Things That Matter

Australian Federal Police Busted A Colombian Gang’s Drug Home In An Very Wealthy Part Of Sydney

Australian Federal Police

This is a story of a surprising find in a tranquil Australian suburb. What unfolds is a tale of hidden illegal activity and a surprise discovery. This all happened back in 2017, but legal proceedings are putting the spotlight on this case again. Cases like this bring to mind how many Latin American communities are stigmatized due to the incidence of drug-related crimes in the region, and how global cartels expand internationally. These processes of stigmatization not only affect everyday interactions but also wider policymaking, as the recent discussions around the proposed border wall in the US-Mexico border have highlighted. 

First things first: Australia is hard to reach for drug cartels.

Credit: image. Digital image. Business Insider

Oceania is the last bastion for international drug cartels. Australia, in particular, is heavily guarded but also has miles and miles of coast that is practically impossible to fully surveil. Cartels, however, have found ways to enter this market. In recent years, journalistic accounts of the role that international criminal networks have in the distribution of drugs in Australia has sparked public concern and debate. According to recent research published in The Age, “Australians consumed illegal drugs worth $9.3 billion in 2018”.  The presence of organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel in Australian cities and its role in the ice epidemic has sparked concerns among journalists and policymakers. The Australian media is up in arms every time the cartels are identified in the country. As reported by Daily Telegraph on January 28, 2019: “The Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, described as the most ruthless and deadly in the world, has joined forces with the increasingly dangerous Nigerian crime network in Sydney to carry out large-scale drug importation.” This story, for example, plays with fears of foreigners in a society that sometimes tends to be insular and afraid of immigration. Are reports like this generating stereotypes?

This is where this story begins:

Sylvania is like any upscale suburb in the ultra-expensive beachside city of Sydney, Australia.

Credit: Screenshot taken from RealEstate.com.au

Houses in Sylvania often reach the $1 million AUD mark. It is a pretty relaxed place with a mostly white population, but with pockets of Asian and Greek migrants. It is the synonym of a relaxed Aussie beach suburb. Nothing much happens and everything is usually closed by 7 p.m. 

There is some old money around, and plenty of new money.

Credit: Screenshot taken from RealEstate.com.au

When we said homes can easily reach a million, we were talking about the lower end of the spectrum. A four-bedroom apartment goes for more than two million Australian dollars. But look at those views!

From the outside, a suburban home in Sylvania was just another ordinary, sleepy household.

Credit: Image by Australian Federal Police

Nothing to suspect. Just a comfy couch and a bookshelf lined with Lonely Planet travel guidebooks. 

The cops suspected something was going on so they searched the property.

Credit: Image by Australian Federal Police

The Australian Federal Police was investigating a Sydney-based Colombian gang that was involved in the distribution of border-controlled drugs. The police were also following the trails of a money-laundering operation believed to be operated by Colombians. This all happened in 2017, but the details of the case are just being released as part of a court proceeding. As Australian Government News reported on July 12, 2019: “On 10 July 2019, the Supreme Court of NSW made orders which restrained a residential property in Sylvania, NSW, under section 19 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth) based on the allegation the property was used in, or in connection with, various drug offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).”

This is what they found behind the now-famous bookshelf: and now the police is trying to seize the property.

Credit: Image by Australian Federal Police

The authorities believed that the house was actually a custom made to fit in the illegal drug operation. For this reason, the authorities are looking to confiscate the house. In addition, the authorities charged a 45-year-old man (the police hasn’t disclosed his name for legal reasons) with multiple drug-related offenses: supplying cocaine, being in the possession of cannabis and, as reported by The Sun UK, ” dealing in proceeds of crime with a value that reached around $100,000.” This man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years and six months in federal prison. 

Drugs, high tech transmitters, they really had everything they needed to run a drug business.

Credit: Image by Australian Federal Police

According to The Sun UK, police found that the property “was full of cash, replica weapons, tasers, and wireless transmitters, police confirmed”. This was a big hit on organized crime in Australia, a country that is hard to penetrate for drug cartels due to its tight borders and geographical isolation. There are also very few cases of police corruption. Officer Penelope Kelton, Coordinator of Criminal Assets Litigation, said (as per The Sun UK): “The ability to confiscate items used in the commission of crimes sends a clear message to the criminal underworld – if you commit the crime, we are prepared to target your assets. Drug-related crime puts a great strain on the community through increased health care costs, associated property crime and other forms of violence. It is only reasonable that police can fight back on behalf of the community by targeting those who seek to profit from inflicting this misery.”

