v. Banamex:

A David vs. Goliath drug war story in a NY court

Al Giordano said he would put the drug war on trial, and after a July 20 hearing in a New York City courtroom, few doubters remain. Razor Wire subscribers may recall reading in our March/April issue about Giordano being forced to defend his investigative journalism against a civil lawsuit filed by Banco de Nacional de Mexico, or Banamex. Giordano's Internet reports on Central and South American drug trafficking frequently identified the president of Banamex, Roberto Hernandez Ramirez, as a millionaire money-launderer and an international drug kingpin, a friend of U.S. and Mexican presidents. Ramirez and Banamex filed a defamation lawsuit in August 2000 in an attempt to shut down publishing of and its courageous investigators.

There's much history behind Banamex's suit. At stake are the rights of independent reporters colliding with the moneyed interests of major drug traffickers with much to hide. The Mexican coastline on the Gulf is a traditional drop-off area for cocaine shipments from Colombia destined for U.S. buyers. Ramirez lives in this area and has been implicated in drug trafficking by Mario Renata Menendez Rodriguez, the heroic publisher of Por Esto, one of Mexico's largest newspapers. After a lengthy criminal libel trial brought by Banamex lasting more than two years, a Mexican judge ruled that Por Esto's investigation (republished in Narco News Bulletin by Giordano) had not libeled Banamex. This decision was upheld on appeal in Mexico in May of 2000. A third attempt by Banamex to press criminal charges in Mexico was thrown out of court. Unrelenting, Banamex hopes to try again in a Manhattan Supreme Court building with groundless charges against Giordano and codefendant Mario Renata Menendez Rodriguez.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a leading organization defending First Amendment rights in the cyber-age, filed an amicus brief in support of Narco News Bulletin's right to publish. Among items in the memorandum, it's noted that "the new independent journalists of the Internet, as personified by Al Giordano, play a crucial role in preserving the democratic aspirations of First Amendment protection. The role of such journalists is especially salient as mainstream media is increasingly in the hands of fewer and fewer large corporations."

Why hasn't Banamex sued media like El Universal, AP, Wall Street Journal, the Boston Phoenix or the Village Voice that published the same facts? They have a weak case, and because Giordano and Mario Rodriguez are poor, Banamex hopes to win by weight of money spent. Giordano the giant killer is poised to bring down Goliath Banamex by virtue of truth alone.

Al said they had a good day in court on July 20 with an intelligent judge on the bench. She will take several months to rule on the first round of motions to dismiss. Giordano can now get back to work reporting on the drug war "from somewhere in America." He's planning a mid-September mini-tour of Boston, New York and possibly Washington, DC. He plans to speak at the 15th Annual Hemp Rally on Boston Common. Al's paradise of anonymity has come to an end, and there's a profile of him with first photo taken in four years in the summer Rolling Stone magazine. Wall Street Journal may come out with his story also.

Donations are needed from anyone who loves to support a good First Amendment fight. In the Biblical Old Testament, David brought down Goliath with a single stone. Such truth about the clay feet of giants may also mean for monster banks such as Banamex that this fight is about over.

For online information about how you can help or donate in this important case, see: