Democracy Now (English)
- Headlines for January 29, 2013
- The Gatekeepers: In New Film, Ex-Shin Bet Chiefs Denounce Occupation, Compare Israel to Nazi Germany
- Seattle's Teacher Uprising: High School Faculty Faces Censure for Boycotting Standardized MAP Tests
- Headlines for January 28, 2013
- Fruitvale, Depiction of Oscar Grant's Last Day of Life, Takes Top Prizes at Sundance Film Festival
- Dirty Wars, Documentary on U.S. Covert Warfare Abroad, Wins Sundance Cinematography Award
- "Running from Crazy": Mariel Hemingway Tackles Family History of Suicide, Mental Illness in New Doc
- Headlines for January 25, 2013
- Sharif Abdel Kouddous: On Egyptian Revolution's 2nd Anniversary, Protesters' Demands Mostly the Same
- "The Square": Jehane Noujaim's New Film Captures Egypt's Ongoing Revolution After Mubarak's Fall
- Fruitvale: Ryan Coogler's Debut Film on Bay Area Police Slaying of Oscar Grant the Buzz of Sundance
- Who Is Dayani Cristal?: Gael García Bernal Traces Path of Migrant Worker Who Died in Arizona Desert
- Headlines for January 24, 2013
- After Tiller: 40 Years Since Roe v. Wade, Abortion Providers Continue Work of Slain Kansas Doctor
- "Gideon's Army": Young Public Defenders Brave Staggering Caseloads, Low Pay to Represent the Poor
- At Sundance Film Festival, Documentaries Shine Light on Overlooked Stories of Global Injustice
- Headlines for January 23, 2013
- "We Steal Secrets": Alex Gibney's New Documentary Explores the Story of WikiLeaks
- WikiLeaks Legal Adviser: "We Steal Secrets" Overlooks Key Facets of Julian Assange's Persecution
- "Fire in the Blood": Millions Die in Africa After Big Pharma Blocks Imports of Generic AIDS Drugs
- Headlines for January 22, 2013
- Inaugurating 2nd Term, Obama Hints at a More Progressive Domestic Agenda Than in His First 4 Years
- Dirty Wars: Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley's New Film Exposes Hidden Truths of Covert U.S. Warfare
- Headlines for January 21, 2013
- NAACP's Ben Jealous at Obama Inauguration: "Never Elect Someone to Make Change Happen For You"
- Angela Davis: Now That Obama Has a Second Term, No More "Subordination to Presidential Agendas"
- Fmr. NAACP Leader Ben Chavis Attends Obama Inauguration After Historic Pardon in Wilmington Ten Case
- Poet & Activist Sonia Sanchez at Peace Ball: "Morning Song and Evening Walk for Martin Luther King"
- CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin Brings Voices of Pakistani Drone Victims to Obama's Inauguration
- The Big Money Inauguration: Obama Kicks Off Second Term with Help of Unlimited Corporate Donations
- Civil Rights Leader Julian Bond: Obama Won with a New Electorate: "The Coalition of the Concerned"
- Dr. Martin Luther King in 1967: "We as a Nation Must Undergo a Radical Revolution of Values"
Join Democracy Now! as we livestream from the sold-out 2013 Peace Ball at the historic Arena Stage at The Mead Center For American Theater in Washington, D.C. and see speeches from Amy Goodman, Angela Davis, NAACP’s Benjamin Jealous, Ralph Nader, Julian Bond and others, with performances by Mos Def, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and more.
Special guests include:
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Marian Wright Edelman
Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.
Saturday, January 19, 2013 4:00–6:00pm ET
On Saturday, January 19, 2013 Democracy Now! provided a special livestream as family and friends of Aaron Swartz gather at Cooper Union’s Great Hall in New York City to celebrate his life and remember their beloved friend, sibling, child, and partner.
Speakers included Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, David Segal, Ben Wikler, Roy Singham, Doc Searls, Edward Tufte, David Isenberg, Holden Karnofsky and Tom Chiarella and other friends. OK Go’s Damian Kush performed at the service.
Monday, January 21, 2013 8:00am–1:00pm ET
Tune in to Democracy Now! for our special 5-hour live broadcast of the presidential inauguration from 8am to 1pm EST on Monday, January 21. Democracy Now! will be on location in Washington, D.C., to take a look back at President Obama’s first term in office, analyze prospects for the next four years, and provide live coverage of the inauguration proceedings.
