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International Drug Related News from ONDCP

In Ecuador, Colombia’s Fumigation Of Coca Plants Seen As Hostile Act.  Los Angeles Times (12/15, 850K) reports Ecuador's foreign minister “said Thursday that Colombia's decision to resume aerial fumigation of coca plants near the two nations' border after a yearlong suspension was ‘an unfriendly and hostile act’ that could cause a break in diplomatic relations.  Ecuadorean President-elect Rafael Correa, speaking to reporters in Buenos Aires, agreed with Foreign Minister Francisco Carrion, saying Colombia's resumption of spraying Tuesday was a hostile act.  … The two countries' usually amicable relations have been strained since the start of Plan Colombia in 2000, the $4-billion anti-drug and anti-terrorism program funded by the United States.  Ecuador says refugees are fleeing into the country, and that it is not adequately compensated by the United States for the support it gives to the war on terrorism and drugs.” 

Mexico’s Government To Expand Anti-Drug Operation.  The AP reports (12/15) reports Mexico's government “said Thursday it would send troops and police to root out drug smugglers in several states, expanding an offensive that began this week in one violence-plagued state where soldiers clashed with traffickers trying to protect a marijuana field.  Attorney General Eduardo Medina said raids could take place simultaneously in various states, apparently to prevent traffickers from fleeing between regions.  He declined to name the states.  … On Tuesday, some 6,500 troops and federal police rolled into Michoacan state to round up traffickers and burn marijuana and opium fields.” 

US Agents’ Business Cards Found Taped To Body In Mexico.  The El Paso Times (12/14) reported U.S. law enforcement agencies “were informed by their Mexican counterparts that a man found murdered in Juárez last month had the bloodied business cards of two U.S. agents taped to his forehead.  The victim, who has not been identified, was dropped from a van at the Chamizal park in Juárez on the afternoon of Nov. 23.  The man had the cards of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Raul Bencomo and of a DEA agent with the first name Todd stuck to his forehead with masking tape.”  Officials with ICE and DEA “confirmed they were told about the cards found on the Chamizal body by Mexican authorities, but said they were not part of any investigation.” 

The AP (12/15, Caldwell) reports photographs of the victim “published in…the Spanish-language newsapaper El Diario de El Paso, show one of the business cards is from Raul M. Bencomo, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. Bencomo oversaw a controversial drug informant who led authorities to the bodies of about a dozen men buried in the yard of a Juarez house in 2004.  The second card, which is barely legible in the photos, is believed to be from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent.”  Media outlets that used the AP story include FOX News, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Dallas Morning News. 

On its Web site, KDBC-TV, El Paso, Texas (12/15) reports, “On the front page of the Diario today... a story about a possible DEA Informant found murdered.  The newspaper worries this story may have something to do with a suspicious car found in their parking lot. Diario Employees found a car with Mexican plates and the Diario logo on it in front of their building.  The Mexican Woman driving it says she was sent for a job interview, but could not explain why she was driving the car or who sent her there.” 

Local TV Coverage.  KTSM-TV, El Paso, Texas (12/14, 10:00 p.m.) aired, “Juarez police say execution style murders are becoming more frequent and more gruesome.  Just last month an unidentified man was found at the Chamizal Park murdered with two bloodied business cards taped to his forehead.  One card belonged to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, the second to a DEA agent.  One of the man's fingers had also been cut off and shoved into his mouth.” 

KVIA-TV, El Paso, Texas (12/14, 10:00 p.m.) noted a front-page story which ran in Thursday morning's edition of El Diario.  KVIA reported, “The story outlines the murder of an alleged DEA informant whose body was found mutilated and dumped in the Chamizal Park in Ciudad Juarez.” 

