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  • Drugs, Gangs, and the Iran Problem in Latin America
    Posted by Paul McLeary 12:40 PM on Jan 14, 2010

    The bosses posted another one of my articles from the January issue of DTI over on our Defense site. This one is about what's happening in Latin America. Not much of it is good. Here's the meat of it:

    A report by Latin American analyst Sylvia Longmire looks at how the Mexican drug war is destabilizing the region, with smuggling and human trafficking roiling poor countries and the reach of drug cartels bleeding across the border into the U.S. In March 2009, Guatemalan security forces raided an encampment where Los Zetas—Mexican drug traffickers—were training gunmen. The police arrived just after the group fled, leaving rifles, ammunition and 500 grenades. Authorities also discovered an airstrip, obstacle course and firing range with moving targets. Mexican drug cartels have been using the brutal El Salvadoran gang MS-13 “as ad-hoc enforcers, both in Mexico and the U.S.,” Longmire writes. “Some law enforcement reports indicate MS-13 members have been hired to carry out hits on U.S. soil, as have members of other U.S.-based Latino gangs.”

    In November, authorities in Nicaragua seized a cache of weapons that belonged to Mexico’s Sinaloa Federation cartel, and the national police raided several houses in Managua suspected of containing weapons.

    During the Cold War, the Soviets spent time and energy trying to make inroads in Latin America, with limited success. Over the past several years, Iran has taken a page from the Soviet playbook and, since 2005, opened embassies in Colombia, Nicaragua, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay and Bolivia. This has set off a proxy conflict between Iran and Israel in South America, with the presidents of both countries logging frequent-flier miles to win friends in the region. One cause for concern among many analysts is the weekly flight between Caracas and Tehran (with a stop in Damascus) that Iran Air has flown for two years. Frida Ghitis of the World Politics Review reported in November that “flight manifests are kept secret, so neither cargo nor passenger information is well known.” She added “one Israeli report suggested that Venezuela and Bolivia are supplying uranium to Iran. Another report, from Chavez himself, says Iran is helping Venezuela extract the radioactive material from its mines for purely peaceful purposes.”

    Tags: latin-america, mexico, ar99

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