Saturday, November 20, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Russia ‘frees Israeli mercenary’

Russia has released Israeli mercenary Yair Klein, who was sought by Colombia for his involvement in the training of paramilitary squads, reports say.

Klein, a former Israeli army soldier, is on his way to Israel, Interfax news agency reports.

In 2024, a Colombian court convicted him in absentia of training right-wing guerrilla groups.

Russia arrested him in 2024 under an Interpol warrant and later agreed to extradite him to Colombia.

But the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) forbid the extradition, on grounds that he might face mistreatment in Colombia.

Klein was linked to training the MAS (Muerte a Secuestradores, or “Death to Kidnappers”) a paramilitary organization that was affiliated with the Medellín Cartel as well as to the Castaño brothers who would form the AUC (the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia).

Klein was sentenced in absentia in 2024 to 10 years and eight months in prison in Colombia for assisting and training drug lords and guerrilla groups in the 1980s and 1990s.

He was found guilty of training a cadre of killers for the infamous Medellin drug cartel, a charge which he denies.

They later became the nucleus of the brutal paramilitary army known as the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), which prosecutors said carried out some of the country’s most notorious political assassinations.

Filed under: Colombia,Criminal Justice | Comments Off|
Tuesday, October 12, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Elite Colombian soldiers guilty of killing civilian

A court in Colombia has found seven members of an elite anti-kidnapping squad guilty of killing a civilian and saying he was a left-wing guerrilla.

The soldiers claimed they had killed Eduardo Perez Vega in combat in the eastern province of Casanare in 2024.

They then said he was a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The incident was one of hundreds of so-called "false-positive" cases, which were used by the Colombian military and police to inflate their successes.

The broader context:

Thousands of people are believed to have been killed in such extrajudicial executions, which started to come to light during the tenure of former President Alvaro Uribe.

Many of the victims were dressed as rebel fighters after they were killed.

These cases illustrate that not only does the violence continues in Colombia (despite press coverage that often treats it as all but over) and specifically that many Colombian civilians have suffered greatly because of it.

That the soldiers were put on trial and convicted is a positive step for Colombian democracy, although there has not been as thorough investigation into the false positives scandal as the situation warrants.

Filed under: Colombia,Courts,Criminal Justice,Latin America | Comments Off|
Sunday, September 19, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP:  Veteran Colombian senator jailed

Colombian authorities have arrested a veteran lawmaker and former president of Congress on criminal conspiracy charges for alleged collusion with far-right militias.

Javier Caceres has been a senator since 1998. The 52-year-old Cartagena lawmaker was president of Congress until July.

Caceres was elected to the Senate in 1998 as a member of the Liberal Party, re-elected in 2024 under the National Movement label.  He switch to Radical Change in 2024 and 2024, and was therefore part of the governing legislative coalition during the Uribe administration.

The fact that Colombian legislators continue to be arrested is both disturbing and reassuring.  Disturbing that so many politicians are involved with paramilitary groups and reassuring because it indicates that some of the institutions of state are functional.  That law enforcement and the courts are willing and able to target powerful politicians is a good thing, to be sure.  Although, on balance, I would assess the situation as more disturbing than anything else.

Filed under: Colombia,Criminal Justice | Comments Off|
Sunday, July 4, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

The leader of Argentina’s military government, Jorge Videla, is facing trial again for his actions during the 1976-1981 period.

Via the BBC:  Videla trial opens in Argentina

Former Argentine military ruler Jorge Videla, 84, has gone on trial for the murder of more than 30 political prisoners in 1976.

Videla is already serving a life sentence for actions undertaken during his rule.

The military regime in Argentina (that lasted until 1983) was quite brutal:

Former Argentine military ruler Jorge Videla, 84, has gone on trial for the murder of more than 30 political prisoners in 1976.

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Latin America | Comments Off|
Thursday, June 17, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Remember Amy Bishop?

She has now been charged in the 1986 killing of her brother (which previously had been classified as an accident).

Via the BoGloAmy Bishop charged with murder for 1986 shooting of brother.

Filed under: Academia,Criminal Justice | Comments Off|
Thursday, June 10, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Colombia ex-officer jailed after historic conviction

A former Colombian army officer has been found guilty of the forced disappearance of 11 people in 1985.

Colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his actions as troops stormed the Palace of Justice in Bogota after it had been seized by left-wing rebels.

The 11 victims survived the military assault, but were taken away by the army and never seen again.

Human rights groups have hailed the judgement as a breakthrough.


The judges ruled that he was responsible for the forced disappearance of 11 survivors, most of whom worked in the building’s cafeteria.

The case was opened in 2024 after video footage emerged showing some of them alive after the assault, being taken away by soldiers.

The incident in question took place in 1985 when members of the M-19 took over the Palacio de Justicia in the heart of the seat of government in Bogotá.  It is located on the Plaza de Bolivar right across from the congress building and next to the offices of Bogotá’s mayor.  A block away is the president’s residence and the building that houses the offices of members of congress.

Here’s a photo of the re-constructed Palacio:  click.   The building was destroyed when the military response to the M-19 take-over lead to the building being directly attacked, leading to the death of members of the Supreme Court, amongst others.  When I first lived in Bogotá in 1994-1995 the building still had not been fully reconstructed. 

