Sixteen Years after the Assassination of a Journalist...

Are U.S. officials and political consultants participating in the cover-up?

Carlos Ramírez in El Universal, May 30, 2000:

Re-open the Buendía Case

The Narco News Bulletin, on the 16th memorial of the assassination of Mexican journalist Manuel Buendía, publishes an English translation of today's column by Carlos Ramírez, Mexico's most widely-read newspaper columnist, that calls to re-open the investigation of the 1984 narco-assassination.

Ramírez explores the allegations that a key member of Mexico's ruling party, Manuel Bartlett, was responsible for the crime and its cover-up.

The Narco News Bulletin adds commentary and analysis aimed at Washington:

1. Why the silence by US Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow on the Bartlett matter today? When Bartlett was a political rival of PRI presidential candidate Francisco Labastida, Davidow attacked him. Now that Bartlett is on the team of the PRI candidate -- who enjoyed a closed-door audience last Saturday with Davidow in Mexico City -- the narco-ambassador has fallen silent.

2. It is time for US political consultants Stanley Greenberg and James Carville to clarify their roles with the Labastida campaign that is now run by Bartlett: Are they in or are they out? And if they have left the campaign, why the silence about what happened? (Full disclosure: Carville and the publisher of The Narco News Bulletin are old friends.)

First, today's column by Carlos Ramírez:

(followed by Narco News commentary)

Buendía, Bartlett, and Narco-Politics
The gangsterization of the State, in 1984

from Political Indicator: May 30, 2000

by Carlos Ramírez

Connected by political facts from the start of the process of narcotization of the Mexican State, Manuel Bartlett, now one of the principal campaign operators of PRI presidential candidate Francisco Labastida, today will pass his time at peace. Today marks 16 years since the assassination of columnist Manuel Buendía, who was shot in 1984 for revealing the penetration of the narco in the office of the Secretary of Government that was headed by Manuel Bartlett.

When the special prosecutor in the Buendía case, Miguel Angel García Domínguez, ended his investigation under pressure of the entering president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, he delivered his conclusions that exclusively blamed José Antonio Zorrilla Pérez, then director of the Federal Security Agency, the political police corps that answered directly to Manuel Bartlett as Secretary of Government.

But the conclusions of García Domínguez inexplicably left untouched by any judicial subpoena not only Bartlett, but also then-Defense Secretary Juan Arévalo Gardoqui and President Miguel de la Madrid, the three men signaled as responsible for the error -- to say the least -- that permitted the growth of drug trafficking in México. Since 1984, drug trafficking has not only grown here, but has penetrated the structures of State power and the Mexican government.

Buendía was assassinated on May 30, 1984, on a street near the Zona Rosa of México City. The investigation was covered-up by the Federal Security Agency. The last investigations undertaken by Buendía into drug trafficking led him into the rural indigenous areas of the country. Buendía had responded to a newspaper ad by the Catholic bishops in the south of the country where they denounced the penetration of the narco in rural Mexico but also the complicity of the Army and police corps.

Buendía did not finish his investigation. His assassination came almost a year before, in February of 1985, the assassination of US anti-drug agent Enrique Camarena Salazar in Guadalajara had exposed the penetration of drug traffickers in the Mexican police. The two police chiefs that reported directly to the Secretary of Government in 1985 -- in effect, to Manuel Bartlett -- turned out to be directly connected to the principal drug trafficking gangs of Rafael Caro Quintero, Ernesto Fonseca and Miguel Félix Gallardo.

Agents of the the Political and Social Investigations Agency and of the Federal Security Agency were discovered as protectors of drug trafficking in México. The Attorney General of the Republic, in the investigation of the assassination of Camarena, found credentials of the Federal Security police in the name of drug traffickers. Caro Quintero escaped to Costa Rica using a credential of the Federal Security Agency with his photo but with another name. The credentials in the Attorney General's file were requested by Bartlett from Attorney General Sergio García Ramírez for "an exhaustive investigation" but were then disappeared by Bartlett. García Ramírez complained to President De la Madrid but didn't succeed at getting any response.

That which Buendía was investigating months before was confirmed by the assassination of Camerena, a DEA agent assigned to the US Consulate in Guadalajara. Did Bartlett know or not that his Political and Social Investigations Agency and Federal Security Agency were protecting drug traffickers? There are testimony transcripts from a collaborator of the accused police chief Zorrilla in the Federal Security Agency, José Luis Esqueda, that directly informed Bartlett that the agency protected drug traffickers. In place of launching a house-cleaning, Bartlett reassigned Esqueda to a municipal support office, until one night when the agent was shot down while using a public telephone.

Thus, Bartlett did know about the activities of his two police forces in favor of drug traffickers but did nothing to correct them. One of the excuses offered by Bartlett was to say that the police chief Zorrilla was recommended by Fernando Gutiérrez Barrios, one of the most important bosses of political-police security in the Mexican government. Zorrilla had come to the Federal Security Agency through Gutiérrez Barrios, but testimonies collected by Jorge G. Castañeda in his book, "The Inheritance" about Mexican presidential succession in 2000 indicate that Zorrilla, in 1985, had already broken with Gutiérrez Barrios and reported directly to Bartlett.

