Issue # 5 Join the Narco News mailing list

The Narco News Bulletin

"The Name of Our Country is América"

-- Simón Bolívar

The DSFX Files Continued

The Plot to Arrest Journalists:

The Empire Strikes Back

Five Days Before Gunmen Attacked the Cancún HQ of the Daily Por Esto!, Federal Prosecutors Sought Arrest Warrants Against the Journalists Who Work at that Office

More Cowardly than the Gunmen, the PGR, on Behalf of BANAMEX, Attempted their Ambush Behind Closed Doors

Parts I, II, and III reported the facts on how the DSFX espionage firm in the United States spied on journalists from the Mexican daily Por Esto! and on Narco News regarding a Columbia University forum in New York City

The videotape of that academic forum, obtained by DSFX using false pretenses soon found its way to Mexico to be used in an even more blatant attack on Freedom of the Press

Today, the story of how the Mexican Attorney General and Roberto Hernández Ramírez of BANAMEX tried to obtain secret arrest warrants against investigative journalists using that videotape

On Thursday, August 24, 2000, Mexican federal prosecutor Josefina Salas Del Real of the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR), filed a secret motion before Manuel Ortíz Alcaraz, federal judge in Cancún seeking arrest warrants:

"...against MARIO RENATO MENÉNDEZ RODRÍGUEZ (editor), RENAN GABRIEL CASTRO MADERA (reporter), LIZANDRO ARMÍN CORONADO ALCOCER (reporter) and GONZALO SUBIRATS GARCÍA (photographer), all of the cited newspaper (POR ESTO) respectively for their probable guilt in the commission of the crimes of: A). Violation of the Press Law, and B.) Defamation... in offense against THE FINANCIAL INSTITUTION "NATIONAL BANK OF MEXICO, INC." and its CEO ROBERTO HERNÁNEZ RAMÍREZ..."

The majority of the motion's 27 pages simply repeated a prior attempt at an arrest warrant made in March, 1999, rejected by judges, and the entire motion was thrown out of court on September 6, 1999 by Supreme Court Justice of Quintana Roo Maria Teresa Castro Rios.

That prosecution, like this recent one, was based on a claim that the Por Esto! journalists had violated two laws in their investigative reports on cocaine trafficking in the Caribbean beachfront properties of Roberto Hernández Ramírez, president of BANAMEX, the National Bank of Mexico.

Prosecutors claimed again that the newspaper and its journalists had "defamed" not only Hernández but also the institution of BANAMEX with their reports, and that reporters Renan Castro and Lizandro Coronado, and photographer Gonzalo Subirats, criminally trespassed on Hernández properties when they witnessed and took photos of cocaine trafficking evidence there in December of 1996 and again in 1997. The journalistic team spent entire days and nights on the premises investigating and reporting the facts.

The first prosecution failed when the Supreme Court Justice, Maria Teresa Castro Rios, ruled that "All of the reports in Por Esto! were based on the facts."

Related legal findings were that BANAMEX, as an institution, had no standing to accuse the newspaper because the reports were about its president as an individual, and that the charge of criminal tresspass was irrelevant because the properties of which Hernández holds title are located on the coastal Sian Ka'an Nature Reservation, which is "the patrimony of all Mexican people."

Prosecutors stated that:

"...the newspaper "POR ESTO" has published in its pages a series of editorials, reports and photographs... (that) contain a series of accusations against the financial institution represented (BANAMEX) as financial intermediary, including "money laundering" and diverse illicit activities related to narco-trafficking, indicating that they realized the activities in an uncontrollable form and were made in some properties located in the State of Quintana Roo, more precisely in the real estate known by the name of Punta Pajaros, a place where according to the information proportioned by "POR ESTO" is a center of operations of narco-trafficking bands, property of Mr. ROBERTO HERNÁNDEZ RAMÍREZ, president and stockholder of Banamex-Accival."

The prosecution motion further quoted various employees of BANAMEX, of another Hernández owned company called "Actividades Cinegeticas Panamericana", and of "Centro Turistico Playa Blanca", including a bartender and a forester to state that they had never seen narco-trafficking in that place, and that boats did not arrive by dark of night carrying tons of cocaine.

The only major difference between this motion by the PGR and the previous failed attempt that crashed in September 1999, was the addition of "new evidence" that the federal prosecutors mistakenly thought would re-open their case:

"On July 13 of this year, appearing before the federal prosecutor's office, Attorney MAURO REGIS MARTÍN, legal representative of the National Bank of Mexico, Inc., with the goal of exhibiting the original and photocopies of a written translation to Spanish by Investigator-Translator CARMEN GRACIELA CORONADO DE ALBA, and there he exhibited to be added to the file that is being acted upon a VHS videocassette, Polaroid brand, that contains the conference that MARIO RENATO MENÉNDEZ RODRÍGUEZ realized in the Law School of Columbia University in the United States of America; there appeared CARMEN GRACIELA CORONADO DE ALBA, Investigator-Translator, with the goal of ratifying in all and each of its parts her work of July 10th of this year, and where she said that this document is a translation from the English language to Spanish that consists of 32 pages of the event videotaped where various persons intervened inside a symposium that took place at the Law School at Columbia University..."

The PGR motion went on to state in its August 24th motion that:

"Finally on the 21st of this year and month, there appeared before the Social Representation of the Federation Attorney MARCELINO RÚBEN REYES ESCAMILLA, in his character as legal representative of Banamex, with the goal of demonstrating that on April 12th of this year he formulated the widening of the accusation and-or complaint against the editor and publisher of the newspaper "POR ESTO", Mario Renato Menéndez Rodríguez, for acts committed by this person in offense against my client, in the City of New York, of the United States of North America..."

