August 2, 2001
Narco News 2001
By José Martínez M.
by The Narco News Bulletin
July 29 in the daily Por
Esto! and other newspapers
For my friend Mario
With a strong embrace of solidarity
more than two decades of experience
as a journalist and activist, Alberto Giordano, the editor-founder
of Narco News - one of the most widely-read web pages by analysts
of organized crime and narco-politics - has confronted a lawsuit
in the U.S. courts due to the attack by one of the magnates of
Salinism, Roberto Hernández. Giordano is being sued together
with the veteran Yucatán journalist Mario Menéndez
Rodríguez, publisher of the newspaper Por Esto!, of one
of the most influential dailies of the Mexican Caribbean.
Giordano and Menéndez were sued
in the Supreme Court of the State of New York by Roberto Hernández
Ramírez - a magnate who was made immeasurably wealthy
in the shadow of ex-president Carlos Salinas. The cause: Having
denounced the remains of drugs on the properties of the neo-banker
on the Island of Punta Pájaros of the state of Quintana
Roo. Yes, the ostentatious plantation where the most recent presidents
(Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox) have passed holidays as guests
of the strongman of Banamex. Hernández has risen through
the friendship of his friends of high politics to create a blanket
of impunity around him and up until now has made him untouchable.
Through Banamex, Roberto Hernández
contracted the services of the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss,
Hauer and Feld with offices in Washington and New York, led by
Robert Strauss, personal friend of (Mexican politician-banker)
professor Carlos Hank González. The attorney Strauss is
an influential politician in the Democratic Party and is widely
recognized for defending conspicuous persons linked to the mafias.
In a way it could be said that Giordano's
tribune is that of David. Tenacious, stubborn, obstinate, this
obsessive smoker who follows the path of Subcomandante Marcos
in utilizing the Internet to declare war against injustice, recognizes
that, in effect, the founding of Narco News is an idealistic,
but realistic, project. His web page is ultra-recognized throughout
the entire world. Giordano knows that the power of the word can
be lethal and that, at the core, was intuited by Roberto Hernández
who has engaged in all legal subterfuges to try to flatten his
A boxing analogy could be made about the
fight between Hernández with the editor of Narco News.
The Banamex magnate appears as a heavyweight but with a clumsy
manner, while in the other corner is a middleweight, light, agile,
ready to battle to the ultimate consequences.
That's how he is seen here before Domingo
Político - Al Giordano in interview during one of
his elusive visits to Mexico City, in a meeting spiced by succulent
coffee and some mouthfuls of blue smoke from the legendary Faros-brand
We now present the interview with Al Giordano
conducted a few days before the hearing in the Supreme Court
of New York, last July 20th, in which he and Mario Menéndez
made progress toward being absolved.
Martínez: How goes the lawsuit by Roberto Hernández
against Narco News?
Giordano: It's an act of harassment, nothing more. Remember
that the rich don't like it when the people know about their
Martínez: What's the motive of the lawsuit?
Giordano: First, it's a lawsuit against Narco News, against
me as an individual and against the Mexican journalist Mario
Menéndez Rodríguez. It's a lawsuit over facts that
three judges have already ruled that there was no defamation.
What's more, is that the reports were not about Banamex, but
about Roberto Hernández. But Hernández has hidden
behind Banamex. He didn't personally present the lawsuit. It's
very curious, but understandable.
Martínez: I hear that the attorney Martin Garbus is representing
Giordano: Marty Garbus is Mario Menéndez's lawyer.
He's an outstanding attorney that brings four decades fighting
purely in the field of liberty of expression.
Martínez: He's an institution, famous for his triumphs
Giordano: Among the multitude of cases that he's fought
and won, there are 21 cases that have gone to the Supreme Court
of the United States. The first case of this kind began with
the comedian named Lenny Bruce. He was the comedian who in the
1960s used words that today we all use every day, but in those
times were prohibited and he was prosecuted many times for obscenity
and died, like many artists, due to problems with addiction to
heroin. He died in the middle of his vice and didn't survive
to see that, in the end, he won and won the right for everybody
to speak freely. He is a hero of freedom of speech, but he paid
a personal price that included his life and we don't want to
find ourselves in the same situation here. We want to win and
to survive the lawsuit.
Martínez: And who is defending you and Narco News in court?
Giordano: I'm representing myself, but not Narco News because
there are very technical matters such as jurisdiction over the
use of the Internet. Narco News is represented by attorney Tom
Lesser who defeated the promoters of nuclear power plants in
the 1970s. And in the 1980s he represented Amy Carter, the daughter
of ex-president Jimmy Carter, and other students that blockaded
the CIA at the University of Massachusetts. The CIA wanted to
recruit students to be members of the CIA and the marched to
block it all and the police arrested them and they went to court.
