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MEXICO MANGO MAFIA 2.0 : WHERE MANGO INDUSTRY EXTORSION MONEY ENDS UP
















With blood and fire, organized crime turns illegal mining into a source of income that is as important as drugs throughout Latin America












By GERARDO REYES - UNIVISION INVESTIGA*









When Janier Adrián Villada remembers his victims, he smiles nervously and closes his eyes, as if he were dazzled. It seems to be the last spontaneous indication of his shame.





The illiterate 28-year-old, who started killing at 14, initially eluded with figurative language the story about his role as an assassin, but as he got deeper into his memories during an exclusive interview with Univision, he cut out the metaphors and, with direct verbs and exact caliber, explained how he did it.




He killed 49 people.


“Why did I do it?” he asked, smiling again. 

“Well, the truth is that always, ever since I was very young, I’ve worked for organizations and I’ve been paid, and I knew that my job was, if they ordered me to kill someone, to go and kill.”





Villada was the chief gunman for the Los Rastrojos criminal gang in northwestern Colombia. He was at the helm of the urban squad of the municipality of Segovia, charged with keeping the rival gang, Los Urabeños, from moving in. By any means possible, each mining company operating in the area gave $50,000 to $100,000 a month to whichever gang was in control. Included in that sum were payments for the killing of unruly union workers, troublemaking employees and gold thieves, according to Villada.







“We would get their attention. If they obeyed us, we’d leave them alone. If they kept being intense, it was time to eliminate them,” he explained.




Villada, AKA Alfonso, is the sinister epitome of the soldier of the new war, the organized-crime war to control one of the most profitable activities in Latin America: mining.




From Mexico through Colombia to Peru, criminal organizations of different dimensions and levels of ambition have figured out that the business of metals such as gold and iron is more profitable than the illegal products that they used to depend on.









“New criminal groups have emerged, criminal groups that, rather than dealing in a particular product, are parasitic groups, predators of the market, of the country’s economic resources,” explained Antonio Mazitelli, a representative in Mexico of the U.N. office against drug and crime.




They are mafias that have imposed their rule and whim in order to hold on to new treasures that not only finance their wars, but also keep the region’s governments in check and leave behind an immeasurable trail of environmental destruction.




Vast areas of countries such as Mexico, Colombia and Peru, traversed by Univision reporters over more than three months, have fallen into the hands of mining mafias: among them, the state of Michoacán in Mexico, Antioquia in Colombia’s gilded northwest and a good portion of the department of Amazonas in Peru.






In a clockwise direction: Iron ore mine in Mexico (1) deforestation of the Peruvian Amazon (2,3) gold mine in Colombia (4,5) members of the Michoacan Self-Defense Forces (6).







The gold ultimately reaches Swiss bank vaults, and the iron, multi-family buildings in China, with documentation that only indicates the country of origin. But the history of violence and destruction that is molten in the minerals is not a matter of concern, boycotts or international bans, as is the case with Africa’s diamonds.




“I believe there is a problem, that the whole international focus has been on Africa, specifically the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Quinn Kepes, program director at Verité, an international workers’ rights organization. 


“The focus is the traditional conflicts between guerrillas and government. On the other hand, in Latin America, most of the time, gold funds criminal organizations, organized crime. It’s generating the same type of conflict.”




Controls on the legality of gold’s origin are not applied consistently.





“In the United States, there is an importer that is buying from a Peruvian exporter who has papers that seem to be legal, and that’s that. No more questions asked,” said Peruvian analyst Miguel Santillana. “And if it’s determined that the gold is illegal, “the American importer can say at the end, ‘Oops! This is horrible. They betrayed me. They deceived me.’”






The boom



Criminal organizations robbed the train of the mining boom experienced by Latin America between 2003 and 2008 and from 2010 to 2012. During those periods, the spike in gold, iron and oil product prices represented an increase in taxable income that governments celebrated.







In Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos chose the symbol of “the mining locomotive” as one of the development engines in his agenda. Ollanta Humala, president of Peru, Latin America’s top gold producer, exclaimed excitedly: “Ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t a plain old boom; this is part of a qualitative change for the country, which has mining production as one of its bases.”




But in many cases, mining went from being a blessing to a curse. 


Such was the case in Lázaro Cárdenas in the state of Michoacán, Mexico’s most important Pacific port, where practically all imports from China are disembarked and most Mexican exports are shipped out.





