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2much Media Travels to Mexico and Guatemala to Document the Coffee Crisis

first_img2much Media of Burlington accompanied their client, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, on a recent trip to Mexico and Guatemala. The goal was to come back with footage that GMCR could use in a variety of ways to raise awareness about the growing Coffee Crisis.If you’re not already familiar with the Coffee Crisis, it won’t be long before you are. After all, coffee, preceded by oil, is the world’s most traded commodity. The issue isn’t about a shortage in quantity, it’s quality that’s at stake. The small, multi-generation arabica coffee farms of Central America and other traditional coffee producing regions are struggling due to the increasing availability of lower quality and less expensive robusta beans from coffee sources such as Vietnam.”There are social, agricultural, political and economic angles to this story,” says Bill Kinzie of 2much Media. “It’s not all that different from what the dairy farmers here in Vermont have been dealing with.”Consumers can easily become activists by purchasing Fair Trade coffee sold by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and other companies. “Buying Fair Trade is a win-win situation,” Kinzie continues. “The consumer gets better coffee and the grower gets a sustainable price.”2much Media is based in Burlington, Vermont and specializes in media services for socially responsible companies.last_img read more

Cocaine-Laden Airliners Crossing South Atlantic

first_img A growing problem Indictments recently filed in a New York federal court paint a detailed picture of how South American drug organizations use retired commercial airliners to move multi-ton shipments of cocaine across the Atlantic Ocean. Countries along or near the West African coast are used as the “trans-shipment hubs” for landing the cocaine-filled airliners before the loads are sent on to Europe, one of the indictments states. While revelations about drug-filled airliners are not new – there were widely publicized reports after a DC-9 loaded with 5,600 kilos of cocaine was seized in Mexico in 2006 – the scope of the recent smuggling operations and their links to terrorist groups are startling. Drug cartels, predominately based in Colombia and Venezuela, shipped hundreds of tons of cocaine worth billions of dollars to places such as Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Togo, Mali, Ghana, Nigeria and Liberia, according to one indictment. The FARC (Furezas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) is one of the major suppliers of Europe-bound cocaine and that the group protects the shipments until the planes depart for Africa, the indictments say. Since 1997, the U.S. has designated the FARC a foreign terrorist organization. High-level public officials in small West African nations are bribed with “large cash payments and narcotics in order to ensure the safe passage, storage and distribution of their cocaine shipments,” one indictment states. Most of the cocaine flown to Africa is bound for Europe, where demand has been rising over the past decade. South American gangs are turning to airplanes because European navies have been intercepting more boat shipments along the African coast, trafficking experts told the Associated Press. “We started stopping the maritime traffic, basically, so then they started going to air traffic more and more,” said Theodore Leggett, a smuggling expert with the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna. The U.N. agency began warning about trans-Atlantic drug planes after Nov. 2, 2009, when a burned-out Boeing 727 was found in the desert in Mali. Drug smugglers had flown the jet from Venezuela, unloaded it and then torched it, investigators said. In Mali, the blackened hulk of the retired airliner became known as the Coca Cola plane. “That shows you the strength of the drug cartels, and how much money they have,” Rinaldo Depagne, a West Africa expert at the International Crisis Group in Dakar, Senegal told the Christian Science Monitor. “It’s like a plastic [Coca Cola] bottle to them. When you are done with it, you just throw it away.” By Dialogo November 23, 2010 Someone tell Mr. Scott Decker the Dean of the Criminology Faculty at the University of Arizona that Nooooooo A DC9 would not make it Cabo San Roque, Brazil to Sierra Leone in Africa and this is the longest stretch of the Atlantic not even a DC9 with maximum autonomy of 3.430 km will cover the 3520 km between the points mentioned now a modification to adapt an extra tank is complicated and time-consuming and I believe they should use a Boeing 727 or DC8. Other recent cases • A ring known as the Valencia-Arbelaez Organization was uncovered by U.S. agents after purchasing a plane for $2 million that it intended to use to for monthly flights between Venezuela and Guinea. The group claimed to have six aircraft already flying between South America and West Africa, according to the Associated Press. • Three Sierra Leone men, accused of scouting out airstrips and arranging for a four-ton flight of cocaine from South America in March. • Francisco Gonzalez Uribe, a Colombian trafficker due to be sentenced this month. He was recorded while trying to purchase large aircraft including a DC-8, a four-engine jet. • Walid Makled-Garcia, who prosecutors say controlled airstrips in Venezuela used to launch drug flights. Prosecutors say Makled-Garcia was behind one of the biggest drug plane shipments in recent years: the DC-9 that landed in Mexico in 2006 with more than 12,300 pounds of cocaine on board. He currently is in custody in Colombia and being sought for extradition by both the U.S. and Venezuelan governments. center_img Inside a conspiracy Agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration got a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one of these high-flying smuggling conspiracies in May 2009, when a South American drug organization attempted to bribe Liberian