You couldn’t make it up – II – defending the ‘white lobster’

The following text box appears in the book as Box 9.5 (page 193).

In July 2010, the Nicaraguan Navy gave chase to a speed boat that turned out to be carrying 2,756 kilos of cocaine with a street value of US$125 million in the United States.[1] They eventually ran it to ground in Tasbapauni in the Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS, by its Spanish initials). The occupants of the boat made off inland with the help of local people who, armed with machetes, clubs and in the case of one woman, a broom, threatened to attack the army if they removed the boat and its valuable cargo. This is a situation similar to one that occurred in Walpaisiksa in the Northern Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) in December 2009 where two soldiers lost their lives.[2]

On the Caribbean coast, historically neglected by central government and with the highest indices of poverty in the country, for some time people have been living off the profits of the ‘white lobster’, as they call the bales of cocaine washed ashore. They are increasingly turning to drug traffickers for employment and social benefits.

The national press considered it worrying that a woman with a broom was prepared to face the army to protect a consignment of drugs and speculated about what the same woman might do if given a machine gun by the drug smugglers. After a tense stand-off, the army managed to persuade local people to hand over the boat with no bloodshed.

Reproduced with the permission of CODA International and of Gill Holmes from her three monthly Nicaragua Current Affairs Report to CODA International, May – July 2010.

[1] Figures taken from Envío magazine, No. 341, August 2010, p.4.
[2] Gill Holmes, Nicaragua Current Affairs Report for CODA International, November 2009 – January 2010.

Letter from Bismuna – a cracked paradise

This is a shortened version of an article entitled ‘All is not well in Paradise’ which appeared in ENCA Newsletter 34 (August 2003).

By Annette Zacharias and Dieter Dubbert*

Bismuna is an indigenous Miskito village on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua with a population of about 1,500 people. … The village is on the shore of a lagoon which opens to the sea. In this sea float many kilos of cocaine, packets of 60, 80, 90 kilos of pure cocaine. Why did they come floating our way? Off the Atlantic coast is a group of islands known as the Miskito Cays, hundreds of islands of mangroves which form the ideal hiding place for drugs in transit from Colombia. They are also a good location to re-fuel; but the traffickers have to get rid of their cargo the moment they see a patrol boat.

We have scenes that you would normally associate only with low-grade B-movies: people with dark glasses, bracelets and Rolex watches sitting in boats with two 150 horsepower outboard motors, silent and waiting for their contact with a Kalashnikov by their side. …

In 1993 the first packets were found. Nobody knew anything of drugs, their effects, their potential harm, nor of their value. But almost immediately people heard of astronomical values for them and began to look for more. … we found it difficult to explain how dangerous drugs were. How could they have experience of drug addiction if they’d never suffered it before? And fast money talked more powerfully.

In 1994 we wrote to the governor of our department, Stedman Fagoth, and asked him to address this problem. We suggested that all the cocaine found by the people should be bought officially by the state at market prices and channelled into the pharmaceutical industry. The reply from the governor was … silence. Worse than that, Dieter received a death threat (from an unknown origin). Later we realised that the governor had indeed concerned himself in the business. …

One consequence of the fast money was that people stopped working on their fincas. Nobody wanted to sweat by sowing rice, yucca or plantains. And who’s going to criticise them for preferring to buy everything rather than sweat on their fincas? … Whole families, including even grandmas, lived on the beach looking for the ‘blessing’ of a packet. They sold the drugs, and today there is a well-established system of trafficking. But the worst problem for the community is that many people have taken to using the drugs. We could say that the generation of youths aged 14 – 23 are lost in the drug. But also adult males with their family responsibilities have fallen into addiction.

