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Nothing To See Here…

July 28, 2011

A few days ago, I wrote about how difficult it is to take people seriously when they can’t be bothered to get some very simple facts straight.

When pressed to supply precedents for foreigners being deported from Mexico for involving themselves in politics, the author of this Yucatan Living article cited the case of Gianni Proiettis, an Italian professor in Chiapas who was deported in April, ostensibly for having a lapsed FM2 visa (though this was, in fact, not the case.)

The author of said Yucatan Living article went on to explain why Gianni Proiettis was deported:

We had to turn a shovelful of earth to find the most recent notable deportation of a foreigner for perceived political activities: Gianni Proiettis, an expat anthropology professor at the Autonomous University of Chiapas (UNACH), was arrested on April 15 and deported on April 16, 2011….

According to La Jornada, professor Proiettis’ only offense was to be “fortuitously” photographed in Cancun “near a group that was protesting against President Felipe Calderón at the world summit on climate change”. Proiettis was picked-up by government agents, interrogated, and released. He was re-arrested several days later and accused of being an “alleged narcomenudista“, but Mexican officials reassuringly stated ‘’(His arrest) was due to confusion” and he was released again. Four months later, when professor Proiettis had his final FM2 renewal appointment, he was arrested and deported, with no official reason given. Professor Proiettis and press reports describe the only factual justification for deporting him was his documented proximity to a protest of Calderon at the world summit on climate change…

Clearly, since only one side of the story is available, there could have been other factors at work, but the deported person’s reports and journalists’ reports of him being near a protest are the best sources available in this recent case.

However, even when it was breaking news back in April, the “other side” of the story was not only available, and completely known by Hugo and myself and a number of our friends (it was the topic of a great many dinner conversations,) it was rather widely publicized that Proiettis was a journalist working for the communist Italian newspaper, Il Manifesto.

And even yesterday, it took all of two minutes on Google to not only come up with a number of sources detailing Proiettis’ long career as a human rights journalist, a vocal supporter of the Zapatistas, and an outspoken critic of President Calderon, but to find the smoking gun itself, a link to Gianni’s blog showing all that he wrote in 2010 and 2011 that ultimately got him deported, all of which is still available online, including a number of inflammatory anti-Calderon articles that he published after his initial arrest in Cancun.  

(It’s in Italian, though you don’t need Google Translate to discern the meaning of phrases like “Un presidente elitista o etilista?” and how these could be construed as political involvement.  [Hint: etilista means ‘alcoholic.’])

In other words, the Yucatan Living author’s assertion that his sources were the “best sources available” is complete nonsense, and if you’re wondering why Gianni Proiettis was deported, all you have to do is look at his blog.

You’d think, in the interest of accuracy, those who have charged themselves with informing the public would jump on this opportunity to present the truth, especially when it’s no secret that Yucatan Living is the most widely-read expat blog in Merida and a resource that many expats rely on for good information.  And while it’s a little early to call and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, I’m wondering if that comment is ever going to be published, because I submitted two comments about Proiettis last night and, as I write this, only one has been approved, as well as two more recent comments from other readers; one that was approved this morning, and another this afternoon:

Between the ignorant, alarmist remarks about Proiettis, whose purpose seems only to frighten people and to support the author’s initial uninformed claims, and the revelation that it is, in fact, not the Geneva Convention that ensures consular benefits to people arrested in foreign countries, it’s beginning to look like virtually no part of this article represents the truth.

Which is sad, because I believe its point is still valid, and I do agree that expats have no business being anywhere near a protest in progress.  Still, all it would have taken to write a good, solid article without these rather simple (but important) errors is a few minutes spent on Google.

UPDATE:  Anyone who has read a newspaper or magazine knows that professional journalists run corrections and issue retractions when their words are proven to be demonstrably false.  I just noticed that since I started writing criticisms of their piece, Yucatan Living has deleted the link to this site that originally accompanied my commenter name in my first comment on their article, though they still have yet to do it on my most recent comment (you might want to get on deleting that as soon as possible, you guys):

Cowardly moves like this only serve to underscore that Yucatan Living is more interested in appearing “right” than supplying their readers with accurate information, and set a precedent that when you prove, with reliable sources and citations, that Yucatan Living made a serious mistake in their handling of a topic, you can expect to be squelched.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. María Cristina Llera permalink
    July 28, 2011 5:11 pm

    The question shrewd observers now ask is: why does Yucatan Living still insist on presenting professor Proiettis as a innocent victim of deportation by not approving reader comments which prove beyond shadow of doubt that Proiettis, as a foreigner in this land, expressed his support of the Zapatista movement and criticized México´s elected leader in public forums, in violation of Article 33 of the country´s Constitution? Why the hush?