officials who were working undercover for the DEA. Thus began a case that ended with the June 2010 arrests of five men and the seizure of a plane filled with thousands of kilos of cocaine. The five currently face trial in New York after Liberia extradited them to the U.S. A sixth man, who is believed to be behind the conspiracy, currently is being sought by Colombian and U.S. authorities. Chigbo Peter Umeh, a Nigerian, and Jorge Ivan Salazar Castano, a Colombian, met with the director and deputy director of the Republic of Liberia National Security Agency May 15, 2009, according to court documents. At that meeting, Umeh and Salazar Castano agreed to pay the two officials $400,000 to ensure the safe passage of 700 kilos of cocaine into Liberia, according to the documents. Umeh also allegedly bragged during the meeting that he and Salazar Castano had previously sent aircraft containing thousands of kilos of cocaine into Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry and Liberia. Umeh again met with the Liberian officials Oct. 10, 2009, this time offering a $200,000 down payment for their help in connection with the shipment of 2,000 kilos of cocaine from South America to Liberia, the indictment states. During that meeting he also allegedly said his organization wanted to ship an additional 2,000 kilos before the end of 2009 and that the Liberian officials would be paid $1.4 million for their help. By February of this year, the indictment states, the Colombian organization was looking to move another 4,000 kilos and started asking about planes and pilots that might be available in Africa. At that point, Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot and air logistics expert was contacted by a DEA confidential source. Yaroshenko agreed to provide an aircraft and crew to transport the 4,000-kilo load from South America to Liberia during a series of meetings in Ukraine in early March,, the indictment states. He later e-mailed pictures and detailed specifications for two airplanes, an Antonov 12 and an Ilyushin 76, which he proposed to use to transport the cocaine from Liberia to other points in Africa, according to the indictment. Yaroshenko traveled to Liberia in May. At a meeting with Umeh and members of the Colombian drug trafficking organization, the Russian pilot said he would charge $4.5 million to fly the 4.000-kilo cocaine load from Venezuela to Liberia and an additional $1.2 million to fly it from Liberia to Ghana, according to the indictment. At later meetings, Yaroshenko and Umeh discussed provisioning an aircraft for the flight from Venezuela to Liberia and Yaroshenko said he could accommodate shipments as large as 6 or 7 tons in future flights, according to the court documents. At a meeting on May 15, Umeh said the 4,000-kilo shipment originated with the FARC in Colombia and that there was no reason for pilots to be concerned about their safety because the FARC would guarantee their security while in Colombia, the indictment said. According to U.S. authorities, the man behind the shipment was Marcel Acevedo Sarmiento, a cocaine supplier based in Colombia and Venezuela who was capable of transporting thousand-kilogram quantities of cocaine from South America to various locations in West Africa. Acevedo Sarmiento claimed in a series of recorded telephone conversations with a DEA confidential source to have been involved in the cocaine trafficking business for more than 20 years. While he was coordinating the shipment from Venezuela to Liberia, Acevedo Sarmiento confirmed to the confidential source that the cocaine had been protected by the FARC. Acevedo Sarmiento sent a flight plan for the shipment by e-mail to the confidential source on May 21, according to the indictment. The flight plan was issued in Venezuela and identified an aircraft and departure date of May 26, 2010. During recorded phone conversations on May 27 and 28, Acevedo Sarmiento informed the confidential source that the flight was delayed by bad weather and later because of the need to pay local officials to permit the plane to depart. Acevedo Sarmiento told the confidential source the next day that Venezuelan authorities had seized his plane, which he claimed was worth $35 million, as well as the cocaine that it contained, and had directed him to leave the country. That’s when Liberian authorities swept in and arrested Umeh, Salazar Castano, Yaroshenko and two other men; Nathaniel French and Kudufia Mawuko. The United States currently is coordinating with Colombian authorities to locate and apprehend Acevedo Sarmiento. Liberia extradited the five men to the U.S., where they are facing trials in a New York federal court. All of the defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, knowing or intending that the cocaine would be imported into the United States. This offense carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum term of life imprisonment. The U.S. is prosecuting the men because a portion of each shipment was destined for the American market. The vast distances between South American cocaine labs and the growing number of drug users in European countries are no problem for the large airliners. Most have the range to make the 3,900-mile flight or can be modified to carry more fuel. Recent downturns in the world economy have made more airplanes and pilots available for hire. Several websites list aging trans-Atlantic capable airliners for sale for less than $1 million. In an interview with the BBC, Professor Scott Decker, director of the School of Criminology at the University of Arizona, said the European demand has grown so much that “it pays to buy a DC-9, and pay for fuel and the pilot to fly to Africa before making the leap to Europe.” “The traffickers would have previously use boats or small planes but now, by using equipment such as DC-9, they can get from Central and South America to Africa,” Decker said. “Drug dealers, like most criminal organizations are dynamic and change. They can adapt to new markets and new attempts to stop them.”last_img read more