Terrorism In The Cigarette Trade
By Tohanash Tarrant (Shinnecock/Hopi/Ho-Chunk)
The true issue of terrorism support in the cigarette business runs much deeper and it is much more incriminating than the accusations made towards a handful of New York State Indian (Native American) Retailers.
It’s a fact that Native nations are using, to their advantage, the gap in pricing brought on by high New York cigarette tax to support economic development on their reservations. But why are we being targeted as the criminals and scapegoats for the illegal business (smuggling, racketeering, and counterfeiting) surrounding the sale of cigarettes?
Prior to the attacks on September 11th and continuing thereafter, trade routes linking states with drastically low sales tax (North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky) to major cities (Michigan, New York, and Virginia) have been continuing to feed the black markets at an unprecedented rate.
It is reported by the Cato Institute that over half the cigarettes sold in New York City comes from the black market. Hezbollah, al Queda, Hamas, and other terrorist groups have seriously cashed in on state tax discrepancies to support further attacks on the US. It is estimated that a single truckload carrying 400 cases (48,000 cartons) of cigarettes may yield around $2 million dollars in profit.
It makes one wonder, how can traffickers leave a state with thousands of cartons of cigarettes each day and have no one notice? Their illegal cigarette trafficking has gone on for several years now with little to no interference from the law. While media’s attention has conveniently been averted to target small Indian smoke shops for not paying NYS tax, major players walk away with millions upon millions of dollars.
In a report published by the Center for Public Integrity, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists finds: “Corporate documents, court records and internal government reports some going back to the 1970s also show that BAT [British American Tobacco], Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have orchestrated smuggling networks variously in Canada, Colombia, China, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Untied States as a major part of their marketing strategy to increase profits.”
Even the government of Colombia has filed charges against the cigarette giants. In a racketeering lawsuit brought against Philip Morris in the U.S. federal court in 2000, Colombia accuses Philip Morris and BAT of running a large scale drug-money laundering ring.
Colombia’s actions did not come without consequence.
In an affidavit given by the executive director of the Colombia Federation of Departments (Jose Manuel Arias Carrizosa), Carrizosa quotes Philip Morris Vice President J. Armando Sobalvarro as saying in an implication, if Colombia continued to prosecute the company, “there would be blood”.
At the time of the meeting that took place October of 1999, Philip Morris had lobbyists in Washington DC advocating a large aid package for Colombia- a political move that no doubt had influence on Colombia’s relations with Philip Morris.
While no business within the US borders operated by cigarette manufacturers has yet been discovered to be directly linked to terrorist smugglers, their international business conduct may foretell domestic problems. In the lawsuit mentioned above, Colombia accuses Philip Morris of “selling cigarettes directly to smugglers or to distributors known to sell to smugglers”.
It should be clear to anyone who reads this that the real problem here is the portrayal of Indian businesses. In no way can the amount of cigarettes sold on New York State Indian Reservations meet or even come near the amount of supply that can be purchased in any given state to feed the black market.
The Shinnecock and Unkechaug Nations of Long Island are small native communities that have been engaging in the legitimate sale of tobacco products for decades. There are currently 8 family-owned smoke shops on both reservations combined.
If New York State wants to deal with the real issues of terrorism, tax evasion, smuggling, racketeering, counterfeiting, etc. they should start by holding the manufacturers accountable for their transactions. Using native peoples once again as scapegoats will only further deepen the lines of poverty seen on our reservations and cost NYS taxpayers a pretty penny while they’re at it.
Long Island Native American
1490 William Floyd Parkway Suite 107
Shirley, NY 11967
Telephone: (631) 924.1780
The Shinnecock and Unkechaug Nations of Long Island, NY have come together to defend their rights forming the Long Island Native American Business Alliance. Please visit our site and leave a blog.
Cigarettes, Canada. and the Mohawks
Submitted by Ann VanWert
March 22, 2006
Posted by Justin Podur
An important story from Canada is also a chance to watch a coordinated media-police operation unfold.
We start with three (Mohawk) indigenous communities around Ontario/Quebec. Kanehsatake, Kahnawake, and Akwesasne, and also Tyendinaga. The communities are frequently harrassed by police and authorities, and there is of course the long-term history that cannot be ignored.
