Woman, testifying against El Chapo, details affair
By TOM HAYS
Friday, January 18
NEW YORK (AP) — Lucero Guadalupe Sanchez Lopez was already trapped in an impossible extramarital relationship with Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman when she found herself in an even crazier bind — fleeing with Guzman and others from authorities through an underground tunnel, her outlaw love interest in the buff.
Guzman “was naked,” Sanchez said Thursday. “He took off running. He left us behind.”
The account of the mad dash in 2014 and Sanchez’s tortured romance with Guzman while he was on the run came at a U.S. drug trafficking trial that’s detailed his rise and fall as a near-mythical cartel boss. His lawyers say the allegations have been fabricated by cooperators seeking leniency in their own cases.
Sanchez, 29, a former local politician from Guzman’s home state of Sinaloa, took the witness stand in jail smocks after pleading guilty earlier this year to drug charges following her arrest last year. She told her tale with Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, sitting expressionless in the gallery.
The petite and soft-spoken witness said she met Guzman in 2010 and by 2011 was visiting him at his hideouts in Cabo San Lucas and elsewhere, and texting with him on cell phones protected by encryption he gave her. Over time, they began mixing business with pleasure that caused her distress, she said.
“Until this day, I’m confused because I thought we were in a romantic relationship,” she said toward the start of her testimony before she began sobbing and needed a break to compose herself. Later, she said of Guzman, “Sometimes I loved him and sometimes I didn’t.”
The trouble began when Guzman drafted Sanchez to purchase marijuana for him, with instructions to ready 400 kilograms (882 pounds) for each plane used to transport it from the countryside. Prosecutors showed the jury intercepted texts where the pair called each “love” as they plotted how best to move drugs, though some of Guzman’s messages sounded more menacing.
Sanchez said she would sometimes sweet talk Guzman “so he didn’t think I would rat him out. I thought he could hurt me.”
The romance began to sour toward the end of 2012 but “seemed like it would never end,” Sanchez said, and when he invited her to one of the safe houses in the Sinaloa city of Culiacan in 2014, she automatically accepted.
At the time, a team of Mexican marines were hunting for Guzman, forcing him to leave the safehouse and move to another, she said. She went along and was spending the night with him when there was a commotion outside as one of his assistants blurted, “They’re on us.”
She testified that Guzman led her into a bathroom, where the bathtub was lifted with hydraulics to expose a fortified trap door leading to a dark, damp sewage tunnel. It led to a more remote part of the city, where they made their escape, she said.
She was asked how long she was in the tunnel. “Long enough to be traumatized,” she said, before her testimony ended for the day.
Shortly after the two apparently parted ways, Guzman was captured at a hotel in the resort town of Mazatlan where he had met up with his wife and young twin daughters. Earlier Thursday, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was there testified how the marines were in disbelief that they had bagged Mexico’s most wanted, who would still end up escaping a Mexican jail in 2016 before being recaptured for good.
“Is it him? Is it him?” DEA agent Victor Vazquez said the soldiers kept asking him. He testified he then looked at Guzman with wonder and said, “It’s you.”
How Central American migrants helped revive the US labor movement
January 18, 2019
Author: Elizabeth Oglesby, Associate Professor of Latin American Studies and Geography, University of Arizona
Disclosure statement: Elizabeth Oglesby does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
In the United States’ heated national debate about immigration, two views predominate about Central American migrants: President Donald Trump portrays them as a national security threat, while others respond that they are refugees from violence.
Little is said about the substantial contributions that Central Americans have made to U.S. society over the past 30 years.
For one, Guatemalan and Salvadoran immigrants have helped expand the U.S. labor movement, organizing far-reaching workers rights’ campaigns in migrant-dominated industries that mainstream unions had thought to be untouchable.
Migrants and unions
More than 1 million Salvadorans and Guatemalans came to the United States between 1981 and 1990, fleeing army massacres, political persecution and civil war.
Since the 1980s, I have researched, taught and written about this wave of migrants. Back then, President Ronald Reagan warned apocryphally that Central America was a threat to the United States, telling Congress in 1983 that “El Salvador is nearer to Texas than Texas is to Massachusetts.”
Just 2 percent of Salvadorans and Guatemalans received asylum in the 1980s – so few that a 1990 class action lawsuit alleging discrimination compelled the U.S. government to reopen tens of thousands cases. Today, about 10 to 25 percent of their asylum petitions are granted.
Then, as now, many undocumented immigrants in the U.S. worked in agriculture or service industries, often under exploitative conditions. Unionization barely touched these sectors in the 1980s.
