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Mexico9 June 2008

Editor survives murder attempt as a severed head is left as threat to another editor

Reporters Without Borders today called for light to be shed on a murder attempt against Aristeo Abundis Hernández, editor of the weekly Frente y Vuelta, in Panuco, Veracruz state in eastern Mexico who was shot at as he was driving home.

The worldwide press freedom organisation also condemned a threat against the daily El Correo de Tabasco and its editor Juan Padilla Herrera in which a severed human head - a typical drug-gang warning - was left in front of the newspaper’s offices in Villahermosa, in the south-east on 7 June.

Abundis Hernández, aged 40, was returning home on the evening of 30 May, when a red Cutlass-type car with two men inside drove alongside him. One of the two men opened fire on him twice but he escaped unharmed as the bullets lodged in a door and a tyre.

The editor accelerated away from the scene to his home where two security guards have been protecting his family at his request for the past two months.

“The costal area of eastern Mexico is infamous for its many forms of smuggling and is as dangerous for the local press as the border area with the United States. This targeted murder attempt and severed head bear all the hallmarks of organised crime in which this region is mired”, Reporters Without Borders said.

“Never has cooperation been more needed between the federal and state justice systems to come to grips with this scourge.”

Abundis Hernández said the shooting attack was the third against him since the start of the year. Twice in restaurants, in March and April, he was threatened by two armed and hooded individuals. “The first time a man threatened me and tried to shoot at me, the second time two unidentified man struck me and injured my hand,” he told Reporters Without Borders.

He added that he believed the latest attack could be linked to his work, in particular recent reporting on a case of embezzlement of federal funds.

In a threat to the editor of El Correo de Tabasco, Juan Padilla Herrera, a severed human head was left in front of the paper’s premises along with a message threatening the editor. The head was that of a man of around 40 whose body had earlier been found in another part of the city, along with written threats addressed to anyone who spoke about the case.

El Correo de Tabasco had recently carried reports exposing smuggling of illegal immigrants and kidnappings in the region.

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