Narco News '02
News and Civil Society:
Again in 2002
First of January has, over the past
eight years, taken on an added symbolism as a date-of-passage.
Eight years ago today, the indigenous
citizens of Mexico's poorest state of Chiapas rose up in arms
and planted a proposal that was both new and very old: "a
world in which many worlds can co-exist." The Zapatista
rebels shined a light onto a path out of the economic and social
tyranny that calls itself globalization.
In Mexico, the ensuing chain of events
and struggles ended the longest-running government of a one-party
state in modern history. At Narco News we have offered
continuing eyewitness testimony and translation of this immediate
The indigenous model of resistance revealed
itself on January 1, 1994. To explain it in the most basic terms:
the model is to organize locally and then to internationalize
the conflict. This one-two punch of reality has proved to be
the most effective antidote to the power of money to rule governments
on a global scale.
Fast-forward almost eight years and 3,000
miles from the jungles and mountains of Chiapas to the concrete
metropolis that houses the Supreme Court of the State of New
York: There, on December 5th, 2001, The Narco News Bulletin won
a landmark victory in the Drug War on
Trial case against Banamex-Citigroup and its corrupt attempt
to silence the facts and the truth. The First Amendment right
of Freedom of the Press was restored to all journalists, including
citizen-journalists, and specifically, for the first time in
legal history, online Authentic Journalism.
The fall of the imposed sameness of a
one-party State in Mexico in 2000 and the fall of the imposed
sameness of a one-story Media Caste System in North America in
2001 are part of the same historic trend as we walk deeper into
the 21st century. Neither of these victories came gift-wrapped
by Power: they were taken through popular struggle that adopted
and expanded upon the Zapatista model for successful social change.
Neither of these battles won are final victories; they merely
represent the fall of the first and largest obstacles to true
democracy, justice and liberty in two of the worlds among the
many that still coexist within a larger world.
Today we renew our ancestors' pledge of
our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to topple the next
obstacle: The prohibitionist "war on drugs."
As documented extensively on these pages
for the past 21 months, U.S.-imposed drug policy in our América
is the single most bludgeoning barrier to the desire of peoples
and nations to live a democratic dream with liberty and justice
for all. Anybody who cares about human rights, about the fate
of the environment in general and of the Amazon rainforest -
the lungs of the world - in specific, about the democratic right
of Civil Society - of workers, of farmers, of students and of
young people, of artists and of creative people everywhere, of
women and men of all races and creeds, of our individual elders
known as senior citizens and of our collective elders known as
indigenous peoples - to determine our own destiny can now see
how the United States policy of drug prohibition - imposed on
all nations - is the dam that imprisons the waters of progress
on each of these fronts.
The hour has now arrived to launch a frontal
assault upon this lynchpin of so many evils that is drug prohibition.
To win this historic battle against this
tired and defeated policy of imposed sameness in drug policy,
we, the people, cannot remain wedded to the polite tactics and
strategies of the past. Thus, we further adapt the indigenous
Organize on the local level and within the specific sectors
of Civil Society.
Internationalize the conflict.
Legalize the existence of many worlds within our one world.
"Organize, Internationalize, Legalize."
What does this rhyme mean?
organize, we mean that this struggle,
like all battles for social change, can no longer ask for permission
from above. We must assert our democratic right from below; from
within our networks and communities, creating the spaces and
networks that make the dominant institutions less relevant.
As a project in Authentic Journalism,
Narco News organizes within our sector, that of journalists.
Our primary task has been to translate, report and analyze the
news about the drug war from Latin America. We have internationalized
that effort via the Internet, and by breaking the language barrier
between the frontline reporting done in Spanish and the English-speaking
But we have not stopped there. As journalists,
we also accept our duty to "organize locally" in our
field, that of the media. That effort has involved no small amount
of criticism against corrupted and inauthentic journalism. After
21 months, the Pan American Highway is littered with the reputations
of disgraced correspondents for major United States media whose
unethical activities have been exposed here for all to see. And
many authentic journalists, particularly in Latin America, have
found safer haven for their courageous activities through the
knowledge that their work is translated to English; a process
of mutual emboldening has followed and continues in a marvelous
and multiplying symbiosis.
