Have been doing some digging on the recent claim that suggests that Iran and Venezuela are building a missile base in Paraguana. This piece of news is problematic. The claim was first made in November last year, by a German journalist who works for Die Welt, called Clemens Wergin. On 13 May, the piece was reprinted again by Die Welt, by the same author. Upon publication, some news outlets around the world quickly launched into the let's-bash-Chavez-regardless-of-whether-or-not-what's-being-reported-can-be-independently-verified mode. Thing is, unlike nearly all of those commenting on the issue, I have been to desert-like Paraguana, many times, and I have also been chronicling the Chavez revolution for almost 9 years now. So, I do have a problem with this claim.
Trouble, for Mr. Wergin's credibility that is, is that I am not alone in my incredulity towards his breaking news. The U.S. State Department basically called Mr. Wergin's report incredible. It must be borne in mind, that the U.S. has a military base in neighbouring Curaçao, and the area is heavily monitored not only from there, but from satellites and other bases in Colombia, and Puerto Rico, through joint military intelligence and cooperation. The DEA and the U.S. Navy are also very active in the area. Perhaps Mr. Wergin would like the world to take his word at face value. Problem is, without presenting a single piece of verifiable evidence, only conspiracy theorists, and lazy journalists and analysts will risk reputation by echoing his claim. It appears that CNN challenged Mr. Wergin, who stated:
"I can't say anything more than that they are sources from Western security circles with whom I have worked for 10 years, for which I believe they are credible... My guess is that this is information that is interchanged in Western security circles."
However, the U.S. DoS is cited by CNN as stating "...that it reviews all information pertaining to Iranian military involvement in the hemisphere, but that it could not vouch for the report...", which was deemed as not "credible."
I thought I would do the sensible thing, which is of course to contact Mr. Wergin to ask him for further explanations. Alas Mr. Wergin has not replied to any of the messages I have sent for his attention to Die Welt, his blog, or his Facebook page. So which is it? How can anyone give credence to unverifiable and unsubstantiated claims made by a German journalist who is not even an expert in Latin America? How come his editors at Die Welt, after the hugely embarrassing and equally incredible claim of Colin Powell on the existence of "mobile factories of WMD" in Iraq, are allowing publication of such claims?