<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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26 Days Later… Gunson Replies

British Correspondent in Venezuela Writes Third Letter to Narco News


By Phil Gunson
With a Reply from Al Giordano

January 25, 2003

Publisher’s Note: Prior to our December 23rd story, “A Brit Reporter’s Undisclosed Venezuela Conflicts,” we offered freelance correspondent Phil Gunson – whose activities were the subject of the story – the opportunity to respond to allegations about undisclosed conflicts of interest in Venezuela with pro-coup political consultant Eric Ekvall, about his use of an ex-girlfriend as a dubious source without disclosing that relationship, about an apparent act of plagiarism by Gunson, and other questions as well, all presented as an open letter.

With such serious allegations, we wanted to give him the chance to respond.

Gunson replied last month, declining to answer the questions about his own conflicts-of-interest, but instead accusing us of using the “lie” to smear him, and concluding, “this correspondence is over.”

Twenty-six days after the publication of our story, Gunson apparently decided that the correspondence is not over.

He sent us this letter on January 18th (he sent it to a little-used email address which we did not see until Thursday evening, January 23rd).

We’re very pleased that Gunson has written to us again, expressing his desire for “reaching all those who read” Narco News.

Some English-language correspondents for the commercial media try to ignore (or, at least, pretend that they pay no mind to) the little website that could, but, in the end, kind readers, you’re the ones who make them pay attention to the news we report here. Thus, you deserve the credit for Gunson’s sudden about-face.

Here is Gunson’s third and latest correspondence to Narco News, unabridged, uncensored, with my response – pointing out new inconsistencies and questions raised by it – below.

Another Letter from Phil Gunson

Dear readers of Narco News,

Some of you have written to me pointing out that my response to Al Giordano’s tirade against me makes it look as if I have something to hide, and arguing that the tone of it is insulting to readers of NN.

As you know, I declined to answer Mr Giordano – despite having written a lengthy response – because he chose to attack me, in very offensive terms, without waiting for my reply to his questionnaire.

I continue to feel that Mr Giordano has excluded himself from any possible civilized debate on the important issues he raises, by using intemperate and unnecessarily vituperative language. However, it does concern me that – because I mistakenly allowed myself to be provoked into responding in kind – his readers remain ill-informed.

I considered the possibility of posting a response on another website, but this has the disadvantage of not reaching all those who see NN. So I am sending this explanation, which is aimed at NN readers, on the assumption that – even though it is not directly addressed to him – Mr Giordano will publish it.

The following is based on the reply I had written to him and which I decided not to send. It is not intended to start up our correspondence again, since I have no interest in doing so.

1. I’m delighted to hear that Mr Giordano is in favour of democracy and against coups. So am I.

Thus I was, for instance, against Chavez’s coup of 4 February, 1992, and the bloodier one of 27 November that year, both of them attempts by a tiny, conspiratorial, military clique to overthrow by force an elected government.

I criticised Chavez when – as virtually his first act after taking office – he staged a military parade to celebrate the seventh anniversary of his failed coup of 4F.

I have found it harder and harder to take every time he refers to 4F and 27N as if they were patriotic anniversaries comparable with those of the independence struggle.

I thought it a very bad idea to remove the constitutional restrictions on the armed forces’ participation in decision-making, and an extremely bad idea to compel them to take a partisan political position in favour of the “revolution”..

When Chavez wore military uniforms to political rallies, when he gave political speeches to the troops, when he referred to the armed forces as if they were the military wing of the MVR - I put my doubts in print and warned it would end in tears.

I believe Mr Giordano should make it clear where he stands on these matters: is he against all coups, or only those by people he disagrees with?

2. I was against the coup attempt of 11A and I wrote a number of pieces critical of it (particularly of the extremely negative role of the mass media).

David Adams and I wrote what I humbly consider to be the best analysis of the “conspiracy within the conspiracy” (Unmaking of a Coup: St Petersburg Times).

But Mr Giordano either didn’t read those pieces or passed over them because they didn’t fit his conspiracy theory.

