June 7, 2001
Narco News 2001
This is the most recent "Domingo Político"
("Sunday Politician") column by the Mexican journalist
who resigned this week from El Universal Gráfico in refusal
of being censored...
June 3, 2001
Hernández, "El Depredador"
Smells Like Narco
Villanueva Knows Too Much
José Martínez M.
the past decade nobody has profited
like Roberto Hernández, the neo-banker spoilt by presidents.
In recent days Hernandez has been global news. Thanks to his
contacts in the government he succeeded at making the deal of
his life and like an authentic King Midas has converted Banamex
into a gold mine.
But not everything is honey over pancakes,
although his friendship with President Vicente Fox puts the wind
at his back. Fellow students at the Iberoamerican University,
they made friends more than 30 years ago, in spite of the fact
that they walked on different sides in politics. Roberto was
always an ally of the PRI and Vicente fell in with the recalcitrant
neo-PAN leader Manuel J. Clouthier, who introduced him into the
ranks of the National Action Party. But fate united them: the
first is fully involved in business and the second rose to power.
Friends to the end, they have had time
to live together and recall old times, as happened one week after
Fox's victory in the mythical elections of July 2nd. They shared
bread and salt at the table, and sun and sand in the private
beach of Punta Pajaros, in the nature reserve of Sian Ka'an on
the Mexican Caribbean, where the magnate is owner of an immense
portion of lands bathed by the turquoise sea.
Beneficiary of the economic policy that
has resulted in poverty for millions of Mexicans - dozens of
them committed suicide when they saw themselves lose their patrimony
- Hernandez, by contrast with them, can sing a victory song.
At the right hand of Carlos Salinas, and also Ernesto Zedillo
and Vicente Fox, the financial speculator has been obsessed with
projecting a triumphant image, although on the rungs of the ladder
of money and power he has found himself in scandal.
Roberto Hernández has been linked
to narco-trafficking by the embattled journalist Mario Renato
Menéndez, editor of the daily POR ESTO!, who has
presented evidences of the disembarkation of narco-traffickers
in his countless properties of Quintana Roo, and he also has
been sharply questioned by the richest man in Latin America,
Carlos Slim, the king of telecommunications and finance.
When Hernandez wanted to buy Bancomer,
(Telephones of Mexico owner) Slim stopped him cold, taking advantage
of his veto power: "It is a shame and a cynicism that Banamex,
instead of selling its stock to pay for its bankruptcies, wants
to use them to buy Bancomer."
But Hernández has gotten his. When
everyone supposed that he was heading toward bankruptcy, he emerged
as the baron of money. He sold Banamex to the most powerful bank
on earth: Citibank, the preferred institution of narcos and politicians.
the lights of the press, Roberto Hernández
Ramírez, the magnate of finances who surged from nowhere
during the presidential term of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, has
recurred to the United States Courts, using all his economic
power through Banamex, to accuse the journalist Mario R. Menéndez
Rodríguez, editor of the daily POR ESTO!, who published
various findings of drugs in the properties of the preferred
banker of Salinism-Zedillism.
Menéndez has published numerous
reports about the presumed links of the banker with the narco,
information that has bothered Roberto Hernandez who has tried
to detour the case toward Banamex to avoid his supposed responsibility
for the accusations against him.
The first journalistic accusations against
Hernández were made in 1997 when in the pages of POR
ESTO! various photographs of the shark boats, the cocaine
they brought and the fuel cans on the properties of the flamboyant
arch-millionaire were published.
Commenting on these facts, the editor
of POR ESTO! said that "we made the official accusation
of what we published, presented the evidence, and offered ourselves
as witnesses to the federal attorney general's office to investigate
the matter, and if he had filed charges, then we considered that
we could help."
"For his part, Roberto Hernández
tried to accuse me of having committed a crime because I didn't
file a complaint against the drugs before publishing it. The
problem is that when I presented the proofs it is because I had
already verfied it with the Army, the Marines and the Air Force
to confirm that everything that we had discovered was real and
had been found on the properties of Roberto Hernandez. For this
he also accused me of criminal trespass, but he didn't take into
account that by accusing me of trespass he acknowledged that
the drug was on his property."
