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Reporters on the Job

September 12, 2002



• SAMPLING VENEZUELAN TEAR GAS: Reporter Phil Gunson says that the Plaza Bolivar in downtown Caracas has long been a place of political unrest (page 7). It's not unusual to see members of congress pelted with fruit as they leave buildings. As such it's a regular part of any reporter's beat. But Phil's first visit there – three years ago when he arrived in Venezuela – left him with a bad taste in his mouth – literally.

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In August 1999, the national assembly – which was created by recently elected President Hugo Chávez to rewrite the country's Constitution – took control of the congressional building just off the plaza. Members of existing Congress were trying to gain access to the building after having been shut out, says Phil.

"Members in their suits with their Congressional ID cards clenched between their teeth were trying to push their way into the building," he says.

The police arrived shortly and began firing tear gas canisters to try to disperse the crowd. "That was the first time I had ever been tear gassed," says Phil. "I swallowed a good amount of the stuff."

• TRUE FEELINGS REVEALED: Reporters often find that it takes patience to get to the bottom of things. But eventually, the truth is revealed. At least that was the case when Philip Smucker went out to look at a mass grave site in northern Afghanistan.

"When we first arrived, Commander Taher Charkhi, who helped bury the bodies, asserted that the deaths were an accident. But as we hung out and chatted, he began to see me as American, and he let his true feelings out," says Philip.

"That's when he told me he wished more had been killed. That's the quote that ended up at the beginning of the story (this page).

David Clark Scott
World editor

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