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TOPIC: drug trafficking


Can The Sicilian Mafia Keep Up With Cocaine Warlords Of Neighboring Calabria?

After the fall of the Sicilian Mafia boss of bosses Matteo Messina Denaro, it's time for Cosa Nostra to rebuild, and they'll be taking inspiration from their own past, but also must face the rising power of the 'ndrangheta in the neighboring region of Calabria

PALERMO — How is Cosa Nostra doing without its king?

Palermo prosecutor Maurizio Delucia takes a moment before offering his view on where the Sicilian Mafia may be heading. It's been a complicated period since even before — and especially after — the January arrest of the last top boss Matteo Messina Denaro, as the legendary Cosa Nostra clan has fallen behind the neighboring 'ndrangheta from the region of Calabria, in both wealth and power.

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Worldcrunch Magazine #37 — Iran And The Taliban: The Drug Connection

June 12 - June 18, 2023

This is the latest edition of Worldcrunch Magazine, a selection of our best articles of the week from the best international journalists, produced exclusively in English for Worldcrunch readers.


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Are Iran And The Taliban Colluding In The Drug Trafficking Business?

Iran is reacting mildly to recurring Taliban provocations on its frontier. Is this due to diplomatic weakness, policy incompetence or is there some murky complicity inside Iran with the Afghan drug trade?


After about a week-long exchange of fire between Taliban forces and Iranian border guards (at or near Sasuli in eastern Iran) and in spite of Iranian authorities claiming the "misunderstanding" had been resolved and peace restored at the frontier, late on May 30, the Taliban were reportedly moving guns and armored troop carriers to the frontier district of Islam Qala, in northwestern Afghanistan.

On social media, the Taliban have been posting boastful videos, with one showing fighters on an armored vehicle cheering the prospect of a war with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Another video shows a Taliban commander, Abdul Hamid Khurasani, warning Iranian authorities not to test the Taliban's strength, telling them "we're the real Muslims because behind the scenes, you're with the West." If Afghanistan's rulers were to order it, he warned, "God willing we shall soon conquer Iran."

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Migrants, Fentanyl, Cartel Violence: U.S. And Mexico Must Both Rethink The Border

Mexico and the United States must collaborate to tackle a dual problem of violence and drug use hurting their countries.But first, they must stop playing the blame game.


MEXICO CITY — An unstoppable force is about to smash into an immovable object. The fentanyl crisis in the United States has become, beyond the reach of any single election, a vital threat to its society. And while the key to the problem, as with all narcotics abuse, is around consumption, Mexico can hardly absolve itself of responsibility when the fentanyl is sourced here. Moreover, it is connected to our own, massive crime problem.

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All of this means that there is yet another reason for authorities on both sides of the border to help each other.

I am reminded of Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, set in the French Revolution. Dickens mocks the French revolutionaries who claim to be fighting for liberty while decapitating all and sundry.

Likewise there's no squaring safe streets in Mexico with a drug epidemic next door: drugs like fentanyl finance the cartels that terrorize Mexican cities and neighborhoods. Or put another way: Drugs sold in the United States pay for the guns they fire at Mexicans!

Not surprisingly perhaps, given his irrepressible optimism, Mexico's president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, rejects both components of the problem. He says no fentanyl is made in Mexico and crime here is under check, which would mean people are deluded in both countries.

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Luis Carvajal Basto

The U.S.-Colombia 'War On Drugs' Has Failed: What Comes Next?

The Biden administration and Colombia's new government seem to agree on the need for a new approach to drugs policy. But will they be able to find support in their countries to forge a new strategy?

BOGOTÁ - Some early directives by Colombia's new president Gustavo Petro suggest he sees the 2016 peace accords with the The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as failed or at best unfinished. Founded in 1964, FARC, the armed wing of the Communist Party, have been fighting the longest-running armed insurgency in the Western hemisphere.

Signed in 2016 under former president Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, the accords were meant to bring peace to the country, yet that peace has been patchy. This is not because another communist guerrilla force in the country, the National Liberation Army (ELN), has refused to join the peace arrangements, nor is it because of the last government's failure to implement the accord.

The problem clearly concerns drug trafficking, which has continued unperturbed since 2016. While drug use remains illegal, drug trafficking, which has long helped FARC fund its insurgency, will always be highly profitable and foment violence. So is it time to decriminalize drug use?

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In The News
Emma Albright, Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou and Anne-Sophie Goninet.

Zelensky Pleads For Mariupol Ceasefire, Otoniel Extradited, Maradona’s Jersey

👋 Bonghjornu!*

Welcome to Thursday, where the Ukrainian President asks for a truce to evacuate civilians from Mariupol as Russia intensifies its assault on the Azovstal plant, Colombia extradites the world’s most dangerous drug trafficker and Diego Maradona's “Hand of God” jersey sets a record. Meanwhile, Buenos Aires-based daily Clarin looks at how the trend in dieting changes and diversification reflect inequalities in Argentine society.


