View Full Version : Questions Surround the Sarkozys’ Private Visit to Mexico

Magda Hassan
04-29-2009, 03:06 AM
Questions Surround the Sarkozys’ Private Visit to Mexico

“The hotel belongs to Roberto Hernandez Ramirez, a millionaire banker accused by some of being connected to Mexican drug cartels”

By Le Monde.fr avec AFP
Le Monde

March 17, 2009
The beginning of Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to Mexico was overshadowed by the Cassez case, in which a French woman was condemned to sixty years in prison for kidnapping. But two days after the Head of State’s return to France, his private stay in western Mexico before the beginning of the official visit set off a controversy. The Sarkozys arrived in Mexico on Friday, March 6, with the intention of passing a few days in a luxurious hotel complex in Tamarindo, on the Pacific coast. Two and a half days of vacations, visits, and dinners “at the invitation of President Calderón,” said the Elysée Palace [where the French president lives].
This statement was put in doubt by the radio station RTL, which maintains, citing an anonymous Mexican diplomat, that the Mexican president did not, under any circumstances, finance a stay “outside of a State residence.” The radio mentioned Roberto Hernandez Ramirez as the presidential pair’s benefactor. Hernandez Ramirez is a millionaire banker who is accused by some of being connected to Mexican drug cartels. One of the Yucatan properties where the couple stayed during their trip belongs to him, according to the radio station.

The website RUE89 (http://www.rue89.com/droguesnews/2009/03/11/mexique-sarkozy-a-t-il-sejourne-chez-un-narco-presume) mentions an article by US journalist Al Giordano, who also mentions an investigation by a local Mexican newspaper that accuses Hernandez of actively participating in cocaine trafficking in Mexico in the 1980s and 1990s. Giordano, whose website Narco News goes in-depth into the subject of drugs in Latin America and the United States, was sued several times by Roberto Hernandez Ramierez as a result of these accusations, without ever being convicted.
Since then, silence has prevailed in the Elysée Palace as well as in the highest Mexican circles. Interrogated over the weekend by Mediapart (http://www.mediapart.fr/journal/france/080309/une-grosse-rechute-bling-bling-pour-le-couple-sarkozy) (subscription required), Elysée Palace spokesperson Franck Louvrier maintained that it was “the Mexican president who did the inviting.” In the Mexican president’s office the response has been, according to RTL, that “no one is authorized to speak on the subject.” During his private trips, the Head of State has already been invited by businessmen: the Paloma yacht and a Falcon 900 plane, both property of Vincent Bolloré, have been used for trips to Malta and Egypt.

Magda Hassan
04-29-2009, 09:28 AM
Sarkozy and the Mexican Banker: the Journalist Who Spoke Out

Al Giordano Investigated President Sarkozy’s Host. According to Him, Hernández Ramírez’s Ties to Narco-Trafficking Are Not Just Old Rumors