I was unaware of the case of the 11 disappeared persons and concur that bringing the military commander to justice is a positive move for human rights in Colombia.

The entire event remains the most dramatic guerrilla-related event ever to occur in a major Colombian city and questions remain to this day as to the degree to which the military’s decision to attack the building was one made by President Betancourt or was an independent (and illegal) decision made by the military.

The motivation of the M-19 guerrillas is also contested.  One thing is certain:  the event marked the M-19’s most dramatic action and also marked the beginning of its end as an active guerrilla group in Colombia.  It would eventually lay down its arms and convert itself into a political party, with an important role in the constituent assembly that re-wrote the Colombian constitution in 1991.

The part would eventually fall apart, although its legacy lives on, in part, as part of the Polo Democrático Alternativo.  Indeed, its presidential candidate, Gustavo Petro was affiliated with the M-19, winning a Chamber of Represenatives seats under the AD/M-19 label in 1991. 

Friday, May 28, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Jamaica clashes claimed more than 70 lives, “Most of the dead were young men, some suspected of being armed, while at least three police and soldiers also died, officials said.”  Additionally, over 500 have been arrested.

Meanwhile, regarding the object of the assault:  “It is not clear if Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, who is wanted by the US, is still in Jamaica.”

The attempt to capture Coke and extradite him to the United States lasted four days to date.

It is unclear exactly what sparked the move to extradite Coke at this precise moment in time:

The violence was sparked by a decision by [Prime Minister] Golding to extradite Mr Coke to the US on drugs and weapons trafficking charges – for which he could receive a life sentence.

It reversed nine months of opposition to his extradition, with Mr Golding arguing that the evidence against Mr Coke was obtained illegally by intercepting mobile telephone calls.

But he changed his mind in the face of growing public discontent, and questions about his possible ties to Mr Coke.

Mr Coke, 41, insists he is a legitimate businessman and enjoys the support of many impoverished Kingston residents who see him as a benefactor.

This is all classic drug war developments.  First we have an individual made fabulously wealthy via the drug trade.  Second, said individual uses said wealth to ingratiate himself with large swaths of the poor, to corrupt segments of the government, and to arm himself to the teeth.  Third, all of this makes the drug lord in question into a force able to contest the state itself leading to the only way that he can be taken out is via substantial state action.

The story is quick similar to that of Pablo Escobar, the first (and perhaps greatest) of the cocaine lords.  It is certainly a pattern we are seeing in Mexico at the moment.

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Latin America,War on Drugs | Comments Off|
Thursday, May 27, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

A while back I noted the case of Angie Sanclemente Valencia, a Colombian model who was wanted on suspicion of running a drug smuggling ring using model (She Has it All: Looks and a Cocaine Cartel).

She is now in custody.  Via the BBC:  Colombian beauty queen arrested on drug charges:

The Argentine press, who have dubbed her "Narco Queen", say she moved to Mexico in 2024 where she became romantically involved with a well-known drug trafficker known as The Monster.

She is believed to have moved to Argentina in 2024.

An arrest warrant was issued for her after a 21-year-old model was found carrying 55kg of cocaine boarding a flight to Cancun, Mexico.

The woman’s arrest led to six more alleged gang members, who reportedly told police they had been recruited by Ms Sanclemente.

Wednesday, May 26, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Mobile Press-RegisterCommissioner Stephen Nodine indicted for murder in shooting death of his mistress:

Mobile County Commissioner Stephen Nodine has been indicted on a murder charge by a Baldwin County grand jury in the shooting death of his longtime mistress Angel Downs.

Nodine, 46, is accused in the May 9 slaying of Downs, who was found in her Gulf Shores driveway with a gunshot wound to her head.

He is also facing drug charges related both to prescription drugs and marijuana.

Nodine claims he is innocent and that he was not at the scene.  Witnesses place a Ford pickup of the same model and color as Nodine’s at the site.  The assertion by the defense is that the death was a suicide.

A timeline (and a somewhat bizarre one at that) concerning Nodine’s public sojourn can be found here:  Angel Downs, Stephen Nodine seen at beach day of fatal shooting.  It includes this gem:

April 2024 A celebrity lawn mower race at the Greater Gulf State Barbecue Championship and Hog Wild Festival turns strange when Nodine runs over the legs of a local radio personality who has lost control of his own mower and fallen to the ground. The mowers are not equipped with blades, and the radio host suffers only minor injuries.

Filed under: Alabama Politics,Criminal Justice | Comments Off|
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Jamaican PM Golding vows to restore order to Kingston.

Here’s what we have at this point after several days of the action:

  • At least 31 dead (maybe as many as 60).   All of the dead are civilians and some are clearly innocent bystanders.
  • More than 200 detained.
  • “The whereabouts of alleged drug lord Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke are unknown.”
  • “thousands of loyal followers who have promised to protect him at any cost.”

Without getting into whether this assault to capture Coke was the proper approach or not, the entire situation underscores the dynamics of the drug war.   Here we have an individual who is sufficiently wealthy that he has been able to hold off a fairly major state assault aimed at his arrest and extradition.  He drug wealth is sufficient that he can afford the arms and troops needed to hold off the state (and, no doubt, to buy a great deal of influence as well).

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