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Ye Gon: Where have all the millions gone?

27 September 2016

Nine years ago, “Operation Dragon” resulted in the largest cash seizure in Mexican history. More than a few Mexican would like to know what happened to the 205 million dollars (in US dollars, Euros and Mexican pesos) seized from Mexican-Chinese businessman Zhenli Ye Gon.

“Hold, or hang, ” the explanation Ye Gon used with an AP reporter when he claimed he’d been holding the money for a political operator, who threatened him if he didn’t cache the cash in his home was repeated everywhere in Mexico, in political cartoons, in comedy routines, printed on tee-shirts, as a refrain in satircal song lyrics and even appropirated by narco-gangsters in their taunting messages.

The cash was found in Ye Gon’s mansion in March 2007. The images of massive piles of dollar bills that filled a room of the Attorney General’s Office (PGR, for its initials in Spanish) was seen around the world. The government of Mexico presented Operation Dragon as the most devastating blow ever to the coffers of drug trafficking.
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So… where’s the money?

Under present Mexican law, the government can only appropriate the goods of someone accused of drug trafficking when he has been found guilty. Ye Gon has not yet been sentenced either in Mexico, nor in the United States (where he fled, only losing his bid to avoid extradition back to Mexico last week). However, in 2007, when the money was transferred to the Mexican government under then existing regulations that gave the owner of confiscated money 90 days after notification to claim his or her money. After 90 days, seized goods were considered abandoned property and could be transferred to the government.

Neither Ye Gon, nor his legal representatives claimed the seized assents, according to the Servicio de Administración y Enajenación de Bienes (SAE), which has authority over abandoned and seized property.

That does not mean that the cash sat in a vault for three months, waiting for the owner to claim it. A few days after showing off the loot for the media, the PGR deposited the hundreds of thousands of individual bills in the military bank, Banejército, as the only facility able to store that amount of cash. Banejército later transferred the money to the headquarters of Banco Santander in Mexico, this in order to certify and count the money again.

Sandander transferred the physical cash to an undisclosed Bank of America location in the United States, reportint to SAE that about $21,000 was counterfeit. The Mexican government used about a half-million of the seized cash to pay Bank of America for their services, including transportation expenses and taxes.

dinero-habitacion-pgrThe SAE report indicates that BofA did not physically return the money but made an equivalent digital transfer back to Santander. In late April 2007, Santander made their own digital transfer, returing the money to Banjército. Mexican authorities explained in the report that for security resons, no Mexican bank can have $ 205 million sitting around in cash.

Although at this juncture, Ye Gon still had two months to claim his assets, the most intriguing part of the SAE report, is an enigmatic note that says the “did not constitute proof” of Ye Gon doing anything illegal. Although both the US Drug Enforcement Agency and the PGR concluded that the 200+ millions were probably drug profits, the PGR felt it was unnecessary to keep the cash as physical evidence in their investigation of Ye Gon. So far no one has offered an explanation.

Ninety days passed since the raid on the Ye Gon mansion in las Lomas. SAE published the required legal notice in the major Mexican newspapers, but no one stepped forward. So, the next step, under the then-extent law holding that contraband seized in the course of a narcotics investigation should be used to combat drug trafficking, the money was split with a third each for the PGR, the Ministry of Health and a Judicial board overseeing court modifications. In theory, the PGR pursues drug traffickers, the judiciary sanctions them, and the Ministry of Health serves victims of drug trafficking, including and especially people with addiction problems.

Each institution received about 68 million dollars. The PGR balance sheet indicates that the procuratorate invested about eight million dollars in equipment for operations and research and around 20 million in remodeling and purchase of office buildings and about same amount in security systems for buildings. Another million dollars was spent on vehicles and the rest was used to cover property amd sales taxes from the new purchases. To date, the PGR has not revealed their buying criteria let alone the benefits of these in the war on drugs.

According to their reports, the Ministry of Health used the money to build 240 rehabilitation centers throughout the country and distributed the rest to the states for anti-addictiion progams. There are no reports to indicate whether the centers and the budget increase had any impact on addiction rates in the country.

The Council of the Judiciary deposited its part in an investment fund used to renovate courts, provide training to the judiciary and generally “improve services”. In a memorandum delivered to Univision the Council said it was not possible to know specifically which money they have spent came from the Ye Gon haul, or to separate it from other funds.

The original seizure also included about 5,700 articles of values, including furniture, jewelry and automobiles. Also unclaimed, there auctioned by SAE, netting about 63 million pesos or US$ 6 million US at the time.

