Ecuadorean Bus Crash Linked to Drug Trafficking

Colombian and Ecuadorean authorities have confirmed the bus that crashed Tuesday leaving 24 dead was carrying cocaine.  

At least 80 kilos of cocaine were found in the Colombian bus that crashed near Papallacta, Ecuador, police authorities announced Thursday.

RELATED: New Details on Bus Crash in Ecuador Creates Mystery

“There are 80 so far, but we haven’t finished counting. It is not the first time they have used tourist buses to smuggle drugs through the border,” a source in Colombia’s Office of the Attorney General told AFP.

The accident occurred Tuesday at 2:55 a.m. and caused 24 deaths and 14 injuries. The case appeared to be a simple transit incident, but the story became progressively strange as authorities realized most of the travelers didn’t have identification, and later learned they were participating in a free trip that covered transport, food, and lodging.   

Police investigations determined the 38 victims were used as drug mules without their knowledge.

Ecuadorean authorities have said they are not surprised by the discovery. This year over two tons of cocaine has been smuggled in international tour buses transporting “beneficiaries” of free trips.

Security forces in both Ecuador and Colombia are collaborating on the investigation to determine the causes of the accident and identify those responsible for the cargo.

Relatives and friends of the victims, most of who come from El Guabal neighborhood, in the city of Cali, claim the free trip was offered by a woman who lives in the community.

So far her identity has not been revealed, but authorities have been told she is a nurse. She was also on the bus during the accident and suffered severe injuries.   

This new mode of trafficking has been witnessed since early 2017 when half a ton of illicit substances were seized in the northern Ecuadorean city of Tulcan.

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Migrants In US Custody Describe Life In 'Ice Boxes' And 'Dog Pounds'

During their detention last month in a US Customs and Border Protection facility in Laredo, Texas, Karen and her two young sons were constantly cold. The family, which fled violence in Honduras, slept on a hard floor in a holding cell without mattresses, she said, their clothes still wet from crossing the Rio Grande.

"I can only hold one at a time to keep them warm. Whoever I am not holding is cold," she said in one of more than 200 sworn statements filed this week in a long-running lawsuit challenging conditions for children in immigration custody.

The statements, which were taken in June and July and identify immigrants only by their first names, provide a rare window into life in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities. Migrants like Karen and her children who crossed into the United States illegally, as well as those who applied for asylum at the border, are often held in such facilities before being released or transferred to longer-term detention centres.

A nursing mother named Serafin, who said she fled Mexico after a cartel member threatened to rape her and kill her baby, said she was given too little food at a facility in San Ysidro, California.

"I am not producing enough breast milk to feed my baby because I am not eating enough," she said in her statement. "My daughter cries a lot because she is hungry."

A woman named Mayra said her 9-year-old son became fearful after their detention in Nogales, Arizona, where he saw children separated from their parents.

"He saw someone bound with chains and asked me whether I would be chained in the same way," she said. "He wonders when we will get to the United States. I do not tell him that we are already here. He wouldn't believe that the United States would treat us this way."

4ronbkrgFew immigrants said that conditions were adequate, most described cold temperatures, too little food.

LONG-RUNNING LAWSUIT

The statements were taken by attorneys for plaintiffs in a case brought against the U.S. government in 1985 on behalf of 15-year-old Jenny L. Flores. A 1997 settlement in the lawsuit set standards for humane treatment of children in detention and ordered their prompt release in most cases.

This week, the plaintiffs filed papers alleging that the detention conditions described in the declarations violate the humane treatment standards set out in the settlement, including speedy release of children.

"We now see many in CBP custody for three to six days," up from two to three days in prior months, said Peter Schey, the lead attorney for plaintiffs in the Flores case.

Reuters was unable to speak directly to the migrants who gave declarations because they weren't fully identified in the filing, and most of them are still in detention.

CBP referred requests for comment on the migrant statements to the Department of Justice, which declined to comment. In the past, CBP has defended conditions in its facilities.

In a report filed in the Flores case last month, CBP juvenile coordinator Henry Moak Jr. said that the department makes extensive efforts "to ensure all minors in CBP custody are treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors."

He said parents and children he interviewed had "received meals and snacks; had access to drinking water, functioning toilets, and functioning sinks; and were held in rooms that were maintained at an appropriate temperature."

He also noted, however, that CBP should ensure that food was not kept past its expiration date and that custodial data was consistently entered into records.

Moak referred requests for comment to CBP.

'ICE BOXES' AND 'DOG POUNDS'

Reports of harsh conditions in CBP facilities have surfaced repeatedly for years, including again recently when the government began separating children and parents. The new declarations are remarkable both for the number of detainee voices and the consistency of detail in what they report.

