Crusader’s Life in the Balance

Los Angeles Time Editorial

Jesus Barraza has good reason to fear for his life. He is a crusading journalist in the small town of San Luis Rio Colorado in Mexico, just a few miles from Yuma, Ariz., and home to a criminal ring that transports drugs and people to the United States and returns to Mexico with guns and stolen vehicles. 

As editor of the weekly magazine Pulso,Barraza has written bravely of the secret dealings between the smugglers and politicians. About a month ago, he was threatened by the drug lords. The Sonora state police assigned him an officer for protection, but 10 days ago, angered by another Barraza story, three agents of the Federal Judicial Police beat and disarmed Barraza’s bodyguard and attempted to kidnap the journalist. The local police chief was so frightened by the judiciales, who are widely seen as pals of the traffickers, that he withdrew his officer. 

Stripped of protection, Barraza is in serious jeopardy. He fears he will meet the fate of his onetime boss, Benjamin Flores, killed by the smugglers in 1997, or of Jesus Blancornelas, the editor of Zeta, a Tijuana-based magazine, who was gravely wounded by the drug dealers’ thugs in November 1997. 

As a result of Blancornelas’ urging, the nation’s attorney general has summoned to Mexico City the federal agents who threatened Barraza, though it remains to be seen whether they will suffer any consequences. 

That isn’t enough. President Ernesto Zedillo must himself assign some honest cops to protect Jesus Barraza so he can continue his crucial work.

“Copyright, 1999, Los Angeles Times. Reprinted by permission.”