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Cake day: June 8th, 2023

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    Galeano was a Paraguayan senator and tobacco baron. He had close ties to the country’s most influential politician, former president Cartes, who was put on the U.S. sanctions list for “rampant corruption.” Cartes was effectively still running portions of the country.

    Both men had used soccer for political and financial gain — and worked in Paraguay’s National Congress to keep sports teams exempt from money-laundering legislation. Cartes funneled tens of millions of dollars to one of the country’s biggest soccer clubs, Libertad, and Galeano threw millions at Deportivo Capiatá, according to government records. Roughly $1.3 million of Galeano’s investment in the team appears to have come from cocaine trafficking, Paraguay’s attorney general would later argue. Erico Galeano, a Paraguayan senator, left. Horacio Cartes, Paraguay’s former president, right. (Obtained by The Washington Post; Daniel Duarte/AFP/Getty Images; iStock)

    Galeano and the club declined requests for comment. Cartes’s lawyer, Pedro Ovelar, said that the U.S. sanctions against Cartes represented “political persecution” and that his relationship with Galeano was a “political relationship, not a commercial one.”

    By 2016, Galeano was elected president of Capiatá. At games, he sat just above the sideline in the center of the stadium. The team’s popularity translated to his own.

    But it had begun to struggle. Capiatá was relegated to the country’s second division in 2019. Once-loyal fans stopped attending games. Players complained that the team’s equipment and gear were inadequate.

    When he arrived in 2021, Marset began bankrolling improvements: new physical therapy beds, televisions, better food in the cafeteria. It was enough to win over his teammates. Though he wasn’t formally listed as the team’s owner, he poured drug money into Capiatá, investigators say, and siphoned a portion of its revenue.

    The deal was even sweeter than that: Marset also bought himself a spot on the squad.

    But the team’s coach, Nuñez, a former player on the Paraguayan World Cup team, was not impressed.

    “I had the obligation to win or else they would fire me,” said Nuñez, who initially planned to keep Marset on the bench. “But it wasn’t the same for him. He was just having fun.”

    There seemed to be only one person, investigators said, who could have brought Marset to Capiatá: Galeano. Paraguayan prosecutors found that Marset had been using the private jet of Galeano’s company to ferry his associates. Prosecutors also identified property deals between Galeano and Marset’s cartel. They would later indict the senator.

    “Erico Galeano Segovia was at the service of the transnational criminal organization, dedicated to the international trafficking of cocaine,” the attorney general’s office wrote this year. The case has yet to go to trial.

    Marset initially seemed unconcerned that his soccer career at Capiatá might raise his profile with authorities. He allowed the team to publish his name on its roster before games each week.

    But by the end of May 2021, Marset learned that narcotics officers were trying to find him. It appears he was tipped off by high-level contacts in the Paraguayan government, investigators said.

    He stopped going to practice at Capiatá. His name was abruptly taken off the team’s roster.

    When players passed his empty locker, they asked if anyone had heard from him. No one had.

    It would not be his last time playing professional soccer while on the run. Capiatá was only the beginning, proof of what he could get away with.

    As the manhunt for Marset grew, he doubled down on his double life as a professional player. He attempted to expand his soccer empire to Europe; he appeared on the starting lineups of new teams in new countries.

    It seemed a foolish approach to evading arrest, the kind of arrogance that was destined to backfire.

    Except it didn’t.

    This is the first of a two-part series. Click on this link to read the second part

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    Marset’s first interactions with Montevideo’s criminal underworld were minor. In 2009, at 18, he was arrested for possession of stolen goods and, a year later, at 19, for possession of narcotics, according to Uruguayan court records. But he made it clear that he was willing to take on more risk. When he was 22, Marset accepted a job receiving a shipment of marijuana scheduled to arrive in rural Uruguay on a small plane from Paraguay, according to Uruguayan police. It was normally an assignment for a team of men, but the traffickers by then trusted him to receive the shipment alone. A mug shot of Marset. (Uruguay national police; iStock)

    He waited on a farm not far from Uruguay’s northern border with Brazil, standing next to his black Chevrolet Cruz. What he didn’t know was that police had been tipped off. They arrived in the clearing where Marset was waiting. He immediately gave himself up to the two officers from the Brigada Antidrogas, the country’s elite anti-narcotics police.

