All Notebook Entries

  • Mexico City Floats Idea of Legal Drug Clinics in Prisons

    "The Mother of all battles" is what Mexican President Vicente Fox recently called the current (and unchanged from the previous) efforts in the so-called war on drugs.

    "The mother of all battles?"


    An even older saying goes that "victory has a thousand fathers." Here in the land of the virgin mother of Guadalupe, doesn't it seem unfair that mothers, then, are getting tagged with the maternity for... defeats?

    A quiz, kind reader (you, too, Mister Fox!): Who was the last head of state to get international press attention for calling one of his lost causes "the mother of all battles"?

    It was... well... Saddam Hussein.

    Fox would do better to go back to his true views about drug policy, which he voiced in frustration and as a message to Washington back in 2001. Fox called for legalizing drugs. In a moment I'll explain the context of his statements then and now.

    Those who have followed the ebb and flow of legalization debates in Mexico recall that it used to take a series of heavy-handed abuses by the U.S. government toward Mexico to provoke "legalization talk" as a warning to Washington to back off.

    This past week, however, largely in response to a single boneheaded "travel advisory" against Mexico by the U.S. State Department, the L-word - la legalización - began rolling off tongues again from distinct corners of the Mexican Republic, and the debate begins anew.

    It is a modest and realistic "harm reduction" proposal out of Mexico City's government that is sparking much of the debate...

  • Haiti: the Western World's Worst Crimes

    I feel guilty every time I use my limited time to post on Guantánamo.  The U.S. media have started to cover that travesty.  The world media, with the notable exception of Australia, are nearly unanimous in their condemnation of the interrogation camp.

    On far, far worse crimes in Haiti – including paramilitary death squads, killings by police, and jailing without legal cause or counsel – crimes committed with the conscious and active aid of U.S., French, Canadian, and Brazilian governments – the media silence is, as they say, deafening.

    Tom Reeves, discussing a recent human rights report, and Reed Lindsay, reporting for Free Speech Radio News from Port-au-Prince, provide a partial corrective...

  • Santa Cruz: The Mask of the Carnival of Autonomy

    What is the autonomy that the Santa Cruz “civic committees” want? The famous “open council” that the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz held on January 28 looked like another carnival. The masks and costumes were invisible, but the same atmosphere, people and beer were there...

    The place: El Cristo, where a big stage and sound system were set up, thanks to the donations of the comparsas (a kind of local fraternity) and other generous souls.

  • Narco News Scooped: "Reaction Forces" beat and humiliated Guantánamo prisoners

    In Guantánamo: What the World Should Know, being re-published on-line serially by the Narco News Bulletin, Michael Ratner discusses the military's use of Immediate Reaction Force (IRF) squads in beating and humiliating prisoners.

    That section hasn't been published on-line yet, and yesterday news of these videos of these IRF operations came out thanks to an internal military investigation.  Media coverage of alleged IRF abuse thus scooped Narco News, but is a good six months behind Ellen Ray, Michael Ratner, and Chelsea Green Publishing.

    The military report and the media covering it have tended to downplay the actions shown on the tapes as not all that violent.  Aside from the victims presumed innocence under the law, this coverage misses that IRF attacks are part of a comprehensive effort to get the prisoners to say what their U.S. military captors, and guest interrogators, want.

  • U.S. "Travel Advisory" vs. Mexico Used as Pretext for a Murder

    The U.S. "travel advisory" last week - screeching about an alleged "rising wave of crime" South of the Border in Mexico - has reportedly taken an especially ugly turn.

    Yesterday, according to this Associated Press report, a 30-year-old Texas man, Norberto Manzanares...

    ...yesterday drove the body of his wife, Gloria, to Matamoros, Mexico and claimed they'd been ambushed.

    The case comes amid U-S travel advisories warning of dangerous conditions in northern Mexico, amid violence linked to drug traffickers.

    The 30-year-old victim was a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Sharp Elementary School in Brownsville, where the couple lived with their two children.

    She was an American.

    Prosecutors say Norberto Manzanares... likely heard the warnings about increased crime.

