Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting | 14 July, 2016
In its nonstop campaign against the government of Venezuela, the New York Times (“Neighbors Stand Up to Venezuela,” 7/11/16) is now forced to lean on the thin reed of Paraguay’s ultra-rightist government, which took power in elections widely characterized by fraud, as even the Times (4/21/13) noted when they occurred.
Even more bizarre is the Timeseditorial’s reliance on Paraguay’s foreign minister, Eladio Loizaga, a diplomat left over from the decades-long dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner. The foreign minister is accused by Latin Americans (E’a, 8/12/13) of involvement in the hit squad operations of the World Anti-Communist League and Operation Condor.
Loizaga, whom the Timesapparently interviewed and treats favorably in its editorial (“We can’t condone any action that silences dissident voices,” the editorial quotes him), was an important Latin American member of WACL, an extreme right-wing organization incorporating fascist and Nazi elements and involved in murders around the globe.
In Latin America and most assuredly in Stroessner’s Paraguay, WACL interfaced with Operation Condor, the transnational death squad organized by Stroessner and the military dictatorships of Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, to the point where they often functioned as the same organization.
All those military dictatorships were imposed in Washington-sponsored coups and applauded by the New York Times in news coverage (e.g., 7/24/76). US authorities collaborated closely with Operation Condor’s murder and “disappearance” operations, at least until Condor operatives killed former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his American assistant Ronni Moffitt with a car bomb on Washington’s Embassy Row.
Loizaga’s role came out in revelations from the Truth and Justice Commission of Paraguay established after Stroessner’s fall (E’a, 8/12/13). The Truth and Justice Commission was effectively closed down once Stroessner’s old Colorado Party got back in power in the above-mentioned disputed elections.
Not surprisingly, Loizaga has won scant support for his effort to isolate Venezuela diplomatically and prevent its taking the six-month rotating presidency of the Mercosur economic group that comprises Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. Loizaga’s ugly history may cause him no problem—may even win him applause—in Washington and at the New York Times, but the dictatorships are not regarded so fondly in Latin America.
Dictatorship torture victims included four democratically elected Latin American presidents or recent ex-presidents: Chile’s Michele Bachelet, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff (currently deposed) and former President Jose Mujica of Uruguay. Many close advisors to presidents throughout the region were torture victims, or had family and friends who were tortured, murdered or “disappeared.”
The only government to support Loizaga, and then only partially, is the government of Brazil, itself the product of the recent coup against democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff. Her ouster, widely denounced in Latin America, is similar to the one that was used against Paraguay’s democratically elected President Fernando Lugo in 2012. (TheTimes did not mention that Paraguay received support from Brazil’s coup government, which the Times itself has recently criticized for its illegitimate seizure of power, perhaps leaving readers to wonder how many “neighbors” are involved in “standing up” to Venezuela.) Loizaga is not receiving support even from Argentina, a right-wing but democratically elected government.
As for the current president of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes, he is a wealthy ultra-right businessman with an unsavory record of his own, as the Times itself noted during his election campaign (4/17/13), especially after he referred to gays as “monkeys” and declared that he would shoot himself in the testicles if he found that his 28-year-old son was gay.
Imprisoned repeatedly on currency-fraud charges before he became a politician, Cartes was suspected by the DEA of laundering drug money until he became president and useful to the US authorities. When police found a plane loaded with cocaine and marijuana on his estate, he claimed the plane was just an aircraft in distress and that it was pure coincidence that it had to make its landing on his property. Since he is from the Stroessner dictatorship’s Colorado Party, he was repeatedly able to use party connections to get charges abandoned by the authorities.
One of the motives behind the bizarre nonstop propaganda campaign against Venezuela was revealed in one of the sources the Times editorial linked to: a blog post from the Council on Foreign Relations (7/7/16) that made clear Washington’s and Wall Street’s urgent need to oust Venezuela’s government, or at least isolate it diplomatically, in order to shift the agenda of Mercosur.
The CFR blog focused on trade with countries outside of Mercosur (essentially diminishing or effectively ending the economic group) and expressed the hope that next year the rotating presidency of Mercosur would pass for 18 months to what it called “center-right” governments—Argentina, Brazil’s coup government and Paraguay. Paraguay’s government, for its part, followed up with the claim that the need was to refocus Mercosur toward “free trade.” Washington and Wall Street (and the Times) have been pushing hard for “Washington consensus” neoliberal economic regimes throughout Latin America, despite disastrous results for the populations in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela and other countries in the past.
The Times has alsochampioned attacks on Venezuela’s government by Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States. Almagro was unable to win support for OAS action in support of his charges, and has been forced to retreat. For all its coverage of Venezuela, the Times did not find room to report the contents of a letter written to Almagro last November, recently released by its author and published in the centrist Caracas newspaper Ultimas Noticias (6/17/16). The letter, written by then-Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, whom Almagro served as foreign minister, expressed astonishment at his changes in position. “Luis,” he wrote:
You know that I have always supported and promoted you. You know that I quietly supported your candidacy for the OAS. I am sorry that the facts have repeatedly shown me that I was wrong. I don’t understand your silence on Haiti, Guatemala and Paraguay [the letter was written before the coup in Brazil – MC] while you publish your letter in response to Venezuela.
How or why would a diplomat posted to the OAS change positions so dramatically? Perhaps an explanation comes from a Latin American diplomat who served as his country’s ambassador to that body.
“The US behaves at the Organization of American States exactly like the Corleone family,” said the diplomat, who asked not to be publicly identified. “The first time, they make you an offer: ‘After your tour of duty is up here, if you’d like to stay on in Washington, we can arrange a nice position for you at the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.’
“If you don’t do what they want,” the diplomat said, “the second time, they threaten you. And if you still don’t do what they want, the third time they destroy you.”
When he was asked, “What do you mean by ‘destroy’?” he answered, “Believe me, you do not want to know what I mean by ‘destroy.’”
Mark Cook is a longtime media analyst for FAIR, now living in Venezuela.