Category Archives: Organized crime

Philippine legalized lynching slammed by U.N.


The victims, slaughtered by the hundreds, are suspected drug dealers, and journalists have also been warned they may become the next targets of President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office 30 June.

And no one should’ve been surprised.

As Time reported Tuesday:

In a span of six weeks, the Philippines’ new President, Rodrigo Duterte, has made international headlines for the hundreds of suspects killed in his war on crime. Since he took office on June 30, an average of 13 people a day have been either assassinated in public by masked assailants, killed by police without further investigation, or found as unidentified bodies on the streets, often balled up in packing tape with signs saying variations of: “Don’t follow me, I’m a criminal.” Duterte’s supporters celebrate these killings as necessary comeuppance, while his critics condemn the violence as precarious violations of due process and human rights. Yet the President’s seemingly outrageous actions are merely part of the Philippines’ deeply entrenched culture of impunity. What is frightening is that so few people realize that yet.

President Duterte’s approval rating was recently a historic 91%, and he is seen by fans and foes alike as decisive and effective, promising sweeping reforms and bringing about the surrender of tens of thousands of drug users and self-confessed dealers before they can be killed. Yet Duterte has also vowed to pardon any police and military involved in the extrajudicial killings, while also pledging to pardon himself. He has ensconced his daughter and son as mayor and vice mayor of the city that he ruled for two decades, while also refusing to fully answer allegations about hidden wealth.

More alarmingly, in what seems an effort to systematically undermine the traditional democratic checks and balances to his authority, Duterte has threatened to shut down the legislature if it hinders his plans, invoked the specter of martial law when criticized by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and insulted concerned foreign ambassadors. He has chipped at the influence of the Catholic Church by emphasizing its corruption. And he has warned that members of the media are not protected from assassination: “The Constitution can no longer help you,” Duterte told reporters, “if you disrespect a person.”

And earlier this month, the New York Times reported, Duterte:

publicly accused scores of judges, mayors, lawmakers, military personnel and police officers of involvement with the illegal drug trade, giving them 24 hours to surrender for investigation or, he said, be “hunted” down.

Mr. Duterte rejected calls last week from international human rights groups to observe due process in the war he has declared on both sellers and users of illicit drugs, after a photograph of a drug user shot and killed by vigilantes made it to the front pages and became a symbol for the bloody antidrug campaign.

“I ordered the listing. I ordered the validation,” he said Sunday in a nationally televised speech at a naval base, referring to the roughly 150 people he mentioned by name. “I’m the one reading it, and I am the sole person responsible for these all.”

Al Jazeera reported remarks Duterte made shortly before his announcement:

Earlier on Saturday, Duterte had vowed to keep his “shoot-to-kill” order “until the last day of my term, if I’m still alive by then”.

“I don’t care about human rights, believe me,” he said, according to official transcripts released by the presidential palace.

About 800 people have been killed since Duterte won a landslide election in May, according to reports by the local press, which has been tracking reports of extra-judicial killings.

Before his assumption of the presidency, Duterte had been mayor Davao City, where under his watch he had encouraged vigilante groups, known as the Davao Death Squads, believed responsible for more than a 1,000 murders.

Duterte made no bones [or, rather he did, in Mafia parlance, declaring in 2009, “If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination.”

Duterte, who some have called the Philippine Donald Trump, has brought his ruthless policies onto the national stage with his assumption of presidential powers.

And now he’s giving the finger to the United Nations

The latest development, reported by United Press International:

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened Sunday to leave the United Nations over criticism of his pursuit of drug dealers.

In his hometown of Davao City, where he spent two decades as mayor before becoming president in a landslide election in May, Duterte suggested the Philippines could align itself with China and African countries to form a more useful international body.

“Maybe we’ll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations. If you are that insulting, we should just leave. Take us out of your organization. You have done nothing anyway. When were you here last time? Nothing. Never. Except to criticize,” he told the Davao City audience.