Report: Mexican Embassy Identifies Man Killed At Hospital As Drug Cartel Member.  The El Paso Times (12/15) reports a man who “narrowly survived a street shooting in Juárez only to be followed by his attackers inside a hospital and killed Tuesday was one of the men who was videotaped unloading drugs from a crashed SUV during a standoff in Hudspeth County in January.  César Alonso Gándara Reyes, 30, was first shot at...in a neighborhood near the Zaragoza Bridge on Tuesday afternoon, Juárez police said.  He was transported to the Clínica Zaragoza…by someone who quickly left the hospital.  While Gándara was being treated for his wounds, a group of men pretending to be police officers shot him on a gurney.”  According to the Times, Gándara was identified on the Mexican Embassy Web site as a member of the Escajeda family, a cell of the Juárez drug cartel.  Thursday, DEA officials “said they had no information about Gándara's death.” 

Five Canadians Face Charges For Roles In Drug-Smuggling Scheme.  In Calgary, the Globe and Mail (12/14) reported a long-running international smuggling operation that “used small planes to ferry illegal drugs between Alberta and Montana has been dismantled by police, who said yesterday that five Canadians face charges in connection with the plot.  The nine-month investigation, dubbed Project IDEA, resulted in the seizure of $5.2-million worth of drugs, including 500 kilograms of marijuana, 30 kilograms of cocaine, 9,000 tablets of diazepam and 210 vials of ketamine.”    Authorities “worked with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement to crack what Insp. McCallum described as an ‘independent’ operation.”

The Calgary Sun (12/14) reported the drugs “have a combined street value of $5.2 million and were all seized in the United States.”

In Colombia, Uribe Ally Accused Of Doing Business With Illegal Militias.  The AP (12/15) reports a political ally of President Alvaro Uribe “is under investigation for allegedly doing business with illegal right-wing militias as head of a company that sells fruit for shipment to the United States and Europe.  Juan Manuel Campo, a member of the Uribe-allied Conservative Party's executive committee, heads a company that supplies 40 tons of plantain bananas a week from land cleared of its rightful owners through intimidation by banned paramilitaries.”  However, “to date, no major politician ally of Colombia's law-and-order president has been proven to have illegally benefited financially from ties with paramilitaries, which are deeply involved in drug trafficking and listed by Washington as ‘terrorist organizations

Drug-Testing Lab In France To Upgrade Security Of Computer Systems.  In Paris, the AP (12/13, Petrequin) reported the French anti-doping lab “whose procedures are being challenged by American cyclist Floyd Landis is getting upgraded security to protect its computer systems against hackers.  The computers at the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory were breached last month by hackers who stole data and allegedly sent out letters to top officials in a bid to discredit the lab.  … Landis' urine samples were tested at the lab and found to contain elevated testosterone to epitestosterone levels, less than a week after he won the Tour de France on July 23.  … Landis claims the lab made crucial errors.” 

Mexican Officials Find Tons Of Pseudoephedrine Inside Cargo Container.  The Oregonian (12/14, 318K) reports Mexican officials “inspecting a cargo container shipped from China have uncovered a 19.5-ton cache of pseudoephedrine, enough to make a dose of methamphetamine for every adult American.   Hundreds of barrels containing the essential meth ingredient were seized Dec. 5 at the Lazaro Cardenas seaport in Michoacan after a citizen tip, according to Mexico's attorney general.  It was the largest seizure of pseudoephedrine or ephedrine in Mexican history and one of the biggest on record worldwide.  … U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., said the massive leakage of pseudoephedrine from Chinese commerce underscores that ‘we need to go to the source’ and ensure the chemical is as tightly controlled in China as it is in North America.” 

UN Commission To Investigate Organized Crime In Guatemala.  The AP (12/13) reports a U.N.-backed commission “was established Tuesday to investigate rampant organized crime in Guatemala, which authorities say has become a key point of transit for smugglers bringing drugs into the United States.  The independent commission, comprised of former prosecutors from outside Guatemala, will have an initial two-year mandate to gather evidence and help build cases against illicit criminal groups.  … The Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights advocacy group, said in a statement Tuesday that criminal elements have terrorized judges, witnesses, prosecutors and human rights defenders in Guatemala over the last several years.” 

