Archive | August, 2010

Madrid: Spanish Police Smash Male-Prostitute Trafficking Gang

31 Aug

MADRID: SPANISH POLICE SMASH MALE-PROSTITUTE TRAFFICKING GANG:

By DANIEL WOOLLS, Associated Press Writer Daniel Woolls, Associated Press Writer:

MADRID – Spanish police say that for the first time they have broken up a human-trafficking gang that brought men to the country to work as prostitutes, providing them with Viagra, cocaine and other stimulant drugs to be available for sex with other men 24 hours a day.

Authorities arrested 14 people, mainly Brazilians, on suspicion of running the organization and another 17 alleged prostitutes for being in Spain illegally, the National Police said in a statement Tuesday.

Police inspector Jose Nieto said the case involving the Brazilians was the first in which Spanish authorities dismantled a ring in which traffickers brought in men, rather than women, to toil as

sex workers.

The victims, men in their 20s and estimated to number between 60 and 80, were mainly recruited in northern Brazil and saddled with debts of up to euro4,000 ($5,000) as the cost of bringing them to Spain.

Some were duped into thinking legitimate jobs awaited them as go-go dancers or models; others knew they would be working in the

sex industry, but not that they had to be prepared for sex around the clock and would be moved from one province to another depending on demand for their services, Nieto told a news conference.

The men had to give half their earnings to the gang, and pay for rent and food in the apartments where they worked.

"If the men complained or caused any kind of problem, the gang leaders would threaten them, even with death," the

police statement said.

The arrests were made in recent weeks and the alleged ringleader is a Brazilian based in Palma on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.

Besides Viagra and cocaine, the men were given marijuana and the club scene drug known as ‘poppers’, the police statement said.

Sex is a multibillion-dollar industry in Spain, with brothels staffed mainly by poor immigrant women from

Latin America, Africa and eastern Europe lining highways just about everywhere and respectable daily newspapers brimming with ads from people selling their bodies. Prostitution falls in legal limbo: it is not regulated, although pimping is a crime.

Spain: Irish And British Nationals Among 20 Arrested On Ibiza In International Police Operation Against Drug Dealers/Traffickers: UPDATED

31 Aug

IRISH & BRITISH NATIONALS AMONG 20 ARRESTED ON IBIZA IN INTERNATIONAL POLICE OPERATION AGAINST DRUG DEALERS/ TRAFFICKERS:

More ibiza spain images & www.soca.gov.uk

A number of students were among a group of 20 Britons arrested after police smashed a suspected drugs ring on Ibiza, according to authorities.

Extensive searches on the Balearic Island uncovered a haul of illegal substances including 38,000 ecstasy tablets, 8.8lb (4kg) of cocaine, 8.8oz (250g) of ketamine, 7 pints (4l) of GHB, and 1.8oz (50g) grams of crystal MDMA.

Some 56,000 euro (£45,840) was also seized as part of Operation Arrow – a joint venture by the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and the Spanish National Guard.

The 14 men and 11 women arrested are believed to be members of the most active gang on the island involved in the nightclub drugs scene.

They include two Irish nationals, a Czech national, a Slovak and a Spaniard, along with 20 Britons who come from London, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

Police believe the drugs ring was led from the UK and had two branches in Ibiza – one in charge of establishing contacts and another responsible for distributing the drugs.

The gang is believed to have rented luxury villas on the island for its ringleaders and flats and apartments in tourist resorts for its dealers.

A spokesman for Soca said: "The ring used young ‘public relations’ people in nightclubs to distribute drugs and ensured similar prices were charged at each point of sale, depending on the time and place."

While the dealers are believed to have kept some substances for daily distribution, most were placed in secure houses.

Alleged gang members living overseas are believed to have visited the island to supervise the operation and collect its proceeds.

————–

UPDATE:

Tuesday, 31 August 2010 20:29

Two Irish citizens are among a group of 25 people who have been arrested in connection with a suspected drugs ring in Ibiza.

Twenty people from Britain, including a number of students, are also being held in Spain after a series of raids over the past few days.

Police are reported to have seized 38,000 ecstasy tablets, 4kg of cocaine, as well as ketamine, GHB and crystal MDMA.

About €56,000 was also recovered as part of the joint operation by the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Spanish National Guard.

The 14 men and 11 women arrested include two Irish nationals, a Czech national, a Slovak and a Spaniard, along with 20 Britons from London, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

The drugs ring is understood to have been led from the UK with two branches in Ibiza.

One branch was in charge of establishing contacts and another responsible for distributing the drugs.

The drugs were smuggled on to the island in cars coming from the UK or in the luggage of British tourists flying to Ibiza.

Alleged gang members living overseas are believed to have visited the island to supervise the operation and collect its proceeds.

While those at the top enjoyed luxurious accommodation, dealers were housed in flats and apartments in popular holiday spots.

They are believed to have kept some substances for daily distribution but most were placed in secure houses.