Michoacán fell under the control of Los Caballeros Templarios, an organization that, shielded by the pseudo-religious cover of Christian brotherhood, imposed an extortion regime over all activity, whether legal or illegal.








“Who was in charge?” asks Father Gregorio López, vicar of Apatzingán, who during the worst times celebrated Mass wearing a bulletproof vest. 



“A group called Los Templarios. They collected a fee, they were tax collectors, they were prosecutors, judges. They dictated who could be a teacher and who couldn’t, who could get attention at the hospital. They dictated everything about life, the economy. They had a monopoly on Avocados, limes and Mangoes, which days you could harvest and which you couldn’t.”





At the helm of Los Templarios was Servando Gómez Martínez, better known as La Tuta, a talkative former teacher who collects secret videos of meetings with public officials, judges and journalists who have been on his payroll.




Soon Los Templarios figured out that under the mountains of Michoacán lay another great treasure that until then was exempt from blackmail: iron. The state is home to 27 percent of the iron in Mexico, the world’s ninth-largest exporter of the metal.




At first it was believed that the criminal organization financed its irregular army of extortionists and hired guns with the payments it demanded from avocado or lime growers, and other taxes on people. But the numbers didn’t add up. That income couldn’t possibly cover the forces deployed by Los Templarios.





Iron, it is now known, was the main source of the wealth accumulated by the criminal organization. 


Mexico’s Iron Chamber of Commerce calculates that Los Templarios earned $1 billion in extortions from this activity, the equivalent of the budget of the country’s office of the Attorney General.



Behind the calculations of the dimensions of the problem was Alfredo Castillo, a special commissioner for Michoacán, who estimated the volume to be 700,000 metric tons of confiscated iron.



“What do those 700,000 tons mean?” I would tell you that if we could line up small 3.5-ton trucks, if we could put one behind the other, we’d be talking about 1,140 kilometers,” Castillo explained.





Juan Manuel Ramírez Magallón, former legal counsel of the indigenous community of San Miguel de Aquila, Michoacán, says that there is no doubt in his mind that dirty business deals with that metal are what fattened that organization’s wallets the most.


“I’m sorry to say that [extortion in mining] is among the strongest. Look, an [illegal] ton of iron, well placed, can be worth, depending on its purity, up to $1,000,” Ramírez said.




In his community’s case, the onslaught was big. Natives fell under the Caballeros Templarios’ extortion regime after receiving more than $7 million in royalties from the Ternium iron consortium from 2010 to 2011.





Emissaries from the criminal organization showed up in the remote village in the eastern mountains of Michoacán to collect its share, Ramírez remembers. Under death threats, the community paid two installments for a total of $1 million and committed to hand over $35,000 monthly.




A state within a state was emerging, as Gómez Martínez himself had announced: “This organization that I preside, as any other, has its town hall, has its Congress, and what takes place here isn’t what I order, but rather, what is believed to be best for the people. Excuse us if we hurt third-party interests.”




The Chinese connection


The Chinese went so far as to propose a shady deal openly.





With the emergence of Los Templarios, Michoacán’s Pacific Coast dwellers started to notice an unusual influx of Chinese people.



 As opposed to past migrations that tried to have a discreet presence in the host community, this wave of Chinese went as far as openly proposing a shady deal. Several farmworkers and indigenous people told Univision that the new arrivals offered to buy for a high price the iron from others’ mines operating on their communal land.



As in many countries around the world, according to Mexican law, a landowner does not have rights to the subsoil. Underground minerals are property of the nation, which can grant leases to third parties to mine them. The law didn’t seem to intimidate the Chinese.


“We sold to the Chinese, who were buying the mineral,” remembers Julio César Madaván, a communal land holder who mines land whose ownership is under dispute with the Arcelor Mittal company.






Juan Carlos Marmolejo Lores, an environmentalist native from Coahuayana de Hidalgo, remembers that once his friends questioned the Chinese people who showed up with a businessman who bragged of being an in-law of former President Vicente Fox.


“They were asked then how could they come with up with such proposals when, as far as we know, the lease belonged to the Ternium mining company. And they said that there was no problem, that everything could be taken care of in this country.”




