Gangs

The Mexican government’s attempts to quell violence between vigilantes battling drug gangs in the southwesterrn state of Michoacan have turned deadly in a confrontation between the military and civilians.

Mexican military forces in Michoacan state in 2007 (Photo by Diego Fernandez via Wikipedia)

Mexican military forces in Michoacan state in 2007
(Photo by Diego Fernandez via Wikipedia)

There are contradictory reports on the number of casualties in the town of Antunez where soldiers were reported to have opened fire early Tuesday (January 14) on an unarmed crowd blocking the street. The Associated Press is reporting that its reporters saw the bodies two men said to have died in the incident. AP journalists said they also spoke with the family of a third man reportedly killed in the same incident.

The Los Angeles Times reported that 12 people were said to have died in the clash, according to the Mexican newspaper Reforma. The self-defense groups began organizing last year to protect local people from the drug gang known as the Knights Templar, who were extorting and otherwise terrorizing residents of Tierra Caliente, an important farming region west of Mexico City.

Local citizens said they had to arm themselves because federal troops failed to guarantee their security. On Monday (January 13) Mexico’s interior minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, urged the vigilantes to lay down their arms, the BBC reported.

The Knights Templar, who control much of the methamphetamine trade to the United States, say the vigilantes have sided with a rival gang, the New Generation cartel. But the self-defense groups fiercely deny that.

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Ecuador’s First Drone

Ecuador map from CIA World Factbook

Ecuador map from CIA World Factbook

Ecuador has developed its first domestically made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).  Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa revealed the country’s first drone on local television Saturday (January 11), according to the Russian television network, RT (Russia Today).

The drone, called the UAV-Gavilan (Spanish for hawk), cost half a million dollars, a significant savings for Ecuador — which, 2007 paid $20 million for six Israeli-made UAVs, according to the Associated Press.

The gasoline-powered, carbon fiber and wood UAV was designed by the Ecuadorian Air Force to help the country, which borders both the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, fight drug trafficking, Correa said. He added that the Gavilan tracked a ship loaded with drugs for six hours before authorities intercepted the vessel.

Its video cameras and sensors will help the Euadorian Air Force monitor the country’s borders and hard-to-reach areas, like the Amazon rainforest, as well as assisting investigations. Ecuador plans to produce four of the UAVs for itself and then sell others to interested countries in Latin America.

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FARC Ends Ceasefire

Colombia’s Marxist rebels announced  Wednesday (January 15) that they were ending their unilateral holiday ceasefire with government forces.

Colombia map by CIA World Factbook

Colombia map by CIA World Factbook

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — widely known by their Spanish acronym FARC –announced in Havana, Cuba, where it has been in peace negotiations with the government that it was ending the ceasefire it declared December 15, Reuters reported.

The rebels, who have battled the government in Bogota for five decades, accused government armed forces and police units of pursuing “aggressions and provocations.”s

theThe FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, declared a one-month ceasefire on December 15 and said in a statement issued on Wednesday, “we lived up to our word… despite permanent aggressions and provocations by the government’s armed forces and police units.”

While the FARC has repeatedly called for both sides to end hostilities, President Juan Manuel Santos has refused to agree. The rebels previously observed another unilateral cease-fire that lasted two months, the Associated Press reported.

The FARC has been fighting the government in a brutal guerrilla war that has claimed more than 200,000 lives in jungle and urban attacks. The revolt began as a peasant movement seeking land reform but in recent years the FARC — branded a terrorist organization by the United States — is reported to have aligned itself with Colombian drug cartels, obtaining much of its funding through narcotics sales. The FARC is the oldest active guerrilla army — estimated to number 8,000 — in the Western Hemisphere..

January 15, 2014 at 2:40 pm 2 comments

LATIN AMERICA: Mexican Drug Lord Captured

Zetas Kingpin

The leader of the notorious Mexican drug gang, the Zetas, has been captured by the Mexican military near the border with Texas, officials announced late Monday (July 15).

(U.S. State Department)

(U.S. State Department)

Miguel Trevino Morales was wanted by Mexican and U.S.. authorities. Both countries posted multi-million dollar rewards for him. Known as Z-40, he was captured by Mexican Marines using a helicopter, who intercepted him in a pickup truck outside the border city of Nuevo Laredo, according to the Associated Press. Morales and two others, believed to be an accountant and a bodyguard, were taken into custody along with $2 million in cash and eight guns.

Trevino Morales is the highest-ranking crime boss taken down since President Eneique Pena Nieto took office in December, according to the BBC. More than 60,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since December 2006.