Two U.N. human rights specialists last week called Duterte’s orders an “incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law.” U.N. Secretary General; Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime were critical of Duterte’s “apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Agence France Presse has more on the U.N.’s rebuke

The UN’s special rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard, last week said Duterte’s promise of immunity and bounties to security forces who killed drug suspects violated international law.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June also strongly criticised Duterte, who during the election campaign promised to kill 100,000 people and dump so many bodies in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat from feeding on them.

“I unequivocally condemn his apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Ban said.

Duterte frequently peppers his public comments with swear words — he has also called Pope Francis and the US ambassador to Manila sons of whores — and days after his election win used typical language to criticise the UN.

“F**k you, UN, you can’t even solve the Middle East carnage… couldn’t even lift a finger in Africa,” he said then.

Duterte flips the rhetorical bird at Uncle Sam

The controversial president also made clear how he feels about human rights advice from the U.S.

From RT:

The Philippine leader also attacked the US for more members of the public dying as a result of police violence.

“What do you think the Americans did to the black people there? Is that not rubbing off also? And (critics) say what?”

>snip<

He also wondered whether UN officials were indeed threatening to jail him and repeated that he was ready to sacrifice his life and presidency for his country.

Duterte has developed a reputation for being very outspoken and even rude at times. Earlier in August, he called the US ambassador in the country “gay” and a “son of a bitch.”

Nobody should’ve been surprised

Duterte made his post-election plans clear in a remarkable speech to some of the nation’s leading capitalists back in April while still on campaign.

From Politiko, a Philippine political website — and note that final paragraph:

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has a simple plan in carrying out extra-judicial plan to kill criminals and drugs lords if he takes over as president: sign 1,000 pardons a day.

In a profanity-laced speech before the Makati Business Club on 27 April 2016, Duterte said he would exploit to the hilt a Constitutional provision which allowed the President to grant absolute or conditional pardon or amnesty with the concurrence of Congress.

“I will tell (those who carry out his orders to kill without hesitation) to get a paper, it will be pre-signed and just put your name and you’re pardoned. I don’t mind giving 1,000 pardons a day. The Constitution did not say anything about limiting it to 5 or 10,” said Duterte whose simplistic proposal drew a loud applause and laughter from the audience.

He said he would ask all police and military who carried out his orders to kill any criminal or drug lord without any hesitation to just point to him as the one who gave the order.

“I will tell every military and police to go out, hunt them, arrest them, and if they offer violent resistance, do not hesitate to kill them. If you have a gun, use it and that will solve every crime,” said Duterte.

Duterte planned to absolve of all these crimes by granting himself an absolute pardon before he would step down from power in 2022.

To sum up his approach to office, we turn to that venerable political sage Alfred E. Newman: “What, me worry?” Or maybe it’s found in the words of the high school bully we remember all too well, who would purposely bump into folks, then declare arrogantly, “Well, pardon me all to hell.”

Mobbed-up Donald’s grandfather was a pimp


Yep, ol’ Friedrich Drumpf, the man who changed the name to the more palatable Trump, was a German draft dodger who fled to the U.S. and promptly entered the sex trade.

That’s just one of the revelations — including close ties to mafia figures — contained in Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston’s new book,  The Making of Donald Trump.

In this interview by Amy Goodman and Juan González of Democracy Now!, Johnston dishes the dirt on The Donald:

“The Making of Donald Trump”: David Cay Johnston on Trump’s Ties to the Mob & Drug Traffickers

From the transcript:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in your book, you go into a story, not about his father, who’s been well known and covered previously by other publications, but about his grandfather. Talk about Donald Trump’s grandfather.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Donald Trump’s grandfather, Frederick, when he turned 16 in 1885, was subject to mandatory military service in Germany, so he fled the country and came to America. And then he followed Horace Greeley’s advice: “Go West, young man.” And he went into the whorehouse business. And he ran bordellos in Seattle, in Everett, Washington, and in the Yukon Territory, until the Royal Canadian Mounted Police showed up. He then took his fortune, went back to Germany, married a young woman his mother didn’t approve of, came back to America. His wife didn’t like it. They went back to Germany. He figured, with all his money, he could buy his way in. And they said, “You’re a draft dodger. Get out,” and sent him back to America.

