When Machetera saw the photos of the terrible destruction of the FARC camp in Ecuador, something struck her. She asked a friend to take a look. Her friend served in the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces and so could be presumed to know a thing or two about combat scenes.
“Do you see what I see?” she said.
“Yeah,” he said. “They were shot.”
This translation comes from an article by Decio Machado, reprinted at http://www.rebelion.org but originally sourcing from vamosacambiarelmundo.org (letschangetheworld.org)
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One blushes to be a journalist not only when one considers that “El País” is considered to be Spain’s most serious newspaper, but also when one considers the level of infamy, poison and lack of professional ethics of which various El País journalists are capable.
The poison that this daily forces on us in conjunction with Grupo Prisa is nothing new, and from Latin America it’s even less surprising if one has a chance to listen to Radio Caracol, Prisa’s flagship station in Colombia which has been converted into a “Pamphlet for Uribe’s Pamphleteers” amongst the Colombian media. Their twisted news has been denounced a thousand and one times by plenty of communications analysts in plenty of alternative press, so I’m not going to focus on it now.
However, I do want to denounce the farcical reporting in “That’s How Operation Phoenix Was,” published yesterday, Sunday March 9, in El País under the byline of journalist Maite Rico.
For those who are unfamiliar with this person, she’s known in the media world for her pro-North American tendencies, just as she is for going after anything that sounds like progressivism in Latin America. Together with Bertrand de la Grange, Rico has published books such as “Marcos, the Brilliant Impostor” (1998) and “Who Killed the Bishop?” (2004), both considered more “police fiction” by the political world, rather than books that help document the historical truth of the topics they deal with.
One of her greatest literary pearls was given to the magazine “Letras Libres” in February last year, where this History major, specialist in historical distortion, questioned whether the bones brought from Bolivia to Cuba and placed since 1997 in Che’s mausoleum in Santa Clara, were actually those of the mythical guerrilla. Rico, just as much as de la Grande didn’t suffer the slightest embarrassment in contradicting Harry Villegas, a.k.a. “Pombo,” Che’s companion in the Bolivian conflict, nor the medical forensics and Argentines who helped identify the cadaver, nor the U.S. biographer Jon Lee Anderson, whom Maite Rico calls “naive,” someone “eager to hero-ify” and “aggressive” with his detractors.
The argument employed by this more than questionable journalist, consisted of defining the identification and later transferral of the bones as “a State lie,” designed by Fidel Castro in order to divert attention and manipulate Cuban public opinion away from the serious crisis weighing on the island. All this with the same investigative prowess which characterizes her work, and which as we shall see, continues.
Maite Rico’s Lies About Raul Reyes’ Death
In an article written by Maite Rico and published in yesterday’s “El País,” said journalist began her article with a high level of poisonous writing which I will denounce one point at a time.
1. According to Maite Rico and El País, one is assured that: On March 1, a huge bombing wave put an end to the life of the second in command of the Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces (FARC).
Until that moment, the Colombian authorities had not made public Raúl Reyes’ autopsy, however, the photos that we could see through Colombian media showed that the guerrilla leader had a hole in the left side of his face, among other wounds, which ought to correspond perfectly with a bullet wound. For that to have happened, his death would have to have happened after the four bombs were dropped from non-Ecuadoran planes, which invaded Ecuadoran airspace. The existence of this aerial incursion has been denounced by local authorities, the inhabitants of the area and the three guerrillas who were found alive at the site.
The investigative work that is taking place under Ecuadoran authority, such as the existence of bullet holes, sometimes in the back of multiple dead guerrillas, indicates that there were extra-judicial executions performed by the special commandos who descended from Colombian helicopters. Raúl Reyes could perfectly well be one of them, though the fact that his body is in the hands of Colombian authorities complicates the possibility of investigating whether the holes in his body are indeed bullet holes, and if the answer is yes, whether they were shot at close range.
2. According to Maite Rico and El País, at the moment of his death, Raúl Reyes “slept deeply. The last thing he could have imagined was that the Colombian Army would find his sanctuary in Ecuador.”
Effectively, Raúl Reyes was sleeping, just like the entire contingent of guerrillas in the camp, which demonstrates that Uribe and his team of Colombian authorities lied when they said that they had entered Ecuadoran territory in “hot pursuit” (during combat), and that the Army had been shot at by the FARC from Ecuadoran territory. But beyond Uribe, El País’s reporter lies when she defines the Republic of Ecuador as a sanctuary. During 2007, 47 rearguard and rest camps belonging to the FARC were discovered and dismantled in Ecuador. Various guerrillas were also located and detained by Ecuador’s armed forces and turned over for judicial processing. The concept of sanctuary would make sense if there was a connivance between the local government and the external force using the territory, but this is not Ecuador’s case, although it does have its antecedents in Latin America – for example, the Nicaraguan “contras,” armed and trained by North American instructors whose main quarters were in Honduran territory, a zone that the Sandinista People’s Army could never penetrate, given that it would have been used as justification for an invasion of the country by U.S. Marines.
