Readership Responds to COHA Research

COHA has received a number of letters in response to several of the articles it has published over the past few weeks. In the interest of fostering a healthy debate on the issues that COHA’s research addresses, we are printing a selection of the most considered responses below, and we encourage further thoughtful contributions from our readership.

-COHA Staff

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Regarding ‘Ecuador’s Correa at Trinidad Summit: Will it be His Last Presidential Trip?’

April 14, 2009

Dear COHA,

I’m writing to you to bring to your attention the contradictions, inaccuracies and inconsistencies that plague Billy Lemus and David Rosenblum Felson’s piece entitled ‘Ecuador’s Correa at Trinidad Summit: Will it be his Last Presidential Trip?’

The first – albeit more benign – contradiction lies in the title of the piece. This is because the authors’ choice of the title directly contradicts the main argument of their report. The fact that, throughout the entire article, the authors claim that Correa will most probably “be re-elected by an even wider margin” and that “the victory is almost certain to go to Correa”, means the choice of the title is at best clumsy.

There are however much more serious contradictions in the article.

By far the most visible inconsistency lies in the fact that the authors claim that “the forthcoming elections are likely to mirror the 2006 ballot, in which the right-leaning banana tycoon, Álvaro Noboa, and the radical former finance minister and current president, Rafael Correa, conduct a re-run by competing for the presidency”.

A few paragraphs later, however, the authors completely contradict themselves claiming that “Noboa (…) currently has only 15 percent of the vote, having fallen to third place behind the ousted former president Lucio Gutiérrez (2003-2005)”. The authors then claim that “it is unlikely that Noboa will gain much ground before the April 26 vote” and that “Correa is set for a clean and decisive victory as he is ahead by 10 percent over his nearest opponent, and above the 40 percent mark needed to win the election in the first round”.

The polls carried out in Ecuador so far suggest that it is very unlikely that Noboa will contend in a second round against Correa. But the contradiction in the report is puzzling.

The report also states that Noboa is “running on a strong anti-corruption platform”. To the best of my knowledge, however, this has not been a prominent aspect of Noboa’s campaign. On the contrary, Noboa has been himself facing strong corruption allegations and charges of tax evasion, which the Servicio de Renta Interna (SRI) has been investigating. Noboa’s campaign, therefore, has focussed much of its effort at accusing Correa of trumping up tax evasion charges, which Noboa claims, is a form of political persecution, aimed at the financial meltdown of his business empire.

Finally, the treatment of the current conflict between Ecuador and Colombia is confused and misleading. On the one hand, the authors recognise that the laptops recovered from slain FARC leader Raúl Reyes contained “evidence” with quotation marks leading to what the authors call “allegations”. On the other hand, the authors pay no reference whatsoever to the Interpol report which has since invalidated any information contained in the 8 laptops seized. More specifically, the authors failed to mention the following findings of the Interpol report:

1. “Using their forensic tools, they [the Interpol experts] found a total of 48,055 files for which the timestamps indicated that they had either been created, accessed, modified or deleted as a result of the direct access to the eight seized exhibits by Colombian authorities between the time of their seizure on 1 March 2008 and 3 March 2008 at 11:45 a.m.”

2. “The actual seizure of the eight computer exhibits occurred between 5:50 a.m. and 7:50 a.m. on Saturday, 1 March. However, it was not until more than 48 hours later that the eight seized exhibits were given to the computer forensic specialists of the Colombian Judicial Police”

3. “Access to the data contained in the eight FARC computer exhibits between 1 March 2008, when they were seized by Colombian authorities, and 3 March 2008 at 11:45 a.m., when they were turned over to (…) the Colombian Judicial Police, did not conform to internationally recognised principles for handling electronic evidence by law enforcement.”

It is clear today that not only should the laptops not be used as evidence, but that the recent media focus on Reyes’ laptops, both in the US and in the European press, has distorted the international understanding of the Ecuadorian-Colombian conflict, playing, as was originally planned, into the hands of President Uribe’s foreign policy.

It is for this reason that serious analysis should steer away from claiming that, as the authors of this report do, “the laptop also included information alleging that Correa received campaign contributions from the Colombian terrorist organization during his 2006 presidential campaign” (my italics). The use of the word “alleging” is not enough of a safeguard to prevent the growth of the ill-founded stereotype of a pro-FARC Ecuadorian government. It is a shame that so much space in the article should be dedicated to encouraging the corporate press’ frequent reference to FARC permeation of the Correa administration.

