Jesús Barraza’s Personal Plea

Urgent letter: Please help

San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora state, Mexico
Thursday, July 8, 1999

Dear colleagues and friends,

I turn to you once more to request your intervention or at least inform you of the latest events regarding the difficult situation we at the weekly newsmagazine Pulso,of which I am editor, are going through.

Yesterday we received a disquieting and upsetting answer to the actions of the National Commission for Human Rights (known for its Spanish initials CNDH), personally undertaken by Alejandro Evaristo, to ask the State Attorney General’s office to provide me with police protection due to threats made against me and the general climate of intimidation that we have been subjected to.

Evaristo told me by telephone from Mexico City that the authorities told him they did not have the staff or financial resources to provide protection. I am extremely concerned by this answer, for it seems to indicate that in this state journalists who report on corruption and drug trafficking are at the mercy of gunmen and may be killed at any time.

The local authorities’ apparent inability to guarantee freedom of the press seems to grant drug traffickers’ henchmen the “authority” to come into our offices and kill us, as they killed our previous editor Benjamin Flores González on July 15, 1997, whose murderers, by the way, are still at large.

I suspect the authorities’ decision is more an indicator of their unwillingness and lack of interest in guaranteeing the security of journalists than their actual lack of resources.

Due to this situation I have two options:

One: To leave the state of Sonora as soon as possible to distance myself from those who want to kill me.

Two: To stay and wait until those who have threatened me make good on their threats and kill me.

I cannot leave because of the difficult financial situation we are going through. We are a group of journalists who left the daily La Prensain March 1998 due to differences with the new owner of that paper and managed to start Pulso after countless sacrifices and hardships. To leave would be a heavy burden and my options therefore actually shrink to one, the one I least prefer.

I have received many death threats and have been attacked once due to several articles I have published.

The most recent death threat came in May, from an envoy who said he was sent by a drug trafficker called Albino Quintero Meraz, whose illegal activities we reported in Pulso.On June 5, Federal Judicial Police agents attacked the bodyguard who had been assigned to me, beating him and taking away his gun, and then coming into our offices threatening to take me away due to articles we had published on links between local drug traffickers and state officials.

As if all this were not enough, in the past few days I have received various death threats telling me to stop publishing articles on illegal activities of drug traffickers and police.

Due to all this, I believe my life and the lives of my relatives and my reporters are at serious risk and so I again turn to you. Groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Mexican Journalists Society, the Mexican Network for the Protection of Journalists, the Mexican Academy of Human Rights, the National Commission for Human Rights and the Miami Society of Professional Journalists have sent letters to the Mexican government asking it to guarantee our safety.

Due to the local authorities’ inability to protect me, the CNDH has reportedly said it would continue to press the case before other branches of government and would get back to me.

I am not yet exasperated by the pressure I am going through, but I feel besieged psychologically. I ask for your help in making this situation public also because I realize the weight your intervention has in these cases. I hope also it is not too much to ask to forward this information to other journalists and groups dedicated to protecting human rights and press freedoms.

Please help us.

Jesus Barraza Zavala

Our phone and fax is (653) 6-11-08
MAIL ADDRESS: Av. Tamaulipas y calle 13, No. 1298
San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora, Mexico.

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