April 21, 2006

One Year Later: Still No Justice for Mexican Journalists

One year has passed since Nuevo Laredo journalist Guadalupe Garcia Escamilla was gunned down in front of the radio station where she worked. After struggling with multiple wounds for days, Garcia died on April 16, 2005. A popular crime beat reporter and radio host who probed delicate topics, Garcia left behind an 18-year-old son and a city increasingly mortified by the mounting violence that’s transformed Nuevo Laredo into a battleground between rival organized crime cartels. Despite official promises to get to the bottom of the Garcia crime, no suspects have been arrested.

The impunity found in the Garcia murder is far from confined to her case. Early in April, more than 100 people staged a march in the Sonora state capital of Hermosillo to demand answers about the disappearance of journalist Alfredo Jimenez Mota, a reporter for Hermosillo’s El Imparcial newspaper who vanished on April 2, 2005.

Demonstrators chided Mexican President Vicente Fox, who met with Jimenez’s parents last year and promised the couple “the full capacity” of the state in locating their son.

Placards compared President Fox’s pledge to a statement he once made promising to resolve the Chiapas conflict in “15 minutes.”

An investigative reporter specializing in border drug trafficking and organized crime beats, Jimenez could have run afoul of Sonora-based drug traffickers possibly connected to the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels. An investigation by Project Phoenix, a media collaborative organized by Mexican reporters to investigate crimes against journalists, recently reported that the SIEDO, the elite organized crime unit of the Federal Attorney

General’s Office (PGR), had identified suspects in the Jimenez disappearance, including one Raul Enriquez Parra.

If Enriquez had anything to do with Jimenez’s disappearance, he won’t be of any help to the authorities. According to Project Phoenix, Enriquez’s mangled body was discovered in Sonora last November. Enriquez and three other men supposedly had been tortured and tossed from an airplane in the style of executions carried out by Mexican and Latin American security forces during the dirty wars of the 1970s.

April also marked the first anniversary of the murder of Raul Gibb Guerrero, the owner of the La Opinion newspaper in the southern Mexican city of Poza Rica, Veracruz. Gibb’s successors used the occasion to organize a silent march and denounce the lack of progress in clearing up the murder. In an editorial, the Veracruz paper warned against threats to freedom of expression, and compared Gibb’s murder to other attacks against journalists, including the December 2005 arrest of author Lydia Cacho on defamation charges stemming from her exposure of a Cancun-based pedophile ring with high-ranking political and business connections.

The attacks against Garcia, Mota, Gibb, and many others led to a wave of protests by Mexican and international journalists last year. In response, the PGR created a special prosecutor’s office to investigate crimes against communicators. Special Prosecutor David Vega Vera’s office has attracted 22 cases so far, but none have been cleared up to date.

Taking his post just last month, Vega began work in a borrowed office with one telephone and carton boxes containing files. In a recent interview with the El Universal newspaper, Vega acknowledged that with less than 8 months remaining for the Fox Administration the clock was ticking in the investigations. Nonetheless, the federal official said he was confident the probes would go forward and continue after the Fox Administration since attacks against journalists are considered matters of national security.

Meanwhile, no one has been brought to justice for last February’s grenade and automatic rifle attack on Nuevo Laredo’s El Manana newspaper, an assault that left reporter Jaime Orozco Tey gravely injured. Like other attacks against the press, the El Mañana case is under investigation by the SIEDO. Still hospitalized two months after the attack, Orozco could end up as a paraplegic for the rest of his life if medical treatments do not improve his condition.

Reprinted from Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies, New Mexico State University.

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