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_imgAs is tradition today, winning teams, national champions, and Olympian Medalists are invited to the White House.  Since Trump has been president, these have not always been well attended.  However, local Olympian Nick Goepper made his appearance with the 2018 Winter Olympic team.  Goepper, who was a 2-time Olympic medalist from Lawrenceburg, Indiana, was there to be congratulated by the president.  Several of the big name Olympians, such as Adam Rippon, chose not to attend.Despite what you may think of Trump’s policies, it is good to see that Goepper was proud of the honor and made his appearance.  Quite an accomplishment for someone who was not raised in a winter Olympic climate.last_img read more

first_imgAnother offseason comes and yet again, so does another transfer quarterback for Wisconsin football. This time, it’s a junior college transfer.Tanner McEvoy, regarded as the top dual-threat quarterback in junior college football, is transferring to Wisconsin, as reported by Evan Flood of 247sports Monday afternoon. McEvoy visited Wisconsin on Jan. 29 and was reportedly interested in Oregon, Florida and West Virginia.The 6-foot-6 quarterback from Hillsdale, N.J. just recently spent his first season of eligibility at Arizona Western Community College, where he played in eight games and threw 24 touchdowns. The four-star thrower is deemed a dual-threat quarterback due to his ability to not only pass efficiently, but run as well. McEvoy also ran for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season.Originally a South Carolina Gamecock, McEvoy decided to transfer at the beginning of his redshirt freshman season following a late June arrest in North Carolina for driving after consuming alcohol while under the legal drinking age. Following the arrest, he was temporarily suspended from team activities before being reinstated before the season.McEvoy is the lone quarterback from new head coach Gary Andersen’s 2013 recruiting class and will have three years of eligibility. He will join a long list of quarterbacks competing for play in 2013, which includes three former starters in Joel Stave, Curt Phillips and Danny O’Brien. Redshirt Freshman and former four-star recruit himself Bart Houston will also be in the mix after returning from shoulder surgery as well as redshirt senior Jon Budmayr.last_img read more

first_imgJenny Chung | Daily TrojanOn Tuesday morning, the college athletics world was rocked to its core with earth-shattering news. A long-running FBI investigation revealed widespread corruption in college basketball, resulting in the indictment of 10 men, including Adidas employees, sports agents and four assistant coaches: Arizona’s Emmanuel Richardson, Auburn’s Chuck Person, Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans and, yes, USC’s very own Tony Bland.Bland, like the other three coaches, was accused of “bribery conspiracy,” and “solicitation of bribes,” among other charges. He is alleged to have taken cash gifts from sports agents and financial advisors in exchange for convincing his players to sign with specific agencies once they turned pro. In a press conference, the Justice Department announced that the coaches could potentially face a maximum of 80 years in prison if found guilty of the crimes. When most college sports fans see their school implicated in any sort of NCAA investigation, they are worried, maybe even scared for the well-being of the program they support. But when USC is mentioned in the same sentence as words like “probe” and “potential sanctions,” it feels like the Grim Reaper himself has descended back upon South Central.When I saw the news, I couldn’t help but think of a Kanye West line on the song “Knock you Down.”: “This is bad, real Bad, Michael Jackson.” After USC was hit with crippling NCAA sanctions in 2010 stemming from improper benefits given to Heisman winner Reggie Bush and basketball standout OJ Mayo, it took nearly a decade for both teams to recover. The Trojans football team just returned to national prominence with last year’s Rose Bowl win, after being slapped with a two-year bowl ban and, perhaps more ruinous, a reduction in scholarships. USC was unable to field a full football roster until 2014.Recovery was also a long and winding road for the basketball program. After its sanctions were handed down, it was not until 2015 that current coach Andy Enfield was able to end the team’s five-year NCAA Tournament drought. It was also the Trojans’ first winning record in that time span. Last season, the men’s basketball team took another leap forward. It finished at 26-10, the most wins in USC history. The Trojans went on to make it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament as an 11-seed with a major upset victory over Baylor in the Round of 64. Entering this season, there was more hype surrounding the basketball team, since well, possibly ever. The team was set to return virtually all of last year’s core lineup while adding Duke transfer Derryck Thornton Jr. and highly touted recruit Charles O’ Bannon Jr. Media outlets position them as high as top-10 2018 pre-season rankings. Now what was supposed to be a breakout year for a historically downtrodden basketball team is completely up in the air. The best-case (but wildly unlikely) scenario is that further investigation reveals Bland to be one bad egg in an otherwise clean program. However even if that is the situation, ESPN’s Darren Rovell pointed out on Twitter that in 2013, “NCAA said head coaches are responsible for everything,” and can no longer use assistant coaches as scapegoats for violations. It seems like USC basketball is once again on the verge of collapse, along with the entire institution of college basketball. According to the FBI, the party is just getting started. It uttered by far the ominous statement of the day when a spokesperson delivered a message to college coaches around the country. “We have your playbook,” New York FBI Assistant Director in Charge William Sweeney Jr. said at a press conference. “Our investigation is ongoing. We are conducting additional interviews as we speak.”Not to sound too football-centric, but even if the basketball program goes down in flames, I can only hope the corruption is confined to that one sport and not the entire athletics department, like last time. USC simply cannot afford it again. It appears as though Athletic Director Lynn Swann is saying and doing the right things as far as handling the issue. He immediately placed Bland on administrative leave and enlisted a former FBI director to conduct an independent investigation. At the very least, USC is prepared for these types of code red scenarios. While it’s disappointing to see USC sports back on the brink of disaster, it’s worth noting that these allegations are much more serious than last time. When it comes to the issue of college athletes being paid, I tend to believe that they should be compensated fairly given the amount of revenue they generate for universities. I did not think it was wrong when Ohio State players traded their game memorabilia for tattoos. I did not think it was wrong for Johnny Manziel to make money off his own signature in an autograph deal back in 2013 when he was the quarterback at Texas A&M. But what Bland potentially did by accepting bribes and capitalizing off of his influence over college athletes is unequivocally and morally wrong, not to mention illegal. Now, as USC fans we wait and hope this is the end rather than the beginning of a much longer, more painful sequel to 2010. Trevor Denton is a sophomore studying journalism. He is also the deputy sports editor for the Daily Trojan. His column, T-Time, runs on Wednesdays.last_img read more