The emboldening process among the sectors
of Authentic Journalism has taken root North of the border as
well, among many United States journalists. The Drug War on Trial
case in the New York Supreme Court merely served as pretext for
many to deliver the message far and wide: that the media monopoly
of the commercial press, radio and television is crumbling, even
as its corporate entities merge and narrow their scope in an
attempt to remain as the distorting filter between the people
and the news.
Our work, together with that of authentic
Mexican journalists, faced a huge threat and challenge when,
in the year 2000, the National Bank of Mexico (Banamex), its
billionaire owner Roberto Hernandez Ramirez, and, later, its
new owner Citigroup, the largest financial institution on earth,
launched a full scale legal assault against us in New York court.
A Mexico-based website without a bank account, a Mexican journalist
and a subsistence-level North American journalist in Mexico could
not have withstood or survived this attack on our own. But it
was you, our reader, each of you as members of international
Civil Society, who rose to the fight and made our defense possible.
Together with the other journalists who investigated and published
the news about the Drug War on Trial case, something was achieved
that was previously thought to be unlikely, if not impossible:
The billionaire attack was beaten back.
But something more happened, too, as if
to remind that the rewards of struggle cannot be predicted nor
counted on in advance, because they appear in unpredictable ways.
The Drug War on Trial case established a new legal precedent
in the United States. It shouts from every mountain and modem:
Online journalists and citizen journalists now enjoy the same
rights as the commercial media to protection under the First
Let the speed with which the impossible
became possible and then became reality be our guide for the
immediate present and future.
In other words, if we had told you, in
2000, when the legal battle began, that by the end of 2001 it
would result in the most sweeping and significant free speech
precedent in decades, would you have believed us?
And if we say, today, that the end of
drug prohibition can be brought about with the same lightning
speed, through the expansion of unorthodox tactics and strategies,
what would you say, kind reader? Are we ready to win? To take
back what is rightfully ours? To restore our freedom and autonomy
in a world where many worlds can coexist?
internationalize, we mean something
different than what is signified by the word "globalize."
The distinction is vital. To "globalize" is a term
that is already commonly associated with the effort from above
to plant the flag of money over every nation and people. To "internationalize,"
though, is a process that respects and utilizes the existence
of distinct nations and peoples to benefit all sides of all borders.
The main problem with the "war on
drugs" is that it follows the illogic of economic globalization
imposed from above. The federal government of the United States
has imposed a policy of drug prohibition upon its own 50 states
and upon its cities and towns. This policy has turned the States
into Colonies again. Various of these States have voted, democratically,
fair and square, the American way, at the ballot box to reform
or repeal certain drug laws. And the federal government seated
in Washington DC has repeatedly subverted and repressed the popular
will as expressed in voter referenda. Even the giant known as
California, with a greater population than most countries on
earth, is powerless to assert its autonomy: The people legalized
medical marijuana by popular vote and Washington continues to
arrest, imprison and target the patients who need that medicine
and the Californians who supply it.
From the perspective of Latin America,
this dynamic of tyranny imposed from above is nothing new. This
is how the drug war has been waged down here from its inception.
Here, the boot is more visible: Opposition leaders are rounded
up, framed on false drug charges, tortured, disappeared and assassinated,
like the latest martyr, Bolivian union
leader Casimiro Huanca.
The many movements that coexist within
one movement in North America, often called the "drug policy
reform" movement, have nothing to lose and everything to
gain by studying and learning from our Latin American neighbors.
Most particularly, the indigenous movements from Mexico to the
Andes have, for more than 500 years, developed and refined techniques
of resistance and the creation of counter-power, or "anti-power,"
that has saved entire peoples, languages and cultures from extinction.
