Saturday, April 11, 2015

'They want to erase journalists in Mexico"

Borderland Beat posted by DD, Republished from The Guardian


Lydia Cacho
“I suddenly had a clearer understanding than ever of the power that journalism has to give a voice to those who have been silenced by the crushing weight of violence.”

So wrote Mexico’s best-known journalist and human rights campaigner, Lydia Cacho, upon seeing her colleagues from the press gather to cover her arrival for interrogation before judges at Puebla, central Mexico, after what she calls a “legal kidnap” by the police.

The first stage of that prolonged ordeal 10 years ago had been a terrifying 36-hour drive from her home in the coastal state of Quintana Roo to the courthouse and jail, during which she had been sexually violated, threatened with death and “disappearance”, and horribly intimidated.

Cacho was to be charged with libel after the publication of a book, The Demons of Eden, which revealed a sex-trafficking and pederast-paedophile ring with connections to power on high. The appalling story of power’s revenge, its searing impact on Cacho and the implications of the affair for all reporters is told in a further book, Memorias de una Infamia (Memories of Infamy), in which, vindicated by subsequent events and trials, Cacho demonstrates that the pederasts and sex criminals were protected by the governor of Puebla state, by the judiciary and by people even higher up – with connections also to drug trafficking.

The foreword is written by the one reporter who worked alongside Cacho during her ordeal, revealing crucial material – including phone taps – that swung the narrative from the jaws of incarceration and torture into her favour. This was Carmen Aristegui, Mexico’s most famous broadcaster, who was sacked last month by her employer, MVS Radio, after revealing that the wife of President Enrique Peña Nieto had acquired a vast luxury property from a group that had won several lucrative government contracts.
The fate of the two journalists has stirred to fever pitch the discourse about repression of free speech and the acute physical dangers faced by journalists in Mexico. Scores of reporters have been killed – often tortured and decapitated – in what is now seen as a pincer-movement against their work by drug cartels and the state.

The Los Angeles Times reported: “The loss of one of Mexico’s most critical journalistic voices comes as revelations of corruption and killings by police and the army have roiled the country and plunged Peña Nieto into the worst crisis of his 27-month presidency.”  While all this was happening last month, Peña Nieto was a guest of the Queen and the British government.

Cacho – who has won innumerable awards for her work and was made a Chevalier d’Honneur of the French Republic – will rally support this week for Aristegui and her endangered colleagues at the London Book Fair, part of a PEN festival focusing on Mexico.

Ahead of her visit, Cacho told the Observer: “After all these years, every time my mobile phone rings and I see the name of a colleague I fear the worst: assassination, kidnapping or forced disappearance. When I was arrested 10 years ago, I was not so well-known, at least not to the broader news readers; now I’ve published 10 books and still live under tremendous pressure from corrupted politicians and traffickers who want me either dead or exiled and silenced.”

Of her friend, Cacho added: “Carmen Aristegui is probably the most famous newscast journalist in our country. She was fired most probably for investigating the president, which happened months after I was fired from El Universal, one of the main national newspapers. If this is happening to us, the visible ones, can you imagine what local reporters are going through in the provinces, where rule of law is almost nonexistent?”

Cacho thinks the timing of Aristegui’s firing is accounted for by “the return of the PRI party, who ruled Mexico for more than 70 years. Peña Nieto’s advisers are obsessed with protecting his image at all costs. It seems they want us back into the 1980s, when nobody dared to investigate the president and his ministers.

“Aristegui’s team not only uncovered the fact that the president’s wife and his finance minister, [Luis] Videgaray, had received a couple of luxurious residences from a big construction conglomerate that was doing business with the federal government; they also exposed a network of corruption, a radiography of how the president is managing the country’s finances as if he was a feudal lord, as if laws, international treaties and transparency did not exist. This case exposes, once again, how a small group of politicians and tycoons handle all media permits in order to control freedom of expression, and they do so through monopolies and the destruction, persecution of free media and journalists.”

A report published by the London-based Article 19 organisation at the end of March and launched in Mexico City by Aristegui and Cacho – found that “under the current administration headed by Enrique Peña Nieto, the number of assaults on the press was nearly double that reported during [his predecessor] Felipe Calderón’s term of office … Failures in the justice system continue to prevail.”

According to a report by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission in January, 97 reporters have been killed over the past four years for doing their job. There have been 22 disappearances of reporters and 433 registered attacks since 2005, when the current drug cartel war began in earnest.

Just as the report appeared, a long line of murderous attacks on reporters in the state of Veracruz culminated in the discovery of the decapitated body of a freelance website reporter, Moisés Sánchez, who had disappeared in the small town of Medellín de Bravo. The mayor of the town has been charged with having ordered the murder, but activists believe the attacks on reporters – 13 in Veracruz alone – have been orchestrated on higher authority, in the state administration. 

Among the victims in Veracruz was Regina Martínez, a reporter for Proceso magazine, who had been seeking to establish those connections. Her violated and tortured body was found in 2012.

