Don’t all South Americans look alike anyway?

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The Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, engaging in some Miami Herald-like creativity, got just a little too creative, and placed the Ecuadoran Security Minister in the jungle with Raúl Reyes, just in time for an OAS meeting where the picture could be passed around the coffee bar. Only it wasn’t the Minister. It was Patricio Etchegaray, of Argentina. If you understand Spanish, you can hear Etchegaray talking about it here.

Pascual Serrano reports, for pascualserrano.net and rebelion.org

El Tiempo Engaged in a Smear Campaign Against the Ecuadoran Government

On March 17 the Colombian daily El Tiempo, closely associated with the Uribe government, published a photo of the FARC commander, Raúl Reyes, seated, according to El Tiempo, with the Ecuadoran minister Gustavo Larrea. The paper’s lie was exposed the very same day.

El Tiempo was trying to use the photograph to prove that Ecuador had relations with the guerrilla, even ensuring its distribution among the foreign ministers at the OAS meeting.

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The report accompanying the photo described in further detail the presence of the Ecuadoran minister with the FARC leader, saying “The picture discovered by El Tiempo in which Ecuador’s Security Minister appears, corroborates an email sent by the guerrilla leader before his death, to ‘Manuel Marulanda,’ the head of the FARC, about the meeting he had with the Minister.”

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Now it’s known that the person in the photograph is the Argentine communist leader Patricio Etchegaray, who informed the media and called the newspaper himself. It was taken during an interview the Argentinean did with the FARC leader some year ago and the photo was distributed widely in his country.

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The Colombian daily has had to issue a correction and has indicated in its latest edition that “The police source that provided the photo indicated that this was part of the material sourcing from Reyes’ computer which was captured in the operation against him in Ecuador.” Nevertheless no-one knows who delivered this information to the daily, nor how: “The institution ordered an internal investigation to determine who was responsible for delivering the photograph and the information which accompanied it.”

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For some time this Colombian daily, owned by the family of the Defense Minister, has fulfilled its purpose to distribute information that the government, armed forces and police want distributed. They get maximum distribution for that which is in their interest, and the newspaper gets its exclusives. All of which works better if El Tiempo is the only nationally distributed paper in Colombia.

While the newspaper has published a correction and acknowledged its error, if one consults the website which originally included the false information, it is evident that the correction was limited to eliminating the fragment of text referring to the Minister and substituting a caption.

For it’s part, the Ecuadoran ambassador has returned to denouncing the smear campaign against his country. “This is no more than a fabrication by the Colombian media to disparage the Ecuadoran government,” said Efrén A. Cocíos, the Ecuadoran ambassador. “This is nothing more than a disinformation campaign waged against our country,” he added.

In the same way, the Ecuadoran minister Larrea, in an interview with TeleSUR, guessed that “the objective of this bombardment of Ecuador, and the objective of this media campaign is to generate a regional conflict in South America. That’s the objective of this campaign; it’s part of a premeditated and deliberate strategy to expand the conflict.”

The agency Efe said that due to this event, Larrea announced that his government would not re-establish its diplomatic relations with Bogotá while it maintained what it considered to be a “media campaign” against Ecuador.

The Colombian daily’s campaign doesn’t end there. In the same page of the newspaper’s digital edition an ad ran with various photographs of Hugo Chávez which by way of a Flash program said: “Tired of your neighbors? Make up your mind already! Sell, lease where you want. Buy an El Tiempo classified ad.”

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