During the program, Democracy Now! will also examine the civil rights, social and economic justice and antiwar legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The program will include live and taped interviews, excerpts of speeches and performances. Possible guests include Danny Glover, Ralph Nader, Rita Dove, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Van Jones, Sonia Sanchez, Julian Bond, Marian Wright Edelman, Barbara Ehrenreich, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Mos Def, and many more.
Use the hashtag #DNlive to join the conversation on Twitter.
- Headlines for January 18, 2013
- "Unintended Consequences of Military Intervention": Roots of Mali, Algeria Crisis Tied to Libya War
- "The Tony Soprano of the Cycling World": Dave Zirin on Lance Armstrong's Doping Confession
- Notre Dame Football Faulted for Covering Up Manti Te'o Hoax While Refusing to Probe Rape Scandal
- Criminalizing Pregnancy: As Roe v. Wade Turns 40, Study Finds Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women
- Headlines for January 17, 2013
- Exclusive: Aaron Swartz's Partner, Expert Witness Say Prosecutors Unfairly Targeted Dead Activist
- As Obama Prepares for 2nd Term, Tavis Smiley Urges Him to Take Up MLK's Fight Against Poverty
- Headlines for January 16, 2013
- Va. Tech Shooting Survivor: Obama's Gun Plan a 1st Step, But "We Need a Movement" to Overcome NRA
- Debate on Armed Police in Schools: Needed for Kid Safety or Part of the Student-to-Prison Pipeline?
- Behind the NRA's Money: Gun Lobby Deepens Financial Ties to $12 Billion Firearms Industry
- Headlines for January 15, 2013
- Admin Aids French Bombing of Mali After U.S.-Trained Forces Join Rebels in Uranium-Rich Region
- "Kill Anything That Moves": New Book Exposes Hidden Crimes of the War Kerry, Hagel Fought in Vietnam
- Headlines for January 14, 2013
- "An Incredible Soul": Larry Lessig Remembers Aaron Swartz After Cyberactivist's Suicide Before Trial; Parents Blame Prosecutor
- Freedom to Connect: Aaron Swartz (1986-2013) on Victory to Save Open Internet, Fight Online Censors
To mark the third anniversary of the massive 2010 Haiti earthquake, we continue our conversation with Jonathan Katz, author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. He was the only full-time American reporter in Haiti when the earthquake struck Port-au-Prince. In his new book, he examines explains where the massive international relief effort in Haiti went wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our guest is Jonathan Katz, author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. Jonathan is a former AP correspondent. He was in Haiti during the earthquake, the only full-time U.S. reporter in Haiti at the time. He lived there for four years.
Jonathan, the title of your book, The Big Truck That Went By, talk about it.
JONATHAN KATZ: It actually comes from a phrase in Creole, gwo machin ki pasé, "the big truck that went by." It describes the sound of the earthquake. Part of the reason why people were using different names—and that was one of several that were going around after the quake—was because there wasn’t a lot of experience with earthquakes, even though there have been some in Haitian history. And so, people were just looking for a way to describe it.
But the two other pieces of it is I knew it would be evocative for, you know, readers in the States and elsewhere of the big aid effort that came through, and also, for me, it was evocative of the private trucks that would go through the city before the earthquake, because of the dissolution of the Haitian state, delivering basic services like water and power. And so, it sort of has a triple meaning.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We talked in the first part of the interview about the impact of President Clinton, but there were lots of celebrities that went to Haiti—Sean Penn and Wyclef Jean, of course, who’s a—the impact of these celebrities on the so-called—on the reconstruction effort?
JONATHAN KATZ: Well, it’s really interesting. I mean, Sean Penn, for instance, is actually a fascinating character. It’s not—you can’t simply write him off as being a celebrity who came in for a photo-op, and he’s certainly not. But that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be—once you take him seriously, it doesn’t mean that that’s the end of the conversation. You know, he came in. He had no experience with Haiti. He had very—he had no experience being an actual aid worker, that—he really became one. He had on-the-ground training. But in the process of that on-the-ground training, within weeks, he is a leader in the aid effort. In the cluster meetings at the United Nations base in Port-au-Prince, he’s taking a leading role. He’s being invited to testify before Congress about the situation in Haiti. You know, he was allowed to sort of skip all of the interim steps between being new to a field and then becoming a leader in the field, simply because of his celebrity in the States, but also because of the differential in power between foreigners—white foreigners—and Haitians. You know, he was able to come in and be more important in Haiti than nearly anybody else in Haiti, simply because he was an important person in a powerful country.
