Columnist brutally beaten; CPJ investigates possible link to work

New York, September 1, 2004—A Mexican columnist who wrote about government corruption and crime was beaten to death yesterday in the city of Matamoros, near the United States border. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating whether the murder was tied to his reporting.

Francisco Arratia Saldierna, 55, wrote a column called “Portavoz” (Spokesman) that appeared in four newspapers throughout the state of Tamaulipas—El Imparcial and El Regional, in Matamoros, and Mercurio and El Cinco, in Ciudad Victoria, the state capital. It also appeared in the Internet publication “En Línea Directa.”

Arratia was also a schoolteacher and ran a used car business in this border region near Texas.

According to Mexican news reports, Arratia had an argument with a group of unknown individuals who came to his business in a red vehicle around 1:30 p.m. yesterday. On his way home, a half hour later, Arratia was intercepted and kidnapped by the group, the Mexico City-based daily El Universal reported.

Around 3 p.m. Matamoros police received an anonymous call saying a severely beaten man was outside the offices of the Red Cross. According to local reports, Arratia had been tortured before being dumped from a moving vehicle.

The columnist had his fingers broken, his palms burned and his chest injured. Arratia was sent to a nearby hospital and died three hours later.

In his column, Arratia wrote frequently about political corruption, organized crime, and education. Police have made no arrests and did not speculate as to a motive.

“We call on Mexican authorities to carry out an exhaustive investigation of this brutal crime and bring those responsible to justice,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.