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Mexico4 September 2006

Third bomb attack on Yucatan newspaper’s staff in ten days

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about a grenade attack on the headquarters of the Mérida-based daily Por Esto! on 1 September that injured three employers. It followed a similar grenade attack on the newspaper’s Cancún branch on 23 August and a petrol bomb attack on one of its journalists two days before that.

“These attacks came on the heels of revelations about the activities of organised crime in eastern Mexico which Por Esto! had covered,” the press freedom organisation said. “Another local daily, El Mañana, was targeted in a similar fashion on 6 February in the northeastern city of Nuevo Laredo. Mexican criminals clearly no longer hesitate to go after journalists inside their news organisations.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “This tendency marks one more step in the deterioration in the situation of press freedom in Mexico. With 17 murders since 2000, Mexico now ranks alongside Colombia as the hemisphere’s most dangerous country for the press. The investigations into these attacks must produce results quickly, and measures to protect the newspaper and its staff must be taken at the federal level.”

Two individuals walked into the reception area of Por Esto! in Mérida, the capital of the southeastern state of Yucatan, on the morning of 1 September and threw two grenades, deputy editor Miguel Menéndez said. One exploded, injuring employees Justo Pacheco Chacón, who suffered partial hearing loss, and Gaspar Cervera Uc and Fernando Patrón, who were hit by flying fragments but were not seriously hurt. The other grenade failed to go off, and was defused.

Menéndez said the assailants saw that employees were present and therefore knew they could have killed someone. By luck, all the personnel in the lobby were able to take cover. He said this was the latest in a series of attacks against Por Esto!’s staff because of its coverage of organised crime, especially drug trafficking, and the links between organised crime and both the Yucatan authorities and the federal government.

The investigation has established that organised crime was probably behind the latest attack but the perpetrators have not yet been identified. No one was injured in the 23 August grenade attack on Por Esto!’s office in Cancún. A petrol bomb was thrown at the car of journalist Jaime Vargas in Mérida in the 21 August attack.

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