Daily Archives: April 29, 2007

Mexican Journalist Risks Life to Expose Elite Pedophile Rings

New America Media | Apr 29, 2007

lydia-cacho

Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho

In her groundbreaking book on child prostitution, “Los demonios del Edén” (The Demons of Eden: The Power that Protects Child Pornography), published in spring of 2005, she documented the ties between child porn rings, Mexican politicians and prominent businessmen.

The pristine, sandy beaches of Cancun draw more than just visitors looking for a little fun and sun. Those with a penchant for little girls as young as four, have found their way to this region.

Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho is exposing the players in these Cancun-based sex rings, and risking her life for it.

Her empathy for human rights began at a young age when she played with the children in the slums of Mexico while her late mother, Paulette Ribeiro Monteiro, an early Mexican feminist, gave contraceptive information to their mothers. Cacho discovered that “there are things you can do to help your fellow men and women.”

Her awareness led her to a life of activism and journalism. She started a high-security shelter for abused women in Cancun where children opened up to her about the dark underworld of child porn rings and prostitution.

As a result, she says, “I’ve been taken to jail for telling other people’s stories. No one imagines that Cancun has this dark side.”

The underage sex rings she has exposed include Mexico’s rich and powerful. Mexico is a country that doesn’t take kindly to exposure of corruption and greed.

Currently the country is in the crosshairs of a violent drug war and some 17 journalists have been killed in the past five years for attempting to expose the corruption. Cacho, herself, is a target.

Cacho, considered one of Mexico’s most prominent and imperiled journalists, was recently in San Francisco and Los Angeles on a nationwide speaking tour after being awarded Amnesty International’s 2007 Ginetta Sagan Award.

In her groundbreaking book on child prostitution, “Los demonios del Edén” (The Demons of Eden: The Power that Protects Child Pornography), published in spring of 2005, she documented the ties between child porn rings, Mexican politicians and prominent businessmen.

She identifies Jean Succar Kuri, a multimillionaire hotel owner, as the head of a group who sexually abused young girls in Cancun.

“Succar Kuri would get these poor girls from the area and have sex with them. Then send photos by email to his wife in Los Angeles, who would then forward them to Las Vegas,” stated Cacho.

Lebanese-born Succar Kuri has been under arrest in Mexico since July of 2006, after his extradition from the United States. He faces charges of arranging child porn parties in Cancún, money laundering and organized crime.

Cacho, who published all the names of the politicians and policemen who were involved in protecting Succar Kuri, told El Tecolote, “I did this quite conscious that I could be killed for this, but there was no other way.” She has been under police protection since receiving death threats last year.

“By the time I started writing the book, we knew there were 200 kids in this ring. Most of them poor, without any protection from the Mexican state, because if you are poor, there is no way you can get attention from justice or the police.”

On December 16, 2005, Cacho was arrested and denied access to her lawyer and medicine. She spent the night in prison and was then released on $9,900 bail.

“I was arrested with four cars and many armed policemen. They took me from Cancun to Puebla some 20 hours away,” she said. Police jammed guns against her face, threatened and taunted her with death and rape threats.

She was charged with defamation, a criminal offense in Mexico, for writing that one of Mexico’s powerful businessmen, textile magnate Kamel Nacif, used his power to protect suspected child molestor Succar Kuri.

Cacho remembers being marched to the edge of the ocean thinking she was going to be killed. At the last minute, recounts Cacho, the cell phone of one of her captors rang. The attitude of her guards then changed and they began treating her very well.

Fortunately, after hearing of her arrest, Cacho’s supporters quickly mobilized and reached out to human rights organizations around the world.

“That’s when Amnesty International got involved. For any one of you who wrote one of these urgent action letters, thank you very much, it saved my life. I’m living proof of what Amnesty International can do when you sit in your house and write a letter or when you email it.”

But she still was considered guilty and spent the year going to jail every week. “I got my freedom back in January 2007. I could demonstrate I did not commit libel.”

Cacho filed a counter-suit for violation of her human rights. She became the first woman in Mexico to file a federal suit against a governor, district attorney, and judge for corruption and attempted rape in prison.

“I am the first Mexican woman in Mexican history to take a case to the Supreme Court. The Court is not interested in citizens. They are interested in politics. So they only listen to politicians. I am trying to take the governor of Puebla to trial. He was involved in getting me in jail and allowing them to plan my rape and beating. I don’t know if I’m going to win that, but I’m taking it one day at a time.”