More broadly, the bargaining power of labor unions was suffering under Reagan, whose presidency started with his firing of 11,0000 striking air traffic controllers. Downsizing and outsourcing at American companies in the 1980s also eroded union membership and pushed wages down.
Many Guatemalans and Salvadorans were veteran community organizers. They had faced down government terror to participate in unions, peasant leagues, Catholic social justice campaigns or indigenous rights initiatives — all currents in 1980s revolutionary Central America.
Drawing on these experiences, many Central American immigrants began to organize in their U.S. workplaces, demanding higher wages and safer conditions.
Salvadorans led Justice for Janitors to victory
Salvadoran immigrants in California were pivotal in Justice for Janitors, a pioneering low-paid workers’ movement that inspired today’s $15 minimum wage campaign.
Justice for Janitors began in Los Angeles in 1990. It aimed to reverse the wage drops that janitors suffered over the past decade.
Rather than do battle with the small subcontractors that hired cleaning crews for big office buildings, Justice for Janitors targeted the corporations that owned those buildings. Led by experienced Salvadoran unionists — some of whom had fled death squad violence back home – the movement used non-violent civil disobedience and strikes to expose exploitative labor practices.
Speaking out could be dangerous. Police once clubbed participants at a peaceful march through LA’s Century City neighborhood on June 15, 1990. Undocumented workers feared deportation.
But it worked. Janitors in LA won a 22 percent raise after their 1990 citywide strike, showing mainstream labor unions that even the city’s most marginalized workers — undocumented Central Americans, many of them women — had real organizing power.
Over the next decade, some 100,000 janitors nationwide joined the campaign, under the banner of the Service Employees Industrial Union. The movement negotiated contracts that increased wages and health benefits for janitors across the U.S.
Guatemalans defended Florida farmworkers
Hundreds of thousands of people fled Guatemala during the early 1980s, escaping a genocidal army campaign against indigenous communities that left entire regions of its highlands charred and empty.
Roughly 20,000 of these Guatemalan refugees — many were of whom spoke indigenous Mayan languages — landed in Florida in 1982, finding work in sweltering tomato farms and citrus groves.
Up to 90 percent of the fresh tomatoes in U.S. supermarkets comes from Florida.
Working conditions in the state’s tomato fields were dismal in the 1980s. Migrants earned just 40 cents per 32-pound bucket of tomatoes picked. Some were forced by armed guards to work against their will, as a 1997 court case about the use of slave labor in Florida’s tomato fields exposed.
In 1993, Guatemalan immigrants joined with Florida’s Haitian and Mexican farmworkers to form the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a community-worker alliance that began in the basement of a local church in Immokalee, Florida. It used strategies common to Latin American protest movements, including street theater and socially conscious radio broadcasts, to unite Florida’s agricultural workers.
After five years of work stoppages, hunger strikes and marches, Florida’s tomato pickers won wage increases of up to 25 percent. A multiyear nationwide boycott of Taco Bell convinced the fast food chain in 2005 to increase the earnings of the farmworkers who supply its ingredients. Other fast food giants followed suit.
In 2015, the Immokalee coalition launched the Fair Food Program, an industry-wide agreement with Florida tomato growers to promote strict health and safety standards and allow outside monitors to oversee working conditions.
In 2015, President Barack Obama gave the Coalition of Immokalee Workers the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts in Combating Modern Day Slavery.
Guatemalans organized North Carolina poultry plants
As Guatemalan migrants spread across the South during the late 1980s, recruited by labor contractors in other states, they soon became a powerful organizing force in North Carolina, too.
Case Farms — a poultry company that supplies KFC, Taco Bell, Boar’s Head and the federal school lunch program — was a notoriously dangerous place to work. Safety regulations were routinely ignored to increase output, and workers suffered serious injuries — including losing limbs to cutting machines.
In 1990, the Guatemalan immigrants at Case Farms’ plant in Morganton, North Carolina, organized a union drive.
As labor historian Leon Fink describes in his book “The Maya of Morganton: Work and Community in the Nuevo New South,” Guatemalan poultry workers drew on prior organizing experiences back home — including coffee plantation strikes and Mayan pride movements — to organize workers.
After five years of walkouts, marches and hunger strikes, the Case Farm workers in 1995 voted to join the Laborers’ International Union of North America. The company refused to negotiate, however, and the union pulled out of contract talks after six years.
