Disbelief -- that's what's being expressed by family members and colleagues of newspaper columnist Vicky Pelaez, who, with her husband and 8 others, were arrested yesterday and accused of spying for Russia. Waldomar Mariscal, the 38 year old son of Pelaez and Juan Lazaro, told reporters he doesn't believe the allegations against his parents.
WNYC's Marianne McCune discusses what people who know Pelaez are saying.
You've been following up on Vicky Pelaez, who's a columnist for the Spanish language daily El Diario. What are people at that paper saying?
Well, they are not supposed to be saying anything. Everything is being directed to the press person for the paper's parent company. But, I have spoken to some of her current and former colleagues and they're saying that they're completely surprised--and many are in total disbelief. A court reporter there, Candida Portugues, says she's been working with Pelaez for seven years, and admires her work, admires that she speaks frankly about what she believes. And you could hear in our phone conversation how blown away she is by this arrest.
"I can't believe it. I can't believe it. I will have to see it. Let's see the case when we go to court, because I can't believe it," Portugues said.
Portugues said she agreed to talk to me because she's afraid no one will take it upon themselves to stand up for Pelaez. She says she is a serious journalist, a lover of painting -- she takes painting classes two or three nights a week -- and a very involved mother. Her younger son is a pianist.
But Pelaez is a controversial columnist.
Yes, she's very left-wing, especially on Latin American issues, and you have people in the blogosphere who strongly disagree with her saying, "Oh, I'm surprised she wasn't a spy for the Cuban government." She has supported Hugo Chavez, the leader of Venezuela. She's been complimentary of Fidel Castro of Cuba and of course very critical of the U.S. government at times. But then, her supporters say, "OK, she's critical, that doesn't make her a criminal."