AMY GOODMAN: But explain what Sean Penn did. He ran a refugee camp of tens of thousands, saying the other refugee camps just weren’t working properly. When we visited Sean Penn, this was what he had to say in his camp just outside of Port-au-Prince.
SEAN PENN: Currently we’re functioning as camp management for the Pétionville Club camp, or what they call here Terrain de Golfe. We have 55,000 IDP population in a camp that’s about a hundred meters from here. And our job is to be principal coordinator of the other NGO actors in the camp and to advocate for the camp and to—we also function as a medical NGO and have a Class 3 hospital on site. And now, we’re currently beginning a project of—we had done the first primary relocation, but I’m careful to talk about that, because it’s—there’s approximately 1.8 million displaced people, and to date, there’s been a total of 7,000 people relocated citywide. And by "relocations," we’re talking about getting people out of spontaneous camps and into planned camps, that have better security, better services, and they’re out of flood zones and that sort of thing. But long term, the idea is to get people either into returns, into neighborhoods, making those neighborhoods functional and giving them services, and—or for those camps on the outside to become, instead of considered planned camps, really to be model communities, and for, hopefully, you know, business, manufacturing, jobs to come into those areas, and to go from tents, temporary shelters, ultimately into housing, and hopefully into land ownership.
AMY GOODMAN: That was actor Sean Penn running a refugee camp in Haiti. Jonathan Katz?
JONATHAN KATZ: Yeah, I mean, he basically became the mayor of a village of, you know, tens of thousands of people, somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 people, depending on who’s counting and on what day. It’s an incredible amount of responsibility. And, you know—and I have to say, you know, I’ve talked to Sean Penn a number of times, and I think he took his responsibilities seriously. But he also didn’t shun the incredible amount of power that he was bestowed with.
One example that I talk about in the book—and this was fairly early on while he was still really learning the ropes—was that there was a very unfortunate case in which a young man, among the displaced people that he was overseeing, contracted diphtheria and died. And it was—it’s a tragedy; it was very sad. And Sean Penn, I think, did commendable work trying to get him help. In fact, he used his celebrity and his power to mobilize assistance for the young man in a way that nobody else, not even another aid worker, would have been able to do. But then, you know, focused on this one case, he took to the airwaves—I think he went on CNN—and, you know, really stirred up a bit of a panic about a pending diphtheria outbreak, which wasn’t happening and wasn’t likely, which, you know, allocated resources. It changed the dynamic on the ground. It was just an example of an error that a more experienced aid worker probably wouldn’t have made. And even though there is something to be said for being new and doing things in a different way than have been done so ineffectively before, you really have to—you really have to be careful. It’s so easy to come in in Haiti and step on toes and be a bull in a china shop.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Wyclef Jean and all the—all the controversy over whether his charity was actually doing what it said it was going to do?
JONATHAN KATZ: Yeah, Wyclef is another interesting guy. You know, he obviously briefly became a politician, probably had the inside track to being president of Haiti, had he not been excluded from the ballot right before the election in 2010. There were a lot of questions about his NGO, Yele Haiti, even at the time. Since then, even more revelations have come out that he was maybe pocketing money himself. He was using funds from the NGO to pay himself to do performances—you know, a lot of really ugly things. And the charity has been thoroughly discredited at this point. But, you know, he’s another—he’s another interesting character.
AMY GOODMAN: How was it thoroughly discredited?
JONATHAN KATZ: Well, because people—because of these disclosures that he had unpaid taxes, that it was using money, you know, to—perhaps to line his own pockets, or at least to help with his recording career, and not do what was promised, which was, you know, to help people on the ground in Haiti. You know, and ultimately—one of the most disappointing things about Yele is that it was looked at as being—you know, since it was run by a Haitian American, it was a Haitian NGO, that maybe it would be more on-the-ground and, you know, more direct assistance to the people who actually live there. But in many ways, it turned out to be worse than a lot of even, you know, the so-called Beltway bandits.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about Haiti as an example of how international aid works or, perhaps more importantly, doesn’t work. It’s three years after. The subtitle of your book, How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.
