Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Power and Impunity

“Los Angeles Times” reporter Chris Kraul tells a gruesome story of what is happening in the Mexico of Vicente Fox.,1,2050354.story

Fox, you may remember, was the shining democratic hope who pried the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) (which is infinitely more institutional than revolutionary) from power after 60-plus years in the catbird’s seat.

He’s over now and spends his time at a lot of diplomatic functions overseas which is as it should be.

Why? Well, there’s no more democracy in Mexico now than there was when the PRI ran things. The big story down there presently is the corruption case directed by Fox’s government against the mayor of Mexico City - a guy named Lopez Obrador.

Lopez belongs to (and may even lead) the left-wing entry, the Revolutionary Democratic Party (which is infinitely more revolutionary than it is democratic). He is, for the time being, polling way ahead of potential presidential candidates from Fox’s center-right PAN grouping and the PRI.

Unable to affect real, progressive change in Mexico, Fox’s government has cooked up legal assault Lopez Obrador that is hard to take for anything more than a flimsy, cooked-up piece of nonsense. The ultimate goal of which is to put him jail during the 2006 elections.

The scale of the corruption involved is smaller than anything that Whitewater ever produced on the Clintons. Fox admits this, but is standing on some “principal” or other related to Mexican law, which is something of a first for him; way too late and not better than never at all.

But that’s not what the scribe wants to write about today. That’s just a symptom of the same sad, sick, undemocratic, murderous situation that is Mexico.

So back to Kraul’s article, which ran April 12 and was entitled, “Investigative Journalism Proves Life-Threatening in Mexico.”

It tells the horrifying tale of journalists in particular, and in general, in that God forsaken country.
To wit: Raul Gibb Guerrero, owner and editor of a paper called “La Opinión” in Poza Rica was shot to death April 8, or thereabouts; presumably over his exposes on traffickers of stolen gasoline and drugs in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz.

His family started the award-winning paper 50 years ago and “La Opinión” has locked horns with corrupt higher-ups in the state-owned oil consortium Pemex or Petroleos Mexicanos.

These people apparently had enough and hired four gunmen to pump 15 pieces of lead into Gibb while he was driving home from work. A wife and three kids are left to carry on with the memory and horror.

A few days earlier, Kraul’s fine piece continues, a radio reporter named Guadalupe Garcia Escamilla was shot nine times after leaving the station where she is employed, Estereo (that’s Spanish for “stereo”) 91.

She had, according to the article, been “digging into municipal corruption.” Garcia is not dead, but is in very critical condition.

Less fortunate was 25-year old Alfredo Jimenez Mota who worked for the newspaper “El Imparcial” in the border town of Hermosillo. He had recently done some scribery on drug traffickers and their plans to kills some local officials.

Jimenez disappeared April 2, after receiving threats, and has not been heard from since. If the scribe knows his Mexico and his journalists, he knows Jimenez will never be heard from again.

The security minister in the state of Tamaulipas, where the second and third cases occurred, suggests reporters carry firearms.

So much for the pen being mightier than the sword. It simply cannot be when impunity reigns. For the whole idea of a functioning, watchdog press depends upon the response of civic society and legal authority, both of which are in short supply in the Mexico of Vicente Fox.

It’s a good thing something like that can’t happen here. Or can it?

Let’s just say the scribe never allows himself to feel too safe.

Jeffrey Fleishman, another reporter at the “Los Angeles Times” wrote another article the same day that should scare the bejeezus out of anyone with two strong eyes to read.,1,4839658.story

“Man’s Claims May Be a Look at Dark Side of War on Terror,” tells the tale of Khaled el-Masri who went from Germany to Macedonia to escape the wife and kids for a while.

It was his misfortune to attend a mosque in Ulm, Germany that has been the focus of (p)resident Bush’s rabid war on terror, and to have the same last name as a high-ranking Al-Qaeda operative.

the scribe has been on the road and reporting all day so he’s not going to get too much into the gruesome details. Suffice it to day this guy spent a very uncomfortable five months being stripped naked, beaten, shot-up with drugs, jailed in Afghani cell with dirty drinking water, and interrogated ad nauseum before being dumped from a van in the mountains of Albania of all places.

He was never charged with anything and nobody, as he pointed, ever apologized.

But don’t worry. “A CIA spokesman declined to comment on Masri’s case,” the article reads, “but White House, Justice Department and CIA officials have long argued that U.S. laws authorize such covert operations.”

That U.S. laws authorize such covert operations. (!)

Feeling safer?

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