The police raids came after a surveillance investigation was launched in September, when the Civil Guard dismantled a British organisation involved in drug trafficking in Ibiza.

Authorities believe their suspects were trying to build the necessary infrastructure for drug distribution during the summer months.

A dozen properties were searched in San Antonio de Portmany, Santa Eulalia and San Jose de Sa Talaia during the weekend operation.

Officers also seized a hydraulic tablet press, several precision weighing balances and a number of substances used to cut drugs, along with a selection of documents.

A Spanish police statement said: ‘the ring used young ‘public relations’ people in nightclubs to distribute drugs and ensured similar prices were charged at each point of sale, depending on the time and place.’

Ken Gallagher, head of European operations for Soca, said: ‘this joint operation has taken out every level of a gang that was responsible for supplying and distributing a vast quantity of drugs to Ibiza.’

Mr Gallagher continued ‘this clearly demonstrates that career criminals who seek to avoid the attention of UK law enforcement by basing themselves overseas are well within our reach.’

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31 August 2010

20 British citizens are among 25 people arrested in Ibiza as part of Operation Flecha, a joint operation between the Guardia Civil and SOCA. Over the weekend investigators searched twelve houses on the island and recovered drugs including 38,000 ecstasy tablets, 4 kgs of cocaine as well as ketamine and other drugs.

Seized drugsThe investigation into the British-led drug ring focused on two arms of the gang – one involved in establishing contacts on Ibiza and the other responsible for the physical distribution of the drugs.

The 13 British men and 7 British women arrested are from Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and London. Others arrested include two from Ireland, one Czech national, one Slovak and a Spaniard. Together they are believed to belong to the most active organisation on the island involved in the distribution of ecstasy tablets and other drugs near night clubs and other leisure areas.

The investigation began last September after the Guardia Civil dismantled a British group involved in drug trafficking on Ibiza.  Seized documents and other information obtained in the operation led them to contact SOCA who then worked with the Guardia Civil to identify the criminal organisation responsible which was being directed from the UK.  

Ken Gallagher, Head of European operations for SOCA said:

 "This joint operation has taken out every level of a gang that was responsible for supplying and distributing a vast quantity of drugs to Ibiza.

"It represents an excellent result for our cooperation with the Spanish, and serves as a stark warning to students and others who might think they can make some easy money through the drugs trade. These arrests could have significant impact on their future, on their ability to finish their degrees and on their prospects for employment.

"It also clearly demonstrates that career criminals who seek to avoid the attention of UK law enforcement by basing themselves overseas are well within our reach."

Dublin: Swords Gardai Appeal Over Missing Teenager

31 Aug

 

Gardaí have issued an appeal to trace a 12-year-old girl who has been missing from the Portrane area of Dublin since Saturday.

Margaret ‘Maggie’ McDonagh was last seen at 6pm on 28 August.

She is described as being of slim build and 4’9” with brown shoulder-length hair, blue eyes

and a pale complexion.

Margaret McDonagh was wearing a pink Adidas top with white stripes on the arms, blue Canterbury trousers and black trainers when last seen.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Swords Garda Station on 01-6664700, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800-666111 or any garda station.

HIQA Calls For The Immediate Closure Of HSE Secure Children’s Unit In West Dublin: UPDATED

31 Aug

The Health Service Executive (HSE) should cease using its main secure unit for troubled teenagers immediately due to concerns over the safety of children in care, according to social services inspectors.

In a report published today by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), inspectors said Ballydowd special care unit in west Dublin was unsuitable, inadequate and unsafe. This follows a damning report in November of last year by the authority that strongly criticised care practices at the facility, which it said was “no longer fit for purpose”.

The HSE pledged to close the unit last year on foot of these findings. However, it has continued to admit children to the facility and is planning to keep it open at least until next year. Social work sources say authorities have nowhere else to place the children due to a chronic lack of special care places, which are used as a measure of last resort to detain troubled young people.

Today’s report by Hiqa re-states many of the concerns it raised last year and says the fabric of the building in Ballydowd has deteriorated further from the poor state identified last year.

“This represented an unsafe situation for the children placed in special care units,” the report states.

Inspectors also concluded that a second facility used by Ballydowd – known as the Solas special care unit in north Dublin – was also unsuitable for providing a good standard of special care.

Overall, inspectors said providing a secure environment appeared to have taken precedence over providing an adequate services for children in crisis. It also found that the need for containment had outweighed the quality of the service, its staff and the safety and quality of the buildings.

Among the inspectors’ other findings were:

* There had been 76 instances of physical restraint involving 10 children since the last inspection a year ago.

* The quality of files and documents was poor. Information held on files was scant, and there were some loose documents on some files.

* There had been 36 unauthorised absences by eight children. Nineteen of these absences, ranging from one to 53 hours, related to one child.

