The German sex trade’s leading lobbyists, unmasked

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Johanna Weber and Fabienne Freymadl, two leading “spokespersons” for the recently-assembled German “sex workers’ movement”. Who are they, and what lies behind them? EMMA investigated, and found the following:

In the middle of the summer, BILD.de came out with the provocative headline: “These Whores are Government Advisors”. And then readers who were so inclined found out that the “whores”, Johanna Weber (46) and Fabienne Freymadl (35) were regarded as “specialists” in conjunction with a proposed change to prostitution laws in the capital city. They took part in “several informative background talks”, “met various political specialists from the CDU/CSU, SPD, Green and Left parties, and telephone regularly with them” (BILD). Apparently they have a particularly good connection with Eva Högl (SPD party representative), Ulrike Bahr (SPD family policy specialist), and the Greens, Volker Beck and Hans-Christian Ströbele.

Johanna Weber, the political spokeswoman of the so-called “Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen e.V.” [Trade Union of Erotic and Sexual Services, Inc.], also advised the federal family ministry at their prostitution hearing on June 12, 2014. “The politicians often come to us with supposedly good ideas, but those mostly don’t fit with the realities of the branch,” she reveals. She apparently knows what fits.

But does she fit? Let’s start with the fact that Johanna Weber’s real name is Verena Johannsen. Her specialties as a dominatrix are “Schweinereien” [literally "piggeries"]: “Natursekt” (“natural champagne”, or “golden showers” — urinating on men), “Caviar” (defecating on men, sometimes directly in the mouth), or “Facefarting”.

This sort of job is actually new for Weber/Johannsen herself. The front-woman of the “union” for “sex workers”, founded just last year, has been, by her own account, on the job for just four years. Before that, the professional distance runner taught sports, was an active sports marketer, and organized women’s runs, for example at the Lesbian Beach Festival. Politically, too, the dominatrix seems to be engaged in women’s and leftist causes. By her own account she donates five percent of her income, mostly to “sex worker” organizations like Hydra, but also to ATTAC or Terre des Femmes.

The positions Weber/Johannsen subscribes to regarding prostitution law sound correspondingly politically and movement-experienced. Not from below the belt, but stepping high. Like the 23-page “Position Paper on the ‘Regulation of Prostitution'” for the federal family ministry. The introduction reads:

“We apologize that we did not submit our position paper on the expected deadline date of June 2, 2014. June 2, the International Whores’ Day, is a day of remembrance for the whores’ movement. On that day in 1975, French sex workers went on strike and occupied a church in Lyon, in order to defend themselves against police brutality and lingering discrimination. This event is the watershed of the worldwide whores’ movement. We hereby dedicate our position paper to these brave colleagues.”

Colleagues? The in fact very brave prostitutes of Lyon, unfortunately, can’t defend themselves. Because they don’t know Johanna Weber, and have no idea what is being done in their name. If they knew, they would surely not allow it.

Starting with the label “whore”. “Nous ne sommes pas des putes!” goes their slogan, with which they took to the street at the time, shoulder to shoulder with feminists who had travelled from Paris to accompany and support their protest. “We are not whores!”, but persons. The women of Lyon fought then for their rights — and not those of pimps and brothel owners.

That’s what Weber and her colleagues are doing with their “union”, founded on October 13, 2013. But who are they really?

In a wobbly photo taken at the founding, there are some thirty women, many of them hidden, plus one man. Since then, the same half-dozen people keep popping up on talk shows and at events, saying what fun it is to prostitute oneself, and making the case for the recognition of prostitution as a “profession like any other”.

These women have names like Undine, Amber or Fabienne, and are often current or former dominatrices in the BDSM field. Some are now running BDSM “studios”, in which they work together or have other women working for them.

Across from them are an estimated 400,000 women who work as prostitutes. Some 70 percent (estimated by the pro-prostitution front) to 98 percent (police estimate) are migrants, and as a rule come from the poorest Eastern European countries. The dommes from the “union”, therefore, speak for maybe two percent of German prostitutes. But even among these, many see it differently than these politically-correct “sex workers” do. All the same, this atypical, vanishingly small minority has been the front-row conversation partner of politics, and apparently the only voice for the prostitutes.

But these “specialists” don’t represent in any way the interests of the prostituted, but rather those of pimps and brothel owners — even those of the human traffickers, in that they minimize or cover up their roles in the prostitution industry.

One can read as much in the 23-page position paper for the women’s ministry from June 12, too. It reads like the work of experienced jurists. Here, the legalistic argumentation speaks not of the interests of women in prostitution, but that of the sex industry, which has long been hand-in-glove with organized crime.

The position paper pushes the “decriminalization of sex work”. But for whom? Women and men in prostitution have not been punished in Germany for years. The only ones who are still punishable are those who trade women as wares: the pimps and brothel owners. And the position paper of the “sex workers” contains almost nothing but demands to decriminalize these woman-traders. They speak out against raising the legal prostitution age to 21, against mandatory health checks, and against mandatory condom use. They also demand that the punitive laws against pimping be struck without replacement, as well as those on exploitation of prostitutes, and youth-endangering prostitution. The “sex workers” want the police to stay out of the business altogether. That would be a “disruption of business”. So, free rein for the pimps and human traffickers.

The “union” is calling for state-sponsored “entry counselling” for prostitution, and “development”. What kinds of practices are involved in that “development”, can be seen on the “union” website: The “sex workers” are against abolishing flat-rate prostitution and “gang bangs” (simulated gang rape). It couldn’t get any more cynical.

The “union” is also working toward total deregulation of prostitution in Germany, as well as furthering its spread. So, the lady “sex workers” are, plainly and simply, lobbyists for the prostitution industry. And they are no longer even taking the trouble to hide it.

On June 30, 2014, Johanna Weber wrote in the name of the union to “Dear Madame Minister Schwesig”. In her letter, she congratulated the minister responsible for prostitution on her “political and juristic separation of the subjects of human trafficking and prostitution”, as well as her “participative efforts to include sex workers”.

All of that was already more than enough. But Weber didn’t sign the letter alone. A fellow signatory is Holger Rettig, a representative of the very un-transparent “Unternehmerverbandes Erotikgewerbe Deutschland e.V.” [Erotic Enterprises Chamber of Commerce of Germany, Inc.]. The organization was founded in 2007, and according to Rettig, a former boxing trainer, it has 170 members. But other than himself, none of them has appeared publicly. The brothel-owners’ association and the prostitutes’ “union” are lobbying shoulder-to-shoulder for a convenient law. That would be as if a business association and a workers’ union were to band together. The concept of a “union” label, then, is a pure lie.