  2. July 28, 2011 5:18 pm

    Maria:

    And what shrewd observers now ask is, why should anyone feel bad about Proiettis’ deportation, as many of these human rights blogs are asking us to do, when he published this stuff after he was arrested in Cancun?

    Any smart person would have kept his mouth shut.

  3. Mike permalink
    July 29, 2011 5:37 pm

    Dr. Fry, the author, publicly replied on YL to you:
    “Yes, you are completely correct. Its is the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations that covers protection of foreigners. Thank you for the fine correction.”

    Dr. Fry agreed completely with your points, that foreigners should not get involved in Mexican political affairs, gave the same cautions to foreigners that you advocate, and complimented you on catching his error. Isn’t it petty to attack those who agree with you and compliment you?

    I like most of what you write, but the random attacks on people are disheartening.
    Mike

  4. July 29, 2011 8:03 pm

    Mike:

    Attacks? What exactly are you construing as attacks? The article made a number of very easily researched, fairly serious errors, and I pointed them out. I hardly think that can be called a “random attack.”

    Not publishing people’s comments, or deleting the link to their site because they corrected your errors, is kid’s stuff. If Yucatan Living wanted to look like a mature, professional website, they would publish the comments, stop deleting links, and knock off the vindictive drama queen behavior.

    This isn’t about personal beef between two parties. This is about informing the public, and Yucatan Living, in this case, gave out some really bad information. Far more people will read what Yucatan Living published than what I have written here. Which means far more people will get the bad information. All because Yucatan Living has chosen to behave like cranky teenagers, and control who sees what, rather than correct their rather serious errors.

    But I think we’ve seen just what passes as “journalism” at Yucatan Living.

  5. July 29, 2011 9:25 pm

    Anyway, aren’t the Fields trying to sell a house in Merida? Why would they want to put across the idea that all it takes to get deported from Mexico is being photographed in the general vicinity of a protest? And why would they want to suggest that this is what happened to Gianni Proiettis? Who in their right mind will invest hundreds of thousands of dollars by buying that house if they think that’s all it takes to get kicked out? Anyone interested in buying that house is going to read that misinformation and think twice about moving to Mexico.

  6. Stephen Wozniak permalink
    August 6, 2011 8:52 pm

    Prof. Kinbote,
    Are you feeling ok? You seem a bit off your game.

    You report that facts are what’s important, but then you say: “the smoking gun itself, a link to Gianni’s blog showing all that he wrote in 2010 and 2011 that ultimately got him deported,”

    As the YL article factually reported, the Mexican Government never reported why Prof. P. was deported, but you boldly state that you factually know what never existed: actual evidence of why the Professor was deported.

    There is no proof at all in the link you supply that supplies any facts of what actually caused the Government to deport the Professor. You surmise and opine that Gianni’s blog supposed shows what got him deported, but opinions are just that: opinions. Opinions by their very nature are not facts. Suppositions are also not facts, they are the imaginings of a fertile mind.

    Maybe you do not know what a “smoking gun” is? It’s more than ok to not know how to properly use the aphorisms of a foreign languange. As a Mexican, you clearly know Spanish, but your partial knowledge of Englsh may have tripped you up here?
    All the best,
    Stephen

  7. August 14, 2011 10:17 pm

    “Stephen Wozniak”:

    Wow. So few straws left here to grasp!

    So you’re saying that there is no evidence that what Proiettis wrote is the direct cause of his deportation?

    Okay, I’ll bite.

    Pretend you know nothing about what happened and examine the following two cases.

    Person 1 is just your average Joe Blow who is photographed in the proximity of an ongoing protest.

    Person 2 is a working journalist for an avowedly communist newspaper who frequently writes about Mexican politics and vocally opposes Mexico’s president.

    Which of these two people is most likely to be deported?

    I think we both know the answer to that question. But surprise! They’re the same person! And I think we can reasonably conclude that the catalyst for Proiettis’ arrest was not his innocently standing in the relative proximity of a protest, but the comments he published on Il Manifesto’s website criticizing Calderon, many of which he published after his initial arrest.

    If a bunch of pot-smoking undergrads writing for countless “human rights” blogs, even ones who supported Proiettis, can make the connection that Proiettis was deported for his outspoken opposition to Calderon (which they did, even back in April,) then I would imagine that you should be able to do the same.

    So if my use of the term “smoking gun” was less than apt, you’ll have to forgive me, but that hardly invalidates my point.

    My point being that the day after Proiettis’ deportation my friends and I were well aware that he was the author of a communist blog that criticized Calderon. So even if the federal government said nothing about why it deported him, it was amply clear to a great many of us who pay attention to these kinds of things.

    The Yucatan Living article is riddled with easily-avoidable errors. End of story. The Geneva Convention nonsense was evidence enough that these people have no idea what they’re talking about. Hopefully in the future they’ll take a cursory glance at Google before they publish a bunch of bullshit and call it journalism.

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