Thursday 20 December 2012

Christian Eduardo Esquino Núñez’s crash landing

Christian Eduardo Esquino Núñez and his wife Bertha Cruz de la Cruz attended last Friday’s hearing (December 14) regarding an alleged plot in 2011 to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi, fallen Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s third son, into Mexico. Unless the judge requires further confirmation, the evidence phase of the trial is now over, with a decision expected in the New Year.

Mr. Esquino Núñez, a convicted criminal, has been considered the prosecution’s lead witness. However, two sources have informed La politica that during the hearing Esquino Núñez denied that he was a witness, and instead corrected the judge, stating that in fact he was the person who had brought the initial allegations to Mexican authorities.

                                                                                                                          (Photo enhanced from Univision News)

Reforma and other news outlets have reported in the past that a Mexican businessman in the State of Mexico, which surrounds Mexico City on three sides, had informed State officials back in August 2011 of the plot. At that time this un-named businessman also gave them a copy of Saadi Gaddafi’s passport, plus information on three others – allegedly the younger Gaddafi’s wife and two children. Toluca, the main city in the State of Mexico, situated 45 minutes west of Mexico City, is where Esquino Núñez conducts much of his flight operations.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

U.S. Justice Department legitimizes corruption with $1.92 billion “tax” on HSBC

The news that the London-based bank HSBC has agreed to pay at least $1.92 billion to settle money laundering probes is a staggering admission that global criminal activity will be tolerated.

The settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, which will result in no criminal prosecutions and only a minimal attempt at redressing shady practices, comes after revelations that from 2006 to 2010 the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico and the Norte del Valle Cartel in Colombia moved more than $881 million through the bank’s U.S. unit.

Together HSBC’s U.S. and Mexican operations turned a blind eye to $670 billion in wire transfers and more than $9.4 billion in U.S. dollar purchases from HSBC Mexico.

Lanny A. Breuer gets tough

David S. Cohen, undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury, has admitted that no-one really knows how big or bad the problem was, given that, according to the New York Times, “trillions of dollars in wire transfers every year were excluded from its review, billions of dollars in ‘suspicious bulk cash’ entered its vaults, and hundreds of millions of dollars in ‘dirty money’ from Mexican drug proceeds went through the bank’s U.S. accounts.”

Time to examine Jenni Rivera’s financial records

In a press release from Mexico’s Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT), a spokesperson for Starwood Management LLC , the company that owned of the plane in which Jenni Rivera died, has said that the flight was for “promotional purposes”, as she intended to purchase it.

In an interview with the LA Times, Christian Eduardo Esquino Nuñez, 50, described himself as the “operations manager” of Starwood Management. In fact, Esquino Nuñez is the de facto owner of Starwood: the company is in his sister-in-law Norma Cruz de la Cruz’s name.

The passengers before take-off

This is a necessity as Mr. Esquino Nuñez has a criminal record in the United States. He was indicted in 1993 for drug smuggling in Florida, and was also convicted of aircraft fraud in 2005 after doctoring logbooks for six Mexican planes that he later sold in the United States.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Jenni Rivera pilots may be in violation of regulations – SCT on the hunt for Christian Eduardo Esquino Núñez

The pilots on Mexican-American music superstar Jenni Rivera’s ill-fated flight may have been in violation of pilot fatigue regulations when they departed at about 3:30 a.m. on December 9.

The pilots, one of whom was 78 years old, had already pulled a 19 hour shift. In response to concerns over the effects of pilot fatigue, the FAA brought in more stringent regulations last year. Now -

The allowable length of a flight duty period depends on when the pilot’s day begins and the number of flight segments he or she is expected to fly...ranges from 9-14 hours for single crew operations.

These however are for commercial airlines in the United States, and are subject to a two year phase in - it is uncertain to what extent they might apply to a charter flying in Mexico.

Ms. Rivera's publicist, Arturo Rivera (unrelated) at Monterrey airport

The United States’ National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is assisting Mexico’s Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT). In response to a query from La politica, the NTSB’s Terry Williams deferred to the SCT, saying only that “The NTSB is providing assistance to the Mexican government, who (sic) is the conducting the investigation.”

Monday 10 December 2012

Christian Eduardo Esquino Núñez to testify on Friday

The owner of the jet in which U.S.-born singer Jenni Rivera died is scheduled to testify on Friday, December 14, with regard to the alleged plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi to Mexico in 2011.

(For an update on Christian Eduardo Esquino Núñez's appearance at the hearing see Christian Eduardo Esquino Núñez’s crash landing).

Christian Eduardo Esquino Núñez is the proprietor of Starwood Management, an aircraft leasing company run out of Toluca, approximately 45 minutes west of Mexico City. Ms. Rivera was en route to Toluca from Monterrey on a Starwood-owned Lear Jet on December 9 when it went down near Iturbide, Nuevo León.  The plane, carrying Rivera and six other people – including the 78 year-old pilot – disintegrated upon impact. There were no survivors.