At the end of September, these two organizations, along with the BuFAS (Bündnis für Sexarbeiterinnen und Sexarbeiter; in English, “Union for Sex Workers”), will be holding a sex-work congress in Berlin, titled “Sex Work in Movement Times”. The three-day get-together is organized by Johanna Weber, front woman of the “union”, member of the “whores’ project” Hydra, and advisor to BuFAS. According to announcement, at the congress will discuss “concrete measures to improve working conditions” and “the future viability of the field”. Goal: “A basis for political decisions”.

On the first day, one of the model dommes, Undine de Rivière, will take the podium at Humboldt University alongside female politicians of all parties. Says Rivière: “I’ve been a sex worker for 20 years, but I don’t know a single victim.”

The keynote speaker will be Henny Engels, from the German Women’s Ministry, the umbrella organization of all established women’s organizations (from political parties, churches, professional organizations, etc.). To the amazement of all other European umbrella organizations, in December 2012 the German Women’s Ministry was the only women’s organization that did not sign the “Brussels Call” for abolition of prostitution.

And BuFAS? Alice Schwarzer’s book, Prostitution: A German Scandal has analyzed in which measure these state-financed “whores’ projects”, such as Hydra, Madonna and Kassandra, which head up BuFAS, have become lobbyists for the sex trade. The “whores’ projects” campaign overwhelmingly for entry into prostitution, instead of for exit. And this, although some of them are receiving money from the federal women’s ministry’s model project for exit. A look at their websites tells the story. For example, Kassandra’s website is headed with the slogan: “Prostitution was, is and always will be part of our sexual culture.”

Prostitution and human trafficking bring in a lot of money. A whole lot. Not only millions in state monies, but billions of euros change hands; in Germany in 2013 alone, according to the federal statistics agency, some 14.6 billion euros. And the profit rates are up to 1,000 percent. Drug and weapons traffickers can only dream of that.

So the lobbyists are not lacking in power or money for fancy websites, juristically savvy position papers, and congresses. In contrast, there are hundred-thousands of nameless, bitterly poor prostitutes, whose earnings lie below minimum wage and who, in most cases, can’t even speak German.

But oh yes, who is Fabienne Freymadl, the second “whore” advising women politicians in Berlin? The 35-year-old coms from arch-Catholic Freising [a suburb of München, in Bayern], where even the German Pope has long seemed blessed, and is, according to her own statements, a “sadist out of passion”, which often comes up in those circles. Freymadl performs as “Firelilly” at parties, including “burlesque dancing” or “children’s face-painting”. Or she plays the golden angel on stilts at Christmas markets. Cute, eh?

As a domme, the multi-faceted Freymadl is stricter, though. She specializes in pain-infliction (“Your suffering makes my eyes sparkle.”). Her specialty is a “dungeon with authentic atmosphere”. There, her clients can submit to “dungeon rules”, be interrogated, chained up and tortured, sometimes for twelve hours or even longer. Perhaps some ladies and gentlemen politicians from the capital should take a tour there sometime?

Sure, some women might really enjoy torturing men. Usually, something like that is just called man-hating. That these man-haters gladly let men pay them for that is understandable. But that they offer themselves as political lobbyists for the sex trade at the expense of hundred-thousands of women — that goes too far. Someone should put a stop to that. And soon!

Translation mine.

Aside from the “man-hating” bit, which is editorializing on the part of the author (and may or may not in fact be true), the most egregiously humiliating linguistic slams here come from the oh-so-politically-correct “sex workers’ union” leaders themselves. (You’ll notice I put that in quotation marks; there is a reason for that, and if the EMMA article doesn’t article make clear why, then just keep reading.) “Whores”, they “proudly” call themselves? Well, so much for those who claim that prudish feminists are the ones perpetuating the hurtful old “whore stigma” — here, it is none other than the so-called “sex workers” themselves! The prostitutes of Lyon, supported by feminists from Paris, made it clear in their protests that they are NOT “whores”, they are PEOPLE, and deserving of dignified treatment. The ongoing use of that false word (oddly, alongside the vague and whitewashy term, “sex work”), in an ahistoric denial of what the Lyon uprising stood for, is a gross insult to any woman in prostitution who has ever stood up for her own humanity. And it gets grosser.

In the economically depressed lands of Eastern Europe, where most of the women and girls in the brothels were trucked in from, that word is the most humiliating in the entire, extensive vocabulary of misogyny. In Moldova, a leading source point for trafficked prostitutes, poverty is so bad, and patriarchy so deeply entrenched, that the first pimps the girls get are their own male relatives. “Whore, go out and make money!” is the thing they hear when, upon turning a certain age (generally given as 15 or 16), they are turned out to work. Work, that is, in foreign countries, where they are taken by mafiosi with tentacles all over Europe, to German mega-bordellos where clients pay a flat rate for unlimited “sex” (note the quotes; obviously, enthusiastic consent is NOT on the menu). And where the management looks the other way, not only when it comes to the shadowy origins of their supply chain, but also when it comes to the use of condoms, state-mandated health checks, etc. Numerous mega-brothels have been shuttered due to violations of the health and safety code. Which, in Germany, is enforced from time to time, but not nearly often enough to be meaningful to the women who must work the brothels night and day, for what amounts to sub-minimum wages once their room fees and other “expenses” are subtracted. The brothel owners have set up a tidy profit-making enterprise for themselves, so it stands to reason that they will do anything, not only to keep it going, but to make it even more profitable.

And that’s where the hastily-clapped-up “sex workers’ union” comes in.

Now, an actual prostitutes’ union would, one should think, fight the bosses tooth and nail for better working conditions for the employees. It would be headed by those actually working in the field, instead of arcane “specialists” in the decidedly minority ranks of the BDSM dommes. Nobody elected these women, “Johanna Weber” and “Fabienne Freymadl” (the latter’s pseudonymous surname means “free girl” in the Bavarian dialect, and most girls in prostitution are anything but free.) And since nobody elected them, they represent nobody’s interests, as far as the 400,000 prostitutes in Germany are concerned. The “union” leaders are not only not fighting for the “workers”, they are actively sweeping their concerns under the rug, minimizing and whitewashing all the day-to-day horrors and miseries the women and girls must suffer.

And worse, these “whore” lobbyists are all working to abolish even the minimal, inadequate workplace protections the prostitutes receive, in order to protect — whom? Well, considering who they really work for, that’s obvious: the traffickers. Because who else could possibly benefit from prostitutes being completely without protection by the state, the health authorities, and the police? And who else would be so keen to mount such a massive whitewashing campaign?

The johns are already protected by law and social convention, after all. The worst thing they might come away from the brothels with, aside from a vague, nagging sensation of emptiness (and not so much about the wallet, either; remember, those joints are flat-rate, and the rates are dirt cheap), is a dose of some sexually-transmitted disease or other. German society is all too happy to shrug and look the other way; some non-prostituted women even express “relief” that “those women” exist, because then their husbands and boyfriends and bosses won’t pester THEM with sexual demands they can’t or don’t want to fulfill. And there is also the unspoken “relief” that the “whores” act as a kind of “escape valve” for the imaginary “pent-up head of steam” that would otherwise turn a “sexually frustrated” man into a rapist.

All of this is implicit in the idea of the “whores’ project”, that odiously named bit of legalistic chicanery that, quite conveniently, benefits not a single one of the estimated 400,000 women, most of them Eastern European, in Armutsprostitution — that wonderful German word meaning “poverty prostitution”. There are no “Happy Hookers” there; nobody makes that kind of money. What little is left after the brothels extort their “room rent”, most of it goes back to the old country, to support relatives (mostly male) who are out of work thanks to the fall of the socialist bloc. The benefit to the woman is almost nil, and the German economy on the whole sees little of it, either. The tax collectors, like the police, tend to look the other way as long as all the papers are in order and the cheques are sent in on time. The lion’s share of the profits goes to those who run the brothels — and the trafficking networks that supply the “sex workers”.

I’ve long thought that what some call “sex work” should rightly be called SEX CAPITALISM, because in fact, that’s what it is. And these few “specialists”, like the two in the picture above, who speak for far fewer than 1% of women in the sex industry as a whole, should quit calling themselves “workers”, because their “unions” are literally and figuratively in bed with the bosses. (They should call themselves the Point-Zero-Zero-One-Percenters, really.) The only analogous situation that comes to my mind is that of Venezuela just before and during the coup of ’02, when the country’s corrupt trade-union congress, the CTV, actively got in bed with FEDECAMARAS, the umbrella organization of the Venezuelan chambers of commerce, to try to topple a democratically elected president. Real union workers, who were overwhelmingly pro-Chávez, got so upset with the CTV that they ended up ditching it and forming a new organization, the UNT, whose leadership was free of unelected toadies like Carlos Ortega, and which actually represented the workers’ concerns before the state. (Not surprisingly, the crooked CTV was heavily aligned with the interests of another big bunch of shadow-dwelling pimps: USAID, and the CIA.)

I don’t know if Germany’s prostitutes (most of whom are not German, and barely even speak the language) will ever get to doing what the Venezuelan trade unionists did — namely, kick out these corrupt “spokespeople” who speak for no one. Somehow, I doubt they will ever gain the power to do that; their non-citizen status and economic vulnerability keep them in chains. But the German state can do something about it, and as the EMMA article points out, it is high time that they should. Starting, of course, with a purging of “pro-business” elements across the board from the halls of power. Lobbying, after all, is the legalized form of corruption.

The German model for “regulating” prostitution is clearly failing the very women it was ostensibly designed to protect. And if the pimp lobby gets its way, there will soon be no regulations left at all. It is time to replace that defective model with something else that works.

Right next door to Germany, the Dutch are having a lot of second thoughts about their liberal prostitution laws, and this due to precisely the same conditions that prevail in Germany: organized crime running the whole show. What was once the free domain of independent women just making a living, is now the Mafia’s game. And the response is the last thing the liberalization advocates expected: Amsterdam shuttered hundreds of its famous red-light district “windows”, where prostitutes used to sit in their scanty lingerie, waiting for clients, in 2007. The city has also raised its legal age for first-time prostitutes to 21. All this and more because the Dutch are being inundated with cheap, disposable female flesh from Eastern Europe, the very sort of thing that used to plague Sweden. That is, until someone there decided to consult with actual Swedish prostitutes, to find out what they thought and felt. The result of that extensive consultation? The Swedish “sex purchase” law, which has since been adopted also in Norway, Finland and Iceland, making it truly a Nordic model. Now the Dutch, too, are tentatively looking into it. The Europarliament has approved it. And even France has adopted something similar. Why is that model so popular? Because it works. It reduces harm for women in the sex trade. And it enables them to exit at their own chosen moment, too.

What? A prostitution law written, if not literally by prostitutes, then certainly FOR them? By those who actually listened to them, and heard their concerns, and consulted them every step of the way? Police that protect the women, not the pimps, traffickers and johns? Social welfare agencies helping women get out of prostitution, and not into it, as the pimp lobby — oh sorry, “sex workers’ unions” — of Germany would have them do?

Heresy!

Quotable: Winona LaDuke on water terrorism

Sex: Made in Germany, but for whom?

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“Germany, a paradise for johns and human traffickers.” Photo: EMMA.

Once again, the German prostitution industry comes under a harsh spotlight — one that it thoroughly deserves, in my unhumble opinion. This time, it’s a documentary film that exposes its unattractive innards:

Sometimes, in the face of empty talk shows, trashy afternoon soaps, brainless shows and earnest magazine features in the midnight hours, a well-meaning person might ask oneself what right the public channels have to charge such high rates. And then there are occasional moments that make it all worthwhile. One of them is the extensively researched NDR reportage, “Sex — Made in Germany”, which will be shown this Monday. What the film tells is the story of a shattering — namely, that of legalized prostitution.

The goal of the 2002 law was to give prostitutes rights, and free them from dependence on criminal gangs. It was a “red-green” (Social Democratic Party/Green Party) reform project that partially achieved these goals. Prostitution would no longer be morally offensive, but from then on, treated (and taxed) like a totally normal profession. But that is what it is simply not, even though the creators of parallel worlds of speech came up with such silly concepts as “sex workers”. Journalists Sonia Kennebeck and Tina Soliman researched the results of the legalization, and what they found is disturbing: “The good intention of empowering prostitutes through legislation has turned into its opposite. Woman has become a resource, to be used as efficiently as possible. Outside of this transactional business, however, she loses all worth.”

Germany, according to the film, has become Europe’s bordello. Men come in droves from Japan, the US, and even strictly-moralistic Arabia to have their fun. 30,000 visitors a month come to Köln’s mega-bordello, “Pascha”. One part of the film shows some johns on hidden camera, sizing up the meat market in a big bordello, and one doesn’t have to be overly moralistic to feel that one has stepped into Dante’s Inferno.