Additional Ye Gon properties, including his mansion in Las Lomas, remain in custody of the agency. Ye Gon’s former neighbors say the Mexican government has tried to use the place for PGR offices, but the neighborhood association has thwarted all their efforts.

Today, the ostentatious mansion is abandoned as Mexican judicial authorities continue to look into the origin of the fortune.

(Translated, with changes for clarity, from “Que Paso con el dinero decomisado al chino Zhenli Ye Gon, los 205 millions de dólares”, Narcoviolencia.com.mx)

Our “Triangle Shirtwaist Factory”

21 September 2016

Everyone has seen the photos of the destroyed Regis Hotel, and Tlatelolco taken the morning of the 19th of September 1985.  The first — a luxury hotel — and the middle class housing project, were the locus of attempts to save lives, while in San Antonio Abad, filled with small factories and sweatshops, the media and public were kept away.  There, rescue efforts, such as they were, focused on recovering property rather than saving lives. Small gold-working shops in the neighborhood (which weren’t labor-intensive) were the center of official attention in San Antonio Abad.

Over 300 seamstresses and other workers would die and most of their bodies never recovered in the disaster. Employees who survived (or were working other shifts) were particularly outraged that not only had the owners, with the help of the army, spent their time retrieving sewing machines and fabric, but these workers were denied a full week’s pay for circumstances beyond their control… this even though workers like 22-year old presser Daniel Ramírez and seamstress Concepcíon Guerrero — both on the 8 AM shift — showed up for work, and stayed.  They, like other textile workers from around the city came to dig out the bodies and recover what they could.  The workers got a small measure of vengeance when they found and brought out a company safe.  Unable to crack it, they sold it as is for scrap metal!

foto_1_baja_0More practically, and more long lasting, the workers discovered their union, either unable or unwilling to provide practical assistance (and help the workers receive compensation for their own losses) organized a separate union, the short-lived 19th of September Seamstresses and Tailors Syndicate, which fought for better working conditions and compensation for textile workers, forcing the government to crack down on hiring underage workers, and enforce safety regulations, as well as a number of “lunch-bucket” demands for better pay and hours.

Although Daniel and Concepcíon would be black-listed by the owners, and the union crushed, the unlikely heroes are still leaders in the workers’ movement, through the 19th of September Seamstresses Civil Association, which provides legal assistance, as well as training, educational, recreational, and self-improvement programs for the textile worker community and their families.

While throughout the Capital, there are special masses said at 7:19 in the morning every 19th of September, in San Antonio Abad, there is an additional ceremony, laying wreathes at the monument dedicated to all textile workers in general, and to the 300 or more who lost their lives because the machinery and cloth was considered more valuable than those who made it into clothing.

206 years on…

15 September 2016

independencia

Catholic Nazis?

12 September 2016

Although it’s not as much talked about as it should be, the Cristero War was one of the great tragedies of the 20th century.  Certainly the carnage was nowhere on the scale of that unleashed by the Fascist and Nazi movements in Europe (and exported to Latin America), but both rested on a clash between modernity and what was perceived — or better said, propagated — as “traditional values.”  While I am the first to say that my own monograph on the Cristeros (Gorostieta and the Cristiada: Mexico’s Catholic Insurgency 1926-1929) was written much too fast, and was rushed into print before it was edited correctly, I did try to put the Cristeros into the context of other movements, and — unlike apologists for the Catholic insurgents — saw in them their close affinity to Fascism, and their role in the founding of both the Mexican fascist parties (Synarchism) and PAN.   

That the state’s provocations of the Catholic Church, and the reaction by the Hierarchy played an essential role in fomenting the insurgency is indisputable.  While the “Calles Laws” were meant to break the Church and were an open assault on the Hierarchy, the same cannot be said about the proposed reforms to marriage laws today.  No one is threatening to take any rights AWAY from Catholic believers, or from the Church.  However, it is the Church … or rather the Hierarchy… that wants to take away rights from other citizens.  Moreover, what rights the Church ceded to the state long ago (in education and in defining marriage for non-believers) are those the hierarchy seeks to claw back.  In the 1920s, the Cristeros turned to the conservative business class  for financial support under the claim that they were defending private enterprise from state interference,  while simultaneously presenting themselves to the lower and middle class as protecting the nation from a foreign ideology. Mixing nationalism, capitalism, religion, and militarism (i.e., the basic ingredients of a Fascist state) the Cristeros were a threat to the state that had to be crushed.  The hierarchy then had the sense to realize it was in over its head, and negotiate a face-saving truce with the state.  While so far, there is no evidence of the Church’s attempt at a military response, whether they are making a bargain with the devil, or simply channeled the devil that was always there is a question I don’t want to answer.  But Sanjuana Martínez — a believing Catholic — has been willing to ask, in SinEmbargo,  Are Catholics Nazis?  (my rough translation):

“I am convinced that I act as an agent of our Creator. To fight the Jews is doing the Lord’s will”,said Adolf Hitler to justify the extermination of 6 million Jews.

