October 29, 2007

Is Jerry Bruckheimer now advising the Mexican penal authorities? This just seems like too perfect a set up: Narco Island.

Actually, the parallel is pretty close, since the Japanese will be putting up the money to produce the whole affair:

Mexico may create island penal colony for drug lords | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | World: Mexico: "ISLA MARÍA MADRE, Mexico – Newcomers to this stunning Pacific island won't get an umbrella drink or the keys to an open-air Jeep for sightseeing. Instead, they're more likely to be handed a shovel, a list of rules and a housing assignment – with few early checkouts. This island paradise – about 70 miles off the coast of Nayarit, between Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlán – is no resort. It's a minimum-security prison where inmates, called 'colonists,' are expected to work hard, be at roll call daily and stay out of trouble."

Welcome to the isolation model for "narco island" – a get-tough, maximum-security prison for drug kingpins that Mexico would like to build on an adjacent island.

Like Alcatraz, the proposed narco island would isolate drug capos to keep them from continuing to run their business from jail.

Officials laid out details of the proposed island exclusively to The Dallas Morning News on Oct. 19, during a tour of the Islas Marías, calling the penal colony a model for rehabilitation.

The plan is part of President Felipe Calderón's strategy to revamp a backward legal system – complicated by drug traffickers who have legions of lawyers and vast economic resources. And it's an important piece of an anti-drug plan between the United States and Mexico in which the U.S. would kick in $1.4 billion for things like helicopters and communications systems.

But for actual construction funds, Mexico is looking to the Japanese government and the Inter-American Development Bank, said an official on the condition of anonymity.

But the whole thing is actually quite serious, and the interesting part is that it is structured to follow a bit on the Guantanomo model of carving a little space free of soverienty, with its own rules in isolation from that thing once called the "legal system".


Security Minister Genaro García Luna told The News in an interview last month that the government was "working on a study to see if we could create an island where we would have greater control over visits, communications, meetings."

The current prison, which Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz opened in 1905 to house violent criminals and political enemies, would have its own court system. And lawyers, who often work with traffickers as liaisons with their cartels, would have to travel to it by boat. The effect would be similar to extraditing the capos to the U.S. without them ever leaving Mexico.

Although Mexico's Supreme Court has opened the door to dozens of extraditions, some drug lords have definitive legal sentences that prevent them from being sent to the United States and some extradited capos may eventually return to face charges in Mexico.

José Arturo Yañez Romero, a law enforcement expert who now trains detectives in Mexico City, said the narco island "in principle, sounds like an interesting idea."

The problem is the human corruption that undermines the best-laid plans. Even some politicians work on behalf of the narcos, he said.

For example, La Palma, the maximum security prison outside of Mexico City, was almost taken over from within by drug traffickers two years ago before army tanks and hundreds of soldiers took control. Prior to that, two inmates there were killed inside with handguns....

...A second concern is preventing an assault on the island from paramilitary drug enforcers seeking to spring their leaders – though the navy patrols the area and any vessel or aircraft approaching the facility would be spotted from miles out, officials said.

Prison guards would be constantly vetted and subject to lie detector tests.

And despite their seclusion, the traffickers would have access to their lawyers and the ability to defend themselves. Human rights monitors would guarantee that, officials said.

"Sadly, one sees lawyers who spend all day as [narco] messengers and no longer as lawyers," said Celina Oseguera Parra, commissioner for the federal prison system, which has seven facilities throughout Mexico.

The narco prison would help end that, she said.

Currently, attorneys visit with their clients nearly every day – all day. That would be impossible on the island, where boat trips would be limited. For example, there is only one boat trip per week to the Islas Marías – on Thursdays. The boat arrives in the morning and leaves late afternoon.

Who wants to lay bets that the drug lords take it over? And then launch a war against Mexico from their own island nation? Jerry, it was my idea first.

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