3. According to Maite Rico and El País: The Colombian General Freddy Padilla extends an enormous aerial photograph of the region of Piñuña Blanco. Separating the two countries, the red waters of the Putumayo river runs in meandering lines. Various yellow stains break the green monotony of the jungle vegetation. They are abandoned coca farms. “We knew that he was in his Mother camp,” he explained, pointing out a red cross on the Ecuadoran side, 1850 meters from the border.
The El País journalist, in a display of unparalleled shrewdness, neither questions nor investigates the Colombian general’s words. The camp was not 1850 meters from the border, it was almost 2500 meters, not to mention that to suppose that Raúl Reyes “Mother” camp consisted of an infrastructure of 7 beds and in it, a contingent of 25 guerrillas, demonstrates that the reporter’s level of documentation or at least her intellectual capacity, is truly lacking. If not, it’s something even worse, a demonstration of willingness to manipulate the news. The “Mother” camps of the FARC are inaccessible, their military composition is enormous and the level of their infrastructure is well away from those who destroy by violating the norms of international law: the Colombian military. In case Ms. Rico hasn’t noticed, we’re talking about an armed group that has operated from the jungle for more than 50 years.
4. According to Maite Rico and El País: Ecuador has complained that warplanes penetrated 10 kilometers and bombed the FARC encampment. “We didn’t enter their airspace,” assured Juan Mauel Santos, Defense Minister. “The route was registered in the navigation systems. And there’s an enormous Ecuadoran radar 46 kilometers away that would have detected it.” Quito countered that its radar wasn’t functioning. “What a coincidence!” said Padilla ironically, and drew bows and arrows on a paper to explain that it’s possible to attack without crossing a border. “You know what entered? Four Blackhawk helicopters carrying elite troops and 44 judicial policemen, to register and verify that it was Reyes.”
The investigations that are underway by the Ecuadoran authorities demonstrate that the planes that bombed the FARC camp from the south (the side opposite the border with Colombia) entered in Ecuadoran airspace making a half-moon maneuver in order to not be heard by the guerrillas guarding the camp, and this is the thing that explains how they went up to 10 km within Ecuadoran territory. For any expert in the military investigation it’s not that hard to figure out the orientation from which bombs were launched, due to the position of the felled trees.
The Republic of Ecuador has the character of a peaceful territory. Since the year 2000, this sector has been covered by radar and an anti-aircraft company and arms, but the air defense system didn’t function. Ecuador, as a peaceful country, lacks resources to maintain a permanently operative system of border defense. Colombia was not considered by the Ecuadoran authorities to be an aggressive neighbor, so military operations and air protection were dedicated to humanitarian work on Ecuador’s coast, where the strong rains have devastated the population; one reason why Ecuador has found it necessary to solicit humanitarian cooperation from the international community.
Not putting General Padilla’s words in question demonstrates one more time the reporter’s scant interest in reporting properly what really happened in the early morning of March 1. The holes found everywhere in the destroyed trees surrounding the camp demonstrate that an infinite number of shots were fired from the Colombian helicopters thereby continuing to kill guerrillas who might have remained wounded after the bombardment.
5. According to Maite Rico and El País, one is assured that: At one in the morning, Uribe telephoned his counterpart, Rafael Correa. He said that there had been a confrontation that had spilled over the border. One soldier and some 20 guerrillas had died, Raúl Reyes among them. Correa was troubled: “Where did Reyes fall?” “I’m almost sure it was in Ecuadoran territory,” responded Uribe. “With some chagrin,” the Colombian admitted that he had not told him that an operation was planned. “I take responsibility. But if I had said anything beforehand, I’m sure everything would have been a failure.”
The call from Álvaro Uribe to Rafael Correa took place at 8 a.m., in order that the Ecuadoran army would not arrive at the scene until the massacre was completed. Uribe could not tell the Ecuadoran president any sooner because according to testimony from the area’s inhabitants, the bombing lasted until late in the morning, in various phases of the aerial incursions. The mere fact that homemade stretchers were found in the guerrilla camp indicated that after the bombing with heavy weapons, some guerrillas initially remained alive, or those who found themselves guarding the camp’s periphery tried to rescue their wounded companions, then were massacred when the Colombian helicopters arrived about an hour later, according to residents of the area. Testimonies that were surely ignored by the El País correspondent.
If Maite Rico as much as El País are not disposed to listen to the testimonies of the guerrillas who remained alive after the massacre developed by Colombian military operatives under the blessing of President Álvaro Uribe, the ballistics reports will tell the story instead to the OAS: that a variety of the dead guerrillas, especially those with shots in their backs, were killed at point blank range.
Once again, El País and its reporter Maite Rico, have come to demonstrate that the truth of the information they distribute, or the professional journalistic ethics to which they ought to be subject, lack any kind of reliability.