Mexico Cracks Down On Drug Traffickers, Brute Force Seen As Futile Against Cartels.  The AP (12/12, Grillo) reported thousands of troops “rolled into a key Mexican drug stronghold Tuesday to set fire to marijuana and opium fields and round up traffickers, sent by President Felipe Calderon to restore order in a region where smugglers have defied authorities with beheadings and large-scale drug production.  Navy ships were patrolling the Lazaro Cardenas port, a hub for drugs arriving from Central America and Colombia on their way to the United States.  … Warring cartels have killed at least 2,000 people this year.”  Security experts “say it will take more than brute force to defeat the cartels, which are making billions of dollars and have arsenals that include rocket-propelled grenades and bazookas.” 

Olympic Official Says Many Factors Affect Doping Cases.  In Doha, Qatar, the AP (12/12) reported a high-ranking Olympic official “said in the wake of the fourth positive test at the Asian Games” that the “blame in doping cases should not stop with athletes.  … ‘Before we point the finger to say who's committed this or who's doing that, we have to look at all aspects.  The education, the culture and the economical aspects of these cases,’ Husain Al Musallam, Olympic Council of Asia director general, said Monday.”  Weightlifting “has been plagued by doping scandals in recent years.  India did not compete in the Doha weightlifting competition after being sanctioned by the IWF for persistent positive doping tests.  It turned down the opportunity to attend the Asian Games.” 

Mexico’s New President Takes Action Against Drug Gangs.  The AP (12/12) reports Mexico's new government “announced Monday that it was sending more than 6,500 soldiers, marines and federal police to the western state of Michoacan to crack down on a wave of execution-style killings and beheadings that have left hundreds dead.  The operation is the first major offensive against drug gangs by President Felipe Calderon, who was sworn in on Dec. 1 after narrowly winning election on a law-and-order platform.  … Federal investigators say the violence in Michoacan, Calderon's home state, stems from a turf war between a local gang called Los Valencia and the northern Mexico Gulf cartel, whose bloody enforcers are known as the Zetas, a group of ex-Mexican army operatives turned hit men.”  Investigators “say about half of Michoacan's more than 500 killings this year are linked to the turf war.”

The Washington Post (12/12, A23, Roig-Franzia, 690K) reports more than 5,000 Mexican soldiers and federal police officers “swept into the troubled state of Michoacan on Monday hoping to quell a long, barbaric war between rival drug cartels.  … Federal forces, backed by dozens of military aircraft, arrested at least 13 alleged drug traffickers in the first hours of the operation and discovered more than 1,000 marijuana plants.”  Officials “have been under increasing pressure from the United States to contain cartels whose influence stretches across the border.”  Mexican forces also “are investigating whether Oaxacan police officers may be responsible for the killings of more than a dozen protesters and Brad Will, an American freelance journalist and activist.”  

Colombia Sprays Coca Plantations Along Border With Ecuador.  The AP (12/12) reports Colombia “used crop-duster planes to spray herbicide on coca plantations along its border with Ecuador, part of its push to destroy thousands of hectares (acres) of the plant used to make cocaine before Ecuador's president-elect, who opposes U.S.-backed fumigation, takes office next month.  Escorted by U.S.-supplied Black Hawk helicopters, three planes on Monday began spraying coca crops planted in the 586 kilometers (360 miles) of river-laced jungle that separates the two countries.  Gen. Jorge Baron, who as head of anti-narcotic police oversaw the operation, said the amount of coca planted near the border by leftist rebels and drug traffickers had doubled to almost 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) since the last fumigation campaign ended 10 months ago.  … In carrying out President Alvaro Uribe's order to resume spraying, Baron said the police would respect a promise made to Ecuador in 2005 not to spray within 10 kilometers (6 miles) of the border itself.” 

ELN Claims It Knows How To Resolve Problems Gripping Colombia.   In Bogota, Prensa Latina (12/11) reported, “The guerrilla National Liberation Army (ELN) stated on Monday that the real solution to the crisis gripping Colombia is to seek peace to build democracy, social equity and a new institutionalism.  The ELN Central Command states that new institutions must be based on a new national consensus built through a constituent process, as a genuine peace treaty.  The ELN recalled that the current paramilitary-political crisis is the worst in the last 50 years, because drug traffickers and their armies have taken over extensive regions of the country.  … It further stated that Plan Colombia fails as a repressive and counterinsurgent response, because the desire of stopping popular rebellion is based on state terrorism.” 

