bureau chief denies but confirms: he's going and the new boss
arrives before the elections
published here: An uncensored letter from Dillon defender Wendy
Patterson and a full response from The Narco News Bulletin
The following text is translated
from a letter-to-the-editor published on June 8, 2000 in El Universal.
The column of Carlos Ramírez
that appeared today in El Universal relates information
about the New York Times Mexico bureau that is completely
Julia Preston and I are working
normally in the coverage of the electoral campaigns and the election
of July 2. The policy of the New York Times is that a
correspondent stays in a foreign bureau for three years. In our
case, two years ago the NY Times decided to extend our
period here, which began in September of 1995, precisely so that
we could be in charge of the election coverage of 2000, so important
to the country.
For agreements we made with
the newspaper in January of this year, Julia Preston will end
her period as correspondent on July 15, and I will end mine in
the month of September. As a recognition of our labor here --
that merited a Pulitzer Prize to the newspaper -- our editor,
Joseph Lelyveld, gave us a year on leave before going to our
next assignment. The editor approved our proposal to stay in
Mexico to write a book about the great project of democratic
change that the Mexican people have proposed.
Ginger Thompson, who eventually
will be the new bureau chief, will arrive in the middle of this
month to participate in the electoral coverage and familiarize
herself with the country. Completing the rotation, the correspondent
Tim Weiner will begin work in September.
I appreciate your help in publishing
this letter in your pages.
translated from original Spanish)
Dillon is dancing the Conga
because they gave him "the chile."
As I already warned, no newspaper,
and especially not the New York Times, can admit that
its own reporter has committed ethical crimes.
Dillon's letter confirms:
1. The New York Times has given
a golden parachute to those who have made mistakes.
2. That the substitute arrives
before the elections.
3. They're gone for a year.
This is the real punishment.
Let's not fall into a game of
Dillon, in his letter, didn't
touch the theme of drug trafficking, nor of Roberto Hernández,
nor the threats against me, nor against Mario Menéndez
Rodríguez, editor of the daily Por Esto!
The State Supreme Court of Quintana Roo has confirmed that the
daily Por Esto! proved its reports with facts.
Dillon's letter doesn't respond
to any of the fundamental facts of the outstanding column by
Carlos Ramírez, nor to www.narconews.com,
nor the other newspapers that have reported the facts: The Phoenix
of Boston and the Village Voice of New York.
He hasn't responded regarding
his own suspicious negligence in reporting all the facts about
drug trafficking, nor his behavior that is so far from authentic
He tries to play with dates and distract attention, saying, "I'm
not going before the elections (but) yes, I'm going!
Congratulations to Carlos Ramírez,
an authentic journalist, whose facts have been proved by Dillon's
Heath and a hug,
from Wendy Patterson to the publisher of Narco News
on the afternoon of June 7th
Our reader writes:
I don't know
who you are -- or who you represent -- but I do know that you
give journalists a bad name. Your attacks on Sam Dillon and Julia
Preston of the NYT would be ludicrous if they weren't so malicious
-- and erroneous! But you apparently did not bother to check
out the facts, a key to practicing journalism. You based your
slander on the fallacious report in El Universal. Even the Voice
article you cite didn't get the facts wrong as you have. (Maybe
you should reread it.) And especially convincing is how you repeatedly
Dillon and Preston
are NOT leaving before the elections, nor are they being dumped
by the NYT. You must have some "dark" reasons of your
own for fabricating and spewing these malicious rumors...One
has to wonder what interests are really behind your rag, the
so-called Narconews? Or are you just jealous of first-rate journalists?
In any case,
your gratuitous attacks on these two principled, hard-working
journalists are scandalous.
Dear Ms. Patterson,
Thank you for
your letter, which we publish here full and uncensored. We were
very happy to receive your correspondence yesterday afternoon
and especially that you voiced your criticism without making
threats the way that Sam Dillon threatened me and another journalist
for our professional work on March 19, 1999.
As for who I
am and who I represent, we have full disclosure here at The
Narco News Bulletin. We have revealed on our links page every organization that
we are related to, and what tax-exempt organizations helped with
the small amount of funds that made Narco News possible.
Nobody draws a salary from Narco News. I personally disclose
there and elsewhere what other organizations and newspapers that
I collaborate with.
You could also
ask around. We are well known among North American and Latin
American journalists alike. So many have contacted us yesterday
and today to express their congratulations and solidarity for
our reporting on the Dillon story. I am personally moved and
heartened by the response.