Drug trafficking is a significant issue in Australia for multiple reasons.

Credit: mexico_drugs. Digital image. Australian Institute of International Affairs.

The illegal distribution and consumption of narcotics through global networks of criminal complicity is a significant social problem worldwide and public health concern in most Western countries, including Australia. Alongside the distribution of drugs, negative stereotypes about Global South populations run rampant. In particular, Latin American citizens from countries like Colombia and Mexico are stigmatized due to the negative image their home countries have in relation to the drug wars. 

Representation matters: not all Latinos are drug dealers!

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

Alongside extremism and terrorism, since the 1990s international criminal networks have been framed as one of the main challenges to Western democracies, a place formerly held by the Soviet Union and left-leaning countries. This understanding of recent world history has the potential to generate stereotypes that could influence national and international discussions regarding border security, as seen in the recent debate in the United States concerning the construction of a Southern border wall.

How stories like these are told in the media influences the way in which Latinos living in English-speaking and Global North countries are perceived. Australian newspapers emphasized the fact that those arrested were Colombian, which further adds to the bad rep that the country has in the Southern Hemisphere. To this, we have to add that most references that Australians and non-Latino Americans have of the region are through TV shows and movies. As a recent editorial by Hector Tobar published in The New York Times pointed out: “By the next network upfronts, or summer movie blockbuster season, Latino drug operatives may outpace their chief rivals — jihadist terrorists and Russians mobsters — and become the country’s leading screen bad guys”. 

Judge In Mexico Grants Couple’s Request For Recreational Use Of Cocaine

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Judge In Mexico Grants Couple’s Request For Recreational Use Of Cocaine

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In a historic step toward ending the country’s deadly “war on drugs”, a judge in Mexico has approved the request of two people to legally possess, transport and use cocaine. Víctor Octavio Luna Escobedo, an administrative court judge in Mexico City, made the historic decisions saying “the consumption of cocaine doesn’t put one’s health in great risk, except in the case that it’s used chronically and excessively.”

Mexico United Against Crime (MUCD), a nongovernmental organization filed injunction requests on behalf of the two individuals. It pursued the case with goals to trying to change Mexico’s drug policy. At the core of the organization’s argument is that criminalizing consumers causes even more violence. If the ruling is ratified by a higher court, it would be the first time any cocaine use has been legal in Mexico.

According to Mexico Daily News, the Mexico City judge set a string of stipulations for the unidentified couple in order for them to use the cocaine. This includes regulating the amount they intake to 500 milligrams per day and not working, driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence of the substance. This also includes not being able to consume cocaine in public, in the presence of children, or even encourage others to consume it.

So is cocaine really legal in Mexico? Here’s what you need to know. 

Credit: @CNN / Twitter

The order by the judge to the country’s health authority has many wondering if one day Mexico could, at some point, legalize cocaine use, but only on a case-by-case basis. As of now, the judge’s ruling must be reviewed by a higher court panel of judges for the case to move forward. 

“We have been working for a safer, more just and peaceful Mexico for years, and with this case we insist on the need to stop criminalizing users of drugs other than marijuana and design better public policies that explore all available options, including the regulation,” Lisa Sanchez, director of MUAC, said in a statement.

The judge wrote in his ruling that the use of cocaine has certain benefits if consumed responsibly. “Ingestion can have various results, including alleviating tension, intensification of perceptions and the desire for new personal and spiritual experiences,” the judge said.

While two people have been allowed to take the drug, there is a bevy of injunctions and court orders that have followed. Which means the judge’s decisions could still be overturned.

Credit: @Vice / Twitter

 Cofepris, Mexico’s national health regulator, is being ordered to authorize the two people to legally possess, transport and use cocaine. But Cofepris says that such authorization is outside its power and has now blocked the court order as a result. The rulings are set to be reviewed by three collegiate court judges that will then set forth the legal standing of judges ruling.

The next step in the decision will be an appeal to the circuit court. This essentially means that the case could land all the way up to Mexico’s Supreme Court. Even if the decision is then upheld, cocaine wouldn’t suddenly become legal in Mexico. While in the U.S., a Supreme Court ruling makes it the law of the land, In Mexico the Supreme Court must hand down similar rulings in at least four other cases.

“This case is about insisting on the need to stop criminalizing users of drugs… and design better public policies that explore all the available options, including regulation,” Sanchez said.

The ruling could be a landmark moment and opportunity for debate in Mexico, where a 15 year-long drug war has taken the lives of many. 