Apparently, the Chinese were unsuccessful in persuading enough communal land holders to sell them iron, but Los Caballeros Templarios managed to do it through intimidation. At that point, according to witnesses’ accounts, the Templarios and the Chinese established an important alliance: the first stole, and the second bought.





The roots of the relationship go back in the time, according to Guillermo Valdés Castellanos, former executive director of the Center for Research and National Security (Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional or CISEN). 


The Familia Michoacana, Los Templarios’ predecessor, had had strong ties with China since the 90s, when they started to purchase in that country the chemical raw materials for the production of methamphetamines, a business in which Mexico made a name for itself internationally.



Los Templarios ended up controlling the whole iron production chain. “They arrived for negotiations and they placed AK-47 on the table. In the same way the mine negotiators took out their computers to do their financial calculations, the other gentlemen pulled out AK-47s as a negotiating weapon,”  Valdés said.



The control extended to mine ownership, extraction, processing, transportation to the port and then the illegal exportation to China.






They practically stole the whole business. It went from minor monthly extortion to saying, ‘We own the business,’” Valdés added.





Camacho vs. Templarios


According to Camacho, everybody was involved in the theft.



Virgilio Camacho, community relations director at the Arcelor Mittal steel plant, was not willing to accept this situation. He refused to have his company buy stolen iron from Los Templarios and publically asked authorities to get a handle on the contraband of the metal.



“He started condemning it from the very beginning,” said his wife, Laura Velasco, a city teacher and the mother of their two children. 

“He would say to me: I can’t believe that stolen minerals are being transported on federal highways. They get to customs, leave the port and there are no consequences.”



According to Velasco, Camacho asked the Army and Navy for their collaboration in stopping the contraband, but after thoroughly researching the business, he found out that “everybody, from top to middle to bottom, was involved in this theft.”




Velasco suspects that as a result of her husband’s lonely campaign, he started to receive threats early in 2013, but never told her because he didn’t want to worry her.


“I would tell him, ‘But why does it have to be you?’ And he’d say to me, ‘Somebody needs to do something, and I’m not going to stand idly by.’”




Camacho had lunch almost every day at a Brazilian steakhouse owned by one of his best friends, Neri Rodríguez Pereira, a Brazilian former singer who had lived in the port city since 1975.



On April 8, Camacho followed his routine. 


He had lunch with his wife, and as he was drinking coffee afterwards, he complained about the couple getting invited to a wedding that called for formal wear.

“He said, ‘Hey, does it have to be a black suit? Is it a wedding or a funeral?’” Rodríguez remembers.



Camacho went to pick up his vehicle from a car wash that was two blocks from the restaurant. A few meters away, according to Michoacán’s prosecutor, José Martín Godoy Castro, two men forced him to get into a Volkswagen.




Velasco started to worry because Camacho didn’t call her all afternoon, as he usually did.
The dead body was found in La Guacamaya. It had two bullet wounds.



“My friends told me not to worry, because lately they had kidnapped other people, and, and they had been rescued and they even told me that they treated them well,”  Velasco said.





She stayed up all night, and on the following day, the family got the news: Camacho’s body was in La Guacamaya, Arroyo del Barco. It had two bullet wounds. Velasco was devastated.





The widow is proud of the scenario she imagines took place during her husband’s brief captivity.


“He, over there, said, '[If] you’re going to kill me, kill me.' He was very foulmouthed and I can even imagine all the cursing he must have done. 'But not me, I’m not going to get involved in that.’”




Also a consolation she mentioned the fact that the gunshot that hit him probably didn’t make him suffer. “The prosecutor later spoke with me and told me that the shot they fired against him was an expert shot,” she said, “that it’s possible that my husband died in less than a minute. And given the way his body landed, the way it was, I even think that, that perhaps he was talking and didn’t even notice when they came and shot him.”





Asked about the motive for the murder, the prosecutor told Univision that it was Camacho’s refusal to buy stolen iron. “Virgilio didn’t lend himself to that situation and, well, that led to that action,”  he said.



   

The body of Virgilio Camacho, an executive of ArcelorMittal, was found next to a stream. They killed him because he had objected to the purchase of iron ore that had been stolen by the cartels.





Three suspects are in custody. According to a local media outlet, one of them confirmed that they killed Camacho because he was opposed to the iron business, which lends credibility to the widow’s theory.


The citizenry began to confront the Knights Templar cartel.