AMY GOODMAN: And then, talk about his father, Fred Trump.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, Fred Trump, whose father died when he was 12 or 13 years old, was a very industrious guy. When he was 15 years old, he started a business—technically owned by his mother, because he couldn’t sign contracts—building garages in the outer boroughs of New York for these newfangled thing called automobiles. When the market collapsed because of the Great Depression, he invented one of the first grocery stores. People used to have clerks give them their canned goods and stuff. He opened one where you did your own, and then sold it for a profit.

He built housing during World War II for shipyard workers and is said to be the first person in line to get federal money to build worker housing. He was a profiteer. Dwight D. Eisenhower personally went into a rage over what he had done, how he’d ripped stuff off, and he had a creative explanation when he was called before the U.S. Senate to justify what he did. He said, “I didn’t profiteer. I didn’t take the money. It’s in the bank account.” Strange way to think about things. And, of course, they discriminated against everybody who wasn’t white, and were proven to have done this in the ‘50s and in the ‘70s. And Woody Guthrie, the folk singer, “This Land is Your Land,” he wrote a song, which is in the book thanks to the generosity of the Guthrie family, about one of the all-white outer suburb projects owned by Fred Trump.

Death by torture: New Aytozinapa autopsy report


The only body of a student recovered after the brutal brutal assault on students from the 26 September 2014 disappearances [previously] of 44 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, bore marks of extreme torture, according to a new report.

Of the 43 other students abducted that night, the remains of only one have been identified, and that from DNA extracted from a bone fragment found in a plastic garbage bag dumped in a nearby river: Alexander Mora Venancio.

The body of Julio César Mondragón Fontes was found the day after the abductions, allegedly by carried out by drug cartel members in league with local politicians.

Mondragón is survived by a wife and young daughter.

From teleSUR English:

The Argentine forensics team submitted its autopsy conclusions Monday about the only Ayotzinapa student’s body, found in September 2014, finding he was brutally tortured before dying, coinciding with his family’s claims against the government’s allegations.

The conclusions, handed into a local court in Guerrero state, agreed partially with the report issued on the same day by the Mexican Human Rights Commission that 22-year-old Julio Cesar Mondragon had 64 fractures in 40 bones, mostly in his skull, face and spine.

The new autopsy however found more injuries on the body that had not been reported in the first one, and confirmed the student was tortured, saying the “serious” fractures in the skull occurred “around the time of death,” without finding any injury due to firearms.

The Argentine experts also found that the boy died as a result of the traumatic brain injury inflicted by a blunt force weapon, while acknowledging fauna’s teeth marks inflicted after the death. But the Human Rights Commission denied the existence of a blunt force weapon, blaming it all on animals.

Nevertheless, both teams called upon federal authorities to investigate further the case including the torture allegations, just as the family of Mondragon and its legal team have demanded for almost two years, claiming they had evidence the student had been tortured while still alive.

More from CNN:

“Julio César Mondragón Fontes was the victim of physical torture,” said Jose Trinidad Larrieta, the special commissioner in Ayotzinapa at the National Human Rights Commission. “He was cruelly beaten by members of an organized gang and public servants of the Iguala municipality.”

.snip

Argentine forensic experts investigating the case said in February that there is no evidence to support the government’s hypothesis that the bodies of the 43 students were burned in a nearby landfill.

Jesús Murillo Karam, who was the attorney general when the students disappeared, said in November 2014 that the young men were abducted on orders of a local mayor, turned over to a gang that killed them, burned their bodies in a landfill and tossed the remains into a nearby river.