In 2017, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio challenged Case Farms to explain its alleged violations of U.S. law, after a New York Times and ProPublica investigation exposed ongoing abusive labor practices there.
These unionization stories show Central American migrants in a new light — not as criminals or victims, but as people who’ve helped make the U.S. a safer place for workers.
Cohen says he rigged online polls for Trump in 2014, 2015
Friday, January 18
NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump’s estranged former lawyer acknowledged Thursday that he paid a technology company to rig Trump’s standing in two online polls before the presidential campaign.
Michael Cohen tweeted that “what I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of” Trump.
“I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it,” he added.
Cohen was responding to an article in The Wall Street Journal that said Cohen stiffed the owner of the technology company out of tens of thousands of dollars he promised for work that included using a computer script to enter fake votes for Trump in a 2014 CNBC poll asking people to identify top business leaders and a 2015 poll of potential presidential candidates.
The company owner, John Gauger, told the newspaper that Cohen promised him $50,000 for the work but instead gave him a blue Walmart bag stuffed with between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash, plus a boxing glove Cohen claimed had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter.
Cohen disputed he paid cash, telling the Journal that “all monies paid to Mr. Gauger were by check.” He offered no further comment.
Federal prosecutors referred to a payment to Gauger’s company— though not by name— when Cohen was charged last summer with violating campaign-finance laws by arranging hush-money payments to two women who claim they had extramarital affairs with Trump.
They said in a charging document that Cohen had been reimbursed by the Trump Organization for payments to the women, plus $50,000 for “tech services” that he requested in a handwritten note.
Messages seeking comment were sent to the Trump Organization Thursday.
Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told The Associated Press that the president “had no knowledge” of any effort to manipulate polling data on his behalf.
He called Cohen a “liar” and a “thief” for seeking reimbursement for more money than he’d paid Gauger’s company, RedFinch Solutions LLC.
Gauger is also the chief information officer at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. His attorney declined to comment.
Cohen was recently sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to tax crimes, bank fraud and campaign violations that were not related to his dealings with Gauger and the technology company.
He’s scheduled to report to prison in March.
Was there collusion? Trump lawyer walks back earlier remarks
By ERIC TUCKER and JONATHAN LEMIRE
Friday, January 18
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Thursday walked back comments from the night before in which he maintained that he had “never said there was no collusion” between Russia and members of Trump’s 2016 White House campaign.
Giuliani issued a statement aimed at clarifying a Wednesday night CNN interview that appeared to leave open the possibility of improper contacts during the campaign, in light of court filings in the past year that have detailed ties between Trump aides and Russia.
“I represent only the president, not the campaign,” he told The Associated Press in an interview. “And I can only speak of what I know, and that is that I have no knowledge that anyone on the campaign illegally colluded with Russia. But I can only speak definitively about the president, as he is my client.”
In a separate statement Thursday, he said that “there was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form” and that he had “no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign.”
That was an apparent reversal from the television appearance in which he said, “I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign.” He had previously denied any collusion.
It was not clear whether Giuliani in the television interview was reflecting a new position or talking point from the Trump legal team or was making a strategic attempt to get ahead of potentially damaging findings from special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been investigating potential coordination between Russia and the president’s campaign.
Either way, the comment reflected a stark turnabout from long-standing denials by the White House and Trump advisers of improper collusion, and it underscored how the president’s lawyers have adapted their message and defenses as additional revelations have emerged.
In November 2016, for instance, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said, “There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.” Trump himself has repeatedly insisted there was no collusion during his successful White House run.
In a Fox News interview last May, Giuliani described the idea of Russian collusion as “total fake news” and said, “Unfortunately, it has become the basis of the investigation. Mueller owes us a report saying that Russia collusion means nothing, it didn’t happen.”
On Wednesday, Giuliani told CNN that even if some people working on the campaign did something wrong, the president was not part of any collusion.
“There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC,” Giuliani said, referring to the Democratic National Committee.
The comments on collusion came after Giuliani was confronted with prosecutors’ allegations, detailed in court papers earlier this month, that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had lied to investigators about sharing campaign polling data with an associate whom U.S. authorities have tied to Russian intelligence.
Giuliani repeated to the AP on Thursday that there was no collusion “connected to Russian hacking” and that Manafort’s sharing of polling data had nothing to do with the campaign or the president.
So far, Mueller has charged 33 people, including five Trump associates and 32 Russians accused of interfering in the election either through hacking or through a hidden social media campaign aimed at swaying American public opinion.
