Small Wars Journal

El Centro

SWJ El Centro Book Review – "The Hollywood Kid: The Violent Life and Violent Death of an MS-13 Hitman" SWJED Tue, 04/07/2020 - 12:38am
Óscar Martínez and Juan José Martínez, "The Hollywood Kid: The Violent Life and Violent Death of an MS-13 Hitman". Translated by John B. Washington and Daniela Maria Ugaz. London: Verso, 2019 [ISBN: 9781786634931, Hardcover 330 Pages]

U.S. Announces Narcoterrorism Charges Against Venezuela's Maduro

U.S. Announces Narcoterrorism Charges Against Venezuela's Maduro

Masood Farivar - Voice of America


WASHINGTON - The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday announced narcoterrorism charges against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and other top officials, accusing them of collaborating with a leftist Colombian guerrilla group to traffic cocaine to the United States.

The charges are likely to heighten tensions between the United States and Venezuela.  Relations deteriorated last year after the Trump administration recognized Maduro’s electoral rival as the country’s interim president and later imposed sweeping economic sanctions designed to remove Maduro from office.

In a sweeping indictment unsealed in New York, prosecutors accused Maduro of running a drug cartel in partnership with two Colombian guerrilla leaders and several top Venezuelan officials, including the speaker of Venezuela's national assembly; a former director of military intelligence; and a former general in the Venezuelan armed forces. 

The four men face charges of participating in a narcoterrorism conspiracy, conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and two weapons-related charges.  

In a separate indictment and criminal complaint, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine on board an aircraft registered in the United States, while Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Jose Moreno Perez was accused of money laundering in connection with receiving tens of millions of dollars and bribes to fix dozens of civil and criminal cases in Venezuela.

In all, 15 current and former Venezuelan officials, along with two leaders of the Colombian FARC group, were indicted. 

The dramatic charges were announced by Attorney General William Barr and other senior law enforcement officials at a virtual press conference.  

"Today’s announcement is focused on rooting out the extensive corruption within the Venezuelan government — a system constructed and controlled to enrich those at the highest levels of the government," Barr said. "The United States will not allow these corrupt Venezuelan officials to use the U.S. banking system to move their illicit proceeds from South America nor further their criminal schemes.” 

On Twitter, Maduro accused the United States and Colombia of conspiring against Venezuela.

It is only the second time in recent decades that the Justice Department has indicted a sitting foreign head of state, though one not officially recognized. In 1988, the Justice Department indicted Manuel Noriega, then the military ruler of Panama, on drug trafficking charges.  He was captured the following year during the U.S. invasion of Panama and subsequently spent 17 years in prison in the United States.   

Barr said the United States expects “eventually to gain custody" of Maduro, Venezuela’s president since 2013, and his associates, and will explore all options to arrest them. But Barr declined to say whether the United States would send in the military to capture them. 

“Some of them do travel, and that may be an opportunity,” Barr said. “Hopefully, the Venezuelan people will see what’s going on and eventually gain control.”

The State Department announced a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to the arrest and or conviction of Maduro.  Awards of up to $10 million were also announced for four other officials wanted by the Justice Department. 

In a statement, the department said the officials "violated the public trust by facilitating shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, including control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan air base."

FARC signed a peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016, ending more than 50 years of conflict.  But a group of 2,500 FARC dissidents, backed by the Maduro regime, remains involved in trafficking cocaine from Colombia to the United States via Venezuela and Central America, officials said.  

The indictment alleges that Maduro began cultivating FARC as early as 2006 when he was foreign minister and agreed to help the group in exchange for receiving $5 million.  He later agreed to keep the Venezuelan border open to the group to facilitate its drug trafficking, according to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York.

"The scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narcoterrorism crimes described in our charges," Berman told reporters via video link. 

"As alleged, Maduro and the other defendants expressly intended to flood the United States with cocaine in order to undermine the health and well-being of our nation," Berman said.  "Maduro very deliberately deployed cocaine as a weapon."

Pentagon Deploying More Ships, Forces to Latin America

Pentagon Deploying More Ships, Forces to Latin America

Carla Babb – Voice of America

PENTAGON - U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) plans to increase U.S. military presence in the Western Hemisphere while taking on funding cuts to partner security programs that help Latin American partners counter drug cartels.

In written testimony Wednesday, SOUTHCOM commander Admiral Craig Faller said the U.S. “only enabled the successful interdiction of about 9% of known drug movement” recently in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Faller told the House Armed Services Committee that he'd need significant assets to drastically improve that number, including dozens of ships.

“Recognizing these complex challenges in our neighborhood, we will see an increase in U.S. military presence in the hemisphere,” Faller said, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon after the briefing.

Partners Vital

The increase, which is coinciding with a Pentagon review of the command, will include more ships, aircraft and forces, said Faller, who declined to discuss numbers.

But the increase will not be enough to fully counter the threats, which is “why it's so important to get partners in the game," Faller added.

Last year, half of U.S. drug interdictions in the region were enabled by local partner forces, according to SOUTHCOM.

The need for more partner nation participation comes as the latest Pentagon budget slashes SOUTHCOM’s partner security program funds by about 20%.

