Feb 17, 2017

Albuquerque columnist highlights Mary Han case anomalies

(Reprinted from the Albuquerque Journal, Jan. 27, 2017)

Witnesses give startling testimony 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two attorneys and their client sat in a restaurant in Santa Fe over guacamole and chips and raised their glasses to the end of long days of testimony and six long years of fighting for answers, accountability, justice and perhaps even an apology for the way prominent civil rights attorney Mary Han was treated in death.

They won’t get all that. For the most part, those are remedies no court can grant.
But what happened this week in a Santa Fe courtroom was still satisfying, still vindicating, they said, because much of what they have alleged for years finally emerged with the often shocking and disturbing testimony of several key witnesses who, before now, had not been heard publicly.
That’s not nothing.
This week, state District Judge David Thomson of Santa Fe heard the petition filed on behalf of the Han family by attorneys Rosario Vega Lynn and Diane Garrity seeking an order – called a writ of mandamus – that would compel the state Office of the Medical Investigator to change the manner of Han’s death from suicide to undetermined.
Thomson didn’t rule on the petition, giving the parties 45 days to file additional briefs.
Han, you may recall, was an Albuquerque attorney you either loved or hated but certainly respected for her tenacity and fearlessness. She was 53, at the peak of health and about to start her own law firm after parting ways with longtime partner Paul Kennedy when she was found dead Nov. 18, 2010, in her car in the garage of her North Valley town home of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The first officers on the scene from both the Albuquerque Fire Department and the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) testified this week that they classified Han’s death as suspicious and a “possible crime scene,” but the APD officers say they were thwarted in their efforts to conduct a proper investigation when dozens of the highest-ranking APD and city officials descended on the house.
APD officers Tim Lonz and Jacob Welch testified that they arrived at the Han home just after 12:30 p.m. Kennedy was outside and Han was dead in the garage, seated in the driver’s seat of her white BMW, the windows rolled down, her feet propped on the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel. She was dressed in gym clothes and wearing reading glasses.
A clear plastic bag was under one leg. A blue gym bag, a laptop in another bag, a bathrobe and a glass of clear liquid were also in the car, they testified.
Both noted an odor of car exhaust throughout the house strong enough to induce headaches. Welch testified that the odor was so pungent that the car must have only recently been shut off. But the engine, he said, was cold. That, he said, was enough to raise his suspicions.
Later, he determined that the battery was dead but that the car still had a half-tank of gas.
Lonz testified that in the home he saw a folder or notebook on a table with a copy of an email bearing the name of then-Deputy Chief Allen Banks. Lonz said he alerted Banks, a friend, by text.
“It was none of my business and no one else’s business either,” Lonz said.
Banks showed up along with other high-ranking APD and city officials – an estimated 30 to 50 people who walked through the house, shut the garage door and ordered Lonz and Welch outside.
That was frustrating, Lonz testified, because he wanted to call a criminalistics team of investigators and detectives to the scene and he was concerned that the scene itself was being contaminated by so many people traipsing through the house.
Welch also testified that before he was sent outside he saw Banks rifling through folders on a table.
“He said he was looking for a suicide note,” Welch said.
Later, Welch testified that before both he and Banks were scheduled to be deposed for a separate lawsuit in the Han case, Banks told him: “Your testimony better match mine.”
“I took that as a threat,” Welch said.
(Banks was named interim police chief in 2013 then left APD a year later to become police chief in Round Rock, Texas. A message left with his office was not returned.)
The folder with Banks’ email was never found, according to testimony. Nor was the laptop in the car, which was given to Kennedy, along with Han’s cellphone, in violation of APD protocol.
Many things that occurred that day were in violation or simply not done. Former longtime chief medical investigator Dr. Ross Zumwalt testified that neither the state Office of the Medical Investigator nor APD had considered Han’s bank statements, credit card records, medical records, cellphone records, the other prescription medications in her system, such as Ambien, or the contents of her laptop to determine a manner of death. They hadn’t tested the air in the house, the clear liquid in the glass or the plastic bag in the car; nor had they questioned the positioning of her body in the car.
And during this week’s hearing, when Zumwalt was provided that additional information by forensic pathology experts and the Attorney General’s Office – after he was told APD had contaminated the death scene and not conducted a full investigation – he testified he was “even more convinced” Han died of suicide, placing his level of certainty at 95 percent.
Zumwalt’s testimony was enough to drop jaws and shake heads and bring tears to the eyes of Han’s sister, Elizabeth Wallbro.
It will take weeks before the judge decides on whether to grant the writ. Whichever way it goes, the legal odyssey, which has included other claims now dismissed save for one last appeal, is likely over.
It was, I think, a fight Han would have been proud of.
That night in the Santa Fe restaurant there were no more tears.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column published by the Albuquerque Journal. 