There is open trafficking, almost risk-free, that transfers many kilos beyond the community and brings back a derivative of cocaine known as ‘crack’ – or ‘stone’ as it is commonly called – a mix of cocaine with ash and soda. According to those already addicted, you only need one stone to become addicted. As a consequence, robberies and violence have arrived in the community. Women fear for their safety. Properties are no longer secure. At night we listen to the rantings of drunks who have left their women. Many people, mainly women, arrive at our house asking for money to buy food or medicines for their children. These children grow up with disastrous, drug-addicted role models, their fathers, brothers, cousins.

Throughout the whole Atlantic coast there isn’t one rehabilitation centre, and the word ‘therapy’ is unknown. The police struggle against the tide with ridiculous budgets incapable of meeting their needs. It’s a public secret that many of the police are involved in this lucrative business, and so its control never progresses. Above all, there is no political interest in protecting the coast and its population.

This situation is dramatic and desperate. But there are a few individuals who are fighting against this appalling form of development.

* Annette Zacharias and Dieter Dubbert lived in Bismuna from 1990 to 2003. They founded a NGO called ‘From Coast to Coast – Solidarity with the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua’ with bases in Kiel, Germany, and Bismuna, Nicaragua. Using donations from Germany, Italy and Nicaragua, it aimed to support the indigenous community through a range of social projects including the construction of a clinic, a sewing workshop, a cultural centre, a baseball stadium and houses for those in need. They also established a rehabilitation centre for youths with drug and/or family abandonment problems. In 2003 they changed location to Waspam in order to increase their work with street children.

The US Accuses Nicaragua of ‘Institutional Corruption’ But its Own Report Doesn’t Support its Claim

Taken from NicaNotes 3 May 2017 | Reproduced here by kind permission of Chuck Kaufman

This week’s guest blog is by a correspondent who prefers to remain anonymous due to their job in Nicaragua.

On March 27, 2017, the headline in La Prensa, one of the major newspapers in Nicaragua, read, “The United States urges Nicaragua to address ‘institutional corruption’.  A report on drug trafficking released this month by the US State Department claims that there is institutional corruption in Nicaragua.”  The report on drug trafficking referred to is the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, a kind of report card issued by the US State Department rating the degree to which it says countries around the world comply with US expectations concerning the ‘war on drugs’.

The report’s first line claims: “Nicaragua remains a primary transit route for drug trafficking.”  For people with an interest in Nicaragua, there are at least three important issues raised by the report and the coverage in La Prensa. The first is the ‘war on drugs’, the second is what is actually happening in Nicaragua to fight narcotrafficking, and the third is the US’s ongoing, inappropriate interference in the internal affairs of Nicaragua.

For several consecutive administrations, the US has defined ‘the war on drugs’ as a war on supply to be fought outside of our borders. Despite spending billions of dollars with nothing to show for it , the US has clung stubbornly to this approach. We have ignored the consensus in much of the rest of the world that the problem is one of appetite. As long as people in the US are willing to spend billions of dollars on illegal drugs to get high, someone somewhere will supply the product. Many sovereign countries in Latin America and elsewhere have taken the very reasonable position that the US’s consumption of illegal drugs is not their problem and it is not a priority for them to help solve it, especially not on their soil.

Nicaragua has only to look to its neighbours to the north, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, countries allied with and heavily financed by the US’s war on drugs to see how bad things can go. The northern triangle countries are among the most violent and corrupt in the world. They are near failed states where many aspects of government barely function. In comparison, Nicaragua is safe, stable, and peaceful.

None-the-less, Nicaragua is quite active in working to prevent the damage that could be caused by the transportation of drugs through the country, particularly preventing the violence and corruption associated with gangs and drug cartels. This is acknowledged by the Nicaragua country report within the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Nicaragua’s “‘Retaining Wall’ (Muro de Contención) strategy promotes a coordinated effort to stop narcotics traffickers from entering the country.” (For a good description of this strategy see this article) The Strategy Report goes on to detail many anti-trafficking activities, including drug seizures carried out in cooperation with the US and other international partners.  The concluding statement about “institutional corruption” feels tacked on and not supported by what has come before.

