‘Terrifying’: Days of terror under Colombia’s Gulf Clan cartel | Drugs News

Bogota, Colombia – “It was terrifying.”

That’s how a resident of Tierralta, in Colombia’s northern division of Cordoba, described a days-long siege imposed earlier this month by one of many nation’s largest paramilitary teams, the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC), also referred to as the Gulf Clan.

From the morning of Could 5 till midnight on Could 9, the armed group enforced a self-declared “armed strike” throughout the nation’s northwest in response to the extradition to the United States of its detained former chief Dairo Antonio Usuga, also referred to as Otoniel.

The Gulf Clan took management of 11 of Colombia’s 32 departments over the four-day span. It imposed strict lockdowns, shuttered native companies, closed off roads, disrupted transportation hyperlinks, and warned residents to remain inside or threat being shot or having their vehicles burned.

A number of cities ran out of fundamental provides similar to meals and fuel, whereas native hospitals confronted workers shortages. Elsewhere, households have been stranded at transport terminals, unable to get residence attributable to blocked roads, local media reported.

“You reside with the priority that it may occur once more tomorrow,” stated one other resident of Tierralta, Raul, who additionally requested to make use of a pseudonym due to safety issues. “As a result of the Gulf Clan are exhibiting that they’ve the ability to create worry,” he advised Al Jazeera.

Otoniel capture in Colombia
Accused drug trafficker and Gulf Clan chief ‘Otoniel’ was captured in October of final 12 months [File: Colombian President’s Office via AP Photo]

Lots of of rights violations

The Gulf Clan’s armed strike passed off three weeks earlier than Colombians will vote for their next president, elevating issues about the opportunity of repeated violence because the inhabitants heads to the polls on Could 29.

“The federal government response to this occasion leaves folks extra dissatisfied with their skill to precise their political concepts or to take part in democracy. This occasion could be very, very detrimental to the standard of democracy in Colombia and to the native perceptions of safety,” stated Sergio Guzman, director of the Colombia Threat Evaluation consultancy group.

Throughout the course of the “strike”, the Gulf Clan dedicated no less than 309 acts of violence, in response to the Special Jurisdiction of Peace (JEP) tribunal, which additionally registered the pressured closure of 26 roads, the destruction of no less than 118 automobiles and the disruption of 54 transport terminals.

A complete of 178 totally different municipalities within the nation have been below Gulf Clan management, with 138 of them below strict lockdown guidelines.

“They needed to reveal their army power to point out that in lots of areas of the nation they’re the de facto authority and never the state,” stated a JEP consultant, who spoke to Al Jazeera on situation of anonymity with a view to communicate freely.

The JEP was fashioned within the wake of a 2016 peace deal between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) group and the federal government, with a mandate to research, prosecute and punish these accountable for essentially the most critical human rights violations.

Twenty-four civilians have been killed in the course of the “strike”, the JEP additionally stated, and an extra 15 tried murders have been recorded. The Ministry of Defence reported six deaths, whereas NGO Indepaz recorded 18 over the course of the strike.

The JEP official advised Al Jazeera that three social leaders – a time period utilized in Colombia to explain activists, group representatives and rights defenders – have been amongst these killed.

‘Sturdy failure’

The Colombian authorities hailed Otoniel’s seize in October of final 12 months and subsequent extradition to the US this month as successful – and a definitive blow to the Gulf Glan’s operations.

Nonetheless, final week’s armed strike proved the group, which native NGO Pares has stated counts as many as 3,260 members, is under no circumstances on shaky floor, analysts stated.

For the reason that 2016 peace settlement below which the FARC demobilised, armed teams such because the Gulf Clan have taken benefit of the ability vacuum in a lot of Colombia’s rural areas. The Gulf Clan operates clandestinely in roughly 109 municipalities throughout the nation, in response to rights group Indepaz, however most predominantly within the north. It controls quite a few drug trafficking routes and cocaine processing labs, and makes use of violence to extort and intimidate populations.