Esquino Núñez...A no-show in the past

Esquino Núñez, who has done time in a United States prison for aircraft fraud, has previously indicated to Mexico’s attorney General’s office, the PGR, that he was told of a plot to smuggle the son of the former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi  during a drive from Toluca to Mexico City in late September, 2011.

Monday 12 November 2012

In Mexico, fourteen federal agents charged with attacking CIA agents

The rule of thumb in Mexico, as in most countries, is that the higher up you go the less compromised, and less corrupt, the police services are.

Mexico’s federal police are supposedly cleaner than the state forces, which in turn shine brighter than the municipal cops. By comparison, in Canada the RCMP sets the national standard, as does the FBI in the United States.

But sometimes even the crème de la crème falter. When that happens, we have examples of corruption, harassment, falsification of evidence, perjury...the usual hanky panky. In Mexico, however, as one commentator so aptly described it to La politica, sometimes “This is next level shit.”

So, as we hear news of a report confirming that the death last year in a helicopter crash of Mexico’s Interior Minister, Blake Mora, was due to pilot error, and that Mexico’s City’s airport is now cleaned up from police corruption after this last summer’s shoot out, so too do we hear that federal law enforcement is, yet again, in renewal mode now that 14 federal police officers have been charged in last August’s attack on CIA officers.

In that daylight attack – near the town of Tres Marias, south of Mexico City – a US embassy SUV with two CIA operatives was riddled with 152 bullets. Presumably, the orders came from a drug cartel. The wounded officers have since returned to the United States.

152 bullets

To the credit of Mexican authorities, they did not hide behind initial suggestions that the attack was a mistake and, perhaps, a case of mistaken identity. It was, significantly, the Mexicans who decided that the use of AK-47s, and the fact that the assailants were not wearing uniforms, pointed to a well-orchestrated hit.

The 14 officers, who come from the southern Mexico City district of Tlalpan, are all now charged with attempted murder. One of the federal officers is also charged with making false statements, with five others being accused of covering up the attack. The 14 were also charged with property damage.

The off-duty officers were in private vehicles when they attacked the agents’ Toyota Land Cruiser, bearing diplomatic license plates.  The agents were travelling with a Mexican navy captain to a military training camp south of the capital.

Of concern is the sheer size of the conspiracy. To have 14 federal officers actively connected to organized crime to such an extent that they open fire on a US embassy vehicle in the heart of the country is mind boggling.

If this is what the federal police are capable of, then what on earth is going on at the state and municipal levels? Of course, La politica, as well as a wide range of Mexican media outlets with an eye on local corruption, know the answer all too well. In Mexico law and order and justice are in play, available to the highest bidder.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Saturday 10 November 2012

Mexico, land of Nazis and anti-Semites

Mexico would seem like an unlikely place to harbour Nazi sympathizers. After all, the majority of the population is mestizo – of mixed indigenous and European heritage – with only a small percentage of population being of “pure” European descent.

Outside of these groups, there is modest diversity. About 5% of the population speaks an indigenous language, with double that number identifying as indigenous. There are also descendants of Sephardic Jews who came with the earliest colonists, and “crypto-Jews” who settled in the Northern Gulf region.  These Jews had been hiding their identity since 1492, when Muslims and Jews were expelled from Spain during the “re-conquest” of Christianity and the expulsion of the Moors.

As evidence of how close this history remains, the town of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, across from Brownsville, Texas, literally translates as “murder the Moors”.

Over the past centuries Jews were excluded – and, to some extent, excluded themselves – from much of the dominant Mexican culture, finding success as professionals and business people. As well, in Mexico, unlike in Canada and the United States, Jews are not well represented in the political sphere.

Mexicans, however, are aware of their existence, and many hold on to views that can only be described as racist and ignorant. These harsh views are in fact more in evidence among those Mexicans of European descent than among the mestizo population, though there is a subculture of mestizo skinheads that glorifies Nazism, much as we seen  in the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe.

Flag for the  Partido Nacional Socialista de México

Anecdotes can help elucidate some contemporary attitudes in Mexico.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Violence plagues Jalisco’s Pacific coast

Mexico’s Pacific Coast is a huge and varied place. Historically, some areas have been understood to be safe, and some not-so-safe. Specifically, the State of Guerrero and the highway south of Acapulco have had a reputation for lawlessness dating back to the 1960s. You didn’t drive at night, and of you did, you prepared for the possibility of a hold-up – or worse. The reason for this was very simple: Guerrero was run by a bunch of goons, and criminals were allowed to run rampant.

In fact, back in the 1970s stories of bodies washing up on the shores of Acapulco were hushed up as “shark attacks”. Apparently, this was the big secret, denied by all who leaked it, because it would be bad for tourism. Well, cynicism knew no bounds: the bodies were in fact campesinos taken out by government henchmen. But, better a good shark story – far more exotic than a paramilitary war on the poor.