The tone of the conclusion of the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report is paternal and condescending. It assumes that, of course, the US can grade and prescribe what other countries do: “The Government of Nicaragua must increase efforts to combat organised crime within the vulnerable Caribbean coast regions of Nicaragua, which remain the primary routes for international drug trafficking. In addition, an increased focus on drug prevention programmes and rehabilitation facilities, institutional corruption, and judicial independence is recommended to complement interdiction efforts.” (US dept of state resource) This is a continuation of a long, despicable history in which the US has tried to control and dictate to Nicaraguans how their country should be run. Nicaraguans are completely capable of analysing their own situation and deciding what, if anything, they want to do about it. The US has no standing to tell them what they “must” do.

The government of Nicaragua is not perfect. We know this because no government in the world is, including our own. However, sovereign nations, which like Nicaragua, are not a threat to anyone, have a right to struggle with their own imperfections and to work them out in their own way.

The article in La Prensa, includes commentary by sociologist and political analyst Oscar René Vargas. He says the report means that the United States “is following the political, economic and social events of Nicaragua… that Nicaragua is already on the radar of the United States. This does not mean that the United States will take immediate action against the government, but it does mean that the promoters of the ‘Nica Act’ will take into account… the State Department report.” (The NICA Act would cut Nicaragua off from the system of international loans that Global South countries need to run themselves in the global neoliberal economic system. See: this  for the ridiculous details. Those of us who work to keep the US’s relationship with Nicaragua friendly and non-imperialistic need to stay alert to this situation.


  • During a meeting in Managua with Directors of Police Academies from Central America, Colombia and the Caribbean, the Inspector General of the Mexican Police Academy, Rubén Rodríguez, said Nicaragua is one of the most successful countries in the fight against drug trafficking and organised crime. “We believe this is a very important meeting to learn about the Nicaragua experience in public safety, fight against drug trafficking and organised crime,” the Director of the Mexican Police Academy said. (Nicaragua News, May 1)

NicaNotes is a blog for Nicaragua activists and those interested in Nicaragua, published by the Nicaragua Network, a project of the Alliance for Global Justice,

Drug trafficking in Central America affected by Covid-19: implications for local development issues

By Martin Mowforth

In May 2020, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) issued a ‘living’ research brief – ‘living’ suggesting that it is subject to daily change – entitled ‘COVID-19 and the drug supply chain: from production and trafficking to use’.

Among other things the report suggests that the restrictions on and reductions of legitimate economic activities are also causing restrictions on and changes in drug trafficking routes and practices. This is particularly the case of drug trafficking by air which “is likely to be completely disrupted by the restrictions imposed on air travel.”

Before the UNODC report was made public, the Financial Times (7 May 2020) had already reported that traffickers were switching to parallel routes, loading their drugs on “submarines or speedboats or offloading [them] on beaches in Central America.” Land routes, however, have also been hit by the virus, particularly because legitimate land transport has also been drastically reduced. This leaves maritime routes as increasing in importance for the traffickers.

One worrying implication of these changes is that drug production in Central America may be stimulated because of the difficulties being experienced by the major producing countries. As Ricardo Flores points out in the Salvadoran daily paper La Prensa Gráfica (11 May 2020), in the last decade Honduras has become a narco-state with a proliferation of drug-producing laboratories transforming the coca leaf into cocaine. The danger here is that the stimulation of more local production will transform Central America from purely a transit route for drugs into a major producer area too. The Salvadoran paper, however, adds that this is unlikely to affect El Salvador as it is a small, densely populated country leaving little room for the production of a coca crop.

An even more worrying aspect of the pandemic is that the loss of employment by so many people could potentially push some or many of them, especially the poor, into involving themselves in the distribution of drugs. In El Salvador, for instance, numerous transport workers, especially boatmen, have been prosecuted for drug trafficking. Authorities have warned that the most likely people to be diverted from their usual economic activity into drug trafficking are artisanal fisherfolk.

