All Notebook Entries

  • Wal-Mart retaliates against workers seeking union

    Wal-Mart will close one of its stores in Quebec, Canada, as the workers were about to get union representation. See full article here: d=2245&ncid=2245&e=1&u=/ap/20050209/ap _on_bi_ge/wal_mart_canada

  • Journalists under fire in Mexico border drug war

    Molly Molloy, a friend of mine and also a librarian and a teacher of Latin American Studies at New Mexico State University sent me the following link concerning the danger reporters now face in Mexico when addressing the issue of drug traficking.

    Others tell me they have nothing to fear if not involved in the business.

    I really wouldn't know from personal experience.

    By Tim Gaynor

    MATAMOROS, Mexico, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Mexican journalist Francisco Arratia used to tap out daily columns sounding off against the drug traffickers and corrupt cops that blighted his home city on the U.S. border...

  • Legalization? Part II

    I see drug legalization as a question that cannot be viewed independent of a myriad of other issues facing this world: a very complex issue.

    For instance, right now a coffee grower in Central or South America does not make enough money to support a decent lifestyle. That cup of expensive brew you pay $3 for in a Starbucks puts less than a penny into the hands of the poor man that raised the beans. Not only raised the beans but picked each one by hand and dried them on mats in areas where it rains a lot. This often entails running out to wrap them up when it showers and then putting them out again when the sun comes out. Too many wet days can mean mold.

    Modernization has brought machines to dry the beans this but many growers do not have access to such and if they do, some rich conglomeration of capitalists just screws them a little more.

  • Washington Consulting Firm Secures Bolivian Justice Project Contract

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) this week awarded a $14.7 million contract to a Washington, D.C., firm to oversee the next phase of the Bolivian Administration of Justice (BAOJ) Project. The Bolivian and U.S. governments since 1992 have jointly implemented the BAOJ, which USAID says has succeeded in bringing about “full criminal justice reform in the country.”

    Despite implementing a new Code of Criminal Procedures and replacing the nation’s inquisitorial system for “a modern accusatorial, oral one,” USAID says that more work is necessary over the next five years “to strengthen and sustain accomplishments.” Consequently, the agency awarded the contract to Checchi & Company Consulting, Inc., a firm known for its worldwide efforts in assisting countries in the modernization of their criminal justice systems.

  • En la Ciudad de México, flota la idea de abrir clínicas legales de drogas

    Traducción del artículo de Al Giordano.

    Spanish version of Al Giordano's article.

  • Drug-war agency ICE short 5,000 bulletproof vests, whistleblowers claim

    In recent weeks, the U.S. mainstream press has trumpeted warnings issued by Washington bureaucrats that narco-traffickers in Mexico are kidnapping and murdering U.S. citizens in Mexico and that law enforcers along the border are being targeted by the “cartels.”

    The hype resulted in the State Department issuing an advisory for U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico. The FBI also issued a bulletin – which was leaked to the mainstream press – advising law enforcers along the border of an alleged plan by narco-traffickers to kidnap and murder federal agents.

    The nature of these bureaucratic warnings, however, is highly suspicious, given that narco-traffickers don’t kidnap and murder innocent U.S. citizens unless there is money to be made, and there has been no sudden rash of ransom demands being made by drug organizations. And the FBI, only days after issuing its “internal” bulletin, admitted that the alleged kidnapping and murder scheme was not credible.

    Narco News recently contacted the U.S. embassy in Mexico City asking for figures that would back up the State Department’s claims that narco-traffickers are increasingly targeting U.S. citizens. Strangely, those figures could not be produced.

    “We don’t have figures to respond to this question at this time,” said Diana Page, assistant press attaché for the U.S. Embassy Mexico. “The consular section is working on helping Americans, so getting statistics together has to wait.”

  • Steve Earle

    A prophet is seldom recognized among his own. When Jesus came along and preached in his hometown, they asked, isn't this the son of the carpenter?

    Among us lesser types however, the people have real faults to identify when one rises to speak, to guide a nation, to open eyes, to comfort the oppressed, and to distress the comfortable. Like, isn't this the guy who's had countless wives, the guy who shot heroin into his veins, who left his children to pursue whatever compulsion came along?

  • USAID Extending Life of Colombian 'Alternative Development' Program

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is planning to infuse several hundred million additional dollars into “alternative development” projects in Colombia over the next five years, according to a review of recently released policy planning documents. The programs are extensions of existing illicit-crop substitution efforts that USAID has supported since 2001.
  • 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...

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