As scary as that sounds, most of the coast is known for being just fine. The area south of Puerto Vallarta in the State of Jalisco, for example, is as relaxed as any Caribbean island. However, two murders of Canadians this year in the small fishing village of Melaque, the most recent only this past week, require a major re-evaluation of the area.

Melaque has only 4,000 residents. It is about 200 km south of Puerto Vallarta, directly north of the popular ex-pat resort of Barra de Navidad, and 600 km north of Acapulco.

The first murder occurred in early January.  Robin Wood, originally from Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, stood up to two thieves he encountered after returning home from a concert. He had been robbed before – once on the street, and twice when his place had been broken into. He fought back, and was killed.

Then in on October 21 Ron Lloyd MacKintosh, originally from Parksville on Vancouver Island, BC, went missing after dropping off a friend in Melaque. He had recently moved to Barra de Navidad. Mr. MacKintosh was found two weeks later by a police officer about one kilometre off of coastal highway 200 between Barra de Navidad and Melaque. Mackintosh, 64, was found with a cord around his neck, tied to a tree. Officials are convinced he was murdered.

Ron Lloyd MacKintosh in Mexico

Mexico is largely a safe destination for Canadians. This is due to the fact that, despite all the bad press, most Mexicans are generous, law-abiding citizens. The problem is that Mexico’s institutional flaws are deep. As well, Canada’s consular officials can offer information and support, but little more.

Monday 5 November 2012

One year later, Cynthia Vanier awaits final decision

Now that Vanier has been released and returned to Canada, could she be charged? See: Cynthia Vanier: linking up the emails in the Mexicanevidence and the RCMP search warrant of SNC-Lavalin’s offices 

It has been almost one year since Cynthia Vanier, the Canadian mediator from Mount Forest, Ontario, was arrested in Mexico City and charged with masterminding a plot to smuggle Saadi Gadhafi, fallen Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s third son, from North Africa to Mexico.

And that year has not been easy. Upon her arrest, Ms. Vanier alleges that a Mexican officer elbowed her in her kidneys, resulting in excruciating and ongoing pain. After her transfer to a minimum security prison in Chetumal, near Mexico’s southern border with Belize, Ms. Vanier’s medical condition deteriorated, resulting in surgery this past month for the removal of an ovary and two tumours. The surgery also required the repositioning of her intestinal tract, which had shifted to the left side of her body, possibly as a result of the initial assault.

Her legal battles have been arduous, too. The Mexican judicial system is exceedingly complex and difficult to navigate. To date, Ms. Vanier’s legal team is optimistic that they have reduced her charges from four to one: intent to human smuggle.

But the denial of a recent appeal, or amparo, means she now has to wait for a final decision in three to four months.

Ms. Vanier had argued that the assault violated her human rights, and that she had been denied consular access, as per her rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. This is because it allegedly took Mexican officials four days to notify the Canadian Embassy.

Ms. Vanier in the medical clinic in Chetumal

In response, the Mexican amparo judge referenced documentation from the Attorney General’s Office, or PGR, saying that no external evidence of blunt force trauma had been found. As well, the recent decision states that the Vienna Convention is not legally binding, and that the court was satisfied every effort had been made by the PGR to contact the Embassy.

The greatest concern for Vanier’s legal team, however, is surely the Mexican court’s view that the larger evidence file can stand. This means that incriminating emails leaked by the Anonymous hacking group, though not certifiable as evidence – their source is unknown, and they were obtained illegally – can nonetheless remain open for consideration.

This is because the court allows them to stand as notitia criminis, essentially as tips to the authorities that a crime might have occurred. As a result, though they are not officially evidence, they nonetheless remain in the file, potentially affecting the decision.

The appeal court also confirmed the validity of circumstantial evidence, and has allowed information with regard to her previous charges, which include document forgery, to stand.

The decision is notable for the window it provides on due process in Mexico. There are many references to the Mexican constitution, specifically with regard to the presumption of innocence.

Ms. Vanier has always argued that she has been denied the right to be thought innocent until proven guilty. In response, the Mexican judge clearly states that Mexico functions under a system of “probability of guilt”, and that the presumption of innocence is not protected in the Constitution.

As it stands, the court appears to have deferred heavily to the PGR, stating clearly that all PGR evidence was collected “without prejudice”.

Now that the entire evidence file has been allowed to stand, the case moves to a Magistrate in Mexico City for the final decision. The sentence for intent to human smuggle, as stated in Mexican law, is eight to sixteen years.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Tuesday 2 October 2012

CIA ambush may be one more chapter in Beltrán Leyva’s history of vengeance

The left-leaning Mexican journal La Jornada , which is published out of Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), reported on September 28 that the August 24 ambush by Mexican federal police on a United States embassy vehicle may have been called out as a revenge attack by remnants the Beltrán Leyva cartel. That story has now been “broken” by an Associated Press (AP) “exclusive” on October 2nd.

