Mexico: “Badillo Outs a Disinformer”

gonzalez.jpg
The U.S. Attorney General with his Mexican counterpart, Eduardo Medina-Mora. See
Adult Supervision for Mexican Narcs? Whether Gonzalez pressured subordinates to bring corruption charges against political opponents during campaign season remains an open question.

The folklore of corruption is good business … for the corrupt — Elio Gaspari

“Dear Dr. Monreal. With respect to your letter of January 11, 2007, addressed to the federal attorney, Medina Mora, in which you request informationa bout the accuracy of an article published in Contralínea magazine (Vol. 4, No. 60) in the second half of July 2006, bylined to Miguel Badillo, with e headline “PGR investigates Mornreal for money laundering,” which is attached for your reference. Allow me to inform you that no preliminary investigation or charge against you exists you in this office for the crime of Operations with Funds from Illicit Sources.”

Oficio de Papel is the weekly Web column of Miguel Badillo of Mexico.

Last year, he reports, he wrote an article in Contralínea, reporting the existence of a federal (PGR) money-laundering investigation against PRD senator Monreal Ávila, suspected of having a Swiss bank account for that purpose.

Badillo now says he was misinformed on that point.

Sources at the PGR now say no such investigation ever existed.

In response, Badillo outs the source whom he suspects of lying to him: former federal prosecutor Daniel Cabeza de Vaca, currently serving as chief [Mexican White House] counsel to Felipe Calderón.

We saw a parallel case come to light here recently in Brazil. Back in the mid-1990s, Veja magazine was about to publish an article charging a prominent political figure with having $1 million in a bank account.

Just before deadline, the fact-checking department came back and said its information was that the account actually contained R$1,000.

See

Veja called up various sources until it found one — a political enemy of the subject of the exposé — who was willing to confirm the $1 million figure. On condition of anonymity.

When the story outed, Veja issued what essentially amounted to a Judy Millerist mea culpa: “You are only as good as your (anonymous) sources.”

Badillo appears to be admitting that he has fallen for the “leak journalism” trap as well — though we will have to look at how much credence he gave to the charge in that Contralíneas piece before judging the apparent damage to his credibility.

The difference here, in any event, being that Badillo outs the source that disinformed him with great vehemence. Judy Miller went to jail rather than do that — and won the SPJ’s First Amendment prize for doing so. Then took a gracious early retirement from the New York Times.
And those were not just the bad old days, either: Veja magazine ran a story last year to the effect that various senior federal officials had offshore bank accounts — then attributed those charges to a “dossier” compiled by banker Daniel Dantas. Same rationale: “We are mere conduits for our sources.”

As though a newsmagazine or newspaper was one of those old-fashioned “make your own record” booths. Existing for no other purpose than to rent out time in front of the gazillion-jigawatt megaphone to the highest bidder.

This is the newsweekly laying claim to the tradition of Woodward & Bernstein these days in Brazil.

But of course, Woodward and Bernstein corroborated what their “Deep Throat” source was telling them. Carefully and meticulously. They could not have survived the pressure political brought to bear on them otherwise. (The Abril Group appears to have more confidence in its ability to outmaneuver the “sex Senator” in his bid to question a recent M&A transaction of theirs in the cable TV sector.)

And Woodstein, too, at one point were themselves induced to print planted disinformation, designed to undermine their credibility, as you will recall from their book.

Algo anda mal con la procuración de justicia en nuestro país, en donde el ser político, funcionario o empresario es como tener un pase permanente a la impunidad. Parece que nada se puede hacer para sancionar todas las irregularidades y corruptelas que se cometen desde el poder, sin que autoridad alguna se preocupe por investigarlas y, al contrario, son las mismas estructuras gubernamentales las que protegen a los delincuentes de cuello blanco, quienes miran la justicia como sólo un instrumento que se debe de aplicar a los pobres que no tienen recursos para pagar abogados, sobornar jueces o comprar autoridades.

Something is really wrong with the administration of justice in Mexico, where being a politician, civil servant or business owner means having a permanent “get out of fail free” card. It seems that nothing can be done to sanction all these irregularities and corrupt dealings committed by people in power, without anyone taking the trouble to investigate them. On the contrary, it is the structures of power themselves that protect the white-collar criminals, who view the rule of law as an instrument that applies only to those too poor to pay for lawyers, bribe judges, or buy public officials.

