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«Dilma, Boycott SIPIAPA!»

It was a remarkble gesture: Rafael Correa of Ecuador announces that his ministers will no longer sit for interviews with “indecent” and “manipulative” national news organizations.

Is this not the moral equivalent of Bush calling on right-wing blogging softball pitchers to the exclusion of the establishment press corps? You tell me.

For a mild-mannered economist with a decree from Champaign-Urbana and a history of social work among the indians of Ecuador, Correa has deftly amassed political capital out of gloves-off confrontations with the native nabobs of nattering negativism in newsprint.

As brutally confrontational as this behavior seems, there are extenuating circumstances: Ecuadoran journalism, and especially TV journalism, has to be seen to be disbelieved.

In Brazil, similar  tensions are not unheard of — recall the diplomatic incident involving New York Times reporter Larry Rohter in 2005 or so, when a photo of Larry with one of those cultural attachés to Paraguay, you know the type, were in circulation — but the war between press and the powers that be has tended to be cool, rather than hot — think of McLuhan’s definitions of those adjectives.

A relatively small but vocal movement of Brazilian bloggers seed mistrust of the mainstream media by calling it the «PIG — «the party of the coup-plotting press». Yes, it is the fallacy of labeling — one of the crudest there is. But it works.

The relative truce between federal government and media has begun to fray at the edges, however..

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff recently excused herself from  an event held by the publisher of Veja magazine after the magazine ran a spurious scandal-mongering piece about the president’s political party.

No less upsetting to the PT govenment were revelations that a Veja editor had agreed to run slanderous hit pieces against political and business enemies of Charley Waterfall, the numbers racketeer. It has been reported — I can’t confirm — that members of a congressional panel on the case were threatened with Veja hit jobs all their own if the editor was subpoeanaed.

In any case, Dilma’s gesture was widely interpreted as a deliberate snub. The seriousness of the incident will depend on the Abril group’s finances and rumored ongoing search for an equity partner, which would require an amendment to the law setting limits on media ownership by foreign investors.

Worse, the Brazilian Minister of the Treasury walked out on a panel discussion held by Veja sister publication Exame — a reasonably reputable and responsible busines publication, it should be said. When I read it, I actually learn stuff.

Now,communist journalist Altamiro Borges urges Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to turn down an invitation to the annual conference of the Inter American Press Association (SIP-IAPA). Why?

The Inter American Press Association has been criticized by many Latin American journalist trade unions, who claim that it only represents the owners of the large media corporations, that it does not seem to defend journalists themselves, and that it is closely related to right-wing parties.– Wikipedia

Claims that the organization was mounted as a CIA front by a former military intelligence officer in the 1970s are still googleable:

The moral equivalent to a founding father of the association, Jules Dubois, combined military infowar and free press reporting in intricate ways.

Dubois worked for the New York Herald Tribune (1927–1929), before moving to Panama and working on various newspapers there. At the outbreak of World War II he became an army intelligence officer, serving in Panama, North Africa and Europe as well as the Pentagon. He was a graduate of the U.S. Army’s command and general staff school at Fort Leavenworth. TIME described him as “an old friend” of Guatemalan President Carlos Castillo Armas, Armas having “studied under Colonel-Instructor Dubois during World War II in the U.S. Army’s command and general staff school at Fort Leavenworth.”

Dubois was present during the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état which brought Castillo Armas to power. His obituary declared that “he knew every president, every chief of staff, every dictator, and most of the would-be dictators in Latin America,” and “could get more information on a telephone in a hotel room in one afternoon than most correspondents could get in months of travel.”

Among the presidents of the SIPIAPA since its founding was Julio Mesquita of the Estado de S. Paulo Mesquitas (1974-1975).

Borges continues:

SIPIAPA was founded in 1943 in Havana during the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. In the beginning, as part of the alliance against Nazism and fascism, the association included some progressive news organizations. But not for long. With the rise of McCarthyism in the U.S., the group was taken over by the CIA. In 1950, during its Quito summit, two agency assets, Joshua Powers and Jules Dubois, were chosen to run the association. Dubois would head SIPIAPA for 15 years, and the headquarters of the group in Miami bears his name.

Destabilizing Progressive Governments.

During this period, a SIP became an instrument of the CIA in the destabilization of progressive governments in Latin America. To this end, the group’s charter was watered down to ensure that U.S. publications would be in the majority. The headquarters was moved to Miami and critical voices were cast out.

“Summing up, they destroyed SIPIAPA as an independent body, transforming it into a political apparatus at the beck and call of U.S. foreign policy,” Yaifred says.

The Spanish text of Yaifred’s article here (PDF).

In the 1950s, SIPIAP opposed the nationalist government of Juan Peron and praised Nicaraguan dictator Anastácio Somoza as a “guardian angel of freedom of thought.”

In the 1960s, it targeted the Cuban revolution; in the 1970s, it bombarded the Allende government, preparing the way for the Chilean coup.

“The ties of major media owners with dictatorial regimes in the region have been documented and cited often enough to conclude that SIPIAPA is concerned, not with press freddom, but with preserving the interests of businesses and oligarchies.

Against Regulation of the Media

Most recently, SIPIAPA played a part in the media-fueled Venezuelan coup of April 2002, giving weight to lies about the elected government of Chavez. Chavez would not back down, and now treats members of the group as personae non gratae. SIPIAPA mounted similar attacks on the governments of Evo Morales, Rafael Correa and Cristina Kirchner. Currently, the organization’s greatest fear stems from legislative changes that aim at a democratization of Latin American media markets.

Any initiative that sets out to diminish the power of the monopolies is called “an assault on freedom of expression.” As Yaifred points out, a major undertaking by SIPIAPA at the moment is to “put the brakes on government action in favor of media democratization.”