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Mexico20 March 2008

Police suspected in death threats against publisher of local daily in Veracruz state

Reporters Without Borders is worried about death threats made on 18 March against Auricela Castro García, the publisher of El Mundo de Orizaba, a daily based in Orizaba, in the southeastern state of Veracruz. The aim of the threats appears to have been to deter the newspaper from reporting that a local police inspector helped the town’s former police chief to evade arrest.

“We express our solidarity with Auricela Castro and the staff of El Mundo de Orizaba,” the press freedom organisation said. “These threats are disturbing, especially if they came from police officers as circumstances suggest. The Veracruz judicial authorities will have to investigate the complaint that has been made. But the police should also investigate within their own ranks.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “It is unfortunately not unusual for police officers to think that they can attack the press with impunity and that the police force will cover up their crimes.”

Castro told Reporters Without Borders that the threats were made in two phone calls. The first was received by the newspaper’s switchboard at about 10 pm on 18 March. Identifying himself as José Sánchez, the caller asked to speak to the publisher “for personal reasons.” The call was transferred to the editor, who said Castro was in a meeting and unavailable. The caller replied: “Tell her she has information, she knows what I am talking about, and if she publishes it, she will be killed.” He then repeated the threat.

A few moments late, the editor took a call from another person identifying himself as Gumercindo Hernández, who said that he had been “nice until now” but “the situation could soon change” if his demands were not heeded.

In an editorial in yesterday’s issue, El Mundo de Orizaba linked these threat to the help that local police inspector Pedro Angel Márquez allegedly gave to the town’s former police chief, Alvaro Mendoza Morales, to evade arrest. Mendoza is wanted for the 16 March shooting of a traffic policeman, Héctor Rafael Sorcia Reyes, who tried to take him to the police station when he was caught driving while drunk.

Castro said that a complaint has been filed with the Veracruz state prosecutor’s office naming Márquez as main suspect in these threats. The newspaper also promised in yesterday’s issue that it would not let itself be intimidated. “We will not be silenced, neither now nor in the future.”

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