Saturday, July 11, 2009
Amado Carrillo (December 17, 1956 – July 3, 1997), Born in Guamuchilito, Sinaloa, Carrillo was a Mexican drug lord and boss of the Juárez Cartel. He became known as "El Señor de Los Cielos" (Lord of the Skies). He died in a Mexican Hospital after undergoing extensive plastic surgery to change his apparence. In his final days Carrillo was being tracked intensively by Mexican and U.S. authorities. He was also known for laundering over US$20 million via Colombia to finance his huge fleet of planes. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration described Carrillo as the most powerful drug trafficker of his era, and many analysts claimed his profits neared $25 billion, making him one of the world's wealthiest men.
Family relations and alliances
Carrillo was born to Vicente Carrillo and Aurora Fuentes in Guamuchilito, Sinaloa. He was the first of six sons: Amado, Cipriano, Vicente, José Cruz, Alberto, and Rodolfo. He also had five sisters: María Luisa, Berthila, Flor, Alicia and Aurora. These children were the nieces and nephews of Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, a/k/a "Don Neto", the Guadalajara Cartel leader. Amado got his start in the drug business under the tutelage of his uncle Ernesto. Amado later brought in his brothers and eventually his son Vicente Carrillo Leyva.
Carrillo's father, Vicente Carrilo Vega, died in April 1986;his brother, Cipriano Carillo Fuentes, died in 1989 under mysterious circumstances.
On September 11, 2004, rivals of the Juarez Cartel killed brother Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes "El Niño de Oro" and his wife Giovanna Quevedo Gastélum.
On October 28, 2008, José Cruz Carrillo Fuentes's calcined body was found, and subsequently stolen, from the forensic medical service (Semefo) by an armed group.
Carrillo was believed to be a part of the Guadalajara Cartel, sent to Ojinaga, Chihuahua to oversee his uncle's cocaine shipments, and to learn about border operations from Pablo Acosta Villareal "El Zorro de Ojinaga" (the Ojinaga Fox).
As the top drug trafficker in Mexico, Carrillo was transporting four times more cocaine to the U.S. than any other trafficker in the world, building a fortune of over US$25 billion. He was called "El Señor de los Cielos" (The Lord of the Skies) for his pioneering use of over 27 private 727 jet airliners to transport Colombian cocaine to municipal airports and dirt airstrips around Mexico, including Ciudad Juárez. In the months before his death, Carrillo's business was growing exponentially: his cartel was shipping multi-ton shipments directly into Manhattan, and million dollar payments to Carrillo were seized at the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez border. During that same time, Carrillo was frequently travelling in his private jets to Cuba, Russia, and other nations in search of a safe haven. He had been hunted by law enforcement since he took over the cartel in April 1993 after the death of Rafael Aguilar Guajardo.
Credited by anti-drug agents as being one of the most low-key, sophisticated, and diplomatic of Mexico's cartel chiefs — he even formed joint operating agreements with rival trafficking groups — Carrillo's growing empire and alleged connection to General Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo, Mexico's top drug enforcement official, earned him recognition as "the most powerful of Mexico's drug traffickers" by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
Death and conspiracy theories
The pressure to capture Carrillo intensified among U.S. and Mexican authorities, and perhaps for this reason, Carrillo underwent facial plastic surgery and liposuction of his stomach to change his appearance on July 3, 1997 at Santa Mónica Hospital in Mexico City. However, during the eight-hour operation, he apparently died of complications caused either by a medication or a malfunctioning respirator. Two of Carrillo's bodyguards were in the operating room during the procedure. It is unclear whether the lethal dose of the drug Dormicum was administered intentionally or in error, by the surgeon or the bodyguards. There are many possible ways he could have died: shock or heart attack caused by the medicine alone or in conjunction with cocaine in Carrillo's system, by the bodyguards or by the surgeon, or by the malfunction of the respirator.
Some of the wilder theories reported in Mexican newspapers hold that Carrillo's bodyguards smothered him with a pillow; or that the PGR tortured him to death first, then faked the plastic surgery; or, as was reported in El Financiero, the corpse was really that of Amado's cousin (presuming, of course, that Carrillo had paid someone to substitute his cousin's ID, DNA, blood samples, dental records, fingerprints for his own — indeed, Carrillo had purchased multiple sets of identities, according to the paper); or, perhaps the most unusual version, reported by respected radio and TV journalist Pedro Ferriz de Con, was that Carrillo committed suicide, according to an interview where Carillo allegedly said, "If I die, nobody killed me. The only person who can kill Amado Carrillo is Amado Carrillo."
The DEA confirmed the body belonged to Amado Carrillo four days after his alleged death, using fingerprints positively matched to an old U.S. immigration card. Authorities from the PGR (Attorney General's Office) disputed the accuracy of this method, claiming they could not confirm the body as Carrillo's until further toxicological, DNA, and other tests. Finally, on July 11, the PGR announced that the body was that of Carrillo, based on forensic tests including DNA, fingerprints, blood samples, scars, and ear shapes. However, PGR officials were still not sure if the death was caused by homicide or medical malpractice. As of July 22, officials were still debating whether it was the Dormicum, accidentally or intentionally administered, or the respirator. The PGR began an investigation, beginning with Carrillo's surgeon, Pedro López Saucedo, to determine the degree of responsibility of Santa Mónica Hospital in the drug lord's death.
Juárez cartel after Carrillo
Whether Carrillo slipped away to another country or died in Mexico City, the fact remained that he was no longer operating as head of Mexico's largest (and Ciudad Juárez-based) drug trafficking cartel. It was assumed immediate control of the cartel would fall to Amado's brother Vicente Carrillo, 34, who was already overseeing operations in Juárez. Two other brothers work for the cartel, but DEA authorities said it would be unusual for there to be in-fighting among the organization. U.S. DEA chief Thomas Constantine and Mexican drug enforcement agents said they predicted a bloody battle among rival trafficking groups seeking to expand their own turf. They expected the Juárez Cartel's fiercest challenger to be the rival Tijuana Cartel, allegedly led by the Arellano Félix brothers, who control almost all the drug trafficking between Tijuana and Mexicali. Other major drug traffickers expected to vie for power, included Jesus "Chuy" Amezcua Contreras, who mainly imports ephedrine from India and Thailand, which is then used to manufacture methamphetamines in the U.S. and Mexico, and Miguel Caro-Quintero, leader of a cartel which has smuggled marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and weapons, mainly across the Sonora-Arizona border, since 1985.
As of July 29, 1997 U.S. and Mexican officials believed Sinaloa native Juan José Esparragoza "El Azul" Moreno would emerge as the leader of the Juárez drug cartel. Esparragoza is known as a diplomatic trafficker with solid connections to Colombian cocaine suppliers. In the weeks following confirmation of Carrillo's death, there were five to a dozen drug-related assassinations in Ciudad Juárez. Intelligence officials say key drug traffickers met in heavily secured, back-room bunkers at Juárez strip clubs to sort out business. A DEA agent said he believes, as of July 29, that there will not be a bloody turf war in Mexico or anywhere else, because "They're smart people and they're not going to attract attention to themselves." Afterward, "El Chapo" Guzman became the number one drug lord in Mexico.
In Juárez, the PGR seized warehouses they believed the cartel used for storage of weapons and cocaine. PGR agents have seized over 60 properties all over Mexico that belonged to Carrillo, and have begun an investigation into his dealings with the police and government officials. The PGR say he bribed or illegally employed hundreds of thousands of people.
In April 2009, Mexican authorities arrested his son, Vicente Carrillo Leyva.
Funeral and eulogy
Carrillo was given a large and expensive funeral in Guamuchilito, Sinaloa, where he was revered as a kind of "Robin Hood" by the people, according to a special report in the Diario de Juárez. He was known for giving away money, cattle, and presents to hundreds of people, including cars such as Ram Chargers, Grand Cherokees, Chevrolet Suburbans, and Lincoln Continentals. Amado Carrillo even built the village church.
His mansion in the northwestern state of Sonora, dubbed the Palace of a Thousand and One Nights still sits unoccupied in the state's capital, Hermosillo. In 2006, Gov. Eduardo Bours asked the federal government to tear it down. 
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, (December 1, 1949 - December 2, 1993), was a Colombian drug lord. Escobar gained world infamy from the drug trade and in 1989 Forbes magazine listed him as the seventh richest man in the world.
Pablo Escobar began his criminal career in Envigado while he was still in school by stealing tombstones and selling them to smugglers from Panama. He also allegedly stole headstones from graveyards and sold them in other villages of the department of Antioquia (this allegation has never been proven). When he was a teenager he began to steal cars from the streets of Medellín with the help of "Popeye". He became involved in other rackets which led him to become a powerful figure in the area. He eventually got into the cocaine business and began building an enormous drug empire during the 1970s, which eventually became known as the Medellín Cartel (Cartel de Medellín).
Juan David Ochoa Vazquez
José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha
Jorge Luis Ochoa Vázquez
Fabio Ochoa Vázquez
José Abello Silva
Dandeny Muñoz Mosquera
In 1982, Escobar was elected as a deputy/alternate representative to the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia's Congress, as part of the Colombian Liberal Party.
During the 1980s, Escobar became known internationally as his drug network gained notoriety; the Medellín Cartel controlled a large portion of the drugs that entered into the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic with cocaine brought mostly from Peru and Bolivia, as Colombian coca was initially of substandard quality. Escobar's product reached many other nations, mostly around the Americas, although it is said that his network reached as far as Asia.
