Snow-Blind on 43rd Street

The Times’ Silence on Plan Colombia

Are there credible connections between U.S. troops and the paramilitaries who kill civilians in Colombia? Amnesty International has evidence that suggests the Special Forces looked the other way when just such a massacre took place in Mapiripan in 1997. So far, the Times hasn't touched it—but they did run a story by Larry Rohter, detailing the El Salado massacre last February. The timing was perfect: It was published July 14, one day after Clinton signed the bill approving aid to Colombia.

Corruption in Colombia should bother more people than the Daily News' Juan Gonzalez, who has written on the massacres, and former Voice reporter Bill Bastone, who broke the news about Colonel James Hiett. Remember Hiett? He was sent to Colombia in 1998, to head up the Special Forces. But then he forgot to report that his own wife was smuggling drugs out of the embassy. With all those State Department people snoozing, it's no wonder the Times ended up snow-blind.

But there may be a good reason the Times' Colombia reporting has slipped through the cracks. It's a dangerous country, best left to reporters like the AP's Will Weissert, who's been filing almost daily for the last month. So when Clinton travels to Bogotá on August 30, the Times can safely say they don't have anyone on the beat.

Ironically, that was the case in 1954, when the CIA mounted a secret invasion of Guatemala on behalf of the United Fruit Company. The Times had helped pave the way with a series hyping the Communist threat. But when the late Timesman Sydney Gruson began telling the truth about Guatemala, the CIA began spreading a lie that Gruson was a Communist. The rumor found its way to then Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger, who kept Gruson out of Guatemala until the coup was complete.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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