In Colombia, Too, They’re Saying: Narco News Is Needed More Than Ever
And We Need Your Support and Participation More Than Ever to Continue this Important Work
By Dan Feder
Managing Editor, Narco News
February 14, 2006
I can think of few times during my three and a half years with Narco News that I have felt as proud of this newspaper as I do today. On a budget smaller than the salary of most individual foreign correspondents for the Commercial Media, the Narco News team is now, more than ever, taking a leading role in writing the evolving history of this continent, our beautiful América.
And you, kind reader, have every right to feel as proud as we do about these achievements. By reading our newspaper and making it yours as well, by spreading the word, forwarding our email alerts to millions around the world and donating your hard-earned and so-very-much appreciated money to our work, you have lived our struggles for truth with us, fought alongside us in your own way.
I’m proud of the work of The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign, an unprecedented undertaking for Narco News with new reports coming in daily in six different languages from the front lines of a political struggle that has the potential to finally fulfill the unmet promises of the 1910 Mexican Revolution. I’m proud of the Narcosphere, where for two years our talented copublishers – 273 of them as of last count – have published their own groundbreaking stories from a wide variety of perspectives on the war on drugs and democracy in Latin America.
I’m especially proud right of our work in the last month, led by journalist Bill Conroy, exposing the U.S. government’s cover-up of corruption and collaboration with drug traffickers and paramilitaries among DEA agents working in Colombia. We have known for years that the United States’ antinarcotics operations in Colombia were a cruel joke, that the supposedly good and heroic North American men and women fighting the good fight on the drug war’s biggest battlefield were just as corrupt and guilty as the “evil” Latin drug lords the Commercial Media try to scare us about. Our allies throughout Latin America – activists and social leaders, honest journalists, even disillusioned members of these same government agencies – know this too, because many of the live it every day.
But proof – hard, irrefutable proof – is uncovered only rarely. That is why Conroy’s work has been a sensation throughout the Spanish-language press (the English-language media have, as usual, been slower to catch on). Caracol Radio, Colombia’s major commercial radio network, has aired numerous stories and interviewed many guests, including Conroy, about the corruption revelations. Semana magazine, Colombia’s most read newsweekly, dedicated its cover to the story (neglecting, in a textbook example of sleazy commercial journalism, to give Narco News any credit for the discovery), and the scandalous words “CORRUPTION IN THE DEA” screamed out from every newsstand in the country for an entire week. Twice the Miami-based Nuevo Herald has published stories on the scandal, adding its own reporting and investigation. For the first time in my memory a government agency has been forced to issue a public statement responding Narco News’ reporting. In case you missed it, the DEA’s public affairs officer wrote to the press one month ago, on January 13:
The allegations that are reported in the Narco News Bulletin are extremely serious. DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the allegations that have been made…
And lest you think that we are content for having received our fifteen minutes of fame and acknowledgement from the DEA, we have only just begun to scratch the surface. We Authentic Journalists are in this for the long haul, and will keep filling in the blanks, following the connections, fitting the puzzle together piece by piece.
That is, if you, reader, allow us to do so.
While this is a great time for Narco News, it is also a frustrating one. Just as we are doing some of the best work we have ever done we are more broke than ever. We don’t throw money away like the Commercial Media mercenaries do, staying in expensive hotels and jetting around the hemisphere, but what we do costs money. Al Giordano has paid for much of the travels of the outstanding Other Journalism team out of his own dwindling savings. Luis Gómez, Laura del Castillo and I can sometimes barely pay our phone bills to keep ourselves online, and if we want to go out into the field and report, the expenses come out of our own pockets.
Everywhere we work, from the farmlands of southern Mexico, to the sun-scorched Mexico-Texas border, to the forests and jungles of the Andes, more and more of the poor, hardworking people fighting against the drug war, against U.S. domination and oppression from their own governments, are seeing what we do. They are telling us how much they need us to come see and report on their lives and struggles, to tell the world. Reader, we are counting on you to give us the ability to tell these brave people, sí, we are with you.
I have spent much of the last year quietly in war-torn Colombia, slowly spreading the word about Narco News and building my understanding of this country, where the drug war’s major battles are fought with Washington bullets and U.S.-made chemicals dropped from U.S. airplanes. If there is one country where journalism and the freedom to practice it are in danger, it is Colombia. In 2005, according to the Colombian Foundation for Freedom of the Press, 64 death threats were issued against Colombian journalists, two journalists were injured in attacks, five forced into exile from the country, one kidnapped, one illegally detained by authorities… and two journalists lost their lives. The picture this year so far is not any prettier. Just last month, a small newspaper in the oil town of Barrancabermeja was forced to shut its doors due to threats from the rightwing paramilitaries that control that city.
The more time I spend in Colombia, the more praise I hear for our work, for our uncompromising critique of the war on drugs and U.S. policy, and the more invitations and requests we receive to accompany local leaders into their communities in the mountains, jungles and barrios. Despite the danger it puts them in, they want the world to see what is happening to them.
Many of our readers have generously responded to our calls in the last week to help us get back on sound financial footing, but many have not. Be a part of all this, kind reader. Do your part to make sure the history-making Other Campaign can count on an “Other Journalism” at its side, going beyond the photo-ops and slogans to report on what the Mexican people who welcome the Zapatistas are really living through. Do your part to make sure the stories behind the string of presidential elections this year in Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and other countries get told. Do your part to make sure the facts on the DEA’s corruption in Colombia keep coming out. Do your part to guarantee that Luis Gómez, Jean Friedsky and others can keep providing the inside scoop on the changes and problems in Bolivia under América’s first indigenous coca-grower president.
Do your part, reader, and I promise that we will continue to do ours. We’re all in this together.
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The Fund for Authentic Journalism
P.O. Box 241
Natick, MA 01760 USA
From somewhere in a country called América,
Managing Editor, The Narco News Bulletin
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