Escobar bribed countless government officials, judges and other politicians. He often personally executed uncooperative subordinates and routinely had anyone else he viewed as a threat murdered. This resulted in the deaths of hundreds of individuals, including civilians, policemen and state officials. Corruption and intimidation characterized Escobar's dealings with the Colombian system. He had an effective, inescapable policy in dealing with law enforcement and the government, referred to as "plata o plomo," (silver or lead). Escobar was responsible for the murder of Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, one of three assassinated candidates who were all competing in the same election, as well as the bombing of Avianca Flight 203 and the DAS Building bombing in Bogotá in 1989. The Cartel de Medellín was also involved in a deadly drug war with its primary rival, the Cartel De Cali, for most of its existence.
Escobar backed the 1985 storming of the Colombian Supreme Court by left-wing guerrillas from the 19th of April Movement, also known as M-19, which resulted in the murder of half the judges on the court. Some of these claims were included in a late 2006 report by a Truth Commission of three judges of the current Supreme Court. One of those who discusses the attack is "Popeye", a former Escobar hitman. At the time of the siege, the Supreme Court was studying the constitutionality of Colombia's extradition treaty with the U.S. Some former M-19 leaders that did not participate in the events have denied that the drug lord was behind the assault on the Supreme Court.
Height of power
In 1989, at the height of his empire's power, Forbes magazine estimated Escobar to be the seventh-richest man in the world with a personal wealth of close to $4 billion, while his Medellín cartel controlled 80 percent of the global cocaine market.
While seen as an enemy of the United States and Colombian governments, Escobar was a hero to many in Medellín (especially the poor people); he was a natural at public relations and he worked to create goodwill among the poor people of Colombia. A lifelong sports fan, he was credited with building football fields and multi-sports courts, sponsoring little league football teams.
Pablo Escobar was also responsible for the construction of many churches in Medellín, which gained him popularity inside the local Roman Catholic Church. He worked hard to cultivate his "Robin Hood" image, and frequently distributed money to the poor through housing projects and other civic activities, which gained him notable popularity among the poor. The population of Medellín often helped Escobar by serving as lookouts, hiding information from the authorities, or doing whatever else they could do to protect him.
At the height of his power, drug traffickers from Medellín and other areas were handing over between 20 and 35% of their Colombian cocaine-related profits to Escobar.
Escobar’s fight caused Colombia to fast become the world’s murder capital where there were 7,081 murders in 1991 alone. This increased murder rate was fueled by Escobar giving money to poor youths as a reward for killing police officers- over 600 of whom were killed. These murders caused the police to retaliate against the youth with death squads that would seek out and assassinate anyone who fit the profile, whether innocent or guilty.
La Catedral prison
After the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán, a candidate to the Presidence of Colombia, the administration of César Gaviria moved against Escobar and the drug cartels. Eventually, the government negotiated with Escobar, convincing him to surrender and cease all criminal activity in exchange for a reduced sentence and preferential treatment during his captivity.
After declaring an end to a series of previous violent or terrorist acts meant to pressure authorities and public opinion, Escobar turned himself in. He was confined in what became his own luxurious private prison, La Catedral. Before Escobar gave himself up, the extradition of Colombian citizens had been prohibited by the newly approved Colombian Constitution of 1991. That was controversial, as it was suspected that Escobar or other drug lords had influenced members of the Constituent Assembly.
Accounts of Escobar's continued criminal activities began to surface in the media. Escobar brought the Moncada and Galeano brothers to La Catedral and murdered them, accusing them of stealing the cartel. When the government found out that Escobar was continuing his criminal activities within La Catedral, it attempted to move Escobar to another jail on July 22, 1992. Escobar escaped, fearing that he could be extradited to the United States.
Search Bloc and Los Pepes
See also: Los Pepes and Search Bloc
Colombian policemen posing by Pablo Escobar's dead body. Mark Bowden's book cover.
In 1992 United States Delta Force operators (and later Navy SEALs from SEAL Team Six) joined the all-out manhunt for Escobar. They trained and advised a special Colombian police task force, known as the Search Bloc, which had been created to locate Escobar. Later, as the conflict between Escobar and United States and Colombian governments dragged on and the numbers of his enemies grew, a vigilante group known as Los Pepes (Los Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar - People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar also known as "el cartel del norte del valle that had "chupeta" and varela as part of this cartel.), financed by the Cali Cartel and Carlos Castaño (among others), carried out a bloody campaign fueled by thirst for vengeance in which more than 300 of Escobar's associates and relatives were slain and large amounts of his cartel's property were destroyed.
Rumors abounded that members of the Search Bloc, and also of Colombian and the United States intelligence agencies, in their efforts to find and punish Escobar, either colluded with Los Pepes or moonlighted as both Search Bloc and Los Pepes simultaneously. This coordination was allegedly conducted mainly through the sharing of intelligence in order to allow Los Pepes to bring down Escobar and his few remaining allies, but there are reports that some individual Search Bloc members directly participated in missions of the Los Pepes death squads. This brings into question the role the United States played in gathering intelligence on Escobar's organization, because some of this information was later used by the Los Pepes organization in its crusade of retributive executions. One of the leaders of Los Pepes was Diego Murillo Bejarano (also known as "Don Berna"), a former Medellín Cartel associate who became a drug kingpin and eventually emerged as a leader of one of the most powerful factions within the AUC.
A cable (later uncovered by the press) written by the US Ambassador explained that American intelligence showed likely collaboration between the vigilantes and the Colombian police. The communique also strongly condemned any such joint work, stating work between US forces and vigilantes could be cause for US withdrawal.
In March 1976 at the age of 26, Escobar married Maria Victoria when she was 15 years old. Together they had two children: Juan Pablo and Manuela. Escobar was known to have affairs. Pablo Escobar created and lived in a luxurious estate called Hacienda Napoles (Spanish for Naples Ranch) and had planned to construct a Greek-style citadel near it. Construction of the citadel was started but was never finished. The ranch, the zoo and the citadel were expropriated by the government and given to low-income families in the 1990s under a law called extinción de dominio (domain extinction). The property is currently being converted to a theme park.
Pablo Escobar's widow and her two children have lived in Argentina since 1995. She is now Maria Isabel Santos Caballero. Her son Juan Pablo has also changed his name to Juan Sebastian Marroquin, and her daughter to Manuela. Sebastian studied industrial design and architecture. In August 2008, the family of slain presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán revealed that Marroquín had sent them a letter in which he apologized for his father's involvement in the 1989 murder. It was delivered by filmmaker Nicolas Entel
The rest of Escobar's family is thought to have migrated to Venezuela. Some have fled to the U.S.A. Homero Garfias, Pablo's first cousin, once resided in Carpentersville,
Death and afterward
Colombian policemen standing by Pablo Escobar's dead body.
The war against Escobar ended on December 2, 1993, as he tried to elude the Search Bloc one more time. Using radio triangulation technology provided as part of the United States efforts, a Colombian electronic surveillance team found him hiding in a middle-class barrio in Medellín.
The shootout between Escobar and the Search Bloc personnel ensued after the house was located. How Escobar was killed during the confrontation has been debated but it is known that he was cornered on the rooftops of Medellín and after a prolonged gunfight, suffered gunshots to the leg, torso, and the fatal one in his ear. It has never been proven who actually fired the final shot into Escobar's head, whether this shot was made during the gunfight or as part of possible execution, and there is wide speculation about the subject. One very popular theory is that Hugo Aguilar shot Escobar with just one shot with his 9 mm pistol. His 2 brothers, Roberto Escobar and Fernando Sanchez Arellano, believe that he shot himself through the ears: "He committed suicide, he did not get killed. During all the years they went after him, he would say to me every day that if he was really cornered without a way out, he would shoot himself through the ears and he shot himself through the ears." During the autopsy however, there was no stippling pattern found around the ear proving that Pablo Escobar's fatal wound to the head was shot no less than arms length.
After Escobar's death, the Medellín Cartel fragmented and the cocaine market soon became dominated by the rival Cali Cartel, until the mid-1990s when its leaders, too, were either killed or captured by the government.
The Robin Hood image that he had cultivated continued to have lasting influence in Medellín. Many there, especially many of the city's poor that had been aided by him while he was alive, lamented his death.
On 28 October 2006, Escobar's body was exhumed by request of his nephew Nicolás Escobar, two days after the death of mother Hermilda Gaviria (who opposed exhumation) to verify that the body in the tomb was in fact that of Escobar and also to collect DNA for a paternity test claim. According to the report by the El Tiempo newspaper, Escobar's ex-wife Maria Victoria was present recording the exhumation with a video camera. Some of the family members believe that Escobar could have committed suicide.
Virginia Vallejo's version
See also: Virginia Vallejo, Alberto Santofimio, Alfonso López Michelsen, Ernesto Samper, and Álvaro Uribe
On July 4, 2006, Virginia Vallejo, the television anchorwoman who was romantically involved with Pablo Escobar from 1983 to 1987, offered her testimony in the trial against former senator Alberto Santofimio, accused of conspiracy in the 1989 assassination of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, to the Colombian Attorney General. Mr. Iguaran acknowledged that, although Vallejo had contacted his office on the 4th, the judge had decided to close the trial on the 9th, several weeks before the prospective closing date and, in his concept, “too soon”. 
