Letters   |   Mexico

Barraza and his Family Threatened

May 13, 1999

Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León
President of Mexico
Los Pinos
Mexico City, MEXICO


Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to express its deep concern for the safety of Jesús Barraza, editor of the weekly magazine Pulso in San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora State.

At 9 p.m. on May 4, as Barraza was leaving the Pulso offices, a well-dressed man walked up to him, and told him that Albino Quintero Meraz, a reputed drug trafficker, was disturbed about two articles Pulso had recently published. The man asked how much money Barraza wanted for not publishing stories on Quintero anymore; if he did not accept the offer, the man said, he or another Pulso reporter would end up floating dead in one of San Luis Río Colorado's irrigation canals. When Barraza said he would never accept money from Quintero, the man warned him to be careful.

The articles the messenger referred to followed up on information made public by the Attorney General's office on alleged cooperation between Quintero and former Quintana Roo Governor Mario Villanueva, who is wanted for links with drug traffickers. The articles reported information about Quintero's past, including the fact that a police search of his house in Mexicali, Baja California State, in 1989 turned up drugs and rifles, and that in 1992 two men had accused Quintero of assaulting them with the aid of the Federal Judicial Police in San Luis Río Colorado.

We understand that police protection was granted to Barraza and his family after the Mexican press organization Sociedad de Periodistas intervened on his behalf on May 10. Yet we continue to fear for the safety of Barraza and his family.

Our concern is compounded by the sudden and unexplained March 5 release from prison of drug trafficker Jaime González Gutiérrez. He was accused of having masterminded the June 15, 1997, murder of Benjamín Flores González, editor and publisher of the San Luis Río Colorado daily La Prensa. After Flores González's murder, Barraza took over as editor of the paper; González Gutiérrez had Barraza threatened repeatedly, both by telephone and in writing. (In March 1998, Barraza and six colleagues left La Prensa, and set up Pulso.

As we have stated in past letters, CPJ believes that under Article 6 of the Mexican Constitution the federal government is responsible for the protection of freedom of expression. We therefore call on your government to ensure the safety of Barraza and his family, to conduct a complete investigation into the threats against the journalist, and to see to it that the perpetrators are punished.

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director





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Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León
President of Mexico
Los Pinos
Mexico City, MEXICO

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