Ejemplos de esta impunidad hay muchos y actuales, como el enriquecimiento del expresidente Vicente Fox y esposa, mostrado por la misma Marta Sahagún, o los hijos de ésta, los hermanos Bribiesca, quienes cínicamente han reconocido públicamente el tráfico de influencias y las componendas y negocios obtenidos bajo el manto protector de Los Pinos, cuando su padrastro Fox ocupó la Presidencia de la República. Ante esto el gobierno de Felipe Calderón ha sido incapaz de fincar alguna responsabilidad y, por el contrario, ha ocultado pruebas evidentes de la corrupción en Los Pinos en tiempos del foxismo, como es aquel expediente abierto en la Secretaría de la Función Pública y del cual hemos dado cuenta aquí, del millonario gasto ordenado por Fox y Marta para la remodelación de las cabañas y de la casa presidencial, en donde de acuerdo con la auditoría practicada por el mismo gobierno foxista hubo irregularidades y desvíos de por lo menos 30 millones de pesos.

Examples of this impunity are numerous and the subject of current headlines, such as the enrichment of Fox and his wife, as shown by Mrs. Fox herself, or her sons, the Bribiesca Bros., who have cynically acknowledged in public their influence-peddling and the business they obtained under the protection of [the Mexican Shite house] when their stepfather was President. Before such facts, the Calderón government has proven incapable of assigning any responsibility. On the contrary, it has hidden glaring evidence of corruption at Los Pinos during the Fox years, such as the case opened by the secretary of the civil service, which we have written about here, into the million-dollar spending ordered by the Foxes to remodel the guesthouses and presidential residence, during which, according to an audit conducted by the Fox administration itself, there were irregularities and misappropriates of at least 30 million pesos.

Divide by about 10 for $.

Pero aún con las evidencias de esa corrupción, el gobierno calderonista ha sido incapaz en más de un año que tiene de haber asumido el poder, para proceder en contra de su antecesor, a quien siente que le debe la Presidencia de la República, por ello no veremos a Fox y su pareja sentimental tras las rejas, por eso ambos se burlan de los mexicanos ante las cámaras y micrófonos, porque la justicia en México no se aplica a los hombres del poder y mucho menos a los funcionarios que garantizan la corrupción del sistema en donde todos los delincuentes ganan.

But despite all the evidence of this corruption, the Calderón government has been powerless in its first year and a half in office to proceed against Calderón’s successor, to whom he feels he owes his presidency. Which is why we do not see Mr. and Mrs. Fox behind bar, which is why they continue to deceive Mexican citizens before the TV cameras. Because Mexican justice does not apply to the powerful, much less to officials who [keep the “fix” in] for corruption in which crime pays off for everyone involved.

Por eso no causa extrañeza la carta que el maestro Noé Ramírez Mandujano, subprocurador de Investigación Especializada en Delincuencia Organizada de la PGR, envió el 7 de febrero de 2007 al senador perredista Ricardo Monreal Ávila, a quien le dice: “Distinguido Dr. Monreal. En atención a su atento escrito del 11 de enero de 2007, dirigido al Licenciado Eduardo Medina Mora Icaza, Procurador General de la República, mediante el cual solicita se informe respecto a la veracidad del contenido del artículo publicado en la Revista Contralínea de la segunda quincena de julio del 2006, año 4, número 60, atribuido a Miguel Badillo, con el título ‘PGR investiga a Monreal por lavado de dinero’, y que anexo para mayor referencia. Me permito notificar a Usted que en la Subprocuraduría de Investigación Especializada en Delincuencia Organizada, no existe averiguación previa o acta circunstanciada iniciada en su contra por el delito de Operaciones con Recursos de Procedencia Ilícita”.

For that reason, it is not surprising to read the letter sent by the PGR’s assistant federal attorney for organized crime [the SIEDO division], dated February 7, 2007, to Senator Ricardo Monreal Ávila, which reads: “Dear Dr. Monreal. With respect to your letter of January 11, 2007, addressed to the federal attorney, Medina Mora, in which you request information about the accuracy of an article published in Contralínea magazine (Vol. 4, No. 60) in the second half of July 2006, bylined to Miguel Badillo, with the headline “PGR investigates Mornreal for money laundering,” which is attached for your reference. Allow me to inform you that no preliminary investigation or proceeding against you exists you in this office for the crime of Operations with Funds from Illicit Sources.”