The UNODC is also concerned that drug traffickers are trying to improve their image among the general population by providing services, especially to vulnerable groups, who might then be expected to, and possibly willing to, comply with traffickers’ requests or demands.


United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (May 2020) ‘COVID-19 and the drug supply chain: from production and trafficking to use’ UNODC Research Brief.

Schipani, Long and Webber (7 May 2020) ‘Cocaine trade caught in disrupted global supply chains’ Financial Times.

Ricardo Flores (11 May 2020) ‘Covid-19 motiva a narcotraficantes a utilizar más la vía marítima: ONU’ La Prensa Gráfica.

Drugs more valuable than aircraft: the Belize drugs channel

By Martin Mowforth for the TVOD website

In February last year (2020), Belizean authorities intercepted a Gulfstream II business jet on landing to find it full of 69 bales of cocaine, the largest drugs haul ever made in Belize. (See photo below.) These jets are largely out of service now and can carry a huge payload of drugs. In 2020 four such drug-running business jets were impounded in Belize, but compared with the value of the drugs smuggled and the number of flights which get through, their loss is of little consequence to the cartels. Also a small country like Belize has limited aerial capability to detect and/or intercept such flights.

This year (2021) has seen more drugs hauls which have illustrated the growing importance of the route through Belize. On 14th May Police Commissioner Chester Williams told reporters that they had received a report of a plane landing close to the border with Mexico and “that there were at least about 60 heavily armed men who were offloading the plane and providing security for it while it was being offloaded.” Further he explained that “the cargo that came in the plane went immediately over the Mexican side.”

With this number of heavily armed men as guards, it is clear that the drug cartels may be more militarily powerful than the governments of small countries such as Belize. The aircraft was moved into the Belize Defence Forces Airwing.

Eight days later the Belize Coast Guard reported that a plane crashed into the sea near the town of Placencia – see photo to the right. The plane was believed to be carrying illegal drugs.


Tyler Rogoway, 06.03.20, ‘Captured Narco Jet Loaded With 69 Bales of Cocaine I Biggest Bust in Belize History’, The Drive.

News 5, 27.02.20, ‘Biggest Cocaine Haul in Belize’s History is Recorded’, Channel5Belize (TV).

Benjamin Flowers, 17.05.21, ‘Suspected narco plane cargo unloaded by heavily armed group and taken to Mexico’, Breaking Belize News.

Breaking Belize News, 22.05.21, ‘Drug plane reportedly crashed off coast of Placencia last night’.

Cocapples anyone?

By Martin Mowforth for the TVOD website

Key words: Costa Rica; pineapple exports; cocaine.

As if problems of labour exploitation, community relations, political bribery, water and soil contamination are not serious enough for pineapple transnational companies, since 2018, and possibly before, shipments of the fresh fruit and processed fruit have become vehicles for cocaine smuggling operations.

(Photo courtesy by AFP / Spanish National Police )

In August 2018 the Spanish police announced that they had seized 67 kilograms of cocaine stuffed inside dozens of hollowed-out pineapples at Madrid’s main wholesale fruit and vegetable market. The shipment had been offloaded at the Portuguese port of Setubal from a ship from Costa Rica. They had then been transported overland to Madrid. The police statement said each pineapple had been “perfectly hollowed out and stuffed with compact cylinders containing 800-1,000 grams of cocaine” and was coated with wax to conceal the smell of the chemicals in the drugs and to avoid its detection (Tico Times, 2018).

In February 2020, in Costa Rica’s Atlantic coast port of Limón, a shipment of over 5,000 one kilogram bags of cocaine (with an estimated value of 126 million euros) was exposed in a container full of canopy plants which were destined for Rotterdam. This was the largest drugs bust in Costa Rica’s history (de Geir, 2020). Three months later, the police in Costa Rica intercepted 1,250 one kilo parcels of cocaine hidden in a shipment of pineapple juice which was waiting to be shipped to the port of Rotterdam. Other 2020 drugs interceptions were also made in January (amongst a shipment of bananas), March (pineapples) and April (bananas) NL Times, 2020).

