>Latin America File: Bogota extradites FARC middleman to Caracas, Makled poured $ into Chavez coffer, won concession at Venezuelan port to ship cocaine

>– Mexican Marines Ambush, Kill Gulf Cartel Boss Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen in Matamoros

– University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College Cancel Classes “Because of Gunfire Taking Place across the Rio Grande”

– Cartel Gunmen Shoot Up 20 Civilians, Police in War-Wracked Ciudad Juarez over Weekend

– US Consulate in Hermosillo Imposes Travel Restrictions on Employees in Sinaloa and Sonora States; Armored Vehicles Required, Night Travel and Some Regions Banned

Pictured above: Mexican soldiers stand next to a vehicle during a gunfight with cartel members in Matamoros, on November 5, 2010.

According to Venezuela’s communist dictator, Hugo Chavez, Colombia will extradite a Venezuelan businessman who is accused of being a major drug kingpin in league with the narco-trafficking Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Chavez, who is visiting Havana to sign more cooperation agreements with Cuba, announced the extradition on Cuban television.

Last Tuesday, during a face-to-face meeting, Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos promised Chavez that Walid “The Turk” Makled would be shipped back to Venezuela, not the USA, where he is also wanted on drug charges. Colombian authorities arrested Makled in August in a joint operation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration. “The Turk” is accused of transporting tons of cocaine each month to the USA and the European Union.

After their meeting, Santos and Chavez pledged to improve relations between their countries, which degenerated last year over a Colombian plan to allow US counter-narcotics troops more access to its bases. They did not disclose any specific accords on Makled, who admitted in an interview that in 2007 he poured US$2 million into Chavez’s constitutional referendum campaign and, in return, obtained a concession at Venezuela’s Puerto Cabello, his alleged shipping point for drugs.

On Cuban TV, Chavez railed that the US government planned to make Makled “vomit” accusations against him and then use the false charges to justify placing Venezuela on Washington’s list of countries that support drug trafficking. “I am sure that the Colombian government is not going to take part in that game,” he rumbled.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the narco-shipping routes maintained by Latin America’s Red Axis, Mexican narcistas shot up 20 more civilians and police in war-wracked Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Among the body count were seven men who were believed to have been attending a family party when they were gunned down on Saturday night, related Arturo Sandoval, spokesman for the attorney general’s office in Chihuahua state. Five were found dead in a car, while the other two were shot at the entrance of the home. Eleven other people, Sandoval said, were killed on Saturday in Ciudad Juarez, including two whose bodies were dismembered, which is a typical gesture from Mexico’s brutal drug cartels.

On Sunday, two city police officers, a man and a woman, were ambushed and shot dead inside their patrol car. More than 6,500 people in this city alone have been killed since January 2008.

The US consulate in Hermosillo has responded to the anarchy and bloodshed in northern Mexico by declaring new travel restrictions for its employees in the states of Sinaloa and Sonora. All official travel is banned along Benito Juarez Highway between Estacion Don and Guamuchil, Sinaloa, “due to extreme threats of violence.” Consular employees must travel in armored vehicles in the rest of Sinaloa. The consulate made an exception for the coastal resort city of Mazatlan, but offered no explanation. In Sonora, the consulate is requiring it employees to travel in armored vehicles south of Ciudad Obregon and banned travel south of Navojoa and in the mountainous eastern part of the state.

US personnel, furthermore, must travel in armored vehicles in the area around Nogales, a sister town across the border from Nogales, Arizona, “due to widespread violence” and “the threat of known drug trafficking activity throughout northern Sonora.” The consulate statement added: “US employees traveling from Nogales, Arizona, to Hermosillo, can only use their own vehicles on the Mexican toll road Highway 15 during daylight hours.” Lately, the US State Department has taken “drastic measures” to protect US government employees from the narco-insurgency in Mexico, including temporarily closing some consulates.

In southwest Mexico, police in the city of Oaxaca, which witnessed considerable political unrest in 2006, found a human head in a gift-wrapped box. On Saturday night, someone dropped off the grisly body part at a cliff frequented for its view of the city’s colonial center. A threatening message left with the head was signed “Z,” an apparent reference to the Los Zetas narco-mercenaries, the former enforcement arm of the Gulf cartel. The abhorrent discovery follows by one week the daylight execution of two young men who had been involved in violent university protests in one of Oaxaca’s public plazas. Although there have been some beheadings in recent years, cartel-style violence is unusual in Oaxaca.

Los Zetas, which consists of ex-special forces soldiers from Mexico and Guatemala, have waxed in power over the past 10 years. Experts warn their clout could grow following the death last Friday of Gulf cartel boss Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, also known as “Tony Tormenta” or “Tony the Storm.” Cardenas was killed in a shootout with Mexican marines in Matamoros, which is east of Reynosa, a city purportedly under the near-total control of criminal mafias. Friday’s operation came after more than six months of intelligence gathering by the Mexican navy, which has joined the army in battling the cartels. The four other suspected cartel members killed with Cardenas were “part of the circle of protection closest to Tony Tormenta.”

On Saturday, narcistas and security forces continued to exchange fire near the US-Mexico border, the Mexican state media reported. Authorities in Reynosa, which is across the border from McAllen, Texas, warned people to avoid road travel due to shootouts. North of the border, the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College canceled classes “because of gunfire taking place across the Rio Grande.”

Recently, Mexican authorities have scored several important wins against the cartels. In September, officials arrested Sergio Villarreal, an alleged top leader of the Beltran Leyva cartel, which maintained a representative in Colombia to liaise with FARC. Villareal’s capture came soon after the August arrest of US-born Edgar Valdez, believed to be one of Mexico’s most ruthless drug traffickers.

One response to “>Latin America File: Bogota extradites FARC middleman to Caracas, Makled poured $ into Chavez coffer, won concession at Venezuelan port to ship cocaine

  1. mah29001 November 9, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    >It seems that Columbia has indeed caved to appeasing Venezuela. There have been some allegations that those who opposed Uribe during his administration met with their Cuban Communist counterparts.

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