Qué ocurre en la PGR, en donde fue el mismo exprocurador Daniel Cabeza de Vaca, actual consejero jurídico del presidente de la República, Felipe Calderón, quien confirmó el año pasado la existencia de esa investigación por el delito de lavado de dinero en contra del senador Ricardo Monreal, y precisó que se trataba de una acta circunstanciada abierta en la Subprocuraduría de Investigación Especializada en Delincuencia Organizada y hasta informó sobre el mecanismo que supuestamente el senador perredista había utilizado para transferir de México a cuentas en el extranjero de alrededor de 90 millones de dólares.

What is going on at the PGR, where it was former prosecutor Cabeza de Vaca himself — currently chief counsel to President Calderón — who confirmed the existence of this investigation last year, adding that it was a proceeding opened by the organized crime division of the PGR to investigate allegations of money laundering by Monreal. He even reported on the alleged mechanism the PRD senator used to transfer $90 million to accounts abroad.

Ahora ante la justa exigencia que hace el senador Monreal al procurador Eduardo Medina Mora-Icaza para que le informe si hay alguna acusación o investigación en su contra sobre la transferencia de 90 millones de dólares para ocultarlos en bancos suizos, la PGR simplemente se lava las manos y dice que no hay tal investigación, cuando la fuente principal de aquella información fue el mismo procurador general de la República, Daniel Cabeza de Vaca, quien hasta explicó el mecanismo financiero que había según dijo habría utilizado Monreal para sacar dinero sucio del país. Este mismo Cabeza de Vaca es el consejero jurídico del presidente de la República, así están las cosas con la procuración de justicia.

Now, given the Senator’s just demand to Medina Mora-Icaza to tell him whether there is a case against him for laundering $90 million into secret Swiss bank accounts, the PGR simply washes its hands and says there was no investigation, when the principal source of that information was a federal attorney, Cabeza de Vaca … who even described the mechanism used to send dirty money out of the country. This same Cabez de Vaca is now chief counsel to the president of Mexico. Thus things stand with the administration of Justice in Mexico.

¿Entonces, quién miente en todo este espinoso caso? Acaso cuando un procurador general de la República deja el encargo público se puede llevar consigo todos los expedientes delicados que involucran a políticos o funcionarios en actos ilícitos de supuesta corrupción, porque de ser así Cabeza de Vaca tendría que enfrentar a la justicia por abuso de autoridad y ocultamiento de pruebas por desaparecer expedientes de investigaciones ministeriales, o durante su gestión al frente de la PGR, en el gobierno de Vicente Fox, simplemente abrió un expediente en contra Monreal por cuestiones políticas, pues en aquellos días se vivía con intensidad el proceso electoral para elegir presidente de la República y el ahora senador era el principal operador político del candidato Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a quien Vicente Fox le tenía un gran miedo de que pudiera llegar a la Presidencia. En cualquier caso, hay responsabilidad del mismo procurador Medina Mora y del ahora consejero jurídico Cabeza de Vaca, quienes deben una explicación de qué ocurrió con ese expediente en contra del actual senador perredista, a quien la PGR le había hecho graves imputaciones, como lo dice el mismo Monreal en una carta enviada a Medina Mora el 11 de diciembre de 2006:

Who, then, is lying in this thorny case? Perhaps when a federal attorney leaves office, he takes along with him all the files on delicate cases involving politicians or civil servants in illicit deeds of alleged corruption. If that were the case, Cabeza de Vaca would have to face justice on charges of abuse of authority or concealing evidence, for having made off with case files. Or perhaps it was that during his time heading the PGR under Fox, he simply opened a case file on Monreal for political reasons, at a time when the presidential campaign was intense and Monreal was a principal campaign operative of López Obrador, who Fox was afraid might win the presidency. In either case, both Medina Mora and Cabeza de Vaca must be held accountable. They owe an explanation of what happened to this case against the current PRD senator, against whom the PGR made serious accusation, as Mroneal himself said in this letter to Medina dated December 11, 2006.

Carta de Monreal Ávila a Medina Mora

Monreal’s letter to Medina Mora:

Skippping opening formalities.

En la revista Contralínea de la segunda quincena del mes de julio del 2006 (año 4, número 60) sepublica un artículo con la firma del periodista y director general de dicha publicación, Miguel Badillo, con el título “PGR investiga a Monreal por lavado dte dinero”.