On July 16 2006, Virginia Vallejo was taken to the United States in a special flight of the Drug Enforcement Administration. According to the American Embassy in Bogotá, this was done for "safety and security reasons." On July 24 2006, a video in which Vallejo accused Santofimio of instigating Escobar to eliminate senator Galan in her presence was aired on Colombian television. In 2007, Vallejo published her memoir Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar, where she described her stormy relationship with the drug lord and provided her points of view about the development of paramilitarism, the siege of the Palace of Justice and Escobar’s evolution from politician to terrorist. Vallejo also claimed that several politicians, including Colombian presidents Alfonso López Michelsen, Ernesto Samper and Álvaro Uribe, were involved with the drug cartels in different ways. President Uribe denied Vallejo's allegations.
On July 11 2008, Virginia Vallejo testified in the reopened case of the 1985 Palace of Justice siege and said that Escobar had financed the coup. 
In popular culture
Artist Fernando Botero, a native of Antioquia, the same region as Escobar, portrayed Pablo Escobar's death in one of his paintings about the violence in Colombia.
Escobar is depicted in the 2001 drama film Blow in which Escobar, played by Cliff Curtis, becomes a business contact of the main character George Jung. The movie highlights George Jung's role in smuggling Escobar's cocaine into the U.S and selling it for enormous profit.
Escobar is mentioned as 'Uncle Escobar' in the 2000 comedy Scary Movie.
Photographer James Mollison's book The Memory of Pablo Escobar tells Pablo's story with over 350 photographs and documents. The journalist Rainbow Nelson conducted over 100 interviews with family members, Medellin Cartel associates, Colombian police & judges, and survivors of Escobar's killing sprees.
Escobar is depicted in the 2006 documentary film Cocaine Cowboys.
Pablo Escobar was also depicted by the popular TV show 'Entourage'.
The 2007 film Pablo of Medellín by Jorge Granier-Phelps explores the mixed legacy of a man hailed in the Barrio as a saint while despised elsewhere as a demon.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez' book, News of a Kidnapping, details the series of abductions that Escobar masterminded to pressure the then Colombian government into guaranteeing him non-extradition if he turned himself in.
Escobar is also the subject of an episode in a documentary series called Situation Critical, in production as of September 2007.
In his brother's biography, "The Accountant's story: Inside the Violent World of the Medellín Cartel", Roberto Escobar and David Fisher disclose Pablo's love for US singer Elvis Presley, and his music, at certain points even calling himself the "Elvis of Colombia", ostensibly as a result of his huge popularity with people.. Recently, Roberto Escobar also claimed that he had found a cure for AIDS. 
In the video game Grand Theft Auto Vice City the airport is named after him "Escobar International"
American rapper Nas uses the alias Nas Escobar
Colombian writer Laura Restrepo uses Escobar as a character to move part of the plot in "Delirio".
Recent interest in Pablo Escobar is credited to the fictional film, Medellín, from the HBO series Entourage. Producer Oliver Stone even said "This is a great project about a fascinating man who took on the system. I think I have to thank, Scarface, and maybe even Ari Gold."
Two major feature films on the Colombian drug lord, Escobar and Killing Pablo, were announced in 2007,  around the same time. Escobar has been delayed due to Stone's involvement with the George W. Bush biopic. W. The date of Escobar’s release is still unconfirmed.  Killing Pablo, in development for several years and directed by Joe Carnahan, is based on Mark Bowden’s book Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw.  The plot claims to tell the true story of how the Colombian gangster and terrorist Pablo Escobar was killed and his Medellín cocaine cartel dismantled by US special forces and intelligence, the Colombian military, and a vigilante gang controlled by the Cali cartel. The cast was reported to include Christian Bale as Major Steve Jacoby and Venezuelan actor Édgar Ramírez as Escobar.  In December 2008, Bob Yari, producer of "Killing Pablo", filed for bankruptcy. 
After nine years in hiding, a trail of mutilated victims and thousands of tons of cocaine, Benjamin Arellano Felix, Mexico's most powerful druglord and the supplier of a third of America's cocaine, was finally brought down by the shape of his daughter's chin.
According to no less an authority than the country's defence minister, Ricardo Vega, it stuck out - apparently as a result of an unusual growth - far enough to tell his special forces that they were on the right trail. "Once we knew he was with his family, we could keep track of where he was by keeping track of his daughter with the very prominent chin," Vega boasted on Mexican television.
They followed the girl back to a three-bedroomed house on a suburban cul-de-sac in Puebla, 65 miles from Mexico City, where the neighbours knew the trafficker as an amiable, cigar-puffing, 49-year-old family man called Manuel Trevino. The troops moved in and arrested Arellano Felix at 1am last Saturday, slipping the handcuffs on without a shot being fired. In that anti-climactic manner, a brutal fiefdom was humbled which had once rivalled the power of the Mexican state itself in the Baja peninsula, and straddled the United States border with imperious ease.
The organisation Arellano Felix and his brothers ran was known locally as the Tijuana cartel, after the tawdry, violent border town in which it was based. But the US drug enforcement administration (DEA) always referred to it with respect as the Arellano Felix Organisation, the AFO, and declared it "one of the most powerful, violent and aggressive drug trafficking organisations in the world."
It was an insidious presence in the barrios, suburbs and townships on both sides of the border. Its corruption of all that it touched inspired the film, Traffic, which if anything played down the gang's taste for blood in order to make it bearable to watch.
Over the course of the past decade, the AFO turned a 100-mile corridor between Tijuana and Mexicali into a huge pipeline for cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines. The drugs poured across by car, by boat along the Pacific coast, and even by tunnel.
Last month, police acting on a tip-off searched a farm on the US side of the border and discovered a safe under the stairs. They cracked it open but found it empty and were about to move on when someone spotted that the safe floor was too high. It was a false bottom, and underneath was a shaft descending to a 1,200-ft tunnel, complete with electric lights and rails which had borne billions of dollars of drugs under the US-Mexican border.
Despite the gang's audacity, and despite the fact that it was so well known that it bore the family name, the brothers Benjamin, Ramon, Eduardo and Javier remained untouchable for 13 years. This was done, in part, with prodigious amounts of cash. They bought anonymity, bribing politicians and policemen in bulk, at the cost of an estimated $1m a week.
Those they could not buy, they killed. They murdered with abandon and with apparent relish. Estimates of the toll of victims run from 300 to well over 1,000. They killed witnesses, bystanders, policemen, two police chiefs, several federal police commanders, judges and even a Roman Catholic cardinal, Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo - killed at Guadalajara airport in 1993 when AFO gang members mistook the cardinal's car for that of a rival druglord. The gaffe forced the brothers to lie low and adopt false names, but they continued to live in casual confidence, apparently unafraid of capture.
Thomas Constantine, a former DEA administrator, said that in Tijuana and Baja, the AFO had "become more powerful than the instruments of government in Mexico".
"That is why they are able to operate in the fashion that they operate presently and that is why they are seldom, if ever, brought to justice," he said.
The Arellano Felix brothers won their first big break in 1989, when their uncle went to jail. Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo ran a drug trafficking business out of Tijuana and had employed his nephews from Sinaloa state after they showed early promise smuggling consumer electronics over the border. When Uncle Miguel's luck ran out and he was caught, they inherited the drug route, and turned it into a billion-dollar franchise.
From the start, Benjamin and Ramon led the enterprise - El Min and El Mon they called themselves, in a childlike abbreviation of their names. Benjamin had brains and a certain strategic flair, while Ramon, 11 years his junior, was the enforcer - a task to which he was perfectly suited.
One of nature's sociopaths, he seemed to thrive on murder. He would drive around in a red Porsche, garishly dressed in a mink jacket and heavy gold jewellery, cruising the streets of Tijuana where his cocky style became a magnet for the bored sons of the city's rich. Several of them became Ramon's "narco-juniors", trust-fund hitmen who, when they were not killing for business, killed out of simple ennui.
"Wherever there is danger, that's where you'll find Ramon," a former "narco-junior", Alejandro Hodoyan, told Mexican narcotics agents in 1996 in a taped interview later obtained by the Mexican newspaper, Proceso. "In 1989 or 90, we were at a Tijuana corner without anything to do and he told us... 'Let's go kill someone. Who has a score to settle?' Cars would pass and he'd ask us who we knew. The person we pointed out would appear dead within a week."
Hodoyan later claimed that the police had forced him to say those things. It did not help him. One day, he was grabbed by armed men on the streets of Tijuana, and that was that. His body was never found.
Don Thornhill, a DEA officer who witnessed the AFO's handiwork on both sides of the border, says: "In my 17 years in this job, I've never seen a more violent group. They would kill people who didn't cooperate. They would kill people who didn't pay a fee or a toll (for moving drugs through their territory). They would kill people who were not necessarily disloyal to them. They killed them to set an example."
The AFO set its bloodiest example in a fishing village called El Sauzal, which had the misfortune to be home to a minor-league drug smuggler called Fermin Castro. Castro paid his dues in full and on time, but the AFO evidently decided that he might become too competitive. So on September 17 1998, gunmen arrived in the middle of the night, lined up every man, woman and child they could find against a wall and shot them. A 15-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy were the sole survivors.
