- Such clandestine landing strips are often built in forest reserves by people who claim to be cattle ranchers, but are actually working for drug traffickers.
- These illegal structures pose a threat to the Laguna del Tigre National Park.
- What does the head of Guatemala s anti-drug unit think about this new secret runway that has just been discovered?
On the 26th of April, two reporters flew over the Laguna del Tigre National Park, located in the San Andr s municipality in the department of Pet n, intending to monitor fires that were devastating the protected area. Whilst up in the air, the plane flew over the Xan oil field, which has been in operation for the Franco-British company Perenco since 2001. It was here that the industrial plant, chimneys and their large tarmac runway could be seen. They then continued to fly north when suddenly they spotted what was clearly a secret runway: a basic 1km strip that crossed a field and a bit of forest, and that started barely 25 meters from one of Perenco s oil wells, the Xan-30.
Bird s-eye view of the secret runway, located alongside the oil company Perenco s Xan-30 well. Photo by Manual Morillo.
The experienced pilot who flew over the area was in no doubt that this was a runway. He pointed out that its orientation was ideal given the prevailing winds. Afterwards, the captured photos were shown to Aldo Chapas, the head of the Guatemalan anti-drug unit. The public prosecutor confirmed that the strip matches up to a secret runway but in order to confirm it, there would need to be an investigation and the General Civil Aviation Authority would need to be consulted to see if the landing strip had authorisation.
When the head of Civil Aviation, Carlos Vel zquez Monge, was asked which runways within the Laguna del Tigre National Park have authorisation, it turned out that Perenco s tarmac runway is the only one. This supposed secret runway is a bit paradoxical: half way up the strip it goes into a small forest area. It s clear that there are trees on the edge of the strip. In talking with that pilot and the public prosecutor, there are two possible explanations: either the strip isn t yet finished and the owners haven t got round to removing all the vegetation, or this small clump of woodland serves to hide the light aircraft that land there. What s more, the cows that graze amongst the trees demonstrate that the plot of land has been occupied by someone who has invaded a protected area.
Cattle can be seen grazing at both sides of the secret runway. Photo by Manuel Morillo. Perenco s airstrip. Photo by Manuel Morillo.
Two days after the flight, the journalists travelled to the Xan area and visited the Xan-30 well. Walking around, it was clear that there were only a few steps between the apparent secret runway and the fence surrounding the oil well. The strip is about four meters wide and the vegetation on either side has been burned, although some small pieces are beginning to sprout again. This could indicate that the fire, which struck the park two weeks before the visit, cleared a part of the landing area that was hidden among vegetation.
Secret runway located alongside the oil company Perenco s Xan-30 well. Photo by Manual Morillo.
The Xan-30 well is situated 5km from the Perenco s focal area and 6km from a military detachment for jungle operations. The apparent secret runway is easy to get to, both the runway and the well are adjacent to the main road that runs through the Laguna del Tigre National Park. The dirt track road which is very well maintained connects those living in El Naranjo to the Xan field, and then continues towards Los Cerritos and La Paz, which are on the border with Mexico. Once in the oil-production area, signs lead the way to well 30. During the visit, journalists chatted with one of Perenco s technicians who, alongside a security officer from the company Visersa, carried out routine checks on the other Xan wells. The technician explained that all 46 Xan wells were checked every day.
The Laguna del Tigre National Park s main road runs adjacent to the secret runway and the Xan-30 well. Photo by Manuel Morillo.
Perenco documents show that Xan-30 is an active injection well, in which the oil tanker reintroduces the acid water produced by oil extraction into the subsoil. Perenco executives were asked if they knew about the existence of runway. The director of corporate cross-border affairs, Antonio Minondo Ayau, responded in an email: We had no knowledge of the existence of the runway you re talking about.
It was also asked if the company knows any of the people who had occupied the land surrounding the well. No, we do not know the identities of those who live on the land surrounding the Xan-30 well, was the response from Minondo Ayau. He added: Perenco Guatemala on several occasions has denounced the existence of invasions and fires to the National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP).
The secret runway and Perenco s Xan-30 well from another angle. Photo by Manuel Morillo.
The Army s press executive, colonel William Garc a, stated that he was not up-to-date regarding the construction of a secret runway next to the Xan-30 well. He said that one of the tasks of the Army is to patrol the Laguna del Tigre in order to detect and destroy all such types of illegal infrastructures. He indicated that there are currently 65 runways in the park, 23 of which have been blown up.
