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Mexican journalist threatened after reports on police-crime nexus

Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has called on Mexican federal authorities to take charge of investigating attempts to intimidate crime reporter Claudia Padilla Pacheco of the local daily Correo in Celaya (in the central state of Guanajuato) after she wrote two investigative reports about the alleged implication of local police in criminal activity.

AT THE CORREO: Correo's Caludia Padilla exposed a major ring of Guanajuato police officers, some of whom are still at their posts despite being investigated by state authorities. The threats made against her are evidence of the corruption and impunity eroding press freedom in Mexico, especially at the local level.

"Padilla exposed a major ring of Guanajuato state police officers, some of whom are still at their posts despite being investigated by the state judicial authorities," RSF said. "The threats made against her are further evidence of the corruption and impunity seriously eroding press freedom in Mexico, especially at the local level. As the federal authorities have undertaken to take charge of cases of attacks on the press, they should take over the job of protecting Padilla and investigating her complaint."

Padilla wrote a report on December 13 about a security firm created by Juan Pablo Vázquez Sotelo, former coordinator of the judicial investigative police (PME) in Guanajuato. She said five of the seven former police officers hired by Vázquez had been suspended for torture, abuse of authority, and concealing information.

Padilla also reported that two of the former PME police officers had been fired in March for concealing trafficking in stolen cars. The next day, she receiving an anonymous call in which a male voice told her: "We want to know how much you are being paid to make trouble for the PME."

Correo ran another story by Padilla on December 20 about seven police officers still in active service who are allegedly involved in a ring that traffics in stolen cars and subjects drivers to extortion. The ring has also allegedly covered up three murders and protected drug traffickers.

The investigation, being handled by the Guanajuato state prosecutor's office, has already reportedly established that former police chiefs Aniceto Ayala Blanco, Federico Silvano Espino Manzano and Felipe Rosas were the apparent leaders of this criminal ring.

On the night of December 20, the home of Padilla's neighbours and cousins in Celaya was broken into. Shortly afterwards, Padilla's mother received a threatening call. "Tell Claudia Padilla we went to the wrong apartment but we know where she lives," the anonymous caller said.

The Celaya municipal police is investigating the complaint which Padilla and her mother filed with the prosecutor's office. Since December 21, Padilla has been assigned two bodyguards by the local prosecutor.

Meanwhile, RSF had also voiced alarm at the possibility that Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, a writer and freelance contributor to the Cancún-based daily La Voz del Caribe, could receive a prison sentence for alleged libel in a 2004 book about a paedophile ring.

Cacho, who was detained in a heavy-handed and threatening fashion by police for 48 hours last weekend, appeared December 23 before a judge in Puebla state (1,500 km from her home in Cancún).

CRUSADERS ALL: Lydia Cacho stands in front of supporters holding banners outside of the courthouse in Puebla Mexico on Friday Dec. 23, 2005, after she was held for trial, charged with libel and slander for writing the book 'The Demons of Eden,' chronicling networks of pedophiles, child prostitution and child pornography that was released in May. Prosecutors say Cacho falsely accuses a Puebla businessman in the book.(AP Photo/Joel Merino)

"Lydia Cacho is a recognised investigative journalist and activist on behalf of women's and children's rights whose work and commitment have upset some politicians and businessmen and have resulted in her receiving many death threats in the past", RSF said. "We fear that the libel action brought against her a year after the book was published is meant to reduce her to silence," it continued. "We hope the courts will decide that this case should be a civil and not a criminal one, and will also clarify the circumstances of her brief detention last weekend."

Cacho also founded and runs the Cancún-based Centro Integral de Atención a la Mujer (Centre for Complete Assistance to Women - CIAM), a centre for victims of domestic violence and rape. In October 2003, she began investigating a child pornography ring run by a Mexican businessman of Lebanese origin, Jean Succar Kuri, who is now detained in Arizona, in the United States, pending approval of a Mexican extradition request.

On the basis of her research, Cacho wrote a book entitled "Demons of Eden" that was published in 2004. It claimed there were links between the paedophile ring and a number of government officials, politicians, businessmen and drug traffickers. One of the businessmen mentioned in the book, Puebla-based textile magnate José Camel Nacif, has brought a complaint against Cacho for criminal libel, which is punishable by imprisonment under Puebla state laws.

Puebla police travelled to Cancún, the capital of Quintana Roo state, and arrested Cacho there on December 16 on the alleged grounds that she had ignored repeated summonses from a judge in Puebla. Cacho told RSF she never received summonses.

After arresting her, the police took her back to Puebla by road. Cacho said she was threatened and mistreated during the trip, which lasted more than 20 hours. In her presence, the police joked about "these prisoners who end up being found dead," she said.

In all, she was held for nearly 48 hours, during which time she was not allowed to see a lawyer or get medical help. She was finally freed after paying bail of $6,500. In an e-mail message to the CIMAC news agency on December 20, she said she expected to get a definitive ruling on her case.

Date posted: December 25, 2005 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 441