She has some powerful enemies. “All the experts I interviewed believe it is an international mafia also involving Las Vegas.” Cacho’s life is repeatedly threatened and she has to travel with armed guards. Despite these dangers, she continues to champion the advancement of human rights for all children and women through her writing and advocacy work. “I don’t want revenge,” said Cacho, “I want accountability and transparency.”

As for the children… “most of the kids are going through psychological therapy, and we don’t know if they will ever really regain their lives. But some are real survivors, they are changing their lives and are taking their souls and reconstructing them every day.”

Ultra-violent MS-13 gangs now present in 3,500 U.S. cities

Knowgangs.com | Apr 25, 2007

The ultra-violent street gang MS-13, causing mayhem in cities and suburbs across the United States, is the focus of an international conference here co-sponsored by the FBI and the national police force in this Central American nation that served as the birthplace of the urban marauders.

In the opening session of the Gang Enforcement Conference (Tercera Conferencia Antipandillas), El Salvador President Antonio Saca said the problem is one that should concern many nations.

“Gangs like MS-13 have evolved into coordinated and well-financed criminal organizations,” he said, making them an international problem.

“The immigration that we have experienced in the region, into Mexico and the United States is a theme we have to understand,” Saca explained. “The same activity of the criminal gangs we experience here in this region is now being experienced in the United States. The territorial expansion of these criminal organizations is the principle menace we are facing from gangs like MS-13.”

The conference, which started yesterday, is sponsored by the Policia National Civil (National Civil Police) in El Salvador and co-sponsored by the FBI’s MS-13 Task Force, headed by Brian Truchon in Washington.

A select group of U.S. and international law enforcement officers, including representatives from Mexico and Latin America, is working on how to respond to the El Salvador-grown MS-13 gang (Mara Salvatrucha Gang), the tattooed drug-dealing criminals haunting the nightmares of FBI agents across the U.S.

WND reported as early as 1995 the gang reportedly was meeting with representatives of al-Qaida and smuggling operatives into the United States from Mexico.

Attorney James Trusty recently told a court in a case reported by the Washington Post that three leaders participated in or planned four murders over a span of only two years. Trusty told the court MS-13 gang members follow the “rape, kill and control” philosophy,” using guns, knives and machetes.

Robert Loosle, FBI special agent in charge in Los Angeles, told WND that a key focus of the conference is to make sure “everybody is on the same page” both within the U.S. and internationally in dealing with the growing problem of Hispanic gangs in the United States.

“With Hispanic gangs, we are facing an international law enforcement challenge,” Loosle explained. “Gangs like MS-13 may cause a problem locally in the U.S. communities where the gang operates. But the gang has ties and connections back to El Salvador, as well as to other Latin American countries.”

Frank Flores of the Los Angeles Police Department told the convention that MS-13 today is recruiting members not just from El Salvador, but from the Hispanic community at large and even from Los Angeles’ African-American community.

Flores told the group that the Mexican Mafia controls the Hispanic groups in California from within the state prisons.

“Gangs like MS-13 or the 18th Street Gang have a history that goes back into the 1980s,” Flores explained. “The Mexican Mafia is organized as a crime hierarchy, along the model of the Sicilian Mafia. The big money business for the Hispanic gangs still is drugs. All through Los Angeles any gang or gang member who wants to deal drugs is going to have to pay ‘rent’ to EME [the Mexican Mafia], or else they are out of business and most likely dead.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is planning to visit President Saca during his nine-day swing through El Salvador and Mexico planned in early May, and Loosle told WND that he was planning to remain in El Salvador after the conference in order to prepare for Villaraigosa’s meeting with Saca.

“Los Angeles and San Salvador are sister cities,” Loosle said. “We want to make sure our FBI gang task force and Mexico’s Policia National Civil exchange information and work together on a continuing basis.”

“We also want to set up an officer exchange program,” Loosle continued, “where LAPD officers can be assigned to work in El Salvador to gain experience and at the same time we can invite officers from El Salvador’s national police to work with us in LA.”

An important theme in the first day of the conference was that “if it’s happening in LA, it’s probably also happening here in El Salvador.”

“In the world of Hispanic gangs,” Jose Chavez of the LAPD told the conference, “all roads lead to LA. We are trying to exchange information with law enforcement throughout the U.S. and throughout Latin America. LA is becoming a ‘fusion center’ for information on Hispanic gangs.”

El Salvadoran law enforcement authorities echoed that theme.

Potent meth from Mexican ‘superlabs’

KVUE | April 27, 2007

superlab_cash

Agents found a mountain of cash inside an upscale home near Mexico City.

