Truth another casualty of the Serra murders

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Burying the lede
Burying the lede

We haven’t posted much about the Serra murders. At this point, with half-truths flying back and forth (mostly forth, i.e., from a single side of the aisle) nobody knows what really happened yet. The Serra murders, just like the Danilo Anderson case and even the Simonovis case, are hard to blog about from afar – getting things right requires an extensive amount of detail, an ability to parse BS from fact that, personally, we bloggers don’t do well at.

This is advice David Smilde and Hugo Pérez Hernáiz should have heeded.

I respect Smilde and Pérez Hernáiz and the work they do, mainly through their blog on Venezuela hosted by the non-governmental organization WOLA (more on them later), but their latest piece on the Serra murders is misleading and irresponsible.

Their post is titled “Robert Serra Murder Roils Venezuelan Politics,” and it’s hard to argue with that. The Serra murders have caused quite a stir. But when you get into the text, that’s when you can see the manipulation.

In the first paragraph, they say, “Government sectors have placed the blame squarely on the opposition, suggesting Robert Serra’s murder was the work of fascist paramilitaries or hit men directed by Alvaro Uribe in Colombia and right wing sectors in Miami.” “It is a hypothesis that cannot be discounted,” they say to start the second paragraph.

First off, it is imprecise to say that government sectors have “suggested” the murder was the work of fascist paramilitaries. They have said so quite clearly!

Here, for example, Diosdado Cabello and Nicolás Maduro clearly place the blame on fascist paramilitaries and the Miami mafia (whomever those might be). Here Maduro pins the blame on Uribe. So they are not “suggesting” anything – they are clearly, and directly making an accusation against a specific person, and deliberately tainting an entire political group.

But, as Smilde and Pérez Hernáiz know, this is an accusation without proof. There is not a single piece of evidence that has been presented to the public of who exactly did the killing on behalf of whom. And yet, right there on the first paragraph of their piece, Smilde and Pérez Hernáiz plant the seed in the mind of the reader: the right wingers did it, helmed by that evil Uribe.

At first, I thought Smilde and Pérez Hernáiz were going to write about how goofy the whole thing was, but no, they actually give serious thought to the idea that the former Colombian president was the mastermind behind the whole thing. Apparently, according to Maduro, Uribe hates chavistas so much, he is willing to train some guy named Lorent Saleh to hire paramilitaries to kill chavista VIPs.

Smilde and Pérez Hernáiz seriously look into this, saying that Saleh is a “student leader” (one of many) who has been caught on tape making threats of a serious nature (that part is true). They also point out that the deceased Serra was heading a commission to investigate Saleh’s involvement with paramilitaries, something I was not aware of.

That’s all interesting, and highly circumstantial. Now, Smilde and Pérez Hernáiz are free to spin their conspiratorial web and pin the whole thing on Saleh and Uribe (funny thing, Pérez Hernáiz actually has a blog on Venezuelan conspiracy theories!).

But what our two friends leave out are two important pieces of the puzzle: one, Saleh is currently in the custody of Venezuelan authorities, making it practically impossible for him to have organized the whole scheme, and two, they fail to provide a motive for Uribe. Why would Álvaro Uribe, a former President and currently a Senator, go out of his way to kill a twenty-seven year old motormouth chavista legislator and his pretty assistant?

Oh, right, because he’s Uribe, and he’s right wing, and that’s what right wingers do. They murder people. Tons of people.

Look, who knows who did it. Maybe a week from now a video will emerge clearly linking Saleh and Uribe to the murders. Is it possible? Yes. Is it likely? Absolutely not. Is it worthy of putting in the lede of your post? You know the answer. When someone as fundamentally unserious as Nicolás Maduro hurls accusations such as this, it’s par for the course. But when two respected academics do so, it’s regrettable.

Could Uribe have done it? Why yes, it’s in the realm of the possible. Could WOLA be a front for Al Qaeda? Why, sure, it’s possible. And yet I wouldn’t write a post about it … Putting an accusation like that in the lede of a post clearly suggests I agree at least in part with the idea. (See how it works?)