Perenco in the department of Pet n
According to the public prosecutor, Aldo Chapas, the proximity of the Laguna del Tigre reserve to Mexico makes it a key place for drug traffickers, since their light aircrafts from South America can touch down there, and the drugs can then be brought into Mexico. During the flight over the park, another two secret runways were actually spotted. However, these were in remote areas such as Tri ngulo Candelaria, north of the Laguna del Tigre National Park, and not in any industrial areas that are strategically important for Guatemala, like the area in which Perenco operates, nor are they as close to a military detachment.
Perenco s Xan-30 well. Photo by Manuel Morillo.
The public prosecutor, Aldo Chapas, stated: When a secret runway is discovered, it s assumed that it s used for drug trafficking. He also added that it can also be used for other illegal activities such as human trafficking, people smuggling and the smuggling of firearms or contraband. A report published in 2011 by the US organisation Insight Crime titled Grupos de Poder en Pet n: Territorio, pol tica y negocios (Power Groups in Pet n: Territory, Politics and Deals) presented the role of Perenco in the network of forces and alliances that are in Pet n, and in the Laguna del Tigre National Park in particular. According to the , the transnational company, alongside Manuel Baldiz n, Manuel Barqu n, Juli n Tesuc n, Javier L pez (all local leaders from the Conservative Patriotic and Unionist Parties) and the Mendoza family, who are linked to organised crime in Guatemala (drug trafficking, land grabbing and murders), are the sometimes-rival, sometimes-allied forces that occupy the area.
Bird s-eye view of Perenco s industrial site. Photo by Manuel Morillo.
In this amalgam of interests, the company Perenco plays a central role and may continue to do so depending on its executive and legislative support, the backing (real or otherwise) of the communities that live in the area and cohabitation with criminal groups who have already taken over substantial pieces of land within the protected area, stated the report from 2011.
In the presence of the military detachment that guards the entrance to the Xan oil field, there is a gate and a control station run by the National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP) and the Army. When the group of journalists were passing through these controls, the authorities had just stopped a pick-up truck carrying a group of people from the countryside. They were ordered to get out of the truck and line up. Under the watchful eye of the soldiers and CONAP park rangers, they had to open their rucksacks, empty them and lay out all of their belongings on the white dust of the road. From their forbearing expression and from the testimonies of several of the locals, it s clear that these kinds of checks are part of their daily routine.
Soldiers form the military detachment located at the entrance to the Xan oil field search the belongings of a group of locals. Photo by Manuel Morillo.
15 minutes away from this check point, as if it were no big deal, there is a secret runway right next to an oil well.
A satellite image taken on 4th May 2017 shows the secret runway. Image courtesy of Planet Labs.
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NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — Families waved goodbye to soldiers heading to Central America. The 39th Infantry Brigade said their final farewells early Sunday morning. They’ll assist with securing and stabilizing three areas. It’s never easy saying goodbye, but for Lieutenant Colonel Slade McPherson it’s his fifth time having to do it. He joins about 150 fellow soldiers that are on their way to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala promoting security, stability, and tactical training.
“The mission is to assist with information sharing and tactical training at the company and platoon level, McPherson said. “We’ve pulled together a number of Spanish speaking soldiers from Arkansas, Texas and Puerto Rico to assist us as translators.”
Made up mostly of senior leaders, this mission offers a chance to practice top notch training when it comes to providing aid to foreign nations. Guard commanders said the task lays a path for future missions to the area and with civilian and military experience that only helps with completing the mission. Beverly Webb, President for United Daughters of the Confederacy in Little Rock, takes their role personal. She and other chapter members offer goodie bags and a little charm before they leave.
“Every time you come they are always so grateful that we are here, they are always thankful, Webb said. “We’re here to pat them on the back and thank them and hug them and tell them to be safe and tell them we will be here when they get back.”
Colonel McPherson believes it’s the time and distance away from family that’s the hardest part of it all, but he believes it’s the support from back home that helps bridge that gap.
“We have a lot of soldiers that have never deployed before, McPherson said. Like myself, I have deployed four times, but it’s always a new experience for the family, so you’ve got to get them re-engaged with that.”
New Mexico is on the cusp of becoming the 48th state to enact a data breach notification law, which would leave Alabama and South Dakota as the only states without such a statute.
