When I first heard that El Aissami had published a full-page ad in the New York Times today, I was sure that an expensive U.S.-based lawyer must have written the piece. Now that I’ve read the ad, I’m not so sure.

First, the ad contains a number of elementary writing errors. For example, the ad refers interchangeably to the United States as the “US”, “U.S.” and “USA.”. Proper form dictates that the writer pick one abbreviation and stick with it throughout the piece for the sake of clarity and consistency. Also, the writer refers to the “U.S” more than once, which is incorrect because following that convention, the S should be followed by a period (as is the U).

Second, there are several grammatical errors that indicate to me that the person who wrote the ad is a native Spanish speaker and does not have a full grasp on the English language. While this in itself does not discount the possibility that a U.S.-based lawyer wrote the piece, it is surprising that a presumably thorough and careful professional would let these errors slip through what one would presume to be a carefully-crafted text. Here are three examples of these errors:

  • The writer refers to the “United Nations Organization (UNO)”. In English, we refer to that body simply as the United Nations (UN). However, in Spanish, the name of that same body is “Organización de las Naciones Unidas (ONU)”. In other words, the writer appears to have gone for a literal translation of the Spanish name rather than going with the English one.
  • The writer refers to “drugs trafficking” more than once. In English, the term used to describe the illicit transport of narcotics across borders is “drug trafficking”, using the singular form of the word “drug”. However, in Spanish, the equivalent term is “trafico de drogas”, which uses the plural of the word for drug, which is “droga”. Again, the writer appears to have literally translated the Spanish term into English instead of defaulting to the English term.
  • The writer capitalizes words that shouldn’t be capitalized (i.e., “US Administration”, “People”, “Homeland”). These are words that are routinely capitalized in Venezuelan Spanish, and I do not believe that a fluent English speaker would have made the error of writing these words in capital letters to essentially no effect whatsoever.

From a more substantive perspective, the ad also contains a wealth of material of questionable effectiveness for El Aissami’s defense.

For example, in defending El Aissami against allegations that he is a drug trafficker, the writer touts how many drug traffickers were arrested during his tenure as “the head of Venezuela’s security corps”. Here, the writer is clearly trying to make the superficial claim that El Aissami cannot possibly be a drug trafficker because he personally put away so many drug traffickers. On its face, this claim is paper-thin: it is the same as a police officer saying that she could not possibly break the law because she is tasked with upholding it.

The ad also makes vague references to events that, given their loose descriptions, cannot be accurately identified. For example, the writer claims that the United Nations once declared Venezuela “a drug free territory”, a claim that is both bold and for which I could find no record. The writer also makes reference to 120 countries agreeing to “reject these illegal measures adopted against Venezuela”, but it is not at all clear what the “illegal measures” are. From the context of the ad it would appear that the writer is referencing the sanctions placed against El Aissami last week, but the lack of clarity in the writing makes this determination a difficult one to make. Finally, the writer echoed comments made by Maduro and Foreign Affairs Delcy Rodriguez last week that the sanctions were illegal according to international law, but takes the claim further: they are also illegal according to U.S. law. As far as I can tell, neither of these claims is accurate in any way. Sanctions, specially those targeting individuals, are the prerogative of independent nation states to implement, sometimes unilaterally, against the target of their choice.

I am not sure who wrote this ad. If it was a lawyer, El Aissami wasted his money. If it was El Aissami himself, he wasted his time.

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2 thoughts on “Opinion: Deconstructing El Aissami’s NYT Ad

  1. Pingback: 02.26.17: Mobsters, Criminals and Drug Traffickers | In Venezuela

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