Hitler was born Catholic as were right-wing dictators Francisco Franco in Spain, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal, Benito Mussolini in Italy, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina, and Augusto Pinochet in Chile. They invoked the name of God to commit all kinds of atrocities. And the Vatican welcomed them in their time. The relationship of the Catholic hierarchy with these men is part of religious history. There are pictures of the Popes receiving these fascist criminals, giving them communion, blessing, sanctifying. This type of Catholicism is the ultimate expression of “Nacionalcatolicismo”.

To our surprise, Nacionalcatolicismo remains a force in Mexico. What in European history was the mix of nationalism and Catholicism to launch Crusades against Muslims, Slavs, Jews, Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians, Mongols, Cathars, Hussites, Waldensian, Prussians … continues here against gays.

A call to a national crusade is what drives the National Front for the Family (FNF), an ultraconservative organization promoted by the National Action Party and its armed wing the Yunque and financially underwritten by the Church hierarchy’s business allies.

FNF Catholic crusade against equal marriage is shameful and violates the most basic human rights. Its nacionalcatolicismo, ie, its fascist ideology, contravenes important national and international legal norms.

Saturday’s demonstrations against the initiative to legalize same-sex marriage in Mexico united under the slogan “Deus lo vult” (God wills it), the same that was used in the past to justify the gallows, the fire and the extermination of millions of people. Not since the 30s of the last century have there been such mass marches here, as those held in 16 cities in eight states, all with a PAN majority government.

Fortunately the call to nationalcatolicismo did not resonated everywhere. In Nezahualcoyotl only 300 peoople showed up, only 1500 in Toluca. But there are the sordid examples of Puebla, Querétaro, Guadalajara and Monterrey — traditionally conservative places, with a long history of “doble moral” and hypocrisy.

I wonder how many of those who showed up to defend the traditional concept of family have a real family, not only when out in public. Or how many of those parents who shouted slogans against homosexuals do not lead a double life: are unfaithul, hide their sexual preference away in the closet, or simply do not love their partner.

It remains unclear what are defending. Is the traditional family? Perhaps the family as defined by the Legionaries of Christ, the order founded by the pederast priest Marcial Maciel. Or that of Opus Dei, the work of misogynistic and elitest Spaniard Escriva. Or perhaps the family as defended by the great protectors of pedophile priests, cardinals Norberto Rivera and Juan Sandoval Iniguez, directors of clinics that supposedly “cure” genuine sexual predators like Nicolas Aguilar or Carlos Lopez Valdez1.

Were all who attended these Nazi marches Catholics? I doubt it. Surely most Catholics know that the majority of the arguments used by the FNF are lies and the rest are based on a lack of information about sexuality, still a taboo topic for many Mexican Catholics.

The images of people demanding the elimination of others’ rights is truely sad. Of course they have the right to demonstrate freely. That’s not the point. The question is, why they demand the right ot harm other human beings. How does the legitimate marriage between same-sex couples affect them?

One of the arguments repeated ad nauseam by the leaders of this front is that they do it for the children. Lie. That is a fallacy. How many mass demonstrations were organized by these people to protest the thousands of pedophile priests in Mexico and damaged thousands of children; priests protected by the hierarchy? None.

In Guadalajara, where the Cristero War is still a matter of pride to some Catholics, it is regrettable that all these people who marched against gays, remained silent and never condemned the existence of the largest clinic for pedophile priests led by their own Cardinal Sandoval Iniguez in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, even when an Interpol investigation found the clinic sheltering cassocked predators wanted in over 16 countries.

Why the National Front for the Family does not organize demonstrations against pedophile priests? Because they are not congruent. This organization is made up of real nacionalcatólicos —fundamentalist fanatics: people without understanding, dedicated to intoxicate, manipulate, lie about human sexuality.

That well-known expert on the anus2, Cardinal Norberto Rivera, now be added to the other Front leaders — Juan Giacoman Dabdoub, president of ConFamilia; Luz Maria Ortiz Quintos of the Nuevo Leon Parents Union; Marcial Padilla and Enrique Guzman, who, along with Marcial Maciel’s defender, Carolina Lopez Garza hold themselves out as specialists in sexuality and “gender ideology”.