Some of our friends in the North American
drug policy reform movement did not easily understand why, in
the Spring of 2001, Narco News dedicated an entire season to
reporting on the Zapatista indigenous caravan through 13 Mexican
States. Although the historic San Andres Accords for Indigenous
Autonomy in Mexico contained important solutions to the problems
posed by drugs and drug policy, we reported those events for
additional reasons: because here, again, the indigenous model
has provided all of us, not just the indigenous, with a new way
Still others wrote to us, from North America,
with sincere but paternalist solutions offered: "If only
the indigenous would accept a free market, there would be economic
development, and their problems would be solved!" The ideology
of free market solutions to every problem is widespread as the
dominant discourse in the North American media. If it would only
be expanded to the drug trade - a free market in drugs! - say
certain sectors of the drug policy reform movement, then a globalized
form of drug legalization would do away with the corruption,
the violence, the mafias, the prisons, the armaments, the attack
on liberties at home and abroad. This is the position of some
colleagues, and we are happy to continue discussing and debating
it. But it is not our position, and we will explain why.
The "free market" position on
drugs, as with all other industries, does not suffice for constructing
the political and social storm necessary to topple prohibition
or its underlying ideology of imposed sameness. It feeds off
a myth: that drug prohibition, like alcohol prohibition before
it, is merely just an "error," a "mistake,"
a blip of folly on the radar screen of history that will be discarded
once Power awakens to its misstep.
But it is painfully clear to us, having
investigated first-hand how the drug trade operates internationally
and in our América, that drug prohibition is no mere error
in policy. Because it was never intended to succeed in lessening
or eliminating drug trafficking or drug abuse. It is a policy
that was and is intended to fail, again and again, and to justify
a set of repressive policies purportedly to "combat"
the very ills it creates.
We have gone even further at Narco
News in defining the enemy. We documented how the banking
and financial industries profit off of drug money laundering.
We have shown how the tyrants that have ruled in our América
- from Montesinos in Peru to Salinas and Zedillo in Mexico to
Menem in Argentina to the Colombian paramilitaries - have laundered
their illicit narco-profits through United States banks. And
how that dirty money has become an addiction for the highest
and most inhuman sectors of the United States economy, without
which those bankers and brokers would not enjoy the absolute
power over Washington that their narco-lobbyists and campaign
contributions buy them.
Indeed, this is why the billionaire vested
interests in the "war on drugs" sued us and tried to
destroy us. And it is also why they failed to do so. Very simply,
the truth was our best defense. We told the truth, we tell the
truth and we will continue to tell it like it is. As we said
on our first day of publication on the 18th of April of 2000,
we are conscious that it is our truth, one of many truths that
coexist without making lies of the other truths that inhabit
our world. We invited the reader to bring his and her truth to
this project of authentic citizen-journalism. And your involvement
in this publication, kind reader, is one of the key factors that
saved us from a long and expensive persecution at the hands of
Within the New York Supreme Court ruling,
this gem of new law was born:
"A careful review of defendants' submissions on
Narco News's website indicates that the Narco defendants' format
is similar to a regularly published public news magazine or a
newspaper except for the fact that the periodical is published
'on line' or electronically, instead of being printed on paper.
The fact that the Narco News website can accept readers' comments,
or letters to the editor, via a separate e-mail address only
strengthens the need for First Amendment protections for the
New York State Supreme Court
Justice Paula J. Omansky
December 5, 2001
This historic decision
ratifies that your participation is a large part of what makes
our journalism authentic.
felt it had to stop more than one of
"the many truths" from becoming widely known and accepted.
One of those truths is that the real bosses of the narco trade
do not carry arms or wear sombreros or turbans. They carry briefcases
and wear suits and ties. They run the giant financial institutions,
and the economy of the United States. They launder 80 percent
of all illegal drug proceeds in our América and our world.
They have used their "free market" accumulation of
wealth to control political parties, candidates, and public officials,
and to exercise the "veto power" of the Advertising
Branch over the commercial media. "Free markets" will
not end the threat to true democracy that these forces embody.
The ideology of free markets is their invention, and their tool,
to maintain control, and to maintain the prohibitionist drug
policy that serves them and nobody else.
