Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Mexico’s dead-journalists problem

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John Ross writes in the Rag Blog:

Three years after he was gunned down by Oaxaca state security agents October 27, 2006, while filming a confrontation between activists and local police during the oft-violent campaign to oust tyrannical governor Ulisis Ruiz Ortiz (URO), a prominent member of the once-and-future ruling PRI party, U.S. photojournalist Brad Will is still dead.

So are 55 other journalists working in Mexico over the past ten years (eight more remain missing), according to a roster painstakingly complied by Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based journalists’ group. Sixteen of those on the kill list have been slain since Brad’s still unresolved death. With rare exception, the murders of journalists in Mexico are never solved.

Will, a 35 year-old community activist and troubadour turned Indymedia reporter, covered social protest in such Latin American hot spots as Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, and Chiapas before arriving in Oaxaca to interview leaders of the APPO (Oaxaca Peoples’ Popular Assembly) and striking teachers whose prolonged street protests demanding URO’s removal as governor galvanized that conflictive southern state during the summer and fall of 2006. Will is the only non-Mexican on the death list held by Reporters Without Borders.

Lead poisoning is an occupational hazard for journalists in Mexico. The most recent killing (at this writing) took place October 9th in the northern state of Durango where crime reporter Gerardo Esparza was executed with a coup de grace to the head in the state capitol; three journalists have been executed in Durango during the first ten months of 2009, two of them last May.

On September 23rd in neighboring Chihuahua, pistoleros burst into the newsroom at Radio Vision in Nueva Casas Grandes and gunned down crusading reporter Norberto "El Gallito" (“the Bantam Rooster”) Miranda who had been probing ties between police and 25 recent killings by drug gangs. Miranda was the third reporter killed in Chihuahua during the military occupation of the state that began in 2007 and is the fifteenth to be assassinated since 2000. In May 2008, Emilio Gutierrez Soto, a correspondent for El Diario, fled Nueva Casas Grande and applied for political asylum in the U.S. after receiving repeated death threats.

Despite the appalling absence of resolution in Will’s death three years after the fact, his killers have long been plainly identified. A front-page photo in the national daily El Universal on the morning after the shooting that has since been displayed around the world frames up four Santa Lucia de Los Caminos’ police agents firing at the Indymedia photojournalist from 35 meters away. Two of the cops, Abel Zarate AKA "El Chapulin" and Manuel Aguilar Coello "El Comandante" were arrested immediately after the murder and then inexplicably cut loose several days later.

Despite the very public identification of the killers (eight other journalists witnessed the killing), URO’s then-chief prosecutor Rosa Lizbeth Cano (now the state auditor) accused four young APPO supporters who had pulled Will out of the line of fire and driven the mortally-wounded U.S. reporter to a local Red Cross hospital, as being responsible for his murder. Arrest warrants for the four remain outstanding…

Continue reading. I imagine that drug decriminalization (and legalization of marijuana) would help Mexico tremendously.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 November 2009 at 10:02 am

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