In Mexico, two men arrested in connection with journalist’s murder

New York, April 11, 2007—Mexican authorities detained two men in connection with last week’s murder of veteran broadcast journalist Amado Ramírez Dillanes in Acapulco.

Leonel Bustos Muñoz and Genaro Vásquez Durán were arrested Tuesday in Acapulco, 198 miles (320 kilometers) from Mexico City. According to an official statement, when federal police stopped Bustos and Vásquez as part of a routine highway patrol, they noticed Vásquez’ resemblance to a sketch of Ramírez’ murderer and found a .38-caliber gun similar to the one used in the murder. Witnesses later identified Vásquez as the suspected murderer, said the statement.

The local press reported that both men are being held by Guerrero State authorities for further questioning. Investigators are looking into two possible motives: personal vengeance or retaliation for his work, Mexican press reported.

“We welcome Mexican authorities’ action in the investigation of our colleague’s murder,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “However, it is crucial to conduct an exhaustive inquiry, find all those responsible, including the masterminds, and bring them to justice.”

An unidentified assailant shot Ramírez to death Friday evening as he left local radio station Radiorama, where he had just finished his daily news show, “Al Tanto.” Ramírez also reported general news for the television station Televisa, said a colleague who asked CPJ not to be identified. In March, the journalist had aired a special investigation on Televisa on the murder of local police officers, linking the crime to local drug traffickers, his colleague told CPJ.

Misael Habana de los Santos, Ramírez’s co-host at Radiorama, wrote in the national daily La Jornada that Ramírez had received several death threats on his cell phone prior to the murder. According to Habana, Ramírez had not paid attention to the threats, and refused to inform local police.

CPJ sources at Radiorama told CPJ that Habana had also received death threats. On Friday, hours after Ramírez’ slaying, an unidentified individual called Radiorama’s office and told the night guard that the next person to die would be Habana, said his colleague. Habana fled Acapulco yesterday, but his current location is unknown.

CPJ wrote a letter to President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa on Monday, expressing alarm over Ramírez’s death and over a pattern of deadly attacks on the press. In the letter, CPJ called on Calderón to take swift and decisive action at the federal level to stop this tide of violence which continues at an alarming rate. CPJ research shows that six journalists have been murdered in direct reprisal for their work since 2000; CPJ is investigating the circumstances surrounding the slayings of 11 other journalists, including Ramírez, to determine if their deaths are work-related. Three journalists have also disappeared since 2005, two of whom were covering crime stories.