    There you have it: Somebody should put out a "travel advisory" about the danger of such "travel advisories."

  • Judge: Guantánamo prisoners can fight for their freedom in court

    In another important victory for liberty won by the Center for Constitutional Rights, U.S. district court judge Joyce Green struck down Bush-ordered military tribunals as illegal and inadequate to ensure people imprisoned in Guantánamo their rights under U.S. and international law.  Green handed down her 75-page ruling, an indictment of U.S. government jailing outside the legal system, on Monday February 1, yesterday.

    In pleasant terms she dealt a severe blow to the Bush regime's grab for unlimited power.  The AP quoted her:

    "Although this nation unquestionably must take strong action under the leadership of the commander in chief to protect itself against enormous and unprecedented threats," she wrote, "that necessity cannot negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over 200 years."

  • Trip to the Border

    ©Copyright 2004 Don Henry Ford Jr.

    Thu Nov 18th, 2004 (previously posted at The Agonist)

    Monday I took a trip to Ciudad Acuña near the Texas border town of Del Rio. I took the trip in desperation, driven by the pain of a toothache and the recent knowledge that my American dentist would not extract it because my blood pressure is high. Afraid of getting sued.

  • Why the World Must Know: Publisher Margo Baldwin on Guantánamo

    "Guantanamo just outraged me," wrote Margo Baldwin in a recent e-mail interview.  President and publisher of Chelsea Green Publishing, Baldwin took the initiative to get the book Guantánamo: What the World Should Know written and published.  The results are unfolding on the Narco News Bulletin front page and can be purchased at the Salon Chingón giftshop.

    Baldwin could herself have written a good-sized article, if not a book, on the United States government's capture, incarceration, inhuman treatment, and unstopping interrogation of foreigners at its military installation carved off of Cuba's sovereign land:

    The media's coverage of Guantanamo has been incredibly simplistic.  They just don’t deal with the larger legal issues about what’s going on.  They never discuss the basically unlimited powers that Bush has taken on as commander-in-chief, never discuss the idea that detaining people indefinitely goes against 400 years of the rule of law.  Nobody seems to make the connection that if he can do it to those people he can do it here or anywhere.  Pathetic!  Then, when [Guantánamo co-author Michael Ratner and the Center for Constitutional Rights] did win the cases before the Supreme Court, it basically hasn’t made any difference.  The Bush administration has continued to deny any legal rights to the detainees and the media don't even mention it.  Incredible!

  • Hugo Chavez manda aliança de livre comércio "ALCArajo"

    Mais de 10 mil pessoas compareceram ao ginásio Gigantinho, em Porto Alegre, à beira do Rio Guaíba. Essa multidão e mais centenas que assistiam tudo por um telão instalado fora do Ginásio, se apertaram em um calor insuportável para ouvir o presidente da Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. Foi a atração mais esperada do 5o. Fórum Social Mundial, que será encerrado no dia 31.

    Chavez falou por quase duas horas em um encontro que reuniu o Ministro das Cidades, Olívio Dutra, e o presidente da Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT), Luís Marinho.

    O líder da Revolução Bolivariana da Venezuela foi otimista em relação à um declínio do imperialismo norte-americano. “ O imperialismo apodrece por dentro, como o império romano”, comparou. Lembrou que foi o único presidente reunido na Conferência das Américas, realizada no Canadá há dois anos, que se colocou contra a formação da Área de Livre Comércio das Américas. “Alca ao caralho. Alca is dead”, bradou o presidente ovacionado pelos espectadores.

  • Santa Cruz : la mascara de Carnaval de la Autonomía

    Qué Autonomía quieren los “cívicos” cruceños? El famoso “Cabildo Abierto” al que convoco el Comité Cívico de Santa Cruz ayer viernes 28 de enero era por lo visto una sesión mas de “pre-carnavalera” con diferentes disfraces y mascaras invisibles… pero con las mismas comparsas, banda y cerveza…
  • FBI claims narcos want to nab cops?

    The FBI has now weighed into the “drug cartel” problem along the U.S.-Mexico border by issuing a bulletin claiming there is an “immediate threat to law-enforcement personnel,” according to a front page story in today’s San Antonio Express-News.