Local authorities are seeing far fewer methamphetamine labs in Texas, thanks to tough laws controlling the sale of a primary ingredient: over-the-counter cold medicine.

But while most of the “mom and pop” meth cooks may be gone, the supply of the illegal and addictive stimulant drug remains steady.

The meth is coming from secret “superlabs” in Mexico cooking up a highly addictive form of the drug while making huge profits.

In a wealthy suburb of Mexico City, it is not unusual to see extra security.

At one palatial home, a guard stood vigil with a dog at his side. They had been protecting a dark secret.

Last month, neighbors were astouded by what authorities discovered neatly stacked inside: More than $200 million—the largest single drug cash seizure by law enforcement in history.

“Trafficking in pain” is how Jose Vasconcelos describes it. He’s the international liason for Mexico’s attorney general.

A joint investigation by U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies led authorities to the house.

The man who lived there is a Chinese national who is also a naturalized Mexican citizen. He owned a pharmaceutical company, and investigators said he profited by illegally selling a key ingredient used to make meth: pseudoephedrine.

Pseudoephedrine is found in many cold and allergy medications that were once available over-the-counter. Tighter controls in the U.S. forced many mom-and-pop meth labs to shut down.

“Unfortunately, that niche has been filled up by Mexican meth,” said Herschel Tebay of the Tarrant County narcotics unit.

Now, large quantities of meth are cooked up in “superlabs” south of the border. These state-of-the-art facilities produce a more pure and potent form of meth known on the streets as “ice.”

It is also more addictive.

“It’s a diabolical plan by these criminal organizations to increase demand,” Vasconcelos said.

When it comes to shutting off the meth supply from Mexico, the U.S. government is sharing some of the hard lessons learned when labs proliferated in the United States.

Just this past year, the Drug Enforcement Administration helped train more than 2,000 Mexican law enforcement agents to help them better crack down and clean up superlabs.

We saw evidence of Mexico’s move to cut its own over-the-counter pseudoephedrine supply. A drug store clerk verified that many cold medications in Mexico now contain a substitute ingredient.

Mexico is a leader in setting quotas on pseudoephedrine imports to match legitimate need—slashing those imports by two-thirds in the past couple of years.

Smuggling from China, however, is a growing problem.

Mexican authorities said the man who amassed the fortune smuggled his supply through U.S. ports and then into Mexico. A borderless black market continues to ensure a steady supply of meth on America’s streets.

Super-rich treble wealth in last 10 years

The Times | Apr 29, 2007

THE WEALTH of the richest 1,000 people in Britain has more than trebled in the decade since Tony Blair came to power promising greater fairness, according to The Sunday Times Rich List, published today.

The 260% rise in the wealth of Britain’s richest contrasts with a 120% average wealth increase for the population as a whole. Britons have benefited from the booming housing market but, unlike the super-rich, have done less well with their financial investments.

As the prime minister prepares to leave Downing Street, one legacy is a nation that has become a haven for the international super-rich. The number of billionaires living in Britain has surged to 68, up from 54 last year. About a third are from

overseas and only three of the wealthiest 10 billionaires were born here.

The richest are Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian-born steel magnate now worth £19.25 billion, and Roman Abramovich, the Russian oil tycoon valued at £10.8 billion.

“They have come for the tax, the social circles and the security,” said Philip Beresford, the compiler of the list. “At first they were concentrated in London but now they are snapping up country estates.”

Complex rules on residency and domicile status mean the super-rich from overseas can, as one accountancy expert put it, “avoid paying virtually any tax in Britain apart from council tax”. Beresford added: “There’s the cluster effect. Russians have followed Abramovich, Indians are following the Mittals and Swedes are following the Rausings.”

The richest Briton is the Duke of Westminster, whose property holdings keep rising in value.

He is worth £7 billion. Next come Sir Philip and Lady Green, owners of Bhs, Topshop and other retail chains, who are worth £4.9 billion. They are based in Monaco.

More than half of the buyers of homes in the capital costing more than £2m come from overseas, according to Knight Frank, the estate agent. “The middle classes used to live in Chelsea and they have already been forced out to Battersea,” said Liam Bailey of Knight Frank. “Now the same thing is happening to the British rich.”

However, many insist the mix of foreign incomers with homegrown entrepreneurial flair has been good for Britain. Mike Warburton, a tax expert with Grant Thornton, the accountancy firm, said: “In many ways we are a tax haven for nationals from overseas. But there is no doubt the UK has benefited enormously.