Mexican citizens rise up against Trump and Mexican president

Trump, Mexican Politics and People Power

Kent Paterson/Correspondent

In repudiation of U.S. President Donald Trump, locals plastered Puerto Vallarta's downtown band shell last weekend with posters. Starring Trump, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, the border wall and migrants, the messages stirred a far different mood than the joyous vibe orchestrated by the musicians who kick out danza music for couples dancing under the moonlight.  One cartoon depicted Trump  wielding a  club alongside a swastika.

Remaining into the week, the posters attracted passersby with somber looks on their faces. "I don't think Mexico should pay," declared onlooker Maria Jesus de Rodriguez, in reference to the border wall.  "I don't think it should divide two beautiful brother countries."

A life-long resident of Puerto Vallarta, Rodriguez was visibly pained by the images and words charting the present course of U.S.-Mexico relations. "(Foreigners) are welcome to Vallarta. There has to be ties of friendship," the elderly woman said.  "We have to ask God that all comes out well. We have to have faith."

Fourteen-year-old Ruben Tovar also surveyed the posters. "It's a very bad thing about Trump. He shouldn't run out the Mexicans," Tovar contended, adding that an uncle is threatened with deportation from Utah. Trump, the border wall and immigration are topics informally talked about among his classmates, he said. In 2017, Ruben and his classmates are getting hard lessons in current events that weren't planned as part of the official curriculum.

Trump's presidency has struck a raw nerve in Puerto Vallarta. For better of worse, the Mexican Pacific coastal resort and the U.S. share countless bonds. Puerto Vallarta, for instance, enjoys sister city relationships with Santa Barbara, California, and Highland Park, Illinois.

While large colonies of U.S., Canadian and other ex-patriots have settled in the city and greater Banderas Bay region,  many locals like Ruben Tovar have relatives who've migrated to the U.S. In Vallarta these days, one can spot anti-Trump t-shirts and hear a local rock band popular among both Mexicans and foreigners belt out a version of a Molotov song insulting Trump and Peña Nieto. A restaurant sign in the tourist-saturated, white-hued Olas Altas district boasts "The Best Damn Burger This Side of Trump's  Wall." 

Mexico vibrates, not explodes

The Trump-inspired scenes in Puerto Vallarta constitute a slice of Mexican national sentiment, which was awkwardly expressed on the streets in polemical demonstrations held on Feb. 12. In Mexico City, two separate initiatives organized by middle and upper class organizations and individuals grappled not only with the goal of denouncing Trump but whether to incorporate demands against the administration of Peña Nieto as well. 

One of the movements, Vibra Mexico, was supported by the rector of the National Autonomous University of  Mexico (UNAM), Enrique Graue, who quickly came under fire by some faculty and students for not adequately consulting the university community prior to signing on UNAM with Vibra Mexico. A second grouping, fronted by prominent anti-crime activist Isabel Miranda Wallace,  drew widespread criticism for its pro-government posture.

To varying degrees, both movements subsequently tried to distance themselves from the Mexican president, arguing that their marches were for a nation as a whole and not a particular individual. Ultimately, Vibra Mexico, incorporated  general demands of curbing poverty and internal corruption. 

"Beyond the discrepancies, it's  indispensable to massively repudiate Trump," wrote La Jornada columnist Gustavo Gordillo, who said he would march in spite of the controversies and contradictions swirling around the demonstration.

