Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The sin of omission

Clark Hoyt’s recent review of the reporting done by the Herald in the case of the Martí Moonlighters affirmed that although the Herald didn’t intentionally publish any false information, certain facts were omitted from the story that could have given it more balance.

Well Hank Tester is reporting that Frank Hernandez Trujillo, the executive director of Grupo de Apoyo a La Democracia, one of the groups specifically mentioned in the Oscar Corral’s recent articles (and an Ana Menendez column) about questionable expenditures of federal monies earmarked for Cuban democracy initiatives, is “hot as a skillet, claiming the Herald did not get the entire story out.

Tester quotes an email he received from Hernandez Trujillo:

The Herald reports we only spent 13 percent of our budget purchasing food and medications. The reason is we received over $3 million in food and medications donations, primarily from two well-known South Florida corporations.

We have sent over 350,000 pounds of assistance in food, medications, clothing, short-wave radios, medical equipment, etc. The Herald mentions an exercise bike sent to Cuba. I explained to the writer of the article the exercise bike was sent to a doctor in Santiago, Cuba who maintains an independent clinic at his house and offered to provide him with the telephone number of the doctor so he could verify the facts. Also, that part of our budget is for medical equipment, so in any case the item was covered under the agreement. He chose to publish it without any explanation.

We have sent over 100,000 books and magazines with over one hundred different titles. He chose to mention Harry Potter and The Alchemist and "forgot" to mention the rest.
Hat Tip to: Hank Tester


None E. Moose said...


This is in no way meant to defend what I have come to believe, with my own eyes, is the Herald's consistently shoddy research and selective inclusion of facts in its reporting. But something about Hernandez Trujillo's response, as you have reprinted it here, fails to address the clear implications of misuse of funds levelled aginst him and the Cuban "democratic industrial complex" as a whole. I'm just talking math here.

How does the fact that Hernandez-Trujillo's group received some $3M in donations serve to refute or otherwise explain the allegation that only 13% of its funding went towards the purchase of food and medications? I have no quarrel with the impressive amounts of aid the group has made available to the Cuban people, and in fact I commend it. But either you spent 13% of the budget on food and medication, or you spent more, or you spent less. Where does the impact of donations figure in?

I could be missing the point of the response, beyond the intent to expose the Herald's incomplete exposition of all the relevant facts, especially those which would be sympathetic to the target. But the numbers are still not adding up. And a 13% figure has been enough to draw scrutiny in other charities. It's why they have the metric in the first place.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Well I think that as one of the groups that was mentioned in the Herald's report, he has a beef. The fact that he can count on millions of dollars on donated goods mean that he can spend more (of the federal funds) on the means to get the stuff into the island.

But again the point isn't what percent was used for what but the fact that he made these things clear to Corral and that they were ommitted from the report. How much do other groups receive in donations? What percentage of the overall budget of these groups do donations make? Did Corral even ask? I think that question deserves an answer.

As I said in my review of the first article on this subject (at babalu) why is anyone surprised that government programs are innefficient and don't work as well as we would like them to?

To use Clark Hoyt's word, I think the Herald coverage of the Radio Marti and now the Cuban democracy programs is "breathless".

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Real quick to make it clearer...

When you add the 3 million that he received in donations to whatever funds he received from the government what do the numbers look like.

An example. Let's say he got $3 Million from the government and 13% went towards buying actual stuff. that's $390,000 in stuff. But when you add the $3 million in stuff that was donated you get $3.39 million or 56.5% of the total budget that went towards stuff.

I just made those numbers up. I doubt that the difference is that dramatic but the point is Hernandez explained his side and didn't get a fair hearing. There was no mention as to the impact of donations on these programs.

None E. Moose said...

Henry, I understand the larger point re the MH's fuzzy coverage, and I agree wholeheartedly that there is an agenda of some sort. My concern is that, regardless of the Herald's insidious animus towards the Cuban community, the community might through its actions and reactions be enabling the dysfunction.

I am not an expert on how the grants/funding of pro-democracy groups (which I assume are NPO's) works. Moreover, I a can accept the formula of your example. And yet, wouldn't the GAO's preoccupation naturally be with the actual grant funding, irrespective of charitable donations? I can picture a scenario where the grant was for operations and no condition at all was placed on the funds having to be actually used to purchase supplies at all. If that is the case, there is yet another example where information was lacking. However, the exact opposite could be true--- that funding was to be used for purchases, on some level or another. And it is that scenario, under scrutiny, which I fear clouds any argument of bias in the reporting, as bad as that may be. Let's always be sure we are not providing some greater evil...

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

I don't disagree with you. The only thing I will add is that if you read the GAO report it does not seem as judgemental as the Herald's stories.