Nov 16, 2008

Journalists in Juarez, Mexico, face dangers as paranoia envelopes city

Copyright (C), 2007/2008 Peace Books & Peace at the Border

By Kelly McKenzie
Nov. 18, 2008

JUAREZ - - Since a well-known reporter was killed last week, La Polaka, a popular Web site that uses humorous headlines temporarily stopped uploading items on its site, a news reporter for Norte de Ciudad Juarez fled to El Paso and another Juarez reporter is thinking about quitting.
Chihuahua state authorities said they have turned over the case of the shooting death of Armando "Choco" Rodriguez to the Mexican federal special prosecutor's office that investigates journalists' murders in Mexico, one with a dismal record for solving cases.
Rodriguez worked for El Diario when he was shot mafia-style on Nov. 13 with a 9mm firearm in front of his house.
Several weeks ago, a list of names - alleged targets of hit squads - was left at the Juarez monument to journalists. Authorities refused to disclose the names, but various sources indicated the list included people in the media who organized crime elements claimed had collaborated with officials, police, gangs and others tied to the Carrillo Fuentes drug cartel.
El Paso journalist and author Diana Washington Valdez said it's possible more journalists will be killed in the latest wave of violence that has enveloped the border.
"It appears the hit squads that have taken out more than 1,000 people this year also have targeted people who work in the media," she said.
"Over the past 20 years, other journalists in Chihuahua state have been killed or disappeared. Given the way the media has operated in the past, some of them were targeted because they were honest and others because they collected money on an ongoing basis for covering stories, giving stories a certain bent or dropping stories.
"Certain media companies allegedly also laundered money for the Juarez drug cartel, and one of the media outlets actually was founded with cartel money. What's different now is that rival drug-traffickers are eliminating people they suspect of being in league with the Carrillo Fuentes elements. It's ironic. You're targeted if you're honest and you're targeted if you have been unethical."
Two journalists from Denmark who were in Juarez this week said some of their sources backed out of interviews at the last minute because the brutal violence has scared them.
In recent weeks, the head of a victim was left at a police substation and a headless corpse was hanged at an overpass of a busy intersection. A police captain was killed at 6:30 a.m. at the intersection of 16 de Septiembre and Francisco Villa, a central location near the downtown international bridges.
"This year is the year of reckoning, the climax of what was sown in this community years ago by corrupt authorities who made deals with drug dealers," Washington Valdez said. "More so than the drug dealers themselves, the ones who bear the most blame are the authorities who entered into these pacts. They allowed this to happen."
Who killed Choco?" Among the suspects are police, gangs, the Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman cartel and the Carrillo Fuentes cartel.
Ms. Washington Valdez wrote about the "drug cartel" and the "police cartel" in her book on the women's murders, "The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women." The book chapter titled "The Pact" helps explain much of what has happened over the years.
Her next book "Mexican Roulette: Last Cartel Standing" focuses on the drug cartels.