But Smilde and Pérez Hernáiz don’t completely dive into what, so far, is the main hypothesis in their article. In fact, they abandon it half way, saying that “it should be said that the characteristics of the crime do not seem to fit with a paramilitary hit.” Why yes, it should be said clearly, not buried in paragraph six of their post.

The authors then delve into the police work, mentioning there was no forced entry, and that murder by stabbing is unusual in paramilitary “hits.” Further down, they even cast doubt on the government, saying that they have been proven wrong in criminal cases before without them changing their stories. It seems like they want to believe Uribe was guilty, and are disappointed that he probably isn’t.

(Curiously, Smilde and Pérez Hernáiz fail to mention the santero angle being bandied about by many journalists – apparently, a group of people, some of whom were dressed as santeros, were seen entering the Serra residence. Apparently, Serra was a santero. The gruesome way the murder took place suggests this is a hypothesis that should at least be mentioned.)

Another misleading portion of the post comes at the end. Smilde and Pérez Hernáiz say, “Of course, the Serra murder and high profile accusations have likely poisoned the well for dialogue for the time being. It has led to acrid exchanges between the two political sides (see the Mesa de la Unidad Democatica’s response here). Only yesterday Maduro, said: “None of the reactions from the opposition favor a climate of dialogue for peace.””

What the authors leave out is that the reactions from the opposition have been overwhelmingly positive. Condolences for the deaths came from all quarters. The opposition umbrella group MUD even suspended a political rally it was going to hold on Saturday out of respect for the other side. And Chúo Torrealba, new Secretary of the MUD, has shown remarkable restraint, basically saying nothing after Maduro called him “human garbage” on national TV.

But no, according to Smilde and Pérez Hernáiz, “acrid exchanges” have come from both sides. The only thing they see worth repeating is this whole saga is how disappointed the government is by the opposition’s “reaction” to the murders. I guess Maduro is disappointed by how civilized the opposition’s reaction was.

Look, Smilde and Pérez Hernáiz are entitled to be biased. The NGO they blog for, WOLA, has a clear left-wing slant to it. That’s fine, that’s their prerogative, and I’m certainly not going to be the one pointing fingers at biased blogging.

But when they start passing off government propaganda as cold analysis under the veneer of impartiality, they don’t do themselves, or the Venezuelan political process, any favors. They need to be able to parse BS from fact when writing about Venezuela. On the Serra case, they are failing at it.

1 COMMENT

  1. The first mistake was taking seriously those statements made by Maduro, who will say basically anything that puts the oppo in a bad light, however ridiculous it sounds. Maybe he should make more ridiculous accusations, so people like Smilde and Pérez snap out of it?

  2. The involvement of pretty much any living person on the planet “cannot be discounted” according to the smell test put forward by these authors.

  3. Their post displays an authoritarian-friendly mindset. Treating loudly-trumpeted allegations as worthy of substantial credence is nothing more than deference to the guy with the biggest bullhorn. Maybe they think that the allegations against Afiuni or Lopez should be deferred to in the same way.

    People should be presumed innocent, absent actual evidence of guilt, not accusations from the bully-pulpit.

  4. Good post. The only thing I would say is: why the ‘pretty assistant’ thing? It’s completely unnecessary to label Herrera at this point like that. It is beyond the point of your argument how she looked like or even what kind of relationship she had with the deceased MP.

  5. Nice tirade Juan. Let me get this straight. Your first problem is with the word “suggested”? It is precisely because the accusations are vague and without detail that this is a better word than “accusation.” Furthermore, not all of the blaming of the opposition has mentioned Uribe and paramilitaries so it doesn’t feel right to make such a direct connection.

    Your second problem is that we actually take the hypothesis of paramilitaries seriously. Really? In a divided and polarized world how do you do anything other than preach to the converted except for trying to get inside of views you might disagree with? When you find them lacking you can actually convince people of it because you have at least taken it seriously. Put differently, to effectively doubt, you first need to extend the benefit of the doubt. What we actually say is that “it is a hypothesis that cannot be discounted.” That is a pretty weak thing to say and does not seem substantially different from what you say: “Is it poissible? Yes. Is it likely? Absolutely not.” In fact that phrase of yours seems like a good summary of the structure of our narrative.

