December 31, 2009
Mexican Editor Detained, Interrogated
Guerrero editor questioned about two indigenous Mixtec leaders kidnapped and murdered and Omar Guerrero Solis, a purported field commander of the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI) slain in murky circumstances.
As Mexico prepared to mark the twin anniversary of its 1810 War of
Independence and 1910 Revolution- events ushered in with cries of freedom
and justice- a prominent newsman was detained and interrogated because of
an article he wrote.
Juan Angulo Osorio, general director and co-founder of the Guerrero daily
El Sur, was forcibly detained December 29 by six agents of the Guerrero
Ministerial Police (PIM) at El Sur’s office in the state capital of
Chilpancingo and hustled off to the state attorney general’s office for a
round of questioning. Before he was let go several hours later, Angulo was
questioned by state prosecutors Jesus Miranda and Fernando Monreal about
bloody episodes that rocked Guerrero in 2009.
The PIM is headed by Valentin Diaz Reyes, a former military man who
commanded the embattled Delicias division of the Ciudad Juarez municipal
police before he was appointed the director of the state police force by
the administration of Governor Zeferino Torreblanca last October. Diaz’s
superior is Albertico Guinto Sierra, the temporary state attorney general.
Angulo’s detention arose from a September 3 editorial he authored about
the previous month’s assassination of Armando Chavarria, the coordinator
of the Guerrero State Legislature who was widely considered a
gubernatorial hopeful in upcoming elections. Chavarria had also once
served as state secretary for the Torreblanca administration, a sensitive
post in which he was privy to matters of internal security.
Earlier instructed by the state attorney general’s office to render
testimony about the editorial, Angulo legally challenged the order on the
grounds of press freedom. Angulo also received protective orders from the
Guerrero State Human Rights Commission and the National Human Rights
Commission (CNDH), both of which were ignored when the veteran journalist
was detained this week during Mexico’s long holiday season, a time when
government activities are largely suspended and the public’s attention
focused on family and festivities.
Arguing he was protected by Articles Six and Seven of the Mexican
Constitution, Angulo said after his release he cannot be “bothered by any
authority due to my writings or what is published in the newspaper for
which I am director general.”
Angulo said he told prosecutors his only relationship with Armando
Chavarria was the latter’s status as a source of information.
According to El Sur, Angulo also was asked about Raul Lucas Lucas and
Manuel Ponce Rosas, two indigenous Mixtec leaders kidnapped and murdered
nearly one year ago, and Omar Guerrero Solis, a purported field commander
of the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI) who was reported
slain in murky circumstances last November.
“I believe the state attorney general’s office is not obligated to follow
orders that violate the Constitution of the Republic,” Angulo said, “even
though these orders come from the state’s governor, who has been the main
one interested in seeing me render legal testimony in a case in which the
only knowledge I have is from my journalistic work.”
Pressed by an El Sur reporter, interim State Attorney General Guinto denied
Angulo was detained because of his writings or due to political pressure
from Governor Torreblanca.
“I reiterate that at no moment was he detained because of his journalistic
work or for his articles,” Guinto insisted, stressing that Angulo was not
forced to testify or treated badly by officers. Without elaborating,
Guerrero’s top law enforcement official added that authorities were
pursuing four lines of investigation in the Chavarria murder.
Alerted to Angulo’s detention, reporters from different media outlets and
human rights advocates quickly mobilized outside the state attorney
general’s headquarters. Leaders of the PRD, PRI, PT and Convergencia
political parties, environmentalists and social activists, joined by the
international organization Reporters without Borders, all were among
numerous voices condemning the detention.
Ironically, Angulo was detained by an administration headed by a political
figure, Zeferino Torreblanca, whose career as a federal congressman,
Acapulco mayor and then state governor was greatly boosted by El Sur. In
the 1980s and 1990s, Torreblanca was widely considered a champion of good
government, human rights and political tolerance.
El Sur was in the vanguard of the new critical Mexican press which emerged
after the 1980s, and played a vital regional role in the movement to
democratize Mexico and move it away from a one-party state. Over the
years, the newspaper’s journalists have been the target of telephoned and
direct verbal threats, lawsuits and other forms of intimidation.
Members of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), a
grouping which ran Torreblanca as their successful gubernatorial candidate
in 2005, were among the early supporters of El Sur’s journalistic
initiative. However, El Sur’s editorial line has been highly critical of
many of Torreblanca’s policies since he assumed the governorship.
Nearing the end of his term, Torreblanca’s tenure in office has been
characterized by extreme bouts of narco-violence, which have reached a
crescendo in recent months. Of 1,136 murders registered in Guerrero from
January to mid-October 2009, at least 706 were linked by authorities to
organized crime. Among this year’s victims were three journalists from
different media: Juan Raul Ibarra Ramirez, Juan Carlos Hernandez and Juan
Daniel Martinez Gil.
Angulo’s detention capped a grim year for the Mexican press. Thirteen
journalists were reported murdered in 2009, and Ciudad Juarez journalist
Ricardo Chavez Aldana of Radio Canon sought political asylum in the United
States this month after receiving death threats. Chavez was the fourth
journalist to flee Ciudad Juarez within the past 18 months.
A recent CNDH report documented steadily rising attacks against
journalists since 2000, the year of Mexico’s much-heralded democratic
transition. In a separate report, the non -governmental Freedom of
Expression Foundation slammed conditions confronted by Mexican
journalists. Without freedom of expression, warned the foundation’s
president Armando Prida Huerta, journalists have “absolutely nothing.”
In the case of El Sur’s Juan Angulo, the CNDH has initiated a complaint
against the Guerrero state attorney general’s office for violating the
right of free expression.
Sources: El Sur, December 30 and 31, 2009. Articles by Jesus Saaveda,
Daniel Velzaquez, Karenine Trigo Molina, Claudia Venalonzo, Noe Aguirre
Orozco, and editorial staff. La Jornada (Guerrero edition), December 24
and 30, 2009. Articles by Citlal Giles Sanchez and Marlen Castro.
Proceso/Apro, December 15 and 30, 2009. Articles by Miguel Cabildo S. and
editorial staff. Cimacnoticias.com, December 22, 2009. CEPET, December 14,
2009. Press release. El Universal, October 29, 2009. Article by Juan
Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University
Las Cruces,New Mexico
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