I spent a good six weeks – and a lot of my own money – after 11A, trying to get to the bottom of the conspiracies behind the coup, and in particular the possible role of foreign governments.

I wrote a full-page piece in the St Pete Times (To the Poor, Chavez is Hope: 25 August 2002) which explains the support for Chavez in the barrios, with which (contrary to what Mr G. suggests) I am probably more familiar than he is.

3. Mr Giordano appears to think that anyone who disagrees with him is by definition a fascist or a ‘war criminal’.

On the subject of the “F” word: I believe it is simplistic, not to mention intellectually lazy, to refer to any rightwing government with authoritarian tendencies as “fascist”.

On the other hand, when I referred to “strands of fascism” in Chavez’s political beliefs, I was being quite specific. I had in mind the influence on the “comandante” of the Argentine neo-nazi Norberto Ceresole.

As some of you may be aware, Chavez and Ceresole (a former adviser to the Argentine military dictator General Viola) were inseparable for a while in the mid-90s. And despite their subsequent estrangement, several elements of the Argentine’s anti-democratic (or “post-democratic” as he would have it) creed still adhere to his pupil.

As we get closer and closer to what Chavez has defined as the “historic break” with old-fashioned, representative democracy, so the building blocks of what could be described as a leftwing version of national security doctrine (complete with the domestic enemy) become more apparent.

4. As I understand it, the main charges against me are that I am (a) a journalistic mercenary who tailors what he writes to the needs of the powerful (though unspecified) interests he serves; (b) an accessory to mass murder, and© a racist member of the Venezuelan oligarchy (not to mention a “rich kid”).

How easy life must be for a “journalist” who is not burdened by the need for evidence.

As far as the first goes, I invite Mr Giordano (or anyone else) to research as widely and as deeply as they like. If he can find any credible source to back his accusation of journalistic dishonesty I will be most impressed.

And I particularly invite him to question my friends, colleagues and editors on the political left, some of whom disagree profoundly with my point of view on Venezuela.

Here are some clues: among many others, I have worked for the BBC Latin American Service, The Guardian (London), Financial Times newsletters, Time, Newsweek, CBC radio (Canada), The San Francisco Chronicle, Politiken(Copenhagen) and Expresso (Lisbon).

I have always refused to sign off on articles that did not represent my own personal point of view. That’s one of the reasons why I remain freelance.

Mr Giordano’s suggestion to the contrary is offensive in the extreme.

He writes: “C’mon Phil, we’re both experienced journalists. We both know how it works.” Really? Is that how it works? I repeat: nobody tells me what to write. If I am mistaken, if I am distorting the truth of the situation, my mistakes are honest ones. I am not tailoring my views to fit the audience, much less being paid to tell lies.

Mr Giordano describes me as “Not a known quantity” After almost a quarter century writing and broadcasting about Latin America? Not known to him, evidently. All he did was spy on me at a press conference and look me up on the internet. But it’s not my fault if he doesn’t know who I am. I suggest he does his homework.

5. Apparently I’m part of a conspiracy involving – if I’ve got this straight – Eric Ekvall (well-known “war criminal” ..... what war? What crime?), Euridice Ledezma and Janet Kelly. The aim of this evil gang, I gather, was to provide the excuse, in the form of false information, which would allow the “fascist” Carmona to take power.

Mr Giordano demands to know (exhibit A) why I cc’d Ekvall with my letter to Narco News (not to him), when it “purports itself [sic] as a discussion between journalistic colleagues”. (We’ll pass over the execrable English.)

To begin with: I will send a copy of correspondence I personally initiate TO WHOMEVER I LIKE.

I copied the letter to Ekvall because he was the one that forwarded me the edition of NN with the diatribe about Alexandra Olson. Since I never read NN I would otherwise have been unaware of it.

So I didn’t send the letter to NN as a “pre-emptive strike” (think about it for a minute: what sense does that make?), because I neither knew nor cared that I was slated for an appearance in the rogues’ gallery.

Now, Eric can defend himself (and indeed does). But I do have this to say: on the very rare occasions that I have quoted him, I have done so because he is a scrupulously honest person who makes up his own mind about a country he knows a lot better than I do.