If true, this  an unusual turn of events, given that, after years of suffering defeats at the hands of the Mexican government and rival cartels,  authorities had declared the Beltrán Leyva  cartel disbanded and, effectively, out of business. What isn’t odd, as we shall see, is that remnants of Beltrán Leyva might engage in extreme acts of vengeance.

A Mexican Navy captain called for help from within the U.S. embassy vehicle

To support its report, AP cited a Mexican official as saying that investigators are now looking at the Beltran Leyva Cartel as the source of the ambush. A senior U.S. official also pointed to “strong circumstantial evidence” that the police, who wounded two CIA agents in the attack, were working for organized crime. The CIA agents have since returned to the United States.

Friday 28 September 2012

#YoSoy132 activist Aleph Jiménez found alive

Aleph Jiménez, the #YoSoy132 activist who went missing last week, has come out of hiding in the Mexican city of La Paz, near the bottom of the Baja peninsula on the Sea of Cortez.

He then went to the capital, Mexico City, to give a statement to the National Human Rights Commission.

Jiménez claimed he went into hiding out of concern for his safety. He asserted that two of his colleagues had been murdered, and alleged that he had being followed by an unidentified car, and had his phones tapped.

La Paz is over 1,000 kilometers south of Ensenada, Baja California, where Jiménez lived. He claims that he did not notify anyone of his whereabouts due to fear of being tracked. However, after realizing the extent of public attention that this case has caused, he decided to go public.

La Paz, capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur

For now, Jiménez has said he will not return to his hometown.

Response on the net has been mixed. Many are relieved to hear of his safety, while others are suspicious, and accuse him of grandstanding to draw media attention to himself.

The fact that Jiménez hitch-hiked in his travels, for example, is seen by some as proof that his life could not really have been in danger: otherwise, why choose such and exposed and risky mode of travel?

Then again, if he was afraid of the State it might make sense to avoid any traceable means of transport. It also might be slightly unfair for those in more secure positions to judge the seemingly irrational behaviour of someone who was truly terrified.

Sunday 23 September 2012

#YoSoy132 activist goes missing in Ensenada, Baja California

The spokesperson for Mexico’s #YoSoy132 pro-democracy youth movement in the port of Ensenada, Baja California, has gone missing. (Update: Aleph Jiménez has since been found alive).

Aleph Jiménez was reported missing to the Attorney General for the state of Baja on Saturday, September 22.

Aleph Jiménez

Jiménez works as a science instructor in the department of physical oceanography at the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada (Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada).

According to the state Attorney General’s office, Jiménez was last seen around 4:30 pm on Thursday, September 20 at the Santander bank in Ensenada. He was wearing beige trousers, a white shirt, a camouflaged backpack, and a black and white cap. He is of fair complexion, with green eyes, and may have a beard.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Jalisco massacre and the politics of denial

As central Mexico takes stock of another mass body dump – this time it was 17 mutilated cadavers found at Tizapán El Alto, Jalisco – the Mexican citizenry, the expat community, and even the politicians take cold solace in the supposition that the dead are all criminals.

The governor of Jalisco, Emilio González Márquez, knew he was playing the right hand when he announced that six of the 17 had criminal records. Obviously, that's good news. Who cares about them?

González Márquez: Governor of the law abiding

González Márquez, in the spirit of national solidarity in the face of a terrifying and never-ending drug war, added that the victims had likely died in the nearby state of Michoacan, and were then "tossed" in Jalisco.

"It implies that there are criminals who are fighting,” said González Márquez. “There are criminals who killed other criminals. We are here to protect the general population."

Mr. González Márquez is, of course, unaware that his comments and attitude are part of the problem. He might as well be a Canadian snowbird in Puerto Vallarta, one of those people who think that crime can be out of control in Mexico and yet, magically, not affect them.

What Mr. González Márquez did not point out, but which was revealed later by Jalisco’s Attorney General, is that two of the victims, one of whom had a criminal record from the southern state of Chiapas, were army deserters.

Another of the dead had been imprisoned in the Social Rehabilitation Center in Pochutla, Oaxaca, a stone’s throw from the resort towns of Hautulco and Puerto Escondido, hundreds of miles from Jalisco.

The men had been chained together and shot. They were found bruised, bound at hands and feet. A source from the Medical Examiner (Semfo) told the Mexican press they had been dead from 24 hours to seven days. Presumably, this was a settling of accounts.

Judging by the tattoos of Santa Muerte and clothing, authorities are investigating the possibility that the some of the unidentified dead were Central American migrants trying to reach the United States. If true, it would add a sour note to the governor’s off-handed lack of concern.

This is the third massacre in Jalisco in under a year. On November 24 last year 26 bodies were left in three vehicles in the vicinity of Los Arcos del Milenio in Guadalajara. That incident was attributed to the Millennium Cartel and its alliance with Los Zetas, who were attempting to push out the Sinaloa Cartel and its local ally, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación).