Pena Nieto promised to change the policy of the previous government by tackling cartels through law enforcement on a local level rather than the capture of big-name targets. His predecessor, Felipe Calderon, had deployed the army across the country and pursued cartel leaders. That policy eliminated many senior criminal figures, but it also created power vacuums that helped fuel the violence.

The Zetas have been linked to some of the most violent crimes in Mexico’s battle with drug cartels, including massacres of immigrants passing through Mexico on their way to the United States and a casino fire that killed 52 people in Monterrey in 2011.

The Zetas originally were deserters from Mexico’s special operations forces hired as bodyguards and enforcers by the Gulf Cartel. But they split off to form their own gang in 2007 and have terrified Mexico –especially along the U.S. border — with unbelievable violence and brutality – including torture, beheadings and massacres, the Los Angeles Times reported.

July 16, 2013 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: Border Security surge; Nominee for FBI Chief [UPDATE]

More Border Agents?

If a compromise deal on pending immigration legislation holds up, it would double the number of federal agents on the U.S.-Mexican border. But according to Reuters, some officials question the benefits of the $50 billion pricetag for the boost from 21,000 to 40,000 border security agents.

Customs and Border Protection photo

Customs and Border Protection photo

In addition to the federal agent surge and completion of a 700-mile-long border fence, the compromise would also include $3.2 billion for a high tech border surveillance plan – including unmanned aircraft, infrared ground sensors and long range thermal imaging cameras, the New York Times reported.

James Comey tapped for FBI Post

[Updates with Comey nominated, praised by Obama, adds photo and link to 2008 UAV demonstration for FBI]

As predicted, President Obama formally nominated James Comey – a former high-ranking official in the George W. Bush administration – to be the nation’s next FBI director.

President Obama announced he is picking James Comey (left) to replace retiring FBI Director William Muller. (White House video screenshot)

President Obama announced he is picking James Comey (left) to replace retiring FBI Director William Muller. (White House video screenshot)

At a White House announcement in the Rose Garden, Obama praised Comey’s integrity — without going into specifics of his opposition, when Comey was Deputy U.S. Attorney General, to the continuation of a warantless eavesdropping program that he believed was  unconstitutional. Comey threatened to resign in opposition to the move. President George W. Bush later backed Comey’s position.

“This is a 10-year assignment.  I make this nomination confident that long after I’ve left office, our nation’s security will be in good hands with public servants like Jim Comey,” Obama said, calling for the Senate to “act promptly with hearings and to confirm our next FBI director right away.”

As a U.S. attorney in New York, Comey successfully prosecuted more than a dozen men for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. service members.

If he is confirmed, Comey, 52, the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan and areas north of New York City, will replace Robert S. Mueller III, who is leaving the agency after a dozen years. Comey’s nomination has been expected since last month when news reports indicated he had emerged as the top candidate.

Obama also praised the outgoing FBI director. “Under his watch, the FBI joined forces with our intelligence, military and homeland security professionals to break up al Qaeda cells, disrupt their activities and thwart their plots,” the president said, adding: “Countless Americans are alive today, and our country is more secure, because of the FBI’s outstanding work under the leadership of Bob Mueller.”

Earlier this week, the current FBI director told Congress that while the FBI has used drones in its investigations, it has been rare and only for surveillance purposes.

According to NBC, Director Robert Muller acknowledged that the FBI used drones in investigative practices but said the agency is working to establish better guidelines for their use.

Back in 2008, when your 4GWAR editor was working at Aviation Week, we went down to Quantico, Virginia to see a demonstration for FBI officials of a catapult-launched Insitu Scan Eagle unmanned air vehicle. You can see a short video of the launch and recovery here.

June 20, 2013 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: New Chief for U.S. Southern Command

Send in the Marine

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly has been nominated to oversee U.S. military operations in the southern half of the Western Hemisphere – U.S. Southern Command.

Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly, USMC

Based in Miami, Florida, SOUTHCOM as it’s usually referred to, has military responsibilities for Latin America and the Caribbean Basin. Those responsibilities include organizing joint exercises with local militaries in the region as well as good will/humanitarian aid missions.

Building closer ties with partners in Latin America and Africa is expected to rise in importance in coming years as the Obama administration plans to focus most of the military’s attention on the Asia-Pacific region and the always volatile Middle East.

Kelly has been serving as senior military adviser to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta since March 2011.

Subject to Senate confirmation, Kelly will succeed Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser as head of SOUTHCOM. A promotion to full (four star) general comes with the new post as head of one of the Defense Department’s six regional combatant commands.