    Marset explained that he was a professional soccer player. He was shrewd and respectful, one of the agents recalled. Soon the officers would learn that the shipment of drugs wasn’t an amateur affair; the pilot was the uncle of Paraguay’s president at the time, Horacio Cartes.

    The agents handcuffed Marset and took an improvised mug shot in their field office. One of the agents looked at the other when Marset was out of earshot.

    “This guy is going to be a big problem for us someday,” he recalled saying. III

    Marset was sentenced to five years in prison for drug trafficking. He was sent to Libertad, one of the country’s largest prisons, and placed in a section devoted to drug trafficking and organized crime.

    It was there that he expanded his criminal contacts, investigators said. He got a job as a prison cleaner, which meant he could visit almost every cell in the block, chatting with inmates as he mopped. He met prominent international drug traffickers, including members of the Italian mafia and Brazilians from the increasingly influential First Capital Command gang. The men played soccer in the afternoons — fierce matches in the prison yard.

    “He was lost for soccer,” said one prison guard.

    Drug trafficking in South America was on the verge of a major shift. For years, the cocaine produced in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru was bound almost exclusively for the United States. Then, by the late 2000s, American pressure on drugs being smuggled to the United States forced traffickers to search for new markets and new routes.

    Large drug shipments had rarely moved south, into Paraguay and Uruguay. But Montevideo, Marset’s hometown, had a port that dispatched massive quantities of commercial goods to Europe daily. For the traffickers, it was a nearly untapped source of revenue. And Marset realized that he was sitting right on top of it.

    Images of Sebastián Marset’s fake passports.

    He was released from prison in 2018, at age 27. Within a few months, he was on his way to Paraguay to build the trafficking network he had begun to imagine in prison, investigators said. His connections to Brazilian and Italian organized crime appear to have laid the groundwork for his ascent. Marset began traveling under a false Bolivian passport, using the name Gabriel De Souza Beumer. It would be his first of multiple identities.

    While most fugitive drug traffickers are circumspect when talking about their empires, Marset and his associates speak proudly of his ascent. Even his lawyer, Moratorio, wanted to emphasize his client’s skill set.

    “Everyone leaves prison with contacts,” Moratorio said. “But it was also his own ability, and what he did when he got out, that got him to where he is now.” IV

    By 2020, Paraguayan and U.S. authorities had noticed the increase in cocaine arriving in Paraguay from Bolivia, bound for Europe via Uruguay’s ports. Some of the shipments were stamped with an abbreviation officials had never seen before: PCU, which stood for Primer Cartel Uruguayo.

    It was an obvious target for U.S. and Paraguayan investigators: Who was behind the new cocaine boom?

    Paraguayan officials secured wiretaps on phones linked to the criminal network. They recruited spies among the drug traffickers. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration dispatched planes to photograph the clandestine airfields that were popping up across Paraguay. (Uruguayan Ministry of the Interior; iStock)

    Within months, officials from both countries began hearing about a man at the center of the organization.

    “A young Uruguayan man with his right arm tattooed” was the working description of the target as the investigation began, said one U.S. official.

    “He was young but clearly powerful,” said a former senior Paraguayan official.

    On wiretapped phone lines, his associates and employees referred to him only as “El Jefe Mayor”: “The Big Boss.” When he traveled, he sometimes disguised himself as a priest so authorities would be less likely to question him. He named his drug shipments using code words from the soccer world: “Maradona,” after the legendary Argentine player, and “Manchester,” after the English city with two famous Premier League teams.

    When he felt threatened, he responded violently. He described the men he killed in flippant text messages illustrated with gory photos. The messages were later obtained by investigators.

    “I shot him twice,” he wrote in a text. “It seems to me he dropped dead.”

    “Do we have a place to disappear a body?” he asked a few weeks later. “Is it best to put it in acid?”

    Of another victim’s body, he wrote: “That one was dumped in a field. It will be on the news in the next few days.”

    Officials documented how the unnamed man and his organization moved enormous quantities of cocaine. They would dispatch small airplanes from Paraguay’s main commercial airport, and then the pilots would turn off their radar. They would secretly fly across the border to Bolivia, landing on remote farms in Chapare, the country’s coca-growing region, where traffickers would fill the planes with between one and two tons of cocaine.