Camacho did not die in vain, Velasco said. After the murder, people reacted and stared confronting Los Caballeros Templarios. 


In several places throughout the state, farmworkers, natives and business people armed themselves with old rifles and sticks to fight off the extortionists. Suspected cartel members were reported missing and the bodies of many were found in abandoned areas. The self-defense movements emerged.




Ramírez, the advisor to the indigenous people of Michoacán, and several of his friends got fed up with Los Templarios and took up arms.

“We were tired of the extortion, the threats and also the looting by this group of the community itself. They were stealing the mineral and also fine wood, such as mahogany and other very fine trees,”   Ramírez said.




Since at that time the self-defense groups were considered outlaw organizations, Ramírez and 34 of his friends were arrested and charged with stockpiling arms. Ramírez says that he is disappointed in his country. 


The government has legalized self-defense groups, but he has been branded as a criminal for the rest of his life.



“It’s necessary to flee to the U.S. or Canada,” he said. 




Two of his colleagues are already in Washington working on asylum requests.





Segovia: victims and victimizers



In Segovia, a Colombian municipality that has been producing gold for the last 200 years, self-defense groups, guns and mines turned out to be an explosive combination. Villada, formerly the chief hit man of Los Rastrojos, arrived in the city by the same process followed by many of his fellow criminals. He says that he was recruited at the age of 14 by one of the blocks of the Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas de Colombia or AUC), which were demobilized in 2005 as part of a peace agreement with the government.






After the government failed to fulfill its promises of employment and education, he joined a legion of equally disappointed former paramilitaries who dedicated themselves to drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion. Those groups are known as criminal gangs or Bacrims. The rising price of gold beginning in 2010 revived the industry in northwestern Antioquia. Villada was named city boss of Los Rastrojos in Segovia. He was making $1,500 a month.





During his interview with Univision in the Itagüí, Antioquia jail, we asked him if the mining companies from which they received millions ever used him to kill trade unionists or make them disappear. “Yes, all the time,” he replied.





Months before that, Univision’s reporters had visited Segovia, where several union leaders have been murdered. We were following the case of two young workers who were found dead two days after condemning on television the mining business for which they worked.






Jaminson Amaya and Nelson Cadavid were murdered on July 27, 2012 while traveling to a government office in Segovia to formalize a solution to the labor problem with the ROC SAS company.



Alfonso Amaya, Jaminson’s father, remembers that “the day before, he had told him mom that he was very happy because they had won the case. And when he was coming from the mine to the office, the hit men were waiting for him along the way and they shot him along with his friend.”



After hearing us tell him a short version of this story, Villada seemed to have firsthand knowledge of it.



“You killed them, didn’t you?” we asked him, and he admitted it. “We waited for them at the mine’s exit, at a point called Marmajón, next to El Silencio. We waited for them there. That’s where the guys were murdered.”




When asked who ordered the death, he replied: “some contractors, who were the ones who told our bosses to get them out of the way.”





“Why did you/they kill them?” “Because they had had the mine stopped for like two or three days, they had the mine where it was no longer producing anything, and it was the fault of those, those people.”



“Can you give us the names of the people who gave the order?”  we asked him. 


“That’s a sensitive thing. I refused to tell the prosecutor’s office because they are people who have the resources to do a lot of harm to you.”




The Colombian prosecutor’s office believes that Villada’s boss was Jairo Hugo Escobar, also known as El Zar del Oro (The Gold Czar). The authorities who arrested him in November of 2012 believe that Escobar is one of several drug dealers who have found mining to be the best way to launder their fortunes.



“He pumps three shots to my face and to my body…and nothing happens to me.”



We visited Escobar in another prison near Medellín. A 45-year-old man with an easy smile, who boasts cordial manners and sprinkles his speech with legal expressions, he has a different image among many of the inhabitants of Segovia. When interviewed by Univision, some of them said that Jairo Hugo, as he is known there, imposed a regime of intimidation and violence in the region that left tens of people dead.




While changing from his athletic t-shirt into a dress shirt for the on-camera interview in a common room of the jail, he exposes several wounds on his athletic chest. He can’t cover up the one on his neck. He explains that it’s the exit wound of a gunshot from which he was saved by a miracle.





In the nearby town of Remedios, where he was born, Escobar built a hotel, a restaurant and a huge gas station. 



