first_img SANTO DOMINGO — At first glance, Marino Vinicio Castillo RodrÌguez doesn’t look the warrior. Dressed in an impeccable, tailored suit, he’s the epitome of a successful second-generation attorney and grandfather. But when Castillo talks about his fears for his country of nine million inhabitants, the humor drains from his eyes. He said the Dominican Republic is at risk of being overwhelmed by organized crime syndicates from Colombia, Mexico and even Europe. As a leading law-and-order crusader and now the anti-narcotics adviser to President Leonel Fernández Reyna, Castillo has been monitoring and assessing the country’s shifting crime landscape since the early 1990s when Colombian traffickers were using the Caribbean to channel drugs into Florida. “We have clear evidence that the Sinaloa cartel is developing a structure here and we have representatives of European crime groups including from Russia, Ukraine, the Balkans and Italy,” said Castillo, interviewed at his office in Santo Domingo. “Our situation is becoming very grave. The crackdown on the cartels in Mexico and Colombia has pushed the problem to the little islands of the Caribbean, and the cartels are using us as a bridge for smuggling narcotics into America and Europe.” Judging by the record drugs seizures and the rise in drug-related homicides, the problem is growing. Dominican authorities appear to have largely halted drug loads being flown into the country and dumped from low-flying light aircraft for pickup — a preferred delivery method for many years. DNCD reports drug-running flights down dramatically In February, the Dominican Republic’s ambassador in Washington, Anibal de Castro, trumpeted that air interdiction success before a Senate committee, saying “releases of drugs from aircraft in the country” had virtually been eliminated. The decisive factor, said the diplomat, had been the deployment of an OH-58 helicopter equipped with night vision and eight Brazilian-made Embraer Super Tucano patrol aircraft, bought with the assistance of a $93.7 million loan from Brazil’s government development bank. Roberto Lebron Jimenez, spokesman for the Direccion Nacional de Control de Drogas (DNCD), said that before the Dominican military took possession of the new aircraft, authorities reported about 200 clandestine drug-running flights into the country per year. Now, he estimates there are just a handful. However, the drug traffickers have shifted to the sea, exploiting 1,100 miles of Dominican coastline and taking advantage of the country’s strategic role as a container-traffic hub linking the United States, Latin America and Europe. The coastline is hard to lock up. Traffickers use private leisure craft, fishing vessels and often speedboats capable of carrying more than 4,000 pounds of cocaine at a time. Drugs are brought in from Central and Latin America, then dispersed to the United States — often via Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands — or to Europe in commercial maritime traffic. Smaller loads are smuggled out by “mules” or in air cargo. “We are a haven for international tourism, have five major international airports and seven major commercial seaports all with a huge amount of container traffic. And we share the island with Haiti, which is a failed state and where the Colombian cartels have been operating for a quarter of a century,” Castillo said. “It is impossible for us to search each and every container. The volume is just too great.” Dominican cocaine seizures are skyrocketing Recent seizures illustrate the growing problem. In 2011, Dominican authorities confiscated 6,715 kilograms of cocaine — a 48 percent jump from the 4,527 kilos seized the year before. During a two-week period in December 2011, according to official statistics, DNCD police intercepted 1.3 tons in four shipments of cocaine. The international flavor and the mixing of crime syndicates come through frequently with each major seizure and raid. On Feb. 7, Dominican anti-drug authorities arrested 29 people, including five Puerto Ricans and 17 Russians as well as Colombians and Dominicans, and seized 122 kilos of cocaine tagged to be shipped to Puerto Rico. Two luxury villas, several apartments, a cargo ship, a speedboat and an airplane were confiscated as well. The cocaine, found in a villa located in the exclusive Casa de Campo resort near La Romana, was to be loaded onto the Carib Vision, a vessel ostensibly used to transport molasses. The load was destined for Puerto Rico when it was intercepted, the DNCD’s LebrÛn said. On Dec. 15, anti-drug police seized 1,077 kilos of cocaine from