Incidentally, one of the rare quotes from Ekvall that I have actually used referred to the private media as acting – back in April – “like a ministry of propaganda” for the Carmona government. Does that sound like someone deeply implicated in the coup plot? But let’s not have the facts get in the way of a good story.

I have no reason, nor any inclination, to hide my friendship with Eric, someone for whom I have great respect.

The same goes for Euridice. “Rabidly partisan”?? That’s a ridiculous description. Mr Giordano either doesn’t know, doesn’t care or can’t be bothered to find out, that among the earliest detailed references in the Venezuelan mainstream media to the Metropolitan Police killing chavistas after 11A were those contained in an article by Euridice Ledezma (in the supposedly “anti-democratic” magazine “Exceso”). So his references to her are particularly insulting.

He opines that by quoting people who are friends of mine I am violating journalistic ethics. I believe his moral authority on this subject is – to say the least – questionable.

However, since he is the self-appointed expert, I suggest he treats his readers to a class on what precise degree of friendship, or consanguinity, and in what context, needs to be disclosed. If I get invited to a leading economist’s private Christmas party, say, do I have to mention this the next time I quote his views on the public sector borrowing requirement?

Or maybe only if I get invited aboard a businessman’s private yacht and he later confides his views on the government’s economic policy? (Neither of these things has in fact happened – but just for the sake of argument.)

You see, what I think is this: that it’s important to quote people who are, say, credible, representative or making a particularly important point.

I also have friends on the government side of the fence, whom I quote from time to time without bothering to reveal that we occasionally have lunch together or a few drinks. How many lunches does it take before – according to the Giordano book of ethics – I have to disclose a “conflict of interests”?

Or could it be that – unless I actually have a pecuniary interest, or stand to gain in some other way – this is not the huge breach of ethics he makes it out to be?

I quoted Euridice because (1) she was an eyewitness to murder, and (2) I know her to be a totally honest human being and a journalist of great integrity. I was the one who, when phoned by my good friend Joel Simon at the CPJ, suggested they talk to her for an eyewitness report. Not least because Joel also knows Euridice and can also vouch for her integrity.

The only one who can be shown to be making things up is Mr Giordano. He claims Euridice wrote (in a feature for Exceso), “I don’t believe that Pedro [Carmona] would have formed part of a conspiracy for the route of a military coup”.

He omits to mention that the words in question are in quotation marks: what he makes out to be Euridice’s opinion – not to mention her alleged familiarity with Carmona – both belong to Vicente Brito, former president of Fedecamaras.

Here’s that section of the article (translated of course), in full:

‘Vicente Brito, former president of Fedecamaras, one of the business leaders who gave him unrestricted support, declares: “Those responsible for determining whether there was a conspiracy are the government, the Venezuelan state; they have the intelligence facilities, the means to record [conversations]. If they establish that there was a conspiracy, they have to present elements to demonstrate there was a conspiracy. I don’t believe Pedro would have formed part of a conspiracy for the route of a military coup”.’

Rather different from the Giordano version. Unlike him, however, I’m not going to assume that he is “knowingly falsifying” the evidence. I’ll just put it down to sloppy, biased research work. Research which didn’t allow him, for example, to note other opinions quoted in that same article which are much less favourable to “Pedro”.

If Mr Giordano can’t get the facts right when he has them in front of him, what are we to think of his wilder speculations?

I’m perfectly happy for others to judge whether the cases he mentions amount to an ethical violation. Some will think they do, some won’t.

But of course, that’s not the real point. Mr Giordano’s allegation is that I cooked up a false accusation against the government in collusion with my fellow conspirators.

As it happens, I later spent some time investigating the (innumerable) allegations by opposition demonstrators that shots were fired from the roof of the Libertador town hall. I visited the place and talked to people accused of doing the shooting. My conclusion was that they almost certainly were. People were definitely firing from the windows, and shots were fired back. Who was responsible? Who started it? We’ll probably never know for certain.