The Front’s lies are laughable. They ensure us that contraceptives cause infertility, that the Peña Nieto reform in favor of marriage equality would lead to men using women’s restrooms; that pre-school children will be dressed alternately as a boy and a girl to decide which they want to be; that children of same-sex couples suffer irreversible psychological disorders, that homosexuality is curable …

In short, they have convinced thousands of Catholics to support their movement with lies and by preying on the ignorance of people who consider sex education a sin.

The Mexican Catholic hierarchy throwing the stone while hiding the hand, has said they did not summon thse hate and disrimination marches, but made it clear that they support them. It was clear who was in control with marches with the ranks filled out with priests, nuns, and consecrated, pure people.

It would be nice to know if those people so quick to take to the street to demand taking away others’ rights consider themselves “Nazis”: Catholic Nazis, fervent admirers of nacionalcatolicismo, the religion practiced by Hitler and many others criminals against humanity.

The Catholic Church is happy. It has achieved what it has always done, turning back the clock a few centuries. Every time Mexico and its people, progress the Catholic hierarchy, is responsible for bringing the Mexicans back into the past. The Catholic hierarchy does not advance, preferring to keep its adherants subdued, ignorant and obedient. New enemies are gays and their legitimate rights.

As a practicing Catholic, I am ashamed to live in a country of Catholic fundamentalists. I belong to the segment of decent Catholics, those who defend human rights for all without distinction of race, creed or sexual preference. Those who did not remain stuck considering the traditional family as the “natural” family. That which sustains a family is not a man and a woman, but love. There are many types of family and all deserve respect and the same rights. As in the time of the Crusades, it is necessary to speak up. I refuse to be part of this new onslaught of irrational hatred.

The Nazi crusade mounted by the National Front for the Family seeks to perpetuate the sanctity of marriage, the purity of the family … The others are heretics … Prepare the fires! … Erect the gallows! … Catholic Nazis are already on the street.

My reading of Videgaray’s “resignation”

7 September 2016

I know the US media thinks everything that happens in the world somehow is a reflection of US interests, but Videgaray’s departure probably had less to do with Trump (although that was a handy excuse for dumping him) than our own politics. Peña Nieto was already in deep doo-doo (with open calls for his resignation) and Videgaray had been defending not just Peña Nieto, but other reviled figures in the PRI, while — in an attempt to clearn up their image — the party has a new chair, who is claiming to be cleaning house (not that he is, but optics are always more important than reality when it comes to politics).

Photo: Proceso

Photo: Proceso

On top of everything else, Videgaray is “credited” with EPN’s economic policies, which have been a disappointment for the elites, and a disaster to most of us. Throw in that Videgaray was positioning himself to be the PRI’s candidate in the 2018 Presidential election (this, while his wife is a first cousin of the presumptive PAN candidate) and it appears less that the Trump fiasco was just a small push, and not what put him out on a ledge.

Throwing him “under the bus” is just a move to save an already despised administration: a human sacrifice that may or may not be enough for the people.

(And a late post-script. Also resigning today was Aristóteles Núñez, the head of SAT (our equivalent of the IRS) suggesting this had much more to do with failed economic policy than any ill-advised foreign visit).

They eat their own

5 September 2016

If there is one thing you learn from watching Mexican politics, it’s that conspiracy theories sometimes make sense.  I can’t vouch for this:  I’m not familiar with the website I found it on, and it seems to have been cut and pasted from one of the political columnists without attribution.  Still, what it says about the connections between political families that cross party lines, and the in-fighting among factions within the parties gives an insight into the murky world of Mexican politics.

Anything is possible, and Peña Nieto having been “set up” by his Secretary of the Treasury (Hacienda y Credito Publico), Luis Videgaray, has been suggested by the major media (Proceso, etc.).  That the diplomatic corps and Sec. of Foreign Relations, Claudia Ruiz Masseu, was cut out of the loop when it came to the controversial Trump visit, starts to make sense IF even half of this story is true.

The Atlacomulco Group, and their plans to install PAN in the Presidency in 2018 (Atlacomulco y su plan para entregarle al PAN la Presidencia en 2018)

Taking its name from a State of Mexico municipality, Atlacomulco Group originated with Isidro Fabela, who acquired the power, money, and influence needed for a political machine during his career as a diplomat during the Mexican Revolution.

