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Pentagon sends more boots-on-the-ground to Puerto Rico

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[WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2017] The number of DoD personnel deployed to help their fellow citizens in Puerto Rico jumped from around 4,600 to around 6,400 members, Gov. Ricardo Rossello said during a San Juan news conference today.

The 26th MEU is supporting Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort.

The governor briefed on all the lines of effort as the island commonwealth strives to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria.

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Supply ships continue to arrive and the governor and federal officials are working together to ensure food, water and fuel get to the people who need it the most.

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‘There is Increased Capability’

“In terms of personnel, the DoD has increased their presence from 4,600 about 36 hours ago, to about 6,400,” Rossello said. “As you can see, there is increased capability and those capabilities are expected to increase.”

After food and water, distribution of gasoline and diesel is the most critical need, the governor said. “We’ve been increasing the number of gas stations that are open,” he said.

Building Fuel Stocks, Distributing Food, Water

There are more than 720 gas stations open across the island. The island will receive more fuel in the coming days with close to a million barrels of diesel and half-a-million barrels of gasoline arriving on the island. This is important as diesel is needed to run generators providing electrical power for key infrastructure — such as hospitals — in areas where Maria knocked out the power grid.

The distribution of food and water is a testament to the cooperation between commonwealth and federal capabilities, Rossello said. “It is critical that we can establish what the needs are, what the expectations are and that we can guarantee that the food and water are being delivered to the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.

Yesterday, 213 containers arrived on the island that will be distributed to the regional staging centers by DoD and FEMA personnel, the governor said.

There are still communities where the roads are blocked by landslides or where roads were washed out, he said.

Airlifting Supplies While Roads Are Cleared

“One of the main efforts that the DoD will take on is making sure that we can air supply food and water to those communities while we establish direct connection through the roads,” Rossello said.

The governor said the commonwealth will increase the number of regional distribution centers from the current 11 to 25 or more. “The more of these we have throughout Puerto Rico, the easier it is to get food and water for these municipalities,” he said. “DoD and FEMA and our government are working together so we can establish these locations and make sure food and water get distributed appropriately.”

Telecommunications is another critical line of effort and they have restored service to 36 percent of subscribers to date, the governor said. The areas where Maria came ashore — the southeastern part of the island — remain without cell service as the commonwealth must get into the area to repair antennas and other telecom infrastructure. Land lines have been totally restored, he said.

There are about 8,800 refugees in shelters now and the government will consolidate them into 139 shelters, Rossello said. “We are making sure people get to their homes when they can get to their homes, and providing alternative housing in the meantime,” the governor said.

Seaport Capacity Increases

Capacity in the seaports landlines is increasing, Rossello said. The former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station is the headquarters for the recovery effort and the Air Force is running airfield operations there.DoD personnel will establish a logistics effort for two areas on the island where more hospital support is needed, the governor said.

DoD personnel will establish a logistics effort for two areas on the island where more hospital support is needed, the governor said.

Assisting Citizens in Need

“The DoD will establish some alternative locations, those being in the southeastern part of the island and in the middle north of the island, so we can get patients to the hospital and the service that they need,” Rossello said.

“This is another example where the federal government — FEMA, Health and Human Services, DoD, local government and municipalities — need to have a critical loop and conversation so we are updated continuously on what’s going on,” the governor said.

The Army Corps of Engineers is working with Puerto Rican officials to rebuild energy production facilities on the island, Rossello said.

The governor praised the assistance coming to the island provided by National Guard personnel coming from stateside locations. New York has sent UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and their crews. New Jersey is sending soldiers and airmen to assist, as are 12 other states, Rossello said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

Big League National Security

Sinaloa Cartel Suspects Arrested at Border for Carrying $3.5 Million in Cash and Massive Amounts of Cocaine and Fentanyl

Drug Cartels Will Have a Field Day During a Biden Administration

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On November 24, 2020, the Justice Department published a press release on how three Mexican citizens suspected of trafficking enormous quantities of illegal drugs for the Sinaloa Cartel received charges in federal court. This case is likely the biggest seizure of ammunition, cash, and narcotics in the district.

Jesus Burgos Arias, Juan Alatorre Venegas, and Jose Yee Perez were arrested on November 20, 2020. This arrest was the product of a joint investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, San Diego Police Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, that set its sights on individuals connected to the Sinaloa Cartel.

During these arrests, agents confiscated roughly $3.5 million in cash, 685 kilograms of cocaine, 24 kilograms of fentanyl, and about 20,000 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition and hundreds of body armor vests at a truck yard in Otay Mesa.

In a complaint filed in federal court, the defendants received a drug trafficking conspiracy charge. The defendants were transferred from the San Diego Central Jail to federal custody and made their first appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major.

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“This historic seizure and prosecution is a clear indication of the success of our joint investigative efforts,” declared U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “To eradicate this threat to San Diego and our partners in the Republic of Mexico, we will continue to aggressively attack the Sinaloa Cartel’s drug smuggling, money laundering, and arms smuggling operations – depriving them of their illegal merchandise, their profits, and a safe haven.” Brewer gave praise to prosecutor Matthew J. Sutton and the federal and local agents and officers for their diligence in this case.

“Thanks to the collaborative work with our state and federal law enforcement partners, we are able to announce this blow to the Mexican Cartels operating in San Diego,” remarked DEA Special Agent in Charge John W. Callery.  “We are further encouraged that we were able to separate them from their dangerous .50 caliber ammunition and over $3 million in drug proceeds that they have gained through selling death here in our community and throughout the US.”

“This seizure is significant not just because of its size, but because it demonstrates the direct correlation between narcotics, illicit money, and guns that drives violence in our communities and destroys lives,” stated Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant. “HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and prosecutors to aggressively pursue the Sinaloa Cartel and other transnational criminal organizations.”

“The Sheriff’s Department is committed in working with our justice partners throughout the region to combat the dangerous drugs and violence associated with narcotic trafficking,” commented San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore. “Sheriff’s deputies see the destruction and damage that illegal drugs cause every day.  We are proud of what this case has accomplished, and the continued work being done to hold these criminals accountable.”

The Southern District of California led an investigation over the past five years that resulted in the aforementioned case being brought forward. The overall investigation has brought charges against over 125 people and has greatly affected the global operations of the Sinaloa Cartel.

The investigation started in late 2011 when authorities busted a small-scale drug distribution cell in National City and Chula Vista. After substantial investigation, law enforcement discovered that the Sinaloa Cartel was involved and the case morphed into a massive investigation that crossed state and national lines. The broader case led to dozens of arrests and seizures of 1,397 kilograms of methamphetamine, 2,214 kilograms of cocaine, 17.2 tons of marijuana, 95.84 kilograms of heroin, and $27,892,706 in drug-related funds.

With the Biden administration coming into power, similar cases will abound as it becomes clear that border security will become an afterthought during a Biden presidency.

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