“It has attracted talent, wealth and enterprise. It has made London the financial centre of the world. The super-rich from overseas can quite legitimately avoid tax — but it doesn’t mean they don’t spend.”

The most surprising entries in the top 10 are David Khalili, an Iranian Jew, and Jim Ratcliffe, a little-known British deal maker who has built the third-largest chemical company in the world.

Khalili, 61, is based in London but was born in Iran. After national service he completed his education in America where he was fascinated by the great art collections. He began buying undervalued Islamic art, Spanish metalwork and Indian textiles. His collections may be worth £4.5 billion and with other assets, including property, he is valued at £5.8 billion.

Khalili said that he wanted to exhibit his art to promote inter-faith understanding.

Ratcliffe has risen almost without trace to become Britain’s 10th richest person. A former venture capitalist, he has made a £3.3 billion fortune by snapping up undervalued chemical companies. In 1998 he was 880th in the Rich List with a mere £20m.

His Ineos group now employs more than 15,000 people in 14 countries. Ratcliffe guards his privacy and last week declined to answer questions about his own life. “He’s a very personal man,” said a spokesman.

Drivers’ Pockets Picked to Subsidize Chevron’s New Profit Record, Says Group

Yubanet.com | Apr 28, 2007

Chevron, like Exxon Mobil and the other major oil companies, saw its earnings in the traditional oil business dip in the first three months of the year, while a broken market allowed it to make up the difference with a sharp spike in the price of gasoline and other fuels. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights noted that unusual refinery outages that cut total output are the reason Chevron’s refinery profit margin was so high. The company has shorted the market to artificially drive up gasoline prices.

Analysts today credited Chevron’s $700 million sale of a European refinery for a $4.27 billion record 1st quarter profit, an 18% increase from last year’s record. Yet the story for consumers and the economy is that Chevron’s refinery profits, as for other oil companies, are so high that it would have set a new record without the sale. With gasoline prices spiking again today, it is urgent for elected officials to get a regulatory grip on what is happening in the refining industry, said FTCR.

“A company that seems barely able to keep its refineries running, and saw oil prices dip from last year, took advantage of an uncompetitive market to make up its losses with spiking gasoline prices,” said Judy Dugan, research director of FTCR and its OilWatchdog.org project. “In the toy business, a fire at the Barbie factory would mean less profits, not more, for Mattel, because it couldn’t simply double its profits on the remaining dolls. In the car business, lower steel prices would become lower prices for car buyers, because General Motors has to fight for competitive advantage against Toyota. None of that is happening in the oil industry because its few remaining giants have no reason to compete, and government is turning a blind eye.”

Chevron’s input at its U.S. refineries was 729 million barrels per day for the quarter, down 22% from the first quarter of last year because of longer “planned maintenance” downtime and accidents including fires. That restriction of output was more than made up for by refining margins that shot up nearly 46% to $27 per barrel on the U.S. West Coast, said FTCR. Chevron, based in San Ramon, controls one-fourth of the total refinery capacity in California. Its total profit on U.S. refining operations rose 66% — far more than at international refineries once the $700 million sale of a plant in the Netherlands is subtracted.

“Oil companies are no longer able to cite oil prices as the major force behind gasoline prices, because gasoline has risen faster and stayed higher, in comparison to oil, than the historical pattern,” said Dugan. “Now they cite supply and demand, as though oil and gasoline were normal markets. They’re not, because oil companies have shaved away any cushion in refining capacity or supplies on hand. They control the supply and keep it short, forcing prices higher.”

Gasoline prices jumped nationally by nearly 2 cents overnight, to $2.90 a gallon for regular, according to AAA. California was up to $3.367 on average, only about a penny short of last year’s all-time record. With wholesale markets shooting upward in the last few days, greater increases at the pump are expected next week.

“It will be political malpractice for Congress, regulators and state government to continue to ignore the growing evidence of price-gouging in gasoline to keep profits at record levels,” said Jamie Court, president of the nonprofit, nonpartisan FTCR. “Government has the ability and responsibility to regulate refinery capacity, output and supplies on hand, which would produce fairer gasoline prices.”

FTCR has also called on government to press for more conservation and robust alternatives to gasoline, including biofuels, to reduce the control of Big Oil over transportation fuels.

See http://www.oilwatchdog.org/ and click on “news releases” for FTCR’s comment Thursday on Exxon profits and Tuesday on BP.

Record profits rev up Chevron

Insidebayarea.com | Apr 28, 2007

Chevron Corp.’s first-quarter earnings rocketed 18 percent higher, propelled by handsome refining and gasoline profits, along with an asset sale, the energy giant reported Friday.

