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Carta del protesta del Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

December 1, 1997
Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León
President of Mexico
Los Pinos
Mexico DF

VIA FACSIMILE

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to express its outrage and indignation over the November 27 attack on Jesús Blancornelas that severely injured the co-editor of the Tijuana newsweekly Zeta and killed his bodyguard, Luis Valero.

At 9:30 a.m. on November 27, a man standing on the corner of Chula Vista and San Francisco streets in Tijuana opened fire on the red Ford Explorer that Blancornelas was traveling in on his way to Zeta's offices. When Valero, who was driving the car, attempted to turn the vehicle around he was blocked by two cars, a green Pontiac on one side and a white Nissan on the other. Men in both cars began firing on Blancornelas' car with automatic weapons. The gunman who was on foot was killed in the crossfire. Blancornelas was hit four times, in the thorax, midsection, and hand. On Saturday he underwent surgery to remove a bullet fragment that had lodged near his spine. He remains in serious condition.

CPJ was extremely distressed to learn that only a few weeks prior to the attack the bodyguards who had been ordered to provide protection for Blancornelas by Governor Héctor Teran Teran were removed.

Because of widespread reports of complicity between the State Judicial Police and drug traffickers—some of which have been published in Zeta—we support your government's decision to assign the investigation to the Federal Judicial Police. We hope that this will serve as a precedent. In CPJ's view an attack on any journalists which is carried out in reprisal for his or her work should be referred to federal authorities. Under the Mexican Constitution, the right to free expression is guaranteed by the state (Art 6: "el derecho a la información será garantizado por el estado"). Clearly, if a journalist is unable to carry out his or her function because of the threat of physical violence, the Mexican Constitution mandates federal involvement.

As Your Excellency is no doubt aware, federal investigators have identified the dead gunman killed as David Barron Corona, who went by the alias of C.H. In the week prior to the attack, Blancornelas published an article in Zeta in which he reported that C.H. was the alleged gunman in the killing of two Mexican soldiers on November 14.

Corona, a U.S. resident who grew up in San Diego, was a reputed member of the "Mexican Mafia," a U.S-based prison gang that distributes heroin and cocaine in the United States. Because of the possibility that U.S. law enforcement agencies may have information that could be helpful in this investigation, we have sent a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno calling on her to ensure the full cooperation of U.S. authorities.

As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, we have become increasingly concerned about risks to journalists covering the drug trade on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. Barron Corona, and other members of U.S. drug gangs were allegedly recruited as gunmen by the Arellano Felix brothers to carry out crimes in Mexico. According to press accounts, the Arellano Felix brothers used Mexicans assassins to carry out murders on the U.S. side of the border. Clearly, the ability of the drug cartels to use the border as a shield against prosecution in a grave danger to journalists who may be targeted. For example, the July murder of Benjamín Flores González, the editor of the La Prensa in San Luis Río Colorado, may have been planned and orchestrated from within the United States. According to Mexican Court documents in our possession alleged drug trafficker Gabriel Gutiérrez González ordered the murder of Flores and hired the assassins by telephone from California. Gutiérrez González may still be at large in the United States. In order to safeguard the safety of journalists on both sides of the border, we are calling on Mexican and U.S. authorities to develop mechanisms for full cooperation when either government is conducting an investigation into an attack on the press.

For more than a decade Zeta has been an example to Mexican journalists with a passion for the truth. But the cost for exposing corruption has been extraordinarily high. In 1988, Zeta co-founder and co-editor Hector "El Gato" Felix was murdered in his car as he was leaving his home. Last week, Jesús Blancornelas nearly suffered the same fate.

In 1996, CPJ honored Blancornelas by awarding him the International Press Freedom Award in recognition for a career on investigative journalism on the front lines. Because Blancornelas is so widely admired by journalists on both sides of the border, the attack on his life sends a clear message to the many who hope to follow in his footsteps. For this reason, we join with our Mexican colleagues on calling on Your Excellency to commit the full resources of your office in order to ensure a complete and thorough investigation.

Sincerely,
William A. Orme, Jr.
Executive Director

*Texto del discurso de Jesús Blancornelas en el primer Encuentro en la Frontera.
*Texto de la carta protesta enviada por IRE/PI al Presidente Ernesto Zedillo.
*Tetxto del Boletín La Red de Periodistas de Investigación sobre el atentado a Jesús Blancornelas
*Ir la página de Zeta
*Ira a página de CPJ

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