Another Positive Doping Test Announced At Asian Games.  In Doha, Qatar, the AP (12/11) reported a silver medalist “became the fourth weightlifter at the Asian Games to fail a doping test, officials said Monday.  Oo Mya Sanda of Myanmar, who finished second in the women's 165-pound class, tested positive for a banned metabolite of an anabolic agent. She tested positive on Dec. 5 and has waived her right to have her second, or B sample, analyzed.  It marks the third straight day at the Asian Games that positive doping tests involving weightlifters have been announced.” 

Croatia, Interpol Said To Have Broken Drug-Trafficking Ring.  UPI (12/11) reported Croatian police and Interpol “have broken an international drug trafficking ring with the arrests of two men, media reports said.  Serbian Veselin Tomic, 45, and Croatian Dragan Jokic, 26, are suspected of being members of the ring that earlier this year allegedly smuggled at least 90 pounds of cocaine with a market value estimated at $2.2 million, Croatia's Vecernji List newspaper reported Monday.  … The cocaine was hidden aboard a Croatian ship sailing from Brazil to Europe.” 

Police Say $7.9 Million Drug Seizure In Serbia Is Among Biggest.  UPI (12/11) reported Serbian police “seized 276 pounds of heroin hidden in a Montenegrin truck that tried to cross into Serbia at the southern town of Novi Pazar.  Police said it was one of the biggest drug seizures in Serbia, which is a major route for drug and human smuggling to Western Europe.  The heroin was of ‘exceptional quality’ and its market value was estimated at $7.9 million, the Serbian news agency Beta reported Monday.” 

Report: Canada Consulting With US On Drug Strategy, Walters To Meet With Officials.  According to the Vancouver Sun (12/12), conservative cabinet ministers and their aides “are consulting with ‘keen’ U.S. government officials on a new national drug strategy for Canada, according to internal documents obtained by The Vancouver Sun.  ‘There have been various senior-level meetings between U.S. officials and ministers’ offices,’ states a summary of a June 16, 2006 meeting on the Tory drug initiative, involving bureaucrats at nine federal departments and agencies.”  The five-page summary “noted that John Walters…a frequent critic of Canadian drug policy under the Liberals -- was planning to visit Canada this autumn.  ‘The meeting was postponed for scheduling reasons.  It's anticipated the meeting will take place early in the new year,’ said Rodney Moore, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.”  The CanWest News Service has picked up the Vancouver Sun report. 

Pentagon Indicates Intentions To Bolster Anti-Drug Efforts In Afghanistan.  The Los Angeles Times (12/8, 850K) reports, “The Pentagon, which has resisted appeals to play a bigger role in the campaign to curb Afghanistan's opium trade, is pledging more support for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's counter-narcotics efforts.  Although the $2.3-billion profit from opium trafficking has helped to arm the Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents, the Pentagon has said drug interdiction is primarily a law enforcement responsibility that rests with Afghan authorities and British troops in the NATO force in Afghanistan.  … In a letter…Undersecretary of Defense Eric S. Edelman wrote, ‘We have taken your concerns seriously and will work more closely with DEA to make use of this important capability.’  Edelman's letter arrived a day after the Times reported that U.S. military units in Afghanistan largely overlook drug bazaars, rebuff some requests to take U.S. drug agents on raids and do little to counter organized crime syndicates.” 

Poll:  Acceptance Of Opium Poppy Cultivation Expanding In Afghanistan.  The AP (12/7) reported optimism “is starting to fade among the people of Afghanistan five years after the fall of the Taliban and amid rising violence in the country, a poll found.  The number of people who think the country is on the right track has dropped 22 points -- to 55 percent -- in the last year, according to a poll done in Afghanistan by ABC News and BBC World Service.  … Acceptance of growing opium poppies has grown in the last year…with 40 percent saying it is acceptable if a grower has no other way to earn a living.  That is up from 26 percent who felt that way a year ago.” 

