The U.S. attorney in Miami unveiled a drug-smuggling indictment as he spotlighted an initiative to crack down on narcotics trafficking in the Caribbean.
BY JAY WEAVER
The U.S. government’s anti-drug smuggling offensive on the Mexican border has caused a “balloon effect” that is expected to spur more narcotics trafficking through the Caribbean, South Florida’s top federal official warned Thursday.
Cocaine and other illegal drugs flooding the United States are still flowing mostly through a pipeline from Colombia to Mexico across the Southwest border. But the trend is expected to shift, U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said in Miami Thursday.
“We’re hitting them hard there,’’ Ferrer told reporters. “It’s only a matter of time before we see an increase here.’’
Ferrer highlighted the menacing trend to announce the “Caribbean Basin Initiative,’’ a plan to add two more federal prosecutors to his narcotics section. They will work with federal agents to target the anticipated uptick.
The U.S attorney spoke about the development while unveiling an indictment charging 13 men with conspiring to transport hundreds of kilos of Colombian cocaine on U.S.-registered planes. The aircraft allegedly departed from Apure, a state in Venezuela, and dropped the loads into the ocean off the coast of the British Virgin Islands.
The smugglers used “go-fast’’ boats to retrieve the cocaine, which was allegedly destined for the United States, authorities said. But Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized most of it after the pick-ups.
Ferrer spotlighted the Caribbean Basin Initiative six months after announcing what he called a new front in the fight against Colombian traffickers.
The previous effort focused on about 30 emerging groups competing to replace the once-powerful drug cartels in Medellin, Cali and the North Valley of Colombia, which authorities say have been largely dismantled. Four new prosecutors were teamed up with DEA, FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, in an alliance with Colombian authorities, to go after so-called bandas criminales, or criminal groups.
So far, the U.S. has indicted more than 100 defendants in Miami as a result of that initiative, Ferrer said. But the focus Thursday was on the Caribbean, which has been used for years by Colombian traffickers to ship cocaine — mainly through Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas — to the United States. Current seizure statistics were not available.
“We still see the majority of cocaine coming into the United States across the Southwestern border,” said DEA special agent in charge Mark Trouville. “But the more our efforts increase there, the more we worry here.”
The trend is part of an ongoing cycle in the U.S. drug war. Trouville, a longtime DEA agent, noted that back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the government’s crackdown in the Caribbean is what shifted the trafficking to the Mexican corridor.
The 19-count indictment unsealed Thursday relied on U.S. laws that criminalize trafficking activity before the drugs reach the United States. Authorities said the traffickers used drug profits to buy the small, U.S.-registered planes.
Authorities said that nine of the 13 defendants have been arrested, including alleged ringleader Roberto Mendez-Hurtado, 51, of Colombia; Roberto Harrigan, 31, a customs officer, of the British Virgin Islands; and Earl DelVille Hodge, 51, a suspected go-fast boat operator, also of the British Virgin Islands.
The four fugitives are Alvaro Ricardo Nino-Bonilla, 40, of Colombia; Jorge Ivan Riveros, 38, of Colombia; Samuel Javier, 57, of the U.S. Virgin Islands; and Narciso Rondon-Mejia, 48, of Puerto Rico.
One name that popped up during the gathering with Ferrer and other authorities was that of Guy Philippe, a one-time Haitian National Police officer who played a part in the 2004 ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Philippe was among dozens of Haitians charged in the mid-2000s with shipping Colombian cocaine through his country to South Florida. Almost all of the other defendants — including Haitian police officers, politicians and Aristide’s security chief — were convicted in Miami.
But Philippe remains at large in Haiti, despite DEA attempts to capture him.
Said DEA chief Trouville: “We’ll get him sooner or later.”
This Guy Philippe thing keeps coming up.
In 2004 Guy Philippe offered to take a polygraph test, with regard to his repeated statements, to the effect, that he was not involved with the cocaine business. Many of his associates were, but he was not. The American Embassy/DEA never took him up on the offer.
The American establishment never seems to coordinate things with each other, marching to different drummers.
Guy is quietly running a number of schools for poor Haitian kids in a country area of Haiti. He is highly respected in his community. Any attempt to bother him will simply reduce our already crummy image – with Haitians – further.
Leave sleeping dogs lie….an old but good proverb.
Some new, current DEA turkey may decide to make a name for himself and will only create another embarrassing situation for his/her government.
We are aware of most details, on this dossier, and think the past is best forgotten.
Focus on some current criminals, like the many Senators and Deputies of INITE…Senator Lambert, Kelly Bastien, Moise Jean-Charles…and on, and on and on…