They were sellers of pastel-toned huggable plush toys with names like “Baby Frenz Forever” and “Jungle Pals.” At the same time, authorities say, they were receiving bricks of U.S. dollars wrapped in cellophane that were drug proceeds to be laundered into clean pesos for drug lords in Mexico and Colombia.
On Monday, authorities announced charges against the City of Industry-based Woody Toys and seven owners, employees and customers in what marks the second case in two years involving toy exporters allegedly acting as conduits for the drug trade.
Woody Toys was a key player in a sophisticated international financial scheme that converted more than $1 million into pesos each year, according to officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations…
In all, the company is accused of laundering about $6 million in suspected drug profits since 2005, according to the indictment…
According to investigators, the company received suspected drug proceeds either through in-person deliveries — a hand-off at a McDonald’s parking lot and drop-offs at warehouses — or through anonymous bank deposits. Employees “structured” deposits into the company’s bank accounts, keeping sums under $10,000 to avoid reporting requirements…
The sums were then credited to accounts of toy dealers in Mexico or Colombia, who in turn made payments through the black market peso exchange to drug trafficking groups. The foreign toy dealers got a discounted exchange rate, the company received a boost in its business and drug traffickers got laundered proceeds that appear to be generated from a legitimate trade…
The money laundering charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, according to ICE.
Such a kind, thoughtful business culture. Toys for the kiddies. Millions for the owners. Clean pesos for the drug cartel.
Cross-border commerce at its inventive best.
Police in northern Mexico have arrested eight people for allegedly killing two 10-year-old boys and a 55-year-old woman in ritual sacrifices. Prosecutors in the state of Sonoru say the alleged suspects belong to the cult of La Santa Muerte, or Saint Death.
Jose Larrinaga, a spokesman for Sonora state prosecutors, said the victims’ blood was poured around an altar to the saint, which is depicted as a skeleton holding a scythe and clothed in flowing robes.
The cult, which reveres death, has been growing rapidly in Mexico among drug traffickers and criminals in recent years, but there have been no confirmed cases of human sacrifices in the country…
Authorities began investigations after 10-year-old Jesus Octavio Martinez Yanez was reported missing on March 6 by his stepfather. Investigations led authorities to an apparent altar site in the Sonora city of Nacozari, about 110km south of Douglas, Arizona.
Larrinaga said the arrests were made after tests by forensic experts on Thursday found blood traces spread over 30 square meters there…
Those arrested included Silvia Meraz and her son Ramon Palacios, who allegedly killed the victims.
Speaking to reporters, she said: “We all agreed to do it. Supposedly she [one of the victims] was a witch or something.” She did not respond to questions about the boys’ killings.
Often, reasonable educated people find the rituals and trappings of religion simply laughable. A sensible reaction to a serious look at what people truly believe will result from prayer, tithing, repeating gestures leftover from trying to scare away things that go boomp in the night while a frightened and ignorant clan huddles in their cave. But, no unusual stretch of the imagination is needed to extend belief in, say, transubstantiation — partaking in the body of Christ, cripes! — into an act of human sacrifice.
It happens all the time and usually results in an arrest of some singularly demented individual like Jeffry Dahmer. That something similar can move to become a public cult, growing along with parallel hero worship of the leaders of drug gangs speaks volumes about a massively ignorant population accustomed to being led at the local level by a broad hierarchy of superstition.
Don’t kid yourself that Americans are above this, that it can’t happen here.
Rachel Maddow reports exclusively the breaking news that all of Mexico’s highly enriched uranium has been removed to the United States, and talks with Sarah Dickerson, National Nuclear Security Administration threat reduction director, and Anthony Wayne, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, about the distribution of nuclear material around the world by the U.S. and how the deal was made with Mexico to take their nuclear material off their hands.
That’s the intro to several videos released last night as a special on MSNBC. About a month ago Rachel Maddow traveled with NSA specialists supervising the removal of highly-enriched uranium from Mexico’s research reactors – to be brought back to the United States. The program was interesting in more than one way.
Regulars here know that one function of this, my personal blog, is to offer for reflection some of the few remaining bits and pieces of professional journalism I can find. It’s a diminishing skill for a number of reasons – the biggest being the transformation of “news” into “entertainment”.
Rachel Maddow is part of an even smaller percentage of journalists who carries job skills from print to video. As a news junkie I watch a lot more news than most. I watch news programs and explode often over incompetent journalists who haven’t yet learned to ask leading questions – instead of stupid questions.
For this reason, I suggest you watch the linked videos available at the MSNBC site, Rachel’s Maddow’s blog. She and they may someday release these to easier access on YouTube or somewhere. Not yet. So, I’m not going to jump through all the technical hoops needed today – to host this at this site. But, I highly recommend watching, learning, thinking about the questioning both casual and critical. We don’t get very much of this.
Click on the photo to go to the video site. After the bloody commercial and the intro segment, I’d suggest watching the videos in sequence. There’s a menu on the left side of the screen.