The proprietors of such places are no longer tattooed hoodlums, but rather they see themselves as businessmen following the laws of the marketplace, of supply and demand. What the men prattle on about sounds like a shrill parody of the snake-oil promises of neoliberalism. The “press spokesman” of a bordello whines about statist regulation, even though the regulations have almost all disappeared. The owner of an Internet sex exchange says: “We see ourselves as a lifestyle marketplace.” The client, male or female, can rate the offerings with stars, like a reader with a book on Amazon.com. There are exchanges where the highest bidder can buy sex with virgins, pregnant women, or without a condom. If a prostitute is out of luck, and the auction goes badly for lack of demand, she might have to spend a night with two guys who pay her three euros. All of this was more or less illegal prior to 2001.

Flat discount rates are also very popular. The law was supposed to give the women back their dignity. That hasn’t happened. In the free-market atmosphere of the German sex industry, they are just interchangeable wares, and replaceable at any time. Kennebeck and her cameraman, Torsten Lapp, also travelled to Romania, where many of these women came from, and what they found out there, reveals all talk of free will and free markets as what it really is: a lie.

More than half the prostitutes of a flat-rate bordello in Berlin come from Romania and Bulgaria, and few of them knew what was waiting for them in Germany. The owner, again a total marketing man, tells the camera: “These women are just more engaged, because they’re new in the business. Let’s just say they can take more abuse.”

A Romanian woman named Sorana tells how the pimps lured her to Germany. She knew that she wouldn’t be working as a babysitter, that it had to do with sex. She didn’t know that she would be on call, like a slave, in a flat-rate bordello for up to 40 johns a day: “Some nights I only had two or three hours’ sleep. I couldn’t refuse any client. It was awful.” They were “treated like trash”: Many of these women, says Tina Soliman, “were kidnapped, emotionally manipulated, forced into prostitution in Germany”. That is, naturally, still illegal, but no brothel owner sees himself in any way responsible: “Not my job,” says one, as long as the papers are in order. He has so many women working for him, how should he run a background check every time? That’s the state’s job.

And the state is very interested in the red-light palaces, that have lured sex tourists to Germany as they previously did for Thailand. The inspectors don’t want to know, however, what human dramas play out here. They cash in heavily, even from streetwalkers. The women are the ones who have to pay. When asked why the johns aren’t taxed, the man from Stuttgart city hall says: “Well, we don’t know him, the john.”

The makers of this great film reveal all this without pathos, or even accusations. They judge no one, hold no morality lectures. They only tell it like it is. And yet, their pictures show a world that no society would wish for itself. Good intentions are always simple. But the world that they are meant to change is unfortunately not.

Translation mine.

This comes at a crucial juncture for Canada, as three old prostitution laws have been struck down in Ontario and the debate is now on as to how (or whether) to replace them, and with what. Several so-called “sex workers’ rights” groups claim that any laws governing pimps and johns constitute de facto criminalization of the prostitutes, who are mostly (but not always) women and girls.

But are they? The liberal German laws, which purport to decriminalize prostitution and dignify the lives of the prostituted, have clearly had the opposite effect. Organized crime has stepped in, using the mantle of legitimacy to conduct its unsavory business at ever greater profits to the mafias, and ever greater costs to the women and girls they have imported, most of them from the poorest parts of Eastern Europe. And with zero accountability to the state, which is supposed to protect the prostitutes.

And yet, we are meant to understand this as “a job (or profession) just like any other”. What other jobs and professions are governed by the bosses of organized crime syndicates? And what other jobs and professions have the government looking the other way, except to tax the workers — milking that cash cow twice?

And that cow does get milked. Not so far back, EMMA had a piece on the horrors of the flat-rate brothels, where men pay a shockingly small fee for unlimited sex. No time limit, no limit on the number of women he can use — and often, no limit on what he can do to them, either. Again, the women are imported from Eastern Europe…because as Kajsa Ekis Ekman found (and I translated), there is never enough home-grown “talent” to supply the ravenous demand, and because the local girls aren’t as willing to put up with abusive or dangerous practices.

Yes, there are some freelance prostitutes, and even a fortunate few who have made a good living on their own terms that way, but the trafficked ones grossly outnumber them. Because, go figure, most women (cisgender or trans), and gay men too, have difficulty overcoming their distaste for sex with strangers they don’t actually want to have sex with. And money, strangely, doesn’t always mitigate that.

Much less when organized crime is holding the purse strings, and the state is looking the other way…except, of course, at tax time.

Dear AP: You suck, too.

Ahem…a little mood music, maestro:

Further to last night’s (now amended) piece on how badly Reuters gets Venezuela wrong, it looks like the Associated Press (or Dissociated Press, as I prefer to call them) is no better. Aporrea columnist Ivana Cardinale takes them to task:

Miguel Rodríguez Torres, the new minister of Interior Relations and Justice, informed the country on Thursday morning of the capture of a US citizen named Timothy Hallett Tracy.

According to the minister, Tracy is linked to a right-wing conspiracy against Venezuela, and its objective was to lead us into a civil war and so provoke immediate intervention on the part of a foreign power. He added that he has documents and videos as proof.

The US daily, The Washington Post, immediately published an article from the Associated Press agency, which should really be called the Associated Pentagon, since many of us know that it is the propaganda arm of the Pentagon. In it, the family of the detainee says that he is an “innocent filmmaker”, who is in Venezuela to make a documentary.

According to the detainee’s father, his son is a graduate of Georgetown University, who majored in English, and has been “filming” for the past year in Venezuela.

The AP article indicates that the gringo detainee made a documentary in 2009 called “American Harmony”, and another documentary, recently filmed, called “Under Siege”, for the Discovery Channel. Both documentaries were directed and produced by one Aengus James, not Timothy Tracy. Once more, AP lies. The name of Timothy Hallett Tracy appears nowhere on the Internet in connection to the filming of one or both of the documentaries.

I searched the Internet for information on him, and the only thing that appeared was his detention in Venezuela. As for the rest, no information on Tracy anywhere. Nothing on documentaries or films by this US citizen. If he is a filmmaker, as they say, there would be information on the Web over his work, and as I said, it does not exist.

The strange thing is that “Under Siege” was broadcast in the US one month ago, in March, by the Discovery Channel. If we take AP at its word that Timothy Hallett Tracy filmed that documentary, how could Tracy, who according to his father, has been filming in Venezuela for the past year, be making films in two different countries at the same time?

These little details betray an intent to conceal. It is evident that this is a CIA operation in Venezuela which uses the AP news agency to publish false information over Tracy, claiming him to be producer and director of two documentaries which in reality were made by Aengus James.