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Capture Of Drug Kingpin Otoniel, What It Means For Colombia

The capture of Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker shows that in spite of the cartels' resilience, the state can and will fight crime at the highest levels, writes top Bogotá daily El Espectador.


BOGOTÁ — The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

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Laure Gautherin

Murder Of A Spanish Bear Leads To Bust Of Colombian Cocaine Ring

A major bust last week of a Colombian-led narcotics ring deep in the Spanish Pyrenees led to the arrest of 12 people, the seizure of two kilograms of cocaine and the discovery of the laboratory where the drug was processed. Police say they discovered the traffickers while on the trail of the killer of a brown bear.

Both pro- and anti-bear associations in Spain remember well the death of Cachou the Bear, whose body had been found last April at the bottom of a ravine in the eastern region of Catalonia. Known to be responsible for several attacks on livestock, the brown bear had many enemies among the locals, and murder was quickly suspected. The theory was confirmed when the autopsy revealed that it had been poisoned with ethylene glycol, a toxic antifreeze used in car coolants.

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Francesco Radicioni

At Thailand-Laos Border, A Shadow Economy Thrives

In northwestern Laos, Chinese businesses dominate the Ton Pheung district, a special economic zone that has become a hub for all kinds of trafficking.

TON PHEUNG — A silhouette of the casino's golden domes and gaudy crown appears in the distance, standing out like a sore thumb against the landscape of lush tropical hills in this northwestern corner of Laos. The Ton Pheung district is part of a special economic zone (SEZ) — deep in Southeast Asia's drug-producing Golden Triangle — and the enormous Kings Roman Casino is its beating heart.

Just across the Mekong river from Thailand, Ton Pheung is just a stone's throw from where the borders of Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand meet. To the northeast is the border with China, and Chinese citizens have come to dominate and the surrounding province of Bokeo.

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Giacomo Tognini

Algeria Cocaine Bust Reveals New Global Hub In Narcotics Network

Authorities seized 701 kilograms of cocaine on a ship in the port of Oran. The record haul points to a growing network linking South America to Europe via Algeria.

ORAN — On May 29th, Algerian authorities discovered 701 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside a meat container on a merchant ship in the port of Oran. The bust was one of the largest operations in Algerian history, leading to a police investigation that has identified Kamel Chikhi, an influential Algiers real estate mogul, as the ringleader of a drug trafficking network that distributes cocaine from Brazil to Spain by way of the ports on Algeria"s long Mediterranean coastline.

According to Algiers-based daily El Watan, drug traffickers in Algeria have a long history of using their political connections to evade arrest and expand their operations. Several powerful criminals — including Ahmed Yousfi Saïd "the emigrant" and Ahmed Zendjabil, aka "the Pablo Escobar of Oran" — dominated the drug trade in the 1990s and 2000s, acting with impunity thanks to their notable ties to the country's political elites.

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Ariela Piattelli

Hunting Mob Bosses In The Mountains Of Calabria

Inside an elite unit of the Carabinieri military police using old and new tactics to track down fugitive leaders of the powerful 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate.

SAN LUCA — The small town of San Luca sits high on the slopes of the Aspromonte mountains, which dominate the southwestern tip of Italy. Home to some 4,000 people, this village in the region of Calabria is also the unofficial headquarters of one of the world's most powerful crime syndicates: the "Ndrangheta.

Its tentacles extend from the cocaine-exporting cartels of Latin America to fraudulent businesses in Eastern Europe. After the decline of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra in the 1990s and a rise in turf wars within the Naples-based Camorra, the "Ndrangheta has emerged as the most powerful mafia group in Italy. The men of the Calabrian Hunters Helicopter Squadron, an elite unit of Italy's Carabinieri military police, are on a mission to bring that reign to an end.

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Giacomo Tognini

Drug Cartels Battle Over Mexico’s Top University Campus

Open battles between major drug outfits are behind a series of recent killings at the National Autonomous University Of Mexico.

MEXICO CITY — On February 23rd, two people were shot dead on the historic campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in the heart of the country's capital. According to Mexico City-based newspaper El Universal, the long-running drug war has reached the streets of the capital as three cartels battle for control of the drug trade in the area surrounding the country's most prestigious university.

Cartels began moving in for access to the student population and for the campus' lack of police officers and checkpoints. The Tláhuac cartel, born in the eastern Mexico City neighborhood of the same name, had long dominated the drug trade at UNAM, operating more than 20 dealers in the area. But that reign came to an end in January after the death and capture of two key cartel leaders, Felipe de Jesús Pérez Luna El Ojos and Uriel Isaac El Cochi.

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