US Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow's comments
in late February that Mexico is "the international headquarters
of drug trafficking" - "just as Sicily was to the Mafia,"
he railed - brought more than the usual annual complaints about
Washington's drug-war "certification" process.
But Davidow - the hard cop of US policy toward Mexico - drew more than patriotic anger from his host country. So cynical, so unfair, so calculated was his publicity kick at Mexico that he inadvertently provoked more criticism of US drug prohibition itself and the word "legalization" leaped further into the nation's drug-war lexicon.
Milenio magazine reports that Davidow said even more than was first reported during his now infamous University of Southern California (a speech that made banner headlines in Mexico but went unnoticed -- how? why? -- by the US press). Columnist Raymundo Riva Palacio notes that Davidow also offered a brutal hint of the next phase of US drug war activity in Mexico and the region: the coming June publication of a black list of "narco-businesses" that Davidow is already brandishing to attack competitors of his favorite Mexican billionaire, Carlos Hank González.
excerpted from "Ambassador
Big Mouth" ("El embajador parlanchín")
By Raymundo Riva Palacio
Milenio magazine, Mexico City, March 4-10, 2000
"Davidow's... words went even further. Above all when, without any justification, he revealed that in the sights of United States (drug enforcement) is found an important Mexican businessman of the auto industry.
"All eyes immediately returned to the Hank González-Rohn family, that has been publically questioned for presumed drug trafficking connections without yet anything proven, not even that there exists in reality an investigation of them. But Davidow was careful to aim his punt. This businessman, he hinted, receives instructions from Japan, which not only eliminates the Hank family, who distribute German automobiles, but instead opened another flank.
"To whom did Davidow refer? His declaration, as open as it was irresponsible, and yet the Japanese car makers don't protest. He opened, at the same time, the vein that will cause headaches for the Mexican people beginning in June, when a new US law that monitors businesses supposedly related to drug trafficking begins to take effect. (Davidow said that) among this list figure two Mexicans, one in aviation and the other, that apparently will be the first to be affected, related to cargo-transport.
"Davidow is, without a doubt, one of the most interventionist Ambassadors that has been in Mexico...."
Narco News commentary: Davidow's close relationship with Carlos Hank González - Forbes list mogul, icon of Mexico's ruling PRI party, and presumed drug trafficker and money launderer by the Federal Reserve Board (reports Money Laundering Alert, May 1999), and also by the combined efforts of the FBI, the CIA, US Customs, the DEA and Interpol who label Hank and his two sons "a threat to the internal security of the United States" (reported the Washington Post in June 1999) - was detailed in the December 16, 1999 Boston Phoenix profile on Davidow, authored by the publisher of The Narco News Bulletin:
Now comes US Attorney General Janet Reno and the rest of the Potomac Cartel to launder the image of the reputed narco-businessman Carlos Hank.
Hank has spent a lot of money in the United States to lobby US officials and erase his file as suspected drug trafficker. He hired former US Senator Warren Rudman as his official lobbyist before the Justice Department. Rudman, a powerful New Hampshire Republican, thus enters the growing industry of narco-lobbyists in Washington who defend the alleged major traffickers while tens of thousands of small-time dealers and users go to prison each year.
The whole sordid tale of narco-influence over the highest levels of the United States government can be read in a recent Wall Street Journal story.
According to the Journal:
US Attorney General Janet Reno -- in a strange and unprecedented action for a US top prosecutor -- wrote a letter to the narco-lobbyist Rudman to say that:
1. A joint report by the DEA, the FBI, the CIA, US Customs and Interpol -- published in the Washington Post on June 2, 1999 -- that alleged that Carlos Hank González and his two sons, Carlos Hank Rohn and Jorge Hank Rohn, are drug traffickers, money launderers and "a threat to the internal security of the United States," does not represent the position of US Justice.
2. That the law enforcer who allegedly leaked the report has been fired.
3. The joint investigation of the five agencies has been "terminated."
This was the second time in a year that Reno squashed an investigation once it reached to the highest levels of the Mexican political regime. Reno also censored an investigation last year into drug money laundering by Mexican banks -- Operation Casablanca -- when the chief of the Mexican Armed Forces, General Enrique Cervantes Aguirre was implicated in a money laundering scheme.
What's clear is that the US Justice Department is protecting -- not prosecuting -- official drug traffickers who belong to their puppet regime in Mexico.
Here, in Reno's own words, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, she disavows the report on the Hank family and yet does not rebut the facts that it disclosed:
"The analysis and any conclusions and inferences contained in the report ... remain in draft, and therefore, have not been adopted as official views and positions of the NDIC, the Department of Justice, or the various federal, state, and local law enforcement and regulatory authorities that may have provided information to the drafters of the report," she wrote in a letter dated March 21. "In conducting a preliminary review of the draft report it was determined that the subject matter of the report was beyond the substantive expertise and area of responsibility of the NDIC, and the project was terminated."
How the "leaking" of the report implicating the Hanks happened is also under dispute:
An internal investigation by the Justice Department disclosed that a mid-level NDIC official involved in drafting the report, Daniel Huffman, passed a copy to a research professor at the U.S. Army War College, Donald E. Schulz.Mr. Huffman, who was dismissed from the NDIC over the leak, says he mistakenly thought Dr. Schulz, a recognized expert on the Latin military, was with the Defense Intelligence Agency and therefore cleared to receive it. Mr. Huffman said he believes Dr. Schulz gave his copy to an El Financiero reporter. Dr. Schulz, who has since left the War College to become chairman of the Political Science Department of Cleveland State University in Cleveland, denies he gave it to the reporter.