"Clearly, Roberto Hernández
had all the support of President Zedillo who united with him
and ordered the attorney general's office to be an instrument
at the service of Hernández, and then the attacks were
from various angles. The first is through the attorney general,
the second through the Interior Minister from the Office of Books
and Magazines that wanted to take away the title of my newspaper
and its license," recalled Menéndez.
On the eve of the visit of President William
Clinton to the Yucatan, the newspaper POR ESTO!, in February
1999, published four supplements about the findings of the reporters
who worked for Menéndez in the beach of the island of
Punta Pajaros, property of Roberto Hernández.
During the government of Ernesto Zedillo,
the banker counted with presidential protection. And the magazine
La Crisis investigated that the luxury residence at 110
Agua Street, in the Gardens of Pedregal neighborhood, in the
borough of Alvaro Obregon, that the Zedillo family lived in after
leaving the presidential residence of Los Pinos, is property
of Banamex, according to the files at the treasury office of
the Mexico City government.
Other acts that bothered Roberto Hernández
were when Mario Menéndez gave a conference at Columbia
University in New York, where the experienced journalist spoke
of the connections of the banker with narco-politics and the
findings of his reporters.
The presentation by Menéndez in
the Law School was assumed by Roberto Hernández to be
a criminal act, and he filed a lawsuit in the United States courts
The team of lawyers of Hernández
presented before the Supreme Court of New York a lawsuit in the
name of Banamex against Menendez and the journalist Al Giordano
who has an internet site called Narco News.
The famous lawyer Martin Garbus, a prestigious
social fighter in the United States, who has an impressive record
as defender of individual liberties and human rights, and who
has won very well-known fights, such as the creation of a new
constitution in Czechoslovakia, son of Jewish parents who were
in concentration camps, author of the books Heroes and Traitors
and Tough Talk, assumed the defense of Menéndez
in New York and has opened a file against Roberto Hernandez.
When a journalist asked Menéndez
if Roberto Hernández has gone to his friend, President
Vicente Fox, the editor of POR ESTO! responded that this
has been the style of the banker, and that he used his relationship
with Ernesto Zedillo to be protected.
"Hernández is an individual
without scruples. He was one of the 38 stock market players that
didn't hesitate to destroy millions of Mexican families in the
market crash. Nor did he have any scruples to pass the hat in
the house of Ortiz Mena when they collected $750 million dollars.
Nor is it any secret how he acquired Banamex, and how mysteriously
there was a fire in the National Palace in the part precisely
where there were the records of the deal for the purchase of
the banks. All of this says a lot about a person who couldn't
afford a credit card in 1980 and seven years later appeared,
as if by magic, with a fortune among the 300 wealthiest men on
earth. And after jumping with Salinas, he went to Zedillo. And
from Zedillo he went to Fox," recounts Menendez.
the banking institution with 117 years
of antiquity that until before its merger concentrated 28.5%
of the total worth of the financial system, became property of
Citigroup, owner of Citibank, with this leaving 83% of all banking
in the hands of foreigners.
Established in 1929 in Mexico, Citibank
escaped the nationalization of the banks in 1982.
The National Bank of Mexico is the institution
with the most defaulted loans inside of FOBAPROA, now the Institute
for Protection of Bank Savings (IPAB, in its Spanish acronym).
Last year Banamex made a loan of $3 billion dollars to IPAB to
finance its debt with Serfin bank.
It should be underlined that through the
capitalization programs, FOBAPROA acquired from Banamex its defaulted
loans of more than $3.4 billion dollars and until the end of
last year with all the interest that amounted on the dividend
that it gave this public trust with the endorsement of the government,
this amount rose to $6 billion dollars.
The operations of Banamex awoke suspicions
of financial experts. Including the powerful Carlos Slim has
questioned financial authorities for protecting the bank of Roberto
Hernández. The repurchase of stock is one of the marrows
of this matter.
of the mechanisms utilized by Mexican
investors is the opening of secret accounts in foreign banks
that have business in this country. There, the exclusive Citibank,
for decades, has been the preferred bank of the elite of wealthy
and powerful people involved in the middle of scandal. In recent
years this financial institution has been involved in innumerable
cases connected to the management of dirty money.