But when push comes to shove, these businessmen
lack the courage of the common man and woman. When identified
as the narcos that they are, they squeal and scream, as Roberto
Hernandez Ramirez, the former owner of Banamex, now a director
of Citigroup, threw his multi-million dollar tantrum first at
the daily Por Esto! newspaper of Mexico and then at The Narco
News Bulletin. In Mexico, Hernandez, upon exposure as a "narco-banker,"
tried to have authentic journalists imprisoned, and he lost his
court battles on 16 distinct occasions, in spite of the fact
that he is, truly, one of the oligarchs and owners of the government
Why did he fail 16 times in Mexico? Mexican
Civil Society suffers no illusion that the drug war is about
fighting drugs. The Mexican citizen has seen the narco up close,
has watched it purchase its government and police forces, and
has watched the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) persecute
some Mexican drug traffickers only when doing so it helps other
more-favored drug traffickers maintain their monopoly over certain
drug routes. Mexican civil society has seen the impunity, for
example on February 15, 1999, when the presidents of the United
States and Mexico held their "anti-drug summit" on
the property of a publicly accused narco-banker.
United States citizens who wish to change
the drug policies of their own land must study and seek to learn
what it is that has destroyed the underlying ideology of the
drug war in Mexico and in other Latin American lands. It is not
the view that the drug war is an "error" that can be
fixed by free market thinking. What has created a new consensus
in Mexico and in Latin America is the understanding that the
drug war is an intentional policy to further enrich the rich,
to further corrupt the corrupted, and to prevent the explosion
of true democracy so desired by the peoples of our hemisphere.
Having failed in Mexico, the man known
as a narco-banker launched his most expensive attack in New York.
And the poor little billionaire Roberto Hernandez and his mercenary
lawyers behaved so poorly with their legal assault on Narco News
that they inadvertently called attention to the need for legal
protection for online journalists under the First Amendment,
and provoked the New York Supreme Court into providing it.
The jig is up. The path is now opened
for authentic journalism to expose the white-collar narco-traffickers
who talk a prohibitionist game while raking in the narco-proceeds
behind the cocaine curtain. The battle to expose these crooks
and tyrants with facts and speech now enters a new phase: the
internationalization of the struggle.
By crossing the information boundaries
of nation-states and languages, Narco News won our New York Supreme
Court victory. Again, we didn't invent this strategy: We learned
it from the indigenous of Chiapas, who, using the Internet and
the direct physical crossing of borders by authentic journalists,
human rights observers and other members of international Civil
Society, brought down a 70-year-old regime in a nation of 100
million people. What we learned is that the cross-pollination
of local political battles with international publicity creates
a dynamic that is out of the control of any single government
or any single nation's media, even those of the superpower United
This dynamic features something akin to
the common bond between patriots of different countries: A Mexican
can love Mexico, and a United States citizen can love what is
best about his and her country, and still see and respect the
bond that unites them: love of place, and a willingness to fight
for it. This is part of the world where many worlds can coexist
that the indigenous of Chiapas first proposed.
Beyond this basic foundational truth,
there is political strategy: the energy created when different
lands and cultures share common struggles - even in the case
of a small website and a couple of journalists in Mexico against
Banamex-Citigroup in New York - creates a greater energy in both
lands. Nitrogen meets glycerin in an explosion that neither can
create by themselves.
This is not a new concept for the drug
policy reform movement in the United States. Indeed, the internationalization
of the drug war conflict has had great success vis-à-vis
the promotion of various European models of drug policy within
the United States. Again, we view this in the context of one
world that fits many worlds. Frankfort, Germany can have one
policy. Liverpool, England can have another. And Amsterdam in
the Netherlands can have still another. And these places coexist
without threats of drug wars between nations in Europe.
But on this side of the planet, the United
States not only engages in a $2 billion dollar military intervention
in Colombia, in other multi-million dollar adventures in Bolivia,
Peru, Mexico and elsewhere, but it is also, increasingly, is
at war with its own states and cities, and with its very own
Which brings us to review the three planks
of our platform for 2002: Organize, Internationalize, and Legalize.
Organize in local areas and in the many
sectors of Civil Society. Whether in Anytown, USA or in a particular
field of networks such as journalism, we assert "parallel
worlds" that insist on their (our) right to exist through
the act of existing and fighting to keep from being destroyed.