And at this moment the activist Abbie Hoffman called me on the
telephone and asked me who would be the best defense lawyer to
represent them. And I told him, it was Tom Lesser. And Lesser
and other attorneys, including Leonard Weinglass, who cosigned
the Narco News motions, brought a novel defense. The students
and Hoffman had been accused of trespass, and they admitted to
the trespass. But they said that the CIA committed a greater
crime by trying to recruit people at the University because the
CIA in the 1980s was meddling in Nicaragua, in Central America,
in cocaine and all that. And the defense argued that there was
no crime in trespass when a fireman enters a private property
to save a child from the fire. The fireman is not guilty of a
crime. And 12 jurors from the citizenry declared that the students
were not guilty because the CIA is the greater criminal, and
this broke the back of the CIA. It was something totally unprecedented.
Tom Lesser is my friend of 25 years and I trust him totally and
I'm very lucky that he has taken this case because I can't afford
an attorney of his quality and level.
Martínez: When did you begin publishing Narco News?
Giordano: On the 18th of April of 2000.
Martínez: What impact has it had in this short time?
Giordano: It's had various, as the Washington Post recognized
when we were responsible for the downfall of the AP (Associated
Press) correspondent in the country of Bolivia. This South American
country has a lot of problems especially with the drug war, with
the persecution of peasant farmers, of the coca-growers, and
it has Hugo Banzer, no? But there was only one gringo correspondent
in the entire country.
Last September there were blockades in
all the roads and highways of Bolivia, until the capital city
of La Paz was running out of food, and not one newspaper nor
news agency reported the news in English because the AP correspondent,
Peter McFarren, who had a monopoly over press coverage out of
that country for 18 years always seemed to defend the regime.
I contacted people who had written me from Bolivia to ask about
this journalist because I was suspicious, and the people of the
social movements in Bolivia led me to information the proved
that while he was acting as a reporter, as an AP correspondent,
he was also, at the same time, lobbying in the Bolivian Congress
for an $80 million dollar water export project to bring water
to the copper mines of Chile. And Peter McFarren was set to collect
a percentage of this project for the mysterious foundations that
he had. We proved it, and after 18 days of reports the correspondent
of 18 years had to resign. That, and my previous battles with
Sam Dillon of the New York Times, who is also a real phony, has
put the U.S. correspondents in Latin America on notice. In these
places, the people have changed the rules so that the press can
never again lie about events the way the correspondents have
done for years and years.
YORK TIMES, DIRTY JOURNALISM
Martínez: Sam Dillon and his companion Julia Preston were
severely questioned when they received the Pulitzer Prize for
their reports on Mexican narco-politics that involved personalities
like the ex-governor of Sonora, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, and that
of Morelos, Jorge Carrillo Olea. What was the problem with Sam
Giordano: I've never known the guy, except for his writings.
And one day in March of 1999 I received a call from the offices
of the New York Times in Mexico. Dillon had learned that I was
investigating the matter of Punta Pájaros - the stories
about the property of Roberto Hernández - and the persecution
against the editor of the newspaper Por Esto!, Mario Menéndez,
and all the story that finally is a story about persecution of
freedom of the press and the behavior of presidents Clinton and
Sam Dillon asked me something that seemed
to me very strange, because how is it possible that a colleague
asks another about the advance of my investigation before I published
anything? And I said to Sam Dillon that I was still in the middle
of my investigation.
Then, the Times correspondent wanted to
corner me, saying, "you believe the accusations of the editor
of Por Esto! against Roberto Hernández?" And I said,
"Look, Sam, I am in the middle of my investigation by the
story of narco-trafficking seems to me to be very credible, there
are photos and all that." And suddenly this guy threatened
me and said, Do you know what I'm going to do, I, the most
powerful United States journalist in Mexico, he of the New York
Times? I'm going to publish an article in the New York Times
saying that Mario Menéndez Rodríguez is the last
example of blackmail journalists in Mexico in order to discredit
anything that you write about this.
I said to the correspondent, Look,
Sam, I don't recommend that you do that because you've admitted
to me that you knew all the facts about Roberto Hernández,
about Punta Pájaros, about the fight between Hernández
and (then-governor) Mario Villanueva that is part of all this.
And this anti-drug summit between Clinton and Zedillo happened
on the property of Hernández and you didn't say anything
about it to the readers of the New York Times.
And like a typical coward, his threats
were empty. And the day that I ended my investigation and published
the facts in the Boston Phoenix in May 1999, I sent a FAX of
four pages to one of the veteran journalists of the New York
Times, a very important columnist, to say, "Look, this happened
last March, one of your reporters threatened me not to publish
an article and I just published it, and I hold the Times responsible
for any aggression against me." And nothing happened. But
later I published Narco News, and in May 2000 an outstanding
journalist, Cynthia Cotts, published in her newspaper (the Village
Voice) that Sam Dillon was already over in Mexico and the editors
of the New York Times didn't want to say anything. But the exit
of Dillon and his wife Julia Preston was announced one month
before the presidential elections, and it was a scandal among
NEWS, UNDER SEIGE
Martínez: Who reads Narco News?
