‘Indestructible’ podcast: Redressing the media imbalance on Latin America

July 2, 2021
Rodrigo Acuña, host of the new podcast, 'Indestructible'.

Already a vital source of Latin American news and analysis through its website, magazine and films, British-based media outlet Alborada.net has now launched a podcast, Indestructible, which is a must listen whether you keenly follow politics there or just want to learn more about a region largely neglected by the corporate media.

Green Left’s Federico Fuentes spoke to podcast host, Rodrigo Acuña, about the new initiative.

You have launched a new podcast in collaboration with Alborada. Could you tell us why you decided to do this and a bit about Alborada?

I have been working with Alborada for a few years now as a contributing editor and last year they reached out to me with the idea of hosting a podcast on Latin America covering stories the mainstream media ignores or misreports.

Alborada is a British-based media outlet founded by Pablo Navarrete who is also its editor. Alborada specialises on Latin America and has been publishing for over ten years now.

Alborada also has a film production unit called Alborada Films and they have released some very good political documentaries on Venezuela, Colombia and Chile, among others.

Given that I am no longer in academia and have decided to focus on my media career among other projects, hosting a podcast on Latin America was an easy decision.  

What is your aim for the podcast and who do you hope it to reach?

As I have written on the podcast’s website: “Generally, Latin America does not receive serious coverage in the English speaking mainstream media. When it does, we hear a brief mention of some major drug dealer being arrested, or a ‘controversial’ president having had to resign.

“Dig deeper behind these headlines and you’ll often find large webs of corruption, serious human rights abuses, massive social movements that go largely unreported and numerous western backed coup d’états in support of rather unsavoury characters.

“Often, the mainstream media avoids linking these developments with the actions of corporations, or governments that could be held accountable by their own audiences in the United States, Canada, Britain, or even here in Australia where I live.

Indestructible aims to readdress this imbalance.”

I will add that I have been observing and writing on Latin American politics for 15 years now, have a doctorate in International Studies on Venezuelan foreign policy, and still struggle to find quality journalism being produced in the mainstream media on the region.

While I would not go as far to say that nothing of quality can be found, I do think the overwhelming majority of serious reporting on Latin America is coming from independent media outlets, or a small amount of state-funded outlets that have some degree of editorial autonomy.

I would also add that, like myself, there are plenty of people that are highly qualified to write and comment on Latin America in the mainstream media, however, at an editorial level, mainstream media outlets are simply not interested.

Instead, the work that is promoted is rather superficial and extremely pro-Washington. The complexities of the region are to be ignored and any stories that cover US interventionism, or poor corporate practises in Latin America, simply are not fit to print.

Worse, at an editorial level, the mainstream media do not even hide their contempt for really attempting to understand, or objectively try and report on, Latin America.

A few years ago, for example, The Guardian sent a journalist to Caracas, Venezuela to cover events there on the ground except that this ‘respectable journalist’ didn’t speak a word of Spanish. The New York Times has been accused of doing the same thing. This is unbelievable but a far more common practise than you would think.

In terms of who the podcast aims to reach I would say just about everyone who has ever had even a remote interest in Latin America. To listen to Indestructible podcast, you don’t need to be a specialist or even someone who is deeply political.

The fact that commercial enterprises like Netflix constantly stream shows on the drug cartels in Latin America means many people are often interested in the region. To them I would say, listen to the podcast because you will learn that the reality of Latin America is far more interesting and empowering than anything a Hollywood screen writer could come up with.

Could you tell us a bit about some of the guests and topics you have covered in the first few episodes and what listeners can expect in coming episodes?

So far we have released four episodes and the feedback has been overwhelming positive.

In the first episode, I interviewed Mexican film director Eduardo Torres Flores about his new documentary 'Fidel Up Close: An Intimate Portrait of Fidel Castro'.

Torres Flores travelled to Cuba and was given an unprecedented amount of access by Castro’s family and the Cuban state into the life of the ex-Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. While I have viewed many documentaries on Fidel Castro’s life, I was surprised to see the amount of people that were interviewed in the film for the first time and the depth of information presented.

In another episode, I interview Julian Assange’s father, John Shipton, about his son’s case, and the connections his Wikileaks work has with Latin America.

During the third episode, I interview Mariela Kohon, who is a Senior International Officer at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in the United Kingdom, and worked as an advisor to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) during the signing of the historic 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian state and the FARC rebels. This interview was fascinating because Mariela was involved in some very high level negotiations in one of the world’s longest conflicts.

Finally, during our latest episode I talked to Alan MacLeod about how the corporate media in the English-speaking world covers Latin America and, among numerous issues, what they are not telling us about the region. Alan is a young journalist who works for the independent media outlet MintPress News and has written several books on how the English speaking corporate media covers Latin America.

If you have a skeptical position towards the mainstream corporate media, after listening to Alan your skepticism will be seriously reinforced. 

Alborada and I are just about to release the next episode of Indestructible, which is an interview with Camila Escalante who is a journalist based in Bolivia and works for the independent media outlet Kawsachun News.

We will also be speaking to ex-military intelligence officer and professor at the University of New South Wales Clinton Fernandes about the involvement of Australia’s intelligence agencies in Chile during the overthrow of the leftist government of Salvador Allende in 1973.

Internationally, while much information is known about the involvement of the Nixon administration and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in overthrowing Allende, very little is available about Australia’s activities, so this episode is going to be very interesting.

Finally, we have many excellent guests lined up to talk to us. These are people from Latin America or people that work on the region, either as journalists, academics, human rights lawyers or artists, to name just a few fields.

I think people who listen to the podcast will notice two things, which are that the questions I ask are well researched and, secondly, the people who are interviewed have many interesting things to say.

Unfortunately, as a small independent media project, this podcast does not have millions of dollars behind it for marketing. And yet, with only four episodes released, Alborada and I have been surprised by the number of people who have been willing to come on our podcast and be interviewed.

This makes me quite optimistic about the future of this project so I would urge your readers to checkout our podcast and support us in any way they can.

[Rodrigo Acuña is an expert on Latin American politics and freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter @rodrigoac7.]

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