On its Web site, ABC News (12/7) reports, “Views on the drug front also are not promising.  Signaling frustration with the slow pace of development, there's been a jump in the acceptance of growing opium poppies, the country's illicit cash crop. Nationally, 40 percent now call it acceptable if there's no other way to earn a living, up sharply from 26 percent last year.  And in the top-producing opium provinces, more — a 59 percent majority — endorse poppy cultivation.”

UPI (12/7) reported, “Nearly 80 percent of people polled said they are worried about government corruption.  While the majority still oppose allowing the cultivation of opium poppies, 40 percent said it was acceptable, compared with 26 percent a year ago.

Mexico’s New Attorney General Pledges To Combat Corruption.  The AP (12/8) reports Mexico's new attorney general “took office Thursday promising to wage a ‘firm’ fight against corruption and take on organized crime groups he compared to the Mafia.  Eduardo Medina Mora, who previously served as public safety secretary, acknowledged that ‘today, all indicators show that the public feels unsafe,’ an apparent reference to the wave of executions and kidnappings in several Mexican states.  He also promised to keep Mexican law enforcement clean.”  The AP adds, “On Wednesday, speaking before Senate members, Medina Mora said Mexico's drug cartels are seeking to expand into other illicit activities, as income from the cocaine trade declines in the face of competition from methamphetamines.” 

Bolivia’s Plan For Coca Products Faces Hurdles.  In the West Fargo (ND) Pioneer (12/8), Alexander Provan writes that the Bolivian government “expects to make the first major shipments of coca products to Cuba and Venezuela by the end of the year.  China, Argentina and India have also expressed interest in importing coca tea.  But the government and coca merchants face a major hurdle: Since the U.N.'s passage of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, all illicit manufacture and trafficking of derivatives of the coca bush…have been illegal.  A clause in the convention permits ‘the use of coca leaves for the preparation of a flavoring agent’ -- an exception made for the benefit of Coca-Cola, which has used elements of the plant in its secret formula since 1886 and continues to buy coca imported by a third party from Peru under a special deal with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.” 

Bolivia’s President Seen As Taking Subtle Stance On Coca Issues.  The AP (12/8) reports coca farmers, as well as U.S. officials, “assumed during [Evo] Morales' campaign that his victory would mean an end to years of coca eradication efforts.  But the reality is more subtle, as Morales has taken a middle path: attacking cocaine while gamely charting a new course for the leaf that Bolivians have chewed for millennia as a stimulant.  Since taking office in January, Morales has tried to hold on to millions of dollars in U.S. aid contingent on coca eradication without losing the support of ‘cocaleros,’ or growers. 

In Afghanistan, Governor Blames His Removal From Office On Drug Smugglers.  The UK’s Times (12/10) reported the “sacked governor of Helmand province, where British troops are engaged in fighting the Taliban, hit out yesterday at Afghanistan’s drug mafia, suggesting that it might have been behind his sudden ousting. ‘I think in Afghanistan, particularly Helmand province, the opium business has a strong role in everything — security, administration, corruption, terrorist activities,’ said ‘Engineer’ Mohammed Daud in a telephone interview, his first since being removed.  … Daud’s removal had not been officially announced by last night but the decision was made clear when he met President Hamid Karzai on Friday.” 

Group Sees Traditional “War On Drugs” As Illogical.  Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Chronicle Herald (12/11) reports on the “war on drugs” and writes “LEAP was founded by police veterans who gradually concluded that the traditional war on drugs was illogical.   Among them is former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, who declares that the basis for most contemporary police corruption is the drug trade.  Cele Castillo worked on the front lines with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Or he did until he witnessed a pick-up soccer match between drug agents and the local cartel.” 

Weightlifters Disqualified From Asian Games After Failing Doping Tests.  In Doha, Qatar, the AP (12/11) reported two weightlifters from Uzbekistan “tested positive for banned substances and were disqualified from the Asian Games on Sunday, a day after another weightlifter was tossed out of the competition.  … Both admitted taking the substances and waived their right to a test on their B samples, Olympic Council of Asia director general Husain Al Musallam said.” 