JONATHAN KATZ: I mean, part of the problem is that our conception of how foreign aid works is not how it actually happens. We imagine that, you know, powerful countries just have this pot of money, and that when they give foreign aid, they just hand it over to a poorer or vulnerable country, and that if there aren’t results on the ground, that something must have happened—the money must have gotten stolen, or there must have just been gross incompetence, and somebody put the pot somewhere and forgot where they left it, right? But that’s not really what happens.
You know, what ends up happening is the money is spent by the donor governments on their own agencies within their own governments. You know, as I’ve said, the money kind of goes in circles. It goes to priorities that the donors think are important, but are not necessarily actually the priorities that are most important on the ground, or at least are not the priorities that the people who live in these countries actually want. And very little effort is made to cross language barriers, to take into account these gross disparities in power. And so, you know, people come in, and oftentimes they have good intentions. Sometimes they have good intentions combined with their own profit motive. But what ends up happening is that the aid system is helped, the NGOs grow more powerful, the governments are able to, you know, circulate more money amongst themselves and amongst their own favored elements, but, you know, in the case of Haiti, as a really good example, the emergency situation becomes permanent. And every time there is a new crisis, and—the officials can say, "We can’t do it better this time. There’s no time. Let’s do it next time." But then it never changes.
AMY GOODMAN: Your final conclusions, as you leave Haiti after four years, have written the book The Big Truck That Went By?
JONATHAN KATZ: I would say that there really is cause for optimism, because there is an opportunity—there’s always an opportunity to change the way things have been done and to do them better. But, you know, what I’ve seen and what the people that I’ve interviewed have said, who really know the situation, including, you know, aid workers from these major organizations who are on the ground, is that things have to change. And if things can start changing now, things will improve. But if foreign aid keeps being done in the way that it has been done and the situation in Haiti remains the way that it has been, we’re going to see more and more and more of these disasters, and possibly even a repeat of the tragedy of January 12th.
AMY GOODMAN: Jonathan Katz, I want to thank you for being with us. The book, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. Former AP correspondent in Haiti, where he lived from 2007 to 2011. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.
- Headlines for January 11, 2013
- "Failure of Epic Proportions": Treasury Nominee Jack Lew's Pro-Bank, Austerity, Deregulation Legacy
- Matt Taibbi & William Black on Bailout Secrets & How New Foreclosure Deal Spares Banks from Justice
- Three Years After the Quake, How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster
- Headlines for January 10, 2013
- Debate: With Chávez Ailing, Venezuela's Longstanding Divisions Threaten New Political Upheaval
- Bronx Residents Accosted by NYPD Win Landmark Court Ruling Deeming "Stop and Frisk" Tactic Illegal
- Headlines for January 09, 2013
- Australia on Fire: Record-Shattering Heat, Wildfires Engulf World's Largest Exporter of Coal
- Part 2: Al Jazeera's Sami al-Hajj on His 438-Day Hunger Strike in U.S. Detention at Gitmo Prison
- As Brennan Tapped for CIA, Case of Somali Detainees Highlights Obama's Embrace of Secret Renditions
VIDEO: Part 2 of Wal-Mart Bribery Scandal Interview with Pulitzer Prize-Winning Reporter David Barstow
We continue our look at the massive bribery scandal behind Wal-Mart’s expansion into Mexico, with David Barstow, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter who broke the story. He describes how the corporate giant’s use of "outside fixers" — lawyers, lobbyists and third parties — made it difficult for the Justice Dept. to prosecute it under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal for a U.S. company to bribe foreign officials in order to get business. "We found amazing instances of Wal-Mart building in places where, at least based on environmental rules or zoning rules or construction rules, they absolutely shouldn’t have been allowed to build. And yet, they pulled this off," Barstow says.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to part two of our discussion of the New York Times exposé on the massive bribery scandal behind Wal-Mart’s expansion into Mexico, where the corporate giant now operates one of five of its stores worldwide. The New York Times report comes after Wal-Mart executives in the United States failed to fully investigate the corruption after it was brought to their attention. Now the U.S. Justice Department is considering whether Wal-Mart violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it a crime for American corporations to bribe foreign officials.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined once again by the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter who broke the story. David Barstow first detailed it in April, how Wal-Mart hushed up a vast Mexican bribery case. His latest piece picks up where Wal-Mart’s limited investigation dropped off. The Times visited dozens of Mexican towns and cities to document the payoffs the company used to get its way.
