Arm Up on the Facts with Free Mailing List

Narco News 2001

January 15, 2001

Banamex, the shot from the barrel

Roberto Hernández, Economic Power, and Narco-Politics

The Dirty War Against Por Esto!

Translated from El Boletín Mexicano de La Crisis

By José Martínez M.

Note: José Martínez M. is one of Mexico's most respected national journalists, and author of the book "The Professor's Teachings: Investigation of Carlos Hank González" (1999, Océano Press).

Accused by the press that has put him under the searchlights of drug trafficking, Roberto Hernández Ramírez, the magnate that came from nowhere during the presidential term of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, has taken to the courts of the United States using all his economic power, through Banamex, to sue the Yucatán journalist Mario R. Menéndez Rodríguez, editor of the daily Por Esto!, one of the most influential of the Southeast and Caribbean of our country.

Four years ago the first journalistic accusation surged that involved the preferred banker of Salinismo with the narco.
Mario R. Menéndez Rodríguez is one of the most combative journalists of recent decades. Founder of the celebrated magazine Por Que?, it was one of the most essential readings in political and university circles in the 1960s. It defined an epoch through its coverage of the guerrilla in Mexico, in the times of Lucio Cabañas and Genaro Vásquez.

Of Yucateco origin and member of a known family of journalists, Mario Menéndez was exiled and after some years began a new journalistic project in his native state from where he practices journalism without concessions.

In the last four years the reports published in the pages of Por Esto! have bothered Roberto Hernández, who has tried to detour the case toward Banamex to try and evade his presumed responsibility in the accusations against him.
La Crisis interviewed Mario R. Menéndez Rodríguez, publisher of Por Esto!, to explore more deeply the lawsuit that the Banamex lawyers filed in the United States against the Yucateco journalist.


Q. Mario, when did this war begin?

A. In 1997, we published a series of reports with documents, testimonies, and proofs. We published photos of shark boats, the cocaine they brought, all the details. But we accused Roberto Hernández Ramírez and not Banamex. Hernández tries to protect himself putting his bank in front of him and we accused him directly. We made the accusation and we presented the evidences that we published and offered our help to the Federal Prosecutor to investigate the matter. If it had been brought to a legal process, we felt we could help.

Roberto Hernández, for his part, tried to accuse me of having committed a crime because I didn't file a legal complaint about the drugs before publishing the story. The problem is that when I presented the evidences it was because the Army had already verified it, with the Navy and Air Force, who confirmed that everything we discovered was real and had occurred in the properties of Roberto Hernández. For this he also accused me of trespassing. But he didn't realize that to accuse me of trespass was an acknowledgement that, yes, the drugs were on his property.

Clearly, Roberto Hernández had all the backing of President Zedillo who joined with him and ordered that the Attorney General would be an instrument at the service of Hernández. Then came hits from different angles. The first, through the Attorney General, the second through the Interior Ministry and then the Office of Books and Magazines wanted to revoke my journalistic license and that of the newspaper.

Q. What Interior Minister ordered this action?

A. It was Emilio Chuayffet.

Q. And what happened later with Chuayffet?

A. He later spoke with me and recognized that they had acted arbitrarily. He told me he had received the order directly from Zedillo and that he couldn't do anything about t. This he told me word for word, exactly as I am telling you. We then responded legally, administratively and politically to the attempt to take away our license and the title of the newspaper.

Q. Without a doubt, the government's seige was intense.

A. In effect, no one in Mexico City - All this was done from the Federal District without our knowing it - not one federal judge wanted to accept their accusations and order an arrest warrant against me. They were then denied by one and had to go to state court in Quintana Roo.

Q. What happened then?

A. From the Attorney General's office, Jorge Madrazo spoke with the governor, Mario Villanueva, and made him see that it would be convenient that Judge Traconis would be given this case to grant the arrest warrant. And this was seen in the Attorney General's office as an act of cooperation between the government of Quintana Roo with the Attorney General to soften their problems. There, Villanueva ordered the Judge and it was done, the arrest warrant was issued.

We must remember that Jorge Madrazo Cuellar always filtered information to the media and this case was no exception. He sent copies of the arrest warrant against me to newspapers. Someone in the daily Reforma called me by telephone and asked me if I knew about the arrest warrant against me they were talking about. That's when I found out and I asked him the favor of sending me, by fax, the supposed arrest warrant. The reporters of that daily asked me to to make a statement and I answered them that I am a persecuted target, but that I am also a journalist. They understood and I offered to send them what I published the next day.

