The Aldemaro Romero Jr. Collection

Boxes 606, 653-657: The Political Persecution Papers

What happened next...

Forty-two-year-old Aldemaro Romero Diaz fled the country with his wife Ana and their two daughters. He didn't have a job. BIOMA, the not-for-profit organization that he founded for the study and protection of biodiversity (including dolphins) took out a newspaper advertisement in El Nacional condemning him. The ad was signed by the entire Board of Directors. National Fisherman, Time Magazine, and other publications published articles suggesting that Romero's video might be a hoax. (5)

Defamation of Romero even spread to a fledgling new communication medium: email. On a professional listserv, the vice president of the Venezuelan Audubon Society accused Romero of leveraging the staged video for fundraising purposes. People debated via email whether or not Romero or his detractors had tampered with the video itself. (6)

Romero fought back. He wrote to editors and submitted rebuttals to their articles (7) for publication. His friends and supporters formed a legal defense group and retained a pro bono lawyer to prosecute institutions and individuals for libel on Romero's behalf. He appealed to U.S. government agencies for protection. And he sued the Venezuelan government; ultimately the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights refused to hear Romero's case.

Romero's father, musician and composer Aldemaro Romero Zerpa, remained in Venezuela and advocated on his son's behalf by writing numerous letters to various Venezuelan government officials. (8)

The persecution took its toll, however. Employers rejected him. Romero even began to lose his faith in humanity, as he explains in a letter to Herbert Needleman. (9) Needleman had undergone similar attacks on his credentials in reaction to his discoveries about the effects of lead poisoning on children.


5. Clippings, photocopies, and translations of many of these articles are available in boxes 606, 653-657 of the Romero Collection. Some publications supported Romero; for instance see: Smith, Gar. "Dolphin Defender Threatened." Earth Island Journal. 10.3 (1995): 7. Online access is restricted to SIUE users. Also available in box 606 of the Romero Collection.

6. Printouts of email discussions are available in boxes 606, 653-657 of the Romero Collection.

7. Romero, Aldemaro, Jr. [Letter to Jim Fullilove, editor of National Fisherman, August 1, 1994]. Additional correspondence between Romero and Fullilove and copies of the original National Fisherman article and Romero's published response are available in box 653 of the Romero Collection.

8. Romero, Aldemaro. [Letters]. The letters presented here are in a spiral-bound packet with responses from various government officials and other individuals and are available in box 606 of the Romero Collection. Additional correspondence between Romero Zerpa and Romero Diaz and others can be found in box 653.

9. Romero, Aldemaro, Jr. [Letter to Herbert Needleman, June 24, 1994]. Additional correspondence between Romero and Needleman are available in box 653 of the Romero Collection.