Thursday, October 20, 2011

"The Murder of Laura Pollán" (Part 2)

Because Laura Pollán's death was reported late Friday evening (some believing deliberately so), it wasn't until Monday when Pollán's murder theory was presented. Roberto Rodriguez Tejera and Helen Aguirre Ferre probably heard Armando Perez Roura (Univision Radio colleague) on Radio Mambi Saturday make the bold and baseless claim that Laura Pollán was murdered, and surely they wanted to make the same claim. But, Rodriguez and Ferre are not militants like Perez Roura, and neither is their audience on WQBA 1140AM, so they knew that they had to present some kind of evidence.


"... a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or underweigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis."

So, on Monday at 4pm on WQBA the show "Prohibido Callarse" (Silence is Prohibited) started by announcing a "special program" examining the death of Laura Pollán (You can listen to an excerpt here courtesy of Rodriguez and Ferre had three guests from Cuba on the phone: Carlos Rios Otero (independent journalist for Cubanet), Mercedes Fresneda Castillo (dissident), and Sara Martha Fonseca Quevedo (dissident). Rios Otero mainly spoke as a witness to dissident accounts of ailments following confrontations with Cuban officials during political demonstrations. Both female dissidents, who march alongside the Ladies in White, gave personal testimony to ailments they suffered after confrontations with Cuban officials. Both claimed that during a past confrontation they felt a prick or pierce on their body which they attributed to a toxic injection.

Both ladies also mentioned 2 other female dissidents who have described a variety of ailments following a pricking sensation during past demonstrations: Caridad Caballero Batista and Mayra Morejon Hernandez. Also, Rios Otero reported that dissident Rita Maria Montes de Oca was currently hospitalized due to ailments suffered following a possible toxic injection.

After these testimonies, without any kind of scrutiny or interrogation of them, Roberto Rodriguez Tejera claims "proof" of toxic injections against dissidents by Cuban officials, and therefore "everything seems to indicate" that Laura Pollán was also the victim of a toxic injection before her sudden death.


Unfortunately, the whole show was an example of journalistic laziness, manipulation, and lack of ethics. Rodriguez and Ferre's story is actually borrowed (without credit) from a blogger named Angelica Mora. During the time Laura Pollán was hospitalized with a serious respiratory illness, and right before her death, Mora began a two-part post [1 and 2] provoking the possibility that Pollán was secretly injected with a virus. Carlos Rios Otero, Mercedes Fresneda Castillo, Sara Martha Fonseca, Rita Maria Montes de Oca and Mayra Morejon Hernandez all appear in Mora's story.

Also the supposed pricking and ailment stories may be months or years old. Rodriguez or Ferre commit a serious lapse of journalistic ethics by not establishing a timeline of events. In the Univision clip, Mercedes Fresneda mentions getting a blood test after suffering some ailments, but never mentions the date. According to this recently uploaded interview, Mayra Morejon Hernandez was with Fresneda when she claimed to be pricked and her blood tested. It was in 2009. Sara Martha Fonseca mentions she was injected during a march with the Ladies in White, but she's not asked for a date. Fonseca has been marching with the Ladies in White as far back as March 2010 (check bio here).

Carlos Rios Otero is mentioned in the Angelica Mora story because last month he wrote a story called "Toxic Injections" for Cubanet. In the story, Otero writes that "according to reports... many dissidents [during political repression by Cuban officials] have been given injections that have provoked toxic reactions." The reactions are made up of various forms of physical ailments. But, no names of dissidents are given, and no other sources are provided, just "reports" and speculation. On WQBA Otero claimed to have conducted various interviews with dissidents, and the testimony was mostly the same: various ailments followed by alleged injections during a protest. Also, the various ailments suffered are always different from the other, and never the same symptoms.

Finally, the only testimony that seems strongest comes from Mercedes Fresneda. She claims that she received a blood test (in 2009) in response to her ailments and alleged injection. The results of the test showed a high level of lead in her blood. When Roberto Rodriguez Tejera heard this testimony he gasped.

Fortunately, next week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week and it should provide the team at WQBA and the show "Prohibido Callarse" (looking at you Roberto and Helen) an opportunity to learn more about lead poisoning, and give us a better clue about why Mercedes Fresneda may have high levels of lead in her body.

According to some basic information about lead poisoning (a "major environmental health problem" in the US), adults are vulnerable to this hazard for various reasons, such as exposure to dust from common renovation activities, especially on home structures older than 1978.

So, quite simply, Rodriguez and Ferre may have highly exaggerated their claims of "proof." And, their theory where "everything seems to indicate" that Pollán was injected by a toxic substance is still merely an allegation no different than Armando Perez Roura's.

Unfortunately for Miami, the (propaganda) damage seems to have been done.

[*Excellent link about confirmation bias.]

[Part One]
[Part Three]

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