“This occasion underscores how a lot the federal government underestimated the character of the [Gulf Clan’s] risk. That is very sophisticated for the federal government to by some means spin this in the direction of something however a strong failure of their safety technique,” Guzman advised Al Jazeera.

Regardless of the strike being introduced early on Could 4, no army response from the federal government was seen till Could 7, when troops have been deployed to the affected Bolivar, Sucre, Cordoba and Antioquia areas to accompany automobiles and safe the roads. In response to Ministry of Defence figures, greater than 19,000 troops have been deployed throughout the realm.

Colombian President Ivan Duque
Colombia’s President Ivan Duque stated the Gulf Clan carried out ‘cowardly assaults’ [File: Nathalia Angarita/Reuters]

“They search to generate intimidation by way of remoted occasions and cowardly assaults, which they search to maximise on-line and within the media,” President Ivan Duque advised reporters final Saturday. “They’re desperately making an attempt to point out a power that they don’t have.”

However Guzman stated the Gulf Clan will “probably be emboldened by the dearth of confrontation with the army”.

“The federal government doesn’t need to contribute to the ‘we’re again to struggle’ narrative, so escalating the scenario couldn’t simply have very vital collateral injury issues, however may additionally subtract considerably from the federal government’s narrative that they’re preserving order within the nation,” he stated.

“The Gulf Clan simply ripped a gap by way of the narrative by making it tough for the federal government to claim its authority over one-third of its territory.”

Colombia’s Defence Ministry didn’t instantly reply to Al Jazeera’s request for remark.

In the meantime, the JEP consultant described the federal government’s response as “not very environment friendly” whereas residents subjected to the 4 days below Gulf Clan management have been equally crucial, saying they felt deserted.

“The state demonstrated that it’s a weak establishment that doesn’t have the capability to confront an armed group that has confirmed to have management of nationwide territory and a terrific power on the nationwide stage,” stated Jose David Ortega, a resident and human rights defender within the metropolis of Monteria, which was besieged by the group.

Raul, the Tierralta resident, added, “What hurts essentially the most is that the state by no means got here out to defend the rights of its residents.”

Overdose deaths in US hit record 107,000 last year, CDC says | Drugs News

With opioid epidemic nonetheless rising, tragic milestone interprets into one demise from drug abuse each 5 minutes in US.

Greater than 107,000 Individuals died of drug overdoses final 12 months, setting one other tragic file within the nation’s escalating overdose epidemic, the US Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) estimated on Wednesday.

The provisional 2021 whole marked a 15 % improve from the earlier file, set the 12 months earlier than. The CDC critiques demise certificates after which makes an estimate to account for delayed and incomplete reporting.

Dr Nora Volkow, director of the Nationwide Institute on Drug Abuse, referred to as the most recent numbers “actually staggering”.

The White Home issued a press release calling the accelerating tempo of overdose deaths “unacceptable” and selling its not too long ago introduced nationwide drug management technique. It requires connecting extra folks to remedy, disrupting drug trafficking and increasing entry to the overdose-reversing treatment naloxone.

US overdose deaths have risen most years for greater than 20 years. The rise started within the Nineteen Nineties with overdoses involving opioid painkillers, adopted by waves of deaths led by different opioids like heroin and – most not too long ago – illicit fentanyl.

Final 12 months, overdoses involving fentanyl and different artificial opioids surpassed 71,000, up 23 % from the 12 months earlier than. There additionally was a 23 % improve in deaths involving cocaine and a 34 % improve in deaths involving meth and different stimulants.

Overdose deaths are sometimes attributed to multiple drug. Some folks take a number of medicine and cheap fentanyl has been more and more minimize into different medicine, usually with out the consumers’ data, officers stated.

“The online impact is that we’ve many extra folks, together with those that use medicine often and even adolescents, uncovered to those potent substances that may trigger somebody to overdose even with a comparatively small publicity,” Volkow stated in a press release.

Specialists stated the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue as lockdowns and different restrictions remoted these with drug addictions and made remedy tougher to get.