    Then the planes would return to Paraguay, landing at one of the clandestine airstrips that now peppered the northern part of the country. The cocaine was taken by trucks to container ships waiting on the Paraguay River, which flows through Paraguay to the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean. Traffickers knew that those ships were almost never inspected before arriving in Europe; the port of Montevideo had only one semi-functional scanner. Each planeload of cocaine was worth more than $20 million once offloaded in Belgium or the Netherlands.

    Officials identified at least 13 private jets being used by the cartel. Four of them, investigators found, were exclusively used to move cash.

    But officials struggled to learn the name of the man who was running the operation, the tattooed young Uruguayan. Nor did they know that when his voice disappeared from the wiretaps for stretches, it wasn’t always because he was off trafficking cocaine.

    Often it was because he was in the middle of a professional soccer game. V

    One rainy morning in early 2021, employees at Erico Galeano Stadium heard an engine revving in the gravel parking lot. When they got closer, they saw a silver Lamborghini speeding in tight circles, skidding across the surface.

    The team’s security guard approached the car. The driver rolled down his window.

    “I asked him, ‘Aren’t you worried about damaging your car?’” said the guard, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons. “And he just looked at me and said, ‘Don’t worry. I have four more.’”

    It was Marset. He extended his right hand, with a lion tattooed across the knuckles, and introduced himself as Deportivo Capiatá’s newest player.

    Marset began attending daily practice sessions and posing for team photos, always in the center of the frame. He was like a kid who had sneaked onto the field to play with his heroes — exuberant but inept. He brought his wife and three young sons to watch him play; he wanted them to see a win. (Paraguay national police; Bolivian court documents; iStock)

    He made a deal with his teammates. He would pay each of them several thousand dollars on top of their existing contracts for each victory. For many of the players, it was a life-changing sum. For Marset, who was living in a penthouse in the glittering Palacio de los Patos condominium, above a sauna and a 75-foot pool, it was nothing.

    But Capiatá kept struggling, in part because of Marset’s performance. He botched passes, failed to track back to help his defenders and scuffed easy goal-scoring chances. As the team continued to lose, Capiatá officials recalled, one young player broke down in tears, having missed another chance at earning the bonus Marset had promised.

    By then, Marset was attempting to balance his professional soccer career with a vibrant social life among the elite in Paraguay’s capital, Asunción. On April 11, 2021, he dispatched invitations across the city. They were in the form of fake boarding passes that said: “Birthday of Commander Sebastián Marset.”

    It was his 30th birthday. The party was airplane-themed. A private jet was parked outside the venue. Attendees posed for photos behind the cutout of a plane that said “Emirates Marset.” The cake was five-tiered, with an edible airplane sitting on top.

    The next day, he was back at practice. The players began wondering what investigators later would: Of all the teams in Paraguay, why had Marset arrived on theirs? VI

    Deportivo Capiatá was the pride of an Asunción suburb. The team famously beat Boca Juniors, Latin America’s most celebrated club, in Argentina in 2014 — a huge underdog win. (Capiatá ultimately lost the second leg of the contest after a penalty shootout.)

    For a time, Capiatá’s success was attributed to its powerful backer, Erico Galeano, whom the team’s stadium was named after.

  • ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay — The midfielder stepped up to take the penalty kick. It was a steamy, bright morning at Erico Galeano Stadium. In the stands, fans wearing yellow and blue stood up, squinting into the sun, focusing on the man with the number 10 on his back. On the sidelines, coaches crossed themselves as he ran toward the ball.

    His name was Sebastián Marset. He had arrived at Deportivo Capiatá — a hardscrabble professional soccer team — out of nowhere. He drove a Lamborghini that he would careen across the gravel parking lot. He was square-jawed and handsome, covered in gold jewelry, Rolexes and ornate tattoos that ran down his right arm.

    Marset was a mediocre player, with the skills of someone whose career peaked in high school. But when Capiatá’s coach, Jorge Nuñez, kept him on the bench, the players encircled Nuñez and told him that Marset needed to play.

    “I kept wondering, ‘Who is this guy?’” Nuñez said in an interview.

    And now here was Marset taking a critical spot kick. The score was 1-1. It was May 29, 2021, halfway through a tough season. A win could be the beginning of a turnaround.