    From the story:

    MEXICO CITY — The FBI warned all federal agents Friday that a Mexican drug cartel has 250 armed men on the border near Matamoros and is planning to kidnap two federal agents in the United States and smuggle them into Mexico where they will be murdered.

    The FBI office in San Antonio declined to discuss the source of the information, but issued a written bulletin warning of an "immediate threat to law-enforcement personnel."

    The bulletin goes on to say the "extremely violent" drug-smuggling organization known as the Gulf Cartel already sent a contingent that are believed to have valid visas to enter the United States.

    "Due to the nature of this immediate threat, all law-enforcement personnel are being cautioned to ensure appropriate measures are taken as well as to keep a high degree of vigilance," the bulletin states.

    Rene Salinas, a spokesman for the FBI in San Antonio, said the information is "uncorroborated," but that federal agents and police are being told to use extra caution.

  • Reader: "Why do you use the word 'Gringo'?"

    A Narco News reader, Paul Silvester, writes:

    Dear Sir,

    I read with interest your publication and praise the fact that you do not shy away from the more accurate reporting of incidents or events in Central & Latin America. I am sick of reading and watching negative reporting on South America, particularly Colombia where I have an apartment and spend several untroubled months every year, and cannot praise enough your efforts to show the realities of the situation prevailing.

    However I do have one negative. Why do many of your articles persist in using the term 'GRINGO'?...

    I love this discussion. One of the best reasons to use the word "gringo" is to provoke such conversations. I'll spell out my answers to his questions in the comments section below, but first I'll print the rest of his letter in entirety, below, because when someone takes the time to write a thoughtful critique and commentary to us like this, The Narcosphere is a place for his voice and views too...

  • Brace yourselves for the latest propaganda campaign...

    Wait for it... Ahh, yes, American Experience presents an excellent pre-invasion documentary smearing, once again, the administration of Fidel Castro in Cuba.
  • Mojados (Aka wetbacks)

    ©Copyright Don Henry Ford Jr. 2004

    Previously posted in my diary at the Agonist

    Manuel Garcia is as steady a ranch hand as they come. And like a lot of agricultural workers here in Texas, he is a native of Mexico. He first found me shortly after I had been released from prison. I was working on a small ranch my dad owns near Luling, Texas, thinning an oak forest with a chainsaw and selling firewood. The work was brutally hard and dangerous--the weather hot and humid--the wood heavy. But I had spent five years surrounded by the constant noise and confusion of a federal joint and appreciated being alone in the forest. And the hard work was a kind of therapy--a way for me to heal.

  • Charles Cofield

    I have previously written on topics that may be of interest those that frequent this site, so I am going to repost some of these writings here at the Narcosphere. This first appeared in my diary at the Agonist.

    ©Copyright 2004 Don Henry Ford Jr.

    A few years ago, I walked into the Hasting's bookstore in Seguin, Texas. A table was set up near the entrance for a book signing; behind the table stood a man. His head was shaved bald, his body fit and strong. Piercing dark brown eyes searched my face.

    I approached. The man was well dressed but the grip of his hand was not that of someone who sits behind a desk all day. Only when he spoke did I realize that he was of Latin extraction. This guy was not your average author.

  • Putsch in Washington

    With whole sections of the military and intelligence bureaucracies in revolt agains the neo-conmen and President Bush it is time to speculate upon what form the putsch that takes hime down will take.
  • "Travel Advisory" Reveals U.S. Media Campaign vs. Mexico

    In our report yesterday, "NY Times and Washington Post Smear Missing Texans as Narcos", Bill Conroy and I asked aloud:

    "Were the articles in the national 'newspapers of record' part of an orchestrated media campaign to invent a very different story, in which the reputations of these families and their missing got dragged through the mud as a kind of 'collateral damage' in the information war known as the 'war on drugs?'"

    And we reported that both newspapers were spoon-fed the invented "story" by the U.S. State Department as the opening salvo in its campaign to scare U.S. citizens about drugs and violence in Mexico to justify increased meddling by Washington (and U.S. media) in Mexico's upcoming 2006 election.