* Inspectors found disused units open at the rear of Ballydowd that contained maintenance equipment, dangerous implements and other objects that posed a safety risk

Hiqa inspectors concluded: “Notwithstanding the demand for placements, inspectors were concerned that special care was currently being provided in two unsuitable, inadequate settings which do not meet required standards.”

It added: “The inspectorate requires that the HSE cease the use of both Ballydowd and Solas as a special care facility with immediate effect and not place children in either until the buildings and campus are brought up to standard and their safety is assured.”

————–

The use of special care units for highly disruptive children and young people in Ballydowd in Dublin should cease immediately, according to the Health Information and Quality Authority.

HIQA says children should not be placed in them until they are brought up to standard.

Last November the Health Service Executive promised to close the two units at Ballydowd following an earlier inspection report by HIQA, which was highly critical of practices in the units and of their physical condition.

It said this would be completed within timeframes set by the needs of the resident children.

But between then and last month’s inspection, there have been five admissions to one of the units and two discharges.

Three girls were still resident there in July.

Inspectors found this unit was unsuitable for the purpose of providing a good standard of special care.

A year ago inspectors found that the special care unit was unable to provide sufficient therapeutic services.

Last month they found this was still the case and that a number of the external professionals interviewed expressed concern about this.

Files on residents were found in an unlocked building on campus as were tools, which could be dangerous if residents accessed them.

————–

Pakistan: 800,000 People In Desprate Need Of Aid Cut Off By Deluge

31 Aug

800,000 PEOPLE IN DESPRATE NEED OF AID CUT OFF BY DELUGE:

Video: Million more displaced in Pakistan & AP  – Pakistani Taliban hint at attacks on aid workers

Slideshow:Pakistan warns flood recovery could take years

  • Pakistan's hungry find helping hand Play Video Video:Pakistan’s hungry find helping hand Reuters
  • Desperate Need for Aid in Pakistan Play Video Video:Desperate Need for Aid in Pakistan FOX

    www.dec.org.uk & www.unicef.org.uk & www.unicef.ie

    ————

  • Floodwaters swept towards two small southern Pakistani towns Tuesday as authorities managed to finally plug a breach in defences across the Indus River at nearby Thatta city.

    Pakistani troops and city workers had been battling over the weekend to save the southern city of Thatta, with most of the population of 300,000 fleeing the advancing waters.

    "Thatta city has been declared safe after a breach in the river caused by floods at nearby Faqir Jo Goth village was fully plugged," senior city official Hadi Bakhsh Kalhoro told AFP.

    But he said the fast-moving waters that left the low-lying town of Sujawal submerged on Sunday were now threatening the towns of Jati and Choohar Jamali, where official warnings have been issued to residents to evacuate.

    "We are making efforts to save the two towns which have a combined population of more than 100, 000," Kalhoro said, adding most had already left for safer spots.

    Most people had already returned to Thatta, he said, on the western bank of the swollen Indus.

    Heavy and unprecedented monsoon rain has triggered massive floods that have moved steadily from north to south over the past month, engulfing a fifth of the volatile country and affecting 17 million of Pakistan’s 167 million people.

    Southern Sindh is the worst-affected province, with 19 of its 23 districts ravaged as floodwaters swell the raging Indus River to 40 times its usual volume.

    One million people have been displaced over the past few days alone.

    Eight million people have been left dependent on aid for their survival and floods have washed away huge swathes of the rich farmland on which the country’s struggling economy depends.

    The government has confirmed 1,645 people dead and 2,479 injured but officials warn that millions are at risk from food shortages and disease.

    The UN has warned that 800,000 people in desperate need of aid have been cut off by the deluge across the country and appealed for more helicopters to deliver supplies to those reachable only by air.

    The world body has so far received contributions amounting to 292 million dollars in response to its 459-million-dollar appeal, said spokesman Maurizio Giuliano.

    Eight million people have been left dependent on aid for their survival and floods have washed away huge swathes of the rich farmland on which the country’s struggling economy depends.

    The Pakistani government has been overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster, the worst in the country’s history, with millions in need of tents, food and medical aid.

    Aid agencies are worried about the growing risk of malnutrition and water-borne disease, with children especially vulnerable.

    "The World Health Organization has set up 70 diarrhoeal treatment centres in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces to check the disease," WHO spokeswoman Gul Afridi told a news conference in Islamabad.

    "We are in the process of setting up similar treatment centres in Baluchistan to prevent spread of the disease," Afridi said.

    She said that cases of malaria were also on the rise, especially in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces.

    Mexico: Major Drug Trafficker Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Captured By Authorities: UPDATED

    31 Aug

    MEXICO: CAPTURES MAJOR DRUG TRAFFICKER EDGAR “LA BARBIE” VALDEZ:

    www.blogdelnarco.com

    Slideshow:Mexico Drug War

    PHOTO:

    Major drug trafficker Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez is pictured after being captured in an undisclosed location in Mexico in this handout photo received by Reuters August 30, 2010. REUTERS/Mexican Federal Police/Handout:

    Mexico captured major drug trafficker Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez on Monday in a new victory for President Felipe Calderon’s high-stakes war on murderous cartels that threatens the country’s image among investors and tourists.