    Silence fell on the stadium, quickly followed by groans, coaches and staff recalled in interviews. The ball blazed five feet over the goal’s crossbar. Even the team’s security guard couldn’t hide his frustration, kicking the dirt, wondering aloud why Capiatá’s fate had been put in Marset’s hands.

    Over the next two years, the reasons would become clear. Sebastián Marset, it turned out, was among the most important drug traffickers in South America, and one of the key figures behind a surge of cocaine arriving in Western Europe, according to Latin American, U.S. and European investigators.

    Instead of hiding from authorities, he had used his fortune to purchase and sponsor soccer teams across Latin America and in Europe. U.S. and South American investigators would learn that he was using those teams to help launder millions in drug proceeds.

    Along the way, Marset, now 33, deployed his power and wealth to fulfill a boyhood dream: He inserted himself into the starting lineups.

    This story about Marset’s narco empire and his quixotic search for soccer glory is based on thousands of pages of internal documents provided by Paraguayan, Uruguayan and Bolivian police, wiretap transcripts obtained by The Washington Post, hundreds of Marset’s text messages as well as interviews with officials on three continents. Many of the officials — along with Marset’s associates, teammates, coaches, friends and former neighbors in Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia — spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.

    Marset’s odyssey reads like a transnational caper, bordering on the absurd. But it is a startling window into the level of impunity at the nexus of Latin American public life and the lower rungs of professional soccer, enabling drug traffickers to wield enormous influence in both worlds. Years after a global manhunt for him began, Marset remains at large.

    His ascent was lightning fast — by age 28, according to a Paraguayan criminal indictment, Marset was moving cocaine and suitcases of cash across South America in a fleet of private jets. By 31, he had made more than $1 billion, authorities estimate. He placed stamps on his drug shipments that read “The King of the South,” the moniker he was trying to cultivate. He issued orders to deputies operating in four countries: where to put the cash, whom to pay off, how to hide the cocaine under packages of cookies or soybeans. He killed his enemies with no remorse, soliciting advice on how to disappear their bodies, according to his text messages, which were obtained and aggregated by the Paraguayan attorney general’s office.

    Marset took breaks to play professional soccer — first at Capiatá — where he adopted the same assertive tone as when he coordinated drug shipments, imagining himself the midfield conductor, even as he struggled to keep up with his teammates. He paid $10,000 in cash to wear the No. 10 jersey, worn by Pelé, Maradona and Messi. When he shoved opposing players to the ground, referees failed to blow their whistles. Marset flashed a thousand-watt smile.

    His rise coincided with the explosion in cocaine trafficking from South America to Europe. It was Marset who would help perfect that route, dispatching tons of drugs from Uruguayan ports to Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, investigators say, forging ties with existing cartels around the world.

    Building that empire and laundering its proceeds would bring Marset into contact with some of the continent’s most powerful politicians. Those ties were explicit: He borrowed a Paraguayan senator’s plane, he was caught trafficking drugs with the uncle of a Paraguayan president, and one of his lawyers secured meetings with top Uruguayan officials to secure his release from prison. Some of his most valuable connections, though, were in professional soccer.

    The link between drug trafficking and soccer is almost as old as the U.S. drug war. Money spent on the sport is untraceable in much of Latin America. Player contracts, transfer fees, ticket proceeds, merchandise sales — almost all of it can be fudged, according to experts on money laundering, so that cocaine money used to fund a team is magically turned into soccer — and therefore clean — profits.

    “The legitimization of illicit funds was done through sports,” the Paraguayan prosecutor’s office wrote in a 500-page internal investigation into Marset obtained by The Post.

    It was more than that. Soccer in Latin America is the bedrock of power and politics. For a drug kingpin, running a soccer team, even in a lower league, translates criminal power into public power.

    In the 1980s, Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug kingpin, bankrolled his hometown soccer club, Atlético Nacional, turning it into one of Latin America’s best teams. When he was detained in 1991, he flew in famous players to play on the prison soccer field. In the early 2000s, Tirso Martínez, an associate of Mexican drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, spent the millions he earned moving drugs to purchase several Mexican soccer teams. Martínez’s nickname was revealed after he was arrested and extradited to the United States in 2015: “El Futbolista.”

    But Marset is the first major drug trafficker to use his status and wealth not only to bankroll professional soccer teams but to play on them. Some of his games were held just miles from where he had deposited the bodies of his cartel rivals, based on the descriptions in his text messages. Depending on whom you believe, his athletic career was either a sophisticated strategy to conceal his identity, or an attempt to fulfill an unrealized dream.