    Another complaint against us is that we are seeding this in the reader’s mind. Please. Anybody who reads my arcane blog is a Venezuela watcher and has heard, nay is exhausted by, the government’s definition of the situation. Impossible not to have heard. We decided to take this on precisely because of the government overwhelming interpretive dominance on this issue, forwarding theories without forwarding any real evidence.

    We in fact do realize that Lorent Saleh is detained. But the evidence against him is not from a personal diary but videotapes of him talking to others about his conversations with still others. Arresting one person does not make a network disappear. I personally think Saleh is probably a twenty-something talking big. But the ideas and details are chilling similar to what we have seen in Colombia and other places, and are important to think about.

    And indeed acrid exchanges did come from both sides. I think the opposition’s condolences were actually pretty good and exemplary. But the MUD’s response we linked to suggests the government is seeking political violence to distract attention from its own shortcomings. That is acrid. Your problem here is a simple logical flaw. Saying some of the MUD’s statements were not acrid does not entail all of the MUD’s statements were not acrid.

    You also complain about us not mentioning Santeria. See paragraph 8.

    Really the most disappointing aspect of your rant is the overall point. If what you gathered from our post was a defense of the government’s theories, you either lack the attention span to read beyond the break (see previous paragraph), or have spent so much time in your political echo chamber that your analytic abilities have atrophied.

    • With all due respect, and I am one of your readers, you are suggesting the Uribe connection is a hypothesis, but it did not arise as a hypothesis. It arose as an accusation. Given the timing and nature of the accusation, I do think, contrary to your assertion, that it can be discounted as something far less than a hypothesis. This is propaganda and the use of an event of obviously serious concern for partisan political ends.

    • For Goodness sake, you write “Despite arrests having been made (see here and here) ” and then go into the “both sides” and acrimonious as if it were something too much from the opposition to be saying the government is using language to provoke violence.

      Are you really working for human rights or yet another Carter-Centre-kind of US organisation?

      The sheer amount of accussations the government has made about our politicians being murderers, thieves, etc is incredible.

      They did it about Capriles, they did that about Cocchiola (accusing him he had ran away from Venezuela because of what he had stolen), Diosdado and Maduro have insisted so many times they would present proofs of Capriles and others trying to kill them…they and other regime’s honchos keep showing in their daily personal programmes (with names such as Con el Mazo Dando) on state TV and radio apparent or fictitious conversations, emails taken from opposition politicians , they talk about the opposition buying war planes to attack Venezuela and of having them in a US base in Colombia to invade Venezuela…

      And you are saying we might be over-reacting about the fact such a government wants to provoke violence?

      Have you ever opened a history book about extreme left (or right, same shit) groups from the times
      of Alexander III? Have you ever read actual documents from the eighties (not conspiracy theory stuff) documenting how the Soviets (like the Cubans) were training Venezuelans close to current Chavismo on sabotage and provoking riots?

      I think you should better coordinate your efforts with the Carter Centre.

    • Right about Santería, wrong about everything else. And no, it’s not a rant, and it’s not a tirade, it’s an extremely well-argued point. Perhaps you’re not used to people calling you out on your biases. That’s a personal flaw you should probably work on.

      • Excellent media analysis, Juan. And congratulations David on quietly walking back your argument in your comment here. Something I guess you can’t do on the official WOLA channel… The laced insults only served to betray your character.

        Smilde has always been unable to let go of the left-wing dream Chavez represented, despite all evidence to the contrary. The fact that he characterized the MUD comment as acrid is proof 100%. Keep up the media analysis, everybody. Everywhere.

      • Juan

        When it’s proven beyond a doubt that Uribe himself, in a Santeria induced trance, snuck into Serra’s bedroom and stabbed him with the jagged fibula bone of a sacrificed Andean Bear, you owe us all a big, big apology.

        After all, you can’t discount that scenario.

