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Salvador Rangel: Salvador Rangel, the Mexican bishop who talks to the drug traffickers | International

For many years, the Mexican state of Guerrero has been synonymous with violence and death. Crime rates are now decreasing, especially for high-impact crimes like murders. Salvador Rangel, 75, is the Catholic bishop of its second-largest city, Chilpancingo, and he says that the situation is better now because the criminals who run Guerrero’s central region, a group known as Los Ardillos, are “good.” Or at least better than their predecessors.

Rangel defends dialogue and mediation with criminals as the only way to work towards peace. “It’s imperative to look for a solution, a way out. There will always be illicit businesses around. But if just one life is saved, it justifies the way I act,” he argues. The bishop’s frankness is surprising; he only asks for a few names or details about specific negotiations to be omitted, more out of shame than fear for his own safety.

Shortly before his departure from the diocese after six years in the role, the leader of the Catholic Church for the region receives EL PAÍS for an interview that touches on many subjects, though always in connection with Los Ardillos. In January, two members of a self-defense group in Chilapa, a community near Chilpancingo, went missing, presumably on orders from Los Ardillos. In February, federal authorities descended on Quechultenango, their bastion, where several houses were raided and turned up drugs, weapons and three tigers.

Question. Did you see that they found three tigers during the raids?

Answer. Oh, yes, yes.

Q. Do you know why [Los Ardillos leader] Celso Ortega and his friends had them?

A. I don’t know, I haven’t asked them. He was with people when I saw them the other day, so I was too embarrassed to ask. Certainly it’s noteworthy… I’m familiar with Iván’s house, he’s Celso’s brother. I’ve been to eat there twice, but they don’t have any animals. I don’t know why they would have the tigers there. It seemed strange to me.

Q. There are people saying that they were used to do away with human remains. Do you think that could be true?

A. I think they use another method: acid. There are people who have asked me to go get the remains of their family members. And when I’ve asked about them, I’ve been told that it’s too late, that they’ve been “dissolved.”

Q. So the tigers are just pets.

A. Exotic pets. But one day I’m going to ask about them.

Salvador Rangel, bishop of Chilpancingo, with his dog inside the episcopal residence.
Salvador Rangel, bishop of Chilpancingo, with his dog inside the episcopal residence. Teresa de Miguel

Q. The other day there was a demonstration in Quechultenango. People were angry with the military for carrying out the raids. How should we view this?

A. The person who organized the big demonstrations in favor of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and for the candidate Mario Moreno [during the electoral campaign for state governorship last summer] was Celso Ortega. The PRI’s best rally was the one held in Quechultenango. It was a big scare for [Mexico’s governing party] Morena, they almost lost. And in my view, these raids were an act of revenge by Félix Salgado [a candidate from Morena who was disqualified and replaced with his daughter, now the current governor]. That’s why they sent down the military and the National Guard.

Q. You came to the job in 2015. What do you remember about those first weeks? Were you already familiar with the region?

A. Not really. I came from a somewhat marginalized archdiocese, Huejutla, in the Huasteca region of the state of Hidalgo. When I said where I was going, a bishop perfectly summarized what my new placement was going to be like. He told me that I was going “from bad to worse.”

Q. It doesn’t sound easy.

A. But when I got here, I didn’t find things as hard as I’d been told they’d be. And there’s something interesting I’m going to confess. I haven’t said it before. I had a certain relationship with the drug traffickers in Hidalgo. When I came here, they communicated with the bosses from the region. And so when I arrived in Chilpancingo, instead of being received by the clergy, I was received by the drug traffickers. The first meal I had here was with them.

Q. Do you mean to say that you came from Hidalgo with the narcos?

A. Yes, yes.

Q. But why?

A. Because they offered to.

Q. But didn’t the Church have any forms of transportation to offer you?

A. They did, but the thing is that I had a good friend there in Hidalgo, a politician who’s also doing other things [he smiles]. And he offered to take care of me, to bring me here. And above all, they had already made a deal with some drug traffickers from here and they told me “don’t worry, you’re in good hands.”