Specifically, the BANAMEX attorney, according to the PGR document, complained about issue 2581 of the daily Por Esto!, "a supplement edited" by Menéndez, and words that appeared on pages two and three of that supplement:




And the Banamex attorney also cited another paragraph from that report:


The PGR motion doesn't say it, but that caption was accompanied by photos of what it described. The PGR also objected to Por Esto!'s description of Hernández as associated with former (and disgraced) Mexican president Carlos Salinas, who privatized the National Bank of Mexico and sold it to Hernández at a bargain price:



The PGR motion also stated:

"The newspaper "POR ESTO" whose editor and publisher is Mr. MARIO RENATO MENÉNDEZ RODRÍGUEZ, published a series of attributions in its issue number 2581, the supplement edited by him... dated in the City of New York, for which we solicit the understanding judge to take special emphasis to the publication of April 4th of this year and the translation by the Investigator-Translator CARMEN GRACIELA CORONADO DE ALBA... where various persons spoke inside a symposium that took place in the Law School of Columbia University... that is of interest to the Social Representation of the Federation."

Narco News notes that the only one of the four defendants present at the Columbia University forum was Mario Menéndez. However, the "translation" -- poorly executed, with names misstated and mispelled, grave errors in Spanish language syntax and manipulated distortions of the words spoken -- contains the words of only one other named panelist: those of Narco News publisher Al Giordano; "of interest," says the PGR, "to the Social Representation of the Federation."

The "translation" will be presented this week on Narco News.

It contains one page of the introduction (the translator states only that they are the words of "the person that makes the presentation") by the dynamic Kiovanna Rodríguez of the Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA) who invited Menendez and the other panelists.

It contains 19 pages of the words of Mario Menéndez, with some, but not all, of the questions from the attendees.

And it contains 12 pages of the words of the Narco News publisher, who moderated the Colombia University Law School panel.

Narco News thanks the Investigator-Translator CARMEN GRACIELA CORONADO DE ALBA for her efforts at making a gratis (for Narco News) translation for our Spanish language readers, and, indeed, her poorly-made "translation" will help speed our ability to make the text available in Spanish.

But the translation, however, does not meet Narco News standards for accuracy and so must be reviewed line by line with the video of the presentation so that it will accurately reflect what was said at Columbia University.

Of interest to Narco News is how the translation specifically botches references to Mr. Giordano's travels in Chiapas and other parts of Mexico.

Legal experts consulted by Narco News point out that the poor translation could be used against Mr. Giordano in migratory matters when he travels in that country: a nation where more than 400 foreign journalists and human rights observers have been deported or expelled in recent years, especially for travelling in the war-torn State of Chiapas.

Indeed, legal experts say that had the secret effort to arrest and imprison not only Menéndez but the other Por Esto! journalists (editor of the Quintana Roo edition Renan Castro, assistant editor Lizandro Alcocer and director of photography Gonzalo Subirats; an effort that would have decapitated the day-to-day leadership of the entire newspaper!), that if that dark effort had succeeded, it may only have been a question of time before the prosecution turned to migratory authorities for further action against others.

Narco News, unintimidated by authorities of the United States or of any land, with a belief that Freedom of the Press knows no borders, will continue with its investigations.

Indeed, in this story as with others, Narco News primarily investigates the corrupt drug war practices of the United States government and industries. This is a story about a videotape collected by the Falls Church, Virginia-based espionage company "Decision Strategies Fairfax International LLC."

To any nation of the world that finds the investigations of Narco News inconvenient, we know of only one method to avoid our journalistic mission: Deport the US-imposed drug prohibition and its operatives and agents back to the United States, and Narco News will follow.

(Again, it bears repeating: the US Ambassador in any country where any attack upon Narco News or its journalists occurs will be held responsible and culpable; that is how the system works -- harm only comes to US journalists in Latin American nations when the US Embassy consents to it. Just ask the late Charles Horman.)

The PGR's motion before the judge concluded:

"The Public Minister of the Federation, executes penal action and reparation of damages against MARIO RENATO MENÉNDEZ RODRÍGUEZ (Editor), RENAN GABRIEL CASTRO MADERA (Reporter), LIZANDRO ARMÍN CORONADO ALCOCER (Reporter) and GONZALO SUBIRATS GARCÍA (Photographer), all of the newspaper named (POR ESTO)..."

The PGR motion also called for "Orders of Apprehension" (Arrest Warrants) against the four journalists.

The PGR motion was filed on August 24th, five days after another report in Por Esto! that documented how Roberto Hernández Ramírez, the president and principal stockholder of BANAMEX-ACCIVAL and host to US presidents and ambassadors, had robbed important Mayan ruins from his "properties" in the Sian Ka'an nature reserve.

Five days after the PGR motion was filed, gunmen attacked the offices of Por Esto! and the same PGR was responsible for allowing their release back onto the streets.

But Por Esto! -- although there had been rumors for days -- did not discover the secret legal documents until September 6th -- almost two weeks after the PGR motions for arrest warrants were filed. And even at that moment, in the process that the PGR chose, the documents were not public record.

It was the courageous actions of members of Quintana Roo society who risked their own safety to bring those documents to the journalists at whom they were aimed.

That was the day that Narco News arrived on the scene in Mérida, Yucatán and began chasing the facts on US involvement in this persecution of Press Freedom.

In the next segment of this series, the story of the historic events -- unprecedented in Mexican journalism law history -- that turned the tables on the prosecution and restored the right of Freedom of the Press not only for Por Esto! but for all journalists.

One for all, all for one