If journalists who cannot demonstrate total accuracy in the first few hours after traumatic and violent events are to be accused of deliberately distorting the facts in pursuit of an undisclosed political agenda – and without any evidence other than the original article – then who among us can escape vilification?

Which brings us to the thorny question of Janet Kelly and the cartoon simile. The author of the simile is indeed Ms Kelly. It was a good one, and I stole it. Maybe she’ll sue me. But if you read the Newsweek online piece, it acknowledges the debt to “opposition commentators”. Once again – no conspiracy. In fact, apart from once sitting opposite Janet Kelly at a diplomatic breakfast, and maybe the odd phone conversation, I don’t know her.

6. Apparently my report in the St Pete Times the day after the 11A killings was what provided the military with the excuse to overthrow Chavez and the Metropolitan Police with the motivation to mow down chavistas on the streets. It “caused a lot of bloodshed”. I’m sure my colleagues and editors at St Pete would be most impressed at this example of their power and influence.

The events of that day remain substantially unexplained, not least because of the failure of the relevant authorities to carry out credible, timely investigations, and the government’s reluctance to back the formation of a truth commission.

They certainly look more complicated in retrospect (as often happens) than they did at the time. But Mr Giordano, it seems, has already made up his mind.

I don’t know who the famous “snipers” of the Hotel Ausonia were working for. Maybe they were working for someone in the opposition. On the other hand, who can take seriously the claim by Gen Vietri, then head of the Casa Militar, that it was none of his business to clear the rooftops in the vicinity of the palace? I certainly don’t.

Mr Giordano’s accusation against me on this count amounts to a charge of accessory to murder. I wonder if he is prepared to back this up. In view of the tone of his tirade against me, I’m not sure a court would agree that this is not a malicious libel.

He also seems to be under the impression (or is trying to convince his readers) that Euridice and I were the only ones reporting attacks on demonstrators by people on the government side. Another piece of nonsense, of course: such reports were a dime a dozen in the hours after the El Silencio killings.

7. He questions a couple of other aspects of my reporting:

(a) he thinks I rely on what he believes to be rigged, biased or inaccurate opinion polls as the basis for asserting that Chavez has around 30% support. I don’t. But it’s worth noting that these same polling organisations were highly popular with Chavez when they showed him – as recently as the middle of last year – retaining over 60% support. The reputable ones do use door-to-door techniques, and they certainly have more credibility than anything the government can come up with.

The reason I believe the 30% figure, however, is that it’s privately accepted by leading members of the government. They don’t say so in public, of course, and I can’t quote them.

(b) he queries my use of the term “mobs” to describe the chavistas and “demonstrators” to describe the opposition. Here’s one reason why I occasionally use that word: because I have never seen a government demonstration attacked by the opposition with bottles, rocks and bullets; and I have frequently seen the opposition so attacked by government supporters.

Are these “spontaneous” demonstrations of popular anger? Sometimes, maybe.

But there exist pro-government organisations that carefully plan these attacks, using messengers, two-way radios and maps. Government security forces have been shown to collude with them. When simultaneous attacks on media outfits occur in several different cities, resulting in similar damage and threats to media workers, I find the “spontaneous” tag just a little hard to swallow.

8. Racism? This one I love. Let’s quote Mr Giordano in detail:

“Given the difference in pigmentation between you and so many of the Venezuelan poor, I think you’ll have to address your own inherent racism and class hatred.”

This constitutes a very clear demonstration, to my mind, of Mr Giordano’s methods. Start with a fact: Phil Gunson is white. This I will grant you.

And I’ll go further: it is indeed true that the Venezuelan poor tend to be darker hued than their richer compatriots. And yes, I do have a critical stance vis-a-vis the government of Hugo Chavez.

Ergo, Phil Gunson is a racist who hates poor people. Logical? I leave that to the readers to decide. But I will point out that the one political force in the country that is openly using racist arguments is the government, which appears to think whites are by definition oppressors. (The cabinet, of course, is full of whites too.)