Yet the biggest Feb. 12 marches in Mexico City (18,000-20,000) and Guadalajara (15,000), according to Mexican media reports, paled in comparison to the nationwide protests staged last month against the Peña Nieto administration's gasoline price hike (gazolinazo) and other policies. As it turned out at last weekend's  anti-Trump actions, demands for Peña Nieto's ouster were heard, while Miranda Wallace was forced to flee the Mexico City march after she was confronted by angry demonstrators.

In an unusual practice for commercial television, Milenio ran pre-demonstration sports for Vibra Mexico, but wound up giving a negative review to the anti-Trump event.

Milenio News anchor Azucena Uresti began a broadcast talking about the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests in the U.S. and "the climate of terror" descending on migrants there,  but soon led into Milenio News' coverage that concluded Vibra Mexico fell short of expectations. "It showed disunity in the face of Trump's attacks," pronounced a reporter.

"I am honestly worried," wrote columnist Jose Pablo Ruiz in Puerto Vallarta's Tribuna de la Bahia newspaper. "If Trump can't unite us, I don't know what will wake up this great country so it will come together around what we all are: Mexicans."

Noticeably absent from the mobilizations were the militant teachers' union, small farmers, popular organizations and indigenous communities which form the backbone of Mexican protest politics. The new Mexican nationalism that's simmering in like a good hot caldo de res, or beef stew, has yet to finish cooking.

Mexican presidential election comes to the U.S.

Feb. 12, however, was also the occasion for the effective kick-off of the 2018 Mexican presidential election-in California. On that day, early front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) took his roadshow to Olvera Plaza, the historic heart of Los Angeles' Mexican community.   

Speaking to a crowd of hundreds, Lopez Obrador tailored his speech both to the ages and contemporary times, beginning with a quote from the Bible about not exploiting the humble workers and the poor. Humanity is grounded in migration, the presidential hopeful said, starting with the first humans who left Africa for other continents.

In hard-hitting comments sprinkled with references to Hitler and the Jews, AMLO, as he is called in Mexico, tore into President Trump and denounced racist outbreaks like the incident in Texas when a couple scrawled an anti-Mexican message on their restaurant tab. The former Mexico City mayor criticized economic inequality and stagnation in both the U.S. and Mexico, blaming it in part for Trump's victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"If it were true that the North American Free Trade Agreement only benefited Mexico, our economy might not be stagnant and there might not be migration," AMLO, the former Mexico City mayor said.

Delving into the annals of U.S. history, Lopez Obrador praised the likes of Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez. The leader of Mexico's Morena party announced plans to defend migrants in "El Norte," the formation of outreach committees to the U.S. public, and his intention to back a human rights complaint against the Trump administration in the United Nations if the Mexican government does not do it first.

Lopez Obrador has plans to visit other U.S. cities in the coming weeks, including an expected stop in the border city of El Paso, Texas, during the first week of March. He was accompanied at his Los Angeles appearance by the Rev.  Alejandro Solalinde, a Catholic priest and prominent defender of migrants in Mexico. 

Power to the people

For some, the Feb. 12 marches were a distraction from the mass movement against the Peña Nieto administration that arose after a 20 percent gasoline price hike, known as the gasolinazo, went into effect Jan. 1. Fernando Sanchez, an activist in Puerto Vallarta with the anti-gasolinazo movement, called the recent media and government focus on Trump a "smokescreen" to conceal the gasolinazo and suppress the movement surrounding it.

Sanchez and other supporters of Vallarta Unido, new civil society activist group that opposes the gasolinazo and proclaims independence from political parties, expressed support for the struggles of Mexican migrants and disgust at the "racism and xenophobia" of Trump, but stressed that their fight is at home.

"We believe that if we are well on the inside, there won't be a necessity for Mexicans to migrate to other countries, especially the U.S.," Sanchez said. "The first step is to have the Mexican government do things right. We are upset about the gasolinazo."

Half-jokingly another man said, "Let's hang our own first, and then Trump."

At its essence, the anti-gasolinazo movement cuts far deeper than anger over pricier gasoline. Higher gas prices mean steeper costs for other basic  products movement activists say. Government corruption, human rights violations and the growing divergence between wages and the cost of living are other core grievances.

Meeting in the parking lot of a Sam's Club, Sanchez and about 20 other members of Vallarta Unido spent Feb. 12 combining consciousness raising and direct action with what they term peaceful civil resistance. One activist carried a sign: "Education is the vaccine against violence and ignorance."

