Making Noise in the Name of Narco News
A Clarification on a New Rumor of Military Intervention in Bolivia
By Luis A. Gómez
Acting Publisher, Narco News
October 25, 2005
A few months ago, we had to clarify a fake Narco News communiqué. Some imbecile wanted to created chaos and confusion in Bolivia (and in América in general) by speaking of supposed United States military plans to invade this country. Later, during the mobilizations of last May and June that got rid Carlos Mesa’s government, we saw a flyer circulating that repeated the same claims. At the time, we did nothing, mostly due to lack of time, as we were giving priority to our coverage of the historic events that once again shook the heart of South America.
But just over two weeks ago the rumors began to appear again, citing Narco News in various ways as their source. And now our readers have begun to complain, and to ask for the clarifications that are fair and necessary. Now, we are going to give them.
In the last few days a new Spanish-language “Counterintelligence Report” has been circulating around the Internet that, thanks to some speed and ingenuity, has been copied and modified several times. Basically, the report is a series of descriptions of Chilean, Argentine, and U.S. military movements (such as the opening of a military base at Mariscal Estigarribia in Paraguay), as well as military analysis and some meetings begween regional leaders. And one of the “sources” cited in the report is “the magazine Narco News” …although at no time does it speak of a specific article, report, or column published by this newspaper.
One example of how this information has circulated comes from a little colleague by the name of Marco Antonio Capriles, who seems to be a Bolivian journalist, and has even sent his own version of the this report to the Indymedia Bolivia editorial mailing lists. In his piece, Capriles claims (in Spanish):
A report (from Buenos Aires) by a journalist from the Virtual Magazine “Narco News Bulletin” — which belongs to the Chilean newspaper La Tercera de la Hora — that was later denied by its editor, said that on March 16, 2005: “… a team of specialized experts on military issues has explained (in a supposed meeting in Buenos Aires between supposed Chilean and Argentine businessmen, where the former spoke)…”
Ay, my esteemed Mr. Capriles, we’re going to make a few clarifications about this paragraph:
- No Narco News report has originated from Buenos Aires about any subject similar to what you mention (nothing about military interventions or specialized experts). What’s more, we have no colleagues, journalists, or copublishers working in Argentina on the issue.
- Neither are we a “virtual magazine,” we are a newspaper, and we certainly do not belong to “La Tercera de la Hora of Chile.” It would be interesting to hear where you came up with such a claim, because The Narco News Bulletin does not belong to any of the commercial media; it is financed through the donations of its readers, and we have never had any kind of relationship with La Tercera in Chile.
- If the report you mention was denied by its editor (that would be me), could you explain to us why you bring it up later in your piece, using it as a basis for your “analysis?” Do you like using information contested by its supposed source for something other than informing people? By the way, that earlier clarification happened on March 19, not the 16th, as you state.
Excuse me once again, Mr. Capriles, but could you explain where you pulled such nonsense about us from? I can swear to you that, except for the March 19 denial (do you understand that word, “denial”?), there is nothing in our archives that supports the claims you make.
“Reports,” Bolpress, and Other Colleagues
Yesterday morning, a concerned reader wrote a nice letter to me, commenting on a new version of the report (which at this point really seems “counter to intelligence” to me). According to our reader:
If remember correctly, Narco News denied at that time that you had produced that report, and rejected any responsibility for its content. As a Bolivian citizen and observer of the social-political situation in my country, these cases of information confusion worry me. We run the risk of feeding the conflict even more; a conflict that exists and is very real, but that many times is blown up and exaggerated.
I do not wish to take a position on whether or not a plan for military intervention really exists. But if the news agencies comment on that plan, it would be necessary for them to at least do so clearly as speculation, and not as documented fact.
And as this is now the tenth occasion in the last few days in which we have received this type of observation, this correspondent decided to calmly review the new version of this rumor, published a few days ago in Bolpress, which is usually a good source of information on what is happening in Bolivia.