Apparently, with his amazing X-ray hearing, Mr Giordano was able to detect me thinking – at that press conference with Chavez – something along the lines of “if only he were my gardener”. Now this is a little odd, in that I’ve never had a garden, let alone a gardener. But I get the point. He thinks that I – and “people like me” think Chavez shouldn’t be president because of his ethnic origin.

It’s a handy little argument, that one. Has lots going for it. Speaks to the guilty liberal in us all. Can it be that I am really racist? we think.

Well, no, I’m not. Again: I invite Mr Giordano to do the research and see if he can find any proof. Tedious, I know, but without it his argument is invalid and insulting.

Although there is undoubtedly racism in Venezuela, as there is in most – if not all – societies around the world, I can only recall one person (in the 43 months I have lived here) saying anything along the lines of ” we’ll never get anywhere with that ‘zambo’ [ie mixed black and indian] as president”. One person.

(By the way, I wonder just how much time Mr G has spent in Venezuela.)

Most people in the opposition think Chavez should go because he is running the economy into the ground and jeopardising key elements of a democratic society, like the separation of powers. That’s a matter of opinion.

But if Mr Giordano is not to be suspected of name-calling as a substitute for rational debate, I suggest he gathers some evidence that goes a little bit beyond “Chavez is black, so his opponents are racist”.

8. Apparently we foreign correspondents spend all our time “hiding behind our desks”. For someone who churns out his opinions from behind a desk IN ANOTHER COUNTRY I think it ill becomes him to criticise those of us who are regularly tear-gassed and risk being hit with anything from a rock to a 9mm bullet (as one of my colleagues was on the day the chavistas tried to stop the opposition delivering signatures to the electoral council – fortunately, he was wearing a bullet-proof vest, but I wasn’t).

[Of course, since he takes care to conceal his whereabouts, Mr G could be in Venezuela. Either way he’s hiding. We’re not. And if he is here, his ignorance is all the more staggering.]

9. He asks why I refer to testimony from Gouveia’s landlords when apparently I have neither investigated nor published on the subject. Yet again his grasp of simple, easily researched facts is distinctly sub-standard. Nancy San Martin and I published quotes from an interview with them in the Miami Herald.

10. To sum up: I’m afraid I regard Mr Giordano as a conspiracy theorist with no respect for evidence or the rules of civilised debate. He does not even respect the language he writes in. No one who cared about the meaning of words could accuse people who simply have a different point of view of being “war criminals” or of causing bloodshed. If he ever acquired a modicum of real power he would be an extremely dangerous person.

In short, his methods are the antithesis of everything he claims to stand for.

Phil Gunson

Giordano replies:

First things first, let’s summarize Gunson’s answers to the three most serious allegations of undisclosed conflict of interest or ethical lapses committed by him, from our December 23rd report:

Gunson Comes Clean, Finally, About
Political Consultant Eric Ekvall:

Gunson comes clean, finally, admitting that he considers the rabidly pro-coup media manipulator Eric Ekvall to be his friend (something Gunson never did when quoting Ekvall in his “journalistic” work).

“I have no reason, nor any inclination, to hide my friendship with Eric, someone for whom I have great respect,” says Gunson.

Thank you, Phil. Our point, made a month ago, was that you should have disclosed what you today admit is a “friendship” with the spin-doctor for Dictator-for-a-Day Pedro Carmona during last April’s coup d’etat, when you quoted him in your published reports.

Gunson did not, however, answer our questions about why, when quoting Ekvall last April about the Venezuelan oil company, he did not disclose that Ekvall was an ousted consultant to that same company: A favor for a “friend”?

In any case, thanks to this (however tardy) disclosure, readers will be able to understand Gunson’s partisan reporting from Venezuela, from this day on, in the context of his now-disclosed “friendship” with political consultant Ekvall.

Gunson Comes only partly
clean about Eurídice Ledezma:

A central question in our open letter to Gunson last month regarded his use of Eurídice Ledezma – who Phil has told sources is his “ex-girlfriend” – as a source without disclosing that relationship. Ledezma was his sole source to blame the shootings of last April 11th in Caracas on supporters of President Hugo Chávez, a claim that time and facts have since proved to be untrue.