While a few immigrants said that conditions were adequate, most described cold temperatures, too little food, difficult separations from their children and crowded cells without enough sleeping mats. They said latrines were dirty and lacked privacy and that lights stayed on day and night.

James Tomsheck, who served as assistant commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for internal affairs from 2006 to 2014, told Reuters that the facilities were designed for brief stays.

oejtjgm8Reports of harsh conditions in CBP facilities have surfaced repeatedly for years. (Reuters)

"There is no question that the amount of time persons are being held at these, what are designed to be temporary detention facilities, has become much longer than it was intended."

Detainees refer to some of the facilities as "hieleras," Spanish for "ice boxes" because they are so cold. Larger spaces with indoor fencing are referred to as "perreras" or "dog pounds."

Children in the facilities were often held in separate cells from their parents, according to the statements.

A woman named Leydi, held in Chula Vista, California, described watching young children trying to touch their parents through metal fences.

"The mothers tried to reach their children, and I saw children pressing up against the fence of the cage to try to reach out," she said. "But officials pulled the children away and yelled at their mothers."

John Sandweg, acting director of ICE from 2013 to 2014, said the problems stem from the fact that holding areas were designed to lock up adults for just a few hours while CBP processed paperwork.

"They're inappropriate, frankly, for children," he said.

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May Day riot in Paris: Masked protesters torch cars, police deploy tear gas

Police in Paris have used water cannons to break up a tumultuous rally. Amid May Day demonstrations, hooded individuals have been throwing smoke bombs and setting vehicles on fire in the French capital.

Live feeds from Paris showed chaotic scenes, as police attempt to disperse violent protesters while redirecting crowds of peaceful marchers to side streets. Loud bangs are heard in the background as smoke and tear gas billow down the streets.

Police pushed back against the rioters, peppering the crowd with tear gas grenades from behind riot shields and hitting the crowd with water cannon. Protesters lobbed firecrackers at the advancing force, as well as picking up and throwing back some of the gas canisters. Armored police vans and fire trucks are backed up advance.

Earlier, law enforcement tweeted there were around 1,200 “hooded and masked” individuals among the May Day demonstrators at the Pont d’Austerlitz bridge in central Paris.

The rioters have torched several vehicles and vandalized shop fronts, including reportedly throwing a petrol bomb through a McDonald’s window.

France marks Labor Day as President Emmanuel Macron finds himself in a protracted battle with unions and students over his reform plans. Railroad workers have been striking since mid-April, angry at plans to freeze salaries, cut over 120,000 jobs, and employ more private contractors.

Students have previously occupied several universities across France, protesting Macron’s move to reform the education system, including introducing new admissions criteria and ranking young people who apply to public universities.

Emmanuel Macron, who has remained unmoved by the protests and vowed to proceed with the reforms, is not in Paris to witness the unrest, having flown to Australia for a state visit.

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Two Killed In San Francisco Shooting Spree, Police Arrest A 61-Year-Old

San Francisco:  At least two people were killed and three others injured in a shooting spree in San Francisco, police said.

The shooting took place on Monday in Clearlake Oaks in Lake County, CBS San Francisco reported.

According to authorities, Clearlake resident 61-year-old Alan Ashmore was arrested on two counts of homicide as well as multiple other counts of assault with a firearm following the late Monday morning shooting spree.

Authorities were trying to determine a motive in the seemingly random shooting spree.

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U.S.A.: A Paradise for Violent Crime

According to the Associated Press (AP) violent crimes in the United States grew over the two years in a row.

What period of time did that North American news agency write? The time comprising between 2015 and 2016.

The fact was broadly commented this Monday for its journalist Sadie Gurman.

Revising FBI statistics, she remarked that it grew mainly in the most important cities.

Gurman noticed that Donald Trump used the numbers as evidence that the country is amid a dangerous wave of crimes.

Therefore? The need of making arrests and other sanctions "against drug crimes."

AP remembers that last year there was a blast of shootings and robberies, up to 4,1% more than in 2015.

While homicides of varied nature reached 8,6% in that same time.

The source aforementioned turned to last year statistics to highlight that violence jumped to 3.9%, and murders to more than 10.

"This is a concerning tendency that threatens to thwart the advances that made safer our neighborhoods and communities", said the secretary of Justice, Jeff Sessions.

He also sentenced: the years of crime reduction have been replaced by increases.

The website Público.es recently informed in Madrid that two years ago nearly 1134 people were killed in the U.S., mostly black people.

An investigation of the British newspaper 'The Guardian' revealed that the youths of that community have nine times more probabilities of getting killed at the hands of the Police than at the hands of anyone else.

Scary no doubt, the United States has become, by its own right, a paradise for violent crimes.