In Contralínea (Vol. 4, No. 6), an article was published, bylined to journalist and editor in chief, Miguel Badillo, under the headline “PGR investigates Monreal for money laundering.”

En dicho espacio periodístico se cita en diversas ocasiones a la institucion que usted preside. Tal es el caso de los siguientes expresiones:

This publication cites in various places the institution over which you prside. Such is the case with the following statements:

“Una acta circunstanciada revela el interés que la Procuraduría mantiene en los movimientos financieros del ex gobernador de Zacatecas. Se presume transferencias por más de 90 millones de dólares.

“A proceeding reveals the interest the federal attorney has in the financial transactions of the former Zacatecas governor. Transfers of over $90 million are alleged.”

“La Procuraduría General de la República investiga a Ricardo Monreal Avila, ex gobernador de Zacatecas y uno de los hombres más cercanos al perredista Andrés Manuel López Obrador, por una acusación en su contra por transferir supuestamente 90 millones de dólares para ocultarlos en bancos de Suiza.

The PGR is investigating Monreal … one of the closest men to López Obrador, over an accusation that he alleged transferred $90 million to Swiss banks in order to hide them.”

“De acuerdo con una acta circunstanciada elaborada en la PGR y confirmada con fuentes de alto nivel de esa misma entidad de justicia, el gobierno mexicano ha solicitado oficialmente información a las autoridades judiciales y financieras de Estados Unidos y de España sobre probables transferencias de millones de dólares que hubiera hecho Ricardo Monreal y su ex secretario particular hacia instituciones financieras de Europa vía paraísos financieros del Caribe.

“According to a [case file] prepared by the PGR, and confirmed with high-ranking sources at that office, the Mexican government has officially requested information from financial and judicial authorities in the United States and Spain about probable transfers of millions of dollars Monreal and his former private secretary supposedly made to bank in Europe through fiscal paradises in the Caribbean. “

“En las pesquisas intervienen también especialistas en la lucha contra el blanqueo de capitales de la Secretaría de Hacienda y autoridades de la agregaduría de la PGR con sede en España, pues en este país supuestamente habría una cuenta concentradora en un banco español y de allí, para borrar el origen, el dinero se habría desviado hacia otras instituciones financieras como casas de bolsa y casas de cambio, según los informantes responsables de las pesquisas.

“This investigations also count on the participation of money laundering specialists from the Treasury Secretary and officials from the PGR office in Spain, for it was in Spain that an [intermediary] account was allegedly opened from which, to conceal its origin, the money was transferred to other institutions, such as stock exchanges and currency exchange houses, according to the sources resposible for those investigations.”

“La PGR está a la espera de la información solicitada a las autoridades estadounidenses que, a través de su sistema de intervención financiera en todo el mundo y la búsqueda de dinero sucio, pudiera servir para acusar penalmente a Monreal Avila por el delito de ‘lavado de dinero’.

“The PGR is waiting for the information it requestions from U.S. authorities, who, through their system for financial intervention worldwide and tracking dirty money, might help to bring criminal charges against Monreal Avila for money laundering.”

Más adelante se menciona nuevamente a la PGR: “De acuerdo con testigo y ex colaborador de Ricardo Monreal, cuya identidad mantiene en secreto la PGR, el ex mandatario zacatecano habría obtenido el dinero producto de actividades ilícitas, por lo cual la PGR lo investiga para deslindar cualquier posible vínculo con bandas del narcotráfico y por presumibles fraudes a través de obras públicas cuando se desempeñó como gobernador de Zacatecas, en donde aseguran benefició a la empresa constructora Plata, propiedad de un amigo muy cercano a Monreal y quien se hizo cargo prácticamente de toda la obra pública en zacatecas, lo que le permitió crecer en ese sexenio”.

The PGR is mentioned again further down: “According to a witness and former collaborator of Monreal’s, whose identity the PGR is keeping secret, the former governor obtained the money through illegal activities, which is why the PGR is investigating him to rule out any ties to narcotrafficking grupos or fraud in public works projects during his term as governor, when they say he favored the Plata construction firm, property of a close friend of his, with practically every public-works contract in the state, which helped it to grow during Monreal’s term.”