The use of the word “terrorist” (my italics above) also ignores the fact that – for better or worse – no country in Latin America, with the exception of Colombia, has accepted to categorise the FARC as a terrorist organisation. The authors’ clumsy use of this adjective mirrors the subjective language of both the US and Colombian governments. Language, for the purpose of upholding objectivity, is important, especially in the context of an apparently impartial report.

I therefore consider that the general quality of the piece is poor and does little to favour the high standards usually espoused by COHA.

Best regards,

Guillaume Long
University of London / FLACSO-Ecuador

COHA Responds:

Dear Mr. Long,

We sincerely apologize for the errors in Billy Lemus and David Rosenblum Felson’s article entitled “Ecuador’s Correa at Trinidad Summit: Will it be his Last Presidential Trip”. The authors have since made the appropriate changes to the work. Thanks for letting us know.

Best,

COHA Staff

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Regarding ‘The Legacy of Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez.’

April 18, 2009

Dominican politics are quite more complicated that the picture the author makes. Balaguer, was in exile (in New York) when President Bosch was ousted by the military with American complicity, so he couldn’t occupy the presidency when Bosch was remove from power. Balaguer was elected President again in 1966, after the American intervention prevented a victory of Bosch. Although the PRD was considered an unfriendly party by the United States, Peña Gomez was not singled out as a “threat;” it was Bosch instead who deserved this “honor”.

During his exile in France, Peña Gomez was very active denouncing abuses from the Balaguer government against opposition. But this is the first time it’s heard that Peña Gomez “was involved in efforts to attract international support for the condemnation of human rights violations against Haitians and dark-skinned Dominicans in the Dominican Republic” which would honor him, of course. But apparently the author has a particular interest in converting Peña Gomez in a symbol of Dominicans of Haitian origin which implies that she didn’t know much about Peña Gomez.

Peña Gomez was a remarkable Dominican political leader whose struggle was focused in the democracy and respect of human rights, violated by the Balaguer government, for his country and his people, blacks, dark skinned or else.

The author went even far by stating that “Each of these elections, which resulted in narrow defeats of Peña Gómez, was sullied with irregularities and fraud”, including, we can suppose the last one, when Leonel Fernandez was elected President. It’s a shame that in order to celebrate the legacy of a great Dominican (or Dominican/Haitian) the author (who is obviously angry) consider playing games with history as it was made.

Thank you

Sully Saneaux
Journalist

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Regarding ‘The Cuban Who Won’t Be in Trinidad.’

April 17, 2009

Dear COHA,

I read the article that Adam Bloom wrote about changes in Cuba. I always read COHA’s articles on Latin America and in Cuba with great interest, and I really appreciate COHA’s work.

After reading this latest article by Mr. Bloom, I want to send you an article that appeared in the New York Times, on April 6th in case you and him missed it.

Although the article is not an official explanation of what happened with these two Cuban officials, I think it would be good for Mr. Bloom to read, because if that is what happened, what Mr Bloom said in his article, does not make sense.

I also would like to ask you if possible in the near future if COHA can write and publish an article about the Cuban Five. As all these talks about changes in Cuba are taking place, and Obama’s statements about freedom of political prisioners in Cuba, I think the Cuban Five should be in the center of all these discussions.

I am part of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five based in Oakland, CA (www.thecuban5.org), and we are also working hard on asking the State Department to grant visas for two of their wives.

I know you are very aware of this case, but if you need any help or information, please let me know. I will send you a resolution just passed by the Richmond City Council in California in support of the Cuban Five and the right of family visits.

Sincerely,
Alicia Jrapko






April 15, 2009

Dear Alicia,

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs greatly appreciates your comment. COHA and its research associates will always be open to the constructive criticism its readership offers.

I acknowledge that I did in fact consult the Urbina article, and that I used it in concert with a number of other sources to produce the article of analysis. In order to improve upon my research methods and to ensure integrity and accuracy in my work, I would like to know specifically what you felt did not make sense in the piece I compiled. This way, I can make any adjustments that I feel are necessary.

In response to your inquiry about the Cuba Five, I can tell you that an article on this important subject is currently being produced by COHA, and we will be sure to publish it as soon as possible for you and our other loyal readers to enjoy.

Once again, thank you for your insight.

Sincerely,
Adam Bloom
Research Associate






April 15, 2009

Dear Adam,

Thanks so much for taking your time to respond to me.

I will like to let you know why I felt your article did not make sense. I am a researcher in the human services field, and although once in a while I write articles, is not what I do. I am originally from Argentina but I have been in the US for a long time and follow closely the developments in Cuba, because of my solidarity work in support of the Cuban Five. English is not my first language so I hope I can explain myself well enough.