We also had questions about a glaring inconsistency between what Ledezma was quoted as saying by Gunson, and what she was quoted as saying to the Committee to Protect Journalists, last April. Gunson quoted her as saying she saw “plain-clothed” shooters. CPJ quoted her as saying she saw “military shooters.” We repeat our question: Which was it? Plain-clothed or military? How can it be both? And doesn’t this call into question the credibility of her statements?

In his letter to us, Gunson does not directly admit or deny the matter of Ledezma having been his girlfriend. (Again, we don’t care who zooms who: It only became a public matter when Gunson used her as his sole source for a questionable allegation with historic consequences.)

Instead, Gunson addresses his relationship with Ledezma only in the context of “people who are friends of mine,” comparing it to being invited to “a leading economist’s private Christmas party,” or to being “invited aboard a businessman’s private yacht,” or to situations in which a reporter and a source “occasionally have lunch together or a few drinks.”

Somehow, we think the reader can see through this evasion easily enough. We didn’t ask Gunson whether he had been on yachts or private Christmas parties or whether he had a few drinks with his source Ledezma. We – and we believe the reader – can distinguish between that kind of occasional informal relationship and the deeper involvement of long term love affairs. Gunson writes us so many words that dance around the edge of this point without once addressing it head-on. We think his evasion is evident to the reader. It is certainly evident to us.

Regarding the Ledezma matter, Gunson does accuse us of misquoting her. That is the only point in his letter where he at all factually refutes anything from our report. We will address that matter fully – and head-on – below.

Gunson Admits to Plagiarizing Pro-Coup
Spin Doctor Janet Kelly in MSNBC Article:

In our December open letter to Gunson, we pointed out that his “lede” (journo-speak for the opening paragraphs of a published report) contained a ditty comparing President Hugo Chávez to a children’s cartoon character falling off a cliff, and that partisan political analyst Janet Kelly had used the same description during those same days.

We asked Gunson if he plagiarized that reference without crediting the author (thus saddling Newsweek/MSNBC online, for whom he wrote that story, with a possible plagiarism problem).

Here, Gunson comes clean:

“The author of the simile is indeed Ms Kelly. It was a good one, and I stole it.”

Kind readers: Would you – or Newsweek/MSNBC Online – have known about this act of plagiarism by a journalist, if not for Narco News?

Gunson Accuses Us of
Misquoting Ledezma:

Gunson’s letter raises one issue that we must address: Did we misquote his friend Eurídice Ledezma?

We had quoted Ledezma, from her article in Exceso magazine, as referring to Dictator-for-a-Day Pedro Carmona on a first-name basis, as “Pedro.”

Gunson says we were incorrect, that our report “omits to mention that the words in question are in quotation marks: what he makes out to be Euridice’s opinion – not to mention her alleged familiarity with Carmona – both belong to Vicente Brito, former president of Fedecamaras.”

If Ledezma’s article (in Exceso magazine, which Gunson also defends from our charge that the magazine is “anti-democratic”) contained “quotation marks,” well, that would have been a particularly boneheaded error on my part, and would most certainly merit a correction here.

But I don’t recall any “quotation marks” on that paragraph of the story. I think that is something I would have noticed and I know it is something I would have reported fairly. But none of us are immune to errors, so I returned to the Exceso magazine website to re-check the quote.

But – kind readers – guess what? Ledezma’s article – sometime between eight months after its publication and nine months after its publication – no longer appears there. It’s gone. It has disappeared from the archive.

So I’ll extend this offer to Gunson: If he can produce the original copy of that magazine article, and it has “quotation marks” around the reference to Carmona on a first-name basis, I will publish a correction. And I will go even further: If he can prove his claim, I will donate one hundred dollars (a lot of money for me) to Gunson or to a charity of his choice.

Unfortunately, the online evidence has apparently disappeared from the Exceso magazine website. I’d like to see a hard copy of the article, now, as it appeared in print. If Gunson can furnish that evidence, and his claim of “quotation marks” is correct, then I’ve got a picture of Ben Franklin to donate to him or his favorite charity.