Ramon and his narco-juniors did not just murder. They developed a taste for torture and mutilation. One of Thornhill's Mexican colleagues, a prosecutor named Jose Patino Moreno, disappeared from a Tijuana street in April 2000, along with two aides, a special prosecutor, Oscar Pompa Plaza, and a Mexican army captain, Rafael Torres Bernal When their bodies were found near Patino's wrecked car, they were unrecognisable. Almost every bone in their body had been broken ("They were like sacks of ice cubes," a policeman said at the time) and their heads had been crushed in an industrial press.
The local police insisted, absurdly, that the three men had died in "a lamentable traffic incident", and it came as a surprise to nobody that when the AFO's power finally began to wane, two federal police commanders were charged for the Patino killings.
Ramon's own demise was suitably flamboyant. On February 10 he drove a Volkswagen full of narco-juniors down to the beach town of Mazatlan, intending to kill a rival gang leader at the height of the Mardi Gras carnival. But they drove the wrong way down a one-way street into a police patrol who spotted their guns. A shoot-out ensued and the day ended with three corpses on Mazatlan's festive streets.
One of bodies was carrying an identity card in the name of Jorge Perez Lopez (a Mexican version of John Smith) but by the time the police realised that the card was bogus, the body had vanished. Some "relatives" had taken it off the hands of the local undertaker, who had been reduced to silent fear by the encounter.
It was only when the police looked closely at the photographs from the crime scene that they realised that they might have killed Ramon Arellano Felix, one of the FBI's 10 most-wanted fugitives, and the most prolific murderer in modern Mexican history.
With Ramon's death the AFO seems to have lost its sheen of invincibility. The spell was broken and Benjamin Arellano Felix clearly knew it. He had his bags packed and was ready to flee with a wallet stuffed with $100 notes when the soldiers came for him in the early hours of Saturday morning. Inside the house in Puebla, they also came across a shrine to Ramon.
Ramon's death and Benjamin's arrest set off government celebrations on both sides of the border. The DEA administrator, Asa Hutchinson, declared himself "ecstatic". It was, he said, "a great day for law enforcement".
The Mexican president, Vicente Fox, also declared it "a great triumph for justice", but for him it was far more than that. He is a reformist politician struggling to gain control over the unwieldy, occasionally anarchic nation he was elected to lead. The victory over the AFO is an important step towards real sovereignty.
For his part, Don Thornhill celebrated quietly. He took his children out sailing. He is well aware that the surviving Arellano Felix brothers will now try to gain control of the AFO, and that its rivals will attempt to take a share of its drug routes. Life could become even more unpredictable and violent.
The one sure thing in all this is that drugs will continue to flow and in a few weeks or months, Thornhill promises, "it will be business as usual".
Mexico is stuck between the implacable forces of supply and demand. Cocaine is still being churned out to the south, in Colombia and elsewhere, and the American consumption of narcotics shows no sign of abating. "We in the US have to look long and hard at ourselves," the DEA man says. "We have an insatiable desire for drugs and unless we can get a handle on the demand, we are not going to get anywhere."
A shootout in a border city that leaves five alleged drug traffickers sprawled dead on the street and seven police wounded. A police chief and his bodyguards gunned down outside his house in another border city. Four bridges into the United States shut down by protesters who want the military out of their towns and who officials say are backed by narcotraffickers.
Mexican police carry a body after a clash with gangs that left 21 dead in the state of Chihuahua on February 10.
Mexican police carry a body after a clash with gangs that left 21 dead in the state of Chihuahua on February 10.
That was Mexico on Tuesday.
What is most remarkable is that it was not much different from Monday or Sunday or any day in the past few years.
Mexico, a country with a nearly 2,000-mile border with the United States, is undergoing a horrifying wave of violence that some are likening to a civil war. Drug traffickers battle fiercely with each other and Mexican authorities. The homicide rate reached a record level in 2008 and indications are that the carnage could be exceeded this year. Video Watch a reporter duck to avoid gunfire »
Every day, newspapers and the airwaves are filled with stories and images of beheadings and other gruesome killings. Wednesday's front page on Mexico City's La Prensa carried a large banner headline that simply said "Hysteria!" The entire page was devoted to photos of bloody bodies and grim-faced soldiers. One photo shows a man with two young children walking across a street with an army vehicle in the background, with a soldier standing at a turret machine gun.
Larry Birns, director of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, calls it "a sickening vertigo into chaos and plunder."
By most accounts, that's not hyperbole.
"The grisly portrait of the violence is unprecedented and horrific," said Robert Pastor, a Latin America national security adviser for President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s.
* 5 dead in Mexico border town violence
* Ex-presidents of Latin America urge legal marijuana
* Reports: Cancún police chief questioned in general's killing
"I don't think there's any question that Mexico is going through a very rough time. Not only is there violence with the gangs, but the entire population is very scared," said Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based policy center.
Speaking on a news show a few weeks ago, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called it a civil war. Birns agrees.
"Of course it's a civil war, but that only touches the violence of it," he said Wednesday. "It's also a civic conflict, as an increasing number of people look upon the law and democratic values as something that can be violated."
Hakim is not prepared to go that far.
"One has to be careful and not overdo it," he said. "Mexico is a long way from being a failed state. Mexico has real institutions. It paves roads and collects the garbage. It holds regular elections."
Enrique Bravo, an analyst with the Eurasia consulting group, points out that the violence so far is mostly affecting just drug gangs and is primarily localized along the U.S. border and Mexico's western coast.
The violence along the border is particularly worrisome, analysts say.
"The spillover into the United States is bound to expand and bound to affect U.S. institutions," Birns said.
Pastor and Hakim note that the United States helps fuel the violence, not only by providing a ready market for illegal drugs, but also by supplying the vast majority of weapons used by drug gangs.
Pastor says there are at least 6,600 U.S. gun shops within 100 miles of the Mexican border and more than 90 percent of weapons in Mexico come from the United States.
And it's not just handguns. Drug traffickers used a bazooka in Tuesday's shootout with federal police and army soldiers in Reynosa, Mexico, across the border from McAllen, Texas.
"The drug gangs are better equipped than the army," Hakim said.
Pervasive corruption among public officials is central to the drug cartels' success.
"There is so much money involved in the drug trade, there is so much fear involved in the drug trade, that no institution can survive unaffected," Birns said.
"This has really revealed just how corrupt Mexican officeholders are," Hakim said.
In one recent instance, Noe Ramirez Mandujano, who was the nation's top anti-drug official from 2006 until August 2008, was arrested on charges that he accepted $450,000 a month in bribes from drug traffickers while in office.
Such dire problems call for a new way of looking at the situation, some say.
"The unthinkable is happening," Birns said. "People are beginning to discuss decriminalization and legalization. ... There's only one thing that can be done: Take the profit out of it."
Pastor calls the problem in Mexico "even worse than Chicago during the Prohibition era" and said a solution similar to what ended that violence is needed now.
"What worked in the U.S. was not Eliot Ness," he said, referring to the federal agent famous for fighting gangsters in 1920s and '30s. "It was the repeal of Prohibition."
That viewpoint has picked up some high-level support in Latin America.
Last week, the former presidents of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil called for the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use and a change in strategy on the war on drugs at a meeting in Brazil of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy.
"The problem is that current policies are based on prejudices and fears and not on results," former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria said at a news conference, in which the 17-member commission's recommendations were presented.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has taken the war on drugs to the cartels and some say it's not working.
"It's as if the burden of being the main arena of the anti-drug war has overwhelmed Mexican institutions," Birns said. "The occasional anti-drug battle is being won, but the war is being lost. And there's no prospect the war is going to be won."
In the meantime, the killings will continue at a record pace.
It all began with the whir and flicker of helicopters on May 12, 2008, an incongruous sound in a tiny Iowa town tucked amid cornfields. All over Postville, people craned their necks from orderly lawns, phones rang, and gossip flew. Reverend Stephen Brackett, the town's Lutheran pastor, was on his day off and didn't hear the helicopters at first, but when his church secretary called to tell him something unusual was happening, he at once suspected what it was. For years, there were rumors that the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant at the edge of town was under scrutiny by immigration authorities. Later that morning, Brackett's wife called with confirmation: She'd spotted two helicopters and Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) agents in jackets and flak vests down by the slaughterhouse.
Brackett quickly drove to the hulking plant, which had been cordoned off by scores of ICE agents, state troopers, and sheriff's deputies. The authorities soon began to emerge from the building escorting workers, hundreds in all, and many in shackles. Mostly Guatemalan and Mexican immigrants, they were loaded onto white buses emblazoned with the Homeland Security logo, and taken away for detention and trial. Watching from the safety of his car, the bespectacled, redheaded pastor knew the day would mark a low point in Postville's history. "It's like saying we'll take the 15-plus years of progress that we've made trying to gel this community together," Brackett told me, "and overnight we'll throw that away."
Indeed, the 389 arrests eliminated more than one-third of the meatpacker's workforce and nearly one-fifth of the town's population. It also prompted an exodus of hundreds more Hispanic residents who were either afraid of being targeted or simply opted to escape the town's inevitable tailspin. Postville's businesses began to suffer almost immediately. Even the Wal-Mart in Decorah, a half-hour away, called Postville mayor Robert Penrod with concerns about the economic impact. Penrod, who stepped down as mayor this month, can recall an eerie calm settling over the town, as though it were part of some Twilight Zone episode. "Before, it was all hustle bustle, and you'd see people walking up and down the streets and driving and listening to music," he told me. "Then all of a sudden, boom! I mean nobody was walking the streets."
