Tag Archives: weapons

Flying for a kingpin: The revelations of ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s personal pilot

The man who handled all El Chapo’s personal flights spoke to journalist Gonzalo Guillén about what it was like flying for the world’s most feared drug lord.

l. “You will be carrying money, of course. And our weapons.”

“Hey, buddy. I want you to know something,” Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán-Loera said to the veteran helicopter pilot who he nicknamed ‘Tinieblo’ (Twilight). The pilot had just arrived in Sinaloa, Mexico from Miami, to begin flying for Guzmán-Loera.

“I’m all ears, Mr. Guzmán,” answered the pilot. He knew his new boss was no saint, but didn’t know much else.

“Do you recognize me?” inquired Guzmán.

“I’m afraid I don’t, sir,” answered the pilot.

“I’m no little angel,” Guzmán said. “But later I’ll tell you the story of a cardinal of the Catholic Church they assassinated, mistaking him for me.”

Continue reading Flying for a kingpin: The revelations of ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s personal pilot

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Chechnya offers arms to Mexico to fight United States

Russian republic of Chechnya offered to send arms to Mexico, a response to a U.S. House measure encouraging shipment of U.S. weapons to Ukraine.

Dukuvakha Abdurakhmanov, the Chechen parliament speaker, said the United States has “no right” to advise Russia on behavior with neighbors, a reference to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

He warned that the shipment of “lethal aid” to Ukraine, as the U.S. House urged earlier this week in a non-binding resolution which passed by 358 votes to 48, could lead to Chechen shipment of weapons to Mexico to “resume debate on the legal status of territories annexed by the U.S.”

The annexed territories include seven western U.S. states ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago, which ended a war between Mexico and the United States in 1848.

The deal included a U.S. payment of $15 million to Mexico, as well as payment of a $3.25 million Mexican debt to U.S. citizens. Additional territory was purchased from Mexico in 1853 for $10 million.

In 1917, the German Empire sent a diplomatic proposal of a similar nature to Mexico. The Zimmerman Telegram, as the proposal is known, offered German military and economic aid to help Mexico “reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The telegram was intercepted by British intelligence and repudiated by the Mexican government.

The action by the U.S. House was strictly advisory in nature, urging President Barack Obama to send weapons to the Ukrainian military. It was condemned by Russian legislator Alexey Pushkov, chairman of the State Duma (Parliament) International Affairs Committee.

“The most dangerous thing is that it’s absolutely irresponsible. Of course, the decision is to be made by Obama since the resolution is non-binding.

But this irresponsibility is amazing considering the price the United States had to pay for its direct or indirect involvement in armed conflicts abroad and what price was paid by countries, from Vietnam to Iraq, where military conflicts involved the United States,” Pushkov said.

“Their perception is based on the assumption that the U.S. and its allies should always emerge victorious. In reality, the U.S. has suffered numerous defeats and this policy is too doomed to failure.”

Photos: The Brutal DIY Weapons of the Ukrainian Revolution

The protesters who filled Maidan Square to battle the Ukrainian army and topple President Yanukovych often fought with little more than sticks, bats and sledgehammers. Their nasty homemade weapons are the subject of a series of portraits by photographer Tom Jamieson, and show how determined protesters were to either damage or defend against government security forces, depending on your politics.

While other photographers scrambled to shoot the epic scenes playing out at the front line, Jamieson wandered the occupied zone asking to see what protesters were packing.

“Every single person without fail had a club or a bat or something like that,” says Jamieson. “You couldn’t help but notice the DIY nature of the whole thing, from the barricades themselves to the totally inadequate body armor that people were wearing, and the weapons as well. It looked like something out of Mad Max, it was crazy.”

The weapons are shown in the hands of their owners against a black backdrop. Jamieson and his assistant wandered the occupied zone, lugging a black background cloth that they would set up when they found a protester carrying an interesting-looking implement. They shot outside in the square, in occupied buildings, near the protesters’ tents, usually in the early morning or twilight hours to keep lighting consistent.