500 videos were seized in the raid. The AP agency says that Tracy was detained twice in Venezuela before April 14 and let go. What AP doesn’t say is that Timothy Hallett Tracy belongs to an intelligence agency, has been trained in these matters, received foreign financing, which was later passed on to young Venezuelans hungry for dollars, who came from the extreme right wing, with the objective to generate violent incidents and provoke a civil war.

Translation mine.

BTW, I looked up Aengus James. He is a real person, and he is a real filmmaker. He’s on Twitter. Here’s an interview he gave about his film, American Harmony, which is a documentary on barbershop quartets. He doesn’t look much like Tim Tracy. If I had to guess at his politics, from his tweets (which reference Paul Krugman), I would say he’s a liberal Democrat — hardly the sort of guy who’d want to hang out with a bunch of overt fascists like JAVU. His work doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that would inspire the CIA to tap him as a front man for one of their operations, either. And I don’t think he’d be at all impressed to hear that his films have been attributed by an agency as big and prominent as the AP to this Tim Tracy guy.

So, AP, what the hell is your explanation for all this? And please, make it a good one. I can hardly wait to hear how you got these two guys so badly mixed up.

Dear Reuters: Is this enough proof for you?

timothy-hallet

Dear Reuters: You fail so hard at journalism…

Venezuela has detained an American citizen it says was financing opposition student demonstrations after this month’s disputed presidential election, the latest in a flurry of accusations over last week’s post-vote violence.

Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said Timothy Hallet Tracy had been seeking to destabilize the country on behalf of an unnamed U.S. intelligence agency after President Nicolas Maduro’s narrow presidential victory.

“We detected the presence of an American who began developing close relations with these (students),” said Rodriguez in a press conference. “His actions clearly show training as an intelligence agent, there can be no doubt about it. He knows how to work in clandestine operations.”

Rodriguez said Tracy, 35, from Michigan, had received financing from a foreign non-profit organization and had redirected those funds toward student organizations. The ultimate aim was to provoke “civil war,” he said.

A U.S. embassy official had no immediate comment.

The government has given scant evidence for a flurry of headline-grabbing accusations ranging from an assassination plot against Maduro to alleged sabotage of the electricity grid.

…because this is the real story, and your version is laughable even on the surface of it:

The minister for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, informed on Thursday of the capture of a US citizen, Timothy Hallett Tracy, linked to a conspiracy of the far-right against Venezuelan democracy.

The actions of Timothy Hallett Tracy are related to groups of the far right who are attempting to destabilize the country with attacks in the street following the presidential elections of April 14.

The minister stated that the objective of the plan is to generate chaos throughout the country with the creation of a violent post-election scenario in order to make it ungovernable.

“it is important to inform the people over situations which are occurring; we will show the motivations and connections they have in order to develop a series of events which we have been living through ever since the night after the elections of April 14,” said Rodríguez Torres, in a press conference.

The minister stated that as of October, November and December of 2012, the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) had been conducting investigations into an operation called “April Connection”.

“All the indicators we have been gathering indicated that we would arrive at election day with complete normality, but following the release of the results by the National Electoral Council (CNE), there was to be a non-recognition on the part of the right-wing candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski,” Rodríguez Torres explained.

He added that during the investigations they managed to detect a person of US origin, who had formed close relations with right-wing youth who were members of the so-called “Operation Sovereignty”.

“When we detected this relationship, we began to conduct surveillance and stakeouts, and we saw how this man was able to infiltrate revolutionary groups to gain their protection, but had intimate relations with the extreme right wing,” Rodríguez Torres said. He commented that it is presumed that this US citizen belonged to an intelligence organization, and had received financing from various foreign NGOs.

Rodríguez Torres explained that the objective of Operation April Connection was to generate mobilizations following the release of the results of the presidential vote, and to conduct a civil war.

“Their objective was that, to lead us into a civil war, and we have the documents proving that they exchanged [information] amongst themselves by way of some [computer] chips, which a messenger brought from the Plaza La Castellana to the home of the ‘gringo’,” Rodríguez Torres said.

He informed that, according to this right-wing sector, the idea was to launch a civil war in Venezuela and thus immediately provoke intervention from a foreign power.

“These were their desired ends, and they continue to be. We have more than 500 videos which we seized during a raid. We asked ourselves: Do the ordinary householders who voted for the opposition want a civil war, or do the Venezuelan taxi drivers want that? We are sure that nobody in this land, independent of their position, wants that, except these extremist groups, directed by extremists of the parties of the right who do want civil war,” he added.

During his press conference, the minister showed a video in which it is evident that retired general Antonio Rivero is passing instructions to guarimberos [insurrectionary right-wing demonstrators, presumably "students"] in the upper class district of Altamira, telling them how to create disturbances.

All the proofs seized during the raid, which took place on Wednesday night, were brought to the appropriate authorities.

Rodríguez Torres said that, thanks to the work of intelligence agents, the national government was able to act in time to continue to guarantee peace for the people of Venezuela.

“The President of the Republic, Nicolás Maduro, has emphasized that in this country, we will always go the way of peace and coexistence. That has to be an effort made by all Venezuelans, independent of their ideological and political posture. We must reject and isolate these fascist factors who live among us, and who are trying to get us Venezuelans to hate and kill one another. We cannot allow that,” he insisted.

Translation mine.

BTW, O Reuters gurus, I have your “scant evidence” right here. And, spoiler alert, it ain’t so “scant”:

You’ll have to wait till the 6:50 mark or thereabouts, but yeah, the proof is there, and yeah, it’s substantial. Video evidence that Tim Tracy has been meeting with the druggy, drinky, dollar-hungry JAVU punks (whose terrorist manifesto I’ve already translated and discussed here.) That’s one of 500 videos shot by the perps themselves, all taken into custody by the SEBIN agents as evidence of their plot. JAVU and Tracy are, in short, thoroughly fucked. As is a certain ex-general who also appears in the video, advising the punks on how to organize:

Ah yes, the peaceful, democratic Venezuelan opposition. So credible. And their gringo spook candy-man. So innocent. Meanwhile, there’s about 500 videos, all shot by themselves, to attest the opposite.

Yeah, that’s “scant” evidence, all right.

Hey, Reuters? Maybe you should learn some Spanish. And maybe learn journalism too, while you’re at it. At the very least, try learning how not to sleep through a fucking press conference. Okay?

Note: This entry has been amended following release of a longer, better version of last night’s Aporrea story.