In August 2020, another container of pineapples destined for Rotterdam was seized by the Costa Rican Drug Control Police (PCD) with $22 million worth of cocaine hidden inside it – 918 packages totalling approximately one ton. The Minister of Security absolved the fruit exporting company of any blame, explaining that the drugs were introduced at some point between the company and the port (Allen 2020).

In February this year (2021), the PCD reported another seizure of cocaine in the Atlantic coast port of Moín, on this occasion including 2,000 packages of cocaine (approximately two tons). Again the packages were hidden in a shipment of pineapples and were destined for Belgium (Agence France-Presse, 2021).

A person holding a cocaine-stuffed pineapple, seized by Spanish police in Madrid. Spenish police said on August 27, 2018, they have seized 67 kilos (148 pounds) of cocaine found inside dozens of hollowed out pineapples at Madrid’s main wholesale fruit and vegetable market. ((AFP Photo / Spanish national police.)

Not surprisingly, Costa Rica now requires that all shipments of fresh pineapple and its related products should be scanned at Costa Rican ports by the General Directorate of Customs (Zúñiga, 2021). The requirement was made by the Costa Rican government in order to defend the reputation and positive image of the country, things that have already been well-tarnished by the Costa Rican pineapple industry.


Tico Times (2018) ‘Cocaine-stuffed pineapples shipped from Costa Rica to Europe’, 5th August, San José. (Sourced from Agence France-Presse.)

De Geir, J. (2020) ‘Video: Costa Rica’s biggest-ever cocaine bust was headed to Netherlands’, NL Times, 17th February (Amsterdam).

NL Times (2020) ‘Costa Rican authorities seize 1,250 kilos cocaine destined for Rotterdam’, NL Times, 13th May (Amsterdam).

Allen, A. (2020) ‘Authorities Seize $22 Million Worth of Cocaine Found in Pineapple Shipment’, ANDNOWUKNOW, (, 21st August, Sacramento, California.

Agence France-Presse (2021) ‘Costa Rica seizes two tons of cocaine hidden with pineapples’, 5th February, Paris.

Zúñiga, A. (2021) ‘Costa Rica draws the line: All pineapple shipments checked for drugs’, Tico Times, 9th February, San José.



Moves on marijuana in Central America

A summary by Martin Mowforth for The Violence of Development website.

Over the last few months, the development of a medicinal marijuana industry in Central America has been advancing in Belize, Panama and Costa Rica.

In Belize in July the government tabled the Misuse of Drugs Bill 2021 in the House of Representatives. The Bill would establish provisions for the licensing and registration of operators in the cannabis industry. The Minister of Home Affairs Kareem Musa said that: “The consumer sees this as a relief. The small farmers, the investor, the businessman, they see this as a profit. The government sees this as only practical given the circumstances that we now face where we have something that is decriminalized but you have no way of obtaining it.”

Belizeans can already use 10 grams of marijuana without penalty, but still people risk their lives bringing it in from Mexico and elsewhere. The situation creates conflict with the police and gang warfare in Belize City.

Belize’s religious community, however, is highly critical of government liberation of laws controlling drug use and growth.

In Costa Rica in the first governmental debate deputies approved the regulation of the industrial sowing of medicinal and therapeutical marijuana. Although drug trafficking in Costa Rica is illegal and can carry harsh prison sentences, personal consumption is not penalized. ‘Personal consumption’, however, is not defined in law at present.

One of the main proponents of the new law on marijuana is Zoila Rosa Volio who considers that there is a global market in marijuana worth over $5 billion and that Costa Rica could be a part of this market by growing and exporting the crop. She also considers that Costa Rica is arriving late in the market and that the crop could improve the quality of life for many people.