Q. A group of drug traffickers from Hidalgo turned you over to another group of drug traffickers from Guerrero.

A. But peacefully so.

Q. And how do you feel about it? On the face of things, it sounds strange.

A. I think there is something stronger: friendship, service, getting close to people. These men wanted to protect me, the ones from Hidalgo. That’s why they brought me here, to protect me, with their allies from here.

Q. I see.

A. My task during this time has been mediation. We’ve saved a lot of people from dying! For example, that architect from Chilapa who was kidnapped five or six months ago. He was moments away from being assassinated when we saved him. We did it. And a little later, two months ago, we saved two boys who distributed ice [methamphetamine]. Afterwards the narcos often joked with me, asking me why they should have to forgive.

Q. And what do you tell them?

A. I tell them that for once they’re doing a good deed… It’s really bad that they’re distributing drugs, particularly this ice. And then there’s another really terrible drug that they make here in the mountains that’s called China White, it combines heroin with fentanyl

Salvador Rangel during the interview with EL PAÍS at the episcopal residence.
Salvador Rangel during the interview with EL PAÍS at the episcopal residence.Teresa de Miguel

Q. Regarding the narcos that you’re in touch with, did they not like for that type of drug to be sold, or do they want to control its sale? What was the problem with those boys who sold it?

A. It’s just that this drug poisons the young people. And the narcos don’t want drugs to be distributed around here. In fact, Los Ardillos don’t produce drugs. Their business isn’t even in Guerrero. They have it outside the state.

Q. And what is it?

A. Well, it’s not going to be the Stations of the Cross and the Holy Rosary, is it?

Q. Well then, if they don’t have any business in Guerrero, why do they go on fighting around here?

A. Well… It’s that the fight is about something else. Politically, Los Ardillos support the PRI. That’s what I said: Morena very nearly lost the election because of the votes Los Ardillos secured for the PRI.

Q. In Chilapa people accuse Los Ardillos of dozens of disappearances, and the community police also accuse them of…

A. Yes, but in Chilapa it’s José Díaz Navarro [leader of the organization Siempre Vivos, which has fought for years for the search for missing people in Chilapa] making that accusation. Los Ardillos killed two of his brothers. But it was because they were distributing drugs. You can ask around.

Q. But how do you know that?

A. Everyone knows it in Chilapa. And it’s Díaz Navarro’s very personal crusade against Celso and Los Ardillos. Where am I going with this? The fact is that in Alcozacán, in Rincón de Chautla or in Ayahualtempa [areas of Chilapa defended by community police who are close to the veteran self-defense group CRAC-PF] the community police are divided by the question of money. In the background, Morena is supporting the police in these communities because those who are ruling right now are from the PRI. And what Morena wants is to get into those places, into those communities. How? By giving money to those men. I’ve made harsh statements against them, the community police. For example when those 10 musicians were killed [in January 2020, members of Los Ardillos allegedly killed a group of musicians from a location controlled by the community police]. I said that they were scoring an own goal.

Q. An own goal?

A. Yes, that they were the ones who assassinated them. The community police. And later they killed four more from Alcozacán.

Q. Why would they do that?

A. For attention.

Q. It’s a little drastic, isn’t it?

A. In our minds yes, but in theirs, no. What they want is a media firestorm. I’ve said it to them. A show so that they can raise money. There were people recently who wanted to make things hot again, but they calmed down. Why? Because they were given money and that fixed things. Either that or I’m the one who is high on drugs.

Q. Let’s see… From what you’re telling me, it seems like Los Ardillos are very good and the community police are bad, or maybe not bad but only interested in money.

A. Yes, yes.

Q. Do you feel comfortable with that?

A. I feel comfortable because I know these men [Los Ardillos]. They’re accused of kidnapping? There’s no kidnapping. Of charging a tax? There’s no tax. Yes, there have been murders. And I ask for explanations. And they give them to me.

Q. And when they tell you those things, what do you say to them?

A. God Almighty, like St. Francis, our Father who art in heaven… I can’t get involved, but what I see is more order, more discipline. And for example, five months ago [Los Ardillos] killed a youth from a good family in Chilapa… But he was also distributing drugs. His parents were in the United States and he was distributing drugs. So there you have it. Who’s going to right these situations so that drugs aren’t distributed, so that kidnappings don’t happen?