    Federal police caught Valdez, a leader of the Beltran Leyva cartel based in central Mexico, in a residential area near Mexico City, the government said.

    Valdez, a 37-year-old Mexican-American born in Texas, put up little resistance, a police spokesman said.

    "Valdez has connections with organized crime groups operating in Central and South America to smuggle drugs to the United States, where he is also wanted," national security spokesman Alejandro Poire told a news conference.

    Nicknamed "La Barbie" for his fair complexion, Valdez is believed to have been behind a surge in bloodshed in central Mexico as he fought for leadership of his cartel. U.S. authorities put a $2 million bounty on his head but Poire did not say if Valdez would be sent to the United States.

    After tracking Valdez for more than a year, the capture by Mexican officials on Monday follows the killing last month of another major drug boss, Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel.

    "This is clearly an important capture and will take some pressure off Calderon in the short term but the impact will only be partial unless the government moves to arrest La Barbie’s hitmen and dismantles his gang," said Pedro de la Cruz, a security analyst at Mexico’s National Autonomous University.

    "Unfortunately for Calderon, his capture could provoke even more violence if the Sinaloa cartel, the Zetas and La Familia try to move into his territory, which is very likely."

    Calderon is struggling to contain growing alarm in Mexico and abroad over his drug war. More than 28,000 people, mainly traffickers and police, have been killed amid vicious turf battles sparked by the army-led crackdown in the 3-1/2 years that the austere former lawyer has been in power.

    BUTCHERY OVERSHADOWS CAPTURES

    Backed by Washington, Calderon has made it the central goal of his presidency to crush the powerful cartels that earn an estimated $40 billion a year. But the bloodshed, including the torture and butchering of captives by rival gangs, has overshadowed most of Calderon’s successes.

    Officials announced this week they had fired nearly 10 percent of the federal police force as Calderon seeks to rein in the cartels and curb widespread police corruption.

    But in a sign violence has not abated, a shootout on Monday between the army and drug hitman lasted for more than 12 hours and killed eight people, terrorizing the town of Panuco in the Gulf state of Veracruz.

    Recent drug-related violence has included the killing of 72 people, thought to be migrant workers, near the U.S. border, the murder of a candidate for governor in the same region and slayings of groups of people at rehabilitation centres and parties.

    Drug hitmen have also used small car bombs for the first time in recent weeks as they also target mayors and step up their intimidation of newspapers and television stations.

    Valdez has been a leading contender to head the Beltran Leyva cartel since soldiers killed its former boss, Arturo Beltran Leyva, in December 2009, triggering a power struggle within the organisation.

    Valdez was once close to top drug fugitive Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, head of the Sinaloa alliance based in northwest Mexico, after growing up selling marijuana in the United States and developing a taste for luxury cars, nightclubs and designer clothes. Guzman is also a former ally of the Beltran Leyva brothers but the two gangs are now bitter rivals.

    "It’s a good score for the government but its also good news for the Sinaloa cartel," Mexican drug trade expert and columnist Jose Reveles said of Valdez’s arrest.

    (Additional reporting by Cyntia Barrera, Adriana Barrera and Robin Emmott; Editing by Missy Ryan and Kieran Murray)

    ————–

    UPDATE:

    By ALEXANDRA OLSON, Associated Press Writer Alexandra Olson, Associated Press Writer:

    MEXICO CITY – Federal police on Monday captured a long-sought, alleged Texas-born gang kingpin who faces drug trafficking charges in the U.S. and has been blamed for a vicious turf war that has included bodies hung from bridges and shootouts in central Mexico.

    The announcement came just hours after the government said nearly 10 percent of the federal police force has been fired this year as part of a campaign to root out corruption.

    The arrest of Edgar Valdez Villarreal

    , alias "the Barbie," was the culmination of yearlong intelligence operations, said Alejandro Poire, the government’s security spokesman.

    "This capture constitutes a blow of great impact against organized crime," Poire said.

    President Felipe Calderon also announced the capture on Twitter, calling Valdez "one of the most-wanted criminals in Mexico and abroad." Calderon said operations to bring down this trafficking gang will continue.

    Valdez, 37, was captured in the state of Mexico, which borders the capital of Mexico City, the Public Safety Department said in a statement.

    It was accompanied by a photograph of Valdez — whose fair skin and blue eyes earned him his nickname — sporting stubble as he kneels on the ground, a police officer’s hand on his shoulder.

    Poire said the government would release further details Tuesday on the operation that led to the capture.

    Valdez — the third major drug lord brought down by Mexico’s security forces in less than a year — was charged in May in U.S. District Court in Atlanta with distributing thousands of pounds of cocaine from Mexico to the eastern U.S. from 2004 to 2006.

    U.S. authorities had offered a reward of up to $2 million for information leading to his capture, and the Mexican government offered a similar amount.