En virtud de que la fuente de información principal y única de esta nota periodística es la dependencia que usted preside, en ejercicio de los derechos constitucionales de información y audiencia me dirijo a usted para solicitar de manera formal la siguiente consulta:

In virtue of the fact that the principal, and only, source of this journalistic report is the agency you head, and exercising my constitutional right to information and due process, I formally request you inform me of the following:

Si existe o no esa presunta “acta circunstanciada” mencionada en el artículo del señor Miguel Badillo.

1. Whether the alleged proceeding mentioned in the article really exists.

Si es cierto o falso que exista una acusación en mi contra “por transferir supuestamente 90 millones de dólares para ocultarlos en bancos de Suiza”.

2. Whether it is true or false the there is an accusation against me “for allegedly transferring $90 million in order to hide them in Swiss banks.”

3. Si es verdad o mentira que “el gobierno mexicano ha solicitado oficialmente información a las autoridades judiciales y financieras de Estados Unidos y de España sobre probables transferencias de millones de dólares que hubieran hecho Ricardo Monreal y su ex secretario particular hacia instituciones financieras de Europa vía paraísos financieros del Caribe”.

3. Whether it is true, or a lie, that “the Mexican government has officially requestion information from U.S. financial and law-enforcement officials …

4. Si es fundada o infundada la versión de que “…la PGR lo investiga para deslindar cualquier posible vínculo con bandas del narcotráfico y por presumibles fraudes a través de obras públicas cuando se desempeñó como gobernador de Zacatecas”.

4. Whether it is well founded or not that ” … the PGR is investigating him to rule out any possible ties with narcotrafficking groups or presumed public-works fraud …”

And so on.

Badillo continues:

Hasta aquí la carta enviada por el senador Monreal Ávila al procurador Medina Mora, y aunque han pasado ocho meses de la respuesta de la PGR a través del subprocurador responsable de la SIEDO, Noé Ramírez Mandujano, en donde deslinda a Monreal de cualquier acusación en su contra, aún deben explicar el procurador y el exprocurador quién fue el responsable de la fabricación de tan graves delitos, los motivos de ello y su resultado, de lo contrario el actual gobierno de Felipe Calderón seguirá protegiendo la impunidad, como en el caso de la expareja presidencial.

So much for the letter Monreal sent Medina Mora, and although it took 8 months for him to receive a reply from the federal attorney in charge of SIEDO, in which tells Monreal there are no accusations against him, the federal attorney and his predecessor still need to explain who is responsible for fabricating these serious charges, the motives for doing so, and the results of that act. If not, Calderón will only be continuing to perpetuate impunity, as in the case of the Foxes.

Never start fact-checking anything until it has been embodied in an official press release

Badillo is a very fine and careful journalist, but even very fine journalists, under presure, can be lulled into the complacency that comes from easy access to official sources.

A lot of the saga of Zhenli Ye Gon, for example, in Mexican investigative journalism, appears to be the product of a “one document per week,” soap-opera style leak-fest from SIEDO and the PGR.

You start to get dueling leaks, and freaky leaks, and deaky leaks, and the leaks come in two hours before deadline so you just write them up and run them.

No time to fact check, because the sources is threatening to give it to someone else unless you hurry up and run it.

It makes an interesting parallel case to consider as Dan Rather gets set to sue CBS for borking him over those ambiguous “smoking gun” documents about Bush ibn Bush’s military service, or lack thereof.

(Believe it or not, I was actually at the SPJ panel that day — I think it was with Walter Cronkite and the William Bonner-lookalike Brian Williams — when the producer, who was on the panel, got the page to come back to the Black Rock Bldg. and handle the first stirrings of “superscriptgate.”

An issue I am actually sort of on the fence about. On one hand, the story had plenty of circumstantial information, without having to reach for the smoking gun of a memo typed on an allegedly anachronistic IBM Selectric.

On the other hand, Bush as draft dodger was sort of a tired story on which the statute of limitations had run. He had done other, more concrete things lately that it might have been more useful to look into.

On the one hand, Dan Rather’s defense of the reporting was reasonably credible, by Journalistic 1.0 standards. I remember watching it.

On the other hand, the guy did have “managing editor” in his job title.

Maybe he ought to have been adult-supervising the producer who bit on the ambiguous “smoking gun” evidence rather than working on his gravitas and cowboy poetry in the mirror. That, after all, is supposedly why the guy gets the big bucks, right?

Well, that lawsuit will be an interesting dispute to watch, at any rate.

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