Pubdate: Thu, 21 Dec 2000
Source: Metroland (US NY)
Copyright: 2000 Metroland
Contact:  4 Central Ave., 4th Floor, Albany, NY 12210
Author: Larry Goodwin


The managers of Voxel Dot Net Inc., a small Internet-service provider in
Troy, hardly imagined that they would ever become embroiled in an
international dispute over drug trafficking. But this month, that's exactly
what happened.

Last Thursday (Dec. 14), Voxel was contacted by representatives of Akin,
Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a Washington, D.C. law firm representing the
Mexican bank Banamex. Through a lawsuit filed in federal District Court in
New York City, Banamex is waging a legal battle to discredit media reports
indicating that its president, Roberto Hernandez Ramirez, is a drug
trafficker whose activities are allegedly protected by powerful politicians
in both Mexico and the United States.

Since last April, Voxel has provided Internet access to the Narco News
Bulletin, a news service that seeks to expose the alleged hypocrisies of the
U.S.-led war against drugs=8Bwhich enters its next phase in January with the
start of a military operation in southern Colombia targeting coca growers.
Akin Gump reportedly asked Voxel to dismantle the Narco News Web site
(, but the company refused, citing free speech concerns.

`This has the makings of a huge, huge case,' said Raj Dutt, the corporate
spokesman for Voxel in Troy. Dutt said he could not comment specifically on
any legal action that might be taken against his company. `We're not being
held responsible. We are the host' of Narco News, he said.

Dutt added that the news bulletin was `providing a public service' and that
Voxel would continue providing Internet access `until we get a court order
basically telling us to take the site down.'

`I'm not authorized to speak to the press on behalf of our client,' said
Akin Gump spokesman Tom McLish, who has been attempting to serve the legal
papers related to a lawsuit brought against the Narco News publisher, former
Boston Phoenix political writer Al Giordano.

In July, Narco News translated a series of articles published in Por Esto!,
Mexico's third-largest daily newspaper, which documented how the Hernandez
property in the state of Quintana Roo has become a prime shipping point for
Colombian cocaine. The paper went so far as to call the Hernandez ranch,
located on Mexico's Caribbean coast, `the cocaine peninsula.' Hernandez
filed lawsuits against the editor and publisher of Por Esto!, along with
several of the paper's reporters, to force a retraction of its investigative
stories. But top Mexican judges ruled against him, saying the stories were
`based on the facts,' according to Narco News.

Other Mexican papers have reported how Hernandez hosted a private reception
at his ranch this year that was attended by newly elected Mexican President
Vincente Fox, U.S. ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow and President Bill
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