Then, on May 9 of this year 18 bodies were found in Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos, on the road between Chapala and Guadalajara. That massacre was thought to be retaliation for the death of 14 people in far-away Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Saturday 15 September 2012

Has Peña Nieto’s dirty war begun with the “disappearance” of political dissenter Ruy Salgado?

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed concern regarding the disappearance of the Mexican blogger Ruy Salgado of the “El 5antuario” (The Sanctuary) website. Salgado went missing exactly one week ago on Saturday, September 8.

Salgado’s last post was just after 11 pm. The blogger was expected to attend a rally the next day in Mexico City’s central square for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist candidate who lost Mexico’s contested presidential election on July 1st.

Salgado's trade: "uncomfortable information"

Salgado, who is sympathetic to Lopez Obrador and the Mexico’s #Yosoy132 youth movement, has not been heard from since, despite a concerted effort by friends and supporters to find him.

Representatives of Mexico’s Citizens Movement have been seeking clarification as to Salgado’s whereabouts. Salgado became well-known as a  ghost blogger who tracked electoral irregularities alleged by the Progressive Movement coalition.

Friday 14 September 2012

Dr. Rafik Benaissa launches nuisance suit against Canadian newspapers, sets sights on SNC-Lavalin

It is somewhat mystifying that Dr. Rafik Benaissa, brother of former SNC-Lavalin executive Riadh Ben Aissa, has launched law suits alleging that the Globe & Mail and La Presse published defamatory articles linking him to the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Specifically, Dr. Benaissa – who compounds “Ben Aissa” when spelling his name – is arguing that by mentioning his company, Benaissa Oil, in an article referencing the scandal, the newspapers were inferring some kind of relationship where none existed.

The suits against the Globe & Mail and La Presse were filed in the District of Montreal-Quebec Superior court for $10 million and $5 million respectively. (Quebec Superior Court file number 500-17-073048-129 and 500-17-073214-127).

In announcing the suits Dr. Benaissa, a Canadian orthopedic surgeon who works for Trinity Health in Minot, a small town in Northwest North Dakota, said that "Such allegations are false and Riadh Ben Aissa is just a hard working employee, but especially a scapegoat of a political change where SNC-Lavalin intends to keep its multi-million dollars interests in Libya" (sic).

Dr. Rafik Benaissa

Benaissa takes issue with both newspapers mentioning his own company, Benaissa Oil, which is involved in oil exploration in the Middle East as well as the sale of defence equipment.  Benaissa Oil has had as its mailing address the same building in Tunis where SNC-Lavalin’s office was located.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Tweets lead to arrest of amorous cop in Mérida

Social media is putting Mexico`s police under new scrutiny. The local flat feet, long accustomed to casual days of hanging out and maybe picking up a few bribes, are now having their languorous ways posted for all the world to see.

Just yesterday (September 12, 2012) a cop in Mérida, the capital of Yucatán, was photographed outside the local bus station hugging and kissing a lady friend.

And parked on the yellow line, too!

The pictures were posted to Twitter, including a tag to the governor`s account, whereupon the officer not only lost his job, but was also arrested.

The tweet was sent by ``@toyito22``, who added a wry comment about how the officer with the State Police (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública Estatal) was safeguarding public order.

 An investigation in process

The officer, whose cruiser's ID number was clearly displayed in the photograph, had been assigned to patrol the south end of the city. In the picture he was also illegally parked, though that is hardly news unique to Mexico.

It was the speed and the harshness of the response that was notable. The Yucatán governor, Ivonne Ortega Pacheco, announced last night via her official Twitter account that the local lothario had not only been found – he had also been arrested.

Via Twitter...The governor is not amused

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Tuesday 11 September 2012

Latin America’s beach-heads for Islamist terror

The recent decision by Canada to cut diplomatic ties with Iran, and the arrest of three alleged Hezbollah operatives in Mexico, are evidence that the Americas are very much in play when it comes to the threat of Islamist terror.

And though much ink has been spilled on the meaning of these events, and whether or not they reflect an increase in the overall terror threat, the background story is more rhetorical than material: when it comes to diplomacy, words matter. 

In the case of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the language he employs is disturbing in the extreme. It has become a kind of drone, ignored by the mainstream media. It is seen as ridiculous, even silly, or explained away as being misunderstood due to faulty translation.

The truth is that the language is not only disturbing, it has also been deemed acceptable by three Latin American states friendly to Iran: Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. These nominally socialist states, purely as a result of historical hostility to the United States, have cozied up to a theocracy that deems it necessary to spew hatred toward a specific group - the Jews.

The three amigos: Ortega, Chavez, and Ahmadinejad

And, though it is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel, Ahmadinejad takes great license when he calls Israel a "fake regime" that "must be wiped off the map"(or, as per more favourable translations, a “fabricated government” that “must vanish from the pages of time”).