    There was no word from Mexican authorities on any extradition plans.

    Mexican authorities say Valdez has been battling for control of the Beltran Leyva cartel since its leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva, was killed in a December shootout with marines in Cuernavaca, a favourite weekend getaway south of the Mexican capital.

    The fight against Hector Beltran Leyva — a brother of Arturo — has made a battleground of what was once a relatively peaceful pocket of the country and brought the drug war ever closer to Mexico City. Their fight has spread westward toward the resort city of Acapulco.

    The U.S. State Department says Valdez headed a group of assassins for the Beltran Levya gang. He "is the person most responsible for pushing the battle into central and southern Mexico," the department says on its website.

    Valdez’s capture is the government’s latest victory against the crumbling Beltran Leyva cartel. Two other Beltran Leyva brothers have been arrested under Calderon’s government, which in late 2006 deployed thousands of federal police and soldiers to fight drug traffickers in their strongholds.

    That offensive has brought down several major traffickers.

    Aside from the Beltran Leyvas, drug lord Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel was killed in a gunbattle last month when soldiers raided his home in Guadalajara. Coronel was the No. 3 in the

    Sinaloa cartel, one of the world’s most powerful drug trafficking gangs.

    The Sinaloa cartel was aligned with the Beltran Leyvas until they split in 2008, one of the many divisions among Mexican cartels in recent years that have fuelled the country’s gruesome gang violence.

    Valdez was born in the border city of Laredo, Texas, and belonged to the Sinaloa cartel before its split from the Beltran Leyvas. Much of the most recent violence in central Mexico has been directed at his allies.

    The decapitated bodies of four men were hung from a bridge in

    Cuernavaca last week, along with a message threatening allies of "La Barbie" and signed by the gang led by Hector Beltran Leyva. Two more bodies later were hung from bridges near Acapulco later in the week, although no gang claimed responsibility.

    U.S. prosecutors say they used a federal wiretap of a related case in Atlanta in January 2008 to identify Valdez as the source of thousands of kilograms of cocaine that were imported into the U.S. from 2004 to 2006.

    Witnesses said some truckloads travelling from Laredo to Atlanta carried more than 650 pounds of cocaine. The workers made shipments of money, often containing several million dollars in cash, back to Mexico in tractor-trailer trucks, according to the court records.

    He is also charged in a 1998 indictment in Texas and a 2002 indictment in Louisiana, according to the State Department.

    Poire said Valdez directed a criminal enterprise that spanned four states, and included extortion and money laundering as well as drug smuggling.

    Mexican authorities had been closing in La Barbie’s allies in recent weeks. On July 10, marines raided a house in Acapulco and captured Gamaliel Aguirre Tavira, suspected regional chief of the Valdez faction.

    Despite the major arrests,

    Mexico’s drug gang violence has only grown bloodier since Calderon launched his crackdown in 2006, claiming more than 28,000 lives.

    In the latest violence, a 12-hour battle between troops and gunmen left killed seven people in the eastern town of Panuco.

    The gunmen opened fire and launched grenades at a government electricity station as they tried to escape the soldiers, causing a power outage in a large part of town, said Salvador Mikel Rivera, attorney general in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, where Panuco is located.

    The battle started Sunday night when gunmen in six cars ignored orders to stop from soldiers at a checkpoint, Rivera said. Soldiers, along with state and local police, started a chase that ended at two houses where the gunmen tried to hide, he said. The shootout at the houses lasted until Monday morning.

    One soldier and six gunmen were killed.

    Panuco is just south of the northern border state of Tamaulipas, where marines discovered the bodies of 72 Central and South American migrants believed to have been gunned down by the

    Zetas drug gang after refusing to smuggle drugs, in what may be the deadliest cartel massacre to date.

    The lone survivor, an 18-year-old Ecuadorean, returned to his home country over the weekend after declining a humanitarian visa that would have let him stay in Mexico, the Foreign Relations Department announced Monday.

    The dead migrants were discovered at a ranch about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the U.S. border in Tamaulipas.

    Violence has surged in north-eastern Mexico this year since the Zetas broke ranks with their former employer, the Gulf cartel.

    Also on Monday, Mexico’s government announced that it has fired nearly 10 percent of its federal police force this year for failing checks designed to detect possible corruption.

    Mexico’s approximately 35,000 federal police are required to undergo periodic lie detector, psychological and drug examinations, and the government routinely investigates their finances and personal life.

    Federal Police Commissioner Facundo Rosas said 3,200 officers have been dismissed this year for failing to meet the agency’s standards.

    The agents are barred from taking jobs in any other security force — a recurring problem that Mexican governments have vowed to solve for many years.

    Meanwhile, for the first time in its history, the border city of Ciudad Juarez is cancelling its traditional Sept. 15 celebration of Mexico’s independence from Spain, Mayor Jose Reyes announced Monday.

