Calderon’s Flack Accuses Forbes of Defamation


     MANHATTAN (CN) – Forbes faces a defamation action for branding Mexico President Felipe Calderon’s longtime spokeswoman as one of the “10 most corrupt Mexicans of 2013.”
     Alejandra Sota Mirafuentes filed suit Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court over her inclusion on a list of drug traffickers and murderers.
     “Contrary to the article’s assertions, Sota has never been corrupt,” her 48-page lawsuit states.
     Having worked with Calderon since 2002, Sota stepped down from the podium in December 2012, enrolled at Harvard and was in the process of building a private consulting business when the first article appeared, according to the complaint.
     Though Sota “in no way had policy-making authority or other influence” as a private individual, she notes that she became an opponent of corporate interests because of Calderon’s opposition of “crony capitalism” and the “monopolistic power long held by telecommunications, media and other industrial conglomerates in Mexico.”
     Sota says Forbes and its contributor Dolia Estevez trumpeted the views of these corporate interests in the December 2013 profile that branded her corrupt.
     Indeed Esteves moonlights in Mexico as a correspondent for Noticias MVS, part of the MVS communications behemoth in Mexico that Calderon tried to break up as part of his campaign against corporate monopolies.
     “No reasonable person could have named Sota as one of the 10 most corrupt Mexicans of 2013 (or any other year) believing it to be a true statement,” she says. “In stark contrast to Sota, the others in the articles constitute a rogue’s gallery of figures connected with drug trafficking, murder, kidnapping and massive embezzlement or bribery.”
     After the December 2013 article about Sota, Forbes and Esteves followed up with two more “updates” that were also defamatory, she says.
     “The Forbes articles have irreversibly destroyed Sota’s reputation,” her lawsuit states.
     Several clients, “including at least three high ranking Mexican state officials,” have refused to hire her “based on her image,” according to the complaint.
     “Forbes’ and Estevez’s decision to include Sota in the articles was without justification,” the lawsuit states. “The investigation cited in the article was generated by the negative press from MVS, not any evidence of wrongdoing by Sota.”
     Forbes even tried to undercut the fact that she was exonerated of wrongdoing by incorrectly describing the agency that cleared her as “defunct,” according to the complaint.
     “The harm to Sota is ongoing,” as the third article about her remains on Forbes’ website, she says. At least 500,000 people read the first article within a year of its publication, according to the complaint.
     Sota notes that Harvard accepted her to a graduate program geared toward people whose exemplary professional credits make up for their lack of college degrees.
     Estevez’s campaign against Sota included “publicly questioning her Harvard acceptance,” following plaintiff around campus, and questioning whether Calderon” had improperly influenced Harvard’s decision to enroll Sota,” the lawsuit states.
     Forbes and Estevez have defended their work, she says.
     Representatives of Forbes have not returned an email and phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit.
     Sota notes that she tried to slap Estevez with a federal complaint this past May in Virginia, and that she filed a 2014 federal complaint against Estevez and Forbes in Manhattan. A federal judge dismissed the New York action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on May 21, 2015, according to the complaint.
     Sota seeks damages in the new action for defamation. She is represented by Jonathan Sherman with Boies, Schiller & Flexner in Washington, D.C.

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