But as the Wall Street Journal notes, Reno may not have the last word on the Hank investigation: the powerful US Federal Reserve Board has its own proofs that the Hank organization launders drug money and is taking action against them:
Mr. Hank Rhon, who didn't return a telephone call seeking comment, isn't out of the woods with U.S. authorities yet. The Federal Reserve Board in December 1998 began administrative proceedings aimed at forcing him to divest most of his stake in Laredo National Bancshares. Arguing that Mr. Hank Rhon made false filings to banking regulators, secretly sold some of his shares to his father and other Mexican businessmen, and that one of his affiliates improperly borrowed money from Laredo National, the Fed is seeking to force him to lower his ownership to 24.9% from 74%. Another Hank Rhon attorney, Fulbright & Jaworski partner Richard Beckler, denies the allegations and says the Fed action, if successful, could cost Mr. Hank Rhon more than $200 million, including fines and other penalties.
La Jornada Washington correspondents Jim Cason and David Brooks summed up the story in an April 12th article:
"The official (Reno) never disproved the information in the analysis realized by the National Drug Intelligence Center and only affirmed that it has not been adopted as an official position.
"Nevertheless, anti-drug agency sources have reiterated in recent months to La Jornada that they maintain a constant interest in the Hank family's connections with drug trafficking.... some federal prosecutors still believe that there has been some kind of money laundering."
Narco News commentary: Why does the US Justice Department want to protect the Hank family? Could it be because the US Ambassador to Mexico, Jeffrey Davidow, is already proven to have a close and improper relationship with Carlos Hank González? Davidow has been a guest at Hank's mansion, he has defended Hank from US agencies and newspapers, and, worse, Davidow was present at the 1998 meeting in Costa Rica where Hank, according to Costa Rican legislators, engineered the deal with that country's current president to control cocaine trafficking through its terrain.
This, among other reasons, is why Davidow refused to answer the question posed in writing to him in December 1999 by the publisher of Narco News as to "What role, if any, does Carlos Hank González play in US intelligence operations."
Even still, Davidow and Hank are sweating together over what action, if any, the US Federal Reserve Board will take against the Hank family's drug money laundering operations. If Hank falls, Davidow follows. And the dark hand of US drug policy in Latin America, too, is threatened with exposure. That's why Reno defends Hank, to perpetuate the circus and farce of the drug war and its dirty operators like Davidow.
This just in: The CBS TV news program 60 Minutes, on April 16th, documented how top Washington officials squashed another investigation into drug money laundering when it uncovered evidence of an attempt by the commander of Mexico's Armed Forces to launder more than $1 billion US dollars in illegal drug money. Click here for the 60 minutes summary of that story.
60 Minutes reports:
"Ex-Customs Agent Says U.S. Ignored Evidence"
"A former U.S. Customs agent tells (CBS 60 Minutes reporter) Ed Bradley that when he tried to determine the validity of evidence he says could implicate Mexico's secretary of defense in drug money laundering, his superiors stopped his investigation to avoid an international incident. The ex-agent, William Gately, appears in his first television interview on 60 Minutes on Sunday, April 16.
"According to Gately, if the allegations could be proven, U.S. Customs may have been able to catch one of the really big fish in Mexico's drug trade. But it never followed up on a covert video showing a corrupt Mexican banker alleging that Mexico's secretary of defense wanted to launder $1 billion in drug money.
"It is the only time that law enforcement had an opportunity to deal directly with that kind of money and those people who protect the mafia and the financial institutions of Mexico," says Gately. "They blew their big chance."
"...In fact, he tells Bradley, his bosses refused to let him investigate the allegations.
"Mexico's secretary of defense is Gen. Enrique Cervantes, whom U.S. officials say is America's key partner in the drug war.
"Commissioner Kelly says the main reason Casablanca was shut down was that leaks to the media about the operation were putting agents' lives at risk.
"But Gately says, "[Kelly] didn't punish anyone for leaking." The real reason, says Gately, was that nobody really wanted to target the Mexican government. "The undercover phase of this thing ended and there was a hue and cry not only from the Mexican government...Our own secretary of state, Madeleine Albright...[and] drug czar Gen. McCaffrey both took the side of the Mexican government," Gately tells Bradley. "So I believe everyone thought that Mexico gets a pass...We don't want to hear about it. So they didn't follow up on it."
Lest anybody forget, US Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow, when this information was first published by Tim Golden of the NY Times on June 2, 1999, attacked the report -- along with the report the same day by the Washington Post on the Hank family's narco-involvement, as "an old act of theatre by the press with the intention of tarnishing bi-lateral relations." The US government cancelled the investigation, the NY Times slacked off the story, and the impunity of the US-imposed prohibition marched on.
For a related caricature of Ambassador Davidow, as penned by the dean of Mexican political cartoonists, Naranjo, see El Universal of March 1, 2000:
The El Universal web site offers access to back issues ("ejemplares anteriores"), and in the March 1st edition, through the link for cartoonists ("cartones"), see the work titled "Infladow."
Now, for another look into the dark hand of Davidow in US-Mexican relations, click here and read of one columnist's theory on the prohibition-related assassination of Tijuana's police chief...