In her book, Cacho differentiates between “fame”, which she sees as something “for artists”, and notoriety, which she says she has achieved simply by refusing to be silenced. Either way, her struggle has become what the great anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano calls “the Lydia Cacho cause”.

In her London appearances, Cacho will also focus on violence against women, and lifting the impunity of those who violate them. Ahead of the visit she said: “When Peña Nieto was governor of the state of Mexico [in the south of the country] the femicide rate went through the roof: up by 185%, according to specialist Humberto Padgett. Young women were being assassinated relentlessly. Some were taken by the cartels for sex trafficking; others, younger than 15, exploited as slaves in the opium and marijuana fields..
“Peña Nieto denied everything; on his way to the presidency he could have been the hero, approving gender equality laws, forcing the justice system to act as law requires. Instead he ordered journalists to be quiet, his team bought some off, and the honest ones had to flee the region, or where threatened, or killed by unknown criminals”.

A woman of passion as well as courage, Cacho surveys the scene: “These are dark times for our country,” she says by telephone from Quintana Roo. “Civil society is confronting the powers that be, but the free media is becoming smaller day by day; narco lords rule some states and provinces. There are not enough hours in a day to help those voices that need listening to, those hundreds of thousands of victimised families that need seeing. Journalism is essential in a country that lives in a silenced war, a masked war. They can erase us journalists from the mainstream media, and they can eliminate us physically. What they will never be able to do is deny the true stories, snatch away my voice, our voices and our words. As long as we are alive we will continue to write and what we have written will keep us alive”.

What am I guilty of? I have merely reported what I witnessed, nothing but the truth.
Cacho recalls the last time she talked to her colleague and friend Anna Politkovskaya. “We laughed in a hotel room, we talked about family and children, about love and work, we discussed the risk of our jobs. One morning watching the news I froze as I heard she had been assassinated after coming back from buying food for her family. This fact made me aware of my own mortality.”

But by way of a message to herald her arrival in Britain, Cacho insists: “I am a woman who will not give up her rights, nor will I sacrifice the rights of others to have a comfortable living. Being a journalist in Mexico is not a job; it’s a calling, a responsibility, never a sacrifice. It is to be part of the counter-power that makes life worth living.”

Lydia Cacho will appear at a British Council event at the London Book Fair, Gallery Theatre, Kensington Olympia, on Tuesday; and for English PEN at the Free Word Centre, Farringdon Road, London, on Thursday. Slavery Inc: the Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking, is published by Portobello Books

DD Note:  For whatever reason it seems that many of the most courageous are women.  Readers of Borderland Beat are familiar with the courage, grit, and determination of our own Chivis.  I hope someday we will have a book written by Chivis about her amazing life and work.  

Another journalist not mentioned in the Guardian story that I admire and think worth mentioning here is Anabel Hernandez.  Her acceptance speech upon recieving 2012 Golden Pen of Freedom is quite moving.  Here are some excerpts from it.  The entire speech can be read at the link following:
I want to live, but to live in silence is just another way to die.
 "The crisis within Mexico with regard to freedom of expression has been devastating. The media are afraid and preserve their economic interests with the government, and barely fight back when their journalists are killed, are threatened or disappear. There is inaction in part due to a lack of solidarity in the union and among the dynamic media egotists that well you know, but also because the government has criminalised murdered journalists in general, as well as anyone who tries to defend them. Family members have no way out; they collect pieces of tortured and dismembered journalists who have been dumped in rubbish sacks. They must be quiet and keep their heads down when the infamous government, with no evidence whatsoever, claims that the journalist was involved in trafficking. 
  I continue to denounce the decay of Mexico and the collusion of politicians, public servants and high-level businessmen with Mexican drug cartels. Today Mexican society is in need of brave and honest journalists who are ready to fight and I believe that the international community and world media share this responsibility to deeply consider the reality of the situation in Mexico and assist us in achieving our goals. Without freedom of expression, there is no possibility of justice or democracy.

 I dedicate and symbolically award this prize to all the Mexican journalists whose voices have been silenced by death, forced disappearance or censorship. I also dedicate it to all those Mexican journalists who daily continue to set an example in their duty to inform and denounce at whatever cost.

 I will fight until my last breath, even if it is a small example, so that as journalists we are not brought to our knees before the drug state. I don’t know how many days, weeks, months or years I have left. I know that I am on the blacklist of very powerful men who will go unpunished with their pockets full of money from drug bribes and a guilty conscience for their unmentionable acts. I know that they are awaiting their moment to carry out their threats at little political cost. I know that I have nothing but the truth, my voice and my work as a journalist to defend myself with. 

 If one day it happens, remember me like this, upright. I do not want to be another number on the list of dead journalists. I want to be among the statistics of journalists who fought to live.

It’s true, as Mexicans we are responsible for our own disgrace, but I hope that the international community will not continue to be indolent before the empire of the Mexican drug state.  ...I hope they will give neither shelter nor protection to those responsible, be they ex-presidents, presidents, businessmen or drug-traffickers. 