A Boston native, Kelly enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1970, rising to the rank of sergeant before leaving to attend the University of Massachusetts. After graduation in 1976, he received an officer’s commission. He has served as a platoon and company commander in the 2nd Marine Division and done sea duty on the aircraft carriers USS Forrestal and USS Independence, according to his official biography.

He has also commanded a light armored reconnaissance battalion in the 1st Marine Division and served as: the Marine Corps’ legislative liaison to Capitol Hill; special assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, in Mons, Belgium; assistant commander of the 1st Marine Division; and commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq. A graduate of the National War College, Kelly served two tours in Iraq.

Click on the image to enlarge the map

In addition to the risks posed by violent transnational drug cartels in Mexico Colombia and a growing number of Central American countries, national security experts have worried about the possibility that international terrorists might try to develop a foothold in the remote and often lawless Triple Frontier region where the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina meet.

Top U.S. intelligence official told a Senate panel yesterday (Jan. 31) that they still have concerns about the growing influence of China and Iran in South and Central America.

February 1, 2012 at 10:45 pm 1 comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: Border Fence Terminated

Don’t Fence Me In

After a year’s study, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has decided to end its trouble-plagued program to build a virtual security fence along the border with Mexico.

SBInet Tower in the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector. CBP photo

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Friday (Jan. 14) that the department was scrapping the project, first envisioned in 2005, to secure the southwest border with a system of video cameras, radar and sensors, combined with a command and control system to link them to DHS ground and air assets along the border. The idea was to create a “virtual fence.”

But the program, called SBInet, “cannot meet its original objective of providing a single, integrated border security technology solution,” Napolitano said in a written statement.

She ordered a reassessment of the multi-billion dollar program last January and froze funding for it and lead contractor Boeing Corp., pending the reassessment. The program, which critics said had not been sufficiently developed before the contract was awarded, was plagued by delays and cost overruns – infuriating congressional leaders. Only about 50 miles of the Arizona border was covered by SBInet technology in two test phases after more than four years’ work.

Napolitano said a new border strategy will assess the best technologies for border security based on the unique needs of each region.

Some congressional leaders hailed the decision, which had been expected since last year’s halt.

”From the start, SBInet’s one-size-fits-all approach was unrealistic,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. He called the decision to use technology “based on the particular security needs of each segment of the border” a “far wiser approach, and I hope it will be more cost effective.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said SBInet was “a grave an expensive disappointment since its inception.” Thompson, who had been chairman of the panel until Republicans won control of the House last fall, noted the committee held 11 hearings on the project and commissioned five Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports “all while this program cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion for only 53 miles of coverage.”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the current chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he understood the department’s decision to end SBInet but “I continue to have very serious concerns about the Obama administration’s lack of urgency to secure the border.”

King complained that DHS has taken a year to make a final decision on SBInet and “will spend all of 2011, and maybe longer, deciding what to do next.”

Calling that pace unacceptable, King said he expected the administration to present a plan with necessary staffing, fencing and technology requirements in its 2012 DHS budget proposal “including timelines and metrics.”

January 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: Greek border fence

GREECE: Border Fence Planned at Turkish Border

CIA Worldbook

Greece is joining the growing number of countries (U.S., Saudi Arabia, Israel) building or planning to build a border fence to keep out unwanted immigrants — and terrorists.

The Greek government announced plans Jan. 3 to build a fence along a portion of its 124-mile (200 kilometer) border with Turkey to halt a wave of illegal immigrants from entering Europe. Last year more than 100,000 migrants — mostly from Africa and Asia — crossed into Greece near Evros, according to the government. The European Union says 90 percent of the illegal immigrants entering the EU come through Greece.

The EU border agency, Frontex, sent more than 100 border control officers to Greece in November to assist with the border crossing problem.

The move — not yet definite — would erect a 7-mile (12.5 km) fence at Evros the only overland crossing between the two countries. Elsewhere along the border, a river divides Greece and Turkey.

The decision is being likened to the U.S. project to build an actual and virtual fence along its 700-mile border with Mexico. But after four years and hundreds of millions of dollars, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plan to pepper the border with surveillance cameras and sensors has only managed to cover about 50 miles in Arizona.  DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano halted the program in March pending review.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is building a security fence on its border with Yemen and strengthening security on its border with Iraq. Israel, which has walled off Gaza and Arab portions of the West Bank to prevent terrorist infiltration is considering a border fence with Jordan for the same reason. Middle East experts say more countries in the region are likely to increase their investment in border security — largely to halt illegal commerce and immigration although there is concern that extremists might try to slip into a country along with economic migrants seeking work.

January 4, 2011 at 5:05 pm 1 comment

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