Around América on February 19, 2004
Meanwhile, there is lots of news around the hemisphere...
Honduran television journalist Renato Alvarez, 38, sentenced to 32 months in prison for "defamation" of a National Party politician who he labeled a "narco-trafficker," according to AP Español. It's a horrible precedent, but the glass is half-full: His prison time is suspended and he'll pay a fine of $800 dollars and do some community service work. The authorities want to intimidate journalists, but not, apparently, create martyrs for the international press. Still, heed Alvarez's warning:
"They've now begun with the journalists and tomorrow (the government) will restrict the freedom of speech of Honduran citizens who fight against the current State... The people are tired of so much injustice in the country."
More of today's Narco News Round-up, with reports and links from Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela, below... "Ecuador's powerful Indian movement on Wednesday demanded an investigation into how a demonstrator was killed during two days of anti-government protests, and threatened to take the case to international courts," reports Reuters. Associated Press has more.
Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, with just seven percent support by the people is reportedly handing much of his executive power over to cabinet ministers, says AP.
Colombian narco-president Alvaro Uribe's security forces, backed by Washington's "Plan Colombia," now wants to prosecute a pacifist Mennonite priest for alleged support of guerrillas, religious groups protest.
Uribe is also claiming a victory in the Civil War after his US-financed troops took back the town of Miraflores from rebels, but the local citizens are not pleased. Slow class AP reporter Fernando Vergara apparently can't distinguish between coca leaves and cocaine (quick, somebody sell him some grapes at a high price and tell him it's wine!).
Charlie Hardy praises the work of fellow School of Authentic Journalism professor Jeremy Bigwood, whose investigative work was recently cited by Venezuela President Hugo Chávez, over on VHeadline, in a reference to last year's Narco News J-School sessions in Mexico:
I had the privilege of working for two weeks last year with Jeremy Bigwood ... Jeremy is a top-notch investigative reporter and photographer who works out of Washington, D.C. He spends a lot of time hounding the United States government, trying to get their agencies to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). He also has a great sense of humor. We spent a few hours sharing our solutions for the worlds problems. We spent several hours laughing.
Jeremy must have a big smile on his face these days also after President Chavez Frias on Alo Presidente shared some information which Jeremy dug up about the grants from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)...
Advancing the story, Martín Sánchez at Venezuelanalysis.com catches some ridiculous, politically charged, statements by Bush administration spokesman Richard Boucher, on the defensive as a result of Bigwood's discovery of formerly classified documents showing US meddling and financing of Venezuela's internal politics.