David Barstow, welcome back to Democracy Now! Explain what the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is and then how Wal-Mart responded to learning about what was happening in Mexico.
DAVID BARSTOW: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has kind of emerged as a very important tool in the Justice Department’s arsenal to go after corporate corruption. It’s been around for a number of decades. It was kind of a sleepy backwater for a long time, but then, in the last decade or so, the Justice Department has brought a number of very high-profile cases against some large corporations. And it has used it as a way of—and then there are a number of other countries that are also embracing the same notion of "How do we stamp out corruption, endemic corruption, by companies that are operating on a kind of a multinational scale?" And what it does, quite simply, is it says it’s illegal for a U.S. company or one of its foreign subsidiaries to pay bribes to foreign officials in order to get business.
There has been, as you might expect, an awful lot of controversy about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. There’s been a lot of talk in recent years, led primarily by business interests and the Chamber of Commerce, to talk about reforming the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and perhaps limiting its reach, and perhaps bolstering the defenses that companies can use against charges that come from the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But the interesting thing is, in your story, is that you show how difficult it is to prove or show that these kinds of bribes are taking place, because as you—as your story reports, Wal-Mart didn’t pay these bribes directly. They paid—they gave money to lawyers, who were supposed to negotiate the deals, and then the lawyers themselves apparently made the payments to particular officials to get the zoning or the construction permits that Wal-Mart wanted.
DAVID BARSTOW: This happens an awful lot, where companies will hire lawyers, lobbyists, basically third parties, to represent them in front of government agencies or government officials. And it is a complication for prosecutors who are trying to make these cases. Another complication is, the Justice Department doesn’t have jurisdiction in Mexico. They can’t send, you know, FBI agents to Mexico to go do the kinds of interviews that we did in Mexico. And so, typically what happens in these cases is they rely very heavily on the companies’ own internal investigation to help shape their own thinking about whether or not to bring charges, and if so, in what form or fashion.
AMY GOODMAN: And interestingly, Wal-Mart hired former FBI agents to do a very good investigation, actually.
DAVID BARSTOW: Yeah. And in their—and in response to the work that we’ve been doing, they’ve now hired hundreds, literally hundreds, of lawyers, forensic accountants, investigators. They’ve spent over $100 million just this year alone on their own internal investigation. It features a number of former U.S. attorneys, including David Kelley, who’s the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District here in New York, who is the main lawyer representing Wal-Mart’s audit committee at this point in time.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain how it worked in Mexico. When you talk about the lawyers and the payoffs, how did it work? How extensive was the bribery scandal?
DAVID BARSTOW: So, what we see is we see evidence of—from Wal-Mart’s own internal documentation, we see evidence of hundreds of payments to these outside lawyers. We see a policy that was approved by the top officials in Wal-Mart de México that authorized payments to these outside lawyers of up to $280,000 to expedite a single permit. What we found when we traced payments to these outside fixers and we compared them against the stores where they were targeting and the permits that they were targeting, it was kind of uncanny the way you would see a payment to a fixer, and then, lo and behold, within a week or two, whatever that critical permit was that they were, you know, trying to get, suddenly, voilà, there it is. We found amazing instances of Wal-Mart building in places where, at least based on environmental rules or zoning rules or construction rules, they absolutely shouldn’t have been allowed to build. And yet, they pulled this off. These were large amounts of money, tens of thousands of dollars, in many cases, that were paid. These were not—you know, it wasn’t—
AMY GOODMAN: To low-level people.
DAVID BARSTOW: Right. And this wasn’t—this wasn’t like slipping a clerk a hundred bucks, you know, to get a—to get, you know, a traffic permit a couple of days sooner. This was like serious amounts of money to do things that the law otherwise would have prohibited.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we invited Wal-Mart to join us today, but they declined our request. In response to the New York Times’s articles, Wal-Mart says it began an investigation a year ago into allegations involving the permitting and licensing process for Wal-Mart de México. This is corporate communications vice president David Tovar.
DAVID TOVAR: While the investigation is ongoing, we have not waited to act. Over the past 20 months, we have made significant improvements to our compliance programs around the world and have taken a number of specific concrete actions with respect to our processes, procedures and people. Over the past several months, we have established several new compliance positions around the world, directed more than 300 third-party legal and accounting experts who have dedicated in excess of 79,000 hours to this effort, conducted more than 85 in-country visits and more than 1,000 interviews of market personnel, spent more than $35 million on new processes and procedures, and conducted training sessions attended by more than 19,000 associates.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar on a statement that was posted on their website. Your response to his statement? And also, we’re talking about the largest corporation in America, one of the largest in the world, and we’re talking about a company which, if it happened in Mexico, could very well have happened in many other countries where it’s operating.