 To feel the breeze blowing on my face, to breathe clean air and see the smiles of my beloved children is not enough. A life in silence is not life anywhere on earth. To live in silence with regard to how corruption, crime and impunity continue to empower themselves in my country is also to die.


  1. Mexico, why not a revolution? All these arab country fighting the powers that be for what they believe. Mexico = No Huevos.

    1. Are you aware of the consequences of the Spring Revolutions in the Arab world? Are you aware of what has happened to the few people that tried to make a difference in Michoacan by means of guns ? If you don´t know the answer to these topics , please don´t talk .Many Mexicans are capable , intelligente and resourceful and think that using violent ways against violent people is not the answer .Next time,think twice before you generalize.

    2. 3:10Pm
      Bad comparison

    3. All the Arab countries succeeded in throwing their leaders, and as soon as the manipulators got ahold of the country tries resources, abandoned the countries and their revrevolutionaries to their own ISIS/ISIL CRIMINAL GANGS...
      -- any other suggestions?
      --Mexican journalists are in trouble, alone and powerless, while mexican criminals get support and succor from the US, France, England, Australia, Germany, spain Switzerland, and anybody with expectations of economic benefit...
      --Anabel hernandez biggest threat, lives a live of privilege on the US, protected from prosecution by the US government...Genaro Garcia Luna is the name, he is a kidnapper, ransomist, murderer, torturer, protector and extorter of narcos, murderer of his own commanders, and the business partner of Carlos Slim Helu...
      The US refuses to explain...

  2. I have so much Respect for these journalist, They are the Heroes of Mexico. Here Tamps. we have no News. The Cartel will kill journalist here in Tamps. Tamps. we have excepted our situation. Our politicians are making so much money off the Cartels they move their families to the USA and build Big Houses. The party of choice in Tamps. is the PRI. This what the people want in our state. By the way, I am one of those "Chickens who left Mexico". So give I up to the Cartel.

  3. Mexico is tooo f'cked up. Eliminate the head of a snake there, two other apear over there. It never ends, even the flag has a snake on it. A country where the people "worship many saints"

  4. Well in order to fix mexico, is has to be a social revolution, meaning that it has to change the fibers of what mexico is socially....catholics, narcos,mariachi, soccer's national team, tacos, tequila, the longest mexico has a third world mentality it would continue the same...they need a dictator or a system like canada...cause they as a nation are not ready for freedom.

  5. a dictator or a parliment like Canada? @5:30 where do you come up with this? How about anarchy in which there is a small central govt? let chaos consume mexico and then and only then will great order come into view

    1. @617pm Well is quiet obvious that the current political system or democracy that is not working...usually dictatorships suck, capitalism takes money ,socialism is what Canada is doing....mexico needs a change, for anything cause they are in some deep shit....

  6. Cancún, Q.R. es lejos de ser un Edén.

    1. Cancun es un eden, full of evil devils, the geographysical and it's people are one thing, it's military, police, government and businessman gangs are another...
      --Mexico is ready for revolution, but the US keeps the mexican governing narco-mierdocracia in business, with money weapons and gorilla training...
      --That all the world knows is no problem for the cynic US government...

  7. What is crazy about Mexico is you hear that capos are captured, but they are never prosecuted. Regina Martinez was murdered. They accused a Silva guy as well as a Dominguez. Neither of them matched the DNA found at the crime scene. Yet Silva has been tried and given 38 years and 2 months. All within a short period of time. Chapo has been caught and all you hear is his whining not to go to the US. Both Trevino brothers caught way back when. Nothing done. Everything about Mexico is so backwards, yet the citizens do nothing about.

    1. --While the United kingdom was bombed by the nazis with bombs made in factories designed and financed with the help of British and amerikkkan tycoons, the English people cowered in their shelters...
      --While the British and american and their allies bombed Germany, the Germans cowered in their shelters ...
      --British and amerikkkan tycoons never got bombed, got protected and covered up, and they and their German nazi partners got their business back
      -- mexicans will have to keep waiting for partners...

  8. Wow what a fantastic and moving acceptance speech.[right from the heart]

  9. Anabel hernandez has BEAUTIFUL LEGS TOO!!!
    makes el mil mascaras jealous...

  10. No news is good news, so itll be right to erase them.

  11. Lydia Cacho is one of my all time Heroines, along with Carmen Aristegui and Anabel Hernandez, coincidence that they're all women? Maybe.....but they got balls, and I just can't seem to find many men in mexican journalism who've got even a little bit of the huge BALLS these women have and I'm a guy....perhaps it is just in women's maternal DNA to protect humanity and speak out about injustice.

  12. 2:23 I think you need to stop looking at their hairy chests...big or small...
    --Women love it when you look at their shoes, and will let you know right away you are welcome. Right Chivis?
    -- if it takes too long, it may not be a woman's foot you are watching, but el mil mascaras patas.

  13. You so sweet, you let me know right away, thanks!


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