      • “Rant”? Self-evidently false. Why damage your own argument with accusations which can be disproved by earlier material in the same post? I agree that it must be a case of prejudices making the accuser blind.

    • David
      I just read your article and I agree with Juan. You start out making everyone believe that the Chavista government is trustworthy. How many times before have you heard them crying wolf?
      “Government sectors have placed the blame squarely on the opposition” No shit! When have they ever done that before?

    • Your post is irresponsible and only serves to confuse anyone that is uninformed about Venezuela. You start by listing the most preposterous theories and then go on to qualify them with theories that actually make sense given the nature of the crime and the context. The context being that only the opposition has been victim to threats and acts of violence from the government and it’s paramilitaries (see MCM and Julio Borges in AN, MCM in 23E, illegal recordings, detainments, imprisonment, exile…). Finally, the only paramilitaries in Venezuela are the hundreds of groups that were armed and let loose on society by the government. Please take your jobs/writing/promotion of human rights more seriously… oh and Juan’s post, while highly critical, was not insulting. You should learn how to assimilate constructive criticism.

    • Let me get this straight. Your first problem is with the word “suggested”? It is precisely because the accusations are vague and without detail that this is a better word than “accusation.”
      Let’s take a look at a BBC article on a Maduro statement on the Serra murders. Venezuela lawmaker Serra’s murder blamed on far right.
      It is very interesting that the BBC has used the word “blame,” a word much more closely associated with “accuse” than it is with “suggest,” to report on Maduro’s claim. Let’s go to the article.

      Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has blamed “ultra-right” opposition groups in the country and in neighbouring Colombia for the murder of a governing party lawmaker.
      Robert Serra, 27, and his partner Maria Herrera were found dead at their home on Wednesday night in Caracas.
      Mr Maduro says the authorities are near to revealing the suspects’ identities.
      Mr Serra – one of Venezuela’s youngest lawmakers – and Ms Herrera were reported to have been stabbed.
      “Terrorist groups encouraged by sectors of Venezuela’s ultra-right and Colombian paramilitary groups are behind this [effort] to bring violence to our country,” President Maduro said.

      Had Maduro said something like this, “It is possible that Terrorist groups encouraged by sectors of Venezuela’s ultra-right and Colombian paramilitary groups are behind this [effort] to bring violence to our country,” it would be a fair conclusion to state that Maduro had SUGGESTED this. Maduro added no such qualifier to his claim. Maduro stated, “are behind this [effort] to bring violence to our country.” There is no qualifier whatsoever here. It is an accusation.

      It is a blatant misrepresentation to claim this is a “SUGGESTION.”

      But the MUD’s response we linked to suggests the government is seeking political violence to distract attention from its own shortcomings. That is acrid.
      It’s a rather accurate description of the way the GOV/Chavismo operates. Consider the way the colectivos operated during the February protests, Did the colectivos shy away from violence? Au contraire, the colectivos shot their way into the praises of Maduro.

      Acrid yes, but very accurate.

    • David, what qualifications and credentials do you have? Specifically about Venezuela? When did you first visit? How often do you go? Where do you stay (family, friends, hotel, etc). Just curious because you come off as a PSF

  6. Don’t get your panties in a bunch. I’m usually an avid CC reader but this post is way off base. What Smilde and Perez Hernaiz presented is probably one of the most unbiased versions of this story we will ever get, and if you read their blog (which I do) you will find that they don’t hold back when it comes to calling the government out when there is enough evidence to do so. There are no answers here only speculation. And you seem to be taking issue with the order in which they arranged their speculations because the ones that you want to believe in are not at the top.

    • Another PSF…. boy Maduro must have packed the plane with maletines on his trip to NYC. That is why the entourage is so large… so the bag men (or women) cannot be followed. Y creen que somos pendejos… mirate en el espejo

  7. Don’t they have a right to have an opinion on a certain issue, like you do? Isn’t that what freedom of expression is about? They sure ain’t journalists, so why do you expect journalistic standards be met by a fucking blog post?