Profits soared to $4.72 billion, or $2.18 a share, for the three months that ended March 31. That compared with year-before profits of $4 billion, or $1.80 a share. Revenue slumped 12 percent primarily because of an accounting change, the company said.

San Ramon-based Chevron’s profits beat Wall Street’s expectations by a wide margin. The upside surprise came even after excluding the one-time $700 million gain from Chevron’s sale of its stake in a refinery in the Netherlands.

“These are very solid profits,” said Robbert Van Batenburg, head of research at Louis Capital Markets. “They literally took people by surprise.”

Excluding the effect of the profits from the Netherlands sale, Chevron earned $1.86 a share. That was 18 cents higher than the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Chevron was able to ride a wave of improved margins at refineries, even in the face of the outage of its Richmond refinery, analysts said.

“Refining margins literally soared in the first quarter,” Batenburg said. “That benefited many of the major oil companies, including Chevron.”

Chevron has a number of other refineries throughout the country including in El Segundo.

According to Bloomberg, profit margins for refining crude oil into gasoline, diesel and other

fuels jumped 59 percent to $28.76 a barrel during the first quarter.

Separately, California Energy Commission data show that the cost of crude oil shipped to California fell 5.5 percent during the year that ended on April 23.

Over the same 12 months, a MediaNews analysis shows that the price of branded retail gasoline, excluding government-imposed taxes, rose 9.3 percent.

The profit and refinery margin trends provoked criticism from an activist group, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

“A company that seems barely able to keep its refineries running, and saw oil prices dip from last year, took advantage of an uncompetitive market to make up its losses with spiking gasoline prices,” said Judy Dugan, research director with the consumer foundation. Chevron said the refinery outage cost it $150 million. That was a combination of lost revenue and expenses from the repairs needed to bring the Richmond factory back on line, Chevron spokesman Don Campbell said.

Yet the actual profits from Chevron’s downstream business, which includes refinery operations and marketing, turned out to be only a fraction of the company’s total profits. The $350 million in downstream profits amount to 7.4 percent of the $4.7 billion Chevron earned in the first quarter.

Moreover, Chevron spent $4.1 billion in capital expenditures related to exploration and other projects during the first three months of 2007, Campbell said.

“We are reinvesting aggressively to develop new energy supplies for consumers and the international market,” Campbell said. “This year, we will spend almost $20 billion to develop new oil and gas supplies.”

Chevron and other energy companies could continue to benefit in the coming months from a rising demand for gasoline — some of it seasonal related to the summer travel season, analysts said.

“Gasoline demand continues at a fairly good pace,” said Bernard Picchi, an analyst with Wall Street Access, an investment firm.

Chevron increased its branded sales of gasoline by about 5 percent compared with a year ago, Picchi said. The industry average was about 1 to 2 percent during the year, he estimated.

“Chevron is gaining market share from someone,” Picchi said.

Refinery margins in the first quarter were even stronger than they were last summer, said John Leiviska, a debt portfolio manager with Advantus Capital Management.

“The key factor is refinery spreads were very strong in the first quarter, even stronger than they were last summer,” Leiviska said. “That is a harbinger of greater demand for fuel going forward. Refinery output is pretty much running full out.”

Chevron shares fell 10 cents to $78.08 in New York Stock Exchange trading Friday.

Exxon Mobil profits reach new record

Monsters and Critics | Apr 26, 2007

Exxon Mobil Corp earnings continued to hit new records Thursday as the world’s largest oil company reported a 10- per-cent rise in first-quarter profits on high petrol prices, despite a fall in the cost of crude oil.

Net income climbed to 9.28 billion dollars from 8.4 billion dollars a year earlier, while revenue fell 2 per cent to 87.2 billion dollars, the Irving, Texas-based company said.

‘Higher refining, marketing and chemical margins were partly offset by a decrease in crude oil and natural gas realizations,’ Exxon Mobil Chairman Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

Demand for petrol in the US climbed 1.7 per cent and petrol prices rose 33 per cent in the first quarter of 2006, while the company said its average price for crude oil fell 3 per cent over the same period.

Exxon doubled its refining profits to 1.91 billion dollars, while earnings from crude oil and natural gas dropped 5.4 per cent to 6.04 billion dollars.

The earnings report beat analysts’ forecasts, according to Bloomberg financial news service. Shares in Exxon Mobil climbed 0.71 per cent to 80.49 dollars in afternoon trading on Wall Street Monday.