Internationalize the conflicts so that
these struggles - in geographic regions and in networks not fixed
to one place - gain a resonance in other lands and create pressures
from within and without upon the corrupted prohibitionist institutions
of government and finance.
To organize and to internationalize are
words that each define a process that is obvious and accessible
to all. But, what do we mean by legalize?
We wish to be very precise.
legalize, we mean no more or less than
legalizing democracy. By legalize, we do not mean an imposed
sameness of identical drug legalization policies in every corner
of the earth. We reject this illusion held by "free marketeers"
that an imposed drug legalization from above would be any more
successful or humane than a proposed drug prohibition from above.
We wish to place the horse ahead of the
cart: to simply legalize democracy first. To obtain a world that
does not prevent communities, states and nations from adopting
their own drug policies (and, indeed, their own policies on every
other social and economic issue), so that this world can have
many different drug policies that peacefully coexist.
For example, in Texas there are towns
that have "dry laws." One cannot sell alcohol in these
towns. We have no problem at all with that local option. It occurs
on a local level, and not from an imposed sameness of policy
from above. Most towns don't have dry laws, though, and we feel
confident that most locales on earth would not decide to adopt
the prohibitionist policies on drugs that are currently imposed
by Washington, if the right of peoples to decide such questions
is restored. The existence of many places, like Amsterdam, that
would democratically decide against prohibiting drugs would destroy
the prohibitionist problem: the high price, the dangers of unregulated
product, the mafias, the enrichment of dirty money launderers
at the expense of honest businessmen, the corruption of entire
governments, the overpopulation of prisons, and all the other
ills associated with prohibition.
"Legalize" is a policy that
embraces many distinct drug policies, and that has democracy
and autonomy as its watchwords. What must be legalized is home
rule and local control.
At the heart of our truth is this reality:
We wish to redefine a movement so that it is seen for what it
truly is: A pro-democracy movement.
the coming year, Narco News
will be paying even more attention to the social movements throughout
Latin America that touch upon, or are touched by, drug policy.
We consider our América to be grand laboratory of resistance
to the sameness that Power imposes upon our world. We will start,
this month, with translations of detailed interviews we recently
conducted with key social and indigenous leaders in Bolivia.
We also announce, today, the opening of
our Andean News Bureau, with its offices in the capital of that
country, La Paz, with more direct reporting from Bolivia, Peru,
Colombia and the other South American nations. (Feliz Año,
Señor Viceroy!) This, as we maintain and expand our
primary presence in Mexico, too.
The peoples of our América are
already organizing. In this year of 2002, we are going to internationalize
their struggles, and yours, as never before.
And we are not done, not by a longshot,
with the white-collar drug traffickers and money launderers,
the vested interests behind the United States imposed policy
of drug prohibition. The day is fast approaching when a narco
will be called a narco, no matter what high caste he thinks he
Specifically, we will soon announce the
details of our counter-suit against Banamex-Citigroup, who must
now pay for their abuse of the court system and effort to silence
free speech. That counter-suit, if successful, may lead to the
inauguration of a Fund for Authentic Journalism, both to expand
the Narco News project to other regions in our América,
and to assist similar projects in this renaissance of Authentic
In sum, the first weeks of 2002 will be
occupied by many behind-the-scenes tasks as we reorganize and
regroup for the battles ahead. We will continue publishing, of
course, the important news from Latin America. And we will continue
to count on the participation of you, the readers, in this fight.
The one thing we will not do is rest upon
the laurels of our victories of 2000 and 2001. Not until the
"war on drugs" is repealed and dismantled.
We continue as we began: with a mission
of Authentic Journalism about the "war on drugs" from
Latin America. Our reporting involves a specific nexus of issues,
but also serves as a laboratory of what journalism can and should
be; an art that takes orders from nobody except Civil Society.
We affirm our opening
statement of April 18th, 2000, and our absolute commitment
to the mission we expressed on that date. With your continued
participation as citizen-journalists, correspondents, sources,
letter-writers, organizers, internationalizers and legalizers,
we are very excited about 2002. With your collaboration, this
will be the year when it becomes no longer necessary to play
defense: 2002 will be remembered as the year that We, The People,
take the offensive.
From somewhere in a country called América,
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