    • The hysterical accusations flying everywhere like shit being splashed by a huge ass fan only serve to reinforce the theory that the chavistas themselves ordered to kill Serra.
      It’s the most extreme case of politicizing a murder I’ve seen since the infamous caracazo (Which was actually work of cuban agents, but that’s another issue) and april 11 (Again, work of chavismo)

      It’s a pattern seen since those years, the commies come and kill people, then they turn around and squeal that other did it while holding the smoking gun in their hands.

      • Ralph

        You, and various others, have mentioned that Caracazo was influenced/exacerbated by cuban agents or provocateurs. Is there any good reading material on that you could recommend?

        thx

        • You can check one reference here:
          http://porlaconciencia.com/?p=10034

          “En su visita a Venezuela para la toma de posesión de Carlos Andrés Pérez en 1989, Fidel Castro llegó con 300 hombres y un enorme volumen de armamento. Gente del entorno de Pérez le ayudó a actuar libremente, lo cual Fidel aprovechó para preparar la toma del poder a partir de la insurrección popular que se esperaba y que efectivamente estalló el 27 de febrero. – See more at: http://porlaconciencia.com/?p=10034#sthash.dFDGLxsF.dpuf

          “During his visit to Venezuela for the inauguration of Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1989, Fidel Castro arrived with 300 men and a huge amount of weaponry. People Perez environment helped him to act freely, which Fidel took to prepare to take power following the popular uprising that was expected and actually broke out on February 27. – See more at: http://porlaconciencia.com/?p=10034#sthash.dFDGLxsF.dpuf

          The plan went more or less to cause a huge mess using the plunders and riots as a cover for a coup to overthrow CAP, the economy was really shitty at the time and CAP was a navel-gazing moron there.

          It’s not a secret that the cuban regime had infiltrated the Venezuelan government since the first days that castro took over the island and Betancourt sent him away, proof of that was the deliberate concealment of the 60’s history, in which Venezuela suffered mass killings at the hands of the communist cuban raiders aided by treacherous venezuelans like soto rojas (congressman for chavista party today), the nature of the crimes commited by the cuban invaders were so heinous that venezuelan security forces ended resorting to hideous and equally brutal methods to deal with them.

          Then there came a pacification plan by Rafael Caldera’s government, a lot like the farcassassins with Santos’s government one in cuba today, that left many leaders of the raids and killings free and completely unpunished, like it happened years later with the wax doll and his 4f cronies, again by the hand of Caldera.

          • CAP and Castro met regularly in private. Many times in Margarita. There was nobody else in the room except for CAPs chief of security (comisario Ramon Rivero). Ramon was never within earshot when the two got down to business. Castro gave Ramon a gold plated AK-47 rifle which Ramon had to leave behind. RR sold his weapon collection to Isaac Perez Recao. The M-16 with grenade launcher was featured prominently during 11A. The grenade launcher was swapped out by Baduel with non working model. Baduel gave the TSJ a different weapon thus protecting IPR because Baduel was on his payroll from guarding casinos and was part of the 11A plan but was double-crossed twice (by others). Many facts left out from Silence & Scorpion. But they know and that’s why Baduel was kept close as DefMin but with wings clipped, then his nudes posted to AN website to fuck with him and then thrown in jail.

            Never heard that the Cuban where destabilizing during CAP2 and never heard them as actors in Caracazo. As I stated, the relationship between CAP and Castro was productive with ETAs granted new IDs and safehaven in Venezuela and Cuban families allowed to migrate to Venezuela

          • Ralph agree with many points but you are oversimplifying IMO. I studied this and had good mentors. The leftists committed heinous crimes and the right gave back in the form of payback. Since my sources from the right, they will blame the left for starting everything but my sources where not radical crazy people… the other way around, some very serious folks who knew and know how to handle themselves in all types of situations at home or abroad.

        • I don’t know this angle and was briefed by CAPs jefe de escolta who played big role. The cops where on strike leaving sectors unpatrolled. The leftist groups of the day instigated the cerros to come down and loot. Rest is history. CAP had no control over the miltiary once orders given. MBR200 founders led the killing (and where killed – Acosta Carles’ brother). The army was vicious in its prosecution even taking the wounded from hospitals (in search of Acosta Carles’ killer).