Suspects arrested, but none have been tried

The involvement of Mexican governments at all levels with drug cartels has been a given for decades, with politicians and law enforcement officials profiting handsomely from the endless rivers of cash generated by the hunger of the U.S. market.

So it should come as no surprise that of those arrested in connection with the abduction and murders, not a single suspect has been tried on criminal charges.

There’s more, after the jump. . .

From the Associated Press: Continue reading

Trump or Clinton: To Mexico, they’re all the same


John Ackerman is one of the leading legal lights of Mexico, serving as professor at the Institute for Legal Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico [UNAM] and as editor-in-chief of the Mexican Law Review. He is also a columnist for Proceso magazine, source of some of the finest investigative reporting in North America, and for the La Jornada newspaper.

He is also a relentless critic of the corruption of the government of President President Enrique Peña Nieto.

In a recent essay for the Dallas Morning News, he attacked his government’s role in the investigation of the 26 September 2014 disappearance [previously] of the 43 students, still missing and presumed dead, from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

The [Inter-American Human Rights Commission] panel has discovered that many of the key witnesses in the case were tortured, key evidence was likely planted on the scene of the crime, and the government’s story about what happened to the students (their bodies were supposedly incinerated at a garbage dump) is scientifically impossible.

Significantly, the panel also has discovered the complicity of federal forces with the disappearances. During the night of Sept. 26, the Federal Police and the Army, which has two large military bases in the vicinity, were constantly tracking the students’ movements in real time and even made themselves physically present on various occasions.

The evidence points to an intentional act of aggression by government forces — local, state and federal — against the group of student dissidents. Just as occurred frequently during the “dirty war” of the 1970s, the government took advantage of the relative isolation of the mountains of Guerrero to eliminate its political opponents. The good news is that this time someone was watching.

In the light of government repression and cover-ups like this one, it should come as no surprise that the public approval ratings for Peña Nieto have reached the lowest point for any Mexican president in recent history. Only 30 percent approve of his performance and only 13 percent believe that Mexico is today “on the right track,” according to a recent independent poll.

Regardless, the U.S. government irresponsibly continues to cover the back of the Peña Nieto administration. In its most recent Human Rights Report, the State Department claims that during 2015 “there were no reports of political prisoners or detainees” and that the Mexican government “generally respected” freedom of speech and the press. Congress also continues to funnel millions of dollars of support to Mexican law enforcement through the Merida Initiative.

Ackerman argues that it may make little difference who is elected president in the United States, since both politicians favor policies that can only bring more harm to his country.

Instead, he calls for a Mexico/U.S.-disconnect, given that the corruption in Mexico is aided, abetted, and even created by U.S. neoliberal politicians and their corporate sponsors.

Similarly, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will only deeply the wounds already inflicted on Mexico by NAFTA.

The TPP contains the same provisions as NAFTA for a establishing a secret tribunal where corporations can sue nation states for policies created to protect their citizens. Currently Mexico is being sued for blocking radioactive waste dumps, a measure that interferes with corporate profit potential.

And those panels work only in one direction: Nations can use them to sue corporations for harming their citizens.

But there are signs of hope.

Ackerman outlines his views in this very important interview from the Keiser Report, and it’s well worth your time.

From RT:

Keiser Report: US, Mexico & walls

Program notes:

In this special episode of the 2016 Summer Solutions series of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy talk to John Ackerman, professor, columnist and the Mexican Law Review’s editor-in-chief, about the economic relationship between Mexico and the United States. Ackerman has a plan to cut off the flow of funds from America to the Mexican government and he also responds to Donald Trump’s wall. Like Trump, however, Ackerman believes Nafta has been devastating… both to the American worker and to the population in Mexico. They conclude with solutions to the consequences of neoliberal capitalism and dodgy trade deals.