Monday 10 September 2012

Alleged Hezbollah agents captured in Merida, Mexico

According to reports from Mexican media, an American citizen and two other presumed supporters of Hezbollah were captured on the evening of Saturday, September 8, in Mérida, the capital of Yucatán state in the south of Mexico.

Rafic Mohammad Labboun Allaboun, 44, was transferred on the morning of Sunday, September 9, to Houston, Texas, according to Mexican sources close to the operation, and has been remanded to El Paso, Texas, by the FBI for further investigation. He is suspected of being part of an Islamic terrorist cell that operates in Central America and the Yucatán.

 Labboun Allaboun's Mexican mug shot

Rafic Labboun is an imam from the Shiite Association Bay Area (SABA) Mosque in San Jose, California.

The arrests occurred as a part of a joint operation with local police and Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM) in cooperation with the FBI and Homeland Security.

Sunday 19 August 2012

WikiLeaks' Assange and Ecuador's Correa – brothers in hypocrisy

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is wanted in Sweden on sexual assault charges. But his decision to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy is deeply hypocritical, given that Ecuador is one of the most repressive regimes in Latin America when it comes to press freedom.

Assange is concerned that, should he be extradited from Great Britain, the Swedish will not only prosecute him on trumped up accusations, they may then also shunt him off to the United States. From there he could be charged with leaking sensitive information – just as has happened to Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who passed classified information to WikiLeaks.

Ecuador's president Correa expresses his views on press freedom

The Ecuadorian government and Mr. Assange’s supporters see a vast conspiracy. But they are wrong. The Swedish charges are real, and not part of some honeypot. They involve a “Ms. A” and a “Ms. W”.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Fierce gun battles erupt in Bucerias north of Puerto Vallarta

For the shooting on Feb 6, 2013, go here.

The resort town of Bucerias, Mexico, a few miles north of Puerto Vallarta, was shaken on Tuesday, August 14, when violent gun battles erupted between authorities and gangsters.

Mexican authorities are releasing few details, but it looks like there was a raid on two criminal “safe houses”, which resulted in perhaps one death and three arrests.

The incidents began when a deputy director of the Bahia de Banderas municipal police force came across an armed group. Ricardo Flores Aguayo saw the men in a fenced area behind the Arroyos Verdes (Green Streams) neighbourhood. He called in a request for support, which resulted in a shootout, with armed gangsters fleeing the scene.

This shootout was against approximately ten subjects. When the gangsters saw more police coming, they fled up a hill, drawing municipal agents to near the landfill at Arroyos Verdes. Here the authorities were apparently able to make one arrest.

At about 2:30 pm another call came in reporting that armed men were seen near a farmhouse guarded by patrols around the old road to Valle de Banderas.

The police began to put together a response team, but arrived at the scene after most of the gunmen had fled, though they did manage to make their second arrest here.

At the farm they confiscated rifles, fragmentation grenades, and tactical vests, as well as a late model Ford pickup truck. The farm, according to some reports, was being used as a place to “train assassins”.

One local who was working in the Biblioteca Rey Nayar (link includes map), a library sponsored by the expat community, heard the gunfire. Apparently, the shootout went on for an extended period of time.

Outside the "finca" (farm/ranch) 

It appears both State Police and the State Investigation Agency were unhappy with reporters at the crime scene, telling them to “fuck your bitch somewhere else!" According to the Mexican press, however, the reporters refused to leave the site.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Cynthia Vanier case: Canada sends Diplomatic Note to Mexican officials as delays pile up

After over a week of delays and false starts, in which officials within Mexico’s judicial system were either unable or unwilling to offer an adequate translator for Cynthia Vanier, thus making it virtually impossible for her legal team to cross-examine witnesses and evidence, the Canadian government has sent a Diplomatic Note to Mexican officials expressing its concern.

Ms. Vanier, as readers of this blog are well-aware, is the Canadian mediator accused by the Mexican government of being the ring-leader in a plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi, fallen dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s third son, from North Africa to Mexico.

Specific to Ms. Vanier, the main purpose of the hearings is for her defense team to cross examine the prosecution’s evidence. Other defendants in this case are Gabriela de Cueto, who is in the same prison as Ms. Vanier, and two men: Pierre Flensborg and Jose Luis Kennedy Prieto, both of whom are in jail in Veracruz.

Friday July 27 was supposed to be the beginning of two weeks of hearings (audiencias) in Chetumal, where Ms. Vanier is imprisoned, with video link-ups to Mexico City.  The Friday July 27 hearing was cancelled, however, due to the fact that the court in Chetumal failed to provide an official translator.

This is an important issue, as Ms. Vanier does not speak Spanish. It is also something that the court in Chetumal is well aware of, given that a ruling in early May by a judge in Mexico City ordered that Ms. Vanier have access to a translator, as per her rights under the Vienna Convention, the Mexican Constitution, and the Mexican Penal Code.