Splitting into groups, activists fueled up at different PEMEX (Petroleos Mexicanos) gasoline stations and politely refused to pay the approximately 36 percent of their bills that goes to taxes. Conversing with gas station workers and managers, resisters explained their reasons for withholding the portion of the bill dedicated to government taxes. At one station, the female attendant was perplexed by the action.

"This is nothing against you. We are against the people at the top," resister Fatima Bedollo told the woman worker. Soon, a supervisor, Benjamin Rodriguez appeared. "We can't do this because the manager is not here ... if you don't pay, (the workers) will  have to," Rodriguez said.

"In the final analysis, we are helping you all out too, Bedollo retorted. "I always fill up here. If gas goes up on Feb. 15, I can't give (the female attendant) a tip." Like other resisters, Bedollo gave the gas station employees her election identification card and personal phone number in case the manager decided to take a hard line, vowing Vallarta Unido would provide support to the employees if management held them responsible for the 36 percent withheld. After more dialogue, smiles flashed and Bedollo and fellow resisters drove off from their successful action.

At another PEMEX station, outsourced to the Alfaro Group, things did not go quite as smoothly.  A lengthy standoff ensued when the operators threatened to charge the activists with robbery and several police units showed up, briefly hemming in a score of resisters. 

"Who is your leader?" demanded a municipal police commander. "All of us," the group shot back.

Vallarta Unido justified its action by producing copies of papers based on the Mexican Constitution, national law and a government document that says the IEPS gas tax which consumers are charged at the pump is meant for producers, processors and importers. Of special importance to the resisters was the inclusion of Article 39 of the Mexican Constitution that states power arises from the people.

"All public power comes from the people and is instituted for their benefit," the article reads in part. "The people always have the inalienable right to alter or modify the form of their government."

Looking over the papers, the policeman determined, "These aren't signed by a judge." 

For nearly two hours, an emotional debate involving resisters, station management and police ground business at the pumps to a halt. During one tense moment, the group chanted "Gas yes, taxes no!" A police official assured the group his officers were there not to repress the action but only make sure people stayed safe. "We are affected by (the gasolinazo) too," he said.  

"Don't we have a right to peaceful civil resistance?" a protester questioned a station representative. "What you don't have a right to do is enter private property and not pay for a product," the unconvinced man argued. He recommended resisters that resisters take their cause to the gates of PEMEX, and questioned why they didn't protest taxes on other products like tequila.

"You don't have to buy tequila," a woman resister answered, arguing that higher gas prices impact everyone. Appealing for a common front between protesters and gas station operators against the price hike (similar to a Feb. 15 morning strike by gas stations in the border state of Tamaulipas), Fernando Sanchez elicited a cool response from the station rep. "If you don't pay the full amount, we'll file charges against you," the man insisted.

Facing a criminal complaint, the resisters reluctantly decided to pay the full bill. Nonetheless, they fine-combed constitutional and moral arguments which were rejected by station operators but were greeted with some sympathy by the police.

Instead of dispersing after the protest as is typically the case in the U.S., the group reassembled at the Sam's Club parking lot to evaluate the evening, analyze mistakes and successes and debate future tactics.  In today's Mexico, it's in unlikely places like Sam's Club parking lot where the forging of a nation’s new identity might well just be underway. 


Kent Paterson, a veteran author and journalist based in New Mexico, is an expert on Mexico and U.S.-Mexico border issues.

Jan 24, 2017

Citizen movements could shape the U.S.-Mexico agenda

Mexico City recent protests (Reuters photo)

Citizen movements could shape the U.S.-Mexico agenda

By Kent Paterson/Correspondent
Jan. 24, 2017

As U.S. President Donald J. Trump and his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Ni
eto prepare to meet Jan. 31 in Washington, citizen discontent and protest in both countries is simultaneously reaching levels not seen in years. 

As Trump assumed the Oval Office last week, the Mexican media quickly switched the focus of its news reporting and commentaries from the extradition of drug lord Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera to the inaugural ceremonies and the first round of Washington protests, including the incidents of property trashing.