First let me tell you that it is hard for me to read articles like yours without been emotional. I recognize that I may be subjective, but for the most part, I am used to read articles in the US media that are bias against Cuba. After reading your article from COHA, I feel compile to write to you because I really appreciate the contribution of COHA to understand the developments in Latin America.

Your research is very comprehensive but I think using “The Cuban Transition Project” as a source of information gave your article some bias. Just as an example, this organization stated no long ago, that in Cuba people have to ask permission to read books. Nothing can be further than the truth and that is only one example. So in mentioned them, I already felt that your article was not objective and in line with articles that we always read in the US media.

When Raul Castro was elected President, he announced he will make some changes, and you stated in your article, that these changes took place on March 2, including merging four ministries. All of these, who were removed from their functions, were moved to other functions. Felipe Perez Roque and Carlos Lage were an exception, as you stated in your article.

But if the article that I sent to you is accurate, (again, I am not sure if it is because there is no source of information there) then Roque and Lage were dismissed not because they were a perceived threats by Raul Castro but because they did something completely inappropriate for the Cuban government and the Cuban people. Our standards in the US may be different than these for Cubans, but they have their own standards.

According to the article I sent you, both Lage and Perez Roque made mistakes; they admitted and apologized for them. Again, if the article is accurate, they probably are very fortunate that the news about the way they behaved is not out there more.

In your article you mention the difficult situation of the Cuban people and among the reasons, three hurricanes, and the more recent global economic crisis. Unless I missed it, no once you mentioned a cruel and unilateral US total blockade against Cuba and how that has made it so hard for everybody living in the island.

Despite all the problems in Cuba, and Cubans are the first to admit that is not a perfect society, they have been able to survived 50 years of constant threat from different US administrations, Republicans and Democrats alike, including actions of terrorism, sabotage, biological warfare, more than 500 attempt of assassinations to the Cuban leadership, violation of their airspace, a cruel and immoral unilateral blockade, and more. Every day that the Cuban Five spend in US prisons, is a reminder of how irrational and unjust the US policy towards Cuba is.

The US have relations with other communist countries but can not forgive this tiny island 90 miles away, that despite the economic difficulties, have been able to provide the basic human rights to it population, something that not even us living in the most reach country of the world enjoy.

Thanks for your attention,

Sincerely,
Alicia Jrapko

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Regarding ‘Panama’s Upcoming Elections Mired in Scandal and Corruption.’

April 9, 2009

In your article regarding Panama politics you said:-

“At first, Velásquez dismissed any affiliation with Murcia, citing that he had never met the man”

I do not believe that Bobby Velasquez ever said he had not met Murcias. He admitted meeting him but not to taking money from him. Check your records and sources, or are you quoting an article from “Panama Guide” in which Don Winner originally said the same thing, but when challenged, withdrew the comment and admitted he was wrong?

Partial text of Winner’s article of March 20th 2009

Welcome to Panama Guide

“Murcia claims he met with Bobby Velasquez. Velasquez vehemently denies those claims. When Murcia says “there’s videotape” then Velasquez comes around and admits to having met with Murcia once. Score one more for Murcia (but wait) – there were actually three meetings (and more videotape). Whoops – credibility for Velasquez continues to drop while credibility for Murcia continues to rise.”

Comments on that article

The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.

“Why Didn’t You Question Him When You Had Him?” (Murcia Case)

Authored by: Mmerry on Saturday, March 21 2009 @ 08:07 AM EDT

This article says “as far as I can tell Bobby Velasquez has been caught in at least one bald-faced lie,” this obviously refers to an erroneous story in Panama Guide some days back when it was claimed that Mr. Velasquez denied knowing the Colombian. This simply not true. Mr. Velasquez has never denied knowing Murcias. He did deny taking money from him but never, that he did not know him. This is the only site where that has been claimed and no other news media has made that accusation. I believe it would worth while checking the facts in future. We rely on this publication to provide a fair story of events. In this case the accusation does allow Panama Guide live up to its reputation.

M Merry

The reply to this from Don Winner was

“Of course Velásquez played all of this down to the greatest extent possible. He’s fighting for this political life, so why not? I watched many live television interviews, and that’s where I drew my understanding. In those interviews Velásquez came just short of flat-out denying ever having met Murcia, and he only owned up to it when Murcia came back and said there was videotape from security cameras of the meetings. So, if Velásquez was not caught in a bald-faced lie about meeting with Murcia, then suffice it to say he only confessed the truth when there was no way he could continue to deny Murcia’s allegations with a straight face, and only after he was apparently caught red handed. Feel better now?”

Obviously, Mr. Winner does not like to be corrected, but where would we be if all journalists reported what they thought happened and not the actual facts?

Thank you

Michael James Merry

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