Once again, shoddy journalism from the Schloppenheimer

schloppenheimer

If you ever wonder why I don’t think very highly of Andrés Oppenheimer, the Miami Horrid’s little scribbler of untruths and inanities on all things Venezuela, maybe this will provide you some clues. He is, among other things, a rude and disingenuous little shit:

Venezuelan deputy and now chargé d’affaires to the United States, Calixto Ortega, debunked the false accusations of Argentine journalist Andrés Oppenheimer against the revolutionary government and President Nicolás Maduro.

“You made statements which don’t correspond to reality, maybe you’re misinformed,” said the parliamentarian, addressing Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer, upon being “blown away” by Ortega, cut the interviewee’s audio, and made excuses, saying: “A public apology to Venezuelan deputy Calixto Ortega for Skype being down when we were talking.”

The video was shown by the host of VTV’s “Dossier”, Walter Martínez, who commented: “How nice — another worthy example of the garbage of Fox News and CNN, that Señor Oppenheimer.”

Translation mine.

Here’s the video of that:

See, this is why journalism is going downhill in the Northern Hemisphere. They don’t have enough people like Walter Martínez, who is honest and courteous, and never makes excuses…because he never HAS to. Instead, we up here get a whole slew of drecky Schloppenheimers.

And that, gentle reader, is why you won’t know shit about Venezuela as long as you trust the media up here.

Headline Howler: It’s always opposite day at The Economist

economist-bad-covers

Ugh, how disgraceful. Don’t you people hire fact-checkers anymore? It’s not like you don’t have the cash…although at this rate, you may soon lose so much readership that you end up in serious financial trouble. Here, let me fix that for you:

economist-fixed-covers

Much better!

Festive Left Friday Blogging: El Ecuadorable is full of win

You can’t keep a good president down…or shut him up. And why would you want to, when he empowers his own people to speak out, too? Especially not when he just won a very important prize for doing just that?

The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, will receive a journalism prize on December 4 in Argentina from a public university.

The Directing Council of the Faculty of Journalism and Social Communication of the National University of La Plata resolved unanimously to present Correa with the Rodolfo Walsh Prize in the category of “Latin American president for popular communication”.

The distinction, which has already been awarded to the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, as well as Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, will be presented to Correa on December 4 in La Plata, 50 kilometres south of the capital, Buenos Aires.

The Directing Council emphasized the role of Correa in the process of cultural and social change in Latin America “since the political decision of the States and the peoples to break with the logic of neoliberalism, in favor of inclusive and popular politics in all ambits — fundamentally, in the area of communication.”

The Directing Council added that “for decades, owing to the concentration of media in few hands”, social organizations “did not have a chance for their voices to circulate and be heard”.

“The Ecuadorian political project, headed by Correa, proposes precisely the opposite: offer tools to the poor and marginalized sectors of society for speaking out and telling their own stories.”

The council’s communiqué also emphasizes the “deepening of democratic quality” in Ecuador, the incorporation of communication as a human right in the new national constitution, the participation of the Ecuadorian government in the creation of the international news network Telesur, and the new laws on media and communications currently before the National Assembly.

“Rafael Correa is one of the current protagonists in the battle against hegemonic will, which is attempting to restrict speech and, by way of that, individual and social subjects,” the resolution added.

Translation mine.

Well. Fancy that. And here the anglo whore media keep telling us that Correa is silencing and restricting free speech and yadda-yadda-yadda. They lied to us again. Imagine that! You’d almost think they were a mouthpiece for corporate interests themselves, eh?

And in case you wonder if this wasn’t just some politically motivated prize, here are some facts about the man it was named for:

Rodolfo Jorge Walsh (born on January 9, 1927 in Lamarque*) was an Argentine writer, considered the founder of investigative journalism. He is most famous for his Open Letter from a Writer to the Military Junta which he wrote the day before his murder, protesting that their economic policies were having an even greater effect on ordinary Argentines than their human rights abuses. He was murdered on March 25, 1977.

Rodolfo Walsh was a progressive of the Argentine left, murdered by the corporate-friendly fascist military junta for daring to exercise freedom of speech. If you think capitalists care a damn for freedom of speech, be warned: they want to limit it most severely. If they had their way, only the most elite of their designated mouthpieces would get it at all.

And in fact, that was the situation in all of Latin America until fairly recently, when all these Bolivarian presidents began to be elected and to change things. First Chavecito, then Evo, then Rafael Correa. They all began to allocate serious money for public, community and alternative media, and to collaborate on the Telesur network, which is Latin America’s answer to the corporatist crapaganda of CNN en Español. The result: an explosion of alternatives to the bullshit narrative of There Is No Alternative.

Or as Chavecito said in the opener to The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: “Clearly there are other ways, and here in Latin America, we are proving it!”

Congratulations, Mashi Rafael.

A few random thoughts on a former general

I have a terrible confession to make: When the news of the Petraeus sex scandal broke this past week, my first reaction was to chuckle. Not in the usual “ha ha, another cheatypants got caught, serves him right” sense (although there was no small amount of Schadenfreude there, either); it was more out of a sardonic sense of irresistible metaphor. It was all about an irony that had been hiding, as all such ironies do, in very plain sight.

And yes, I have to admit, the embarrassment of it all tickled me, too. Aren’t intelligence agents constantly being warned about the dangers of seduction, when they’re not being instructed to use it to gain information they can’t get any other way? How delicious, then, to see the head of the world’s most feared and hated spy agency caught in the same trap his covert agents have set repeatedly, all over the world. And how hilariously ironic that the same terrorist traps the FBI keeps setting in vain, under the auspices of the so-called Patriot Act, ended up catching not some obscure cell with nefarious world-takeover plans, but a four-star general who’d at one point led the war against precisely such insurgencies. Or so we’re told by our lovely presstitutes.

After all, the former general and CIA director wasn’t just boinking some boring little bottle-blonde secretary; the Other Woman was his chief hagiographer. She was a military veteran and West Point grad herself. Just like him, she was in the business of selling neoconservatism, bad ideologies, and wars that cost a fucking fortune in every conceivable sense. She did not keep a low profile, as Other Women are wont to do. She was constantly thrusting herself into the spotlight to sing his praises (and promote her magnum opus). She was the person who spit-shined his medals to a high gloss in a “biography” that seemed to be written, at times, from straight inside his pants. There was no pretense of objectivity, only a constant, unremitting effort to elevate David Petraeus to divinity. A divinity which, even then, we peaceniks and Dirty Fucking Hippies knew he did not deserve.