The New Mexico Senate on March 15 passed the Data Breach Notification Act, or HB 15, by a 40-0 vote and sent the bill to Gov. Susana Martinez for her signature. The House approved the bill by a 68-0 margin on Feb. 15. A gubernatorial spokesman says Martinez is reviewing the legislation and has 20 days from passage to decide whether to approve it. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bill Rehm, says he believes his fellow Republican will sign the measure. What took New Mexico so long to enact a data breach notification law? Resistance from some businesses was a key factor, says Mark Medley, who runs ID Theft Resolutions, a not-for-profit organization that supports New Mexicans victimized by identity theft. “Lobbyists who didn’t want it [the bill’s passage] are very strong and influential in Santa Fe,” Medley says.
To win passage this year, Rehm says he worked closely with business representatives, seeking compromises on specific provisions. For instance, earlier data breach notification bills that failed to win passage included a provision that breached organization had only 30 days to notify victims. The law passed this year gives organizations 45 days to issue notification.
New Mexico’s law, if enacted, would require businesses operating in the state to take reasonable security procedures to safeguard personally identifiable information. Unlike Massachusetts’ law, the New Mexico measure is not prescriptive, giving much latitude to businesses to decide how best to protect PII. The measure also would require organizations to notify the state attorney general if more than 1,000 New Mexicans fell victim to a breach. Breached organizations must notify individuals “in the most expedient time possible, but not later than 45 days following discovery of the security breach,” according to an analysis of bill by the law firm Baker Hostetler. Organizations would be exempt from notification if, after an investigation, it’s determined the breach didn’t pose a significant risk of identity theft or fraud.
Like notification laws in many other states, organizations would be exempt from complying with the New Mexico statute if they must comply with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that governs financial institutions handling private information or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that regulates patient information. The New Mexico measure would require organizations to provide breach victims with advice on how to access personal account statements and credit reports to detect errors resulting from the security breach and also inform them of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting and Identity Security Act.
Besides 47 states, the District of Columbia and three territories also have data breach notification laws on the books.
“No two state data breach notification laws are alike, and this can create a complicated landscape for privacy teams working to assess privacy incidents and remain compliant across multiple jurisdictions,” says Alan Wall, senior counsel and global privacy officer at Radar, a company that provides online incident response management service. “The nuances of state penalties for noncompliance with data breach laws can have very real impacts on a privacy team already spread thin dealing with a data breach.”
Such concerns have been behind calls for Congress to enact a federal statute to establish a single data breach notification standard that supersedes state laws. But efforts since 2008 to enact such a law have faltered (see Single US Breach Notification Law: Stalled). A national data breach notification law would simplify reporting breaches to law enforcement, citizens and consumers because organizations would only have to follow one set of rules, rather than a patchwork of state requirements.
But a federal data breach notification requirement – at least in the eyes of some consumer advocates – could potentially weaken security safeguards found in some state laws (see Barriers to a Breach Notification Law). For example, Massachusetts’ and California’s data breach notification laws contain prescriptive security processes that likely would not be included in a federal law.
In testimony before Congress in 2015, Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General Sara Cable argued that pre-empting state laws could “represent significant retraction of existing protections for consumers at a time when such protections are imperative.”
No legislation calling for a national data breach notification requirement has been introduced in Congress this year, according to a search of Congress.gov. “Now we play the waiting game for either state No. 49 to throw its hat into the notification ring or the federal government to pass a law that would unify notification obligations across all states,” says Erich Falke, a partner at the law firm Baker Hostetler who specializes in data privacy and data protection. “I’m not holding my breath for the latter.”
- ^ Breach Notification (www.bankinfosecurity.com)
- ^ Data Breach (www.bankinfosecurity.com)
- ^ Legislation (www.bankinfosecurity.com)
- ^ Eric Chabrow (www.bankinfosecurity.com)
- ^ GovInfoSecurity (www.twitter.com)
- ^ Three and a Half Crimeware Trends to Watch in 2017 (www.bankinfosecurity.com)
- ^ Data Breach Notification Act (www.nmlegis.gov)
- ^ data breach notification (www.bankinfosecurity.com)
- ^ identity theft (www.bankinfosecurity.com)
- ^ Baker Hostetler (www.jdsupra.com)
- ^ Single US Breach Notification Law: Stalled (www.bankinfosecurity.com)
- ^ Barriers to a Breach Notification Law (www.bankinfosecurity.com)
- ^ legislation (www.bankinfosecurity.com)