Wednesday, February 25, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Announces Arrests of 755 Members of Mexican Drug Cartel

Today, the U.S. DEA announced the culmination of a 21 month operation against the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico, resulting in 755 arrests and the seizure of $59 million in cash.

Read the UPI story here.

Robbery in Puerto Barrios Schools

Puerto Barrios, Izabal

Yesterday, unknown burglars entered the school building at the Escuela Oficial Urbana Mixta Luis Aragon at 5th Street and 4th Avenue, and looted the school store.

They jumped the two meter high perimeter wall of the establishment and forced the gate in order to steal the merchandise. They also smashed walls and wooden doors to enter the classrooms.

The director of the school, Hugo Sancé reported that thieves took more than Q2,000 in products from the store. "Worse still is that the products were consigned and are due to the supplier companies. In addition, supplies needed by students were taken," he said.

Sancé explained that the shop is owned and administered by school parents who take turns at running the store.

This is the second time that the school has been attacked. "We went to the National Civil Police (PNC) to complain and were told that it's almost certain that the robbers are local and from the neighborhood," he said. "We were told that they would see what they could do for us," said Sanco.

He said that discussions are in progress with parents that he proposed the organization of groups to make rounds at night.

Two other robberies have occurred in the Escuela Oficial Urbana para Niñas on September 15th. Dalila Canales, director of the school recounted that in less than 30 days the crooks broke in twice.

She assured that complaints were registered with the PNC but the chief of the PNC in Izabal, Luis Say, said that complaints were not registered. But he promised to monitor the school more closely.

Women gain legal weapon against abuse

As the number of women being murdered and abused has skyrocketed, Guatemala has begun prosecuting cases under a law that is unique in Central America.

BY SUMMER HARLOW

Special to The Miami Herald

Erica Jacinto Vicente finally has begun to get justice for her dead daughter.

A year ago, Maria de Jesus Velasquez Jacinto's boyfriend allegedly shot her in the chest after years of beatings. Until a new law targeting abuse and murder of women was passed last year, Edgar Benjamin Quiñonez may not have been prosecuted, according to human rights officials.

But this month, Quiñonez's prosecution on murder charges began, making it only the second to go to trial among 722 cases of women murdered last year. ''The law shows that the Guatemalan government recognizes femicide is a real problem that exists,'' said Amanda Martin, director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission in Washington, D.C.

More than 4,000 women have been murdered here since 2000, and nearly 80,000 cases of violence were documented in the past two years, giving this small Central American nation one of the world's highest rates of violence against women.

Read the rest of the story here

Consulate in Los Angeles Helping Guatemalans Return Home

The Guatemalan consulate in Los Angeles, California is developing an initiative for the voluntary repatriation of Guatemalan immigrants due to the economic crisis in the United States.

The initiative is intended to assist not only for those who are voluntarily wanting to return to Guatemala but also those facing deportation. The consulate is offering free legal services to Guatemalans in need.

Guatemala Wants to Use Colombian Anti-Drug Plan

Officials from the U.S. DEA and from Colombia shared effective strategies against drug traffickers with local authorities. After these meetings there appears to be agreement to put a law on the books that enables confiscation of property, to form an elite group of investigators, and to expedite extraditions.

Representatives of the executive, legislative and judicial branches, and the Attorney General view these proposals favorably but agree that each sector should strive to make it a reality.

Perry Holloway, director of Narcotics Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia, and Omar Adolfo Figueroa, deputy director of property at the National Narcotics Directorate of Colombia, spoke this week with Guatemalan officials to explain the plan that has succeeded in reducing drug trafficking activities in Colombia.

Holloway and Figueroa explained that the implementation of an asset forfeiture law has allowed the Colombian authorities to confiscate more than 70,000 properties from drug traffickers, including 2,000 companies, over a period of seven years. Figueroa said: "We have out of these seizures the holding company's largest drugstore and the largest chain in South America with 600 establishments. Such companies will be gradually handed over to private enterprise."

In addition, 600 aircraft and 9,000 vehicles have been seized. These seizures have brought Colombia $90 million which has been invested in a housing plan.

Holloway spoke about the speed in extradition proceedings in Colombia. Arrested drug kingpins have negotiated more lenient sentences in the U.S. in exchange for information on criminal operations and structures. He added, "This technique has enabled us to have information in record time that would have taken prosecutors 10 years to obtain."

The speakers made known that Colombia's society has benefited from these strategies with a 90 percent reduction in kidnappings, 60 percent reduction in homicides, and an equal reduction in extortions.

The visit of the officials is at a time when Guatemala is under attack by Mexican drug trafficking groups who commit massacres.

"Without security there can be no development and investment. If not controlled, these groups are going to kill judges and prosecutors. In addition, drugs and money laundering can permeate any institution," said Holloway. He stated that the violence that Guatemala is facing has to do with drug trafficking and he emphasized that the geographical position of Central America between the U.S. and Mexico makes it a natural bridge chosen by drug traffickers to move 70 percent of their product.