Costa Rica and the United States, Solid Allies in the Fight Against Drug Trafficking

first_imgBy Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo February 23, 2017 The U.S. government donated equipment and tools to the Aerial Surveillance Service (SVA, per its Spanish acronym) of the Costa Rican Ministry of Security, to assist the public in emergencies and to reinforce the fight against organized crime groups that use the country as a staging ground for international drug trafficking. The donation was made by the U.S. Department of Defense through the Embassy of the United States in Costa Rica, within the framework of the cooperation agreements between both countries. The announcement was made public on January 19th during a ceremony held at Juan Santamaría International Airport. The Costa Rican Ministry of Security reports that the aid provided by the U.S. government is valued at more than $1 million. This includes training, an information packet on aviation maintenance, the delivery of specialized maintenance equipment, and replacement parts for the King Air F90 that the Drug Control Police had seized with two tons of cocaine in 2013. Minutes away Starting the last week in February, a team of four SVA officials will train on how to manage their flight hours and flight schedules better and on how to maintain the airplane’s main components. The training will last eight weeks and will be taught by a local Costa Rican company. “The U.S. government’s support is resounding. Now more than ever equipping our security forces is fundamental in the fight that we are waging against organized crime and those groups that introduce drugs into our country,” Costa Rican Security Minister Gustavo Mata Vega told Diálogo. For the first time in the last 30 years, the King Air F90 aerial vehicle has enabled government security personnel to conduct patrols as far as Isla del Coco, “a zone that is exploited not only by drug traffickers, but also by various organizations dedicated to illegal fishing, which is an increasingly big problem for Costa Rica,” Minister Mata stressed. This airplane enables SVA personnel to get to the island in 90 minutes, instead of the 36 hours that the trip takes by boat. The airplane is also a key tool that benefits the Costa Rican people, given that it is actively used for medevac flights around the country. The King Air F90’s pressurized cabin is ideal for transporting patients to specialized medical centers. “This latest assistance [from the U.S.] bolsters our operational capabilities for doing higher speed and longer range air patrols over the open ocean in response to drug trafficking and organized crime in the Pacific zone, as well as for use in humanitarian missions,” SVA’s director, Captain Juan Luis Vargas Castillo, told Diálogo. The United States cooperation is a centerpiece of Costa Rica’s strategy for fighting drug trafficking and transnational criminal organizations. Due to the increase in illegal flights over Costa Rica, in September of 2016, U.S. authorities provided a TPS 70 alert radar to detect aircraft making unlawful flights in the northern part of this Central American country. “This system is enormously helpful to the SVA in monitoring our airspace. Its installation was made possible thanks to the effort of the Ministry of Security to stamp out activities linked to drug trafficking,” Capt. Vargas indicated. “We need to efficiently monitor our airspace and shield it with more radar so that Costa Rica loses its allure as an airbridge for traffickers moving drugs from South America to the United States and Europe.” Future cooperation Capt. Vargas stressed that the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs is also working with SVA to set up a Canine Anti-Narcotics Unit to bolster security at Costa Rica’s four international airports, as well as to increase the capabilities of those canine anti-narcotics units already in service. Cooperation between the two countries is on the rise. The U.S. Department of Defense will donate two C-145 Skytruck planes to strengthen SVA’s capabilities. The twin-engine planes, with room for 16 people, were designed and built for the U.S. Air Force. They will be delivered to Costa Rica in 2018. “All of this cooperation is most welcome. However, it needs to be kept up as a strategy in the fight against drug trafficking rings, due to the fact that organized crime enjoys economic power that easily allows it to purchase better equipment and technology for its operations,” Minister Mata said. These bonds of cooperation have yielded tremendous gains in recent years. In 2016, the Ministry of Security seized over 30 tons of cocaine, a sizable increase over 2015, when authorities seized 15 tons of the drug, and 2014, a year in which they seized 26 tons, according to data from the Costa Rican government. These seizures are the result of reinforced mechanisms for cooperation between Costa Rica and the United States in the area of security, as well as intelligence reports being shared among friendly nations. “Many of these operations are the result of the cooperation and reinforcement that we get from the United States. It’s incredible, they deliver us a huge percentage of our captures and seizures against transnational crime syndicates,” Capt. Vargas emphasized. To fortify Costa Rica’s strategy in its fight against drugs, President Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera called on the Ministry of Security and its staff “not to let down their guard,” and urged parliamentarians in Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly to bring the Domain Extension Statute into effect as soon as possible. The statute is a legal instrument that enables the state to inflict heavier blows on organized crime and drug trafficking.last_img read more

Russians grant Putin right to extend his rule until 2036 in landslide vote: Initial result