Credit: @standardnews / Twitter

Mexico has become a central battleground and transit point for cocaine being transported to the United States. Trafficking gangs have also grown immensely since 2006 when then-President Felipe Calderón sent in the country’s army to fight drug traffickers. More than 20,000 people have been killed and 40,000 disappeared since then. This year has already been a stark reminder of the deadly drug war as Mexico is on pace to have the most murders on record.

“This case represents another step in the fight to construct alternative drug policies that allow [Mexico] to redirect its security efforts and better address public health,” Sanchez said. “We have spent years working for a more secure, just and peaceful Mexico.” 

READ: This Shipment Of Jalapeños Turned Out To Be One Of The Year’s Biggest Marijuana Bust

Parade Attendees In Medellín Watched In Horror As Two Airmen Plummeted To Their Deaths During A Stunt

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Parade Attendees In Medellín Watched In Horror As Two Airmen Plummeted To Their Deaths During A Stunt

Aerial shows are something people around the world enjoy. Some people make full weekends out of these events that are typically tied to some kind of patriotic holiday or community event. However, an aerial show in Colombia this weekend showed the danger of participating in this kind of event. The terrifying and heartbreaking moment was captured on camera and the video is as scary and heartwrenching as it sounds. Two airmen were hanging on a Colombian flag suspended from a helicopter as it flew over a parade when the unthinkable happened. Without warning, the rope holding the flag snaps sending the two airmen plummeting to the ground in front of spectators.

On Sunday, two Colombian airmen died while attempting to do a stunt in the sky during a public gathering.

Credit: YouTube

According to several outlets, the men were performing a stunt at the Medellin Flower Fair in Colombia. The trick, which at first began very beautiful, included a cable hanging from a helicopter. The men were also attached to this same cable along with the Colombia flag. It looked almost like a patriotic parade in the sky, but then things went horribly wrong.

The video shows the cable somehow snapped off of the helicopter and the two men plunged to their death.

Credit: YouTube

It remains unclear how this tragic accident occurred. According to the Sun, an Air Force spokesperson said, “The reasons behind this painful accident are still being investigated by the authorities.” The event also happened near the Olaya Herrera Airport, which as a result of the accident had to be closed.

The men were identified as Jesus Mosquera and Sebastian Gamboa Ricaurte who were based in Rionegro in Antioquia. The shocking death has left a community mourning and searching for answers on how this could have happened.

The video has been shared far and wide on social media. 

Credit: @ErikaJournal / Twitter

“Horrific,” one person said. “Sad, as I don’t understand the need for stunts like this. Awful way to go.” “There should have been the strictest safety protocols in place, no doubt there were none… RIP,” another said. “I never liked stunts like that. It’s just not worth it,” another said. And we agree with that sentiment exactly. Yes, ideally, a stunt like this would have been stunning, and it truly began that way, but something is quite off about how this trick went off. 

According to the Daily Mail, Defence Minister Guillermo Botero, “I have instructed the Force commanders that aerial exercises such as today be suspended until the causes of the incident in Medellín are fully known,” and added, “My solidarity with their families, friends, and institution.”

Here’s the video, but please beware that it is painful to watch.

After analyzing the video, it almost appears as if something flew right across the cable, which caused it to break away from the helicopter completely. Other’s on social media agree. “Pretty sure I saw something fly into the cable there??” someone commented. 

It almost looks like a bird, but it’s hard to tell because of the quality of the video and because it moves so fast. 

Jorge Hugo Duarte, an Olaya Herrera airport manager, offered up his theory in the Spanish news outlet Ensegundos, that “One of the Air Force helicopters coming to the airport to land with two military men hanging holding the Colombian flag, this rope apparently burst from the aircraft and the two military men fell into the airport. Both military men died.” 

But the video shows it didn’t just burst, something flew directly into it causing it to break. 

Further inspection of the video shows that another helicopter was also carrying two other men with another flag.

 Credit: YouTube

It is unclear if the other stuntmen were injured or involved in the cause of the accident, but according to the video it seemed like they were far behind them. 

The helicopters were performing as part of the Medellín Flower Fair.

Credit: kakabanetadecoco / Instagram

According to The Sun, the festival “began in 1963 and includes pageants, parades of cars and horses, and musical concerts.” 

The air show had only last ten-minutes before the cable broke. In the previous years, the Festival of Flowers has included the use of helicopters as part of the show. One year rose petals were dropped from helicopters as a tribute to the men and women who maintain the annual tradition. 

READ: A Tragic Accident Left Two Teenage Daughters Without Parents While Vacationing In Turks And Caicos

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