Overdose demise tendencies are geographically uneven. Alaska noticed a 75 % improve in 2021 – the biggest leap of any state. In Hawaii, overdose deaths fell by 2 %.

Paraguay anti-drug prosecutor shot dead on honeymoon in Colombia | Drugs News

Marcelo Pecci, 45, was fatally shot whereas stress-free on a seaside on Colombia’s Carribean island of Baru, his spouse says.

Paraguayan anti-drug prosecutor Marcelo Pecci has been shot lifeless whereas honeymooning on a Colombian Caribbean island by males who fled by sea, police and his widow stated.

Paraguay’s president denounced the crime as a “cowardly homicide” and a fellow prosecutor stated the modus operandi was harking back to “the [drug] mafia”.

Pecci, 45, was felled by two pictures on Tuesday whereas stress-free on a seaside on the vacationer island of Baru, in accordance with his spouse, Paraguayan journalist Claudia Aguilera, whom he married on April 30 within the close by metropolis of Cartagena.

“Two males attacked Marcelo. They got here in a small boat, or on a jet ski, the reality is I didn’t see effectively,” she advised the El Tiempo newspaper.

One of many assailants acquired out and “with out a phrase he shot Marcelo twice, one [bullet] hit him within the face and one other within the again”, Aguilera stated.

She stated her husband of lower than two weeks had not acquired any threats.

The Decameron resort, the place the couple was staying, stated in a press release that “assassins arrived on the seaside … and attacked and murdered one among our company”.

Colombian President Ivan Duque speaks during an interview
Colombia’s President Ivan Duque denounced the killing, promising to cooperate with Paraguay ‘to search out these accountable’ [File: Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

The motive for the killing was not instantly identified, however Paraguayan prosecutor Augusto Salas, a colleague of Pecci, stated the modus operandi was “typical of the [drug] mafia, so that’s what I’ll suppose till the opposite is confirmed”.

Colombian police chief Jorge Luis Vargas stated 5 murder investigators have been dispatched to Baru, and can obtain backing from Paraguayan and US specialists.

“There’s info being collected … that can assist us establish these accountable,” Vargas stated.

Colombian President Ivan Duque “denounced” the killing on Twitter. Duque stated he had supplied condolences to his Paraguayan counterpart Mario Abdo Benitez and promised “cooperation to search out these accountable”.

For his half, Benitez stated on Twitter: “The whole Paraguayan nation mourns the cowardly homicide of prosecutor Marcelo Pecci in Colombia.

“We condemn this tragic occasion within the strongest phrases, and we redouble our dedication to combating organized crime,” he added.

Pecci’s workplace stated in a press release that steps have been being taken “to offer help and assure the protection of his household”.

Pecci had specialised in organised crime, drug trafficking, cash laundering and the financing of terrorism.

He was concerned in investigations towards Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho, held in Paraguay for a number of months in 2020 over a faux passport scandal.

He additionally led an operation that led to the seizure of dozens of properties acquired by way of cash laundering, and the arrest of some 30 individuals this 12 months.

The US embassy in Paraguay supplied its condolences to Pecci’s family members and hailed his “dedication, professionalism and dedication to the combat towards organised crime”.

Paraguay’s ambassador to Colombia, Sophia Lopez, stated Pecci was on a “non-public” journey and had no work conferences scheduled.

Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine producer, is contending with a wave of violence regardless of a 2016 peace deal that disarmed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) group and ended a close to six-decade civil battle.

Combating over territory and assets continues in elements of the nation between dissident FARC armed fighters, the ELN rebel group, paramilitary forces and drug cartels.

For its half, landlocked Paraguay – nestled between Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina – has grow to be an necessary launchpad for medication headed for Europe.

Paraguay and Colombia have lately strengthened their alliance within the combat towards organised and cross-border crime.

US: Walgreens reaches $683m opioid settlement with Florida | Drugs News

Pharmacy chains have more and more been focused for allegedly lax oversight states say spurred excessive charges of dependancy.

