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Mexico28 September 2004

Drug cartel hit-man arrested for journalist’s murder

The Mexican authorities on 24 September arrested alleged contract killer Raúl Castelán Cruz as a suspected participant in the murder of journalist Francisco Arratia Saldierna. A former member of an elite Mexican army unit, Castelán Cruz is said to be a member of the Zetas, a gang of hit-men who work for the Gulf Cartel of drug traffickers. He was located through Arratia’s mobile phone, which he used three times. Under interrogation, he allegedly confessed to taking part in the murder but said he did not act alone. The contract for Arratia’s murder may have been issued by Gulf Cartel boss Jorge Eduardo "El Coss" Costilla and the motive is thought to have been Arratia’s reports about drug trafficking and organised crime.

02.09.04 - Journalist killed in Matamoros

Reporters Without Borders expressed outrage today at the death of political journalist and commentator Francisco Arratia Saldierna. The worldwide press freedom organisation called for a speedy investigation to find the killers and determine whether the attack was connected with his journalistic work.

"Every possibility must be considered," it said. "The US-Mexican border, where trafficking of all kinds takes place, is a dangerous area for journalists doing stories about sensitive matters." Police said they were looking at various motives.

Francisco Arratia Saldierna was kidnapped and tortured on 31 August in the northeastern city of Matamoros (Tamaulipas state). He was seized by strangers who forced him into a car as he was on his way home from a garage he owned. An hour or so later, police got an anonymous call saying he was lying seriously wounded in front of the local Red Cross offices. He died in hospital a few hours later as a result of a broken skull and fingers and burns and injuries on his stomach and shoulders.

As well as running the garage, Arratia Saldierna, 55, was a teacher and journalist who wrote political columns, especially about local corruption and organised crime, in four newspapers in Tamaulipas state - El Imparcial, El Regional, Mercurio and El Cinco.

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