"That reduction will mean we’ll have to make some choices and have to defund some programs … that have increased our partners’ ability to do things like counternarcotics,” Faller said Wednesday.

He added that the increased military presence would help the U.S. offset short-term losses to security cooperation program funding. But he acknowledged that “there might be some areas where we'll take risks as we look in the future.”

Georgian Scolds Administration

The Pentagon’s failure to prioritize the geographic command responsible for counternarcotics operations south of the United States has hurt Americans, Republican Representative Austin Scott of Georgia said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on national security challenges in the Western Hemisphere.

"All of the additional money we've given [to defense] has been transferred to other priorities and not to the priority that is resulting in more deaths than any other area," Scott said, adding that the U.S. saw tens of thousands die last year from drug overdoses.

Scott scolded administration officials for giving the command “what’s left over” in intelligence and surveillance abilities after fulfilling other regions’ needs.

SOUTHCOM’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, which is 1/14th of what was spent in Afghanistan alone.

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #44: Mexican Army (SEDENA) Re-Discovers Underground Cartel Bunker in Reynosa, Tamaulipas

On Wednesday, 12 February 2020, elements of SEDENA, the Secretariat of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional), assigned to the Eighth Military Zone (Octava Zona Militar), in Colonia Vista Hermosa near Reynosa, Tamaulipas discovered an underground bunker used as a cartel support facility. It is suspected that the underground warren has been operated by ‘Los Escorpiones’ (The Scorpions) a Gulf Cartel (Cártel del Golfo – CDG) enforcer cell.

About the Author(s)

PLAN COLOMBIA: Learning from a Light-footprint “America Second” Military Strategy

The United States has intervened repeatedly in the southern hemisphere for a myriad of reasons, but primarily to address growing problems metastasizing at the “Southern strategic approaches” to American territory. While today’s problem of 2015-2020 is one of human mass migration, the previous crisis of 2000 to 2010 stemmed from of an epidemic of illicit drugs. This threat was so pernicious at that period, the United States felt compelled to act with our partner nation of Colombia. With a combination of all instruments of national power, a holistic strategy with a small but powerful military theme emerged.

About the Author(s)

Gangs and the Military Note 4: The Role of the East Coast in the Development of Military-Trained Gang Members

This research note reviews the state of military-trained gang members (MTGMs) in the Eastern United States. In each wartime era since the Revolutionary War, there have been MTGMs who engaged in criminal activities in civilian communities. The earliest MTGMs in the United States received their training in the colonial militia. One group started as a New York City street gang, received military training and experience in Mexico during the Mexican-American War, and were released from active duty in San Francisco, just before the Gold Rush of 1848. An individual MTGM started as a well-known crime boss in New York and joined the military to fight in World War I. Contemporary MTGMs challenge military discipline and threaten community security.

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A Cry for Help: Vigilantes Enlist Children to Fight Mexican Cartels

A Cry for Help: Vigilantes Enlist Children to Fight Mexican Cartels by Juan Montes - Wall Street Journal

AYAHUALTEMPA, Mexico - At age 13, Luis Gustavo Morales barely knows how to do basic math, but he already knows how to handle a shotgun nearly as tall as he is.

“We are surrounded by the bad guys, so we have to prepare ourselves to defend our town and our families,” he said while holding a yellow spinning top with one hand and a 20-gauge shotgun with the other.

This indigenous village in the rugged mountains of southern Mexico is enlisting some of its own children to help fight criminal gangs, in particular a ruthless cartel that has waged a bloody turf war.

Some 31 children ages 6 to 15 are training to become vigilantes, although for now only five are handling real weapons…

Read on.

Gangs, Criminal Empires and Military Intervention in Cape Town’s Crime Wars

The challenges to governance and states posed by gangs are increasingly recognized as a global concern. No longer just local, turf-oriented groups of local youths, seeking protection and forging a common identity, gangs are involved in the drug trade and other illicit economic interests. These ‘third generation gangs’ protect their markets and align with a range of transnational criminal organizations.

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2019 National Drug Threat Assessment: Mexican Cartel Related Excerpts & Sections

Fentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids— primarily sourced from China and Mexico—continue to be the most lethal category of illicit substances misused in the United States. Fentanyl continues to be sold as counterfeit prescriptions pills as traffickers—wittingly or unwittingly—are increasingly selling fentanyl to users both alone and as an adulterant, leading to rising fentanyl-involved deaths. Fentanyl suppliers will continue to experiment with other new synthetic opioids in an attempt to circumvent new regulations imposed by the
United States and China.

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Gray Zones and Crime Suppression: Between International Human Rights Law and International Law of Armed Conflicts

Our country [Brazil] has not been involved in international armed conflict for a long time, but could, or can, it be experiencing a non-international armed conflict (NIAC), considering the confrontations against violent organized crime and between these same groups of criminals? That would be the only hypothesis, as there are no cases of armed political insurgency in our territory. In other words, the very common phrases seen on the news, such as: we are experiencing a real war; in Brazil, more is killed than in many wars; Rio de Janeiro is witnessing a war on drugs, among others, are these expressions merely rhetorical or would they, in fact, express a situation that fits the concept of NIACs

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