Walters Says Opium Poppies In Afghanistan Will Be Sprayed With Herbicide.  The AP (12/10) reported the top U.S. anti-drug official “said Saturday that Afghan poppies would be sprayed with herbicide to combat an opium trade that produced a record heroin haul this year, a measure likely to anger farmers and scare Afghans unfamiliar with weed killers.  John Walters…said Afghanistan could turn into a narco-state unless ‘giant steps’ are made toward eliminating poppy cultivation.  … Afghans are deeply opposed to spraying poppies.  … But Walters said [President] Karzai and other officials have agreed to ground spraying.  ‘I think the president has said yes, and I think some of the ministers have repeated yes,’ Walters said.”  There are more than 80 media references to spraying Afghanistan’s opium poppies.  News outlets that used the AP story include CBS News, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Forbes, Houston Chronicle, Newsday, and Kansas City Star.

The UK’s Guardian (12/11) reports Afghanistan “has agreed to poppy-spraying measures in a desperate bid to deflate the soaring drugs trade, America's anti-narcotics tsar announced at the weekend.  The move was urgently needed to prevent Afghanistan becoming a narco-state, said John Waters.  ‘We cannot fail in this mission.’  But the prospect of herbicide use aroused criticism from other western officials, who are skeptical of its benefits and fear it will push farmers into the arms of the Taliban.  ‘Nobody in the international community is loving this,’ said one.”

Survey Says Nearly 1 Million Addicted To Drugs In Afghanistan.  The AP (12/6) reported, “The first nationwide survey on drug use, conducted last year by the Ministry of Counter Narcotics and U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, found nearly 1 million addicts in [Afghanistan]…including 60,000 children under age 15.  Drugs of choice range from hashish, opium and heroin to pharmaceutical medicines.  An estimated 5,000 children are addicted to opiates, and the remainder take cough syrup and other drugs, the survey found.  The actual numbers are probably much higher, especially for children and women, the report said.” 

Tajikistan Cited Among Leading Transit Routes For Drugs From Afghanistan.  The AP (12/7) reports Central Asia's poorest county “is also one of the world's leading transit routes for heroin, opium and other drugs from Afghanistan.  … In Tajikistan, the scars still remain from a traumatic civil war that ended nine years ago.  Now, new wounds are being inflicted on this mountainous nation -- from the dramatic spike in the trafficking of drugs grown in neighboring Afghanistan, smuggled north through Tajikistan en route to Russia and Europe, and increasingly consumed by Tajiks.  … The UN ranked Tajikistan fifth worldwide in heroin and morphine seizures, and fourth for opium.” 

Pakistani Official Says Drugs Kill More Than War, Seeks To Stem Opium Production.    Pakistan’s Daily Times (12/7) reports Narcotics Minister Ghous Bux Khan Maher “said on Wednesday that drugs were killing more people than any war and called for steps to check the bumper opium production in neighboring Afghanistan.  … Pakistani authorities seized as much as 32 tons of heroin this year which was eight tons more than last year, the minister said.  Health Minister Muhammad Nasir Khan said that the biggest problem was the demand for drugs from the West. ‘We have to control this as well as the increased opium production in Afghanistan which has been the highest this year.’” 

US Officials Say Chavez Holds Key To Improving US-Venezuela Relations.  The Los Angeles Times (12/5, Kraul, 850K) reported the U.S. State Department's reaction to President Hugo Chavez's re-election “underscored the chill in relations.  U.S. officials praised Venezuelan voters on the election but did not congratulate Chavez” U.S. Ambassador William R. Brownfield said, “‘We'd like to work on things we can agree on, concrete issues we can agree on such as counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism.  More than a year ago, for example, the Venezuelan government drafted and asked us to sign an addendum to our counter-narcotics agreement. We agreed, and for an entire year we have been willing and waiting to sign it.’  Venezuela's refusal to cooperate with U.S. efforts to combat drug trafficking comes at a time when as much as one-third of the estimated 650 tons of Colombian cocaine smuggled annually to U.S. and European markets moves through Venezuelan airstrips or shorelines, U.S. anti-drug authorities said.” 

