Grenade attack on newspaper that reports on drug trafficking

New York, August 24, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a grenade attack on the Mexican daily Por Esto!, the third attack since June on the Cancún-based newspaper that has investigated local drug trafficking and government corruption.

Unidentified assailants driving an SUV with tinted windows lobbed two hand grenades shortly before 10 p.m. Wednesday into the entrance of the paper’s office in downtown Cancún. No one was injured in the explosions. Deputy Editor Miguel Menéndez Cámara said the attack sparked panic among the 80 staff in the building.

A grenade exploded almost at the same time outside the offices of another Cancún daily, Que Quintana Roo se entere, publisher and owner José Alberto Gómez Álvarez told CPJ. The explosion injured a newspaper delivery truck cleaner. Police are investigating whether the newspaper was the target, Gómez Álvarez said. According to local press reports, an armed individual got out of a grey Ford SUV and threw a grenade at a residential building across the street from the entrance to Que Quintana Roo se entere.

Mario Renato Menéndez Rodríguez, owner of Por Esto!, said the attack was in retaliation for the newspaper’s investigative work on drug trafficking in the state of Quintana Roo, on Mexico’s southeastern Yucatán peninsula. The newspaper has probed the activities in Quintana Roo of the Sinaloa drug cartel, one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organizations.

Carlos Alfonso Castillo Gallardo, a senior officer at the special prosecutor’s office for crimes against journalists in Mexico City, told CPJ that federal authorities were investigating the attack.

“We condemn the attack on Por Esto!,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We urge federal and state authorities to ensure that our colleagues in Quintana Roo can continue their investigative reporting on organized crime and government corruption without fear of reprisal.”

Por Esto! publishes in Cancún and the town of Mérida. On August 22, unidentified men threw a homemade bomb at the car of Por Esto! reporter Jaime Vargas Chablé. The car, which was parked outside the journalist’s home, was destroyed. No one was injured.

In June, the car of reporter Manuel Acuña López was set on fire at his home. Both journalists have reported on government corruption in Mérida and criticized local authorities.