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Mexico28 May 2007

Another severed head left as gruesome “narco-message” to the press

A second case of a severed head being used by suspected drug traffickers to intimidate journalists was condemned today by Reporters Without Borders. The latest discovery of a head, this time outside the Tabasco Hoy daily newspaper in the southeastern city of Villahermosa yesterday, came two days after the Cambio de Sonora newspaper decided to close down for security reasons.

“Once again a ‘narco-message’ has fueled the climate of terror reigning in some Mexican states,” the press freedom organisation said. “These constant threats against the press must stop, and we urge the appropriate authorities to provide the targeted newspaper with close protection. This situation has gone on too long, and the government must adopt effective measures so that Mexico does not continue to be the continent’s most dangerous country for the press.”

The head was found wrapped in newspaper inside a cooler that was left outside the offices of Tabasco Hoy, one of the most widely-read newspapers in the southeastern state of Tabasco. A member of a group of men travelling in two pickups reportedly told security guards outside: “Someone sent you this.” At first, the guards fled inside the building, thinking it might be a bomb. Then they called the police.

The newspaper’s management described the incident as “an act of intimidation with the aim of preventing us doing our everyday work of reporting what happens in the state accurately and objectively.”

The head was identified as that Terencio Sastré, a municipal councillor in the neighbouring town of El Cedro, whose headless body was founded two days earlier with the message: “This is what happened to me for making an anonymous call to the authorities.” Sastré reportedly accused a contract killer linked to a drug-trafficking gang called “Los Zetas.”

A severed head was previously left as a “narco-message” to journalists on 3 May in the eastern city of Vera Cruz (see release of 10 May).

Constants threats and two bomb attacks in the space of a month led the Cambio de Sonora, a daily newspaper based in Hermosillo, in the northern state of Sonora, to temporarily suspend publication on 25 May. Drug traffickers are also suspected of being behind these attacks.

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