Q. But why do you believe them? All of this that you’re saying is what they’ve told you. Why do you believe them?

A. Look, the thing is that six or seven years ago, the situation was terrible with El Chaparro Zenén [leader of the criminal group Los Rojos in Chilapa, arrested in 2019]. Now he’s in jail. And I have to proceed somehow. And what I see is that Los Ardillos have credibility.

Q. But they have confessed murders to you.

A. Well, that’s a show of confidence. I ask them in order to get a sense of how things are going, and what the solution might be. For example, I gained confidence in them when some time ago they kidnapped the daughter of the secretary of the cathedral in Chilapa. Because the girl was into drugs.

Q. Okay, but did they tell you that, or did you have any evidence?

A. Yes, yes, yes. She was a crazy girl. And I asked them to release her and they released her. And that was when we began to have this… When I began to believe in them. That was five years ago. Now, look, six years ago, if you remember, Chilapa was in a terrible state.

Q. That was when Los Ardillos made a ton of people disappear from town.

A. Remember how you couldn’t even go from Chilpancingo to Chilapa? It wasn’t possible to go via that road. And for a time, traffic was stopped, because they were killing the bus drivers. Then, all of the holders of the public transit concessions came to see me. I went to see those men [Los Ardillos], and they told me, “Look, this is really simple to fix, just tell them to stop killing indigenous people and to stop bringing guns to the mountains.”

Q. Hold on. Los Ardillos accused the public transit operators of killing indigenous people?

A. Yes, they accused the concession holders.

Q. But, who, where, in what context?

A. In this whole region, they would kill them for any little thing. They gave me two conditions, that they shouldn’t kill indigenous people and they shouldn’t traffic arms. And I told that to the public transit operators. Because what they were doing was that the drivers would take the drugs from the mountains, marijuana more than anything else, and bring it here to Chilpancingo. And from here, they would take guns and bring them to Chilapa. And they eventually confirmed that three arsenals of weapons belonged to [Los Rojos leader] Zenén Nava. That confirmed my theory.

Q. That’s to say, you’re saying that the public transit operators worked for Zenén, for Los Rojos.

A. He was the owner. But that’s another story. They also burned two buses around here in Tixtla [near Chilpancingo]. The operators came to see me. And I went over to ask. And Los Ardillos simply told me that the operators had weapons. But we were able to re-establish the transit system. And the men all believed in me, the public transit men and the drug traffickers. And I feel so much joy seeing the buses running again! There weren’t even private vehicles on the road, everyone was afraid. Because what was the method Los Ardillos followed? They killed the drivers.

Q. And this closeness with Los Ardillos, it hasn’t existed with other groups? With Los Rojos for example?

A. No, because that period that I’m talking about, about five or six years ago, is when the problem was difficult and I’d just arrived. And I didn’t have that relationship with Zenén. I just knew that they kept murdering people and charged a tax. They had already devastated Chilapa and Chilpancingo. They were the lords of the land. But, well, it’s not just Los Ardillos, there’s also still a beautiful friendship with the guys from Chichihualco, with Isaac Navarrete [head of the Cártel del Sur or South Cartel]. I worked a lot with him. Later he was unseated by a different group. But I just spoke with him and he’s alive.

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Congratulations, Privacy Just Took A Great Leap Out the Window!

Your Data Is Being Used Without Your Permission And Knowledge

The Voice Of EU | In the heart of technological innovation, the collision between intellectual property rights and the development of cutting-edge AI technologies has sparked a significant legal battle. The New York Times has taken legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft, filing a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court. This legal maneuver aims to address concerns surrounding the unauthorized use of the Times’ content for the training of AI models, alleging copyright infringements that could potentially result in billions of dollars in damages.

READ: HOW YOUR DATA IS BEING USED TO TRAIN A.I.