    Hours later, the U.S. State Department (and Embassy in Mexico) issued a "travel advisory", and also a public letter from Ambassador Tony Garza to Mexican officials railing about "warfare, kidnappings and random street violence (that) will have a chilling effect on the cross-border exchange, tourism and commerce so vital to the region's prosperity."

    If anyone had any doubt about our accusation that New York Times reporter Ginger Thompson and Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan had placed themselves at the service of media manipulation by U.S. officials - making themselves corrupted mercenaries to the agendas of the powerful - the orchestrated statements that have just come out of Washington and its Embassy reveal that what we called "an orchestrated media campaign" is real, it is active, and it has only just begun...

  • Power and autonomy in Bolivia: Santa Cruz and its sedition

    Among other things, the question that has echoed through my ears several times in the last few days is: what is the difference between the Aymara people – those from the countryside and those who live in the city of El Alto – and the autonomists from the city of Santa Cruz? Aren’t both groups saying and demanding the same thing as many of the movements in countries throughout Latin America – autonomy to make decisions, referendums to decide our future? And to be honest, the answer is always the same: no, it is not the same thing. But let’s look at that answer in more detail.
  • Daniel Webster and Robert Byrd

    My readers will know that no admirer of our US constitutional system am I.  For its antique and anti-democratic, even racist features are an important element of the elitism that I believe has led us to our present sorry state.


  • War possible . . . ?

    War possible in the next few years 1.htm
    By Carlos Alberto Montaner (subscription may be req'd)

    Would friends in the Narcosphere care to dissect Mr. Montaner or, at least, his opinions?

  • Poder y autonomía en Bolivia: Santa Cruz y su sedición

    Entre otras cosas, la pregunta ha rebotado en mis oídos varias veces en los últimos días: ¿qué diferencia a los aymaras, a los del campo y a los de El Alto, de los autonomistas de la ciudad de Santa Cruz? ¿No es más o menos lo mismo que andan diciendo muchos moviemientos en varios países de América Latina: autonomía para decidir, referéndums para decidir nuestro destino? Y para ser sincero, la respuesta es siempre la misma: No, no es lo mismo. Ensayemos una respuesta más amplia...
  • Narco Newsroom 2005: The New Line-Up

    As Narco News - launched in April 2000 to report on the drug war and democracy from Latin America - enters its fifth year, we continue growing and evolving... 213 copublishers... a Narcosphere growing in volume and velocity... The Fund for Authentic Journalism... And with such growth come new opportunities.

    As publisher, I spent most of the past year organizing and promoting the work of others - our copublishers, our journalists, our Authentic Journalism scholars and professors - as well as the hard work of freeing this newspaper from the pressures of wealthy interests.

    But now I go back to being a reporter again. As of today, I am demoting myself to get back on the road in our América, to investigate, to write again, as a beat correspondent for this newspaper.

    Today it is my pleasure to announce the new starting lineup for the newsroom, responsible for the work that appears on the front page of Narco News, and of course at your service here on The Narcosphere:

    Acting Publisher: Luis A. Gómez
    Managing Editor: Dan Feder
    Editorial Columnist: Laura del Castillo Matamoros
    Correspondent: Al Giordano
    Presente: Gary Webb

    A few more thoughts about these changes appear at the jump...

  • The Underground Press: A Mosaic History

    I thought some folks might enjoy this, and it might serve as a jumping off point for discussion about the history of the “free press” – and its future. Strangely, in putting the following excerpts together, I find that history isn’t really that long ago after all.

    Anyway, I’m not going to drag on here. Following are passages from a collection of books and publications about the history of the Underground Press of the 1960s. They are like pieces of a mosaic. So read through them all, if you’re so inclined, to get the whole picture.

    (The sources are at the end of the tale.)

