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Sen. Ted Cruz headlines 2017 Western Hemisphere Security Forum

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A top national security expert told Big League Politics the 2017 Western Hemisphere Security Forum, held Thursday at the Reserve Officers Association building on Capitol Hill, is titled: “Countering Transnational Threats in Our Neighborhood.”

“The purpose is to bring to together opinion leaders from throughout the hemisphere to talk about the security and economic challenges that we face together,” said J.D. Gordon, a national security advisor to President Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign and a former Pentagon spokesman.

The planned program includes a keynote address by Sen. R. Edward “Ted” Cruz  (R.-Texas), who finished second behind President Donald J. Trump in the race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, he said. The forum is presented by the Center for a Secure Free Society and the Daniel Morgan Graduate School.

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“Senator Cruz has always shown leadership on Latin American issues and we are delighted that he could be part of our Western Hemisphere Security Forum,” said Gordon, who facilitates the forum’s morning program.

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Retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R.-Fla.) is slated to receive the Max Manwaring Freedom Award for her defense of liberty in the Western Hemisphere. Max Manwaring is a retired Army colonel and Army War College professor, who has written several books and policy papers on countering insurgencies, with a particular focus on Central America in the 1980s.

Other speakers include former Bolivian President Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga.

Marine Corps Cpl Blaho with 4th Platoon, Company C, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division instructs his squad on where to cross a river during jungle warfare training with Columbian Marines in Columbia on Aug. 1, 2010. The unit was deployed in support of operation Partnership of the Americas/Southern Exchange, a combined amphibious exercise designed to enhance cooperative partnerships with maritime forces from nine other nations. (Marine Photo photo by Cpl Brian J. Slaght)

Gordon said there is more to dealing with Latin American and Canada than immigration.

“There are a lot of foreign actors in Latin America doing nefarious things, such as Iran,” he said.

“We’re trying to bring attention to the fact that Latin America has been used as a platform for America’s enemies for a century-plus,” he said

“During WWI, Germany used Latin America as a staging ground against the United States,” he said. “During the Cold War, the Soviet Union did the same thing–and right now, we’re seeing Iran involved in places like Venezuela to threaten the United States, as well.”

Gordon said Cuba is another actor involved in Venezuela, looking to undermine American security and national security goals.

Members of the Brazilian Marine Corps conduct an amphibious landing exercise during UNITAS Amphibious 2015 at Ilha de Marambaia, Brazil, Nov. 20, 2015. UNITAS Amphibious is a multi-nation exercise designed to increase interoperability in Amphibious Operations between participating countries. (Marine photo by Lance Cpl. Issac Velasquez)

In Venezuela, the Cubans are also trying to destabilize that country’s institutions, in order to usher in a permanent socialist regime there, he said.

“The Chinese and the Russians are providing financial assistance to prop up hostile regimes in Latin America–and a lot of people don’t understand that, they don’t know it well, if they know it at all, so we are trying to bring attention to that,” he said.

[Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect changes in the speaker lineup.]

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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