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Mexico17 December 2004

Authorities agree to give Juan Torres protection

The newspaper Noroeste reports that the Sinaloa state authorities agreed yesterday to provide protection for Juan Torres, its correspondent in Escuinapa. According to state prosecutor Oscar Fidel González, investigators suspect a link between the 28 November murder of press photographer Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández and the threats recently made against Torres. The police are reportedly now going to interrogate Escuinapa’s mayor and its former police chief, who were the subject of allegations in an article by Torres.

16.12.2004 - Journalist threatened over report about links between police and drug traffickers

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about threats that have been made against Juan Torres, the correspondent of the regional newspaper Noroeste in Escuinapa (in the northeastern state of Sinaloa) and said they should be taken all the more seriously as they could be linked to the murder of a news photographer in Escuinapa last month.

"We would like this journalist and his family to be given protection and for an investigation to get under way as soon as possible," the organisation said in a letter to Sinaloa state prosecutor Óscar Fidel González Mendívil, asking to be kept informed of the investigation’s progress.

Three men in a black pickup without licence plates stopped outside Torres’ home on 14 December and one of them said to his son: "Tell your father we read his article today and he is the one we are going to silence." In the article concerned, Torres said Escuinapa’s mayor preferred to say nothing about alleged links between former police chief Abel Enrique Zavala and drug traffickers.

Torres’ son was unable to identify the men because they wore hats, stayed inside the pickup and only partially lowered its tinted windows. The newspaper filed a complaint the same day with the Sinaloa state prosecutor and demanded protection for Torres and his family.

Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández, a photographer with the daily El Debate, was shot dead by several gunmen in the same city on 28 November while dining in a restaurant with this family. Jesús Blancornelas, the editor of the weekly Zeta, said the murder could linked to the existence of photos taken by Rodríguez showing Zavala, the former police chief, in the company of alleged Sinaloa cartel hit man Antonio Frausto Ocampo during a party on 20 November.

A report in the daily La Crónica de Hoy on 3 December said the police suspected that it was Frausto Ocampo who shot Rodríguez. It said the police were also looking for two of the three Cedano Ornelas brothers, who were suspected of participating in the killing. One of them, Abraham, 20, has already been arrested. The police also found the jeep allegedly used by the killers in a place owned by Frausto Ocampo. The murder weapon has also reportedly been identified.

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