The Mexican media's accent on protest deepened with the historic Jan. 21st Women's March on Washington and an estimated 600 global solidarity actions getting prominent play in both print and television outlets. Perhaps typical of the prevailing tone was a banner headline in La Jornada daily, visualized by photos of the massive demonstrations, that read "Global Repudiation of Trump."

In virtually unprecedented fashion, U.S. expatriates living south of the border demonstrated their displeasure Jan. 21 with the new administration back home.

According to La Jornada, 600 people in the expat community of Ajijic, in Jalisco state, attended a rally where they hoisted placards that variously proclaimed in both Spanish and English "Women Resist," "Women's Rights are Human Rights" and "Science is Real." In Alamos, Sonora, dozens of expats chanted "Long live Mexico," and displayed signs such as "Out with Trump" and "Build Bridges not Walls," the newspaper reported.

In Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, hundreds of "expats, snowbirds and tourists" attended a Women's March solidarity event on the touristy Malecon, according to a posting on the local media site pvangels.com.

"I am very inspired to keep up the momentum to do what I can in my little corner of the world to help effect positive change," wrote Georgia Darehshori on pvangels. "I love the mantra of my immigrant husband who always said, "’if it's to be it's up to me.’"

Mexican media outlets reported additional U.S. expat-organized demonstrations in Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende and Zihuatanejo. In San Pancho, Nayarit, an estimated 1,000 foreigners and locals turned out to denounce gender violence. Support for Mexican immigrants in the U.S. was voiced at different events.

Discontent boils in Mexico

Meanwhile, popular discontent with
Peña Nieto administration over the Jan. 1 gasoline price hike of 20 percent and a long laundry list of other matters continues to manifest itself. On the weekend of Jan. 20-22, large and small protests against the "gasolinazo" and the Peña Nieto administration were held in scores of places in at least 22 of Mexico's 32 states, with the largest demonstrations reported in Guadalajara (60,000), Hermosillo (30,000), Mexicali (20,000-30,000) and Tijuana (15,000). 

On Jan. 21, in the border state of Chihuahua, more than 2,000 small farmers and their supporters partially blockaded international crossings leading into Mexico from New Mexico and Texas, according to Juarez, Mexico news outlets. Two days later, hundreds briefly occupied the Mexican side of the Paso Del Norte bridge between Juarez and El Paso, allowing motorists to cross into the Texas city ( where many would surely fill their gas tanks at half the cost in Juarez) without paying the bridge fare.

In Puerto Vallarta, dozens of marchers paraded along the Malecon both on the morning and evening of Jan. 22, attracting the attention of tourists and locals alike with shouts of "Out with 
Peña." At the conclusion of the first rally, a speak-out was held in city's central plaza. One man called the gas price hike "the straw that broke the camel's back," triggering an outpouring of grievances over the galloping cost of living, unaccountable politicians and the rule of law. 

Extending their concerns beyond the price of gasoline per se, women and men touched on issues that also resounded the day before during the women's marches throughout the world, such as the high cost of education, healthcare, social security, the environment, democracy, and a decent future for children. Like many speakers at the U.S. demonstrations last Saturday, one woman urged more citizen engagement and participation in political and social affairs.

"It's important we organize ourselves, so more people come out," she said. "We're walking around like zombies. It's time we wake up." An indigenous man who said Spanish was his second language also took the microphone. "We are the owners of Mexico," he pronounced. "Long live Mexico!"

Mexico's new popular movement plans more demonstrations in the days ahead, including actions on Mexican Constitution Day, Feb. 5. The country's constitution, along with proposals to write a new one, is getting more discussion this year since 2017 happens to be the 100th anniversary of the country's governing document.

"We need to attend demonstrations like we attend religious Masses, soccer matches and drinking parties. We cant' go on like this. Mexico needs us," implored Puerto Vallarta activist Juan Villanueva. "Nobody stops this. Neither Trump nor 
Peña Nieto."

Elite and popular agendas clash

Though geography, language and political culture usually separate citizen movements in Mexico and the U.S, hints of a convergence are taking shape this year around common demands for respecting the rights of women and immigrants, celebrating the ties between two neighboring nations and assuring that the economy works for all and not just a handful of rich businessmen and politicians.