Cable TV Coverage.  Fox Special Report (12/5, story 15, 0:25, Hume) aired, “Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, today, saluted his opponent, Manuel Rosales, for avoiding a post-election bloodbath by quickly conceding defeat after Chavez's re-election on Sunday.  Venezuela's election council formally declared Chavez the winner with nearly 63 percent of the vote.  Chavez says he will use his new six-year term to strengthen socialist programs, including increasing state control over the oil industry and will try to overturn a constitutional prohibition against another term in 2012.”

Drug Addiction Said To Be Rising In Mexico’s Border Cities.  The McAllen, Texas Monitor (12/3) reported, “Over the past five years, Reynosa and other Mexican cities on the U.S. border have experienced rapidly increasing rates of drug addiction, particularly crack addiction, in their poorer neighborhoods,” according to health officials. The DEA, “while unwilling to comment on drug distribution inside Mexico, did say tighter security had hurt the drug cartels’ ability to traffic across the border.” 

12 Killings In Mexico Said To Be Part Of US Cover-up.  In the UK’s Guardian/Observer (12/3), David Rose wrote about 12 killings at the Juarez “House of Death”, claiming those killings are “part of a gruesome scandal, a web of connivance and cover-up stretching from the wild Texas borderland to top Washington officials close to President Bush.  … The story turns on one extraordinary fact: playing a central role in the House of Death was a US government informant, Guillermo Ramirez Peyro, known as Lalo, who was paid more than $220,000 (£110,000) by US law enforcement bodies to work as a spy inside the Juarez cartel.  … Lalo claims to have facilitated numerous drug seizures and arrests. But on 28 June, 2003, his loyalty came under suspicion when he was arrested by the DEA in New Mexico, driving a truck he had brought across the border containing 102lb of marijuana.  He had not told his handlers about this shipment and, in accordance with its normal procedures, the DEA 'deactivated' him as a source.” 

Asia Seen As “Meth Powerhouse.”  In the Oregonian (12/3), Steve Suo reported, “As controls on [meth] ingredients improve the outlook in the U.S. and Mexico, cartels in Asia pose risks to North America.  … While Mexican cartels struggle to obtain chemicals needed to make meth, Asian meth traffickers retain easy access to ephedrine in the manufacturing countries of India and China.  As a result, Asia has become a meth powerhouse that U.S. and international officials say could easily supply the United States.”

In the Oregonian (12/3) Suo also wrote, “Low-cost initiatives are under way to strengthen Chinese and Indian oversight. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, for example, now spends $3 million annually to keep 12 chemicals investigators at foreign embassies.  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has produced a video to train Asian companies to spot suspicious purchases of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.  Other U.N. projects await funding.” 

DEA Anti-Drug Efforts Noted By NYTimes Bureau Chief.   The New York Times (12/4, 1.16M) has posted on its Web site an interview about the “drug war” with Times Mexico City bureau chief Jim McKinley who says, “My understanding is that Colombia and the other countries in the Andes are still the producers of coca leaf and the raw producers of a lot of these drugs.  But the efforts by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the military in those countries have made it much more difficult for Colombian gangs to operate.  Also the Drug Enforcement Administration over the last 20 years has taken out a lot of those gangs and broken them up the Medellín cartel.” 

Brother Of Colombia’s Drug Czar Arrested On Cocaine Charge.  The AP (12/4) reported Colombia's drug czar “said police arrested his brother over the weekend with six grams (0.2 ounces) of cocaine.  Carlos Albornoz, head of the National Drug Directorate responsible for Colombia's drug-control policies, said in a news conference Sunday his brother Ivan Albornoz was arrested shortly after buying the drugs Saturday night in southern Bogota.  … Albornoz said he was unaware of his brother's drug use and expected him to be treated with the same severity as any other Colombian citizen.” 

Peru Officials Expect US Congress To Approve APTDEA Extension.  The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones (12/4) reported Peru's Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde “said the U.S. Congress will likely sign a free trade deal with Peru between March and June next year.  … Peruvian officials had been hoping that the U.S. legislature would vote on the agreement before the end of the year.  … Meanwhile, Peruvian officials continue to bank on the U.S. Congress approving an extension for the Andean Pact Trade and Drug Enforcement Agreement or APTDEA during its final lame-duck session.”