Although I publish
a "rag" that covers the most lucrative illicit business
on earth, I don't own a house, a car, a credit card, a yacht,
nor any property: except for a laptop and an old guitar. Nor
do I wish to own real estate. I would argue that this gives me
a freedom to write of facts and truths that others more compromised
with economic powers cannot do.
wealth that we count with here is our readership -- 10,000 visits
to Narco News yesterday alone -- and the faith of the
regular working people who don't have power to abuse and in fact
are harmed by US drug policy and those corrupt journalists who
make it possible.
I must admit,
I enjoy my work too much to be jealous of others. What am I supposed
to be jealous of? "Journalists" who have been disgraced
by their own actions in front of the entire hemisphere?
You'll get to know us better.
As for your
description of Dillon and Preston as "principled" and
"hard-working," I will take the opportunity you have
presented to analyze their most recent works.
On June 2nd,
Sam Dillon published a story in the NY Times in which he reported,
to nobody's surprise, that there is a couple in Querétaro
who are voting for the National Action Party (PAN) candidate
In fact, PAN
candidates have been winning in Querétaro for years already.
No news there. Nor was much "hard work" put into the
job of interviewing a husband, a wife and their maid.
is a beautiful city. I go there whenever I can to visit with
don Andrés Vasquez de Santiago, the oldest deputy of the
Indigenous National Congress in Mexico. Actually, don Andrés
lives in the hills outside of Querétaro, in a small room
without phones, from which he walks a half-mile every day to
his cornfield. Don Andrés, and not a couple of desk reporters,
is the kind of human being that I consider "hard-working"
I met don Andrés
in 1997. He helped teach me Spanish. "I didn't learn to
speak Spanish," he explained, "until I was 50 years
old." He was raised speaking Otomí-Nahñü,
one of the 56 indigenous languages in Mexico.
Andrés Vasquez de Santiago
1998 D.R. Al Giordano
has accompanied me on missions in 13 Mexican states and introduced
me to many impoverished indigenous farmers who suffer every day
because of US policy toward Latin America. Yes, he is another
of the "dark" -- better said, "moreno"
-- forces whom I try my best to represent with this publication.
I hosted don
Andrés' 90th birthday party last November. Because he
is hard of hearing we raised $500 to buy him a hearing aid. Other
members of the Indigenous National Congress came to salute the
eldest delegate in a Congress that so respects age and authenticity.
To bad Dillon
didn't get a chance to interview don Andrés or his people
during his trip to Querétaro: he would have gotten an
earful and a completely different Mexican perspective of the
kind that hasn't appeared for five years in the New York Times.
Now, on to the
"hard working" and "principled" Julia Preston.
We haven't written
about Preston much here because her reports don't generally get
near our topic of drug policy. (In fact, all the heavy lifting
on drug stories has already been taken away from her husband
Mr. Dillon and is handled from the United States by Times
reporter Tim Golden.) But I did report on what I and others witnessed
of her behavior in
1985 in Nicaragua.
published the following story which does touch upon the narco
-- although she did not report that important fact to Times
So, taking the
splendid opportunity of your letter I will analyze it and fill
in the blanks for our readership. The story was titled:
TV, Unshackled by Reform, Fights for Viewers"
Here, we will
print Preston's text in black with Narco News commentary
By JULIA PRESTON
June 6 -- The government officials who monitor television news
coverage could not believe what they saw on the screen.
was a few weeks ago when the three leading presidential candidates
were taunting each other in an unscripted, open-ended sparring
match. One national network gleefully dropped what it was showing
to carry the war of words live. Not to be outdone, the other
big network followed suit. Viewers had a look at the raw insides
of Mexican politics, and there was not a thing the government's
media managers could do to stop it.
as 1994, in Mexico's last presidential vote, the message that
the powerful broadcast media conveyed was largely determined
by the government. But since then, reforms have opened new freedoms
for the press, while the competition for viewers between the
two main television networks, Televisa and TV Azteca, has intensified
to a fury.
This year, in
the race leading to July 2 elections, the most important broadcasters
are no longer driven by the need to please President Ernesto
Zedillo or his Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has won
every presidential election in seven decades. Instead, the race
for ratings is defining campaign coverage as never before.
change was at Televisa, Mexico's largest broadcast network. For
decades the government gave Televisa a virtual monopoly on television,
and the company repaid the favor with unflagging loyalty to the
ruling party, which is known by its Spanish initials, PRI.