Update and Correction: Some weeks after this story was published, Gunson sent us a scanned copy of the magazine article by Ledezma. And he was correct: Ledezma did use quotation marks around the aforementioned statement. Thus, on this point, I do owe a correction: The words attributed to Eurídice Ledezma as having refered to Pedro Carmona on a first name basis were not hers, but of a source she quoted.

Narco News and I regret the error and apologize to Gunson and Ledezma for it here, and have now also done so in an email to Gunson, offering to send the aforementioned hundred dollars to the charity of his choice. He accepted the apology and said he would get back to me on the hundred dollars. We still have not heard back from him on that point.

In Summation:

Gunson, finally coming a little cleaner, admits to his previously undisclosed “friendship” with pro-coup political consultant Eric Ekvall.

He evasively admits some kind of relationship with his sole source on an explosive claim last April, Eurídice Ledezma, but leaves the reader in the dark as to the exact nature of it.

And he admits to plagiarizing political analyst Janet Kelly in his Newsweek/MSNBC Online article last month without crediting the source.

The rest of his response is rhetorical:

Gunson seems to say that because Chávez attempted a “coup” in 1992 (for which he served his debt to society in prison), it somehow justifies a coup d’etat by the elite class of Venezuela in 2002.

Gunson also asks us to define the word as we understand it: We define “coup” as an undemocratic takeover of a democratic government by military, economic or media elites. Insurrections from below are not “coups.” They are revolutions. Coups, by our definition, are top-down. And it is dishonest for any experienced Latin American correspondent to compare events of Venezuela 1992 or Ecuador 1999 with what occurred in Venezuela 2002 or Chile 1973.

Much of Gunson’s polemic can also be summarized as, “some of my best friends are leftists and blacks.” We leave the reader to form your own conclusions as to the familiarity of that kind of discourse and what it reveals about the speaker.

Finally, Gunson attempts to portray my open questions to him published last month as “malicious libel,” and invents the words “accessory to murder” to describe our allegations about his unethical behavior as a journalist. He writes:

“Mr Giordano’s accusation against me on this count amounts to a charge of accessory to murder. I wonder if he is prepared to back this up. In view of the tone of his tirade against me, I’m not sure a court would agree that this is not a malicious libel.”

To this, I make a public challenge to Gunson.

Phil, where in my open questions to you do the words “accessory to murder” appear? They don’t.

Gunson, unable to offer coherent argument to dispute what I did write, has invented a straw dog to argue against. Narco News readers can see through that easily enough.

And finally: Gunson was given the opportunity to respond to my questions and “correct” them prior to our publication on December 23rd. He sent us a nasty letter, which we published in full, and which confirms that he read the questions prior to publication, and that he was invited to offer corrections. He chose not to do so.

Twenty-six days later – after declaring “this correspondence is over” – he writes to childishly accuse me of “malicious libel,” even implying that he could win a judgment against me in a court of law. And yet – with the exception of a non-libelous possible misquoting of his mysterious “friend” Eurídice Ledezma (we await the evidence to support his claim) – he still offers no credible correction to our published questions to him.

Even if Gunson were libeled (and he was not), his refusal to correct the open letter prior to publication when he had the chance would make him a participant in his own defamation! He’d have to sue himself, too! “Gunson vs. Gunson,” coming to a Courthouse near you?

But I extend this challenge to Gunson: Phil, if you honestly feel you have been “maliciously libeled” after you were given every opportunity to offer corrections prior to publication, then I welcome you to bring a lawsuit, and I’ll happily see you in court.

You know darn well, and I know, Mr. Gunson, that nothing of the sort has occurred. You’re bluffing.

Nobody, especially someone who calls himself a journalist, should misuse the word “libel” unless he is willing to back it up in court. That Gunson – now an admitted plagiarist – hasn’t done that is proof supreme that he is shooting blanks, and continuing in his transparent attempts to deceive the readers.

We know that the readers will remember this wonderfully enlightening exchange the next time they see Phil Gunson’s byline, and read his now-discredited claims about what supposedly occurs in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The record and the facts have caught up with Phil Gunson.

The record and the facts always do.

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