Opium cultivation in Afghanistan is expected to increase for a third straight year, expanding even to new areas of the country, a UN report warned April 15. The Afghanistan Opium Risk Assessment 2013 found that the country is moving towards record levels of opium production this year despite eradication efforts by the international community and Afghan government. "The assessment suggests that poppy cultivation is not only expected to expand in areas where it already existed in 2012... but also in new areas or in areas where poppy cultivation was stopped," the survey found. The study by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says insecurity and lack of agricultural assistance are fueling opium cultivation. "Villages with a low level of security and those which had not received agricultural assistance in the previous year were significantly more likely to grow poppy in 2013," the report said.
Six people were strangled to death and one decapitated in the Mexican tourist resort of Cancún April 14—the latest mass killing to strike the city in the last few weeks. Police found the bodies of the five men and two women in a shack in the outskirts of the Yucatan Peninsula city, which has largely escaped the drug-related violence that has rocked Acapulco, a faded tourist destination on the Pacific coast. Quintana Roo authorities said the vicitms were small-scale drug dealers. In a separate incident that day, police found the body of another man in Cancún who had been gagged, bound and wrapped in sheets. (AP, April 15) The slayings come one month after seven were killed when gunmen burst into Cancún's La Sirenita (Little Mermaid) bar, targeting members of the city's taxi-drivers who were who were holding a meeting there. Several Cancún taxi drivers had been arrested recently for selling drugs or participating in drug-related killings, authorities said. (AP, Univision, March 15)
Colombian National Police on April 17 announced the arrest in Cali of Cesar Demar Vernaza AKA "El Empresario"—accused boss of Ecuadoran narco-gang Los Templados and purported top South American operative of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel. In February, he had escaped from a maximum-security prison in Guayaquil, known as "La Roca" or "The Rock," where he was serving a 25-year sentence for homicide. He allegedly came to Cali to establish contact with regional narco bosses and rebuild his operations along Colombia's Pacific coast. Arrested with him was an associate named only as "La Bestia" (the Beast) who was also among the 16 convicts sprung from La Roca in the February jailbreak. La Bestia attempted to resist arrest, taking the residents in his building hostage and threatening to blow up a gas tank. Authorities negotiated him down and he ultimately surrendered. (Colombia Reports, April 17)
Citing frustration with mounting criminal violence, the National Congress of Honduras on April 16 moved to suspend prosecutor general Luis Alberto Rubí and his assistant, replacing them with a temporary oversight committee. The five-member commission, made up of leaders of the country's political parties, will have 60 days to analyze why the prosecutor's office, the Fiscalía General de la República, has made little headway on numerous criminal cases, and draft a plan to reform the institution. With a homicide rate of 90 per 100,000 residents, Honduras is often called the world's most violent country. Prosecutors solve only about 20% of homicide cases, on average. The National Congress estimates 20,644 homicides have gone uninvestigated in the 28 months of the current administration. (InfoSurHoy, La Prensa, Tegucigalpa, April 18; AP, NYT, April 17; La Prensa, April 16)
Long-term hunger striker Samer Issawi on April 17 called for "rage and solidarity" to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day. "Greetings to all without exception. I urge all the noble people of our Arab and Muslim nation as well as the free people of the world to turn April 17 into a day of rage and solidarity with Palestinian prisoners," Issawi wrote in a letter sent through his lawyer from his hospital bed. "The voice of those heroes who have sacrificed and are still making sacrifices for the sake of the freedom of their people and land, and in defense for Muslim and Christian holy places in the holiest spot on the globe, should be heard."
Some 1,400 US soliders, sailors and Marines who arrived in Morocco this week for the "African Lion 2013" joint maneuvers with the kingdom's armed forces are to be redeployed after Rabat cancelled the exercizes at the last minute. The move was apparenly taken in retaliation for the Obama administration's support for an initiative to broaden the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Morocco-occupied Western Sahara, MINURSO, to include human rights monitoring. "It is an attack on the national sovereignty of Morocco and will have negative consequences on the stability of the whole region," said Mustapha Khalfi, Rabat's communications minister. (BBC News, AFP, Military Times, April 17)
The US Supreme Court ruled unanimously April 17 in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum that nothing in the Alien Tort Statute of 1789 (ATS) rebuts the US presumption against extraterritoriality and that suits challenging torture and international law violations that took place overseas cannot be brought in US Court. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion. Kiobel was held over from last term when the court decided that the parties should brief on the circumstance when the ATS should apply extraterritorially. In the new ruling the court held that extraterritorial disputes—those concerning foreign actors that violate treaties to which the US is a party—cannot be litigated in the US under the ATS, and "sufficient force" is necessary to displace that presumption. The opinion also suggested that "mere corporate presence" will not suffice to bring suit in the US:
Pakistan on April 15 strongly condemned a US drone attack in North Waziristan tribal region that killed four people a day earlier, urging Washington to "stop such attacks based on mutual respect and established international norms." The US craft fired missiles on a house in Datta Khel town, bordering Afghanistan, officials said. "Such unilateral attacks are in contravention of international law and counterproductive to the stability of this country," the foreign ministry said. "The government of Pakistan has maintained its position that drone strikes are violative of its territorial integrity and sovereignty."