By Anne Vigna
Rue 89, Paris, France

March 27, 2009
Mexico. Two weeks ago Rue 89 was questioning the reputation of the banker who hosted Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife during their Mexican tour.
Roberto Hernandez Ramirez (left) with the CEO of Citigroup Sandy Weil in 2001
Daniel Aguilar, ReutersRoberto Hernández Ramírez has been accused by the press of being linked to narco-trafficking and the banker has lost lawsuits for defamation filed against his accusers both in Mexico and in the United States.
Saturday, during the TV news show “Clair”, the spokesperson for the UMP (Union for the Presidential Majority – Sarkozy’s party) accused Rue 89 of “spreading rumors”.
Rue89 met Al Giordano during a visit to Mexico. Al Giordano is one of two journalists who have won lawsuits filed by Hernández Ramírez, following investigations that revealed suspicious activities on the part of the banker.
Rue 89: The spokesperson of the UMP in France believes your investigation into Hernández Ramírez’s ties to drug trafficking are “rumors” that “date back to the 80’s.” He declared on television that Ramírez had never been concerned about them.
Giordano: These rumors don’t date back to the 80’s, but were confirmed by the Supreme Court of New York in 2001. Mr. Spokesperson, why are you talking about rumors when these are facts confirmed by a court of justice? Who are you looking to protect in all of this?
It’s an old habit to dismiss (the facts) by talking about rumors but this time the justice system has proven us right.
Rue 89: How do you know about Roberto Hernández Ramírez ?
Giordano: In February 1999, I was a journalist for the Boston Phoenix and I came to Mexico, to the Yucatan peninsula, to cover a summit on drugs between the Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo and Bill Clinton. I was reading the local papers and one of them, Por Esto!, caught my attention.
On the cover, this paper confirmed that Roberto Hernandez Ramirez, the man who had provided a hacienda for the meeting of the two presidents, was himself a drug trafficker.
Photo from the newspaper Por Esto! covering Roberto Hernandez Ramirez
Por Esto!I read the article and the findings corresponded with my own investigations into the workings of drug-trafficking between Mexico and the US. So, I went to the office of the paper where I met the author of the article who is actually the editor of the paper, Mario Menéndez Rodríguez.
The more we talked about the investigation, the more interesting documents he showed me. Mario Menéndez had already published his conclusions in 1996 and since then, he has been brought to trial seventeen times for defamation. But Mario Menéndez Rodríguez hasn’t lost a single trial, which is very rare in Mexico.
His investigation was based on photos that clearly show Colombian cocaine boats on the beach properties of Roberto Hernandez Rodriguez and planes taking off from the same property toward the north.
Rue 89: How was he able to get hold of these documents?
Giordano: Thanks to the fishermen who have always worked in the area. When Mr. Hernandez took over the territorial waters- completely illegally, by the way- his men threatened the fishermen and stop them from fishing off the coast of his property.
Al Giordano
Mr. Hernández owns more than sixty kilometers of coastline on the peninsula that the locals call the cocaine triangle. These same fishermen went to the newspaper to denounce their eviction that they believed was connected with drug trafficking.
They were of great help to the photographers of Por Esto! in shoring up the facts. At the same time, there was already evidence linking his bank, Banamex, to money laundering activities, following a three-year investigation carried out by the DEA called “Operation Casablanca.”
This is nothing new, because nearly all Mexican and American banks have been involved in money laundering at different levels.
What is new, however, is that a banker, whose illicit activities were well known in the Yucatan, could be the host of a summit against the drug trade between two presidents, thereby proving to the world that he’s a respectable man.
I went back to the US and published this investigation in the Boston Phoenix. For Banamex, it was complicated to bring a lawsuit against a big newspaper like the Boston Phoenix. They didn’t file suit.
Rue 89: So how did we come to the New York courts?
http://www.narconews.com/images/frenchsidebar.jpgGiordano: In 2000, I founded a news website called The Narco News Bulletin. I wanted to publish my investigations on narco-trafficking in Mexico that had little response from traditional newspapers. I published on the internet and I also translated the work of Mario Menéndez and other Spanish language journalists into English.
That’s why, a few months later, Banamex decided to take their defamation suit to the New York Supreme Court, arguing that they weren’t drug traffickers and that these reports are tarnishing their reputation.
In July 2001, the trial began and that same week Banamex merged with Citigroup, the largest banking institution on the planet, where Roberto Hernández got a seat on the board of directors. So we found ourselves face to face with the giants of finance.
The verdict was presented in December 2001. The Supreme Court ruled that Banamex was not able to prove that the incriminating facts were false or that Narco News acted in bad faith.
The ruling was unprecedented. It was the first time that an American court had ruled that the laws that govern the traditional media are applicable to internet media.
Rue 89: Why is this trial so unknown in Mexico?
Giordano: Essentially because Banamex is the bank that takes out the most advertising in the Mexican media and that Roberto Hernandez was on the board of directors at Televisa, the biggest media network in the country.
Our banker has also been friends with all of the Mexican presidents for the past twenty years, so he’s basically untouchable and the Mexican authorities have never investigated his activities. Even if our trial was covered by the American press, the New York Times and the Washington Post never talked about it.
That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised to see that the French press has had the courage of to talk about these investigations, to tell who Roberto Hernandez Ramirez really is.
Rue 89: Why do you believe that Nicolas Sarkozy went to stay in this man’s home?
Giordano: I have no idea. I suppose that Mexican president Felipe Calderon had something to do with it, just like Zedillo had something to do with Clinton staying with this same Hernández. The most incredible thing is that the Merida Initiative, the aid plan for Mexico and Central America, was also hatched in one of his haciendas, which tells a lot about corruption.
For Roberto Hernandez Ramirez, his way of clearing his reputation is to invite heads of state into his home. The French government could not have been completely ignorant of who this man is, especially because he’s the proud owner of a beautiful castle in your country.
Narco News translation by Elizabeth Allen Giordano

Jan Klimkowski
04-29-2009, 05:12 PM
These narco-crook politicians are so blatant they must think They are untouchable.

Magda - great posts. Thanks.