Map of the day: The trans-Atlantic slave trade


From Voyages, the Emory University database on that most execrable of human activities:

Captive Africans followed many routes from their homelands to other parts of the world. The map shows the trans-Atlantic movement of these captives in comparative perspective for the centuries since 1500 only. Estimates of the ocean-borne trade are more robust than are those for the trans-Saharan, Red Sea and Persian Gulf routes, but it is thought that for the period from the end of the Roman Empire to 1900 about the same number of captives crossed the Atlantic as left Africa by all other routes combined.

Captive Africans followed many routes from their homelands to other parts of the world. The map shows the trans-Atlantic movement of these captives in comparative per- spective for the centuries since 1500 only. Estimates of the ocean-borne trade are more robust than are those for the trans-Saharan, Red Sea and Persian Gulf routes, but it is thought that for the period from the end of the Roman Empire to 1900 about the same number of captives crossed the Atlantic as left Africa by all other routes combined.

Duterteo declares a violent police state


The new Philippine president who famous lamented he wasn’t first in line for a lethal gang rape and headed death squads suspected of 1,700 killings  announced today that he was following through on his campaign promises to shoot criminals.

From Agence France-Presse:

Philippines’ president-elect Rodrigo Duterte vowed Sunday to reintroduce capital punishment and give security forces “shoot-to-kill” orders in a devastating war on crime.

In his first press conference since winning the May 9 elections in a landslide, the tough-talking mayor of southern Davao city warned his campaign threats to kill were not rhetoric.

“What I will do is urge Congress to restore (the) death penalty by hanging,” Duterte, 71, told a press conference in Davao.

He also said he would give security forces “shoot-to-kill” orders against organised criminals or those who violently resisted arrest.

>snip<

He said military sharp shooters would be enlisted in his campaign to kill criminals.

Quote of the day: A plea from the Panama leaker


An excerpt from an extended manifesto by “John Doe,” the source of the Panama Leaks, published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

I have watched as one after another, whistleblowers and activists in the United States and Europe have had their lives destroyed by the circumstances they find themselves in after shining a light on obvious wrongdoing. Edward Snowden is stranded in Moscow, exiled due to the Obama administration’s decision to prosecute him under the Espionage Act. For his revelations about the NSA, he deserves a hero’s welcome and a substantial prize, not banishment. Bradley Birkenfeld was awarded millions for his information concerning Swiss bank UBS—and was still given a prison sentence by the Justice Department. Antoine Deltour is presently on trial for providing journalists with information about how Luxembourg granted secret “sweetheart” tax deals to multi-national corporations, effectively stealing billions in tax revenues from its neighbour countries. And there are plenty more examples.

Legitimate whistleblowers who expose unquestionable wrongdoing, whether insiders or outsiders, deserve immunity from government retribution, full stop. Until governments codify legal protections for whistleblowers into law, enforcement agencies will simply have to depend on their own resources or on-going global media coverage for documents.

In the meantime, I call on the European Commission, the British Parliament, the United States Congress, and all nations to take swift action not only to protect whistleblowers, but to put an end to the global abuse of corporate registers. In the European Union, every member state’s corporate register should be freely accessible, with detailed data plainly available on ultimate beneficial owners. The United Kingdom can be proud of its domestic initiatives thus far, but it still has a vital role to play by ending financial secrecy on its various island territories, which are unquestionably the cornerstone of institutional corruption worldwide. And the United States can clearly no longer trust its fifty states to make sound decisions about their own corporate data. It is long past time for Congress to step in and force transparency by setting standards for disclosure and public access.

And while it’s one thing to extol the virtues of government transparency at summits and in sound bites, it’s quite another to actually implement it. It is an open secret that in the United States, elected representatives spend the majority of their time fundraising. Tax evasion cannot possibly be fixed while elected officials are pleading for money from the very elites who have the strongest incentives to avoid taxes relative to any other segment of the population. These unsavoury political practices have come full circle and they are irreconcilable. Reform of America’s broken campaign finance system cannot wait.

The full, extensive, and growing collection of Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s Panama Leaks stories in English is posted here.