Photographs of Zynthia Cazares’ brother, husband and father, all still missing
Matamoros, Mexico — They have spotted their stolen vehicles at stoplights, driven by the same gunmen who used them to take their entire family captive last July. They have reported the brazen abduction to every branch of Mexican law enforcement, only to be ignored, or directed someplace else.
For the women of the Cazares family who were kidnapped with their families for ransom — and who are still searching for five missing relatives — the official response to their horrific ordeal has been even more excruciating than the crime itself. Even now, they say, after months of trying to goad the Mexican authorities into action, they still see criminals they recognize living large here in this border city, as untouchable as kings.
“We’re completely impotent,” said Zynthia Cazares, 30, an American citizen who was among those abducted and whose husband, brother and father are still missing. “No one will help us.”
Six years into a mostly military assault on drug cartels, impunity across much of Mexico has worsened, and justice is harder to find. Criminals in Mexico are less likely to be punished now than even just a few years ago, say current and former government officials and experts who have studied Mexico’s ailing judiciary, because the authorities have been overwhelmed by increases in violent crime while corruption, fear and incompetence have continued to keep the justice system weak.
Many areas now veer toward lawlessness: in 14 of Mexico’s 31 states, the chance of a crime’s leading to trial and sentencing was less than 1 percent in 2010…and since then, experts say, attempts at reform have stalled as crime and impunity have become cozy partners.
“Crime goes up, diminishing the likelihood of punishment, which causes crime to rise again,” said Alejandro Hope, a former senior intelligence officer for Mexico. “And so we go.”
On our side of the border we get the same crap press releases the Mexican government hands out on their side. The War on Drugs is succeeding – especially with the help of politicians in Washington, DC. Hogwash!
Remedies for a criminal drug culture are simple and well established in countries where decisions are grounded in science and medicine — not religious morality and ten cent slogans.
Authorities on both sides of the border might consider getting down to business and clearing the criminals out of government, disarming the gangsters on the street. It starts by taking the profit out of prohibition. It didn’t work the last time we made a big deal of it. It still doesn’t work.
RTFA for the details, the story of this tormented family, the silence and stonewalling of a useless government.
This is not an assault – the police travel in convoys to protect each other
The severed head of a Texas man was found lying on a bus stop bench in Juarez, Mexico…The rest of the man’s body had been cut into pieces and placed inside two bags that were left in another location, the El Paso Times reported.
Clothing and a Texas identification card with the name Eder Vidana Solis were found with the body parts, investigators said.
The man was among at least six people, including two police officers, who were victims of renewed violence in Juarez Sunday and Monday. The two police officers were killed in a Sunday afternoon street shooting.
Four homicides were reported Monday…Three people were shot to death while the body of an unidentified woman was found in a vacant lot with a plastic bag over her head. Police said she had been stabbed several times.
Friends of mine who don’t live in the Southwest sometimes ask me if I ever spend time in Mexico?
The short answer? No.
StringerMexico Reuters/March 10, 2012
Authorities are investigating a mass grave in southern Mexico containing 167 bodies that may have been dumped there at least 50 years ago, a Mexican official said…The remains, found in a cave near the Guatemalan border, “disintegrated at the touch,” said the official at the Chiapas state prosecutor’s office.
Investigators are trying to determine the age and gender of the victims and the cause of death, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The advanced state of decomposition suggests they are at least 50 years old, he said, adding there were no obvious signs of violence.
Mexican authorities including the police, the prosecutor’s office, civil protection personnel and the military were working to exhume the bodies and transport them for analysis.
The grave is on a remote ranch near the town of Frontera Comalapa, about 11 miles from the Guatemalan border in an area where migrants from Central America often cross on their way to the United States.
A 36-year civil war in Guatemala, which began in 1960, claimed 250,000 lives and left 45,000 people missing. Activists suspect they were killed by soldiers and secretly buried.
In recent years, drug trafficking gangs have dumped the bodies of hundreds of victims, including scores of Central American migrants, into mass graves.
Take your choice? Drug gangs violence? Civil War? Fascist-minded government officials, parochial or national in character, eliminating dissent?
UPDATE/CORRECTION: Anthropologists and forensics experts finally arrived on the scene and – guess what? – local coppers’ interpretations of what was found turned out to be seriously wrong. Starting with the realization the bodies have been in the cave about 1300 years!
Sign made from 3 tons of crushed guns
Mexico’s president called on U.S. officials to stop gun trafficking across the border Thursday, saying the move would be the best thing Americans could do to stop brutal drug violence.
“The criminals have become more and more vicious in their eagerness to spark fear and anxiety in society,” President Felipe Calderon said. “One of the main factors that allows criminals to strengthen themselves is the unlimited access to high-powered weapons, which are sold freely, and also indiscriminately, in the United States of America.