      • Ralph, I’m with you on this and have not even spoken to my former Disip contacts. When the inside track is that the regime does not know who did it, that tells me all I need to know. I am a bit surprised that folks are not coming forward but that was the purpose of the spectacular kill…. to sow fear in the ranks. If you cross them, they wont just throw you off a building or cut your balls off once dead, now they will make you watch as you are ice-picked to death. Why was Serra killed? On the surface I see a true-believer. A pure-bred Chavista with ambitions. On the surface I see Serra as threat to status quo. Kill two birds with one stone, the emerging threat to power and sow fear into the ranks keeping everyone in line. That is how you control people in authoritarian lawless state: through fear.

  8. There are so few actual facts available in this case that it is difficult to discuss it. All there is speculation. About the only confirmed and uncontested facts are:

    1. Robert Serra was killed.

    2. His girlfriend (or domestic partner, whatever) was killed.

    3. The time of murders at approximately 10:00pm on the night of Sept. 30th seems uncontested.

    Everything we know for certain was known and reported the following day. Since then, we have not received any further hard facts or results of the investigation. I suspect that what we knew on 1 Oct. is all we will ever know for sure about this case.

  9. Juan, sorry to say it this way, but you too are biased sometimes, and I think what these guys said would have been a very common and possibly neutral opinion if vzla weren’t in a political crisis and constantly under the siege of heavy gov propaganda just like you say.

    I think you dislike it because in this circumstances (amid heavy gov propaganda) you would expect that people like them would counter-balance it (biased pro-oppo), which they didn’t.

    I think I understand you man, cuz I think all of the oppo people like us have that little voice that says “If the government said something in a propagandist way, it gotta be wrong”, and hey, it’s a VERY GOOD rule of thumb. But lest we forget, rule of thumbs are biases.

    • juan did right in calling david out. This is how it’s done. You (we) are back to square one. You want to do your job? Then you pick them apart one by one. Let them defend themselves and let the viewers (readers) decide. This is how it’s done. We have been here before…this game is old. It’s tiresome and CC is left standing alone. Deconstructing the enemy article by article, author by author is how it’s done. They are not the enemy? And Putin is my friend.

  10. If one includes an obscure explanation in the discussion of serious explanations then one implies an equivalence in the potential integrity of the arguments. Whether or not the writer overtly ascribes to the premise, he has advanced the premise simply by its inclusion. This rhetoric should be challenged in order to avoid wasting considerable energy discussing absurdities and degenerating the discussion. On the other hand, if Juan had not mentioned the blog, few would have been aware of Smilde’s postulations. Kind of a catch 22, I guess.

  11. Okay, I’m sort of in the middle on this one. The original blog post was a relatively balanced piece of reporting from a European or American perspective. But when all of the media are bought or co-opted by the government and when the government has wildly abused human rights, it is worth providing a critique of the “balanced” approach provided by the post. Who can believe a government that puts political prisoners in jail for months without a fair trial? Who can trust a finger pointed J’accuse!! Who can take seriously the rantings of those corrupt in power? Who can believe a socialism in a country with millionaires with condos in Miami and Switzerland in charge of the revolution? In other words, it is hard to take the piece credibly if you know what is truly happening. It reads balanced if you don’t have knowledge about Venezuela. But if you do know what’s going on it seems a bit naive or slanted. But, don’t get me wrong. I totally support freedom of expression and press. Keep on writing, but expect some wrestling once in a while. It keeps the writing electric and meaningful. It is worth thinking about the tone of the piece in light of the reality of what people are living through in the country.

  12. Smilde’s credulous post is followed by snide remarks about our “attention span”. My attention span goes way back to July, 2014:

    “Maduro’s top officials lined up for a much-touted news conference, which all local broadcasters were required to carry live, to denounce Machado and other opposition figures for “assassination” and “coup” plots against the president.

    They also accused the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker, of being involved and in touch with Machado. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Bogota did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    “What we are presenting is part of a criminal investigation,” ruling Socialist Party official Jorge Rodriguez said, showing emails he said were proof of the plans.”

