Five years ago, Al Giordano, a former protege of Abbie Hoffman and a political reporter for The Boston Phoenix, disappeared into Latin America on a one-way ticket. He resurfaced months later with a dispatch in the Phoenix from "somewhere in the mountains of southeast Mexico," a phrase that echoes the signoff of the Zapatista rebel leader, Subcomandante Marcos, and he's been in Latin America ever since. He keeps his exact location secret, but his location on the World Wide Web--narconews.com--is not. From there he trumpets a strange mix of news and opinion, rant and fact, about the worlds of drugs, drug policy, and drug enforcement.
Giordano, who's always been an activist first and a, journalist second--he'd been arrested twenty-seven times by the time he was thirty--says he had intended to abandon journalism and enlist with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. But the rebels, he says, insisted that it was with pen and paper that he could best serve their struggle. "I'd go in and talk to the Zapatistas, and I'd say I'm not a journalist, I don't want to be a journalist, I don't like journalists," he says. "And they'd say, `Yes you are, you are a journalist. Journalism is what you should do.'"
So Giordano began writing again, mostly about the intersection of drugs and political corruption, and for the last few years has been stirring up trouble from his new home. He agreed to lead me there recently, but only after I consented to keep its location secret. The secrecy is crucial, he says, because he has taken issue with some powerful and violent people in Latin America. Traffickers, he contends, are the least of his worries. "I've gotten threatening messages from Colombian paramilitaries," he says. "I'm not a paranoid person, but why take a chance?"
Giordano lives in a quiet place where in the summer the evening rain clings to the grass. His spartan home is wired to the world through a phone line, an Internet connection, and a satellite dish that beams in music videos, sitcoms, and Larry King Live. When he's not traveling, he spends most of his time parked in front of a laptop computer chain-smoking filterless cigarettes while answering e-mail, translating articles from the Spanish-language press, or composing endless diatribes denouncing what he considers the moral bankruptcy of the American drug war.
Occasionally, Giordano files reports for the Phoenix or The Nation, but most of his writing is confined to the pages of the Web site he launched in the spring of 2000 after leaving Chiapas. He publishes a new "issue" of The Narco News Bulletin every few weeks, updating...
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