In Mexico, Citibank's representatives
occupy one of the top places in the management of turbid funds,
as have been the cases of Raul Salinas de Gortari, Carlos Hank
Rohn, Carlos Hank González and other conspicuous businessmen
and politicians such as Juan Manuel Izabal Villicaña,
who are found among the lists of distinguished clients.
One of the latest scandals of Citibank
was that of Izabal Villicaña, who was first assistant
attorney general for the federal attorney general's office, who
opted for suicide after Citibank executives violated the rules
of bank secrecy when they reported to then attorney general Jorge
Madrazo Cuellar that the ex-official in charge of guarding and
administrating funds confiscated from the mafias of organized
crime maintained funds of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Izábal Villicaña had a safe
deposit box in Citibank where $700,000 dollars were found, plus
some jewels and property titles, although he also had money hidden
in other banks for more than $500,000 dollars.
The former executive Amy Elliot was one
of Citibank's contacts with the Mexican political elite.
The North American executive had direct
dealings with ex-president Carlos Salinas de Gortari to protect
his embarrassing brother over the funds triangulated from Citibank
to fiscal paradises of the Caribbean and Swiss banks.
Elliot was the contact for the deposits of Raul Salinas, whom
she had classified as "select client."
Thus, in recent years, Citibank has been
linked to the political scandals derived from the diversion of
funds by part of the Mexican elite, among them some narco-traffickers.
In Chile and Argentina, Citibank was linked
to money laundering by the extinct boss of the Juarez Cartel,
Amado Carrillo Fuentes. When the boss sought refuge in South
America, "The Lord of the Skies" had account # 36111386
in Citibank of New York. From this place, the financial operators
of the narco-trafficker passed large sums in millions of dollars
to ghost banks like MA Bank of the fiscal paradise of the Cayman
Citibank was also linked to Operation
Casablanca, implemented by the DEA to trap a presumed network
of financial executives linked to organized crime.
In effect, Citibank took over Confia Bank
in a deal that was hardly transparent after the detention of
the chairman of the board of this institution, Jorge Lankenau,
and paid the laughable sum of $45 million dollars in exchange
for the transfer of its stocks estimated to value more than a
Classified as the preferred bank for the
management of money that comes from corruption, Citibank has
protagonized countless histories of dirty businesses in all the
continents, as happened in June 1998 after the death of the African
dictator Sani Abach, who made deposits of more than $4 billion
dollars in Citibank without the bank investigating the source
of the funds.
Citibank has specialized in the washing
of money and its executives have been untouchables up until now,
in spite of the evidences that the United States Congress has
of some management of the multi-millionaire funds that politicians,
businessmen and dictators throughout the world have made.
On Mexico, Citibank was again in the eye
of the hurricane after the scandal of the illicit deposits of
he who was the chief of staff of the attorney general, Juan Manuel
Including that this bank managed the fund
of the workers of the attorney general of the Republic and weeks
before Izabal Villacaña committed suicide he had announced
to the executives of Citibank the convenience of changing the
accounts of the attorney general to other banks, among them Bancomer
and Bital, because of the irregularities detected in the management
of the workers' accounts in the PGR.
In some circles it has been mentioned
that the executives of Citibank made public the existence of
the safe deposit boxes of Izabal Villicaña maintained
in this institution as form of pressure so that he would stop
changing the accounts in that this bank maintained for the attorney
general of the Republic. However, the decision by the chief of
staff had been made, and that's why the bank authorities decided
to break the bank secrecy law and hand over the proofs about
its select client to attorney general Jorge Madrazo Cuellar.
LOOKS THE OTHER WAY
highest level authorities in the United
States have looked the other way when it comes to the impunity
with which Citibank has been managed.
Last year, after concluding the Democratic
administration headed by William Clinton, the U.S. government
emitted new directives to help the banks of this country to separate
themselves from corrupt foreign officials, as a result of the
accusations of money laundering of grand proportions and grave
findings about the control of Citibank and the Bank of New York.