He took it upon himself to rebuild a public statue of the Virgin of Mount Carmel and the Christ Child that was missing a hand. “I restored it. I restored the whole park, and the Virgin came out very nice, beautiful.”






On the morning of December 1, 2011, while he was talking with some friends on the steps of the restored monument, an armed young man shot him at point-blank range. 


“He put five bullets in my face and body, and fortunately, until this very day nothing has happened to me. I say that it was the Virgin of Mount Carmel who saved me,” he remembers.



   




 


Jairo Hugo Escobar, known as the Gold Czar, was arrested in the year 2012. His battle with the Taborda family, with nothing but dynamite, almost destroyed Segovia, in northwestern Colombia.





Escobar spread the word that the Taborda brothers, better known as Los Serafines (the Seraphim), were behind the attack. The Tabordas unofficially run La Roca mine in Segovia. Unofficial mining is a euphemistic way of saying to exploit other people’s property. Escobar was doing it too.





The Tabordas were fighting with Escobar. 



Eudes de Jesús Taborda Jiménez says that his family was forced to pay the Gold Czar $40,000 per month to be allowed to extract minerals from the vein that they had discovered and which was in its most productive period. 


“At that point, this man, Jairo Hugo, declared war on us,”  Taborda recalls.



It was a war fought with pure dynamite.


 Escobar was trying to get in the way of the Tabordas by using explosives to blast holes on all sides of the hill, but he didn’t achieve his goal, which was to reach the end of the tunnel and to put himself at the head of the bore hole. 


“He could have caused a tragedy, killing eight or 10 workers,” Eudes says.



There is an unwritten rule among the region’s informal miners that says that if someone ends up in a competitor’s area while trying to lead the excavation, he must give up and allow the leader to continue. But according to Taborda, Escobar wouldn’t admit defeat.




Explosions from the underground war and unregulated excavation left a large urban area of Segovia almost without a geological stage of rock. Late in 2013, workers from the San Juan de Dios hospital began to see cracks in the wall, which were spreading like spider webs, explained Eddy Zapata, an employee of the charitable institution. The maternity ward crumbled and, in imminent danger of collapse, the hospital was evacuated. For the first few weeks, patients were cared for in the town’s sports stadium.




A few blocks from there, the church in the Briceño neighborhood, which had some 15,000 inhabitants, has started to show signs of the same kind of deterioration.





The tunneling left a good part of Segovia without a foundation underneath.





After failing to take over the vein that belonged to Los Serafines, Escobar used another tactic, according to Taborda. He sent two of his lieutenants to say that the mine belonged to him. The Tabordas maintained firmly that that was false, and it was then that he imposed the so-called vaccination or extortion.





The confrontation with Escobar ended in a massacre. The Taborda brothers, 31-year-old Yaison Andrés and 35-year-old Wilmar Alberto, were murdered on Dec. 20, 2011. Also killed were two close friends who were with them: Juan Esteban, who was like a brother to them, and mine partner Jaime Nicolás Jiménez.






Based on rumors, Eudes told us how they must have killed his brothers. He told us proudly that Yaison Andrés, who had been in the military, managed to fight back against the hit men who called them to a meeting under the pretext of discussing the amount of the extortion vaccination.





He was positive about who was responsible: “Jairo Hugo Escobar Cataño and Carlos Mario Salazar Londoño were the masterminds of the deaths of my two brothers and of the two mining partners,”  he said.




Salazar Londoño is a former Segovia official who came to inform Eudes of the death of his brothers. At that point Eudes began to suspect that “he had led them to the slaughter.”






Palagua




We left Segovia with the uncertain version of the massacre that Eudes had given us. 


Months later, Villada coldly described the Taborda crime scene as an eyewitness and participant.

As military chief in the area, he was earning some 3,500 dollars a month.



“When the men arrived at the point where they were killed, we stopped them, searched them, disarmed them: they were armed,” he said.



“We told them to keep going, that the boss was up ahead so that he could talk to them. When they got there, under the big stick that is there, where they ended up, Chino yelled for them to lie down on the ground. We, four guys, lay down, Yaison remained standing. When Yaison remained standing, the man tried to run. When he started running, he was the first one hit.”




With a studied and assured tone, Villada exonerated Jairo Hugo Escobar, who legal authorities accuse of having ordered the massacre. “At no point have I received orders from that man nor did I receive, receive money,” he said. 