Speaking in Ciudad Juarez, the border city across from El Paso, Texas, that has become Mexico’s murder capital, Calderon said a dramatic increase in violence in Mexico was directly connected with the 2004 expiration of the U.S. assault weapons ban…
…Calderon stood in front of a massive new sign, constructed with tons of decommissioned arms. “NO MORE WEAPONS,” the sign said — in English. Americans on the other side of the border are the intended audience, Calderon said…
Out of 140,000 weapons Mexican authorities have seized since Calderon declared a crackdown on cartels at the beginning of his presidency, 84,000 were high-powered assault weapons, Calderon said.
More than 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since December 2006, according to government statistics.
Calderon’s plea for Americans to reduce drug consumption is laughable, of course. We have been a society based on mood-altering chemical dependency for decades. It starts with cigarettes and coffee, marches on through beer and hard liquor into prescription goodies all too easily accessible through your friendly family doctor. Symptomatic treatment is the watchword of America’s pharmaceutical industry.
Can we modify such dependencies? Of course. Many advocate a healthier lifestyle – in the face of politicians and flunkies who say pizza is a vegetable and sex education is a sin. We have to get past the profit cronies to even begin to have a voice in this land.
Meanwhile, there’s nothing wrong with symptomatic solutions to drug gangsters across the border, drug gangsters who leak their wars and profiteering across that border every hour of the day. Who stands in the way? Right-wing plutocrats in the arms industry and their flunkies in the NRA and both wings of political hacks – for a start. Even the mildest attempts to police guns trafficked across the border are shut down by sophistry and campaign dollars, lobbying and coercion.
The historic seizure of 15 tons of pure methamphetamine in western Mexico, equal to half of all meth seizures worldwide in 2009, feeds growing speculation that the country could become a world platform for meth production, not just a supplier to the United States.
The sheer size of the bust announced late Wednesday in Jalisco state suggests involvement of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, a major international trafficker of cocaine and marijuana that has moved into meth production and manufacturing on an industrial scale…
Jalisco has long been considered the hub of the Sinaloa cartel’s meth production and trafficking. Meanwhile, meth use is growing in the United States, already the world’s biggest market for illicit drugs.
The haul could have supplied 13 million doses worth over $4 billion on U.S. streets.
The Sinaloa cartel, headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is equipped to produce and distribute drugs “for the global village,” said Antonio Mazzitelli, the regional representative of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.
“Such large-scale production could suggest an expansion … into Latin American and Asian markets,” Mazzitelli said…
Golly. There’s a surprise.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has inaugurated the world’s highest cable-stayed bridge. The 1,321ft tall Baluarte bridge spans a deep ravine in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains in the north. It is part of a new highway crossing some of Mexico’s most rugged terrain, from Mazatlan on the Pacific Coast to Durango in the interior. The cable-stayed bridge is so tall that the Eiffel Tower would easily fit under its central span.
“This project will unite the people of northern Mexico as never before,” President Calderon said at the inauguration ceremony. Officials from the Guinness World of Records were on hand to present him with an award recognising the engineering feat.
The opening of the 3,687ft long bridge is part of celebrations to mark 200 years of Mexico’s independence from Spain. It is expected to open to traffic later this year, and Mexican officials hope it will boost tourism and commerce in the region.
The Mazatlan-Durango highway replaces a notoriously dangerous winding road known as the “Devil’s backbone” that crosses the jagged peaks of the Sierra Madre Occidental. As well as Baluarte, there will be eight other bridges over 300m high, as well as more than 60 tunnels.
Officials say it will reduce the journey between Mazatlan and Durango by about six hours. Eventually, it will form part of a modern highway linking the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
As the highest cable-stayed bridge in the world, it surpasses the famous Millau Viaduct in France.
I hope someone made a documentary about this bridge’s construction. There was a terrific film – I saw it on Discovery TV – on the new tech used to build the Millau Viaduct.
There may not have been much new engineering in the building of this cable-stay bridge; but, the “OOPS” factor was outstanding.y
Three U.S. citizens traveling to spend the holidays with their relatives in Mexico were among those killed in a spree of shooting attacks on buses in northern Mexico…A group of five gunmen attacked three buses in Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Veracruz on Thursday, killing a total of seven passengers in what authorities said appeared to be a violent robbery spree.
The Americans killed were a mother and her two daughters who were returning to visit relatives in the region, known as the Huasteca, said an official in the neighboring state of Hidalgo, where the mother was born.
Hidalgo state regional assistant secretary Jorge Rocha identified the dead U.S. mother as Maria Sanchez Hernandez, 39, of Fort Worth, Texas, and the daughters as Karla, 19, and Cristina, 13. Rocha said all three held dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship. A 14-year-old Mexican nephew traveling with the three was also killed…
While funeral plans were unclear, Rocha said Sanchez Hernandez’s mother wants her daughter to be buried in Mexico.
Three other Mexican citizens were killed in the Thursday attacks on the three buses. The five gunmen who allegedly carried out the attacks were later killed by soldiers.
Earlier in their spree, the gunmen shot to death three people and killed a fourth with grenade in the nearby town of El Higo, Veracruz…
The US consulate urged Americans to “exercise caution” when traveling in Veracruz, and “avoid intercity road travel at night.”
As I have advised my friends and relatives – stay the heck out of Mexico!