    Don’t their proven lies about Machado and Whitaker undermine their credibility for the Serra Round of Accusations? Not Smilde. He takes the latest barrage at face value.

  13. All I can say is they drank the koolaid. Drank it, liked it and want some more. Thinking in conspiracy theories is something that seems to happen if you lived in Venezuela for too long. Smilde has appeared on Dutch tv a few times, always presented as neutral but always seemingly biased. Somehow being neutral about Venezuela means to be somewhat positive about entirely negative things. That regrettable piece on WOLA completely wiped away all credibility

    • It is very hard for anyone to be truly neutral about Venezuela. Outsiders, when they simply tell the unvarnished truth, realize that it sounds as though they are attacking the government. So, to retain their appearance of neutrality, they oversell the government’s side of the story and undersell the Opposition’s just to make it look neutral. And, the more you understand, they harder neutrality becomes to maintain.

      • I think you are completely right. However, they are doing so under the auspices of WOLA which claims to “promote human rights, democracy, and social justice in Latin America.” Their own mission statement sets a higher bar than journalistic objectivity or opinionated blogging.

  14. I have re-read our post and still find it hard to understand how it could be read as an endorsement of the government’s conspiracy theories. By starting with phrases such as “It is a hypothesis that cannot be discounted” I thought we were actually building up for a better debunking second part of the post. It’s now clear to me form the comments that that was not the case. It seems that if you don’t say in the first line that certain hypothesis of the events are conspiracy theories, and you don’t say rioght away in the second line how and why they are wrong, some readers assume you are endorsing them. If it helps: we don’t.

    Just for the record: http://venezuelaconspiracytheories.blogspot.com.es/2014/10/who-killed-robert-serra.html

    And it’s not first time we deal with conspiracy theories in our blog:
    http://venezuelablog.tumblr.com/post/51559199021/conspiracy-theories-continue-to-be-central-to-maduro

    • “It is a hypothesis that cannot be discounted”

      That sounds just a notch above Eva Golinger, when she was asked by CNN journalist Amanpour about Maduro’s claim that the US and others were responsible for poisoning Chávez, responsible for his cancer.(10:22 on at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwBecWOvzd4)

      “Well,” said Golinger. “That would be something that would have to be investigated by a scientific investigation. Of course. Sure. No one knows the origins of that disease or how it interacts with our bodies. But I certainly don’t think that the concept of there being some kind of plot against Chávez is far fetched….”

    • It seems that if you don’t say in the first line that certain hypothesis of the events are conspiracy theories, and you don’t say rioght away in the second line how and why they are wrong, some readers assume you are endorsing them. If it helps: we don’t.

      I thought that a basic structure for an essay was to state your hypothesis at the beginning, then present arguments for your hypothesis, and at the end restate your hypothesis. This also constitutes in education the basics of a lesson plan: 1) This is what we are going to do,2) Do it with extended explanations and examples, and 3) Sum up at the end: this is what we did.
      On that basis, it was entirely reasonable for readers to conclude what they did- which you state is not the points you were trying to get across.
      Perhaps you should get back to basics.

    • There is a thought experiment called Russell’s Teapot proposed by philosopher Bertram Russell:

      If you tell me that there is a china teapot orbiting the sun halfway between Earth and Mars, I cannot disprove your hypothesis. However, the likelihood of this proposal is so small that I cannot be expected to take it seriously in the absence of any hard evidence. You must bear the burden of proof for this proposal and I am not obligated to disprove it.

      When you say about government’s ultra-right wing conspiracy claim that “It is a hypothesis that cannot be discounted”, you are asking me to give credence to a hypothesis that has no facts to support it and was propounded by a group of people whose historical credibility is nil. Remember, this is the same group that blamed Chavez’s cancer on the CIA and the U.S. for the earthquake in Haiti. Therefore, I do think that their hypothesis can and should be discounted. It should only be taken seriously to the extent of noting that the Venezuelan government would even offer such a prima facie absurdity without evidence, further degrading their own credibility.