Another important similarity rests in the participation of large numbers of new people and places in the protests. Scratching beyond the surface of these developments, the outlines of a binational, grassroots citizens' agenda are perceptible.

One immediate arena where binational citizen action could coalesce is around the upcoming renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) called for by President Trump. In fact, a historic precedent exists for such collaboration, as happened in the Paso del Norte borderland during the NAFTA negotiations of the early 1990s when activist organizations such as the Border Agricultural Workers Union of El Paso and Southern New Mexico, the Frente Democratico Campesino de Chihuahua and the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice jointly spearheaded protests. Ironically, the new U.S. president has provided an opening for a new cross-border movement.

More than 20 years after it was implemented, the issue of NAFTA is getting hot and heavy on both sides of the border. A staunch defender of free trade, Mexican President Enrique 
Peña Nieto is poised not only to defend NAFTA but to finesse and institutionalize it as well. Hence, the president's statement on Jan. 22 advocating a more profound integration of the economies of Mexico, Canada and the United States. 

On Jan. 23, 
Peña Nieto went further, responding to Trump's cancellation of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) proposal that was negotiated but not ratified by Mexico, the U.S. and other nations. The Mexican leader announced that he would seek to expand free trade and other commercial relations with multiple nations. "Our priority is to consolidate ourselves as a relevant actor in order to intensify trade, investment and tourism flows," Peña Nieto was quoted in the Mexican press. 

Peña Nieto's agenda departs in many respects from the one bubbling up from below in the brouhaha over the "gasolinazo" (the big gas hike).  For instance, sectors of the small farmer (campesino) movement are calling for the renegotiation of NAFTA to include protection of corn from the U.S. imports that have devastated small producers of Mexico's staple crop and encouraged them to migrate north. 

On Jan. 31, the same day 
Peña Nieto is in Washington to talk trade, immigration and border security with Trump, campesinos will join union members and others for a mass demonstration in Mexico City against Peña Nieto's administration policies. 

Juan Villanueva is one who is very skeptical that his president will rise to the occasion of defending national interests when he meets with Trump. The U.S. and Mexican presidents are similar, in that both men are disliked by many of their fellow citizens, Villanueva contended. "I think they are going to look for cosmetic solutions to temper the ire of the people," he said.

Trump's election and first days in office, coupled with the fallout from the "gasolinazo," are leading more and more Mexicans to urge a profound reexamination of their country's policies, its dependence on the U.S., and the future path ahead.

"The urgent task is to seek alternatives that privilege the internal market, the diversification of commerce and the renegotiation with the U.S. to stop, as much as possible, the damages that it has already caused us," writes columnist Olga Pellicer in the current edition of Proceso newsweekly. 

"The conditions to undertake this task are particularly difficult in Mexico, with a government in clear discredit, an opposition fragmented, a democracy on the edge of the precipice. The responsibility falls on organized social groups, responsible communications media, academics, nationalist businessmen, and think tanks. Few times has the urgency been felt of coming together for rethinking the national project."


Kent Paterson, a veteran author-journalist based in New Mexico, is an expert on Mexico and border issues.

Opinion: Yes, open White House press briefings to the public

White House James Brady Press Briefing Room

(White House courtesy photo)
Increase public access to White House press briefings

Public access to the White House press briefings
As a lifetime journalist, a couple of things caught my attention this week, a proposal by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to open up some seats in the White House press briefing room to regular citizens, and a reference by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on the use of Skype to field questions from media that are geographically removed from the White House. Both are good ideas.
Practically speaking, it would be a good idea for the White House press office to consider using social media to field occasional questions directly from the public that will be answered by Spicer and or his staff. The only requirement would be that the questions come from real people and from all sectors of our communities across the country. The question(s) of the day could be read or highlighted by the staff in some way and answered.
It makes sense to change the way press briefings are handled to reflect the way our society functions in modern times. President Donald J. Trump himself has shown a marked preference for using Twitter. It also gets us away from the notion that media on the front row seats of these briefings are somehow ivory-towerish and disconnected from mainstream America. Questions by experienced reporters are important, and so are questions from every-day people that are living the effects of government policies.

Diana Washington Valdez, The Digie Zone MM Properties president & publisher