In Costa Rica, however, the proposal still has a long way to go before entering into law. This includes a second debate in the legislature. Additionally, the Health Ministry and President Carlos Alvarado have both expressed concerns about legalizing marijuana, and their signatures will also be needed for it to become law.

In Panama in October President Laurentino Cortizo signed into law the regulation of medicinal and therapeutical use of cannabis and its derivatives. The law was approved by the Parliament at the end of August. The law also creates a register of legitimate users and growers. It is the first Central American country to enact such a law.

Valid uses for the plant include medicine, veterinary work, scientific and research work. The cultivation of the plants and use of the seeds are also strictly controlled. President of the National Assembly or Parliament, Crispiano Adames, said that “the greatest beneficiaries will be those people who daily experience pain.”


  • Benjamin Flowers, 29.07.21, ‘Minister of Home Affairs says marijuana industry a practical move for Belize’, Breaking Belize News.
  • Alejandro Zúñiga, 20.10.21, ‘Costa Rica medical marijuana project advances’, The Tico Times.
  • Natalia Díaz Zeledón, 19.10.21, ‘Marihuana medicinal superó su primer debate con poca oposición’, Semanario Universidad.
  • El Economista, 14.10.21, ‘Panamá legaliza el uso medicinal y terapéutico del cannabis’, El Economista.

New Documents: US-trained special forces involved in drug trafficking

By Karen Spring, Honduras Now.

June 12, 2022

Original article in:

The website offers on-the-ground analysis of developments in Honduras. We are grateful to Karen Spring for permission to reproduce her article in The Violence of Development website.

Keywords: Drug trafficking; Honduras; Police abuse; the Cobras; Los Grillos; human rights violations.


Documents Released On June 9, 2022 By U.S. Court Mention That The Former Honduran Special Police Force, The COBRAS, Worked With ‘Los Grillos’ Criminal Gang Involved In Drug Trafficking And Assassinations.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras – Members of the former Honduran elite police unit, the COBRAS, worked with the ‘Los Grillos’ criminal gang to steal drug money and shipments, according to newly released U.S. court documents. Los Grillos, together with the special forces police unit are involved in selling and stealing drugs “through police operations” and according to Honduran press reports, act as contract hitman.

The U.S. DEA document [see document attached to the original article in – see above for link] dated July 13, 2016, was recently filed in the case against Ludwig Criss Zelaya Romero, a convicted drug trafficker and former Honduran police officer. Zelaya Romero is appealing his sentence after pleading guilty in April 2018 to conspiracy to import cocaine and use and carry firearms in connection with a drug trafficking conspiracy. Zelaya Romero is one of a handful of ex-Honduran police officers accused in the drug trafficking case against Fabio Lobo, the son of ex-President Porfirio Lobo Sosa. Lobo is currently serving a 24-year prison sentence in the United States.


The COBRAS’s Controversial History

The COBRAs are a special police unit with a controversial four-decade history in Honduras. In the 1980s, they were linked to forced disappearances of community leaders and individuals identified as political dissidents in the context of Cold War rhetoric and U.S. policy in the Central American region. Since the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras, the COBRAS have been linked to violent repression and excessive use of force against protesters.

In 2011, an arsenal of weapons including at least 300 light automatic rifles (FAL), 300,000 5.56 millimeter ammunition, and other police equipment went missing from the COBRAS police base (now known as the Special Forces base) in Tegucigalpa. Several U.S. court documents have revealed that weapons in the possession of the Honduran police and military have been sold or provided to drug cartels operating in Honduras and Colombia.


U.S. Support for Honduran Special Forces

In October 2017, the COBRAS special police unit was absorbed into the structure of the National Office of Special Forces (DNFE) of the Honduran National Police. Also absorbed into the DNFE was the U.S.-trained and supported elite police force known as the Honduran Intelligence Troop and Special Security Response Group or “TIGRES” (Tigers in English). On the streets of Honduras, special forces police wear uniforms with DNFE written on them, when previously, TIGRES and COBRAS were clearly distinguishable before the separate units that were fused together in 2017.