Harder to quantify, but no less real, was the damage to an unusual multicultural experiment in America's heartland. It had begun back in 1987 when ultra-Orthodox Jews came to Postville to turn the defunct Hygrade plant into the nation's largest kosher meatpacker, which promptly became a beacon for immigrant labor. Postville proudly dubbed itself "Hometown to the World," and despite the company's recent attempts to recruit legal replacement workers from as far away as Palau, the motto has acquired an ironic ring. Ten months after the raid, the meatpacker, having declared bankruptcy, was operating at half-steam with a ragtag assembly of workers, and the town's economy remains a shambles. Back in October, Mayor Penrod told CNN that Postville was living a "freaky nightmare." And it still isn't over.
Postville's troubles reflect the collateral damage wrought by an escalation in workplace sweeps over the past several years. As part of a comprehensive multiyear strategy to increase interior enforcement, ICE sought to eliminate the "jobs magnet" that attracts undocumented immigrants from across the border.
The agency reported 5,184 workplace arrests in fiscal 2008, more than seven times the 2004 figure. Its raids have included others on the scale of Postville—sweeps resulting in the dislocation of entire immigrant communities. Last October, ICE arrested 330 workers at the Columbia Farms poultry plant in Greenville, South Carolina. That came on the heels of a massive sweep of Howard Industries, an electronics maker in Laurel, Mississippi, where agents netted some 600 workers. The year before, 300 employees were picked up at a Massachusetts leather manufacturer, and raids in late 2006 on Swift meatpacking plants in Nebraska and five other states led to 1,300 arrests.
These high-profile busts, former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff explained, were meant to remove incentives to illegal immigration. "What is the economic magnet that is bringing people into the country to work illegally? The answer is jobs," he said at a press briefing last February. The magnet metaphor was no accident. In the view of the immigration bureaucracy, these factories comprise a mosaic of magnets that lure the undocumented from poor countries. Because the raids inevitably get big play in Spanish-language media, ICE officials know their get-tough approach will reach its intended audience—on both sides of the border.
The tactic would seem to have little chance of surviving in the current presidency were there not some evidence that it has worked. Since 2005, according to an October report by the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of people entering the country illegally has declined to about 500,000 a year, on average, from about 800,000 during the four previous years. While the faltering US economy—particularly in housing and construction—has certainly contributed, politically powerful immigration foes credit the ICE raids for turning the tide.
To be sure, on the campaign trail, then-candidate Obama derided the workplace raids as publicity stunts. Speaking to an anchor from the Spanish-language Univision TV network, he said he would focus on targeting exploitative employers and promised to act on comprehensive immigration reform. But on February 24, one month after President Obama took office, ICE raided an engine factory in Bellingham, Washington, where agents arrested 28 undocumented workers.
Facing criticism from the left, new Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano promised an investigation, insisting she hadn't known of the raid in advance. Whatever becomes of that probe, last month's raid underscores the difficulty of navigating between opponents of heavy-handed enforcement and immigration foes who agitate about undocumented foreigners taking American jobs—an old argument that could gain new appeal as hundreds of thousands of workers receive pink slips.
Supposing ICE's strategy is indeed effective; there's a separate question policymakers may want to ponder: How have these raids affected the communities involved? The woes of the arrested immigrants are well documented: families torn apart, workers caught in bureaucratic limbo or slapped with souped-up identity-theft charges. But less examined are the impacts on towns and cities that the workers and their families leave behind, and on the Americans whose lives and livelihoods were intertwined with those of the newcomers.
Like many Midwestern communities, Postville was historically at the mercy of the up-and-down agricultural economy. Locals here haven't forgotten the dark 1980s, when a farm crisis plunged families into debt and set the stage for a bloodletting of population from rural America. As Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Cougar Mellencamp tried to drum up support with the Farm Aid concerts beginning in 1985, places like Postville were dying. Adding insult to injury, big-box retailers were gnawing at Main Street business. Small cafés, sporting-goods stores, and meat lockers were going extinct, not to mention general stores—those Midwestern institutions with their pickle barrels, rough wooden floors, and panned candy on the counter.
Pastor Brackett remembers visiting town in the 1980s with his wife, Susan—a Postville native—and seeing the same houses for sale year after year. "It seemed like every time we came to visit, either another mainstay of the business community had closed or there were rumors that they were going to close," he said.
Postville's revival began with the 1987 reopening of the old meatpacking plant, shuttered since the 1970s. Its new operators were members of a Hasidic Jewish sect known as Lubavitchers. Founder Aaron Rubashkin, a Brooklyn butcher, quickly built Agriprocessors—just "Agri" to the locals—into the nation's largest kosher meatpacker, origin of brands like Aaron's Best, Rubashkin's, and Supreme Kosher. At its peak, Agri controlled 60 percent of the kosher beef market and 40 percent of kosher chicken sales.
At first, the production lines were manned largely by undocumented Eastern European and Russian immigrants, writes Stephen Bloom, an Iowa journalist and author of a book called Postville: a Clash of Cultures in Heartland America. But as the Ukranians, Kazakhstanis, and Russians drifted away, Agri came to rely on a ready supply of Hispanic labor. Postville became a destination for villagers from rural Guatemalan and Mexican hamlets like El Barril, San Miguel Dueñas, and Aldea del Rosario, where word soon spread of job opportunities in an Iowa town with superficial similarities to their own tight-knit rural communities.
The meatpacker expanded, and by the time of the raid boasted nearly 1,000 employees. Rabbis supervised the slaughter and Lubavitch managers oversaw the business end, while white Iowans found jobs as administrative staffers or floor-level supervisors. But the bulk of the bloody work was done by Guatemalans and Mexicans who processed tens of thousands of chickens, thousands of turkeys, and hundreds of cattle daily. (The Agri arrest figures would have been far higher, in fact, had night-shift workers been present for the raid.)
Before long, the Hispanic influx was revitalizing Postville. By 2001, Reverend Paul Ouderkirk over at St. Bridget's Catholic Church was celebrating a Saturday mass in Spanish and had created a Hispanic ministry to cater to immigrants' spiritual needs. Several Protestant evangelical congregations also sprouted up to accommodate the workers, meeting in halls lent by the Presbyterians or Lutherans.
This term is used frequently in the United States to refer indiscriminately to any person that speaks Spanish. As such, it is imprecise and often inappropriate in that it includes people from more than two dozen countries, spanning all of the American continent, the Caribbean and Spain. The term does apply specifically, however, as the proper name for the native people of Spain, and for this reason it is as incorrect to use it to refer to any and all Spanish-speakers as the term "English" would be to refer to citizens of New Zealand, Australia or the United States.
This term is often used to refer collectively to all Spanish-speakers. However, it specifically connotes a lineage or cultural heritage related to Spain. As many millions of people who speak Spanish are not of true Spanish descent (e.g., native Americans), and millions more live in Latin America (cf., "Latino" below) yet do not speak Spanish or claim Spanish heritage (e.g., Brazilians) this term is incorrect as a collective name for all Spanish-speakers, and may actually be cause for offense.
This term is used to refer to people originating from, or having a heritage related to, Latin America, in recognition of the fact that this set of people is actually a superset of many nationalities. Since the term "Latin" comes into use as the least common denominator for all peoples of Latin America in recognition of the fact that some romance language (Spanish, Portuguese, French) is the native tongue of the majority of Latin Americans, this term is widely accepted by most. However, the term is not appropriate for the millions of native Americans who inhabit the region.
Specifically, the nationality of the inhabitants of Mexico. Therefore, the term is used appropriately for Mexican citizens who visit or work in the United States, but it is insufficient to designate those people who are citizens of the United States (they were born in the US or are naturalized citizens of the US) who are of Mexican ancestry. The various terms used to properly designate such people are described below, however, it is important to explain why these people feel it is important to make such a distinction. US citizens who are troubled by this often point out that most immigrants do not distinguish themselves by point of origin first, (i.e., German-American), but simply as "Americans" (another troublesome term, but we won't get detoured by that here). Here are some reasons why many US citizens of Mexican extraction feel that it is important to make the distinction:
*Not "Americans" by choice
A scant 150 years ago, approximately 50% of what was then Mexico was appropriated by the US as spoils of war, and in a series of land "sales" that were coerced capitalizing on the US victory in that war and Mexico's weak political and economic status. A sizable number of Mexican citizens became citizens of the United States from one day to the next as a result, and the treaty declaring the peace between the two countries recognized the rights of such people to their private properties (as deeded by Mexican or Spanish colonial authorities), their own religion (Roman Catholicism) and the right to speak and receive education in their own tongue (for the majority, Spanish) [refer to the text of the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo]. Therefore, the descendants of this population continue to press for such rights, and many hold that theirs is a colonized land and people in view of the fact that their territory and population was taken over by military force.
*Mexicans first, "Americans" second?
Another and more numerous class of US citizens of Mexican extraction are either descendants of, or are themselves, people who conceive of themselves as temporarily displaced from Mexico by economic circumstances. As opposed to the waves of European migrants who willingly left their countries due to class and religious discrimination, and sought to make their lives anew in the "new world" and never to return to the "old land," these displaced Mexicans typically maintain strong family ties in Mexico (by visiting periodically, and by investing their incomes in homes or kin in Mexico), and usually intend to return to Mexico provided they can become economically secure. Therefore these people maintain and nurture their children in their language, religion and customs.
