The Impunity of the Elite
“It has become known as the case of the fake journalists, read the lead in a recent wire report about the case distributed to American newspapers.
Thousands of posts on Twitter discuss what happened to 18 Mexicans busted in Nicaragua driving a half-dozen satellite TV vans from Televisa.
They are at #Narco-Televisa. On the other hand, at #fake journalists, there is just one. It reads: “I love #fake journalists… You don't know how to write and wouldn't know a real story if it bit you in the ass.”
Televisa and Pena Nieto together were also enmeshed in a scandal together. The Guardian published documents showing Televisa committing dirty tricks against other candidates to help Pena Nieto win the Mexico presidency, and—in a blatant pay for play scheme which listed fees for various services on offer—raising Peña Nieto's national profile while he was governor of the state of Mexico.
And Wikileaks released cables from the American Embassy in Mexico recently illustrating US concerns that the Mexican presidential election frontrunner had been paying for favorable TV coverage.
So why is a US reporter stationed in Mexico City, where all this is well-known, calling it—while providing no evidence to back the claim—the “fake journalists” scandal?
On August 20, border guards in Nicaragua detain 18 Mexicans—17 men and one woman. They are all wearing Televisa t-shirts, and they are traveling in six satellite TV vans emblazoned with the Televisa logo. They carry press credentials from the network.
Customs officials received a tip from a Nicaraguan official who spent the previous evening in Tegucigalpa Honduras in the same hotel as the Mexicans. He became suspicious after hearing loose talk.
The leader of the group, 39-year-old Raquel Alatorre Correa, will be described in newspapers in Mexico City as a “brunette with voluptuous breasts, a wasp waist and an arrogant attitude.”
She is adorned with a Cartier watch, a Bvlgari Italian ring, a triangle-shaped diamond ring, several gold chains, an IPod, a Blackberry, and a two-way radio.
She is, in short, heavily-accessorized. And so is her mansion in Merida.
Later, when authorities in Mexico raid her homes and ranches (she has 12) in the Yucatan, they find her main residence has an electrified fence, two gates, security cameras, and special outdoor lighting.
She tells border officials—who find her high-handed and petulant—that she and her fellow journalists are in Nicaragua to do a story. When asked exactly where in Nicaragua they are headed, she says “I won’t tell you.”
A search of the satellite-TV vans is a foregone conclusion. What turns up is a surprise:
$9.2 million in cash, stuffed into built-in hidden compartments, as well as traces of cocaine. Prosecutors charge the group with money laundering, drug trafficking and organized crime.
Questioned about the arrest of one of their TV crews, Televisa emphatically and categorically denies any link to either the Mexican suspects or the six satellite TV vans.
For good measure, and perhaps to show the earnestness of their intentions, the giant network threatens to sue the 18 incarcerated Mexicans—who are already looking at doing 30 years in a squalid Nicaraguan prison—for appropriating the company’s good name.
Next Mexico's Attorney General Marisela Morales steps into the fray, to say the suspects have falsely used Televisa’s name as a cover for criminal pursuits.
“Using the prestige or name of persons or companies without their knowledge,” she explains breezily, "is part of the way in which criminal organizations operate in Mexico and other countries.”
Despite her assurances, there is a problem: In Mexico City, journalists discover all six vans are registered to Televisa.
Her office is later forced to admit, to much derision, that her remarks weren’t based on the results of an independent investigation, but on assurances from Televisa.
In the columns of unfriendly journalists, reporter Carmen Aristegui stands accused of being a “manipulative freak” who is “sickly obsessed.” She has a “communication strategy Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels would have loved.”
She is said to share (with Proceso magazine) a “fixation.” To suffer from a “Fatal Obsession.” To engage in “pure unsubstantiated sensationalism,” and to “repeat a lie a certain number of times hoping it will become the truth.”
Her reporting on the “Cocaine Caravan” scandal is “an incredible waste of resources, both financial and human.”
“Yet Aristegui persists in disguising her obsession with famous phrases like ‘the public interest’ and ‘questions that deserve answers.’”
Cooler heads observe that Carmen Aristegui has won Mexico’s National Journalism Award on four occasions, as well as the Cabot Prize from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
In a recent radio interview, she says, plaintively and poignantly, “I want to live!”
Nicaraguan authorities seem underwhelmed with the response to requests for information they have received from both Televisa and Mexican law enforcement. “The claim that Televisa was the victim of an illegal operation," says the Attorney General of Nicaragua, “must be supported by evidence.”
The prosecutor in the case pointedly states that he has not yet been satisfied that Televisa is not involved.
According to prosecutors, the narcos, or the narco-journalists, from Televisa have been running, for the past five years, a drug trafficking and money laundering pipeline running the length of Central America.
As weeks pass, there are a series of revelations. The six vans, it turns out, were registered to Televisa.
Televisa's response was to insist that motor vehicle personnel had been bribed. Notorized documents make this seem unlikely. Then, too, there are letters on Televisa letterhead signed by the vice president of the news division, asking border officials to expedite the vans entrance into their country.