The TIGRES were proposed and then created by law in 2013 when Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla was head of the Honduran National Police. Bonilla was recently extradited to the United States to face drug trafficking and weapons charged in the southern district of New York. The United States not only extensively trained the TIGRES unit but the State Department by way of the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Office (INL) contributed funding for the construction and furnishing of a TIGRES complex in El Progreso, Yoro. Like the COBRAS, the TIGRES have also been linked to human rights violations, and in 2017 in the midst of nationwide protests against electoral fraud, were used to hunt and arrest protesters.


Continued Links to Drug Trafficking and Organised Crime

Despite years of efforts in Honduras to clean up all units of the National Police, Honduras’ Special Forces continue to be linked to drug trafficking, rights violations, and organised crime.

In 2014, at least 21 members of the TIGRES were suspended after a police operation carried out in coordination with the DEA, stole $1.3 million dollars. The money was found in buried sacks during a raid on a property owned by the powerful Valle Valle drug cartel in the western department of Copán. Nine TIGRES police were later tried on charges of aggravated theft, abuse of authority, and stealing evidence. All were absolved in May 2016, but after an appeal process, the Honduran Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that the case must be retried. It’s unclear the current status of the case.

Meanwhile, Obed Diblain Mencías Hernández, one of the TIGRES police involved in the 2014 incident, was arrested again in a separate drug trafficking incident in October 2021. Mencías Hernández, along with eight other individuals – six of whom were also police – were arrested while travelling with 19 kilograms of cocaine that had been confiscated and stolen from drug traffickers in the department of Colón. The eight men and the ex-TIGRES police were stopped at a check-point, and according to the Honduran press, got out of their vehicle “and identified themselves as National Police officials, saying they had participated in an operation and were traveling with an informant and a detained individual.” The men told the police at the check-point that they had come from a clandestine landing strip, had seized the drugs, and would report it upon arriving to a nearby city. When the police investigated their claim, they found that they were lying, and the nine men were immediately arrested.

You couldn’t make it up – III – Top brass gangsterism

The following are extracts from an article by Annie Bird which appeared in a Rights Action communiqué 15 August 2010 and was entitled ‘Cracks in the wall of impunity and corruption’ (

This week arrest warrants were issued against at least 19 members of an organised crime network that operated at the highest levels of Guatemalan justice administration from 2004 to 2007, though some have been active in organised crime and death squads since the 1980s.

One figure apparently involved in this network worked for President Reagan aid Lt Col Oliver North and former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles. Amongst other political crimes, the network appears to have been involved in the 2007 murders of PARLACEN congressmen.

The investigation by CICIG, the United Nations sponsored Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, focused on extrajudicial executions within the prison system. Jails in Central America have played a key role in coordinating organised crime activities. Control of the prisons is critical in the struggle for dominance between organised crime networks.

Two of those wanted for arrest are Carlos Vielmann, named Minister of Governance in 2004, and Edwin Sperinsen, named Director of the National Civil Police in 2004. The two resigned together in 2007 amid accusations of running a death squad and they left Guatemala later that year. Vielmann currently lives in Spain and Sperinsen currently lives in Switzerland. A third, Alejandro Giammettei, was Director of the Penitentiary System, and sought asylum in 2010 in the Honduran embassy in Guatemala City.

The 2007 accusations and the arrests in August 2010 were related to ‘social cleansing’, extrajudicial executions within the prison system. The CICIG investigations demonstrate that this network killed gang members and criminals with the logic of protecting the higher levels of organised crime.

Sperinsen and Vielmann worked closely together and were also implicated in a strategy of criminalising protests and killing protestors. … In August at least nine were arrested and at least ten other arrest warrants were issued. Those arrested include former heads of special police units to fight kidnapping, extortion and an elite unit within the penitentiary system.