Giuliani also said the Trump legal team had told Mueller that the president would not answer any additional questions from prosecutors. Trump has so far answered only a limited number of questions in writing. Trump’s lawyers have balked at the idea of a face-to-face interview with Mueller’s office or having Trump questioned about potential obstruction of justice or other actions he took as president.
“We will not answer any further questions from them,” Giuliani told the AP. “We made a definitive refusal. And now they have not gotten back to us in more than a month.”
William Barr, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, told the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that he wouldn’t interfere with a Mueller request to subpoena the president to compel his testimony “if there was a factual basis for doing it.”
Giuliani reiterated his desire to have an early look at whatever report Mueller produces at the conclusion of his investigation.
“We do think we should be given a courtesy of seeing it,” Giuliani said. “We should see it before it is made public. Not to change it, but to prepare our own report as a rebuttal.”
Law firm tied to Manafort reaches $4.6 million settlement
By CHAD DAY and ERIC TUCKER
Friday, January 18
WASHINGTON (AP) — A law firm tied to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s Ukrainian consulting work has agreed to pay more than $4.6 million and publicly acknowledge that it failed to report its work for a foreign government, the Justice Department said Thursday.
The civil settlement with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, one of the largest law firms in the world, brings to a close at least one part of a probe that developed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Mueller’s team has delved deeply into Manafort’s years of work in the eastern European country as it investigated possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia in the 2016 election.
The investigation into Manafort, who now faces years in prison, also entangled several prominent firms, lobbyists and lawyers, including former Skadden partner and Obama White House counsel Greg Craig. They were all involved in some form of foreign lobbying or public relations work for Ukrainian interests that the former Trump campaign chairman sought to conceal from the U.S. government.
The 44-page settlement agreement contains a damning narrative of Skadden’s conduct and that of a senior partner who is not named but matches Craig’s description.
According to the agreement, Skadden acknowledged that in 2012 it acted as an agent of Ukraine by participating in a public relations campaign for a report it authored for that country’s government. The report sought to prop up the legitimacy of the prosecution of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a political foe of Viktor Yanukovych, the country’s president at the time and a longtime Manafort patron.
In 2012 and 2013, the public relations campaign drew the attention of the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act unit, which opened an inquiry into whether the firm should register under the law. But the settlement says a senior Skadden partner made several “false and misleading” statements to the government that allowed the firm to avoid registration.
Though the Ukrainian government initially said the law firm was only paid $12,000, the Justice Department settlement says Skadden was actually paid more than $4.6 million. That money came from a Ukrainian businessman, who paid the firm through an offshore account in Cyprus controlled by Manafort.
John Demers, the Justice Department’s top national security official, said Skadden failed in its due diligence by relying on the untruthful senior partner in its responses to the government and “hid from the public that its report was part of a Ukrainian foreign influence campaign.”
In a statement, Skadden said, “We have learned much from this incident and are taking steps to prevent anything similar from happening again.”
The law firm will now have to register and pay the $4.6 million fine, which equals the proceeds of the Ukrainian work. The firm also agreed to make available current and former partners and other employees for questioning by investigators, including before grand juries.
It wasn’t immediately clear what the settlement means for Craig, the lead author of the Tymoshenko report. His lawyers did not respond to calls seeking comment.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan, as part of a referral from Mueller, have for months been investigating Skadden, Craig and two prominent Washington lobbying firms to determine whether they had knowingly violated FARA as part of their work for Manafort.
Prosecutors in recent months have questioned witnesses about Skadden and separate lobbying work carried out by the two other firms, the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs. Prosecutors have been interested in the actions of prominent Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta, who is the brother of Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman, and Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman, among other executives at the firms.
Podesta and Mercury, who lobbied members of Congress and arranged U.S. visits for Ukrainian political figures, have denied any wrongdoing.
Skadden previously surfaced in the Mueller investigation after one of its attorneys, Alex van der Zwaan, pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators probing the firm’s Ukrainian work. Van der Zwaan, a Dutch citizen who lives in London, served 30 days in federal prison.
FARA, the statute at issue in the settlement, is a decades-old law meant to allow Americans to know when foreign entities are trying to influence public opinion or policymakers. The law, enacted in 1938 to unmask Nazi propaganda in the United States, requires people to disclose to the Justice Department when they advocate, lobby or perform public relations work in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign government or political entity.
The Justice Department has stepped up criminal enforcement of the law, bringing several high-profile prosecutions in the last year, including several related to Mueller’s probe.
Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report. Read the settlement: http://apne.ws/IEfEnKd