Lede Burial 101: NYT fumbles the Cubillas Fontán-INTI Link

I’m really glad the New York Times is devoting some real resources to this ETA-Venezuela story: chavismo’s willingness to entwine itself with every weirdo fringe group out there, no matter how violent, never ceases to fascinate. But the piece they ran about it today was a disappointment. It never really got around to answering the one question that matters in this whole saga: is the head of ETA’s cell in Venezuela drawing a paycheck from the Venezuelan government?

I appreciate that writing about a fundamentally secret organization is fundamentally hard. But the truth is out there, and there’s reason to believe Cubillas Fontán’s work status isn’t such a terrifically well-kept secret after all. For starters Maye Primera, of Tal Cual and Spain’s El País, says she confirmed it with two of Cubillas’s co-workers at the National Lands Institute (INTI). Not to mention the fact that if you pick up a phone, call INTI and ask for el Sr. Cubillas Fontán, switchboard puts you through to the Security Department.

Now, if Cubillas really is still working for INTI, then the Venezuelan government isn’t obliquely "sponsoring" terrorists; it’s employing them outright.

I don’t understand how that’s anything other than a huge story. We’re talking zero degrees of separation: the Chávez government hired the leader of a terrorist cell. To do a security job, involving guns. In remote rural areas.

And this turns up, obliquely, in the eighth graf in their story!

Somebody has got to exhume that lede.