Reporters Without Borders today called on the 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.
“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,” the press freedom organisation 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.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “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 13 December about a security firm created by Juan Pablo Vázquez Sotelo, the former coordinator of the judicial investigative police (PME) in Guanajuato state. She said five of the seven former police officers hired by Vázquez had been suspended for torture, abuse of authority and concealing information. She also reported that two of the former PME police officers had been fired in March for concealing trafficking in stolen cars.
The next day, Padilla 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 20 December 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 20 December, 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 21 December, Padilla has been assigned two bodyguards by the local prosecutor.