Giordano: Many journalists of various countries, investigators,
human rights activists, people who want to legalize drugs or
reform the anti-drug policies, ecologists, particularly with
the reports about Colombia because the issues of the environment
and that of drugs in Colombia cannot be pulled apart, and now
there are people who follow things like the purchase of Banamex
Martínez: What perception do you have of Mexico after the
problem with Banamex and Roberto Hernández? How do you
see the country on questions of narco-politics?
Giordano: I believe that the U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow
was wrong when he said that Mexico is the international headquarters
of drug trafficking. That's just not true. The international
headquarters of drug trafficking is Washington and that is the
largest cartel in the world. And Mexico, like all the other countries,
is a victim of the policy of the United States. We're living
the same fucked-up mess ("chingadera") as happened
during the prohibition of alcohol. And as with all the mafias,
all crime, all corruption, now we are reliving it and it's worse
today. The movie "Traffic" doesn't tell the half of
what is happening. And Mexico lives with all the violence, all
the corruption, but doesn't receive the money. The money is washed
by bankers, this has already been proved. For example, in the
Salinas case, and this is a very long story, these are the bosses,
these are the capos as they say in Italy, they are the capo di
tutti capi and until drugs are legalized this problem will not
The Mexican people have much more consciousness
than the gringo people about this issue. The gringos have illusions.
They believe that governments are sincere about combating drugs
and the narco. And the majority of Mexicans that I know don't
have any illusion that the governments want to stop this. To
the contrary, they know that the governments, all the governments,
make profits off this and have an excuse to persecute social
movements, like those of the indigenous prisoners. Thus, Narco
News is, in the end, argument to Washington and the North American
people to say to them, look, the war on drugs is not what the
government says it is, it has another pretext, and this war must
be ended. And the only way is to legalize drugs. And this is
Narco News. And everything else that has happened, including
the Banamex lawsuit, is simply a consequence of this mission.
Banamex can't win anything. I don't own
any property. I don't have a car. I don't have a credit card.
I have a laptop computer, a cat and a guitar. And Roberto Hernández
has a lot of computers. Thus, I suppose that he wants my guitar.
But he won't get it! And he's going to gamble millions of dollars
to win a guitar, but he won't win even that. This was to try
to silence us, to defeat us economically, and he can still try
to intimidate us and and try to silence me, but he won't succeed.
Martínez: As a journalist how do you describe Roberto Hernández?
Giordano: As a poor little rich boy.
Martínez: A neoliberal yuppie?
Giordano: I've never met the guy. But he's not going to
have his way with me because I'm going to place him on the witness
stand. There is a process in that before trial, I have the right
to interrogate not only Roberto Hernández but also the
entire Citigroup board, one by one, for hours and hours, and
while Hernández has sworn to tell the truth. And if he
says one single lie he could go to jail for that. And after that
interrogation happens, I will be able to tell you what I think
of Roberto Hernández as an individual. Right now I don't
know him. I've never met the guy, nor anybody from Banamex. He
hides behind his bank and the bank hides behind their lawyers
and I only know the lawyers.
Martínez: Who are they?
Giordano: They are members of the law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss,
Hauer and Feld of Washington DC. It's the same law firm registered
by the governments of Colombia and Bolivia, and during the PRI
regime was the office of that worked for the Mexican government,
and Robert Strauss is very good friends with Carlos Hank González.
Martínez: Then, the lawyers of the mafias are the defenders
of Roberto Hernández and Banamex?
Giordano: Robert Strauss is the most important partner at
the Akin, Gump, Strauss law firm. He's a Texan who was chief
of the Democratic Party and is very good friends with the Bush
family. Strauss is a thoroughly powerful guy and the lawyers
of Hernandez think that through brute economic force they can
defeat the truth. But they're wrong. We're going into the fight.
We're going into battle.
Martínez: Do you know a person who plays an important role
in Banamex that is named Frederico Ponce Rojas?
Giordano: I don't know him, but I have heard a lot about
him regarding what is happening in Yucatán right now.
He has sued Por Esto! You should speak with Mario Menéndez,
because he has a lot of information about the guy.
Martínez: Frederico Ponce Rojas was assistant attorney general
when his boss was Ignacio Morales Lechuga....
Giordano: Something happened with him in Veracruz but I
don't recall exactly
Martínez: At it's root is the massacre of judicial police
in the town of Tlalixcoyan. He had to resign because he wanted
to discredit the army. He's now a person who, in Banamex, is
dedicated to telephone espionage and obviously, say the people
who know about this matter, Rojas spied on President Fox last
Christmas in Punta Pájaros, that on the orders of Roberto
Hernández he put microphones on the president and not
only microphones, but also video cameras
Giordano: Has this been published?
Martínez: So far, no. But it is spoken of in high police