GOSHEN — Goshen College student Benjie Aguilera Brown has been mustering international support to prove his father’s innocence from charges of plagiarism in Paraguay.
Three years ago, Aguilera Brown says his father, Nelson Aguilera, was sued for plagiarizing a children’s book written by María Eugenia Garay, “El Tunél de Tiempo” (The Tunnel of Time).
On Monday morning, Aguilera was convicted and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in Paraguay for his book, “Karumbita la Patriota,” (Karumbita the Patriot).
While Aguilera Brown cares deeply for his father’s well being, he says, “The big issue is not that a guy is convicted for plagiarism. What involves the whole country is the manipulation of power.”
In Aguilera Brown’s eyes, “The most important thing is that (Garay) is the minister of justice’s sister.” Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color furthered this claim, saying that Aguilera referred to this relation as an “intellectual dictatorship.”
While the relation between Garay and the Paraguayan justice, Cesar Garay Zuccolillo, is coincidental, any motive for Garay to falsely accuse Aguilera of plagiarism is uncertain, Aguilera Brown says.
Aguilera Brown acknowledges similarities between both books, but notes that there is significant evidence demonstrating originality.
“The characters’ names are the same and the historic places are the same,” he said. “Academics talk about how the style is completely different.” The story, Aguilera Brown says, is filled with collective and historic devices that are open to all writers.
But Aguilera Brown believes firmly in his father’s innocence due to childhood experience. “The characters in (his) book are my sister and I,” he said. “The tortoise lives at my house, in my backyard--Karumbita is our pet.”
Upon hearing of his father’s conviction, Aguilera Brown cleared his schedule to contact childhood friends from around the globe. On Tuesday, “I was talking to people in Peru, Spain and Korea,” he said.
A student of film, Aguilera Brown produced a YouTube video in response to the conviction, and has contacted international news organizations about his father’s case.
However, as far as his own investigations are concerned, Aguilera Brown says, “None of the academics agree with the verdict.”
Despite the alleged corruption within Paraguay that Alguilera Brown has observed and seeks to expose, he only became involved because of his father. He said, “I would not have lifted a finger if it didn’t have to do with my dad.”
Alguilera Brown never expected to be drawn into such a precarious situation as this, but he is nevertheless certain that he has plenty of support.
“I’ve got all the personal support I need,” Alguilera Brown says. “Now I just need people to talk about it.”