This arrest warrant was ordered on the eve of President William Clinton's visit to Yucatán. During this visit we published four supplements beginning on February 14, 1999, when Clinton arrived, and we accused the president of the United States of signing an anti-drug agreement with the Mexican government precisely in one of the haciendas of the banker that was accused by us of drug trafficking.

Q. And after that, what happened?

A. The Federal Court issued an order protecting us from any arrest warrant and the case passed into the hands of the Quintana Roo Supreme Court, where Judge Victor Manuel Echeverría Tum ruled in September of 1999 in our favor and completely overturned the case against Roberto Hernández whose lawyers were all from Banamex.

In the decision by Judge Echeverría Tum it was ruled that at no moment could the journalist Menéndez be found guilty of libel because all the accusations were based on facts, it wasn't for nothing that Hernández was called a narco-trafficker. His second point was that Roberto Hernández didn't even appear as a party to the charges.

Q. Why?

A. Zedillo's government wanted to protect him. They put Banamex in front of him to make the complaint. Roberto Hernández has never appeared in any of the four legal actions against me for the same crime of libel. It's only Banamex that shows its face. Clearly, when Banamex does something publicly it is meant to place the entire weight of the Mexican economy over the scales of justice. But the judge said Banamex isn't being accused here. The one who is accused is Roberto Hernández whose properties were found with cocaine. All of this is confirmed by the Air Force, thus, there is no possibility of libel.

They appealed the judge's decision and the case went to a single judge of the Quintana Roo Supreme Court. Judge Castro Ríos reiterated and upheld the decision by Judge Echeverría Tum in every section and there the first chapter closed.


Mario R. Menéndez Rodríguez tells of the attacks by the lawyers of Roberto Hernández, using his immeasurable economic power.

The editor of the daily Por Esto! relates how he was invited to give a series of conferences at Columbia University and in front of students of this academic institution repeated exactly what he had published in the pages of Por Esto!
"Nothing more was said there than was we said in our criminal accusation against Roberto Hernández," explains Menéndez. "I explain that because we had already been judged in this case and the decision of the judge is the following: there is no libel because everything is based on real facts."

Q. At the University did you give a conference on investigative journalism?

A. Effectively, but it was in the Law School and open to he public. You can imagine, "in the company of Jesus," all the types of people that were there and because they were there, the exposition was made with great care. We returned and we did not know that a new case against us had already been initiated in Quintana Roo, but below the strict control of the Attorney General.

And how did we find this out? By surprise because one day an ex waiter, his wife and mother in law, people who had worked in the Casa Maya hotel in the Hotel Zone of Cancun, were found brutally tortured. The family was violently assassinated, the waiter's body was burned, and over his cadaver there was a card from the Attorney General's office belonging to Attorney Eslava, assistant attorney general at the time. It said that although the courts already had favored me they were going to try and get me. We got a hold of this document. We published this document and then we said that they were preparing something. Then came the second accusation against me by Banamex. It's always the bank. Roberto Hernández never appears for any of it and the charge is for exactly the same alleged crimes: libel and crimes against the Press Law.

These activities by the Attorney General were being conducted under total secrecy. We went to inaugurate the offices of Por Esto! of Quintana Roo on September 8. Ten days before that there had been a shooting by gunmen against the newspaper building and five of the six gunmen were arrested. They found them with the guns in their hands, guns of exclusive use of the Army, with the cocaine that they had in the same car. The next day they were set free. The provocation was too obvious because how is it possible that you are going to arrest five men with the evidence in their hands, who shot against a newspaper and the next day they are released?

Q. What attitude did you take in the face of these facts?

A. I asked my children to go to the courts and before we forget the facts to denounce these arbitrary actions by the Attorney General that refused to prosecute these gunmen who were dedicated to the distribution and sale of drugs in the Hotel Zone that is under the control of the regional representative of the Attorney General. He set them free immediately and sources in the courts informed us that another provocation was being planned exactly on the day that we would inaugurate our offices. All the usual lawyers for Banamex were there with all the arrogance that characterizes them of offering money, blank checks, with the goal that already you can imagine. At the same time a special group of police from the Attorney General's office that dress in black, wearing masks and everything ready to kidnap me.

When they told me about all this I could not cancel or fail to attend the inauguration of the new offices. I went there to speak. A federal judge gave us an order in Mérida protecting us from arrest, but he told me that he could not believe what they were daring to do. But in the end they gave me the protection order and I went to Cancún on Thursday night. I was accompanied by my children, well protected, and from Friday morning to noon or one in the afternoon, the federal judge received three calls from Attorney General Jorge Madrazo Cuellar demanding that he order my arrest.