    Reyes said authorities had not received any specific threat surrounding the event but decided it would be too dangerous for large crowds to gather in the city, which has become one of the worlds most dangerous amid a turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Istra Pacheco in Mexico City, Miguel Angel Hernandez in Veracruz and Olivia Torres in Ciudad Juarez contributed to this story.

    ———-

    UPDATE:

    By TIM PADGETT WITH DOLLY MASCAREÑAS / MEXICO CITY Tim Padgett with Dolly MascareÑas / Mexico City:

    The Ecuadorean government couldn’t get its citizen out of Mexico fast enough. The young man had been making his way to the U.S. last week when he and 72 fellow Latin American migrants, he told authorities, were abducted by one of Mexico’s most vicious drug cartels, the Zetas, in the north-eastern border state of Tamaulipas. When the migrants refused to pay ransom, the narcos shot each of them in the head at a remote ranch house, leaving their corpses in heaps inside a grain barn. Only the Ecuadorean, who was shot in the neck but played dead, survived. He was put under Mexican military protection.

    But Ecuadorean officials whisked him back home early Monday morning – and who can blame them? A day after last week’s Tamaulipas massacre, believed to be the worst drug-related crime ever in Mexico, a state investigator probing the atrocity, Roberto SuÁrez, and a police officer accompanying him went missing. The only thing more troubling is how little a surprise that was: Mexican cops, detectives and judges are often murdered while working narcocases, as are witnesses supposedly under government protection. After a top drug lord was killed in a shoot-out with federal agents late last year, officials in the administration of Mexican President Felipe CalderÓn were even clueless enough to trumpet the identity of a Mexican marine who died in the operation – and narcos then murdered his unprotected mother and sister in retaliation.

    (See the Mexican massacre that shook all of Latin America.)

    Drug-related killings have claimed more than 28,000 lives in Mexico since CalderÓn began his offensive against the narcocartels three and a half years ago. The vast majority of those homicides are unsolved. But the migrant massacre and its aftermath have left Mexicans with the most sinking feeling yet that their government is impotent to shield them from the bloodshed. In two weeks, Mexico will mark its bicentennial, yet most people there say they see little to celebrate if 200 years of nationhood is culminating in a narcorepublic that can act with nightmarish impunity. "The country lives in a state of perpetual and increasing violence," says pollster and political analyst Federico Berrueto. "Everything and everybody is paralyzed."

    (See the confessions of a foot-soldier for the Zetas.)

    As if to stoke Mexicans’ dread that the narcos plan to turn the bicentennial into a bullet fest, the cartels have upped the ante in recent weeks. Aside from murdering numerous politicians in northern Mexico – including the most recent victim, Marco Antonio Leal, mayor of the Tamaulipas town of Hidalgo, whose 10-year-old daughter was shot in the leg during the Sunday ambush but survived – they’ve unleashed explosives. Two car bombs went off simultaneously in the Tamaulipas capital of Ciudad Victoria last Friday, one at a television studio and another outside a police station. No one was hurt, but on Saturday, grenade explosions in the Tamaulipas border city of Reynosa reportedly killed one person and injured 20, while another bomb planted at police headquarters in Tampico farther south wounded two.

    CalderÓn decried Leal’s "cowardly" murder and the "reprehensible violent acts" plaguing Tamaulipas, where the Zetas and their erstwhile partner, the Gulf Cartel, are currently fighting for turf control. He insisted that they’ll "strengthen the commitment of the Mexican government to continue fighting the criminal gangs that intimidate" Mexico – and which increasingly spook Washington as well. But in recent forums with politicos, security experts, business leaders and grassroots citizens, CalderÓn and his administration have betrayed an unsettling uncertainty as to what to do next. His strategy of throwing the Mexican army at the cartels has had limited success at best – although he scored a victory on Monday when federales captured Edgar Valdez, alias La Barbie, a chief of the BeltrÁn-Leyva Cartel – and his critics charge that it has only exacerbated the crisis.

    (See pictures of Mexico’s drug wars.)

    Besides the insatiable U.S. appetite for drugs, Mexico’s key problem remains – and will remain, no matter how many Black Hawk helicopters and other politically flashy hardware the U.S. sends south of the border under a $1.5 billion antinarco aid plan for Mexico – its corrupt and incompetent police. Any doubts about that fact should have been erased earlier this month when two large units of federal cops rioted in the border city of JuÁrez, the Mexican town worst hit by the narcocarnage, accusing each other of being in the cartels’ pockets. "The Mexican security process is utterly deformed," says Arturo Alvarado, a security expert at the Colegio de MÉxico in Mexico City. "That’s why the violence, and the state’s incapacity to confront it, keeps deteriorating and will continue to deteriorate until we see the political will to change this."