All of the arrests were related to two ‘operations’ undertaken by the network, Operation Gavilán (Hawk) and Operation Pavo Real (Peacock). Operation Hawk tracked three prisoners who had escaped from El Infiernito prison in October 2005 and weeks later extra-judicially executed them.

In Operation Peacock, prison authorities supposedly re-took control of El Pavón prison, in the course of which seven prisoners were killed. Press reports claimed that a mafia had controlled the prison for ten years and that prison facilities served as the headquarters for criminal activities, that kidnap victims were held in the prison and that drugs were processed there. Though the press also reported that the prisoners were killed in the confrontation, it was demonstrated they were executed and that the death squad had compiled a list of targets to be executed during the operation.

Many of those now with arrest warrants participated directly in the operation, including then Minister of Governance Carlos Vielmann, then Director of Police Edwin Sperinsen, Chief and Assistant Chief of Special Investigations Javier Figueroa and Victor Soto, and Director of the Penitentiary System Alejandro Giamattei.

Wealthy Land-owner Miguel Facussé, Bio-fuels, Repression: Wikileaks Reveals links to Narco-trafficking

By Suzanna.Reiss | Via Rights Action | September 19, 2011

It is not surprising to hear that representatives of the U.S. State Department stationed in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, believed since at least March 2004 [1] that the wealthiest man in Honduras, biofuel magnate and political powerhouse Miguel Facussé, was involved in the cocaine trade.

It is not surprising, but it is disturbing.

Facussé was a solid U.S. government ally [2] in the 2009 overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya, and he has also been accused of documented human rights abuses [3] against communities living on lands he sought to monopolize for an extractive biofuel export-oriented palm oil industry.

This is all detailed in the final cache of documents recently released by WikiLeaks.

Beyond the immediate scandalous implications of the revelations (a major player in the U.S.-backed overthrow of a democratically elected government had known ties to drug trafficking even while he helped negotiate the post-coup transition government [4] with U.S. representatives) are a number of other sobering phenomena.

The recently appointed U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, also an established advocate for the biofuel industry [5], recently demonized drug traffickers as terrorists [6] apparently unaware, or unmoved by these revelations implicating contacts at her diplomatic post. “Narco-traffickers and the gangs that support them are hardly different from terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. They launch savage attacks on people to intimidate entire communities and instill fear in the public at large,” she said.

Biofuel, unlike bananas, is not destined for human consumption. But the mono-crop export economy was never geared toward sustaining the population. Today, in a world where food should be in abundance but is unnecessarily and selectively rare, the transition from bananas to fuel represents only the intensification of a capitalist logic that has increasingly valued fuel (whether destined to sustain the labour of humans or machines) at the expense of agricultural practices geared toward the sustenance of human life.

In fact, cultivating land for fuel rather than food has contributed to global food shortages [7] and has fostered widespread instability as profit motive trumps considerations of human or ecological justice.

What is happening in Honduras is a prime example.

Annie Bird for [8] has documented [9] the massacres of people challenging the exploitative economic program advanced by biofuel magnates like Facussé and representatives of the U.S. government.

As Jesse Freeston of [10] reports in “Battle for Land in Post-Coup Honduras” , the real terrorists in the countryside where biofuel power reigns are capitalism’s security forces. Private security, military, police, and paramilitary forces have all been responsible for the violent displacement of people [9] and communities, including dozens of political assassinations of indigenous organizers, labour leaders and reporters.

(The Real News:, &

It is commonplace for governments in the Americas to label their political opponents “drug traffickers.” It is more rare when their own blatant trafficking – and criminal impunity – is out there for everyone to see.

Read more of Suzanna Reiss’ blog, Traffick Jam [11], or check out the Jan/Feb issue of the NACLA Report on the Americas, “¡Golpistas! Coups and Democracy in the 21st Century [12].”



Annie Bird,
Grahame Russell,