Various of the commanders of the Federal Security Agency and the Political Investigations Agency were the principal protectors of drug traffickers. There have been cases in which the Federal Security commanders guarded trucks of drugs from Chiapas to the US border. In spite of these facts, Bartlett did absolutely nothing to correct these irregularities. But when the Camarena scandal exploded and the facts of police protection of the narco began to become known, Bartlett separated himself from Zorrillo by sending him to Hidalgo as a candidate for Congress and he disappeared the two police agencies to create the National Security and Intelligence Agency.

The investigation of the assassination of Buendía always seemed to bring the presumed guilt of Zorrilla in strange directions. Including that the prosecutor wanted to blame the murder on a crime of pasión. But over time it was proven that the Buendía assassination was a political crime, that initiated the long cycle of instability and destabilization and the first that drew the line of narco-violence. Zorrilla disappeared from the political arena in 1985 and reappeared in 1986. He was questioned various times over the Buendía case but always was left free for a lack of evidence.

In 1989, the special prosecutor García Domínguez presented his conclusions and incriminated Zorrilla as guilty of the assassination. The García Domínguez investigation was deficient, although the prosecutor received a promotion as a prize. The principal fault of García Domínguez was that his investigation went only as far as Zorrilla, the police chief, and did not subpoeana Bartlett, General Arévalo or President de la Madrid, the three men connected in the suspicions of the crime by drug traffickers. But García Domínguez protected Bartlett.

The apprehension of Zorrilla as the guilty assassin of Buendía was a gift made by Carlos Salinas to Mexican journalists because it was announced on June 7, 1989, the National Freedom of the Press Day. Zorrilla was a friend of Buendía until his death. The strange relationship of friendship endured anger and delicate information. In this sense, it is not proven that Zorrilla was the man who killed Buendía. Still, there was testimony that should have focused the investigations toward the Military turf of General Arévalo Gardoqui, because of the facts that Buendía had incriminated officials of the army in the protection of drug traffickers.

Zorrilla was guilty in order to detour the investigation of the assassination to put a distance between the crime and other government officials. Today in prison, Zorrilla has taken care to not speak about the theme but reiterates his innocence. In this sense, and for the irregularities in the investigation in the crime against the columnist, it is important the the investigation be reopened to arrive at the root of the first Mexican assassination linked to drug trafficking.

The urgency of reopening the file on the Buendía assassination is of grave concern to Manuel Bartlett's web of power: first he was on the final list of candidates for the presidency in 1987, next he was Secretary of Education in the Salinas government, he was made governor of Puebla by Joseph-Marie Córdoba Montoya. Today, Francisco Labastida, knowing of the suspicions over the role of Bartlett in the surge of drug trafficking in México and of the judicial subpoena over Bartlett in the United States for the Camarena case, made Bartlett a candidate for federal senate and promotes him as the Senate President of the PRI in the next Congress.

But a number of files regarding Bartlett are still open: That of Buendía is one and that of the narco is another that is also related with the columnist's assassination. Sixteen years after the death of Buendía true justice is still awaited. But Bartlett already counts with the protection of Labastida.

Narco News Commentary:

On November 30, 1998, the above-mentioned Manuel Bartlett was an aspiring candidate for the ruling PRI party's nomination for president of Mexico. As such, he was in the way of the ambitions of Francisco Labastida. On that day, in an interview with Zeta magazine of Tijuana, US Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow signaled -- for the first time -- Washington's bias toward Labastida.

"Bartlett Must Declare"

Always looking forward, the US State Department instructed its Mexican spokesman to make a verbal hit upon Bartlett, thus "decertifying" him and, in effect, destroying his presidential chances. Davidow boomed: "Bartlett must declare!" He said that Bartlett faces a subpoena in US federal court in California over the 1985 assassination of US DEA agent Kiki Camarena. The Bartlett campaign never recovered from that blow, and Labastida, a year later, was crowned as the PRI-Washington candidate for the presidency of Mexico.

The man who one Mexican commentator has called "Ambassador Big Mouth" has suddenly fallen silent (as he tends to do whenever the tough questions are pitched to him). Because now that Davidow's rooster in the Mexican presidential cockfight has tapped Bartlett to run his own campaign, anything more that Davidow says about Bartlett will shine poorly upon Labastida.

Last Saturday, May 24, 2000, Ambassador Davidow held a closed-door meeting with Labastida in Mexico City. It was a day after the nationally televised debate between Labastida and his two leading rivals, Vicente Fox and Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas.

But what of the late DEA agent Kiki Camarena? How do current DEA agents feel about the most recent betrayal by the US ambassador to the memory of their fallen brother?


And what about US and Mexican journalists, who, like the DEA agents, have lost at least one colleague under the watch of the man who now runs the Labastida campaign?