But the media brushed right past us. It ignored what the former intelligence professionals were saying, too, about the BushCo wars being unwinnable. They hopped right on the pro-war bandwagon. They praised the “brilliant” strategy and lost sight of the reality on the ground. Gosh oh golly gee wow, isn’t David Petraeus wonderful? Yeah, that Iraq surge went great. So great that Iraq is now permanently fucked. Petraeus made that.

And that’s not all he made. He damn near dragged the Obama administration into yet another unwinnable neo-con war, this one with Iran. And on the flimsiest and dumbest of pretexts, too:

One person familiar with the Obama administration’s thinking said President Obama was never close to Petraeus, who was viewed as a favorite of the neoconservatives and someone who had undercut a possible solution to Iran’s nuclear program in 2011 by pushing a bizarre claim that Iranian intelligence was behind an assassination plot aimed at the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

As that case initially evolved, the White House and Justice Department were skeptical that the plot traced back to the Iranian government, but Petraeus pushed the alleged connection which was then made public in a high-profile indictment. The charges further strained relations with Iran, making a possible military confrontation more likely.

At the time, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, a favored recipient of official CIA leaks, reported that “one big reason [top U.S. officials became convinced the plot was real] is that CIA and other intelligence agencies gathered information corroborating the informant’s juicy allegations and showing that the plot had support from the top leadership of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the covert action arm of the Iranian government.”

Ignatius added that, “it was this intelligence collected in Iran” that swung the balance. But Ignatius offered no examples of what that intelligence was. Nor did Ignatius show any skepticism regarding Petraeus’s well-known hostility toward Iran and how that might have influenced the CIA’s judgment.

As it turned out, the case was based primarily on statements from an Iranian-American car dealer Mansour Arbabsiar, who clumsily tried to hire drug dealers to murder Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir, though Arbabsiar was actually talking to a Drug Enforcement Agency informant. Arbabsiar pled guilty last month as his lawyers argued that their client suffers from a bipolar disorder. In other words, Petraeus and his CIA escalated an international crisis largely on the word of a person diagnosed by doctors of his own defense team as having a severe psychiatric disorder.

Despite the implausibility of the assassination story and the unreliability of the key source, the Washington press corps quickly accepted the Iranian assassination plot as real. That assessment reflected the continued influence of neoconservatives in Official Washington and Petraeus’s out-sized reputation among journalists.

The neocons, who directed much of President George W. Bush’s disastrous foreign policy and filled the ranks of Mitt Romney’s national security team, have favored a heightened confrontation with Iran in line with the hardline position of Israel’s Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the post-election period, it is a top neocon goal to derail Obama’s efforts to work out a peaceful settlement of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. The neocons favor “regime change.”

If ever there was a reason to be glad Mitt Romney lost the election, there it is. One more foreign policy disaster. Brought to you by the same PNAC/Likud faction that brought you the Afghan and Iraq catastrophes. Let’s not forget that Iran was always on the keeker; it was part of the “Axis of Evil”, remember?

Thankfully Barack Obama wasn’t dumb enough to fall for that flimsy tale. (You can see now why he was wise to end the Iraq invasion, too, can’t you? We’ll talk more about Afghanistan when he realizes it’s past time to shut that one down, too. Maybe now he’ll finally start firing all those BushCo leftovers on his team and start fresh with sane people. Hope ‘n’ change, people — get the fuck ON with it.)

Meanwhile, the same media imbeciles who were so busy promoting every highly-polished Petraeus turd that they couldn’t even look up for an instant, are in mourning. The same David Ignatius who took the Iranian lunatic’s lie and ran with it is now weeping tears of blood. Too bad he forgot something:

Ignatius adoringly adduces the following quote from Petraeus as proof of the ex-general’s acute vision: “As I see it, strategic leadership is fundamentally about big ideas, and, in particular, about four tasks connected with big ideas. First, of course, you have to get the big ideas right — you have to determine the right overarching concepts and intellectual underpinnings to accomplish your organization’s mission.

“Second, you have to communicate the big ideas effectively through the breadth and depth of the organization. Third, you have to oversee the implementation of the big ideas. And fourth, and finally, you have to capture lessons from the implementation of the big ideas, so that you can refine the overarching concepts and repeat the overall process.”

Got that? That’s probably right out of Petraeus’s PhD dissertation at Princeton, or from a how-to book that might be called “Management Rhetoric for Dummies.”

If only Petraeus and his colleague generals remembered the smaller – but far more relevant – ideas inculcated in all of us Army officers in Infantry School at Fort Benning in the early Sixties. This is what I recall from memory regarding what an infantry officer needed to do before launching an operation – big or small – division or squad size.

Corny (and gratuitous) as it may sound, we were taught that the absolute requirement was to do an “Estimate of the Situation” that included the following key factors: Enemy strength, numbers and weapons; Enemy disposition, where are they?; Terrain; Weather; and Lines of communication and supply (LOCS). In other words, we were trained to take into account those “little ideas,” like facts and feasibility that, if ignored, could turn the “big ideas” into a March of Folly that would get a lot of people killed for no good reason.

Could it be that they stopped teaching these fundamentals as Petraeus went through West Point and Benning several years later? Did military history no longer include the futile efforts of imperial armies to avoid falling into the “graveyard of empires” in Afghanistan?

What about those LOCS? When you can’t get there from here, is it really a good idea to send troops and armaments the length of Pakistan and then over the Hindu Kush? And does anyone know how much that kind of adventure might end up costing?

To Army officers schooled in the basics, it was VERY hard to understand why the top Army leadership persuaded President Barack Obama to double down, twice, in reinforcing troops for a fool’s errand. And let’s face it, unless you posit that the generals and the neoconservative strategic “experts” at Brookings and AEI were clueless, the doubling down was not only dumb but unconscionable.

Small wonder all the talk about “long war” and Petraeus’s glib prediction that our grandchildren will still be fighting the kind of wars in which he impressed the likes of David Ignatius.

Ike Eisenhower wasn’t kidding when he talked about the Military-Industrial Complex. And Smedley Butler wasn’t talking out his hat either when he said that war was a racket. What Ray McGovern, the veteran intel pro who opposed these wars from the outset, understands that the media doesn’t, is that wars are not won or lost on the basis of who’s got the “big ideas” and “overarching concepts”. The people on the ground don’t give a shit for those. And the locals will only see foreign invaders and oppressors, NOT Big Ideas And Overarching Concepts. They’re not stupid; they know what a foreign uniform and gun mean. Their hearts and minds are not winnable with big talk; you might as well be tossing cluster bombs to their kids as candy from the tank turrets.