    “Without freedom of speech I might be in the swamp.” – Bob Dylan

    The Underground Press: A Mosaic History

    An understandable world was coming apart at the “seems” – appearance could not be trusted. The assassinations made no sense. Symbols of security against a communist threat – the CIA and the FBI – increasingly seemed a menace themselves. They were a source of anxiety and insecurity, not only for radical students, but for moderate legislators. Even President Lyndon Johnson was persuaded that the CIA was implicated in John Kennedy’s murder. Even the American flag changed its meaning and became more a partisan than a national symbol. (3)

  • How the USA became a Fascist State

    Our own opposition people, and the citizens of other lands whose lives are threatened, whose families are immiserated, owe it to themselves to examine the born again Fascism which has replaced liberal democracy in the USA.  For this nation and its mendacious and nihilistic misleadership promise humanity catastrophe, war and sufferings beyond the wildest imaginings of the German, Italian or Japanese Fascists of past times.
  • Election Reporting on Inauguration Day

    George Salzman deserves better than this.  But then, so does everyone in the world.

    Before, on, and after the national election of November 2, the people of the United States and the world desperately needed honest reporting about the honesty or dishonesty of that election.  Neither George Salzman nor I provided it.  We weren't dishonest.  We just didn't do the reporting.  Nor did anyone else, including the people who are paid to do it.

    I mention George by name, because he honors me with inclusion in a list of luminaries who, he said, should know better than to believe the corporate media claim that several million more people voted for proven failure over hope in the presidential election.

    Due to one (more) untimely hard drive failure, I don't know if I replied to George Salzman's e-mail to me - cited in his open letter - or if I only planned to reply.  If I did, I encouraged George to present convincingly as much good evidence as he could find of the possible fraud.  I read his articles eagerly, looking for the evidence of massive, and so mostly electronic, vote fraud.  In that open letter he finally presented some.  I've found better on my own.  Here it is.

  • Understanding US Sentencing Laws - a layperson speaks

    A lot of people are very confused about the recent Supreme Court decision in US v Booker. As a "leader" of a group that advocates for Sixth Amendment rights (trial by jury) and an independent judiciary, in lieu of the "Modern Sentencing Reform System" that is under fire today, I feel obligated to lend a lay-voice to understanding these new developments.

    The Past
    In the mid-1980's, US lawmakers bent to the will of a get-tough-on-drugs crowd and gave birth to two kinds of sentencing schemes. They were given two different names. Names were very important when the 'modern reformists' began carving out new laws for the federal system.

  • Homeland Security again accused of racial profiling

    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is being called on the mat for racially profiling Hispanics and Haitians in South Florida, according to a recent report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

    ICE officials deny the allegations, but they are hard to dismiss out of hand, given the fact that Hispanic federal agents themselves have a class-action discrimination lawsuit pending against the agency. ICE is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which is the massive 200,000-employee bureaucracy created in the wake of 9/11 to safeguard the security of the nation.

    The Sun-Sentinel reports the following:

    "Many victims of the immigration sweeps have told us they were racially profiled," said Cheryl Little, director of the Miami-based Florida Immigration Advocacy Center. "They were stopped simply because of the way they looked or the language they spoke or because they had an accent."

  • Aviso para Venezuela / Warning for Venezuela

    Condoleeza Rice's hearing today contained a warning for our Venezuelan sisters and brothers that we cannot ignore.

    La consejera de Seguridad Nacional de EEUU, Condoleeza Rice, durante una audencia en el Comité de Relaciones de Exteriores del Senado avisó a nuestra herman@s en La Republica Bolivariana que debemos pasar al alto.

    I'll try to translate this myself in the next reply, just because I think it's important.

    Voy a tratar a traducir este entrada abajo porque creo que puede ser importante a iniciar ese dialogo con nuestr@s herman@s al sur de la frontera.

  • Poverty, South of the Border

    The drug trade is only one of many problems we now face in this world and is in itself a product of unfair business practices, both in the United States and in other countries of the world.

    There are too many places where workers, if they can find a job at all, are forced to work for wages that will not provide an acceptable standard of living. And in each of these countries, others make unbelievably large amounts of money for their “contributions” to society.

  • Condosleeza Number Two

    Dr Condoleeza Rice, President Bush's nominee to be Secretary of State appearred again today, Wednesday, 19 January 2005 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.