first_imgTopics : Russians have been encouraged to vote with prize draws offering flats and an ad campaign highlighting other constitutional amendments in the same reform bundle, such as the pensions protection and a de facto ban on same-sex marriages.One-off payments of 10,000 rubles ($141) were transferred to those with children at Putin’s order as people headed to polling stations on Wednesday, the last day of the vote, held over seven days to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus.”I voted for the amendments to the constitution,” Moscow resident Mikhail Volkov said. “We need radical changes and I’m for them.”Others voted for the changes with less enthusiasm. Russians appeared to have paved the way for Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036 by voting overwhelmingly for a package of constitutional changes which will also boost pensions, initial results of a nationwide vote showed on Wednesday.Partial results, announced five hours before polls closed, indicate the former KGB officer who has ruled Russia for more than two decades as president or prime minister will win the right to run for two more terms. That means he could remain president for 16 more years.The Central Election Commission said just over 70% of votes counted across the world’s largest country had supported changing the constitution. Almost 29% had voted no of the 2.68% of ballots counted. Fuller results are due at 1900 GMT.center_img “I didn’t read about the amendments if I’m honest,” another voter, Lyudmila, said. “What’s the point of voting if they’ve already decided for you. It’s like that in our country – read something and vote. I voted.”Turnout had reached nearly 60% by midday, election officials said. The required turnout is 50% and the amendments will pass if they are backed by a simple majority of voters.Putin, 67, made no mention of how the changes could affect his own career in an eve-of-vote speech on Tuesday. They would allow him to run for another two six-year, consecutive stints after his current term expires in 2024.Putin has said he has yet to decide on his future. Critics say they are sure he will run again, but some analysts say he may want to keep his options open to avoid becoming a lame duck.At 60%, according to the Levada pollster, his approval rating remains high but well down on its peak of nearly 90%.With Russia reporting thousands of new COVID-19 cases each day, opponents have been unable to stage protests but have mocked the vote online, sharing photographs of polling stations in apartment stairwells, courtyards and the boot of a car.Small protestsA small group of activists staged a symbolic protest on Red Square on Wednesday using their prostrate bodies to form the date – 2036 – before being swiftly detained by police, TV Rain reported.The “No! Campaign,” called on supporters to vote against the changes and then discuss the result on Moscow’s Pushkinskaya Square while respecting social distancing rules.”We need to remind the authorities that we exist and that there are tens of millions of us who do not want Putin to rule until 2036,” Andrei Pivovarov, an activist, said in an online video.Mass gatherings are banned in Moscow due to the virus and Pivovarov’s suggestion of a public discussion was carefully worded. He avoided calling on people to gather, saying only that he wanted to discuss the vote’s outcome “with other free people” and would be in the square on Wednesday evening.More than a dozen police vehicles were parked in the square beforehand, where a lone masked protester stood with a sign saying “I/We are the constitution”.The opposition Communist Party, which has advised supporters to vote “no”, has complained of irregularities.Gennady Zyuganov, its leader, said that Putin and voters needed to weigh the consequences of sticking to the Russian leader’s policies, which he said had failed the economy.”Putin needs to choose,” said Zyuganov. “For him the moment of truth is coming.”Putin has said he wants a clean vote, something election officials have pledged to deliver.Golos, a non-governmental organization that monitors elections, has said it will not be able to confirm the outcome of the vote as legitimate. last_img read more

Wildcat Netters Drop Battle To Buldogs

first_imgFranklin County High School Boys Varsity Tennis falls to Batesville High School 4-1.#1 Singles Jack Stirn 3-6, 2-6 vs. Lleyton Ratcliffe#2 Singles Brant Ertel 6-7 (4-7), 1-6 vs. Adam Scott#3 Singles Landen Wuestefeld 0-6, 4-6 vs. Grant Story#1 Doubles Kurt Oetzel & Lonnie Schwartz 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 vs. Seth Gausman & Sam Voegele#2 Doubles Will Wade & Evan McMillin 4-6, 3-6 vs. Max Giesting & Cael RaheCourtesy of Wildcats Coach Dylan Little.last_img

Pasadena ready for Fairfax

first_imgOff famed Melrose Boulevard near the heart of Hollywood is where the Pasadena High School boys basketball team will learn if one of the best seasons in school history also will include a victory over top-ranked Fairfax. The CIF-Southern Section Division II-AA champion Bulldogs (32-2) already have set a school record for wins in a season. They also have reached the CIF State Southern California Division I regional semifinals for the first time. The 6-foot-8 Stanback averages 26 points and 11 rebounds on a Lions (25-5) team that is ranked fourth in the state by MaxPreps. It is one that owns three victories over City Section runner-up Westchester, which also remains alive in the state playoffs. “Chace Stanback’s father is one of my golfing buddies, and everybody knows what a great player his son is,” Bulldogs coach Tim Tucker said. “He’s going to UCLA for a reason. He can go inside and outside and shoot the 3s. “When I think about Fairfax, I think about a great program. But I keep telling people we’re a great program too, so let’s roll the dice and see what happens.” Fairfax coach Harvey Kitani didn’t appear to know much about the Bulldogs, but he was impressed with how easily they have dominated opponents in the playoffs. The Bulldogs defeated Sun Valley Poly 79-57 in Thursday’s quarterfinals and have won their past 17 games by double-digit margins. But if the Bulldogs hope to reach next week’s regional finals at Pauley Pavilion, they will have to go through UCLA-bound forward Chace Stanback and the Los Angeles City Section champion in tonight’s game at Fairfax. Tipoff is 7 p.m. center_img “They won a section title, they won 32 games, so obviously they’re a great team,” Kitani said. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence, so we’re anticipating a difficult game.” There is a mystique that comes with facing City Section teams, which have won 16 state titles since the state championships were brought back in 1980. Fairfax won the state crown with Jordan Farmar in 2004, and Westchester won it in 2005. But don’t expect the Bulldogs, who have an 84-10 record over the past three years and two CIF-SS divisional finals appearances, to be intimidated. “Nobody is going to intimidate this group,” Tucker said. “There’s something different about us. We rise to the challenge. “I keep saying, `You’re not going to blow us out because we play great defense.’ And if you’re going to beat us, you have to beat us, because we’re not going to beat ourselves.” Bulldogs forward Nigel Ajere has been playing with a broken left index finger since the CIF-SS Division II-AA championship game. His doctor wanted him to put a cast on it, but Ajere has it wrapped and is waiting for the season to end. “Nothing is going to keep him off the floor,” Tucker said of Ajere, who had 24 points and nine rebounds in Thursday’s win. “He’s a warrior. He’s not thinking about his finger. He wants to help us win games.” [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 4485. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img