In recent years, these communities have traded in one of their traditional commodities: tobacco. In addition to providing incomes and a degree of autonomy from the Canadian state, the trade has been a pretext for that state to intervene in the affairs of these people.
Very recently, people from these communities have been trying to make noise to call attention to what they believe is some sort of police or military intervention in their communities. They suspect it will be based on the pretext of the cigarette trade.
They saw the signs of this upcoming attack weeks ago. It was reported in the Toronto Star, but a piece on the Mohawk News Network has better context. The signs included low-flying helicopters, a few late-night helicopter landings, and police and military sneaking around.
The saying goes: Don't believe anything until it's been officially denied. If that's the case, then the article by Chris Malette of the Belleville Intelligencer (a paper near the native communities in question) with its sarcasm and its ignorance of Canada's history and current foreign policy is a very useful piece.
Next up: a piece by CTV, a Canadian private television network. CTV somehow has come into the possession of a 'dramatic video' showing Canada's federal police, the RCMP, 'chasing smugglers' in a boat on a river.
The piece refers to the 'growing problem' of contraband cigarettes. It features, predictably for the North American media, a lot of police sources, and ends with a quote from the Kahnawake band council.
What's the motivation? The long-term goals have not changed since founding: destruction of any hope of an independent indigenous society and forced 'assimilation' into second- or third-class status.
As to the question of "why now", Canada has a new government, consisting of reactionaries whose intellectual heroes include people who deny the existence of indigenous people (I'm referring specifically here to Thomas Flanagan). Prime Minister Stephen Harper won't allow a parliamentary vote on Canada's combat missions in Afghanistan.
He went off to visit the troops to give them hope in a foreign adventure that is risking their lives and those of Afghans in a mission whose principle goal is establishing Canada's subordination to the US military.
In all things, Harper is taking the lead of his friends in Washington. And Washington's principle has long been based on using lots of violence in politics (which isn't to say that Canada lacks its own traditions in this regard, only see the piece by the Mohawk News Network linked above for examples).
So, whether it's racist vendetta or just violent political strategy, everything's lining up for a domestic adventure to match the Canada's foreign ones.
Where does the chance to watch an operation in real time come in? Remember that the communities have been warning of a possible intervention for weeks. They said that they expect the intervention around April 1. Weeks after that, yesterday, the police used the CTV to put a story out attacking native communities for contraband cigarettes. Expect more 'dramatic' footage', from police sources and repeated in the media, over the coming days.
In conclusion: I've said twice this is a rare opportunity to see a coordinated operation unfold. I've heard - albeit indirectly - from people in the Mohawk communities that they would prefer people not just watch, passively.
A group of gangsters in Ottawa aren't going to make native people disappear any more than any government that has fantasized about it over the past few centuries. Still, Canada can inflict a lot of harm if it isn't stopped.
A lot of people from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty are involved, and will be involved, in this in the coming weeks. If you want to get involved, they might be a place to start.
Native American Business Awards
Southport, Connecticut - September 6, 2006
DiversityBusiness the nation's leading small business Internet portal will be conducting its 7th annual "Top Women Businesses in America" survey. This year's survey will determine the:
*Top 100 Native American Owned Business in the United States
*Top 50 Native American owned businesses in each State
*Top 500 Small Businesses in the United States
*Top 500 Diversity Owned Business in the United States
The winners will be honored at the 7th Annual Multicultural Business Conference in March 2007 in Las Vegas. The awards are based on annual sales volume. This marks the 7th year for this massive national data collection effort.
To participate, businesses must register their business profile at DiversityBusiness Business Awards Registration
All Small, Women, Disabled, and Minority owned businesses are encouraged to register. Last years winners received enormous recognition and exposure for their companies.
DiversityBusiness is the nation's largest and most comprehensive online resource center for Small, Women and, Minority owned businesses and large procurement organizations. It is a membership-based exchange platform that facilitates contacts and communication, streamlines business processes and provides vital business news and information.
TO SUBMIT an ARTICLE or OPINION PIECE to the Native Unity Digest, e-mail email@example.com.
NATIVE UNITY - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.
Visit Vietnam Vet. Larry Mitchell at http://www.potawatomivet.com and click on his blog at the site.