This legal tussle underlines the escalating tension between technological advancements and the protection of intellectual property. The crux of the lawsuit revolves around OpenAI and Microsoft allegedly utilizing the Times’ proprietary content to advance their own AI technology, directly competing with the publication’s services. The lawsuit suggests that this unauthorized utilization threatens the Times’ ability to offer its distinctive service and impacts its AI innovation, creating a competitive landscape that challenges the publication’s proprietary content.

Amidst the growing digital landscape, media organizations like the Times are confronting a myriad of challenges. The migration of readers to online platforms has significantly impacted traditional media, and the advent of artificial intelligence technology has added another layer of complexity. The legal dispute brings to the forefront the contentious practice of AI companies scraping copyrighted information from online sources, including articles from media organizations, to train their generative AI chatbots. This strategy has attracted substantial investments, rapidly transforming the AI landscape.

Exhibit presented by the New York Times’ legal team of ChatGPT replicating a article after being prompted

The lawsuit highlights instances where OpenAI’s technology, specifically GPT-4, replicated significant portions of Times articles, including in-depth investigative reports. These outputs, alleged by the Times to contain verbatim excerpts from their content, raise concerns about the ethical and legal boundaries of using copyrighted material for AI model training without proper authorization or compensation.

The legal action taken by the Times follows attempts to engage in discussions with Microsoft and OpenAI, aiming to address concerns about the use of its intellectual property. Despite these efforts, negotiations failed to reach a resolution that would ensure fair compensation for the use of the Times’ content while promoting responsible AI development that benefits society.

In the midst of this legal battle, the broader questions surrounding the responsible and ethical utilization of copyrighted material in advancing technological innovations come to the forefront.

The dispute between the Times, OpenAI, and Microsoft serves as a significant case study in navigating the intricate intersection of technological progress and safeguarding intellectual property rights in the digital age.


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Culture

‘The Bill Gates Problem’ – The Case Against World’s Richest Man

The Case Against World’s Richest Man

When Clinton assumed the presidency of the United States, there was eager anticipation from the Chinese, not for Clinton himself, but for Bill Gates. This was during the late 1990s, a period when the internet was still in its nascent stages, and the digital boom of the early 2000s had not yet reached its peak. The enigmatic persona that captivated the attention of the burgeoning Asian powerhouse is now portrayed in “The Bill Gates Problem” as a “domineering, brusque figure” whose demeanor is likened to “a cauldron of passions that freely erupts.” According to a former employee cited in the book, Gates was perceived as “a complete and utter jerk to people 70% of the time,” while the remaining 30% saw him as a “harmless, enjoyable, exceptionally intelligent nerd.”

The 1990s were also the decade of the conflict between Microsoft and the now defunct Netscape browser, which challenged what was already being openly described as the former’s monopolistic practices. Gates was investigated and accused in Congress for such practices; he ultimately won the battle, but the case harmed his reputation, and in 2000 he resigned as CEO of his company. From there he undertook an expansion of the foundation that he had established with his wife and to which he has dedicated his main efforts in the last two decades. In 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.

With a personal fortune of $100 billion and tens of billions more in his private foundation, Gates has been one of the richest men in the world for decades, and the foundation has been the most generous organization of its kind, specializing above all in health aid, education and child nutrition, with a large presence in Africa and India among other regions of what was formerly known as the Third World. Tim Schwab, a contributor to the weekly left-wing newspaper The Nation, undertook a detailed investigation to denounce something that in truth was already known: that American foundations are largely a way for billionaires to avoid taxes.

To prove this, he thoroughly looked into the accounts and procedures of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the failures and occasional successes of its philanthropic policies, and came to the conclusion that behind this facade of help to the needy hides an operation of power. He is ruthless in his criticism, although accurate in his analysis of the growing inequality in the world. Absorbed by the revolutionary rhetoric, he laments that the Gates Foundation has remained “deadly silent” regarding movements such as Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter, which demand social change in the face of the “excess wealth and ‘white savior’ mentality that drives Bill Gates’ philanthropic work.” He does attribute some good intentions, but his criticism is merciless, sometimes even coarse, while the absence of solutions for the problems he denounces — other than the calls for do-goodism — is frustrating.