Narco News commentary:
No mention here by Preston that Banamex owner and presumed
drug-trafficker Roberto Hernández Ramírez is a part owner and
director of Televisa.
Nor that Presidential
candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas has called Hernández
for ex-president Salinas. Nor that the Banamex owner appeared on a
with the ruling-party candidate for president. Nor that, the
day before Preston's story -- better said, "job application"
for a new career in television -- a document was circulated in
the Mexican congress that revealed that the Banamex owner, a
long time funder of the ruling PRI, is hedging his bets and is
also a financial backer of the PAN candidate Vicente Fox to whom
Dillon -- coincidentally? -- has given such one-sided favorable
But of course,
we have established here with facts and evidence that Dillon
covered up for the Banamex owner and that this cost him his powerful
position as an "untouchable" -- the Village
said that -- in Mexico.
See all those
blue links? There I go again, citing related stories and also
other news sources. That's because we want our readers to have
access to all the information available on these topics, so that
you can conduct your own research and arrive at your own conclusions.
Back to the
Preston text of June 6th:
In 1997 Emilio
Azcárraga Jean, the young scion of the family that controls
Televisa, took over the $9 billion conglomerate at his father's
death. By that time its rival TV Azteca was four years old and
had dug a hole in its audience.
To stay ahead
of the upstart, Mr. Azcárraga believed he had to cater
to viewers, not authorities. He decided that rekindling Mexicans'
waning faith in Televisa's news programs was the way to do it.
been recreating our credibility," Mr. Azcárraga,
32, said in an interview in which he was anxious to show that
Televisa is ready to handle a modern media-dominated presidential
contest. "Whatever arrogance existed here before is finished.
It is clear to me that improving the image of our news shows
helps to bring up our ratings across the board."
war surprisingly made the news less lively. Viewers were so weary
of years of tendentious political news that they wanted balanced
reporting even if it was dull. Both Televisa and TV Azteca have
adopted a discipline of giving the three leading candidates the
same amount of time, no matter how humdrum their activities that
Narco News Commentary:
Preston's report is inaccurate and deceiving, without basis in
Worse, the facts
distorted by Preston are already available on the internet
and in other published reports.
the Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, of the time devoted
to each Mexican political party on the airwaves, during the last
monitored period -- April 9th to May 6th -- broadcasters dedicated
40.48 percent of all airtime to the ruling PRI, 25.38 percent
to Fox's PAN coalition, 17.80 percent to Cárdenas' coalition
led by the PRD -- the Democratic Revolution Party that is cast
aside by the New York Times and the TV stations alike
-- and less than 6 percent apiece for the three minor parties:
Social Democracy (PDS), Center-Democratic (PCD) and Authentic
Revolutionary Party of Mexico (PARM).
ignored the recent report by the Washington Office on Latin America
that denounced "the unfair political prejudice in the news
coverage" of the Mexican broadcasters. "Studies have
demonstrated that the dominant television chains favor the governing
party," said the WOLA report.
To read the
full WOLA report:
is to get the imbalance down to zero," Mr. Azcárraga
It seems to have worked. In a report early this month the Federal
Elections Institute, a government agency that operates with autonomy,
and which scrutinizes the campaign coverage in the broadcast
media second by second, reported that Televisa was fair in covering
In fact, Televisa
devoted almost exactly the same amounts of coverage to the three
leaders in the race: Francisco Labastida Ochoa of the PRI, Vicente
Fox Quesada of the National Action Party and Cuauhtémoc
Cárdenas Solórzano of the Party of the Democratic
insurgent, TV Azteca, is quicker to let its political passions
show if it makes for catchy news. The network has engaged in
a nasty feud with the authorities in Mexico City because of the
district attorney's investigation of the slaying of Francisco
Stanley, a TV Azteca comedian who the police say was tangled
in the cocaine trade.
is governed by Mr. Cárdenas' party, and officials in his
campaign said that TV Azteca frequently vents its ire against
is a permanent target of their attacks," said Imanol Ordorika,
the campaign spokesman for Mr. Cárdenas, who is running
a distant third in the race.
Cárdenas, who was either ignored or insulted by Televisa
when he ran for president in 1988 and 1994, has had an improbable
reconciliation with that network, especially the top news anchorman,
Joaquín López Dóriga.
