The Venezuelan plane with the Iranian crew, currently grounded at Ezeiza International Airport, is a very interesting case study for the analysis of how a communication battle is deployed. Straight news, half-truths, omissions and directly fake news are interlinked within a conceptual promiscuity proper to those situations where prior emotions convert into truth whatever confirms preconceived ideas.
A communication expert would probably be on target, even if cynical, in advising a government: “Don’t shed light on the dark and shut up all your officials,” in the hope that some subsequent news items (e.g. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Flag Day speech, the Recoleta fire) will displace news of the plane in the main headlines.
The same is happening with the private companies towards whom the cargo brought to Argentina by the Emtrasur aircraft was heading – the Volkswagen people do not want to speak on the record while the Faurecia car parts company (the multinational supplier of Volkswagen importing the seats and dashboards coming from Mexico for the Taos model of Volkswagen) do not attend reporters directly, whether calling on the telephone or travelling to their plant in La Plata’s industrial suburb of Berisso.
The explanation would be that, given the lack of seats and dashboards (also at their Brazilian subsidiary to complete the units of the Taos model with a daily output of 200 finished vehicles) they had to fly them in from Mexico instead of bringing them in by boat, given that delays in delivery are punished by fine by law.
Days later, another shipment of auto parts for Faurecia/Volkswagen, also from Mexico, arrived aboard another air freight carrier, this time a United States company, which would confirm that the imported auto parts were necessary and urgent.
Obviously neither Faurecia nor Volkswagen are responsible for the international air freight forwarder Fracht USA contracting first a Venezuelan aeroplane and then a US plane, while it is understandable that their executives do not want to come out explaining, in order not to trigger more news linking their brand to something sinister according to public opinion. But limiting themselves to a solitary communiqué which began by saying: “SAS Automotriz Argentina informs that it has no relationship with the situation of the Boeing 747-300 freight transport aircraft of Venezuelan origin” permitted information to circulate denying the contents of the cargo of the Emtrasur plane.
The fact that the transported goods were genuine does not take away from the possibility of their being an alibi to cover up other ends. With the 250,000 litres of fuel for a Boeing 747 costing around US$300,000, to finally decide whether the Emtrasur flight was commercially logical or not, you would need to know whether there was a freight contract with Argentina or passengers to take back to Venezuela, Mexico or some other destination.
Also not explaining anything (presumably because it would also darken the picture) are the government of Venezuela, its Embassy in Argentina and its flag carrier Conviasa, probably at the request of the Argentine government to try and remove the case from the agenda in the hope that, with no new information on the issue, the scandal will follow the same course as the alleged corruption of the Vaca Muerta pipeline being built by Techint, denounced by many of the same members of the opposition denouncing the Iranian aircraft and shelved 10 days later.
Worse than the lack of information is false information such as the pilot Gholamreza Ghasemi being a namesake of an important Iranian government official “because the pilot was 10 years younger,” according to Security Minister Aníbal Fernández. Without going so far, the antagonists of the government have also been sloppy when weighing information. That the aeroplane formed part of the airlines Mahan Air and Qeshm Fars Air when the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of Washington’s Treasury Department penalises “those doing business with Iranian airlines exposed to the application of OFAC sanctions” does not imply that sanctions against legal entities (a company) also apply to physical persons (a pilot or company executive since Gholamreza Ghasemi was also the main director of the company). The Iranian crew of the Emtrasur aircraft would have to be themselves accused of terrorism to be able to be tried and/or extradited. In fact there were no red alerts nor arrest warrants nor legal charges against these physical persons.
While nothing has been denounced prior to the arrival of the aircraft, judge Federico Villena could still indict the Iranian pilot for anything newly committed in Argentina – an illegality such as espionage – with some evidence or via a transitory appeal to the doctrine of “the criminal law of the enemy,” the Feindstrafrecht as defined by German Professor Günter Jakobs at a 1985 Berlin criminal law congress where he separated criminal law for ordinary citizens from such enemies as terrorism, drug-trafficking, organised crime and human-trafficking. Jakobs denies such enemies the condition of a “person” because for somebody to be considered a citizen they have to give in exchange “a certain cognitive guarantee that they will behave as a person.” If no such guarantee exists, they will be submitted to suspicion, considering them as “the possible creator of dangers not permitted and a potential enemy with their conduct characterised as creating danger.” Something similar to the police right to detain persons under suspicion, which cannot be sustained without the existence of evidence. Instead of judging individuals for their past actions, the criminal law of the enemy preventively removes them from society in light of their possible future actions. It was widely used in the United States as from the Twin Towers attack in New York in 2001 when people began to become suspects solely on account of their origin or religion. Guantánamo prison was its paroxysm.
In the Middle Ages, women accused of witchcraft were burnt at the stake but it wasn’t always gender prejudice. The character of the enemy of society was tackled by philosophers of the stature of Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant or Jean-Jacques Rousseau and was always controversial.
Further confusing information indicated that less passengers arrived than had departed, also triggering a wave of suspicions because the previous month the aircraft had been in Ciudad del Este on the Paraguayan side of the Triple Frontier, the focus of South American terrorism. The decisive attitude of Paraguay’s Intelligence minister Esteban Aquino contrasts with the permissive way he previously not only permitted the aeroplane to land and take off again last month without problems but also the Iranian crew to spend three days in that city without any restrictions.
Regarding the aeroplane, the possibility was rumoured of the Argentine State decommissioning it and selling it off to pay compensation to the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks. In that case they could continue with the Iranian Embassy in Argentina, located on Figueroa Alcorta Avenue 3229 in Barrio Parque, facing the lifelong home of Franco Macri.
Although understandable due to the wounds left behind by the attacks on the Israeli Embassy and the AMIA Jewish community centre, it is always desirable to raise the level of discussion in such complex issues requiring the best of us.