    Reforming the Mexican constabulary could take a generation. (The federal police commissioner said Monday that he has purged a tenth of his force for failing lie-detector and other tests.) But CalderÓn last week showed that he recognizes what promises to be more effective against the cartels than soldiers – namely, the kinds of laws that can sap the narcos of the billions of dollars they use to buy not only guns (most smuggled from the U.S.), but also cops and officials, and which businesses are all too happy to launder for them. The bill he sent to Mexico’s Congress last Thursday would more seriously crack down on money-laundering operations, mainly by regulating channels like currency-exchange houses and jewellers, and by improving financial intelligence-gathering. Bank and other cash transactions over 100,000 pesos ($7,700) would finally set off the kind of alarm bells, for example, that they do in the U.S. and other countries.

    That won’t ease Mexican anxieties in the short run, of course – and probably won’t raise national spirits enough to turn the Sept. 15 grito, or the cry of independence, into a more cheerful occasion. But it’s the kind of step that could make Mexico’s tricentennial, or even its 250th or 225th anniversary, a lot more to celebrate than its bicentennial.

    See pictures of a mass quincea [t {n}] era in Ciudad Ju [a {a}] rez.

    See pictures of a Mexican meth gang waging a holy drug war.

    Dublin: 18-Year-Old Charged With Murdering 12-Year-Old Michaela Davis: UPDATED

    30 Aug

     

    An 18-year-old man has appeared in court charged with the murder of a 12-year-old girl in west Dublin at the weekend.

    Jonathan Byrne, of Lohunda Downs in Clonsilla in Dublin, was brought before Dublin District Court this morning and remanded in custody until next Friday.

    He is accused of the murder of Michaela Davis, whose body was found on a bank of the Royal Canal on Saturday afternoon.

    A post mortem subsequently showed that she had been attacked, sexually abused and strangled.

    Mr Byrne, who was dressed in jeans, white runners and a grey hoodie, did not speak during the brief hearing.

    Det Sgt Daniel Callaghan from Blanchardstown Garda Station gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution.

    He told the court that he arrested Jonathan Byrne at Blanchardstown Garda Station at 11.30pm yesterday and was present when he was charged by Sgt Joe Delaney.

    Det Sgt Callaghan said the accused made no reply to the charge and was handed a copy of it.

    Defence solicitor Eugene Dunne applied for and was granted free legal aid.

    He also asked that Mr Byrne be given medical attention.

    Judge Patrick Clyne remanded him in custody to appear again at Clover Hill District Court next Friday.

    Support service for students

    The principal of Luttrellstown Community College in Blanchardstown has said that a psychological support service for students is in place.

    A ‘critical incident management team’ has also been set up to provide support for pupils following Michaela’s murder.

    Michaela was a first-year student at Luttrellstown and attended her first classes last Wednesday.

    Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Fine Gael Councillor Kieran Dennison said the community has been supporting her family.

    The principal of St Mochta’s National School, where Michaela had attended until June, said she was ‘a lovely child who had so much to give and to live for’.

    Terry Allen said: ‘The thoughts and prayers of our whole school community at this very sad and upsetting time are with Michaela’s family, to whom we extend our deepest sympathy on their tragic loss.’
    —————-

    UPDATE:

    Tuesday August 31 2010

    A TEENAGER was yesterday charged with the murder of 12-year-old Michaela Davis.

    Jonathan Byrne (18), from Lohunda Downs, Clonsilla, west Dublin, is accused of killing the schoolgirl over the weekend.

    Michaela’s body was found on a bank of the Royal Canal at Porterstown, near Blanchardstown, on Saturday afternoon.

    She had been raped, beaten and strangled.

    Yesterday, Mr Byrne made no comment during his brief appearance at Dublin District Court.

    Det Sgt Daniel Callaghan from Blanchardstown garda station gave details to the court of the arrest, charge and caution.

    Medical

    He said Mr Byrne had been arrested at 11.30pm on Sunday and was subsequently charged by Sgt Joe Delaney with the murder of Michaela at Porterstown Road.

    Mr Byrne made no comment when he was charged; Det Sgt Callaghan told the court.

    Defence solicitor Eugene Dunne applied for legal aid and medical attention for his client, which was both granted by Judge Patrick Clyne.

    Mr Byrne wore a grey hoodie with ‘CS55’ on the front, white runners and blue jeans during the brief hearing, which lasted a matter of minutes.

    Judge Clyne remanded him in custody to appear again before Cloverhill court on Friday.

    No application for bail was made.

    When he was being escorted out of court number four in the new Criminal Courts of Justice complex by prison officers, he briefly waved to someone in the courtroom.

    However, nobody returned his acknowledgement.

    Throughout the hearing, Mr Byrne showed no emotion. His was one of the first cases on the court’s list for the day.

    – Shane Hickey

    Irish Independent

    ————

    THE parents of 12-year-old Michaela Davis, who died violently at the weekend, said it was their worst fear to "lose a child so full of life".

    Brendan and Deirdre Davis issued a statement after an 18-year-old appeared in court in Dublin charged with her murder.

