Johnny Hammar, Mexico, Kenneth Bae, North Korea, Jacob Ostreicher, Bolivia, Alan Gross, Cuba
Diminishing American power increases extortion abroad
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Imagine traveling abroad for pleasure, business, or to give a bit of charity then find yourself locked up in a foreign prison for reasons that make absolutely no sense. Imagine being charged for a crime only a third world country could uphold. Imagine no one coming to your rescue.
This week, it has been learned that two American citizens are locked up abroad for trumped charges. At least one is being financially extorted while the other will likely be turned into a political prisoner used for geo-political extortion.
The Oprah Network star, Lisa Ling, endured a family tragedy back in 2009 as her sister Laura and her colleague Euna Lee were captured by North Korean authorities. They were detained, charged, and placed in a North Korean prison. Luckily for Laura and Euna, they had close relationships with the Clinton family. It was President Bill Clinton who came to their rescue securing their pardon.
Unfortunately, today it has been learned through CNN that another American has been picked up by North Korean authorities just last month. Kenneth Bae, a 44 year old tour operator, was detained by North Korean authorities during a five-day visit to the country’s coastal city of Rajin in early November.
While the US State Department believes Bae is not being mistreated, South Korea’s Kookmin Ilbo, citing an anonymous source, said Bae was interrogated after authorities found a computer hard disk. It is known that Luara Ling was detained and politically extorted. It appears with a recent rocket launch by North Korea and international outrage that followed, Bae too will be politically extorted.
Bae is not alone in the international detainment and extortion debacle. News has been released this week about another American detained in Mexico. Reports have also revealed he too is being extorted.
Johnny Hammar has been locked up in a Matamoros prison since August. Mexican authorities have trumped up charges for weapon possession—a crime in Mexico punishable up to 30 years if found guilty.
Johnny Hammar is a combat veteran who served with distinction in the United States Marine Corp. He operated gallantly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like many veterans, he suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to The Monitor, Hammar spent approximately nine months in an intensive in-house treatment facility for veterans in Napa Valley, CA.
Hammar’s mother, Olivia Hammar, has revealed on Fox News that she has received threatening phone calls in the middle of the night from Mexico. The calls received were from Mexican cartel members who have requested $1,400 payments into Western Union accounts to ensure her son’s safety.
While Mexican authorities claim to be doing everything in their power to fight the cartels, it is apparent they have absolutely zero control over their activities. In short, the cartels, not Mexican authorities, control the Matamoros prison where Hammar is being detained.
Due to the unprecedented amount of corruption in Mexico, it is highly likely the guards and even local politicians are getting a cut from the cartel’s activities. Unfortunately, the corruption of local politicians causes more difficulties to secure the release of American’s detained.
Hammar’s case is an opportunity for the Mexican government to prove they do actually have control over their own corruption and the cartels. They have an opportunity to show a true relationship with the United States by either lessening the charge where Hammar would be released after paying a fine and for time already held in prison or completely drop the case in its entirety.
Jacob Ostreicher is an American being detained in Bolivia. He has been detained for over 559 days. The grandfather of eleven, and his family, has been extorted repeatedly being forced to pay large sums of money to guards and prisoners for his own safety.
Jacob has never been officially charged with any crime other than being an American. With no resolve on the situation, Jacob has undergone intense actions which include a hunger strike. His fate rests in the hands of God.
Alan Gross, another American being used as a political pawn, has been detained in Cuba for the past three years. His wife, Judy, has recently spoken out on MSNBC revealing the stark reality behind Alan’s dilemma.
In August, Venezuela dictator Hugo Chavez claims his authorities arrested an American Marine who potentially operated as a mercenary. The unidentified American is said to have a passport seized by the Venezuelans with stamps from Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Germany, Great Britain, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.
There is a pattern here. Specific countries who maintain tense relations with the United States are targeting our citizens. They are being targeted, detained, and placed in a prison later used in any array of extortion schemes—be them financial or political.
At one point, the US government had enough power to persuade nation states effectively gaining the release of our citizens. It appears we no longer have such powers—at least for those unlike Laura Ling who has connections with people like Bill Clinton.