Where is the historic memory among journalists and law enforcers of both countries?

Carlos Ramírez points out that Labastida has offered Bartlett more than total immunity and the continued cover-up of the Buendía and Camarena assassinations: he has offered Bartlett a continued important role in the governing of Mexico.

That Jeffrey Davidow is complicit in the cover-up of the assassination of a Mexican journalist is nothing new for the narco-ambassador. Davidow was the US official in charge of covering up the assassination of US journalist Charles Horman in Chile in 1973. Davidow also protects and defends another key Labastida operative, the ambassador's traveling buddy Carlos Hank González, father of Jorge Hank Rohn, presumed responsible in the 1988 narco-assassination of Tijuana journalist Félix Miranda. (Another silence that we hope will be broken soon is that of Miranda colleague Jesús Blancornelas, editor of Zeta magazine, regarding the Davidow-Hank axis. Blancornelas probably did not know, when he interviewed Davidow in 1998 about Bartlett, of Davidow's enjoyment of Hank hospitality from the family mansion in Mexico to the Central American republic of Costa Rica.)

Davidow is the protector of what Mexicans call the "dinosaur" faction of the ruling PRI party in Mexico. Like the mad scientist in the film Jurassic Park he is not only unleashing a terror upon his own colony that is Mexico, but one that cannot be controlled by the 3,000 mile US-Mexican border.

Nothing from Davidow, the corrupt narco-ambassador of the United States in Mexico, surprises us anymore. But we at Narco News are just a little bit taken aback by the reported participation, and seek a clarification from, two US political consultants in the Bartlett-managed Labastida campaign.

"Carville and Greenberg Must Declare"

The publisher of The Narco News Bulletin makes a personal request:

I like Jim Carville. Always have. Straight-talking, ethical, loyal, a great writer and orator, sharp mind at not only politics but also economics, and with a healthy distrust of the Washington establishment in which he moves. I liked Carville before I knew him. And I have always liked him since.

We have dined together on his turf: The Palms restaurant in Washington DC; and closer to mine, the hot-dog cart on the MIT campus in Massachusetts. I think I understand Carville pretty well; from his formation under LSU professor and author T. Harry Williams to his marriage with GOP consultant and TV host Mary Matalin, who also has earned my bipartisan friendship and maximum respect.

I don't know Stanley Greenberg, the White House pollster, at all. He's married to US Rep. Laura de Rosa (D-Connecticut). From a distance, he always struck me as a bit technocratic for my tastes. Nothing wrong with that: the world needs bean counters.

I do have a pretty good idea how Carville and Greenberg got messed up in the Labastida campaign. The President of the United States, Bill Clinton, acting on terrible advice from the narco-ambassador Jeffrey Davidow, once again preyed upon Carville's sense of loyalty and asked him to take on Labastida as a client.

Carville did a pretty good job for Labastida in the primary: Working closely with then-Labastida campaign manager Esteban Moctezuma, they beat back the primary challenge of Tabasco governor Roberto Madrazo Pintado last November 7th.

But Mexican politics isn't rocket science: it is more complex and difficult than mere astro-physics. And in recent weeks, the Labastida campaign has, to say the least, struggled.

After Labastida's poor performance in the first presidential debate, Moctezuma -- the key operative of the liberal wing of the PRI -- was purged. And Labastida brought back "the dinosaurs" like Bartlett, Carlos Hank and the narco-fixer Emilio Gamboa Patrón.

Thus, here they go again: The July 2nd election in Mexico promises to be fraught with Electoral Fraud. That is: vote-buying, intimidation, false voter credentials, stuffing of ballot boxes and -- Bartlett's specialty since he engineered the fall of the election computer system in 1988 to ensure Carlos Salinas would be declared victor over the people's choice Cárdenas -- computer tampering.

Now there are published rumors in Mexico that Greenberg, the pollster, and Carville, the consultant, are out of the campaign along with Moctezuma. Labastida, interestingly, has brought in the favored consultant of Davidow's Pinochet forces in Chile to finish the job.

Not knowing what goes on behind closed doors at the Oval Office, but knowing very well the personalities and the dynamics between them, my theory is that Clinton convinced Carville to take on Labastida as client with the usual ruse: That his participation would help usher in the "democratization" of Mexico.

The bloom is now off that rose. And Carville must know it. The question is (and knowing the players suggests a clear answer): Has James Carville left the Labastida campaign out of an attack of conscience after realizing just how dirty, undemocratic and stained with narco-money the 2000 Mexican presidential election has become?

The first US political reporter to get a response out of Carville will have an international story on his or her hands.

The questions:

Is Carville still a consultant to Labastida?

And if not, why did he leave?

And on a personal note to James: That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger. We can all learn lessons from these experiences, no? If you want to take the iniciative to explain what happened between the Labastida campaign and you in your own words, I offer you every opportunity to speak, unedited and uncensored, here on The Narco News Bulletin.

from somewhere in a country called América,

on this 16th memorial of the assassination of Manuel Buendía,


Al Giordano