According to Villada, the order came from his boss, a former paramilitary known as Palagua.




Palagua is imprisoned at Bogota’s La Picota jail, where we went to interview him. His given name is Miguel Ángel Ospino Guerrero. He was a soldier in a Colombian army brigade known as Cacique Palagua, which is the origin of his nickname. 


He joined the self-defense forces under the command of Carlos Mario Jiménez, AKA Macaco, an AUC leader who is said to have committed 10,000 murders.



   




 


Miguel Ángel Ospino, alias Palagua, formerly a soldier in the Colombian Army, was the leader of the Los Rastrojos gang, which sowed fear in the mining region of northwestern Colombia.






Ospino accepted the demobilization agreements that were signed with the government, but soon afterward he joined the criminal gangs. The Rastrojos hired him as military head of the Segovia region for $3,500 a month.




Ospino’s story is garbled and inconclusive, and at the point when we broach the subject of the death of the Tabordas, his knees, which are touching those of the reporter interviewing him, shake. He denies any involvement in the crime. 



He attributes it to alias “15,” a boss of his who was murdered. He also exonerates Jairo Hugo Escobar.




It is a war to the death, and, as in all wars, it is hard to get at the truth. As long as gold flows from the earth and criminal gangs continue to control the region, blood will continue to be shed. In Segovia, as in Michoacán, as in Peru.





Amazonian Gold



Peru is Latin America’s top gold producer, and a large part of its wealth is hidden in government-protected jungle regions, where illegal miners have moved in, devastating nature as they clandestinely extract it. Many of them say that it’s the only way they can survive.




According to Tania Quispe, director of taxes and customs (SUNAT), 20 percent of the country’s gold exports come from illegal mining, which in 2013 amounted to some $1.6 billion.




“In fact, there are signs that it may be people who have been involved in criminal activities such as drug trafficking, such as terrorism,” Quispe said.




The Peruvian government is investing significant resources in the fight against illegal mining. Antonio Fernández Jeri, lead prosecutor for environmental issues, invited Univision along on an operation to destroy 18 illegal gold-mining camps in Amazonas department, a few kilometers from the Ecuadorean border.





We arrived by Hercules military plane in the town of Santa María de Nieva, on the banks of the Marañón River, with a team of about 30 men from the Army, the police and the Navy. From there we went by helicopter and then by boat toward the Santiago River to observe as the engines used to extract gold were blown up.





Fernández Jeri explained to us that for the government, stopping illegal mining is a priority not just to avoid the pollution of rivers and wetlands by the use of toxic substances such as mercury, but also because of the crimes that come along with this activity.






“There is organized criminal activity around. When you go to the mining camps to eradicate, you find child prostitution. It’s terrible. You find people who are wanted by government authorities, by the police, by judicial authorities, for drug trafficking. There is smuggling; there is human trafficking.”



But the epicenter of illegal gold mining in Peru is Madre de Dios, an Amazon region bordering Bolivia and Brazil in the southeast of the country. There, some 45,000 hectares of jungle in the Tambopata National Reserve have been deforested by illegal miners. The region is known as ‘La Pampa,’ and our objective was to go there in order to interview the people causing the devastation.






We arrived in Puerto Maldonado, the capital of Madre de Dios, and headed north on the interoceanic highway for 107 kilometers, where hundreds of wooden buildings sit side by side, housing hostels, restaurants and businesses. 


This bustling area is the only access point to ‘La Pampa.’




We took several moto-taxis that headed into the jungle on narrow dirt roads where the immensity and the breadth of the Amazon region are evident. During the 40-minute ride, you see nothing but ancient trees that block out the sky, allowing very little sunlight to get through. Then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the panorama changes to an enormous desert, with deep craters, as if meteorites had rained down upon it.



These huge holes are the mines, where more than 3,000 people and hundreds of machines work day and night to extract gold. On the way we passed through several camps made up of improvised structures built of wood and blue plastic, which housed everything from barber shops to brothels.



Policemen and journalists are not welcome in Madre de Dios.





Neither police nor journalists are welcome in this place. This is a clandestine community with its own laws, and any unfamiliar face is viewed as a threat. So we entered very cautiously, looking for Alberto Pérez, a veteran mining leader who had agreed to meet with us.





He was waiting at his worksite to introduce us to his colleagues, show us the gold-extraction process and to demonstrate to us that everything they say about them on the outside is a lie.