In the media
nationwide, the elections agency found, there is a bias sharply
in favor of Mr. Labastida of the PRI going in to the final stretch
of the campaign. The national networks were counteracted by powerful
prejudices at local television and radio stations over which
they have at best limited control. The elections agency discovered
that the local media leaned toward the party holding local power,
and PRI governors control two-thirds of Mexico's states.
Narco News commentary:
So Preston heaps the blame for the overwhelming bias in favor
of the ruling party on "local news" ignoring the fact
that so many of the "local" stations are affiliates
of Televisa and TV Azteca.
What else does
Preston deny to Times readers?
Let's take a
look at the Federal Elections Institute study, available on the
Internet at http://www.ife.org.mx/inicio.htm
Here is the
proof that Preston's story misleads Times readers, from
the very report that she cites.
Here, it is
plainly seen that while the Banamex-Times bureau candidate
Vicente Fox (his place on the bar graph is marked AC, for Alliance
for Change) has attained equal coverage with the ruling PRI on
the national TV stations, the PRD (listed as AM or Alliance for
Mexico) lags behind in access to the national TV chains that
she praises so effusively.
The 20 percent
received by the Cárdenas coalition -- so reviled by TV
and the exiting New York Times bureau alike -- must also
be seen in light of the fact that the PRD is the governing party
in Mexico City. Thus, much of this coverage in that 20 percent
has to do with local matters, and not the national campaign.
It gets worse.
The amount of time dedicated to a party, as measured here, does
not indicate whether the coverage is neutral, positive or negative.
Preston, to be fair, at least mentions that TV Azteca is widely
considered to be engaging in a smear campaign against Cárdenas
and the PRD. Narco News has reported on the Narco-Network
TV Azteca extensively, with many links that are still on our
comparison, is less rabid against the Mexico City government
to which Cárdenas was chosen to lead in the 1997 elections.
But fair? Not by a longshot.
you say you live in Mexico City. Turn on the TV and you will
see daily evidence that Preston distorted this story. This was
not a report. It was an audition.
For the big
broadcasters, outside pressures to tilt their coverage has not
diminished. But by and large it no longer comes from the president
and his press handlers.
Preston is correct
here: the pressure comes from banks and advertisers, many of
whom, like TV Azteca and Televisa, are linked to narco-money,
although Preston never informs readers of this key fact.
say that we are not generally pressured by the government to
cover the PRI candidate more favorably," said Sergio Sarmiento,
a top journalist at TV Azteca. "Now the pressure is coming
from the parties. The PRI is still more ominous, because they've
been in power so long they feel they can always tell the media
what to put on the air. What is new this year is that the media
can say no."
The man who
calls the press from Mr. Labastida's campaign is Emilio Gamboa
Patrón, a veteran in the arts of persuasion who derives
clout from the years when he was communications minister and
administered the federal concessions Mexican television networks
need to operate.
Patrón is, as signaled by former federal prosecutor Eduardo
Valle, by other Mexican journalists, and by The Narco News
Bulletin, a Narco-Politician: the fixer. He not only runs
the TV coverage for the PRI, but also is their conduit to former
president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who is managing so much
of both the PRI and the PAN campaigns from Dublin, Ireland. He
also, like Sam Dillon, made threats against the editor of Por
inform Times readers of that? No.
On another side
is Martha Sahagún, Mr. Fox's largely self-taught spokeswoman
who is known among news directors for the speed with which she
responds to news about her candidate with a flurry of cellular
But even the
mostly quiet officials in Mr. Zedillo's government were at last
moved to alarmed action when the full force of the networks'
rivalry was on view during the two-hour quarrel between the candidates
on live television, on May 23.
This claim by
Preston is at odds with so much good analysis by Authentic Mexican
Journalists and even by the Dillon-Preston family candidate Vicente
Fox, who signaled, to the contrary, that the televised "show"
of May 23rd was orchestrated by the PRI.
The night before,
Televisa had won a scoop by having the three contenders on together
in an impromptu debate.
So the next
day, when the cameras were trained live on the three scowling
men when they met again to discuss whether to have a formal debate,
TV Azteca jumped in to show the scene live. Mr. Fox suggested
having the debate that same night, and TV Azteca quickly agreed.
hidden from Times readers: Ricardo Salinas Pliego, who bought
TV Azteca with $29.5 million dollars supplied by narco-criminal
and presidential brother Raúl Salinas de Gortari, was,
like the Times-protected Banamex owner, on the list of
contributors to Fox's campaign.
held a closed-door meeting with Salinas Pliego just days before
this media circus precisely to orchestrate what Preston cynically
portrays as spontaneous developments.
tell us, either, that Fox sunk in the polls after all this televised
"debate of whether to debate."