    Jonathan Byrne, from Lohunda Downs in Clonsilla, west Dublin – just a few streets from where the dead girl lived – is accused of the killing near the Porterstown Road, a few minutes’ walk from her home.

    The Davis family said they were desperately trying to get their heads around the killing of their daughter, Michaela.

    Her body was discovered in undergrowth by a man walking along the Royal Canal in west Dublin on Saturday evening.

    The grieving couple said their daughter’s death was a needless, awful tragedy and insisted the family was always there for one another.

    "This is a heart-wrenching situation," the distraught parents said.

    "A young 12-year-old girl who was full of life has been lost.

    "She was very close to her mum, dad and [teenage] brother, Brendan. They were always there for one another."

    Michaela may have been beaten and strangled, sources said.

    She was last seen after midnight on Saturday when she told her parents she was going out for a few minutes to meet a friend.

    Michaela was reported missing at about 2.30am and an extensive search was launched.

    She had enjoyed her first day of secondary school at Luttrellstown Community College the previous Thursday and her family revealed she had been given her first homework, due to be handed in tomorrow.

    "All Michaela’s friends are heartbroken at the moment and cannot get their heads around this tragedy, no more than the rest of the extended family and friends," Michaela’s family said in a statement.

    "The needless loss of a young child, the awful tragedy of a girl barely beginning life. This situation is not and never will be about the crime or the perpetrator – it’s about Michaela, and the realisation of a parent’s worst fear to lose a child so full of life."

    Michaela had started Luttrellstown Community College last week but was said to have been hanging around with older teenagers and some young adults outside of school.

    She was also said to have a mature appearance and looked several years older than she was.

    Michaela was reported missing just over two hours after leaving home to meet a friend and a major search operation was launched by gardaí.

    Large areas around the family home remained sealed off for a third night last night as the family continued to appeal for privacy and Garda forensic officers carried out further searches along the canal.

    The young girl’s bike was found separately from her body.

    Byrne is due back in court in Dublin at the end of the week for a remand hearing.

    ———-

    The family homes of murdered Michaela Davis and her accused killer, Jonathan Byrne, are less than a 15-minute walk apart. And although the parents didn’t know each other, Jonathan and Michaela did, with Michaela sometimes visiting the home of the 18-year-old in Lohunda Downs, Clonsilla, west Dublin.

    Michaela lived in the semi-detached house in The Village, Porterstown, with her brother Brendan (16) and parents Brendan and Deirdre.

    The family moved into the house when Brendan was born, and are originally from the area.

    Their home faces on to a green area surrounded by railings which is a popular spot for the neighbourhood children to gather for a game of football or to ride their bicycles. A line of trees separates it from the Royal Canal and beyond that the railway line where Michaela’s body was found on Saturday.

    Just outside the gates of the estate lies St Mochta’s Football Club where Michaela’s brother plays for the under-17 team. Locals described him as a popular member of the team and a talented footballer.

    Michaela had finished at St Mochta’s National School at the top of the road and had just started secondary school at nearby Luttrellstown Community College. A popular girl with a wide circle of friends, she was particularly close to her grandmother.

    A short distance away is Lohunda Downs where Jonathan’s family have also been living for a long time.

    His mother Kathryn works in the local Spar shop, along with Jonathan’s older brother Keith. His father William works in Dublin Airport while one daughter lives abroad.

    However, she was home just over a week ago for the wedding of another sister, Natasha, to her long-term partner. The entire family celebrated the big day before Natasha and her new husband flew out on their week-long honeymoon last Thursday. It is understood they have since returned.

    Last night, a steady stream of family and friends called to Michaela’s home to sympathise with her family and to leave bouquets of flowers.

    A woman, who did not say what her relationship with the family was, insisted that they would not be talking to the media in the coming days.

    Beyond the mourners gathered around the family home, there was no activity in the leafy red brick estate but a crew of gardai maintained a vigil into the late evening.

    Local councillor Kieran Dennison said parents in the area have been grappling with the difficult task of explaining to their younger children what happened to the schoolgirl.

    "People are just trying to come to terms with it and explain it to their children as best they can. Parents are trying to get their heads around the fact that this was a 12-year-old child that it happened to," he said.

    Meanwhile, a Facebook tribute page to Michaela had attracted more than 3,800 followers by last night. Many of those had never met the schoolgirl but felt compelled to offer their condolences to her family.

    – Edel Kennedy and Breda Heffernan

    Irish Independent

    ——————–

    (Editor’s comment: It is the duty of a parent or guardian or adult of no connection or relationship whatsoever to protect a ‘child’ from harm.

    What sort of parent allows a 12 year old child to range the streets of a city until 12 midnight ? not to mention – allowing the child to return out onto the streets after that hour.

    When darkness falls that is the time for children to be secure in the safety of their own home – unless there is a good reason for them not being there.

    KNOWING WHERE YOUR CHIL/DREN ARE AND WHOM THEY ARE WITH IS THE DUTY OF EVERY PARENT AND GUARDIAN).