a 24-seat Challenger jet about to take off from La Romana on the southeast coast. The aircraft had registered a flight plan for the Belgian city of Antwerp. This time, the police arrested Dutch citizen Johannes Nicolass and British citizen Edgar Rowson, right before the scheduled takeoff. By Dialogo April 02, 2012center_img And last October, DNCD members confiscated 1,098 kilos of cocaine hidden in medical equipment bound for Le Havre, France, from a vessel at the multimodal port of Caucedo. Sinaloa cartel behind drug trade, say officials The amounts of cocaine being seized — thought to be only a fraction of what gets through — are worrying enough. What weighs heavily on Castillo’s mind are signs that the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico’s largest crime syndicate, has targeted the country for expansion. “We are not in a position to cope with this,” he said. Dominican officials blame the Sinaloans for the slaying last August of three Colombians and a Venezuelan in Santiago, 96 miles north of Santo Domingo. The killings were thought to be a reprisal, and the corpses were found in the upscale district of Cerro de Gurabo near where a Spaniard had been killed a few days earlier. Castillo confirms a link to the murders with the Sinaloa cartel, but declined to go into details. He said the presence of the Sinaloans was brought home to authorities when a Mexican national, LuÌs Fernando Bertolucci Castillo — also arrested last August — acknowledged he was a member of that cartel and was in direct contact with drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The first public acknowledgment by the Dominican government of the Sinaloa presence came in February when Anibal de Castro told the U.S. Senate, “the Sinaloa cartel is seeking to create a route to Europe using the Dominican Republic.” The Mexican crime presence is not new entirely, Castillo said. In December 1999, Dominican police seized three drug transport planes owned by Mexican drug lord LuÌs Horacio Cano. Castillo said he’s now aware that the Sinaloa cartel controlled a company which in 1999 bought (and has since sold) four state-owned sugar mills during a privatization process. The mills — at Haina, Boca Chica, San LuÌs and Consuello — were all located near seaports, and had access to landing strips. Anti-drug authorities target Cibao region What’s different now is the level of activity, the alliances being formed with local crime gangs, and indications that the Sinaloa cartel intends to operate locally. “They are buying property, from oceanfront residences to hotels and businesses,” Castillo said. DNCD officials said the main focus of the Sinaloa cartel is in El Cibao, the northern region that’s home to nearly half the country’s population as well as its second-largest city, Santiago de los Caballeros. The officials claim that local crime groups, including the Samana crime gang led by Avelino Matias Castro — currently wanted for allegedly ordering the assassination of a Dominican journalist — provide logistical support while helping the Sinaloa cartel to secure precursor chemicals needed for the production of amphetamines. The Mexican presence introduces a new dangerous element, said Castillo, noting the Sinaloa cartel’s notoriously violent history as well as its ability to corrupt. Like its Caribbean neighbors, the Dominican Republic has seen a jump in violent crime and homicides in recent years. From 2001 to 2009, the country’s homicide rate nearly doubled to 23 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. In addition, drug addiction among Dominicans is growing — a consequence, officials believe, of local crime groups being paid by Colombian and Mexican cartels in cocaine as well as cash. Last year, the country recorded 4,173 seizures of crack cocaine alone. For Castillo, the battle is on. “But we need a lot more help,” he said. IF DR. CASTILLO IS SO COURAGEOUS DENOUNCING THE DRUG TRAFFICKERS, THAT IS A REALITY IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, THE PRESENCE OF THE DRUG CARTELS, WHY DOESN’T HE DENOUNCE HIS GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS THAT ARE POINTED OUT AS ACCOMPLICES OF THESE CARTELS, HE SHOULD HAVE A MORE SERIOUS STANCElast_img read more