However, There is great tension within this population between those of Mexican birth who conceive of themselves as temporary guests in the US, and their descendants who are born in the US, are acculturated with the norms of broader US society in public schools, and are not motivated by the same ties that bind a migrant generation of Mexicans. This creates a classic "niche" of descendants of immigrants who are full-fledged US citizens, but who typically do not have access to all the rights and privileges of citizenship because of the strong cultural identity imbued in them by their upbringing and the discriminatory reaction of the majority population against a non-assimilated and easily identified subclass. This group of people feels a great need to distinguish itself from both its US milieu and its Mexican "Mother Culture," which does not typically welcome or accept "prodigals." This is truly a unique set of people, therefore, in that it endures both strong ties and strong discrimination from both US and Mexican mainstream parent cultures. The result has been the creation of a remarkable new culture that needs its own name and identity.
This term is commonly used to recognize US citizens who are descendants of Mexicans, following the pattern sometimes used to identify the extraction of other ethnic Americans (e.g., "African-American). This term is acceptable to many Mexican descendants, but for those who do not identify with a Mexican heritage, but rather with a Spanish heritage, it is unacceptable (cf., "Hispano," below). Also, for those who do not view themselves as "Americans" by choice, this term is problematic, and for others the implication that the identity of the bearer is unresolved, or in limbo, between two antipodal influences, belies their self-concept as a blend that supersedes its origins and is stronger, richer and more dynamic than either of its cultural roots.
This term is preferred by that subpopulation, located primarily in the US southwest, who identify with the Spanish settlers of the area, and not with the Mexican settlers (specifically, the Creole Spanish-Native American race). There is in fact an important number of these people located along the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico and in the northern Sangre de Cristo mountain range of the same state. This group has been traditionally a very closed and conservative one, and recent evidence provides important explanations for this: they seem to be descendants of persecuted Jews who fled Spain during the 16th and 17th centuries and sought refuge in what were then the farthest reaches of the known world. They survived by minimizing their contact with outsiders and by hiding or disguising their religious and cultural identities as much as possible. Historical researchers call them "cryptic Jews."
A relatively recent term that has been appropriated by many Mexican descendants as unique and therefore reflective of their unique culture, though its first usage seems to have been discriminatory. The most likely source of the word is traced to the 1930 and 40s period, when poor, rural Mexicans, often native Americans, were imported to the US to provide cheap field labor, under an agreement of the governments of both countries. The term seems to have come into first use in the fields of California in derision of the inability of native Nahuatl speakers from Morelos state to refer to themselves as "Mexicanos," and instead spoke of themselves as "Mesheecanos," in accordance with the pronunciation rules of their language (for additional details, refer to the file MEXICO on this same subdirectory). An equivocal factor is that in vulgar Spanish it is common for Mexicans to use the "CH" conjunction in place of certain consonants in order to create a term of endearment. Whatever its origin, it was at first insulting to be identified by this name. The term was appropriated by Mexican-American activists who took part in the Brown Power movement of the 60s and 70s in the US southwest, and has now come into widespread usage. Among more "assimilated" Mexican-Americans, the term still retains an unsavory connotation, particularly because it is preferred by political activists and by those who seek to create a new and fresh identity for their culture rather than to subsume it blandly under the guise of any mainstream culture.
has revised downwards its medium and long-term forecasts for global oil demand in the wake of the current economic crisis, it said in a new report Wednesday.
In its World Oil Outlook 2009, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said that under its revised main forecast oil demand would be "less than 106 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2030, down from 113 million bpd."
OPEC is forecasting global oil demand of 90.2 million bpd in 2015 and 105.6 million bpd in 2030, while the International Energy Agency (IEA) is pencilling in 94.4 million bpd and 106.4 million bpd respectively.
The oil cartel said that recession-hit developed nations, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Coooperation and Development) countries, are unlikely to return to their full economic growth potential until 2015.
Thus, oil demand in those countries was likely to continue to contract until 2010 and then stagnate until 2013, OPEC said.
By contrast, oil demand in developing countries is set to expand over the long-term, with a projected increase of 23 million bpd between 2008 and 2030.
"Almost 80 percent of the net growth in oil demand from 2008-2030 is in developing Asia," the report said.
Nevertheless, on a per capita basis, oil use per person in North America "will still be more than 10 times that of South Asia," OPEC noted.
The transportation sector would remain the main source of future oil demand growth, accounting for over 60 percent of the total increase to 2030, the report continued.
That was lower, however, than in its previous assessment owing to the current global economic slowdown "as well as the assumed greater efficiency improvements."
OPEC said that car ownership per capita in developing countries was set to rise from just 31 cars per 1,000 people in 2007 to 87 per 1,000 by 2030.
"This remains well below OECD levels, however, which average 530 per 1,000 by 2030," it said.
OPEC member countries were currently investing heavily to expand upstream capacity. But even if the low level of oil prices meant that some of the projects had to be delayed or even postponed beyond 2013, "spare OPEC crude oil capacity is nevertheless set to remain at comfortable levels," the report said.
Pope Benedict XVI upset the schedule on his first day in Israel by leaving an interfaith meeting in Jerusalem early on Monday night after a leading Muslim cleric called on him to condemn the “slaughter” of women and children in the recent assault on Gaza.
The pontiff walked out, a spokesman noted, because Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi’s speech was a “direct negation” of dialogue and damaged the Pope’s efforts at “promoting peace”.
Before he arrived in the region, the Pope declared that he was coming as a “pilgrim of peace”, with his staff accentuating that his role would be spiritual rather than political.
In truth, however, Pope Benedict’s visit was mired in politics the moment he agreed, at the invitation of Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, to step into this conflict-torn region.
The two popes who preceded him to the Holy Land appear to have better appreciated that point.
The first, Paul VI, made a hurried 12-hour stop in 1964, before the Vatican and Israel had established diplomatic relations, to conduct a Mass in Nazareth. During that time he did not utter the word “Israel” or formally meet with an Israeli official.
The second, John Paul II, came to the Holy Land in radically different circumstances: for the millennium, when hopes were still bright for the peace process. The Vatican had recognised Israel a few years earlier and the pontiff worked hard to soothe long-standing Jewish grievances against the Catholic church.
But he is also remembered by Palestinians for his bold move in joining Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, on a visit to the Deheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, where he cited UN resolutions against Israel and graphically described the “degrading conditions” under which Palestinians lived.
A decade on, the degrading conditions of occupation have worsened considerably and hopes of peace have vanished. In the circumstances, some Palestinians question what point a papal visit has served.
“The very act of coming here is a political act that works to the benefit of Israel,” observed Mazin Qumsiyeh, a prominent peace activist who teaches at the West Bank’s only Catholic university, in Bethlehem.
“This Pope’s visit, unlike his predecessor’s, offers no novelty -- apart from his decision to stand next to [the Israeli prime minister] Benjamin Netanyahu and legitimise an extreme right-wing government.”
Israeli officials too are unpersuaded by the Pope’s claim that he can avoid being dragged into local politics. Or as one government adviser told the Haaretz newspaper: “We have become pariahs in so many places around the globe. Promoting the Pope’s visit to the state is part of changing that.”
Israel has established the largest press centre in the country’s history for this visit, while police have broken up attempts by Palestinian organisations in Jerusalem to present a rival picture to journalists.
The attempts at careful stage management began from the moment the Pope’s plane touched down in Tel Aviv on Monday. At the reception, Pope Benedict stood between Mr Netanyahu and Mr Peres to listen not only to the Israeli national anthem but also to Jerusalem of Gold, a song popularised by soldiers during the capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 war.
The lyrics -- offensive to Palestinians -- describe an empty and neglected city before the arrival of Jews.
Similarly, Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, made a point of welcoming him to the “capital of Israel and the Jewish people”, a description of Jerusalem not recognised in international law.
After the Pope failed to object, the Israeli media happily concluded that the country’s occupation of Jerusalem had papal blessing.
In addition, Palestinians, including the 100,000 with ties to Rome, have been angered by the Pope’s official meeting with the parents of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, a humanitarian gesture made political for them by the fact that he has not extended the same courtesy to the parents of any of the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli captivity.
Many Palestinians appreciate that the Pope -- with his unfortunate, if apparently involuntary, connections to Nazi Germany -- has been especially careful not to offend Israeli sensitivities, even if his speech at Yad Vashem failed to live up to the country’s high expectations.
But some also conclude that he has done too little to let the world know of their own plight.
Under pressure from Israel he has refused to visit Gaza, even at the beseeching of the tiny and besieged community of Catholics there.
Yesterday, to minimise Israel’s embarrassment, Vatican officials tried as best they could to keep him out of view of the oppressive wall that encircles Bethlehem. But he did speak to the press outside a UN school at a refugee camp within metres of the wall.
And today, as he headed to Nazareth to celebrate mass, he will not meet Mazin Ghanaim, mayor of the Galilee town of Sakhnin, after Israel labelled Mr Ghanaim a “supporter of terror” for criticising its offensive in Gaza.
In private at least, some Palestinian Christian leaders admit that there are pressures on the Pope other than his own personal history that may make him wary of antagonising Israel.
Most importantly, the Vatican desperately needs exemption from Israeli taxes levied on the Church’s extensive land holdings. Unpaid property taxes are reported to amount to $70 million.
The Holy See also wants a reprieve from Israeli policies that deny visas to many church officials and block clerics’ movement in the occupied territories.