Governor Alfredo Mazo Vélez, (uncle of future state governors, Alfredo del Mazo Gonzalez, Arturo Montiel, and Enrique Peña Nieto) inherited his power from Fabela, and extended the reach of the dynasty through awarding public concessions, especially in transportation. Carlos Hank Gonzalez and Emilio Chuayfett, both now deceased, were also members of the inner circle,although not blood relatives.

Not family, but within the inner circle, is Luis Videgaray, currently Mexico’s Secretary of the Treasury, and evidently, the group’s financial brain. He is presently seeking to be the next state governor, as are two of Peña Nieto’s relations, Alfredo del Mazo and Carolina Monroy.

All that aside, my hypothesis is that there is an alleged pact between the Atlacomulco Group and PAN to impose the illusion of democratic transition in 2018 with an approved backroom deal by the Mexican oligarchy.

To support this theory it is important to point out there is another family tie — between Felipe Calderon and Luis Videgaray Caso. PAN’s presidential candidate, Margarita Zavala is the cousin of Vidagaray’s wife. In short, the Calderon’s and the Secretary of the Treasury are cousins.

The reality is that Peña Nieto’s rise to the Presidency in 2012 was manufactured by the Calderón administration’s media policy, that gave an overwhelming monopoly in news and information to Televisa. The outgoing regime had needed to promote the structural reforms that foreign capital demanded to make way for foreign oil and for AT & T to enter the telecommunications sector dominated by Carlos Slim.

This explains how 12 years of looting of PEMEX under the Fox and Calderon administration. Despite obvious theft and mismanagement, the current administration by the rival party had never audited the accounts. The only exception was the Oceanography scandal, which is only a small samle of the PRI-PAN pact when it comes to the federal government.

The PRI is being destroyed from within. The arrival of Fox in 2000, with the backing of the Americans could not destroy PRI from the outside, so, US backers turned to figures in the old regime, and PRI — was the largest and most organized political institution in the country — has been sabotaged by disguised PAN technocrats and managers.

PRI never lost the reins of power despite the Ernesto Zedillo, handing over power to Fox and PAN on a silver platter by orders of US interests. The workers and agricultural confederations and unions and state governments remained in the political muscle of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which allowed them to negotiate with the PAN governments and thus preserve survive with its power intact.

Meanwhile the teachers’ union became a real power in the hands of Elba Esther Gordillo who took advantage of the transition in 2000 to create her own party. The power vacuum generated by the feud between Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderon, added to Gordillo’s power as payment for the political debt owed by PAN for her part in the electoral fraud perpetrated in 2006 that snatched the presidency from Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. “Peje” did not have the stomach to take airports, highways and oil wells and demand the victory he had won for the people of Mexico.

To balance this hypothesis (that PAN and the Atlamolco Group are colluding in a PAN victory in 2018) it is necessary to follow the media strategy denegrating Peña Nieto step by step (or, error by error). The firm aim is to boost the political transition in 2018, but one that will involve an “impunity pact” that ignores the corruption in the Peña Nieto administration, just as Peña Nieto ignored that of the Fox and Calderón regimes.

The visit of Donald Trump is the cherry on the cake of media manipulation. PAN would return to Los Pinos on the behest of the United States in order to accelerate the pan-Latin agend for integrating “development” across the region.

In Mexico, US interests have managed to implode the PRI from within. The President himself bartered away his party’s control of the states of Veracruz, Michoacan, Tamaulipas, Quintana Roo and Chihuahua for adoption of the Pact for Mexico, who managed to coerce the main political forces to promote U.S. Supported structural reforms in the legislative chambers.

Structural reforms will be safe in 2018 with a rightist government in Mexico. PAN, as the capitalist party, will give continuity to the multi-administration projects that began with Miguel de la Madrid, was accelerated by Carlos Salinas de Gortari and finalized in the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto. PAN will be able to simply rule by Yankee mandate, as it did from 2000 to 2012 where he was responsible for delivering the mineral wealth of the country to the British empire through Canadian mining and promote an agenda of terror through the alleged fight against drug trafficking it has paramilitarized entire regions of the country to supply drugs to the US market.

Mexico is a country that ignores its contemporary history and social trends. It is allowed international interests to pounce on the resources of a people who still remembers their revolutionary origins. This generates resistance to the accelerated integration of Mexico into the development model of the United States and for this reason, it needs PAN.

And PAN need the Atlacomulco Group, which own interests (always in public works contracts) will be well served, with business contracts for the new Mexico City airport project and the Toluca-Mexico City train to repay their investments.

Dear Mr. Trump

4 September 2016

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