    Asked which it was, Marset’s lawyer, Santiago Moratorio, laughed in his office in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital.

    “He always wanted to be a soccer player,” he said.

    As U.S. and South American authorities chased Marset across the continent, to the Middle East and to Europe, he was always one step ahead, vanishing only to reappear on another professional soccer field, often using a new false identity. He was able to bribe his way out of a Dubai prison as U.S. officials — who came to see Marset as a threat to public institutions across Latin America — watched in frustration. He left a trail of high-profile murders in his wake, authorities allege, including Paraguay’s anti-corruption prosecutor, gunned down on his honeymoon at a Colombian beach resort.

    As he ran from authorities, Marset left voice notes and video messages, often mocking the officials who trailed him.

    “I’m too smart for you,” he said in one video message last August. The camera was tightly framed around his face. He wore a gold chain and a neat beard.

    “If you want, keep hunting me, but I’m telling you that I’m far away.”

    Authorities knew they were unlikely to catch Marset in the middle of a cocaine bust. So they adapted their investigation to its target: They began scouring professional soccer stadiums.


    Marset was born in Piedras Blancas, a neighborhood of small split-level homes on the outskirts of Montevideo. Uruguay had long considered itself the “Switzerland of South America,” with among the lowest crime rates on the continent. But in Piedras Blancas, as Marset entered his teenage years, young men suddenly appeared selling and trafficking drugs. Homicides ticked up.

    He was a top student at school, a skinny, whip-smart kid who liked to stand in front of the room and lecture his classmates as if he were the teacher. As he got older, though, he became single-minded about his goal: He wanted to be a professional soccer player. He and his friends played in the street, constructing makeshift goals out of stones. They used markers to sketch numbers on the back of their T-shirts because they couldn’t afford uniforms.

    Marset’s dream of soccer stardom was, at least in part, about money. He worked at a gas station and blew his salary on a David Beckham Adidas track jacket. He went to nightclubs frequented by girls from wealthier neighborhoods. Friends said they sometimes spotted him walking home alone because he couldn’t afford bus fare from downtown Montevideo.

    After high school, he started playing semiprofessional soccer in Montevideo’s intermediate division. It became clear quickly that Marset would not go further. He wasn’t fast enough. His touch was mediocre, his passes wayward.

  • Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate art more than most. But there’s an exclusionary aspect that exists with art, wherein only some people can truly appreciate various aspects.

    In contrast, nature is more universal and primal. Everyone, regardless of language or culture or education, can appreciate natural phenomena. The beauty of nature speaks to us on a fundamental level, whereas the beauty of art requires a certain degree of acculturation and intellectual effort to grasp.

    Furthermore, human art is a reflection of nature and indeed a part of the beauty of nature, as you say. However, that inevitably positions it as a subset of the all encompassing beauty of existence as a whole. Artistic works are small mirrors reflecting back aspects of reality in interesting ways. But because they can only ever represent fragments of the greater whole, they are somewhat less awe inspiring.

    Often, works of art can prompt us to engage with the beauty of reality, so I’m not condemning them in any way. I’m just saying that the representation can’t be better than the real thing, even if humans wish that it were.

  • imaqtpie@sh.itjust.workstoScience Memes@mander.xyzThe Code
    8 days ago

    It is different, but tbf academics are also reliant on external funding sources to conduct research. It’s not absurd to think that the grant writers or university administration might have some stipulations about the free distribution of research they paid for.

    Have we forgotten what happened to Aaron Swartz? With the state of the world today, I naturally expect everything to be monetized, regardless of whether it makes any rational or ethical sense.

  • That was 100% a handball for me. Hand was extended from the body and blocked a shot on target. Cucurella even smirked afterwards, he knew he got away with one.

    Absolutely brutal officiating performance tbh. It started when he didn’t give a yellow to Kroos in the 5th minute for the tackle that took Pedri out of the game. And then he ended up giving a ton of yellows later on in the game, for dubious reasons. Germany got robbed on that call but Spain still seem like the most deserving team to win the tournament so it’s not the worst thing.

    If France beats Spain though, then the rage will flow. After benefitting from a missed call and scoring a miraculous goal to avoid penalties, you better make it count