Then on Monday, July 30, when the parties again showed up in court, the same thing happened. Given that the hearings require the participation of a judge in Mexico City, and everyone’s time was being wasted, that judge decided to cancel the entire week’s audiencias until an official translator could be engaged to fulfill the legal requirements.

Hurricane Ernesto also arrived on their doorstep, resulting in further delays. In total, nine hearings were cancelled and had to be rescheduled. The cancellations now mean that this part of the legal process will go on through the first week of September.

In response to concerns expressed by Ms. Vanier’s husband, Pierre, Canadian consular officials raised the translation issue with the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, seeking their assurances that the trial would progress without untimely delays and that an official translator would be provided. To that end, the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City sent a Diplomatic Note to the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affair expressing the same in writing. 

For the first time in this entire process, which has now dragged on for almost eight months, a Canadian consular official attended a proceeding. The official attended a video conference in Mexico City, but appears to have left half-way through the cross-examination of the second witness.

Given the international significance of this trial, the slow uptake on the part of the Canadians is hard to understand. It may be that they were shamed by the judge in Mexico City, or that there is internal pressure on the Canadian side. There appeared to be no specific or practical purpose to the presence of the consular official – he was likely there simply to make a point as to the Canadian government’s concern with regard to the procedural delays.

Not the real thing far the case has 21 volumes of at least 500 pages each 

The hearings so far

During the hearings Ms. Vanier identified the female officer who elbowed her in the ribs, which has resulted in ongoing kidney problems. This assault has been a part of Ms. Vanier’s defense since the beginning.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Wag that dog: Cynthia Vanier is ill-served by Stewart Bell, Gary Peters, and police leaks

When the National Post’s Stewart Bell broke the news last December that the Canadian mediator Cynthia Vanier had been arrested the previous month in Mexico City for allegedly conspiring to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi from war-torn Libya to Mexico, the world took notice.

But there was a problem: the lead reporter was heavily reliant on one key witness, Gary Peters, as well as on inside police sources. This problem persists, and has skewed the reporting on the case to such a degree that it must be called out.

We now know that Peters – who had acted as a body guard for the younger Gaddafi when he visited Canada, as well as for Ms. Vanier during her SNC Lavalin-sponsored fact-finding mission to Libya last summer – has some serious credibility issues.

One major concern is that Peters is a known fabricator. Another is that Bell and others (including La politica) are aware of police reports and both physical and mental health issues that call into question the credibility of Peters’ various statements. The truth is, Peters may have been gung-ho about a plot to smuggle Gaddafi, even if only in his mind, but there is little hard evidence to suggest others were.

The second problem is perhaps more serious. It is Bell’s close connections to Canada’s security apparatus. He is not alone here: many so-called investigative journalists defer to power in order to gain access to leaked information. They get the scoop and become heroes to their bosses. Sadly, this approach allows the powers that be to lead and even direct the news.

Sometimes it's on purpose

Consequently, one purpose these practices do not serve is the public good. In fact, they often result in fiascos, in which the media get spun to serve the interests of the state, and in which the civil rights of citizens are then violated.

In Canada, one recent example is a police leak of personal contact information to Bell. The person in question is Barrie Rice, who travelled to Libya and to Mexico with Ms. Vanier. Mr. Rice is a respected security consultant with A-list clients such as the Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow. He is a person of interest in this case because he knows both Cynthia Vanier, whom he believes is innocent, and Gary Peters, whom he knows is unreliable.

Thursday 9 August 2012

No surprise that Bruce Beresford-Redman denied amparo

A few weeks ago Mexico's Fourth District Court in Cancun denied an injunction for Bruce Beresford-Redman, the American television producer charged with murdering his wife.
As a result, Beresford-Redman, who was extradited from the United States last February, will remain in detention.

Beresford-Redman at his hearing

In Mexico, this injunction is known as an "amparo". The amparo’s purpose is to protect an accused’s rights under the Mexican Constitution. At any point during a trial a lawyer may propose filing an amparo.

However, early appeals, which occur during or before a trial, as in this case, rarely result in the release of the prisoner. And even if an amparo is upheld a trial usually proceeds. Mexican judges have significant power, and can effectively rule that though constitutional rights may have been violated the public interest nonetheless dictates that a trial should occur.

Beresford-Redman’s lawyer, Carlos Grajales Betancourt, filed for amparo in March, shortly after his client’s extradition. Beresford-Redman is accused of murdering his wife, Monica Ferreira Burgos, in April 2010, when the couple were visiting Mexico with their two young children.

Beresford-Redman, who worked on such reality TV shows as Survivor and Pimp My Ride, has expressed concern for his safety while in jail. There have been at least a dozen violent outbreaks during his incarceration. Now it looks as though he will have to wait out his entire trial, which is expected to take from eight months to a year.