His abilities as an investigative journalist are thus overshadowed by a somewhat naive militancy against the creative capitalism that Gates promotes and an evident intention to discredit not only his work but, above all, him. The demands he makes for transparency and the accusations of obscurity are dulled by the author himself in the pages he dedicates to Gates’ relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the famous corruptor of minors at the service of the international jet set. Gates has explained his meetings and interviews with him on countless occasions, and in no case has any type of relationship, other than their commercial relations or some confusing efforts to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, been proved. Still, Schwab raises, with no evidence whatsoever, the possibility that their relationship “could have had something to do with Epstein’s principal activities in life: sexual gratification and the exercise of power.” The book is full of this kind of opinions and speculations, to the detriment of a more serious analysis of Gates’ mistakes in the management of his foundation, the problems of shielding the intellectual property of vaccines in the hands of the pharmaceutical industries and, ultimately, the objective power that big technology companies have in global society.

He signed a collaboration agreement with the RAE to improve Microsoft’s grammar checker and was interested in the substantial unity of the Spanish language in all the countries where almost 600 million people speak it. That man was very far from the sexist, arrogant, miserable predator that Schwab portrays. Nor did we deduce — and this can be applied to the personal adventure of Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos — that his life’s goal was world domination, as suggested by this book. If they have achieved it, or may achieve it, it is due to the dynamics of digital civilization and the objective difficulties in governing it. The deregulation of financial capitalism, which has increased inequality among humankind, is due to the incompetence of obsolete political institutions and to leaders who care more about their own fates than those of their people. The criticism against “lame and wasteful government bureaucracies” might be part of the propaganda promoted by the world’s wealthy, but lately we have also heard it from small-scale farmers across Europe.

In conclusion, we found the book to be more entertaining than interesting. It provides a lot of information — we’re not sure if it’s entirely verified — and plenty of cheap ideology. Above all, one can see the personal crusade of the author, determined to prove that Bill Gates is a problem for democracy and that millionaire philanthropists are a bunch of swindlers. The world needs their money; maybe managed by party bureaucracies, that much is not clear. Bill Gates’ money, that is, but not Bill Gates himself.


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Global Affairs

Brazil’s G20 Presidency Kicks Off In Rio With Foreign Ministers Meeting | International

Foreign ministers of the Group of 20 nations were gathering Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro to discuss poverty, climate change and heightened global tensions as Brazil takes on the annual presidency of the bloc.

The ministers and other representatives of the 20 leading rich and developing nations planned to spend two days setting a roadmap for work to accomplish ahead of a Nov. 18-19 summit in Rio.

One of Brazil’s key proposals, set by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is a reform of global governance institutions such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and multilateral banks, where he wants to push for stronger representation of developing nations.

Brazil’s ambassador to the bloc, Mauricio Lyrio, said at a news conference Tuesday that structural reforms of international institutions are urgent because of a proliferation of conflicts around the world — not just in Ukraine and Gaza, but in a total of 183 locations, according to one study, he said.

“We have practically returned to the level of conflicts seen in the Cold War period. This shows that there is a lack of governance to deal with current challenges,” said Lyrio, who is the economic affairs secretary at Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

“It is one thing to work for peace in each conflict; another thing is to have a global governance that prevents conflicts from occurring,” Lyrio said. “We’re basically putting out fires.”

After years of diplomatic isolation under former President Jair Bolsonaro, Lula has sought to reinsert Brazil on the center stage of global diplomacy since returning to power in January of 2023.

Lucas Pereira Rezende, a political scientist at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, said Lula was especially well-suited for the role, recalling that during his earlier terms as president from 2003 to 2010 he was once called “the most popular politician on Earth” by then-U.S. President Barack Obama.

The G20 “is a very important international stage, especially at a time when the world is facing two major wars, involving large states, and also at a time when multilateralism is in crisis,” Rezende told The Associated Press.

“But Lula is a very strong international actor and has a very strong multilateral role, especially when presenting himself as a leader of underdeveloped or developing countries.”

G20 finance ministers and central bank presidents are set to meet next week in Sao Paulo, and a second meeting of foreign ministers is scheduled for September.

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