Some weapons are marked with the names of their home towns or messages for their intended targets — others are decorated with religious symbols, or cartoons like one depicting Yanukovych behind bars. Each is single-minded in its design — clubs and maces for bashing, slingshots and stones for hurling, and forked pikes for ripping the shields out of the hands of police. These personalized tools of revolution were a source of pride among their owners, and the details of each tells its own story.

“Quite a few of them are taped together on the handles,” Jamieson says. “I’d ask people about that and they’d be grinning ear to ear and say, ‘I smashed a policeman over the head with this and it’s broken now.’”

Peaceful protests first broke out in Ukraine on November 21, against a background of massive national debt and entrenched government corruption. The breaking point came when now-ousted president Yanukovych reneged on a deal that would have brought Ukraine closer in line with the European Union, and would have released former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko from political imprisonment. The acrimony between protesters and the government only got worse in the following months.

It reached a fevered pitch in January when police began opening fire on protesters, leaving dozens of people dead. There’s not much that hockey padding or wooden shields can do to stop a sniper bullet, and the deaths underline the fact that protesters’ weapons and armor were often more symbolic than practical. Protesters still went in with their fangs out to show police and the rest of the world that they meant business.

“The reaction a lot of people have is normally, ‘God I would hate to be hit by that thing,’” says Jamieson. “But as nasty as a lot of these weapons look, and as brutal and primitive, it’s nothing in comparison to an automatic machine gun. So they look fearsome but they’re almost medieval — it’s sticks and stones.”

Jamieson says he did see evidence of more substantial weaponry on the protesters’ side, including automatic weapons, but those were carefully kept out of view in order to avoid escalating the violence. It was a sign of how well organized the protesters were. Commanders of 10, 100, and 1000 people operated out of camps divided based by occupiers’ home towns. A ban on alcohol was enforced by internal police units, rotated in and out on a regular schedule. They even produced combat equipment on-site, including the very metal shields used by the government forces.

“They set up a factory on the second floor of the press center where they were literally cutting [shields] to template, and they were turning them out like one every half an hour,” Jamieson says. “They were in there for the long thing, it wasn’t just a quick flash in the pan, it was a big deal and it was really, really well organized.”

While Jamieson was in Maidan Square during the early weeks of February, the Olympics were underway nearby in Sochi and an uneasy truce had been called between the opposing sides. The final, fatal spasms of violence erupted just days after he returned to his home in London. While he feels like he missed an important part of the story, he’s first to admit that he probably couldn’t have competed with newswire photographers while running around with a 5×4 large format camera in tow and an assistant carrying a big blackout curtain.

As a documentary photographer, Jamieson went into the conflict wanting to convey a larger view of the events than just the skirmishes at the front lines. When he first arrived, he wasn’t sure how he could achieve that vision. The idea of documenting protesters’ weapons didn’t occur to him until the final days of his two-week visit.

“Some days you go to the front line and there’d be 20 or 30 protesters milling about smoking cigarettes, and there’d be 150 photographers there taking pictures of nothing,” he says. “You’d have NBC news there doing pieces to camera going, ‘Tonight on NBC, Kiev is burning,’ and there’s just a guy in the background warming his hands on an oil drum.”

Jamieson plans to visit Crimea in the coming weeks, followed by separate trips to Eastern and Western Ukraine. He’ll continue shooting with a large format camera but this time, the focus won’t be on weapons. Instead, he’ll shoot landscapes, personal portraits, and other broader subjects. The point is to communicate a larger story that continues to uneasily unfold in Ukraine.

“I’m not trying to chase the news, I’m not a news photographer at all, I’m much slower in my approach and my practice, and just trying to see what’s going on in Ukraine in this time of transition,” he says. “They’ve had a revolution, Yanukovich is gone, I want to be traveling around, I want to be seeing what’s happening in the rest of the country, seeing what everybody thinks, and trying to get this more nuanced view of the whole thing.”

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