Central America

Empire strikes back against Belize?

Central America OK, we don't want to get too paranoid here. But last month, after years of studying the matter, the government of Belize took a big step toward cannabis decrim. On Feb. 19, the  cabinet formally handed recommendations made by the Decriminalization of Marijuana Committee, assigned to assess the matter, over to the office of the Attorney General for final review. This means introduction of a decrim bill is almost certainly imminent. Sources say the proposed legislation would allow for persons in possession of 10 grams or less to face a fine or community service. The fine is named as 15 Belizean dollars (US$7.50) per gram. The law would also be retroactive, expunging the records of those convicted in the past for possession within these limits. Former National Security Minister Doug Singh, who has pushed for a more lenient policy, said, "Too many young people have this following them, those who are seeking jobs."

Landmark cannabis case in Costa Rica

Posted on January 20th, 2016 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , .

Central AmericaCosta Rica took a step towards becoming the next Latin American country to decriminalize cannabis Jan. 19, when attorney Mario Alberto Cerdas Salazar was cleared of cultivation charges on grounds of individual liberties. Cerdas Salazar was arrested in August at his home in the city of Alajuela in August, after publicly advocating for a personal right to use and cultivation of cannabis for medicinal and gastronomic purposes. He has been held since, charged with "drug trafficking." The Judicial Investigation Organism (OIJ, Costa Rica's answer to the FBI) said they found enough cannabis on the premises to make 5,000 cigarettes. The quantity was also ambiguously put at 170 "plants and leaves of plants." But the OIJ admitted they had no evidence the cannabis was intended for commercial purposes. The judge hearing the case, Carolina Leitón, found: "Yes, marijuana cultivation is illegal; nonetheless, it is not a crime if it is not utilized for sale." 

Honduras oligarchs busted for money-laundering

Posted on October 10th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , .

Central AmericaThree members of the ruling elite in Honduras were charged by US authorities with money-laundering this week. Yankel Rosenthal, a former minister of investment and president of the popualr Club Deportivo Marathon soccer team, was arrested Oct. 6 upon landing at the Miami airport. His cousin Yani  Rosenthal  and uncle Jaime Rolando Rosenthal, a four-time presidential candidate and owner of El Tiempo newspaper, were also detained. Grupo Continental, owned by the Rosenthal family, is a pillar of the Honduran economy, with holdings in real estate, tourism, industry and telecommunications. US officials now say these businesses helped launder narco-profits, transfering dirty money from New York to Honduras over a period of more than 10 years. The three men provided "money laundering and other services that support the international narcotics trafficking activities of multiple Central American drug traffickers and their criminal organizations," said the US Treasury Department in a statement. Seven of their businesses were labelled under the US Kingpin Act as "specially designated narcotics traffickers." Yankel Rosenthal, who served in President Juan Orlando Hernandez's cabinet until stepping down unexpectedly in June, has won popularity in Honduras through his largesse. Among other public works, he built a brand-new stadium in the city of San Pedro Sula, which was named after him. (El Heraldo, Oct. 8; BBC News, Oct. 7)

Narco-Imperialism Deconstructed

Posted on September 6th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

PaleyDawn Paley is one courageous journalist. Her travels through Mexico, Colombia and Central America have brought her to the frontlines of "drug war" danger and militarization, producing first-hand reportage from communities terrorized by narco-gangs, paramilitaries and "official" security forces alike. In Drug War Capitalism (AK Press, Oakland, 2015) Paley portrays these forces as constituting a single nexus of terror, thoroughly integrated into the structures of the "legal" economy.

El Salvador: high court rules street gangs are 'terrorist groups'

Posted on August 25th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , .

Central AmericaThe constitutional chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court of Justice on Aug. 24 ruled that the country's notoriously violent street gangs and those who support them financially will now be classified as "terrorist groups." The ruling came in a decision rejecting four challenges to the constitutionality of the country's Special Law Against Terrorist Acts  (LECAT). The ruling defines terrorism as the "organized and systematic exercise of violence," placing the label on any group that attempts to usurp the state's monopoly on the use of force. The ruling upholds the freezing of funds for any persons believed linked to the named groups, and a ban on any negotiation with the groups. At issue are the Mara Salvatrucha network and their deadly rivals the Barrio 18 gang.  

Narco angle in Guatemala political crisis

Posted on May 18th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

Central AmericaThousands of Guatemalans took to the streets May 16, demanding the nation's President Otto Pérez Molina step down amid a scandal that has already forced the resignation of his vice president, Roxana Baldetti. Despite rain, protesters marched in 13 cities. Throngs filled the capital's central plaza, where a giant banner read "We are the people." The mobilization was largely leaderless, organized by social media under the hashtag #RenunciaYa  (Resign Already). It all blew up in April, when the UN International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala released findings of an investigation into a customs bribery ring uncovered by Guatemalan prosecutors. Baldetti's  private secretary, Juan Carlos Monzón, was named as the ringleader, forcing Baldetti to step down May 8—despite protesting her innocence. Pérez Molina likewise pleads ignorance about the ring, dubbed "La Línea," and pledges a crackdown on corruption. Monzón is on the lam and an Interpol warrant has been issued.

Honduras: new anti-narco force claims blow against Sinaloa Cartel

Posted on October 27th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , .

Central AmericaIn an operation dubbed "Saturn II," a unit of the new Honduran National Police elite anti-narco force, the Intelligence Troop and Special Security Response Groups (TIGRES), joined with DEA agents Oct. 2 to raid a house in the pueblo of El Porvenir Florida, near Copán on the Guatemalan border—scoring the arrest of one the country's reigning kingpins, José Inocente Valle Valle. The Valle Valle family is said to control the greatest share of cocaine passing through Honduras. Three other brothers of José Inocente remain at large, and face trafficking charges in the United States. Troops from the Guatemalan National Civil Police also participated in the raid. Among the items recovered in the house were 12 pieces of solid gold each impressed with the inscription "Sinaloa"—presumably indicating commerical ties between the Valle Valle family and Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel. (Tiempo, Honduras, Oct. 2)

Nicaragua: contra-drug series was CIA 'nightmare'

Posted on September 30th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

NicaraguaOn Sept. 18 the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) released a number of classified articles from its in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence, including an article about "Dark Alliance," a 1996 series in the San Jose Mercury News that linked the CIA-backed Nicaraguan contra rebels to the sale of crack in South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s. Other US media, notably the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, harshly criticized the series' author, investigative reporter Gary Webb, noting, and often exaggerating, flaws in his reporting. Webb lost his job at the Mercury News and was never employed by a major newspaper again; he was found dead on Dec. 10, 2004 in an apparent suicide.

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