Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bizarre AP Article On Ecuador

The article, written by Frank Bajak, relies on some particularly questionable sources to make some very serious charges.

While the FARC certainly has a presence around the Ecuadorian border--and so do right wing paramilitaries--why is it Ecuador's fault that Colombia's war is spilling over its borders? Or that Ecuador has twice as many soldiers along the border as Colombia? Or that Ecuador has taken in 18,000 Colombian refugees?

I'll point out a number of problems here:

- "Documents found in Reyes' laptop detailed close ties between the rebels and several prominent Ecuadorean leftists. They also indicate President Rafael Correa's 2006 campaign received $100,000 from the FARC." 

It is journalistically irresponsible to report these documents as conclusively proving ties between the FARC and Correa. There has been a large debate over the meaning and origin of these documents--check out 2 letters (here and here) by US academics criticizing Colombia's charges of FARC ties, the INTERPOL investigation and surrounding media coverage--also check out these articles that I wrote, 1 and 2). Further, INTERPOL did not even certify that the documents were authentic--they only verified that the documents were not tampered with by Colombia--even though they certified that they had been (I know, it sounds weird, read the analysis).

- He says that Colombia's March 1st attack "was an embarrassing indication of just how little control Ecuador had over its territory." Now that is certainly up for debate. Many in Latin America rejected Colombia's charges of FARC ties and thought that the bombing was by and large embarrassing for Colombia and a violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty. I didn't meet any "embarrassed Ecuadorians" after the bombing--by and large they were pissed off. While the U.S. media spin implied otherwise, responsible on the ground journalism requires complicating this narrative a little.

-"Correa calls the documents bogus. But shortly after they were made public, he replaced most of the armed forces high command and stepped up military operations along the 400-mile border with Colombia." 
The stated reason for the reshuffling of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces was because of suspicions of Colombian and US intelligence infiltration of the military, not FARC ties. I have never heard of this analysis before. I wonder where Bajak got this.

"In Puerto Nuevo, men shoulder sacks of rice, propane canisters and jugs of gasoline down to long canoes, much of it for delivery to rebel encampments along the border."  
Given that no evidence is proffered, this just appears to be pure speculation.

"Eighty percent of the people in that town are FARC militiamen or communist party members," said Olbany, a 23-year FARC veteran who defected on May 13. In an interview with AP he asked to be identified only by his nom de guerre because his family still lives in the area."
Given the few times Bajak actually references a source (such as in the previous sentence), it appears that his evidence is largely based on interviews with defected or captured FARC soldiers--an obviously problematic source given that they are prisoners or charges of the Colombian government. 

But this is the same corporate media that thought Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress were legit sources in the lead up to the Iraq War. Oh well.

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