first_imgDES MOINES — The leader of the Iowa State Patrol joined his counterparts from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Arkansas to announced a joint effort to crack down on excessive speed.Colonel Nathan Fulk spoke about the issue Thursday at a Missouri Department of Transportation facility. “Law enforcement is seeing a significant increase in excessive speed across the midwest related to the pandemic,” according to Fulk. “We’ve seen reduced vehicle miles traveled producing less congested roadways and creating a driver perception that law enforcement isn’t out enforcing traffic laws.”Fulk detailed some of the things his troopers have seen. “In 2020 the Iowa State Patrol has seen a 113 percent increase in speed citations issued for 100 miles-per-hour or greater. We’ve also seen a 70 percent increase in speed citations issued for speeds in excess of 25 miles-an-hour over the posted speed limit,” he says. “This data is alarming and unprecedented — and shows why we need motorists to understand that this driving behavior is not the new normal.” The leaders of the state patrols in the other four states say they’ve seen similar issues.Fulk says the number one concern in each state is the safety of drivers. “Speeding is the number one causation factor in crashes. They are preventable. Ninety-four-percent of crashes are driver related,” according to Fulk. ” During the month of July, we will be working in collaboration with our state police partners and local law enforcement agencies to raise awareness on this concerning trend that has a negative impact on traffic safety.” He says they will use a variety of methods to try and educate the public.“We are asking the public so SIDE with us. SIDE is an acronym for seatbelts, impaired driving, distracted driving, and excessive speed. We are asking the public’s help to please put the phone down, slow down and buckle up,” Fulk says.Troopers in the five-state area are collaborating with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a speed enforcement initiative Friday and Saturday (July 17-18). The initiative is aimed at reducing high speeds and encouraging personal responsibility in keeping roadways safe.last_img read more


first_imgA Flood Watch is in effect until Tuesday, 8:00 a.m., according to the U.S. National Weather Service.The Flood Watch is now in effect for * a portion of South Florida, including the following areas, Coastal Broward, Coastal Collier, Coastal Miami-Dade, Coastal Palm Beach, Far South Miami-Dade, Inland Broward, Inland Collier, Inland Miami-Dade, Inland Palm Beach, Mainland Monroe, Metro Broward, Metro Miami-Dade, and Metro Palm Beach.There is a tropical disturbance moving in from the south and it will bring in showers and thunderstorms that will produce an average of 3 to 5 inches of rainfall across the watch area with locally higher amounts possible.Stay alert, and click here for information.last_img read more


first_imgI was called misinformed, mistaken and mislead when I had a very strong and vociferous difference of opinion with the Steelers concerning the future employment of Mendenhall and Sweed. To the best of my recollection; Mendenhall was passed over in the first round of the same draft by the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys. It is also known that for quite some time Ben Roethlisberger had been pining for a six foot four plus size wide-out along the size of ex-Steelers and current NY Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress who was his favorite guy to throw the “fade” to anywhere on the field but especially when the black and gold reached the ‘red zone’.Why oh why would any team of the Steelers tradition draft a running back with far less than a Heisman Trophy mention especially when they had a running back (Willie Parker) who had proven that if you gave him a crack, he would give you a mile. Pittsburgh had also just lost offensive guard Alan Faneca to free agency and had some serious O-line discrepancies to address. My suggested draft sequence for the Steelers for the 2008 draft was; offensive line, first round, defensive line, second round, offensive line, third round. Ladies and gents please press your fast forward button and stop at the year 2011, buck, buck, buck, buck, bucka. The chickens have come home to roost.The Steelers lost to the Houston Texans 17-10. The defense gave up 17 points on the road to a very good Houston team, 17 lousy points. Big Ben seems to hate “check downs” and short passes. Is he deliberately not calling the alternate plays just so that he may continue on the “road to glory?” Or is he leading the offense down the “road to gory?” Roethlisberger continues in many failed attempts to go “deep” and while doing so is slowly drowning the offense in the shallow water of his enormous ego. Does he have other play calling options and if so is he ignoring them? Something tells me that there is trouble in the Steelers camp and if there isn’t it should be. Was the