As the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, recently complained: “At the roadblocks, even priestly garb doesn’t help.”
And finally, the Vatican has been seeking Israel’s agreement for more than a decade to return to its control major sites of pilgrimage, including Mount Tabor and the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
But Israel has not been able to control the message completely. On his one-day trip to Bethlehem and the Aida refugee camp yesterday, the Pope did acknowledge Palestinian suffering and the destruction of Gaza, even if he blamed it vaguely on “the turmoil that has afflicted this land for decades”.
He lamented the difficulties Palestinians face in reaching their holy places in Jerusalem, though he appeared to justify the restrictions on Israel’s “serious security concerns”.
And he criticised the building of a wall around Bethlehem, while attributing its construction to the “stalemate” in relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
America's Political Paralysis Over Torture
If, like me, you've been following America's torture policies not just for the last few years, but for decades, you can't help but experience that eerie feeling of déjà vu these days. With the departure of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from Washington and the arrival of Barack Obama, it may just be back to the future when it comes to torture policy, a turn away from a dark, do-it-yourself ethos and a return to the outsourcing of torture that went on, with the support of both Democrats and Republicans, in the Cold War years.
Like Chile after the regime of General Augusto Pinochet or the Philippines after the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, Washington after Bush is now trapped in the painful politics of impunity. Unlike anything our allies have experienced, however, for Washington, and so for the rest of us, this may prove a political crisis without end or exit.
Despite dozens of official inquiries in the five years since the Abu Ghraib photos first exposed our abuse of Iraqi detainees, the torture scandal continues to spread like a virus, infecting all who touch it, including now Obama himself. By embracing a specific methodology of torture, covertly developed by the CIA over decades using countless millions of taxpayer dollars and graphically revealed in those Iraqi prison photos, we have condemned ourselves to retreat from whatever promises might be made to end this sort of abuse and are instead already returning to a bipartisan consensus that made torture America's secret weapon throughout the Cold War.
Despite the 24 version of events, the Bush administration did not simply authorize traditional, bare-knuckle torture. What it did do was develop to new heights the world's most advanced form of psychological torture, while quickly recognizing the legal dangers in doing so. Even in the desperate days right after 9/11, the White House and Justice Department lawyers who presided over the Bush administration's new torture program were remarkably punctilious about cloaking their decisions in legalisms designed to preempt later prosecution.
To most Americans, whether they supported the Bush administration torture policy or opposed it, all of this seemed shocking and very new. Not so, unfortunately. Concealed from Congress and the public, the CIA had spent the previous half-century developing and propagating a sophisticated form of psychological torture meant to defy investigation, prosecution, or prohibition -- and so far it has proved remarkably successful on all these counts. Even now, since many of the leading psychologists who worked to advance the CIA's torture skills have remained silent, we understand surprisingly little about the psychopathology of the program of mental torture that the Bush administration applied so globally.
Physical torture is a relatively straightforward matter of sadism that leaves behind broken bodies, useless information, and clear evidence for prosecution. Psychological torture, on the other hand, is a mind maze that can destroy its victims, even while entrapping its perpetrators in an illusory, almost erotic, sense of empowerment. When applied skillfully, it leaves few scars for investigators who might restrain this seductive impulse. However, despite all the myths of these last years, psychological torture, like its physical counterpart, has proven an ineffective, even counterproductive, method for extracting useful information from prisoners.
Where it has had a powerful effect is on those ordering and delivering it. With their egos inflated beyond imagining by a sense of being masters of life and death, pain and pleasure, its perpetrators, when in office, became forceful proponents of abuse, striding across the political landscape like Nietzschean supermen. After their fall from power, they have continued to maneuver with extraordinary determination to escape the legal consequences of their actions.
Before we head deeper into the hidden history of the CIA's psychological torture program, however, we need to rid ourselves of the idea that this sort of torture is somehow "torture lite" or merely, as the Bush administration renamed it, "enhanced interrogation." Although seemingly less brutal than physical methods, psychological torture actually inflicts a crippling trauma on its victims. "Ill treatment during captivity, such as psychological manipulations and forced stress positions," Dr. Metin Basoglu has reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry after interviewing 279 Bosnian victims of such methods, "does not seem to be substantially different from physical torture in terms of the severity of mental suffering."
A Secret History of Psychological Torture
The roots of our present paralysis over what to do about detainee abuse lie in the hidden history of the CIA's program of psychological torture. Early in the Cold War, panicked that the Soviets had somehow cracked the code of human consciousness, the Agency mounted a "Special Interrogation Program" whose working hypothesis was: "Medical science, particularly psychiatry and psychotherapy, has developed various techniques by means of which some external control can be imposed on the mind/or will of an individual, such as drugs, hypnosis, electric shock and neurosurgery."
All of these methods were tested by the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s. None proved successful for breaking potential enemies or obtaining reliable information. Beyond these ultimately unsuccessful methods, however, the Agency also explored a behavioral approach to cracking that "code." In 1951, in collaboration with British and Canadian defense scientists, the Agency encouraged academic research into "methods concerned in psychological coercion." Within months, the Agency had defined the aims of its top-secret program, code-named Project Artichoke, as the "development of any method by which we can get information from a person against his will and without his knowledge."
This secret research produced two discoveries central to the CIA's more recent psychological paradigm. In classified experiments, famed Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb found that he could induce a state akin to drug-induced hallucinations and psychosis in just 48 hours -- without drugs, hypnosis, or electric shock. Instead, for two days student volunteers at McGill University simply sat in a comfortable cubicle deprived of sensory stimulation by goggles, gloves, and earmuffs. "It scared the hell out of us," Hebb said later, "to see how completely dependent the mind is on a close connection with the ordinary sensory environment, and how disorganizing to be cut off from that support."
During the 1950s, two neurologists at Cornell Medical Center, under CIA contract, found that the most devastating torture technique of the Soviet secret police, the KGB, was simply to force a victim to stand for days while the legs swelled, the skin erupted in suppurating lesions, and hallucinations began -- a procedure which we now politely refer to as "stress positions."
Four years into this project, there was a sudden upsurge of interest in using mind control techniques defensively after American prisoners in North Korea suffered what was then called "brainwashing." In August 1955, President Eisenhower ordered that any soldier at risk of capture should be given "specific training and instruction designed to... withstand all enemy efforts against him."
Consequently, the Air Force developed a program it dubbed SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) to train pilots in resisting psychological torture. In other words, two intertwined strands of research into torture methods were being explored and developed: aggressive methods for breaking enemy agents and defensive methods for training Americans to resist enemy inquisitors.
In 1963, the CIA distilled its decade of research into the curiously named KUBARK Counter-intelligence Interrogation manual, which stated definitively that sensory deprivation was effective because it made "the regressed subject view the interrogator as a father-figure... strengthening... the subject's tendencies toward compliance." Refined through years of practice on actual human beings, the CIA's psychological paradigm now relies on a mix of sensory overload and deprivation via seemingly banal procedures: the extreme application of heat and cold, light and dark, noise and silence, feast and famine -- all meant to attack six essential sensory pathways into the human mind.
After codifying its new interrogation methods in the KUBARK manual, the Agency spent the next 30 years promoting these torture techniques within the US intelligence community and among anti-communist allies. In its clandestine journey across continents and decades, the CIA's psychological torture paradigm would prove elusive, adaptable, devastatingly destructive, and powerfully seductive. So darkly seductive is torture's appeal that these seemingly scientific methods, even when intended for a few Soviet spies or al-Qaeda terrorists, soon spread uncontrollably in two directions -- toward the torture of the many and into a paroxysm of brutality towards specific individuals. During the Vietnam War, when the CIA applied these techniques in their search for information on top Vietcong cadre, the interrogation effort soon degenerated into the crude physical brutality of the Phoenix Program, producing 46,000 extrajudicial executions and little actionable intelligence.
In 1994, with the Cold War over, Washington ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture, seemingly resolving the tension between its anti-torture principles and its torture practices. Yet when President Clinton sent this Convention to Congress, he included four little-noticed diplomatic "reservations" drafted six years before by the Reagan administration and focused on just one word in those 26 printed pages: "mental."
These reservations narrowed (just for the United States) the definition of "mental" torture to include just four acts: the infliction of physical pain, the use of drugs, death threats, or threats to harm another. Excluded were methods such as sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain, the very techniques the CIA had propagated for the past 40 years. This definition was reproduced verbatim in Section 2340 of the US Federal Code and later in the War Crimes Act of 1996. Through this legal legerdemain, Washington managed to agree, via the U.N. Convention, to ban physical abuse even while exempting the CIA from the U.N.'s prohibition on psychological torture.
This little noticed exemption was left buried in those documents like a landmine and would detonate with phenomenal force just 10 years later at Abu Ghraib prison.
War on Terror, War of Torture
Right after his public address to a shaken nation on September 11, 2001, President Bush gave his staff secret orders to pursue torture policies, adding emphatically, "I don't care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass." In a dramatic break with past policy, the White House would even allow the CIA to operate its own global network of prisons, as well as charter air fleet to transport seized suspects and "render" them for endless detention in a supranational gulag of secret "black sites" from Thailand to Poland.
The Bush administration also officially allowed the CIA ten "enhanced" interrogation methods designed by agency psychologists, including "waterboarding." This use of cold water to block breathing triggers the "mammalian diving reflex," hardwired into every human brain, thus inducing an uncontrollable terror of impending death.
