Mexico indirectly criticizes border newspaper, saying society shouldn’t negotiate with cartels

By Olivia Torres, AP
Monday, September 20, 2010

Mexico makes veiled criticism of border newspaper

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Mexico’s government said Monday that no sector of society should negotiate with criminals, making an indirect criticism of a Ciudad Juarez newspaper.

The comments came a day after El Diario de Juarez published a front-page editorial seeking a truce with cartels in this violent border city after the second killing of one its journalists in less than two years.

“In no way should anyone promote a truce or negotiate with criminals who are precisely the ones causing anxiety for the public, kidnapping, extorting and killing,” said Alejandro Poire, security spokesman for President Felipe Calderon. “All sectors of society should fight them and bring them down in a definitive way.”

The editorial Sunday asked drug cartels warring for control of the city across from El Paso, Texas, to say what they want from the newspaper — “what we should try to publish or not publish, so we know what to expect.”

El Diario said it addressed its plea to the drug gangs because they are now the city’s de facto authorities. It also criticized the government for failing to protect journalists.

Poire said the federal government strongly condemns any attack on journalists.

But he added there is only one legitimate authority in Juarez to fight organized crime, the one “constituted by law and the electoral process with the original responsibility to combat crime and safeguard the public.”

Also Monday, an official of the Chihuahua state attorney general’s office said the El Diario photographer gunned down last week was possibly a victim of mistaken identity rather than killed for his work as a journalist.

Luis Carlos Santiago, 21, was ambushed Thursday while driving a car linked to a Chihuahua state human rights commission member who had received several threats, Assistant Prosecutor Alejandro Pariente Nunez said.

“That is one of our lines of investigation that we can’t discount,” he said. “It could be that the intended victim wasn’t in the car, which they borrowed to go get food.”

Attackers killed Santiago as he went to lunch with an intern at the newspaper, Carlos Manuel Sanchez, who was seriously wounded.

The car Santiago was driving belongs to the son of human rights commissioner Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson, who also works for El Diario. De la Rosa has said soldiers assigned to patrol Ciudad Juarez committed human rights violations and other crimes.

“On countless occasions I’ve been threatened because of the torture cases I’ve investigated involving presumed assassins,” de la Rosa said Monday. “I don’t doubt that the death of Luis Carlos, who I also loved as a son, could have been a case of confusion.”

State Attorney General Patricia Gonzalez said it was one of three lines of investigation, but would not provide more details.

In 2008, a crime reporter for El Diario was slain outside his home as he left to take his daughters to school.

Violence between two warring cartels in the past two years has killed nearly 5,000 people in Ciudad Juarez, making the city of 1.3 million people one of the world’s most dangerous places.

At least 22 Mexican journalists have been killed over the past four years in Mexico, at least eight of them targeted because of their reports on crime and corruption, says the Committee to Protect Journalists, a U.S.-based media watchdog group that plans to present its report to Calderon on Wednesday. At least seven other journalists have gone missing and more have fled the country, the report says.

“We don’t want to continue to be used as cannon fodder in this war because we’re tired,” Diario’s editor, Pedro Torres, told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Associated Press Writer Katherine Corcoran in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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