The story breaks in
Banamex to US Court for
Lawsuit vs. Two Journalists
by award-winning journalist Carlos Ramírez, appeared this
morning in 25 Mexican newspapers including the nation's largest,
El Universal. The original, in Spanish, can be read by
NEW on Tuesday: Narco News Letter to Akin Gump...
Banamex, to US Court for Narco
By Carlos Ramírez
long litigation by Roberto Hernández
Ramírez and Banamex on the theme of narco-trafficking
has arrived in the United States Courts: the banker has sued
journalists Mario Renato Menéndez Rodríguez, editor
of the daily Por Esto of the Yucatán Peninsula, and Al
Giordano, editor of the Internet publication www.narconews.com,
in the New York Supreme Court.
The issue is over reports published in
Por Esto in 1996 about the utilization of beaches on an island
owned by the banker Hernández - one of the beneficiaries
of the bank privatization of Carlos Salinas and supporter of
Vicente Fox - on a the coast of Quintana Roo as a receiving port
for cocaine. The daily newspaper published not only the information
but also illustrated it with photographs of drug containers from
the beaches of this island.
Although on two occasions Mexican courts
dismissed each of the two prosecutions by the owner of Banamex
against Menéndez Rodríguez because the journalistic
report "was based on the facts," now the powerful banker
with influence in the government of the PAN party's Fox (who
used the infrastructure of Banamex in his campaign and went to
the banker's house when he won the elections), has entered the
courts of New York with the argument that Giordano, who has published
the accusations of Por Esto on the Internet, is a US citizen.
no small matter, because the journalist
Giordano, a former Boston Phoenix reporter, wants to put Roberto
Hernández in the seat of the accused.
On his Internet pages, Giordano revealed
months ago that the reports of Sam Dillon of the New York Times
about the visit by Clinton to Mérida withheld information
about the accusations against Hernández, above all in
the context of the presence of Clinton in an important place
for narco-trafficking. Accused by Giordano, Dillon declared that
he didn't consider this information to be important.
But the task of Giordano and the web site
www.narconews.com has been important.
Details have been revealed there about the falsification of information
about drug trafficking and accusations have been made about US
hypocrisy in the war on drugs. Giordano recently discovered and
accused the that the Associated Press correspondent in Bolivia
played a double role that brought him to conflict of interest:
he reported as a journalist about Bolivian affairs but at the
same time represented a private company and lobbied in its favor.
Giordano's accusation caused the resignation of the AP correspondent.
Giordano, also, revealed the case of New York Times Mexico correspondent
Sam Dillon and his manner of hiding information.
The matter of the lawsuit by Banamex against
the journalists Menéndez and Giordano has begun to draw
interest in the United States. Journalist Cynthia Cotts broke
the story in late December in her "Press Clips" column
of the prestigious progressive newspaper The
Village Voice of New York with the title, "Drug
War Goes to Trial." For the columnist, the matter will reveal
a lot: It will open a debate on how the media manages information
battle between lawyers will also be
at the highest level. Menéndez contracted defense attorney
Martin Garbus, celebrated in New York because he defended civil
liberties against the authoritarianism of the government in the
case of Lenny Bruce, a comedian in clubs that used strong words
to criticize politicians. The comedian was accused of obscenity,
but Garbus proved that the accusation was simply a campaign of
police harassment against the comic for his political criticisms.
Banamex, on its end, contracted the law
firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a powerful firm that
does lobbying in Washington DC and now litigates in New York.
The complaint filed on petition by Banamex is over statements
in the US by Menéndez and Giordano last March when they
gave various conferences and interviews. At the core, Banamex
complains that the declarations by Menéndez and Giordano
damaged various business deals of the bank in the United States
for their insistence on linking the bank and its owner Hernández
Ramírez with narco-trafficking.
In the context of the prosecutions in
México, Menéndez has suffered attacks - Mexican
style - above all owed to the power relations that the banker
Hernández Ramírez had with president Carlos Salinas:
last year the offices of Por Esto in Cancún were attacked
by gunmen and Menéndez received information that the Salinista
government (of president Ernesto Zedillo) was at the point of
arresting him over the demand by Banamex and that there had been
police outside of his office to bring him by airplane to Mexico
The theme is going to heat up when the
trial in New York calls the journalist Menéndez and Giordano,
and the banker Hernández Ramírez, to testify. The
reports in Por Esto were based on declarations by identified
witnesses, and by photographs of drug containers on the beaches
of the island property of the Banamex owner. The theme, beyond
its political character, will impact the issue of liberty of
expression in Mexico - but defined by a United States court.
And it will affect the spaces of freedom of the press by journalist
sites on the Internet.
tensions have begun to be felt before
the allegations have entered the courtroom. The columnist Cynthia
Cotts revealed in The Village Voice that Giordano has sought
the counsel of attorney Thomas Lesser, who put the CIA on trial
in 1986. Lesser confirmed that the case by Banamex tries to slap
and silence journalistic criticism. North American lawyers are
puzzled as to why Banamex brought the case of Por Esto and www.narconews.com to a New York court,
in the capital of critical journalism, where the story's capacity
to resonate is greater.
The Banamex lawyers center their allegations
on statements by Menéndez and Giordano in New York in
early last year and the reports by Giordano on the Internet that
reached the United States. However, the accused journalists are
going to utilize the information that has been featured in Por
Esto of Yucatán with the presentation of photographs and
eyewitness evidence. At the same time, the journalists will have
in their favor the two lawsuits dismissed in Mexican courts because
the judges considered that the journalistic reports were based
on real facts.
The judicial proceedings of the Banamex-Por
Esto case will also directly involve the North American press.
Last February, the columnist Cynthia Cotts published accusations
that related the banker Hernández Ramírez with
Sam Dillon, New York Times correspondent in Mexico until last
September. "In Mexico, untouchables are people who are protected
by the power they wield," said Cotts, adding. "Two
of these people are Sam Dillon and Roberto Hernández."
At issue was the report about the Hernández
property that served as the base to traffic drugs in Mexico.
The NYT did not publish the information in spite of having spoken
with Por Esto. Dillon is currenty writing a book with permission
from The New York Times.
In her February column, Cotts told the
history of how Dillon and the Times eluded reporting the accusations
against Hernández. "Dillon spoke with the sister
of Hernández but did not have time to speak with the fishermen
who denounced the drug trafficking on the beaches of the banker,"
Giordano informed. Dillon, who received a Pulitzer Prize for
accusations about narco-trafficking, disregarded the proofs in
Por Esto: "It's the stupidest thing I've ever heard,"
he said. However, judges in Mexico determined that the accusations
by Por Esto were "based on the facts."
narco-trafficking, the Mexican bank, and the press will go to court this year in the United States.
Read Letters of Solidarity from Readers
and Journos here.
To New York City!