The article in question is titled, “Is it possible that foreign troops might interviegn in Bolivia?” and it simply signed “Redacción Bolpress” (“Bolpress Editors”). In the text, the editor gives the following as fact:
…in a meeting between Lagos and Kirchner, a joint plan of action was delineated with the understanding that Bolivia constitutes a threat to peace in the region and the gas supply for the development of both nations, stated a report from Narco News Bulletin.
This claim, in fact, comes from the original text of the “Counterintelligence Report” (quoted here word for word and then translated):
OTRA ACCION IMPORTANTE FUE LA REUNION DE LAGOS Y KISHNER, DONDE SE DELINEO UNA PLAN DE ACCION CONJUNTA, SIGNIFICANDO EL PELIGRO QUE CONSTITUIA BOLIVIA PARA LA PAZ DE LA REGION Y EL ABASTECIMIENTO DE GAS PARA EL DESARROLLO DE AMBAS NACIONES. CORROBORA UN REPORTE DE NARCO NEWS BULLETIN.
(Another important act was the meeting between Lagos and Kishner [sic], where a plan of joint action was delineated, referring to the danger that Bolivia constitutes for peace in the region and the supply of gas for the development of both nations. A report from Narco News Bulletin corroborates this.)
As you can see, kind readers, Bolpress takes the report’s claim as a given. We supposedly reported on a meeting between Ricardo Lagos, president of Chile, and Néstor Kirchner, president of Argentina. But the Bolpress article does not mention where we did so either, nor when we published this information.
Now, though the Bolivian news agency may question the veracity of these rumors and their possible intent for distribution across the Internet, the editor claims later in the text that “the magazine Narco News reported in March that the intervention forces would need only ten days to take control of all strategic points.” Where did we report this, colleague? Are you referring to the March 19 clarification? Did you read it?
We feel that the journalists of Bolpress, being honest professionals, could have at least made a minimal effort to prove whether we really “reported,” denied, or clarified something to that effect. It would have been a simple thing, would have just taken a few minutes to enter our website and search for the data, instead of using us as a “source” without any further verification on their part.
And our reader has a point: “…if the news agencies comment on that plan, it would be necessary for them to at least do so clearly as speculation, and not as documented fact.” The rumor should have been treated as such and the sources verified.
Along the same lines, we can report that the “original” version we have (a Word file) of the now oft-cited report comes signed by Constantino Rojas, director of the Social Communication program at San Andrés University in La Paz. But just because of that, Narco News could not confirm that it was Prof. Rojas — who we do not know, nor do we even know if he works at that university — who really wrote the report. We would necessarily need to confirm the it, by asking Rojas himself… Do any of our colleagues who are so concerned with passing this information around understand why? It’s called professional ethics…
Finally, one has to wonder who benefits from disseminating such baseless rumors. Because a military intervention in Bolivia is a very serious thing, one that puts people on alert and generates fear, hatred, and, on occasion, unnecessarily violent reactions. In this agitated country of permanent conflict, we do not want to be the basis for such errors, or much less to be used as a shield for interests that care little for the truth, the words of the social movements, democracy from below, or the readers that follow and support us.
And in that vein, we would like to thank Dr. René Orellana, who, from his “Tribuna Boliviana” mailing list did point out our earlier clarification, even reproaching Marco Capriles, as this note published on Indymedia Bolivia demonstrates. There you can also find, if you are interested, a complete version of the report.
Because of all this, we apologize to those who read us and believe in our work: we have, on this occasion, been late in responding to these defamations. But now we return in force to deny that any information cited in the “Counterintelligence Report,” in Bolpress or by someone like Marco Capriles, originated in our pages. To all those colleagues who have published that lie, even if in good faith, we ask you attentively to rectify it as soon as possible… and to the imbecile(s) behind all this unnecessary and provocative noise, now we are behind them, and don’t worry — we’ll find them.
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