Walgreens Boots Alliance, which owns a string of retail pharmacies, has reached a $683m settlement with Florida to resolve claims it exacerbated an opioid epidemic within the state.

The settlement ends a trial that started final month, after Walgreens determined to not be part of a mixed $878m settlement within the state with 4 different healthcare corporations.

To this point, Florida has recovered greater than $3bn in opioid litigation in opposition to drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies, based on Florida Lawyer Basic Ashley Moody.

It’s going to spend many of the cash on efforts to mitigate the opioid disaster within the state.

“I’m glad that we’ve got been capable of finish this monumental litigation and transfer previous the courtroom,” Moody stated at a Thursday press convention.

The newest settlement consists of $620m to be paid to Florida over 18 years, plus $63m for authorized charges.

Walgreens didn’t admit wrongdoing as a part of the settlement, which stems from allegations the corporate performed down the dangers of dependancy and overdoses, and have been lax in monitoring the place tablets ended up.

The case hinged on accusations that as Walgreens allotted greater than 4.3 billion opioid tablets in Florida from Might 2006 to June 2021, greater than half of the prescriptions contained a number of simply recognised purple flags for abuse, fraud and dependancy that the corporate ought to have observed and acted upon.

Previous to settling, Walgreens had argued it needs to be immune from being sued based mostly on a $3,000 settlement it reached with Florida in 2012.

Florida had referred to as Walgreens’ place “absurd”, based on courtroom transcripts, saying the 2012 settlement addressed solely a single record-keeping violation.

CVS Well being Corp beforehand agreed to settle with Florida for $484m, whereas Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Abbvie Inc’s Allergan unit and Endo Worldwide Plc agreed to pay a respective $194.8m, $134.2m and $65m.

All denied wrongdoing.

The nationwide opioid disaster has led to greater than 500,000 overdose deaths within the final 20 years, based on the US Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention.

Greater than 3,300 lawsuits have been filed in opposition to these allegedly chargeable for the disaster.

Whereas many initially focused drugmakers and distributors, states have additionally increasingly targeted pharmacies.

In November of final yr, a jury in a federal trial in Ohio found Walmart, CVS Well being Corp, and Walgreens Boots Alliance responsible of spurring the disaster by failing to correctly monitor opioid prescriptions.

On Tuesday Washington state reached a $518m settlement with opioid distributors McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp and Cardinal Well being, ending a months-long trial in these corporations’ alleged function within the opioid disaster.

British Virgin Islands premier arrested on US drugs charges | Drugs News

Andrew Fahie was detained in Miami in information the British abroad territory’s governor described as ‘surprising’.

The premier of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the managing director of the Caribbean territory’s ports have been arrested in Miami on drug smuggling expenses.

Andrew Fahie and Oleanvine Maynard, who heads the islands’ port authority, had been arrested at Miami airport, in line with Drug Enforcement Company paperwork launched on Thursday.

The DEA stated 51-year-old Fahie had agreed to permit an informant, who was posing as a member of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel and whose id stays confidential, to make use of British Virgin Islands’ ports to ship cocaine in return for a fee of $500,000. He additionally requested for added cash to repay a debt to a “fixer”.

The officers’ arrests “ought to ship a transparent message,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram stated in a press release.

“Anybody concerned with bringing harmful medicine into america might be held accountable, irrespective of their place.”

Court docket paperwork filed on Thursday confirmed the 2 officers and Maynard’s son, Kadeem Maynard, had been all charged with “conspiracy to import 5 kilograms or extra of cocaine” and “conspiracy to launder cash”.

The arrest of Fahie was first disclosed by BVI Governor John Rankin, who’s appointed by the British queen and acts on her behalf.

“I realise this might be surprising information for folks within the Territory,” Rankin stated in a press release. “And I’d name for calm presently.”