Q. It was Jorge Madrazo who personally made the call?

A. Exactly as you are hearing it because, at the courthouse, the entire world heard it, even how the judge got angry and told him that if he continued mocking the law he would make a ruling against the Attorney General. Then nothing happened. And later a mysterious call came from (President Zedillo's Personal Secretary) Libano Saénz. He asked the judge if he could please erase the file so that the charges could be made again, and the judge refused that also and his decision was in my favor.

They were more irritated than ever over this situation and they appealed to the Federal Circuit Court Judge in Mérida, who also ruled in my favor and there the story ended.


Mario R. Menéndez tells La Crisis that the team of lawyers of Roberto Hernández filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of New York, in the name of Banamex, over what he said in the Columbia University conference.

"I had the good luck that my case was on the Internet," jokes the veteran journalist, referring to, "Alberto Giordano who has an Internet site named Narco News and who also is accused by Banamex's lawyers for having spoken about me."
"Recently, the case was made known in the Supreme Court in detail and it appeared on the Internet. In this moment the famous attorney Martin Garbus saw the problem and called me in Mérida on the telephone and said he wanted to defend me. I asked him why he wanted to defend me and he answered that he believed in what I was doing and when we spoke personally he would tell me some other things.

When I was with Martin Garbus, I realized that this man is a social fighter, a champion in the fight for the defense of individual liberty and human rights in the United States. He has won outstanding battles. He was one of the people who participated in the elaboration of the new constitution of Czechoslovakia. He came from Jewish parents who had been in concentration camps. I think his mother died in one of them. He has books that tell it all; Heroes and Traitors, and another is Tough Talk, where he defends famous journalists for their criticisms of the North American government who were sued in New York, I don't remember all the details right now.

Q. What's happening right now in the United States courts?

A. Our part is to collect the greatest quantity of documents and proofs possible that the other side has no case. What is significant is that the consortium that defends Roberto Hernández is dedicated to lobbying. His lawyers are meddling in the Senate and the House of Representatives to obtain gifts for governments and make laws. Its seat is in Washington and they also have argued very important cases in the defense of people accused of drug trafficking and they also participated in the defense of the law that was imposed in Colombia with the participation of the US government that sent the marines to this South American country.

Martin Garbus tells me that it will be very difficult for these poor souls to succeed in their effort and they know it. They never imagined that I would go as high as the Supreme Court to defend myself.

Q. Mario, what's going to happen with the critical press of our country?

A. It depends on us. If we fold our hands - and I don't only refer to me personally - if we who fight for Authentic Journalism fold our hands or let ourselves be seduced by X offer or what you want, then every day the space of critical journalism will be reduced. This is already our question. But if we began alone in this fight four years ago, they did everything up to what you cannot imagine against us. I'm not referring to slander, to libel, to the evil campaigns of individuals, of spiritually small people like this poor Fernández Menéndez, the Argentine or Chilean badly born, who is a poor devil, he already doesn't worry us. What concerns us to continue forward.

What I can tell you is that the uniting power of the newspaper and its greatest capital are its credibility, trust and the truth that the people want. This is the biggest prize that we can aspire to as journalists. As public servants we have a vocation of service. We don't speak for the sake of speaking. When we spin the wheel it is a very committed journalism.

Q. Roberto Hernández is a friend of Vicente Fox. What do you expect from this?

A. That's what Roberto Hernández says.

Q. Is there any perception that Roberto Hernández will use his relation with Fox that he says he has to destroy your newspaper?

A. Well, he used his relationship with Zedillo to the maximum, to the absolute ultimate to break my soul. He is an individual who is not capable of publicly confronting an accusation of this type, of presenting himself in a public hearing. Por Esto! presented itself. But Roberto Hernández always seeks to hide behind the skirt of a banking institution and this says it all, no?

Roberto Hernández is an individual without scruples. Recall that he was one of the 38 stockbrokers who did not hesitate to destroy millions of Mexican families in the crash of the stock exchange. Neither did he have any scruples to pass the plate in the house of Ortiz Mena where they collected $750 million dollars (for the PRI campaign). Nor is it any secret how he purchased Banamex. Or how the National Palace mysteriously set on fire in the area precisely where the records of the bank sales were kept. This says a lot about a person who couldn't afford a credit card in 1980. And seven years later he appeared, as if by magic, with a fortune that counted him among the 300 wealthiest people in the world. And later he jumped from Salinas and went with Zedillo. And from Zedillo he goes to Fox. Okay. If Fox lets himself be seduced also, this will be Fox's problem. We are not going to change our journalistic mission. We are going to continue forward.

Narco News, Proud to be Co-Defendant of Mario Menéndez