As Jane Mayer reported in the New Yorker, psychologists working for both the Pentagon and the CIA "reverse engineered" the military's SERE training, which included a brief exposure to waterboarding, and flipped these defensive methods for use offensively on al-Qaeda captives. "They sought to render the detainees vulnerable -- to break down all of their senses," one official told Mayer. "It takes a psychologist trained in this to understand these rupturing experiences." Inside Agency headquarters, there was, moreover, a "high level of anxiety" about the possibility of future prosecutions for methods officials knew to be internationally defined as torture. The presence of Ph.D. psychologists was considered one "way for CIA officials to skirt measures such as the Convention Against Torture."
From recently released Justice Department memos, we now know that the CIA refined its psychological paradigm significantly under Bush. As described in the classified 2004 Background Paper on the CIA's Combined Use of Interrogation Techniques, each detainee was transported to an Agency black site while "deprived of sight and sound through the use of blindfolds, earmuffs, and hoods." Once inside the prison, he was reduced to "a baseline, dependent state" through conditioning by "nudity, sleep deprivation (with shackling...), and dietary manipulation."
For "more physical and psychological stress," CIA interrogators used coercive measures such as "an insult slap or abdominal slap" and then "walling," slamming the detainee's head against a cell wall. If these failed to produce the results sought, interrogators escalated to waterboarding, as was done to Abu Zubaydah "at least 83 times during August 2002" and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad 183 times in March 2003 -- so many times, in fact, that the repetitiousness of the act can only be considered convincing testimony to the seductive sadism of CIA-style torture.
In a parallel effort launched by Bush-appointed civilians in the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave General Geoffrey Miller command of the new American military prison at Guantanamo in late 2002 with ample authority to transform it into an ad hoc psychology lab. Behavioral Science Consultation Teams of military psychologists probed detainees for individual phobias like fear of the dark. Interrogators stiffened the psychological assault by exploiting what they saw as Arab cultural sensitivities when it came to sex and dogs. Via a three-phase attack on the senses, on culture, and on the individual psyche, interrogators at Guantanamo perfected the CIA's psychological paradigm.
After General Miller visited Iraq in September 2003, the US commander there, General Ricardo Sanchez, ordered Guantanamo-style abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. My own review of the 1,600 still-classified photos taken by American guards at Abu Ghraib -- which journalists covering this story seem to share like Napster downloads -- reveals not random, idiosyncratic acts by "bad apples," but the repeated, constant use of just three psychological techniques: hooding for sensory deprivation, shackling for self-inflicted pain, and (to exploit Arab cultural sensitivities) both nudity and dogs. It is no accident that Private Lynndie England was famously photographed leading an Iraqi detainee leashed like a dog.
These techniques, according to the New York Times, then escalated virally at five Special Operations field interrogation centers where detainees were subjected to extreme sensory deprivation, beating, burning, electric shock, and waterboarding. Among the thousand soldiers in these units, 34 were later convicted of abuse and many more escaped prosecution only because records were officially "lost."
"Behind the Green Door" at the White House
Further up the chain of command, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, as she recently told the Senate, "convened a series of meetings of NSC [National Security Council] principals in 2002 and 2003 to discuss various issues… relating to detainees." This group, including Vice President Cheney, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and CIA director George Tenet, met dozens of times inside the White House Situation Room.
After watching CIA operatives mime what Rice called "certain physical and psychological interrogation techniques," these leaders, their imaginations stimulated by graphic visions of human suffering, repeatedly authorized extreme psychological techniques stiffened by hitting, walling, and waterboarding. According to an April 2008 ABC News report, Attorney General Ashcroft once interrupted this collective fantasy by asking aloud, "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."
In mid-2004, even after the Abu Ghraib photos were released, these principals met to approve the use of CIA torture techniques on still more detainees. Despite mounting concerns about the damage torture was doing to America's standing, shared by Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice commanded Agency officials with the cool demeanor of a dominatrix. "This is your baby," she reportedly said. "Go do it."
Even as they exercise extraordinary power over others, perpetrators of torture around the world are assiduous in trying to cover their tracks. They construct recondite legal justifications, destroy records of actual torture, and paper the files with spurious claims of success. Hence, the CIA destroyed 92 interrogation videotapes, while Vice President Cheney now berates Obama incessantly (five times in his latest Fox News interview) to declassify "two reports" which he claims will show the informational gains that torture offered -- possibly because his staff salted the files at the NSC or the CIA with documents prepared for this very purpose.
Not only were Justice Department lawyers aggressive in their advocacy of torture in the Bush years, they were meticulous from the start, in laying the legal groundwork for later impunity. In three torture memos from May 2005 that the Obama administration recently released, Bush's Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stephen Bradbury repeatedly cited those original US diplomatic "reservations" to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, replicated in Section 2340 of the Federal code, to argue that waterboarding was perfectly legal since the "technique is not physically painful." Anyway, he added, careful lawyering at Justice and the CIA had punched loopholes in both the U.N. Convention and US law so wide that these Agency techniques were "unlikely to be subject to judicial inquiry."
Just to be safe, when Vice President Cheney presided over the drafting of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, he included clauses, buried in 38 pages of dense print, defining "serious physical pain" as the "significant loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty." This was a striking paraphrase of the outrageous definition of physical torture as pain "equivalent in intensity to... organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death" in John Yoo's infamous August 2002 "torture memo," already repudiated by the Justice Department.
Above all, the Military Commissions Act protected the CIA's use of psychological torture by repeating verbatim the exculpatory language found in those Clinton-era, Reagan-created reservations to the U.N. Convention and still embedded in Section 2340 of the Federal code. To make doubly sure, the act also made these definitions retroactive to November 1997, giving CIA interrogators immunity from any misdeeds under the Expanded War Crimes Act of 1997 which punishes serious violations with life imprisonment or death.
No matter how twisted the process, impunity -- whether in England, Indonesia, or America -- usually passes through three stages:
1. Blame the supposed "bad apples."
2. Invoke the security argument. ("It protected us.")
3. Appeal to national unity. ("We need to move forward together.")
For a year after the Abu Ghraib exposé, Rumsfeld's Pentagon blamed various low-ranking bad apples by claiming the abuse was "perpetrated by a small number of US military." In his statement on May 13th, while refusing to release more torture photos, President Obama echoed Rumsfeld, claiming the abuse in these latest images, too, "was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals."
In recent weeks, Republicans have taken us deep into the second stage with Cheney's statements that the CIA's methods "prevented the violent deaths of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people."
Then, on April 16th, President Obama brought us to the final stage when he released the four Bush-era memos detailing CIA torture, insisting: "Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past." During a visit to CIA headquarters four days later, Obama promised that there would be no prosecutions of Agency employees. "We've made some mistakes," he admitted, but urged Americans simply to "acknowledge them and then move forward." The president's statements were in such blatant defiance of international law that the U.N.'s chief official on torture, Manfred Nowak, reminded him that Washington was actually obliged to investigate possible violations of the Convention Against Torture.
This process of impunity is leading Washington back to a global torture policy that, during the Cold War, was bipartisan in nature: publicly advocating human rights while covertly outsourcing torture to allied governments and their intelligence agencies. In retrospect, it may become ever more apparent that the real aberration of the Bush years lay not in torture policies per se, but in the President's order that the CIA should operate its own torture prisons. The advantage of the bipartisan torture consensus of the Cold War era was, of course, that it did a remarkably good job most of the time of insulating Washington from the taint of torture, which was sometimes remarkably widely practiced.
There are already some clear signs of a policy shift in this direction in the Obama era. Since mid-2008, US intelligence has captured a half-dozen al-Qaeda suspects and, instead of shipping them to Guantanamo or to CIA secret prisons, has had them interrogated by allied Middle Eastern intelligence agencies. Showing that this policy is again bipartisan, Obama's new CIA director Leon Panetta announced that the Agency would continue to engage in the rendition of terror suspects to allies like Libya, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia where we can, as he put it, "rely on diplomatic assurances of good treatment." Showing the quality of such treatment, Time magazine reported on May 24th that Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, who famously confessed under torture that Saddam Hussein had provided al-Qaeda with chemical weapons and later admitted his lie to Senate investigators, had committed "suicide" in a Libyan cell.
The Price of Impunity
This time around, however, a long-distance torture policy may not provide the same insulation as in the past for Washington. Any retreat into torture by remote-control is, in fact, only likely to produce the next scandal that will do yet more damage to America's international standing.
Over a 40-year period, Americans have found themselves mired in this same moral quagmire on six separate occasions: following exposés of CIA-sponsored torture in South Vietnam (1970), Brazil (1974), Iran (1978), Honduras (1988), and then throughout Latin America (1997). After each exposé, the public's shock soon faded, allowing the Agency to resume its dirty work in the shadows.
Unless some formal inquiry is convened to look into a sordid history that reached its depths in the Bush era, and so begins to break this cycle of deceit, exposé, and paralysis followed by more of the same, we're likely, a few years hence, to find ourselves right back where we are now. We'll be confronted with the next American torture scandal from some future iconic dungeon, part of a dismal, ever lengthening procession that has led from the tiger cages of South Vietnam through the Shah of Iran's prison cells in Tehran to Abu Ghraib and the prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
The next time, however, the world will not have forgotten those photos from Abu Ghraib. The next time, the damage to this country will be nothing short of devastating.