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September 17, 2009 | Sebastian Rotella
As a high-ranking U.S. anti-drug official, Richard Padilla Cramer held front-line posts in the war on Mexico's murderous cartels. He led an office of two dozen agents in Arizona and was the attache for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Guadalajara. While in Mexico, however, Cramer also served as a secret ally of drug lords, according to federal investigators. Cramer allegedly advised traffickers on law enforcement tactics and pulled secret files to help them identify turncoats.
June 15, 2010 | By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times
In a step aimed at thwarting money laundering by drug cartels, the government of Mexico announced strict limits Tuesday on the deposit and exchange of U.S. dollars in banks, noting that the nation's economy is being flooded with illicit drug profits. The money helps traffickers buy military-grade weapons used to kill tens of thousands of people and recruit small armies all over the country who battle rival gangs and government forces. Failure to intercept the money has long been singled out as a major flaw in President Felipe Calderon's military-led offensive against the cartels.
March 17, 2010
The decomposing bodies of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent and his pilot are discovered wrapped in plastic bags at a ranch about 60 miles from the Guadalajara streets where they were kidnapped by the cartel controlling drug trafficking in central Mexico. The agent's corpse bears traces of the drugs a doctor administered to keep him alive during some 30 hours of interrogation, as his torturers crushed his jaw, ribs and windpipe, and drilled a hole into his skull. "We are in a war and cannot accept that Enrique Camarena died in vain," the U.S. ambassador says.
Angela Slobodchuk, 25, has a story to tell. She offers it in a low monotone, in a near-whisper, to anyone who listens. It begins in her poor farming village in the former Soviet republic of Moldova with the promise of a job as a waitress in Italy. It takes her on an odyssey of torment through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia and Albania. She is raped, beaten, forced into prostitution, smuggled across borders and sold 18 times from one pimp to the next.
April 17, 2010 | By Julian E. Barnes
Leaders of countries in the eastern Caribbean told Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Friday that the international anti-drug crackdown in Mexico has forced traffickers into the waters around their islands, adding to the region's crime and security woes. To stem the increase, Caribbean nations are seeking expanded security assistance from the United States, particularly for combating drug trafficking, and leaders said they would like to see a greater American focus on the region.
December 7, 2010 | By Tracy Wilkinson and Daniel Hernandez, Los Angeles Times
President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua has received "suitcases full of cash" from Venezuela and is believed to have used money from drug traffickers to finance electoral fraud, according to secret U.S. diplomatic cables disclosed this week. Ortega's fawning and lucrative relationship with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez prompted a U.S. diplomat to dub Ortega a "Chavez 'Mini-Me,'" a reference to a diminutive movie character, the cables say. In the latest leak from the cache of U.S. diplomatic communications released by the WikiLeaks website, officials paint a harsh picture of Ortega, a long-time foe of Washington, his politics and the secretive, abusive way he runs his government.
March 16, 2010 | By Tracy Wilkinson
The danger signs had been mounting. The U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez recently shut down for a bomb threat (which proved false). Federal police guards were redoubled. Officials working at the diplomatic mission saw their movements being gradually restricted, some parts of the city deemed too dicey to frequent. But the Americans leaving a weekend child's birthday party probably made the same calculations that many people living in Mexico make. It was broad daylight. We'll be traveling on major roads.
May 16, 2010 | By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times
With its superhighways, gleaming skyscrapers, fancy art museums and leafy plazas, Monterrey has always been safe — so safe, in fact, that drug lords chose to park their families here. Life in Monterrey represented another Mexico, cozily above the national fray of violence and disintegration. No scruffy border city or remote, drug-infested outpost, Monterrey is Mexico's wealthiest city, its economic engine, the center of textile, food-processing, beer and construction industries — a modern, sophisticated metropolis where per-capita GDP is twice the national average.
December 29, 2010 | By Tracy Wilkinson and Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times
Four years and 50,000 troops into President Felipe Calderon's drug war, the fighting has exposed severe limitations in the Mexican army's ability to wage unconventional warfare, tarnished its proud reputation and left the U.S. pointedly criticizing the force as "virtually blind" on the ground. The army's shortcomings have complicated the government's struggle against the narcotics cartels, as the deadliest year of the war by far comes to a close. Though long employed to destroy marijuana and poppy fields in the countryside, the army hadn't been trained for the type of operations needed to fight groups trafficking cocaine through border cities.
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