Pubdate: Wed, 22 Aug 2001
Source: Recorder, The (MA)
Copyright: 2001 The Recorder
Author: Richie Davis, Recorder Staff
Cited: Narco News:


Former Greenfield Man A Muckraker To Be Reckoned With

Alberto Giordano, who left Franklin County after leading a successful 1982 
statewide referendum campaign on siting radioactive waste plants or dumps 
in Massachusetts, started The Narco News Bulletin in April 2000 to present 
what the Mexican and Latin American press is saying about the drug war.

It's been 20 years since Alberto M. "Al" Giordano, then living in 
Greenfield, told The Recorder about his upcoming campaign for a statewide 
nuclear waste siting referendum, "We're still swimming upstream, but the 
motor's more sophisticated."

Then only 21 years old and five years beyond beginning his career by 
testifying before the New York Legislature on a proposed nuclear power 
plant moratorium, Giordano had already been arrested 19 times on trespass 
charges in anti-nuclear demonstrations.

But Giordano, a Bronx-born activist who moved to Rowe in 1979 and soon 
became a thorn in the side of Yankee Atomic officials by suing to shut the 
plant, is using even grander motors today. He's taking on the international 
drug trade, a campaign that's landed him in a high-profile libel case 
involving one of the world's richest men.

The case, in which Giordano is being defended by Conway attorney Thomas 
Lesser stems from 1997 reporting about billionaire Roberto Hernandez 
Ramirez. The article ties the president and primary shareholder of Banco 
Nacional de Mexico, who hosted an anti-drug summit attended by President 
Clinton, to drug trafficking and money laundering.

Banamex, as it is known, was acquired by Citigroup this summer for $12.5 

Rolling Stone magazine, which recently named Giordano its choice for "Hot 
Muckraker," wrote, "It's probably safe to say that in filing this suit, 
Banamex didn't know with whom it was picking a fight."

Giordano, who left Franklin County after leading a successful 1982 
statewide referendum campaign on siting radioactive waste plants or dumps 
in Massachusetts and then wrote for the Boston Phoenix, placed the 
translated article, by Mexican reporter Mario Menendez, on his internet 

Now living in Mexico - and reportedly up to 27 arrests - Giordano started 
the Narco News Bulletin in April 2000 to present what the Mexican and Latin 
American press is saying about the drug war.

"The Narco News does not claim objectivity," Giordano wrote in his opening 
statement, with a "Don't Tread on Me" colonial banner flag. "We are out to 
break the manufactured consensus north of the border... In the South, as 
the stories we translate and summarize demonstrate, a new consensus, based 
on the reality of drug prohibition between nations and peoples is already 
under construction."

Giordano, preparing to launch a "Narco News Fall Offensive, " has been the 
subject of recent articles in Rolling Stone, Wired, The Village Voice, 
Online Journalism Review, In These Times, the London Guardian and other media.

"Internet and legal scholars say it is a potentially precedent-setting case 
that raises fundamental questions about free speech and the globalized 
world of cyberspace, as well as the role of the independent journalists in 
a media world increasingly controlled by corporate giants," The Christian 
Science Monitor wrote last month.

"It's definitely precedent-setting," said Lesser, who argued that New York 
State Supreme Court is not the proper jurisdiction to the case, since there 
was no relationship to New York.

"A web site based in Mexico and reporting about Mexican affairs being sued 
in New York State means that... a person can essentially be sued anywhere 
in the world. It has no relationship to New York. They could have easily 
sued in Iowa."

The bank's attorney's counter that Giordano made statements about the Narco 
News in various New York forums.

The second "extraordinary" aspect of the case, from Lesser's standpoint, is 
that Banamex was never implicated in the article, yet it was the bank 
rather than Hernandez that brought the suit "to chill First Amendment rights."

Giordano, never one to pull punches, told the Village Voice recently that 
Hernandez is "hiding behind his bank. Just showing my face will speak 
volumes about which side of the debate is telling the truth."

The Voice called this "the summer's more entertaining media trial."

It's no surprise to find Giordano, who not only masterminded the 
Massachusetts referendum campaign but then became the only western 
Massachusetts representative on the state's Low-Level Radioactive Waste 
Siting Board, continues to make waves on an international level.

"Make no mistake," wrote the Annenberg School of Journalism's Online 
Journalism Review, "Narco News posts a style of writing you won't find 
landing in your typical American driveway or on the major wire services. 
The slant is opinionated, left wing and activist. But that doesn't 
undermine its legitimacy, especially on the Web."

Back when he was in Franklin County Superior Court arguing his own case 
against a Boston corporate law firm to have the Rowe plant shut down, 
Giordano acknowledged, "It was 1 percent intimidation, 99 percent adventure 
but 100 percent necessity. Law, like nuclear power, is something laymen 
should attempt to understand."

Today, awaiting a decision he expects to be at least a few months away, 
Giordano reflects, "In the end, these two battles, 20 years and 3,000 miles 
apart, are the same battle. They are battles waged, necessarily, by 
populations threatened by huge and powerful interests that are used to 
getting their own way... There is a word for this: Democracy."

For Giordano, who cut his political teeth on populist issues in Franklin 
County, it's all the same fight.

"It's like being in the Franklin County Courthouse all over again," 
according to Giordano, "except that the stage is New York City, and through 
the Internet, it's global... There's no gimmick. It's just, hey, bringing 
back the practice of authentic law while we do the same with journalism."

On the Internet:
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