“The government has always said that we are terrorists, that we are criminals… The only weapon we have is the dignity of working and providing a decent life for our children,” Pérez stated.



When we asked him about mercury pollution, he said it was a myth, that he had been working in unofficial mining for 30 years, handling the metal with his hands, and that he had the health of a 20-year-old. He did acknowledge the harm caused by deforestation, but he defended himself, arguing that mining was the only source of work for many people.









You have to be conscious of the fact that if there is no chance to work somewhere else, how do you think the hundreds of people who work here will be able to support their families?”





In Lima, government officials told us that part of the gold from ‘La Pampa’ leaves the country illegally for Bolivia. Consequently, that country’s exports of the metal have increased abruptly in 2014. The rest is purchased on the black market by Peruvian front companies that use it to launder money and sell it to large refiners in Europe, Canada and the United States.







Alberto Pérez refused to tell us who his boss was, who owned the machinery or who buys the gold that they extract. He simply defended his activity, showing us that illegal miners are not armed and dangerous men as they have been portrayed, but rather, hardworking people on whom hundreds of families depend in an economy where the government doesn’t offer them other employment opportunities.






The blood that has stained red the iron and gold extracted from illegal mines in Mexico, Colombia and Peru, however, tells another story: one of organized crime fighting for control of the mining industry, currently one of the most profitable activities in Latin America.








Credits
Project: Univision Investiga. Producers: Tomás Ocaña, Margarita Rabin, Esteban Román, Juan Cooper. Associate Producer: José Luis Muñoz. Camera Operators: Rafael Ramírez, Miguel Ángel Carrillo,Roberto Villanueva, Hugo Ballesteros. Video Editing: Laura Prieto, Matilde Bonifaz. Programming and Design: Cary Tabares, Edmundo Hidalgo. Graphics: Leonardo Pérez. Project Management: José Fernando López.

© 2014 Univision Communications Inc





http://www.univision.com/noticias/la-huella-digital/special-drug-lords-new-treasures?kwp_0=68328


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Melania Knauss was born April 26, 1970, in Slovenia.




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The 5'11" brunette began her modeling career at 16, and signed with a modeling agency in Milan at 18.



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She took a break from modeling to get her degree in design and architecture at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia.








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Source: MelaniaTrump.com









But after graduating, her modeling career took off and Me…

THE MOST SOUGHT AFTER MANGOES IN THE WORLD ....

While "Flavor" is very subjective, and each country that grows mangoes is very nationalistic, these are the mango varieties that are the most sought after around the world because of sweetnesss (Brix) and demand.

The Chaunsa has a Brix rating in the 22 degree level which is unheard of!
Carabao claims to be the sweetest mango in the world and was able to register this in the Guiness book of world records.
Perhaps it is time for a GLOBAL taste test ???





In alphabetical order by Country....










India




Alphonso





Alphonso (mango)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia








Alphonso (हापुस Haapoos in Marathi, હાફુસ in Gujarati, ಆಪೂಸ್ Aapoos in Kannada) is a mango cultivar that is considered by many[who?] to be one of the best in terms of sweetness, richness and flavor. 


It has considerable shelf life of a week after it is ripe making it exportable. 

It is also one of the most expensive kinds of mango and is grown mainly in Kokan region of western India.

 It is in season April through May and the fruit wei…

INDIA 2016 : Mango production in state likely to take a hit this year

TNN | May 22, 2016, 12.32 PM IST






Mangaluru: Vagaries of nature is expected to take a toll on the production of King of Fruits - Mango - in Karnataka this year. A combination of failure of pre-monsoon showers at the flowering and growth stage and spike in temperature in mango growing belt of the state is expected to limit the total production of mango to an estimated 12 lakh tonnes in the current season as against 14 lakh tonnes in the last calendar year.



However, the good news for fruit lovers is that this could see price of mangoes across varieties decrease marginally by 2-3%. This is mainly on account of 'import' of the fruit from other mango-growing states in India, said M Kamalakshi Rajanna, chairperson, Karnataka State Mango Development and Marketing Corporation Ltd.




Karnataka is the third largest mango-growing state in India after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.



Inaugurating a two-day Vasanthotsava organized by Shivarama Karantha Pilikula Nisargadhama and the Corporation at P…