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UWI lecturer on $644m cocaine bust: Mexican cartels infiltrate T&T

Sunday, January 26, 2014
There was a heavy police presence in and around Port-of-Spain on Friday night. A police officer, left, writes a traffic violation ticket as other officers monitor the roadway. Photo: ANDRE ALEXANDER

University of the West Indies (UWI) criminology lecturer Daurius Figueira says the $644 million cocaine bust hidden in juice cans intercepted by US Customs officers at Norfolk, Virginia, USA, is the wakeup call that T&T has been infiltrated by the Mexican drug cartel. Figueira is also the author of the book, Cocaine Trafficking in The Caribbean & West Africa in the Era of The Mexican cartels.



Speaking to the Sunday Guardian in a telephone interview last week, he said: “That shipment has all the hallmarks of a Mexican drug cartel operation, its fingerprints are all over it. “That is the wakeup call for T&T. The Mexican cartels have already infiltrated the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Eastern Caribbean, Belize, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos islands, US Virgin Islands. It’s T&T’s time now, and Jamaica’s turn is next.”


Figueira said the Mexican drug cartels’ strategy was to use the Caribbean to move their product not only to West Africa and Europe, but also to the eastern seaboard of the USA and Canada. He said for the first time in the history of the Caribbean islands, the Caribbean was becoming fully integrated into drug trafficking towards the world. Figueira said cocaine swallowers and mules transported the drug in “modest” quantities to Canada and the US,but drug dealers were using containerised cargo to ship cocaine in massive quantities.


He said the cocaine shipment that the US interdicted was not the work of small-scale players, where three or four people got some cans and “tried something” by filling them with cocaine and selling them. Figueira said it was a well-organised, industrial smuggling operation.



Dealers use mould to press cocaine into shape
Unlike the liquid cocaine in a Pear D soft drink bottle that caused the death of Royal Navy veteran Joromie Lewis in the United Kingdom in December 2013, the cocaine intercepted in the Virginia drug bust was not dissolved, it was moulded to fit cans labeled Trinidad Orange and Grapefruit juices. He said that meant the drug dealers had a mould to press the cocaine in that circular shape.


Local manufacturer SM Jaleel and Company Ltd, which also makes the Pear D soft drink brand, stated on its Web site that it did not export the container of juices in which some 732 pounds of cocaine was concealed in. Sinaloa, Los Zetas cartels in the Caribbean
Figueira said the Sinaloa and Los Zetas were the two dominant Mexican cartels present in the Caribbean today. He said when they were moving through the islands, their leaders remained nameless and faceless.


Figueira said the Mexican drug cartels’ policy was that in every market that they established, they also became involved in retailing drugs, guns, trafficking, prostitution, and the smuggling of counterfeit goods. He said they were moving people through the Caribbean, carrying them into Central America, into Mexico, and then smuggling them across the border into the US.



How the mexicans operate

Figueira said the Mexican drug cartels used two strategies to set up their trafficking operations; They corrupted the military and police and took the local gangs to be their affiliates. He said members of the military/police were also offered trafficking franchises as Mexican cartels preferred to corrupt and recruit them rather than politicians who were transitory.


Figueira said Mexican cartels also formed alliances with the narco-trafficking elites and gangs, offering them lucrative deals and drug franchises that were much better than those offered by the Colombians and Venezuelans. He said some members of these elites had made the fatal mistake of treating the Mexicans as inferiors. Figueira said once the Mexican cartels had established their links with gangs and others, they moved to physically eliminate the local elites with deliberate violence such as beheadings to leave as a sign.


He said this was how the Mexican cartels radically changed the social order of the illicit trades in a narco-trafficking state, instilling a new order in which the State was forced to perpetually battle for its survival because it had lost its capacity to maintain law and order.


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