Fahie and Maynard had been on the airport to fulfill Mexican drug traffickers, who in actuality had been undercover DEA brokers, to supervise a money cargo that they anticipated to obtain for serving to smuggle the cocaine from Colombia to the US, by the port at Tortola.

The DEA started its investigation final October.

British overseas secretary Liz Truss stated in a press release she was “appalled” by the allegations.

Rankin stated the arrests in Florida weren’t related to a Fee of Inquiry on governance and corruption that was introduced within the British Virgin Islands final yr.

It’s not identified whether or not the fee had discovered any suspected wrongdoing by Fahie or Maynard, however Rankin stated he expects to have the outcomes printed urgently to keep away from pointless hypothesis.

The British Virgin Islands, which deceive the east of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, have a inhabitants of about 35,000 folks. They’re higher identified for his or her offshore monetary providers business.

Malaysia’s Nagaenthran executed over drugs charges in Singapore | Death Penalty News

Naga’s mom made a last-ditch effort to save lots of her intellectually disabled son, however the case was instantly dismissed.

Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, a Malaysian with studying disabilities who was convicted of drug trafficking in 2010 and whose case attracted international consideration, has been executed in Singapore’s Changi jail.

Naga, who was arrested after police discovered a bundle of 42.7 grammes (1.5 oz) of heroin strapped to his thigh, was hanged simply earlier than daybreak on Wednesday, his household mentioned.

Navin Kumar, Naga’s brother, advised the Reuters information company that the physique could be despatched again to Malaysia the place a funeral could be held within the city of Ipoh.

The Malaysian’s execution got here after the Court docket of Enchantment instantly dismissed an effort by the 34-year-old’s mom to halt her son’s execution. The judges mentioned her last-minute plea was “vexatious”.

Final month, the courtroom known as authorized efforts to save lots of Naga’s life a “blatant and egregious abuse” of the authorized course of, and that it was “improper to interact in or encourage final ditch makes an attempt” to delay or cease an execution.

Naga’s case has drawn international consideration to Singapore’s continued use of the loss of life penalty, notably in drug trafficking circumstances, and sparked renewed debate within the city-state itself.

M Ravi, a lawyer who beforehand represented Naga, expressed his grief over Wednesday’s execution on Twitter, saying: “Om Shanti, could your soul relaxation in peace.”

He added, “Chances are you’ll break us, however not defeat us. Our combat in opposition to the loss of life penalty continues.”

On Monday, just a few hundred individuals turned out to point out their opposition to the loss of life penalty, gathering in Hong Lim Park, a small patch of floor within the metropolis centre that’s the solely place the place the federal government permits public assemblies. The Malaysian authorities, United Nations experts, the European Union, civil society teams and celebrities together with British entrepreneur Richard Branson had additionally known as for Naga’s life to be spared.

“The usage of the loss of life penalty for drug-related offences is incompatible with worldwide human rights legislation,” the UN Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights wrote in an announcement calling on Singapore to halt Naga’s execution. “International locations that haven’t but abolished the loss of life penalty could solely impose it for the “most critical crimes”, which is interpreted as crimes of maximum gravity involving intentional killing.”

Singapore additionally plans to hold Datchinamurthy Kataiah, one other Malaysian convicted of drug offences, on Friday in what the OHCHR mentioned gave the impression to be “an alarming acceleration in execution notices within the nation”. Abdul Kahar Othman, a Singaporean additionally convicted of drug-related offences, was hanged on March 30, the primary individual to be executed by the nation in two years.

Not less than three different males discovered responsible of drug-related offences, Roslan bin Bakar, Rosman bin Abdullah and Pannir Selvam Pranthaman, are susceptible to imminent execution, in line with the UN.

The town-state has amended sentencing pointers to permit judges to impose a life sentence in some trafficking circumstances, offering the defendant meets sure situations, as a substitute for the obligatory loss of life penalty. Singapore maintains among the harshest drug laws on this planet and claims the loss of life penalty acts as a deterrent.

Greater than 50 individuals are reported to be on loss of life row in Singapore, the UN mentioned.