Pubdate: Fri, 22 Dec 2000
Source: Metroland (NY)
Copyright: 2000Metroland
Contact:  4 Central Ave., 4th Floor, Albany, NY 12210


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--which 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 
- ---
MAP posted-by: GD