Interestingly, on the
same day, June 6, that Preston's article appeared in the NY Times,
John Ward Anderson of the Washington Post did tell the truth
about what really happened with Fox and the debates:
Cardenas scored better than expected in a final, nationally televised
presidential debate on May 26.
At the same
time, Fox made a serious strategic blunder in preparation for
the televised face-off. In an amazing piece of political theater,
the three candidates appeared on live television for almost two
hours to hammer out details about the debate. Fox came off as
overconfident, belligerent and spoiled, and was savaged by the
press for days afterward.
Snap polls after
the debate nonetheless declared Fox the runaway winner, but a
survey published today by the daily newspaper Reforma shows Fox's
support slipping since surveys conducted before the debate.
The poll shows
that support for Cardenas has jumped five percentage points in
the last two months, to 17 percent, while Labastida has lost
three points and Fox four. They were at 42 percent and 38 percent,
respectively. Fox lost two percentage points over the past two
weeks, according to the newspaper poll, while Labastida's numbers
did not change during that polling period. Three minor candidates
combined had about 3 percent.
story, in this sense, is more than inaccurate, but deceptive.
tried to stop that idea. It sided with Mr. Labastida and Mr.
Cárdenas, who sought to delay the formal face-off. Mr.
Azcárraga was not about to carry a debate put together
by his competitor.
Is that all
that Preston can come up with as to why the debate was delayed
for two days? Read La Jornada, El Universal, Reforma,
and the rest of the national press. From all perspectives, left,
right and center, came a very different and more accurate analysis
of how Fox first shelved the debate scheduled for May 23rd by
insisting that one of his campaign advisors be allowed to ask
questions of the candidates. This is indisputable, although hidden
from Times readers.
At that point,
officials at the Interior Ministry and the PRI, watching the
political process slip completely out of their hands, deluged
executives at TV Azteca with calls insisting that they shut off
the live coverage and deny Mr. Fox further air time that night.
not following the rules," said Mr. Sarmiento, who fielded
some of the calls. "We were accused of favoring one of the
candidates. But we went ahead to conduct the interview with Fox
that we were asked not to. I was happy that we had the courage
to do it."
said that despite the side he took in that dispute, Televisa
is not backing any candidate.
whoever wins," Mr. Azcárraga said. "What I believe
in is democracy. Because -- and I've said it many times -- democracy
is very, very good business."
There it is,
the entire report from what our kind reader calls a "principled"
and "hard-working" journalist. A report that consists
of three phone calls to insider sources, and distorts the Federal
Electoral Institute's statistics on the coverage.
A report that
also covers-up the role of narco money in both TV stations, that
once again puts a cloak around Banamex owner Roberto Hernández,
and that ignores the dissenting view of the respected Washington
Office of Latin America.
In other words,
this report in the NY Times was not journalism.
It was a whitewash,
another of many over the past five years, that harms the desire
of a majority of Mexicans to begin the 21st century as a true
in his letter to El Universal, says that he and Preston
are going to write a book "about
the great project of democratic change that the Mexican people
For five years,
they have been opposing and poisoning that change at every step.
They might as well write about the moon: they've never been there
We give to Dillon
one point: If the Times did have a policy -- broken in
this instance -- that a correspondent should only stay three
years in a foreign bureau, the Dillon-Preston story proves the
wisdom of that rule.
And it demonstrates
that the Times made a grave error in breaking its own
code. And so they've been evicted two-years into their second
three-year term. Dillon confirmed that with his own letter.
the top Mexican political columnist, calls the Times coverage
"mercenary." Mario Menéndez Rodríguez
told the Village Voice that Dillon "is a simulator."
The Voice itself called him an "untouchable."
We, at Narco
News, have dared to touch him.
A year ago Sam
Dillon threatened me not to publish the Banamex story. I published
it. And the story still has legs.
One year from
now, we will see whether Dillon is representing the truth when
he says that he and Preston will go on to another Times
the Narco News Bulletin, we will keep reporting the facts about
the US-imposed drug war in Latin America.
somewhere in a country called América,
Narco News Bulletin