For more on this see The damning evidence against Bruce Beresford-Redman.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Saturday 28 July 2012

On the hunt for Stéphane Roy and Riadh Ben Aïssa

Canadian courts addressing the class action suits against SNC-Lavalin have had a hard time serving court documents to two former executives, Stéphane Roy and Riadh Ben Aïssa.

For Mr. Roy, the difficulty has been in locating him within Canada’s borders. For Mr. Aïssa, the challenge is that he is in prison in Switzerland. Central to Mr. Aïssa’s case is the Hague Service Convention of 1965, which covers the international delivery of court process documents.

Riadh Ben Aïssa

If a document can’t be served in person, then a court can resort to “substituted service”, which is an alternative means of notification. Former SNC executives Roy and Aïssa’s circumstances have made things difficult: Roy because he has been lying low, presumably in Quebec; and Aïssa because he is in jail in Switzerland where he is facing allegations of corruption, fraud and money laundering related to SNC-Lavalin’s alleged corrupt practices in North Africa.

Thursday 12 July 2012

Suspicious Canadian death, and Costa Rica’s dark side

July 12. On Monday, July 9, a 60-year-old man from Quebec was found dead in a hotel room he was renting in Jacó de Garabito, Costa Rica.

Though Serge Gravel reportedly died from three gunshot wounds to the chest, Costa Rican authorities are insisting he committed suicide, as nothing in his room was moved.

Jacó - more than a surf spot

Denise Gravel, the victim's sister, has said that this theory is not believable, given that the first shot in the thorax would have debilitated him. As well, she has told French-language media in Quebec that he appeared to be happy in Costa Rica: “Il était toujours souriant”, she said – “He was always smiling”.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Jalisco dumps PAN for PRI

(A version of this article first appeared at Global Delivery Report).

July 11. Mexico’s election on July 1st not only elected a new president, it also brought in a new governor for the state of Jalisco, where the capital city, Guadalajara, is an important hub for investment in technology and innovation.

The governor-elect is the telegenic 38-year-old lawyer Jorge Aristóteles Sandoval Díaz of the centrist PRI party. He defeated the business-friendly PAN party, which has held the governor’s chair in this culturally conservative, pro-catholic state for the past 18 years.

Enrique Peña Nieto and Sandoval Díaz campaigning together

Mr. Sandoval Díaz, whose father is a magistrate with the Supreme Court in Jalisco, will have a friend at Los Pinos, Mexico’s White House. The president elect Enrique Peña Nieto is also from PRI, which ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000.

Monday 2 July 2012

In Mexico, Peña Nieto’s masters get what they paid for

In the end, if this is the end, it was much closer than many thought.

Mexico’s left-of-centre PRD and its candidate,  Andrés Manuel López Obrador, gained 31.71% of the popular vote in the country’s presidential election, with Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI capturing 38.05%.

Josefina Vázquez Mota of the ruling right-of-centre PAN placed third, at 25.86%, with smaller parties picking up the remainder.

(For results in real-time go here. Also note that, as of this post, López Obrador has yet to concede).

Peña Nieto had been polling in the low 40s, with López Obrador in the high 20s. The spread had consistently been from 13 to 18 percentage points. The closer gap could be due to a higher turnout of young people swayed by the #YoSoy132 youth movement.

#YoSoy132 activists monitoring the vote late into the evening at their 
command post under the Monumento a la Revolucion, Mexico City, July 1 

Peña Nieto was saved by his effective party apparatus, which has spent the past 12 years regrouping. The PRI ruled Mexico continuously from 1929 to 2000, and was infamous for having a well-oiled political machine that bought and stole its way to the presidency every six years.

Saturday 30 June 2012

#YoSoy132’s final election push

Mexico City, June 30. It was May 11, less than two months before Mexico’s July 1 presidential election. Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico from 1929 until 2000, was well ahead in the polls. He strolled in to have a chat with some middle class students at the private Ibero-American University in Mexico City.

He expected an easy ride. After all, these weren’t the rabble rousers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. These affluent students would be tired of the ruling National Action Party (PAN), which had plunged Mexico into a drug war that had claimed over 55,000 lives. And they certainly weren’t leftist supporters of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

But what Peña Nieto got was a very rough ride indeed. The students heckled him. They mocked him. They faced him behind masks of the notoriously corrupt Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the PRI president from 1988 to 1994.

Peña Nieto went and hid in the washroom. As his handlers hustled him away, hundreds of students openly accused him of corruption and a poor track record when he was governor of the State of Mexico, the country’s most populous.

Videos of the event went viral. Peña Nieto’s team accused the hecklers of being leftist plants. 131 Ibero students countered with YouTube videos showing their university ID cards. The news began trending on Twitter, with young people around Mexico – and the world – claiming solidarity as the 132nd dissenter. #YoSoy132 (I am 132) was born.

Tlatelolco - June 30

The movement didn’t stop there. It pressed its three main demands: security and human rights; education; and the democratization of the media.