Sinaloa Cartel

'El Loco' Barrera, Colombia's most wanted, busted in Venezuela

Authorities from four countries cooperated in a months-long operation that led to the arrest Sept. 18 of Daniel Barrera AKA "El Loco"—dubbed the "last of the great capos" by Colombia's President Manuel Santos—on a street in San Cristóbal, a town in Venezuela's western Táchira state. Barrera was apprehended while making a call from a phone booth, allegedly after one of his relatives had given up his location. The arrest followed four months of cooperation between Colombia's National Police, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the UK's MI6 and Venezuela's National Anti-Drug Office (ONA). According to Colombia's defense minister, Juan Carlos Pinzón, the kingpin had been in Venezuela for the past eight months and was running his business while moving between several towns near the Colombian border.

Mexico: blows against cartels claimed, bloodletting continues

Mexican naval forces in the oil port of Tampico, Tamaulipas, on Sept. 13 arrested Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez AKA "El Coss"—notorious leader of the Gulf Cartel—along with five cohorts, apparently without resistance. Authorities hailed it as a major blow against the cartel, coming just a week after the arrest of another Gulf kingpin, Mario Cárdenas Guillén AKA "El Gordo" (Fatso), captured by Mexican marines in Altamira, also in Tamaulipas—the brother of Osiel Cárdenas Guillen, who led the cartel until he was detained in 2003.

Did Romney donor's casino launder drug money?

According to an Aug. 4 report in the Wall Street Journal, the US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles is investigating possible money laundering by Chinese-Mexican pharmaceutical entrepreneur Zhenli Ye Gon in the middle 2000s through the Las Vegas Sands Corp. casino company. The company, whose CEO and largest shareholder is US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to the Republican Party, reportedly failed to tell the authorities about suspicious money transfers by Ye Gon until the publication of a newspaper article about him in 2007. Adelson himself is apparently not being investigated at this point.

Bolivia: coca production down, cocaine production up?

The US government has determined that Bolivia now has fewer coca plantations but it is producing more cocaine because traffickers are using a more "efficient" process known as the "Colombian method," according to an interview with a diplomat in La Paz daily Pagina Siete. Said John Creamer, outgoing charge d'affaires at the US diplomatic mission in La Paz: "That is the paradox in Bolivia. There are fewer coca plantations in the past three years, but there's more production of cocaine." Creamer said that using the new process, producers "can obtain more cocaine with lesser quantities of coca leaves." He also warned of the "resowing" of eradicated coca fields. The Bolivian government boasts that it reduced coca leaf production for three consecutive years from 2009 to 2011, but according to UN figures overall coca production increased from 25,400 hectares in 2006 when Evo Morales took power to 31,000 hectares in 2010 (the last year for which the UN has data). Bolivian law allows the legal cultivation of just 12,000 hectares of coca for traditional purposes.

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