|Week Online: What
are you seeking to do with the brand of journalism you practice at !Por
I come from a journalistic family. My grandfather founded El Diario
de Yucatán, but my cousins threw out all the principles and values
for which it stood. It has become a newspaper of Catholic conservative
extremism. I left and formed my own newspaper, one that would provide
a voice for the voiceless. We are open to all voices -- left, center,
right -- as long as they speak the truth. I don't impose any ideology.
We are an independent voice, we do not take money from politicians, and
we let the people voice their denunciations of wrongdoing in high places.
For that we have been persecuted on many occasions, but after 12 years
we are stronger than ever.
WOL: You and Al Giordano practice
a brand of journalism you call "authentic journalism." What do you mean by
that is what we practice. Authentic journalism is journalism with
a commitment to the good of the community. It is journalism with
a commitment to freedom and justice and dignity. Authentic journalism
seeks to find a community's problems and help fix them through bringing
knowledge of the problem and the solution. Authentic journalism is
the voice of the people, the voice of the voiceless.
Let me give you an example.
Last September, a fierce hurricane struck the Yucatán, but the other
papers downplayed it for fear of hurting the tourism business. While
the storm raged, our reporters were going to every corner of the state.
No other papers did that, no other so-called journalists risked their lives
to tell the people what was going on. It was because of our efforts
that the international community sent aid. Now we are finding that
much of the aid wasn't distributed. Instead, the politicians plan
to use it to buy votes in the upcoming elections. We have photos
of the stored supplies and we are asking the government what it is hiding
from the people. The governor here is going crazy.
WOL: You and Al Giordano
are holding a school of authentic journalism in conjunction with the Mérida
conference. What is that about?
object is to teach the lessons we have learned to a new generation of journalists.
We want to introduce the journalistic community to journalism. I
believe there are some 25 authentic journalists from all over the Americas
to whom we have extended scholarships to attend. We will teach them
the commitment to the community and we will teach them a commitment to
truth, honesty and justice. Those are the important things.
They will not be like other reporters, only chasing the news story.
The students will learn to listen to the people to understand their problems,
and to help the people find solutions.
The students will cover the
conference, of course, but there is much more. For example, one of
the things we regularly do at !Por Esto! is go out to the communities in
the interior and hold public meetings at the town square. We go without
police presence because the people are happy to see us. Anyone who
has a complaint, a denunciation of wrongdoing, even a personal opinion,
can have his say, and we print it in the newspaper. That is authentic
journalism. You do not get rich doing this sort of journalism, but
to see the smiles on the faces of the people when you arrive makes it worth
more than money.
WOL: How did you get
involved in this conference?
I know Al Giordano, of course, that's it. But also, on one of my
trips to New York, I spoke at Colombia University. They wanted to
know about the drug trade in Latin America. Are we fighting drugs?
they asked. I told them the DEA is effectively the most powerful
cartel in the world. The United States is the great drug consumer,
and the DEA only persecutes those whom it doesn't control. We know
how the drugs flow north, and we know this war on drugs is a farce.
And we know that the government of the US tells the government of Mexico
-- all the governments of Latin America -- what to do. The people
at Columbia told me I was idealistic, which I know means they think I am
a fool. But that's what I believe. Maybe some people listened
to me there.
WOL: If the war on
drugs is a farce, then should we legalize the trade?
believe we should legalize and depenalize drug consumption and the drug
trade. That is how we reduce the violence and corruption of those
huge black market profits; that is how we reduce the robbing and killing
by addicts who need to buy their drugs. But legalization must be
accompanied by a strong campaign of education and prevention and rehabilitation
for addicts. But even when we educate people about the dangers of
drug consumption, we violate their rights if we forbid them from using
drugs. Just as an alcoholic can drink without fear of persecution,
so it should be for drug users.
But this is a $600 billion
a year business and too many people profit from things they way they are.
That is why I say the war on drugs is a big fake, a simulation to fool
the people. The drug war will continue with all the suffering it
brings. And you have so many people in prison up there! And
now you can't afford to keep them there. Now you have to choose:
More schools or more prisons? What a stupid question. Education
is the key to human freedom, not more prisons.
WOL: How's the weather
and sunny. Come on down.