      Look, I get that most people assume that governments of the world would not say something unless there were some element of truth to it, however distorted. What you all don’t get is that this government is far beyond such petty distinctions. Secondly, what you (and most of the foreign press) don’t get is that these lies are not expected to be believed by outsiders. These lies are for domestic consumption by their followers, who will believe them, because their fanaticism blinds them to reality. When the government’s domestic propaganda gets swallowed, hook, line, and sinker, by the press, you only encourage them feed you bigger and more outrageous lies.

  15. “It is a hypothesis that cannot be discounted that the Two Authors are paid agents of Russia’s secret police. (After all, Someone has said so.) Now there are also reasons why this view might be rejected, which I set out in part two. Then I let you, dear reader, choose which to believe. Because I am a professor, and not some ideologue living in an echo chamber.”

  16. Serra was killed in dramatic fashion … where are the surveillance camera videos? Why hasn’t the public been asked to identify the perps in the videos? There are no videos?

    The killing suggests to me that the killers wanted to send a clear message to their audience which I suspect is not in the opposition. The message is they can get you anywhere and will make you suffer like Serra. Thus you see everyone mum. Seriously, where is the real outrage? Everyone is scared shitless IMO. That was the purpose, to sow fear within the ranks. Fear as a control mechanism.

  17. Okay. I had to read the Smilde-Perez post. First time I ever read something from them.

    What I see is that they first take a look at the government’s allegations (or hypothesis) and then confront it against the facts of the case, basically dismantling them step by step.

    Then they go on referencing other cases where the government has hurled similarly unsubstantiated accusations against the opposition, and not backing from that position even when later proven wrong, thus showing that it is a typical ‘modus operandi’ of the government.

    All in all a balanced and well written article that paints the picture of a government that makes a practice of falsely accusing the opposition whenever a high profile crime occurs. Something, BTW, that the government does not seem to care to hide, since they prove the point by throwing myriads of accusations from too many different government officers even before the investigations start.

    I think some readers may get the wrong idea if the conclusion is not asserted clearly at the beginning and then get the wrong impression that the article is pro-government and from then on start ‘seeing red’.

  18. They do say that in war the first casualty is the truth, and to chavismo, politics is definitely war and so they like to murder it time and time again.

    The other casualty in political wars is the middle ground, the objective view. Polarization does not admit middle grounds, which BTW is where the truth usually lies (lies dead, that is). People detest the ‘guabinosos’ even more than they do the ‘enemy’, because they can not be sure about them. “If you are not with me you are against me”.

    Chavismo has benefited so much from polarization it is no wonder they entice it whatever opportunity they have, and the opposition blindly plays along. Polarization is the enemy and the opposite of polarization is objectivity. An article like the Smilde-Perez should be applauded not attacked.

    It may be evident to most of the readers here that the government accusations are political propaganda with the most nefarious purposes. But to an outsider that is not so obvious. After all political assassinations do happen and in such a turbulent political environment like in Venezuela they are not unconceivable. They way to counter false accusations is with facts and logical analysis which is what the authors did in the article in question.

  19. In toto, a decent discussion…but…they led with the assertion that the paramilitary/Uribe/Miami conspiracy theory should not be discounted and shamelessly use hapless Saleh’s inflammatory video statement as evidence. The poor logic of that reasoning may not be obvious to an outsider.

  20. We complain about government’ antidemocratic behavior, yet when we downright accuse two scholars of being “tarifados”, “pendejos sin fronteras”, “chavistas”… we are not much better. Whoever is wondering what does David Smilde do, if he’s ever been in Venezuela and for how long; a simple Google-check will tell you that he has been studying – and frequently visiting – the country for the past twenty years. If you check the blog he has with Perez-Hernaiz you will notice that there is hardly a praise or even a nice comment about the government to be found.

    Some Venezuelans have been so dragged by polarization that they cannot see beyond their noses. They feel ready to point and shut poorly based accusations to anyone that might seem like a government supporter; in a cuasi-religious quest to find the heretics. And to think that among those radicals are otherwise brilliant bloggers and their educated followers who make these comments is just sad, very sad.

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