The "voluntary" directives include
procedures that could utilize the banks to obtain information
about the accounts of foreign officials involved in corruption,
members of their families and close partners. They also review
potentially suspicious transactions the could justify a deeper
The measures are also part of the strategy
of the government to supposedly combat money laundering, which
was announced in September of 1999 after it was revealed that
the Bank of New York, one of the largest in the country, had
served as conduit for more than $7 billion dollars in Russian
currency, some of which are believed to have had criminal activities
at their origin.
The specifications were developed and
emitted by the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Board,
the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp - in charge of guaranteeing
bank deposits -, the State Department and two treasury agencies:
the Office of Control of Dividends and the Office of Savings
Then-assistant secretary Stuart Eizenstat
said that the directives are not obligatory for the banks because
they apply to a limited number of banking clients who are not
United States citizens. Although they are voluntary, said Eizenstat,
it is hoped that they have a "real impact" and that
federal supervisors will monitor the progress of the banks.
Citibank, with its seat in New York, one
of the banking institutions with the most operations in the world,
was under Congressional investigation in 1999 for presumed abuses
by some executives in the management of millions of dollars deposited
by the officials of various nations, who later were accused of
corruption and money laundering.
The U.S. Senate investigation included
Citibank's management of Raul Salinas' money, the older brother
of ex-president Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico, money that
would be related to the activities of narco-trafficking.
To the analysts, the effort by recent
governments to "clean up" the file of Roberto Hernández
calls attention, since it is presumed that the sale of Banamex
to Citibank was managed as an affair of State, which is why the
records of the neo-banker incubated in Salinism are not considered.
KNOWS TOO MUCH
Villanueva Madrid knows too much.
of the system, now prisoner number
1074 in the maximum security prison of La Palma - a step before
Almoloya prison - is found involved with an entire presidential
"El Chueco" (the crooked one)
- as his friends call him - rose to the peak of power with the
support of the presidential family in the government of Carlos
Salinas de Gortari. (Presidential brother and sister) Raul and
Adriana were his major backers, although the one in charge of
notifying him of the decision that he would be the candidate
for governor of Quintana Roo was Joseph Marie Cordoba Montoya,
the gray eminence behind Carlos Salinas de Gortari.
The "Maxi-Process" file on Mexican
narco-politics involves conspicuous personalities in power and
In the Maxi-Process documents appear the
names of Amado Carrillo Fuentes and his first lieutenant Ramon
Alcides Magaña, "El Metro," as well as the principal
bosses that bought businessmen and politicians, among them Mario
Villanueva. During his gubernatorial term, "El Chueco"
confronted the embarrassing brother of Ernesto Zedillo - Rodolfo
Zedillo Ponce de Leon - telling him not to conduct "business"
in Quintana Roo.
When the drug czar Mariano Herran Salvatti
interrogated Villanueva, the names of conspicious personalities
of the political cartel of the PRI began to flower.
Another of those involved in the businesses
of Villanueva is the ex-ambassador to Argentina and Agriculture
Secretary Eduardo Robledo.
Politicians of the highest levels like
the ex-governor of Oaxaca and Interior Minister Diodoro Carrasco
Altamarina, the ex-secretary of transportation Emilio Gamboa
Patrón and the ex-personal secretary of president Zedillo,
Liebano Saenz were mentioned in the files when some of those
implicated were interrogated.
They wanted to obligate the hotel owner,
Fernando Garcia Zalvidea, to declare that Liebano Saenz, Emilio
Gamboa Patrón and Cordoba Montoya were linked to "The
Lord of the Skies." Even the name of former presidential
candidate Francisco Labastida Ochoa appeared in the maxi-process.
In an interview with Mario Villanueva
- while he was living clandestinely - he directly implicated
his predecessor Pedro Joaquin Coldwell and the former federal
official Carlos Rojas Gutierrez as beneficiaries of narco-corruption.
"El Chueco" who, being one of
the first interrogated by the drug czar Mariano Herrán,
began to record all the telephone calls that he received and
to film all his appearanced before judicial authorities.
When he was arrested in Cancun after being
located by the DEA, $14,000 dollars and a personal computer were
confiscated from Villanueva. In this machine, the now prisoner
- according to journalists of the highest order - contains "all
the information" that he possesses about those implicated
Because Some Information
is Too Important to Censor