Amilkal Labañino Valdés / Cubasi Translation Staff

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Thousands evacuated from Moscow buildings as Russian cities inundated with bomb threats

Over 20 shopping centers, railway stations and universities had to be evacuated in Moscow, following warnings that they had been rigged with explosives. In total, 190 sites have been evacuated across 17 Russian cities after bomb threats, a security source told RIA news agency.

“This appears to be a case of telephone terrorism, but we have to check the credibility of these messages,” an emergency service source told Tass news agency, noting that the calls began at the same time, and continued after the evacuations had begun.

Tass reported that over 20,000 people had been affected by the evacuation in Moscow alone.

Emergency services said that police units including explosives specialists and officers with sniffer dogs are examining the buildings. Several later reported that police cordons had been lifted.

Among the locations affected are three of the capital's biggest railway stations, more than a dozen shopping centers – including GUM, located next to Red Square – and at least three universities, the leading First Moscow State Medical University, and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations among them.

Tass reported that the railway timetable remained unaffected by the police operation. Social media accounts show bemused crowds milling passively outside evacuated buildings, and there have been no reports of disturbances of public order.

President Vladimir Putin has been informed of the incidents, but his press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that he would not be commenting “as this is a matter for the security services to address.”

An epidemic of hoax bomb warnings has plagued Russia over the past week. Security services told the RIA news agency that over 45,000 people were evacuated from public places in 22 Russian cities on Tuesday, adding that many of the calls appeared to have come from Ukraine.

Terrorist false alarms are punishable by up to five years in prison under Russian law, and multiple police investigations have been opened.  However, the possibility that the hoaxers are using pre-recorded messages - as appears to be the case in earlier, identical messages - automated dialing systems and digital means of concealing their true location present difficulties in identifying the culprits.

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German bus inferno killed 18 in Bavaria, police say

Eighteen people are believed to have died when their tour bus crashed and burst into flames on the A9 motorway in southern Germany, police say.

The bus was in a collision with a lorry near Stammbach in north Bavaria.

Thirty people escaped the fire, two of whom are critically hurt. The bus was carrying German pensioners from Saxony.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said rescuers were delayed by "gawpers" driving slowly and by the intensity of the blaze.

It is not clear why the bus crashed - traffic was reportedly moving slowly at the time. Nor is it clear why flames engulfed the whole bus so quickly.

The lorry's trailer was also incinerated and the burnt-out wreck ended up a short distance ahead of the bus. The German news website Frankenpost reports that it was carrying mattresses and pillows.

The lorry driver was unharmed and told police the bus had crashed into his vehicle and burst into flames, it said.

There were 46 passengers and two drivers on the bus. One driver was among those killed. The passengers were men and women aged 41 to 81, from the Dresden area, heading to Lake Garda in Italy for a holiday.

Forensic teams have recovered the charred remains of 11 people so far.

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Five rescue helicopters joined emergency workers at the scene.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was distressed by the accident and expressed sympathy for the injured and bereaved relatives.

She thanked the rescuers for looking after people "in an appalling situation".

A police spokesman told German news channel n-tv that there were good medical facilities in Bayreuth, not far from the scene.

https://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/B443/production/_96774164_gerfor2afp.jpgForensic experts are examining the charred skeleton of the bus and human remains inside / Image copyright AFP

https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/57CD/production/_96777422_gerbusafpmotor.jpgThe crash scene - traffic has resumed now in one direction / AFP

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Man arrested after three bodies found in John Lennon's former home

A 30-year-old man has been arrested in Liverpool on suspicion of murder after the bodies of a woman and two children were found in the former home of John Lennon.

Merseyside police opened an investigation after being called to a ground floor flat in Falkner Street, at about 7.30pm on Tuesday after concern for the safety of the occupants.

Officers said the investigation was in its early stages but they believed it was “domestic related”. They added that police were not looking for anyone else at this stage.

The arrested man has been taken to hospital after falling ill.

Neighbours said the property was regularly visited by Beatles fans on tours of the city as Lennon lived there with his first wife, Cynthia, shortly after they married. The flat was owned by the band’s manager, Brian Epstein.

One man, who did not want to be named, said: “The tourist tours are always stopping at the house because John Lennon used to live there.”

He said a family with two young children had lived in the flat.

“I didn’t know them, I just knew there was a family living there. The children were toddler age.”

People in Falkner Street had been evacuated from their homes earlier on Tuesday night over concerns about a fuel leak. Police closed the street and urged people in neighbouring roads to remain inside and keep windows closed.

One woman said: “The police said we had a couple of minutes to get out of the house. There were ambulances, fire engines and police here. We weren’t allowed back in until about 11pm.”

On Wednesday morning, a police cordon remained in place outside the terrace house.

Police have said they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths.

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 0151 777 4065 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

  • Published in Culture
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