The salesmanlike bullshit of Petraeus ought to be apparent even to those of us who don’t have the privilege of a West Point officer-training course. If you’ve heard similar things from some civilian in a cheap suit and dismissed it accordingly (and I have, and I bet you have too), why buy it when it comes courtesy of some big-brass guy with a folksy-shucksy grin and a chestful of medals?

Oh yeah, that’s right: the only bright spot, if you can call it that, in the Bush Recession, was that there were plenty of job opportunities for young, poor, barely-educated cannon fodder. It’s the economy, stupid! At a time when well-paying manufacturing jobs are being cut and shipped overseas to where labor is so cheap that at times it amounts to outright slavery, what’s left at home? The so-called service economy. Which is also so poorly paid that it might as well be slavery. You can’t afford rent, much less a starter home, on a McJob paycheque. So when the handsome young guys in the spiffy uniforms approach you, ever so personably, at the mall, trying to interest you in the Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines, and tell you you can get your college education and better job opportunities that way, you start to think of entering a different kind of service opportunity, one that will glorify you some day as a Veteran. Assuming that you come out alive. Would you like fries with that?

So yeah, the snickering from my corner is full of a sense of vindication. What has the whole neo-con project been, if not a vast international fuckfest replete with lies, deception, doubletalk and crapaganda? One in which the media whores focused with lover-like intensity on the well-polished turds falling from the lips of “institute” hacks and four-star generals alike, while troops on the ground were killing and dying for, well, nothing?

Ah, maybe I shouldn’t say nothing. They killed and died, committed atrocities and fell victim to atrocities, for something, all right.

They did it all for bullshit.

How DID Simón Bolívar die?

A lifelike reconstruction of Simón Bolívar’s face, based on the skeletal remains from his tomb. It looks recognizably close to his many official likenesses.

Further to yesterday’s evisceration of Daniel Wallis’s shitty snarkathon at the expense of one democratically elected president, one Liberator, and five proud South American countries, I present the following excerpt from the official report on the forensic investigation into the death of Simón Bolívar:

Studies were done in order to determine via molecular biology the presence of different microbiological pathogens, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium bovis, Treponema pallidum, Brucella, Paracoccidioides brasiliensis, Plasmodium sp. Leishmania donovani and L. cutanea, all of which were negative.

Still pending is an investigation to determine the possibility of an infection by Histoplasma capsulatum. This process will permit us to compare and determine the existence of that particular pattern in ancient DNA. This fungus is the causative agent of chronic pulmonary histoplasmosis, in which there may be adenomegalies and disseminated calcifications in the lungs and spleen. This illness presets signs and symptoms very similar to those of chronic pulmonary tuberculosis with cavitations. It is most common in men of middle age, elderly persons, and patients with immune deficiencies, developing over a period of months or years, with lapses of inactivity and sometimes, spontaneous healing; or it can lead to death if not treated properly.

Chemical analyses to determine the presence of arsenic (As) were not conclusive; although there is no clinical evidence of poisoning by this element, it is a known fact that the records of the treating physician of the Liberator, Dr. Alejandro Próspero Reverend, describe a treatment in which [Bolívar] received medicaments containing arsenic.

The administration of cantharide powder, obtained from a dried insect (Lytta vesicatoria), given to the Liberator in elevated doses and in the form of plasters, is a poison which produces blisters on the skin at the site of administration, and acts on the genito-urinary system. Cantharide poisoning presents the following symptoms: difficulty urinating, more frequent urination, and blood in the urine, alterations which can progress to the point of anuria (cessation of urination) and thus, to acute renal failure, this bringing about the final chain of events in the death of the Liberator.

These clinical manifestations, added to the resurgent chronic broncho-pulmonary disease, evidenced by difficulty breathing, thoracic pain (more intense on the right side), cough with mucopurulent expectoration and fever, caused in the Liberator a hypoxia marked by diminished oxygen pressure and hydro-electric disturbances, which manifested with greater intensity at brain level, bringing about lapses of consciousness, raised capillary permeability, leakage of liquid from the intercellular and intravascular spaces into the interstitial space, with the consequent cerebral edema, which was accentuated by the hypoxia until it reached the cerebellar amygdalas and compressed the brain stem in which the centres governing respiration and cardiac function are located, leading to a cardio-respiratory cessation and, in consequence, death.

Translation mine.

And there you have it. TB didn’t kill Bolívar; someone please get Daniel Wallis on the horn and tell him that the official report found no evidence of it in the Liberator’s remains. No DNA from TB bacilli, either human OR bovine. How ’bout them apples?

But another possible cause of death is still undetermined, and its symptoms mimic those of TB. The fungal disease histoplasmosis does sound like a good candidate for the severe lung disease that is believed to have killed him. We’ll have to wait and see if indeed it is the culprit.

Meanwhile, arsenic is definitely NOT ruled out, as its use is listed in the papers of the Liberator’s treating physician. Is the exact dosage accurately listed, or was somebody fudging something? It’s hard to say for certain. The Liberator died in Colombia (home turf of his chief betrayer, Santander), waiting to get well enough leave South America and enter exile. Deliberate arsenic poisoning is a distinct possibility still. We’ll have to wait and see with this one, too.

Meanwhile, another interesting potential poison is listed: Cantharide powder, better known as “Spanish fly”. It is, as the report makes clear, a very nasty and highly toxic substance. If you’re looking to make someone horny, forget this one — unless you’re a necrophiliac, because it can cause a potentially lethal acute kidney failure, as it did in Bolívar. (Remember, this was more than a hundred years before the invention of the kidney dialysis machine, so the condition would not have been reversible, as it is today.) Bolívar’s physician gave it to him in the form of blister-raising plasters on the skin, possibly intending to draw down his fever; it ended up pulling his renal function down instead. This was one of the worst things anyone could have done to an already ailing Liberator, right up there with arsenic poisoning and bloodletting. But, like the other two, it could have been done with the best OR the worst of intentions. It’s a treatment that has long since fallen out of fashion, mercifully.

Long story short: Chavecito wasn’t wrong when he speculated that the Liberator was poisoned. He was indeed, and with more than one medicament. There is still the question of motive, and still the possibility that it was wholly unintentional. There is also the possibility that he did, in fact, die of histoplasmosis, or would have no matter how he was treated. The favored remedies of the day were all terrible, and he would have fared better without any of them.

But whatever actually killed the Liberator, tuberculosis has been ruled out. And I do believe that calls for a hearty chorus of “Suck it, Reuters!”