Tapes reveal plot to jail and assault Mexican journalist

New York, February 16, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by Mexican press reports of a plot by Mexican businessmen and state officials to imprison and assault journalist and human rights activist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro. Tapes of telephone conversations between several people, two of whom are said by the media to be the governor of the state of Puebla, Mario Marín, and a local businessman, were delivered to the Mexico City offices of the daily La Jornada and W Radio on Monday, the reports said.

The media named the businessman as Puebla-based clothes manufacturer José Camel Nacif Borge, who had instigated a criminal prosecution against Cacho for defamation. Cacho was arrested on December 17, 2005 and released on bail the next day in connection with the prosecution for defamation and slander.

The media reports said the recordings were made before and during Cacho’s detention.
In the tapes obscene language is used to describe plans to put Cacho behind bars and assault her. In one conversation before Cacho’s arrest, a man who is identified by the Mexican press as Hanna Nakad Bayeh, a Puebla-based clothing manufacturer, asks Nacif to pay someone to rape her in jail. According to the transcriptions published in La Jornada, Nacif replies, “she has already been taken care of.”

In another conversation which La Jornada reports was held after Cacho had been released on bail, Marín says, “yesterday I finished hitting that old bitch over the fucking head. I told her that in Puebla the law is respected and there is no impunity and whoever commits a crime will be called a delinquent. And not to try and play the victim and use this as an opportunity for publicity. I sent her a message and am waiting to see what she answers. But she fucks around and fucks around, so let her take a blow over the head that will teach others.”

The recordings also implicate other officials in a possible conspiracy against Cacho. Neither Nacif nor the other officials and businessmen have commented on the allegations.

A spokesman for Governor Marín denied that the governor was involved in a plot against Cacho and said the recordings violated Mexico’s privacy laws, the media reported.

“These allegations are deeply shocking and we call on Governor Marín to respond,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Because these conversations suggest a possible criminal conspiracy an aggressive investigation must be carried out.”

Cacho is a columnist for the Mexico City-based weekly magazines Día Siete and Tentaciones. She is also director of a center for victims of domestic violence and rape in Cancún.

In December 2005, Puebla police took Cacho from Cancún to Puebla saying she had failed to answer a court summons. Cacho said she had never received a summons, a fact that the prosecutor’s office later acknowledged was true, the press reported.

The criminal defamation prosecution against Cacho is based on a complaint filed by Nacif. In a book released in May titled, The Demons of Eden, Cacho described the activities of a child prostitution ring that she said operated with the complicity of local police and politicians. She alleged that Nacif had ties to an accused pedophile, which the businessman denied and said damaged his reputation.

On January 18, slander charges based on the allegations made in the book were dropped for lack of evidence, the Mexico City-based daily El Universal reported. The criminal defamation charges against Cacho, however, still stand.