Arm Up on the Facts with Free Mailing List

Narco News 2001

January 16, 2001

The Banamex-Press Case:

Narco-Politics on Trial

Translated from El Boletín Mexicano de La Crisis


Roberto Hernández Ramírez, president of Banamex, seeks to "bury" the accusations that have been published in various media about him for drug trafficking and money laundering in legal paperwork and "drown them," through an expensive trial in New York, says Al Giordano, editor of The Narco News Bulletin and one of the journalists sued by the banker in the New York Supreme Court.

More than trying to "restore" the deteriorated image of the bank, as he claims in his lawsuit, what the Banamex owner wants "is to silence us and discredit us in order to discredit the published accusations, since he already doesn't have the elements to refute the facts upon which the reports that accused him were based," said that journalist.

Tireless investigator, passionate opponent of the war on drugs, enthusiastic promoter of social causes, Giordano declined to speak of the strategies that he will use in his defense, but he declares himself openly optimistic of the results that this trial will bring.

He warns that the case is going to be politicized, "because we have all the elements for that: international narco-trafficking, money-laundering, government persecution against journalists and photographs of cocaine containers in the pristine coastal lands of Quintana Roo that belong to the banker."

"The Banamex owner wanted to silence us," he said, "and what he is going to succeed at doing is to place the narco-system and its bastard child, the war on drugs, in the seat of the accused."

"Roberto Hernández has already lost in advance because he has failed to silence us," he emphasized.

Soon, the parties will begin shooting, and to start it all off, Giordano notified Banamex defender Tom McLish by email of the adjournment of the pre-trial conference, ordered by a judge, from January 25th to March 8th.

In a missive infused with irony, in which he represented himself as his own attorney, the journalist accepted service of the bank's lawsuit against him and asked the accusing side for 90 days to respond.

"Roberto Hernández's gamble was to sue us in order to cost us money that we clearly don't have," said the former political reporter of the Boston Phoenix newspaper, a media that he left to dedicate himself to report on the absurdities and abuses of the war on drugs in Latin America.

"If Roberto Hernández's desire was to silence us he has failed because neither don Mario nor I are the type of people to give up in the face of harassment. To the contrary, here we go into the fight," he advised.

He stressed that the banker knows that neither of the journalists has the money needed to mount a defense to this lawsuit. "He knows it, because he has used companies like DSFX, an espionage firm, to investigate us."

And he added: "He knows perfectly well that I don't earn enough money to live in New York. He knows that Mario Renato Menéndez and Por Esto! sell ads for pesos and he wants to obligate them to pay for a legal defense in dollars."

"This lawsuit is about harassment and intimidation. The fact that to defend oneself from any lawsuit in New York costs hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said, adding that the cost of court documents alone is going to cost him around $100,000.

To be able to mount an adequate defense, he explained, "we need the transcripts of all the depositions and they cost about $500 dollars apiece, and if they have to be translated from Spanish, the price doubles. To this must be added the legal fees, the trips to New York, etcetera."

And why hasn't Banamex sued media like El Universal, AP, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Phoenix or the Village Voice that published the same facts? "Because they know they have a weak case and anyone with a minimum capacity to pay for a legal defense can prove it."

Also, he recalls a series of facts that demonstrate the kind of web that the Banamex owner is weaving to silence the two journalists: "The lawsuit in New York was filed on August 9th and some days later, on August 24th, the Mexican Attorney General brought charges against Mario Renato Menéndez. Their plan was to obtain a secret arrest warrant, to arrest the Por Esto! editor in Cancún on September 8th and the next day announce the lawsuit in the Big Apple."

"I think it was a huge surprise for Roberto Hernández's lawyers that an attorney like Martin Garbus, who has defended Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Henry Miller and many others, appeared in the defense of our case."

He outlines that Garbus has defended twenty cases before the US Supreme Court, "and has not lost a single one."

Another attorney that may join the defense is Tom Lesser, friend of Al Giordano, who has so far given legal advice, and is known for his talent at politicizing cases like this one.

But the most appetizing bite in this entire buffet of expensive plates is the possibility of putting the war on drugs in the seat of the accused.

Al Giordano explains: "In the United States, to win a lawsuit for libel, they need to prove malice on the part of the accused. As I see things going, I think that don Mario and I might spend days and days in the witness chair to explain all that we knew about this theme. In this sense, a lot of information that is unknown or ignored about drug trafficking and its complicities is going to come to light in New York."

Are you disposed to come to a legal agreement with Banamex outside the court if Roberto Hernández solicits that at some point?

"No deals: I don't make deals with this kind of people. I have to preserve my integrity."

But not all is honey over pancakes. Al Giordano recognizes that since this matter of the lawsuit began he has spent hours and hours preparing his defense and has been obligated to leave things that before seemed fundamental on the side. But not even that seems to deter his steel will to mount his defense with all the moral authority that he has earned through an impeccable journalistic career.

No Deals