team’’ plane ride back to Pittsburgh filled with turbulence that originated from sources beside the aircraft?Head coach Mike Tomlin should have shouted so loud and sprayed saliva so wide that Bruce Arians and Roethlisberger should have been victims of ruptured ear drums and the “Cowher syndrome.” These are the risks of dealing with a pissed off head coach that occasionally require players and subordinate coaches to be on the receiving end of the headmaster’s wrath requiring them to wear hearing aids and gauze face masks.Roethlisberger reminds me of an old story that my grandfather told me when I thought I was being “slick.” Once a farmer heard a ruckus in the chicken coop. He arrived at the chicken coop. switched on the light in the henhouse and heard a faint sound, he asked a question. He said, “hey is there anybody in here?” Nothing but silence. Then he heard the fox saying in a soft voice, “ain’t nobody in here but us chickens.” The farmer looked around, spotted the fox, walked up to the fox, put his shotgun in his mouth and said, “you ain’t no chicken.” The fox replied, “yes I am chicken, that shotgun got me scared as heck.”The moral of the story is that Roethlisberger has raided the Steelers henhouse of millions, crowing like a rooster but really being a fox. I know, I know, this week and beyond everyone will be gushing on how courageous Big Ben is for taking a licking and keeping on ticking but the majority of the time the beating may be self inflicted. Big Ben is playing head games with the media and the public.There is nothing courageous about sitting in the pocket for 3-4 seconds trying to complete a 25 yard or longer pass when you can complete a 10-15 yard pass in 1 ½ -3 seconds. There is no glory in short passes, but the chains keep on moving. When Roethlisberger gets sacked or throws a pick, the yellow finger pointing is directed at the offensive line. If he would get rid of the ball in a timely fashion, he could have O-lineman from the peewee leagues and still complete a significant percentage of his pass attempts if he would just take what the defense gives him.Time and time and time again, I have said that there is some skullduggery jumping off in the Steelers camp but until someone speaks out, it will be business as usual.(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@new­pitts­burghcourier.com) I said it once and I am going to say it again. Each draft pick in the NFL is vital. It might not appear so from the outset but two or three years later, if GM’s and player personnel directors are not careful; “the chickens may or may not come home to roost.” Ex-Steelers wide receiver Limas Sweed was drafted by the Steelers in the second round of the 2008 draft, right after Pittsburgh signed the “great” running back Rashard Mendenhall in the first round.last_img read more


first_imgFacebook12Tweet0Pin0Submitted by Westport WineryWestport Winery’s Roberts family has again collaborated with Johnny and Darlene Camp of Opal Art Glass in Cosmopolis. Together they designed and crafted a hand-blown glass lighthouse for Shelter From The Storm, the first true port-wine crafted by winemaker Dana Roberts.The new bottle is a scale replica of the winery’s lighthouse. Wine club members and their guests were treated to the unveiling of this unique bottle on Sunday, May 22, in the winery’s event pavilion. Winery co-owner Kim Roberts said, “We have the westernmost vineyard in Washington State, so we made sure the architecture and theme of our business reflected our incredible coastal community. That’s why we built a 40-foot lighthouse as part of our tasting room.”Like all of their wines Shelter From The Storm benefits a local charity. A portion of the proceeds from Shelter is donated to the Grays Harbor Hospital Foundation. Since they opened in 2008, the Roberts family has contributed over $300,000 to local charitable organizations.Photo Credit: Molly Bold, Portrait ExpressionsThe wine’s label features an original watercolor by Tokeland artist Wally Mann. Additionally, each wine is commemorated in the resort’s gardens with a sculpture by a local artist. They Shelter sculpture was also created by Opal Art (as are two other sculptures in the park). The two companies continue to produce their popular “Float” bottle, designed to resemble a Japanese fishing float.Westport Winery Garden Resort is located on the corner of Highway 105 and South Arbor Road halfway between Aberdeen and Westport. The winery (including the restaurant, bakery, nursery and gardens) is open daily and offers lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.last_img read more