DAVID BARSTOW: I think—I think Wal-Mart has been trying to convey two basic messages. One is that they’re taking the allegations very, very seriously. They’re working very closely with the Justice Department, the SEC. The other message they’re conveying, which you saw in that clip right there, is that they are doing everything in their power right now to communicate, especially, I think, to the federal government, their commitment as a company to, whatever their sins may have been in the past, to make sure nothing like this ever happens again and to show, through things like the training they’re doing now, anti-corruption training around the world—they’ve hired a slew of new high-level positions within their executive structure whose sole job is to try to root out corruption. They have removed some people. They have either fired or forced out or put on leave a number of senior executives in Mexico and also in India. And so they’re trying to convey, I think, this idea—and it’s an important idea, certainly, when dealing with the Justice Department—that not only are we going to move heaven and earth to get to the—you know, to the bottom of whatever happened in the past; we’re also committed right now, and you can see us doing it right now, to making sure that we put in place the set of procedures and protections that will prevent this from ever happening again. This is a company that really kind of—even maybe more so than most companies, talks about the importance of acting with integrity. I mean, that’s just something that is sort of—you know, you hear over and over and over again when you deal with senior Wal-Mart executives. And so, the things that we’ve been describing here go to the core of that—of that idea.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, what happens with someone like Eduardo Castro-Wright, who was identified by the former executive who started—who blew the whistle on the corruption in Mexico—
DAVID BARSTOW: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —as the driving force behind the years of bribery and then, as you point out, was promoted to vice chair of Wal-Mart in 2008? What happens to him? I mean, we’re not just talking about whether he should be in the company; we’re talking about whether he should be in jail.
DAVID BARSTOW: Well, and as we reported in April, the decision to shut down this internal investigation, it wasn’t made by some low-level lawyer. It was made, in fact, in a meeting that was chaired by Lee Scott, who was then the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart’s current chief executive officer is a man named Mike Duke. In 2005, when these allegations first surfaced, he had just been made head of Walmart International. So, this is—
AMY GOODMAN: Which means?
DAVID BARSTOW: Which means that he had authority over all of Wal-Mart’s international operations. And, in fact, he was informed specifically—we know it from the email traffic—he was informed specifically of the allegations that were being made by this lawyer, who for years had been in charge of getting permits in Mexico.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain, David Barstow, how workers are paid in Mexico? Talk about the vouchers they are given.
DAVID BARSTOW: Well, that’s a complicated story, and there are a number of elements to it. I mean, it is certainly the case in Mexico that the kinds of complaints we’ve long heard in the United States about low pay, low benefits, impact on small businesses, you know, all of those—impact on suppliers and supply chains—all of those are complaints that you hear in Mexico. On the other hand, there’s no denying a simple fact, which is, it’s an incredibly popular brand in Mexico. I mean, you know, you go to Wal-Marts, and it’s just—they are—shoppers are flocking to their stores.
AMY GOODMAN: But the question, what about the workers on September 4th, 2008? Mexican Supreme Court justice ruled Wal-Mart de México must cease paying its employees in part with vouchers redeemable only at Wal-Mart stores.
DAVID BARSTOW: Yeah. I mean, that’s something that has been unique to the way Mexico has paid workers, not just at Wal-Mart, but in other places, as well. But it does come back to this question, and it’s a question that you find all the time in Mexico when you start reporting on Wal-Mart in Mexico: What is this company doing? What is this company doing in terms of its impact on Mexican culture, Mexican life, communities? It’s really remarkable what’s happened, and it’s kind of been playing out over the last 10 years, and mostly no one’s been paying much attention to it. But it’s an incredible thing to behold when you go down there and travel around Mexico.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Brazil, China and India, did you find corruption there in Wal-Mart stores?
DAVID BARSTOW: You will have to stay tuned.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, thank you very much. David Barstow, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The New York Times, has just done another piece on Wal-Mart. His piece in April, Wal-Mart hushed up a vast Mexican bribery case, and now has followed up, another piece in December, how Wal-Mart used payoffs to get its way in Mexico. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.