US grants political asylum to Mexican reporter

Last Updated: Thursday, September 23, 2010 - 13:44

Mexico City: Jorge Luis Aguirre, a Mexican journalist who said he got death threats from authorities in his country, has been granted political asylum in the US, the online daily La Polaka reported.

Aguirre, who is La Polaka`s editor, fled to the US with his family in November 2008, hours after another reporter was murdered and he received direct death threats.

The journalist got "systematic threats" from the individual later named to head up the Public Safety Secretariat in Chihuahua, the country`s most violent state and home to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico`s murder capital.

The threats stemmed from Chihuahua Attorney General Patricia Gonzalez`s unhappiness over stories published by La Polaka, the news website said.

Aguirre documented the threats and testified before the US Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs in Washington on March 17, 2009.

President Barack Obama`s administration finally granted the journalist asylum.

"As long as the war on drugs does not affect the network of economic interests and punishes the narcopoliticians hidden in positions of power, there will be no hope for peace and progress in Mexico, especially in Juarez," Aguirre said.

The journalist has been particularly critical of Chihuahua Governor Jose Reyes Baeza, who in the face of escalating violence has called for the need to stop the killing and reconstruct the state`s social fabric.

The killing, however, has not slowed, with more than 2,000 murders this year in Ciudad Juarez, which has seen some 230,000 people, according to a new study, flee to the US or return to their hometowns in Mexico.

The situation is particularly difficult for journalists, who have been targeted by criminals and, in many cases, by officials.

Over the weekend, El Diario de Juarez caused a stir by calling on drug traffickers operating in the border city to explain what they want from journalists and proposing a truce.

Luis Carlos Santiago, a 21-year-old El Diario news photographer, was killed last Thursday and his colleague, Carlos Sanchez, was wounded in an attack by suspected drug cartel hit men.

The gunmen waited for the two trainee news photographers to leave a shopping mall and enter their vehicle before opening fire, police said.

Alejandro Poire, the Mexican government`s security spokesman, tried to downplay Santiago`s killing earlier this week, saying that the news photographer may have been murdered for personal and not professional reasons.

El Diario de Juarez took issue in an editorial on Tuesday with the government`s position on the case.

"The killer ... fired at him (Santiago) nine times and later, with the same cold-bloodedness, followed the other photojournalist who was with him inside the busiest shopping mall in the city to try to finish him off, but he failed," El Diario said.

Santiago`s murder brought to 11 the number of reporters killed in Mexico in 2010, Paris-based press-rights group Reporters Without Borders said.

Sixty-five journalists have been slain since 2000 in Mexico, according to the National Human Rights Commission, which is the country`s equivalent of an ombudsman`s office.

The Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels have been battling for control of smuggling routes in Ciudad Juarez, with the death toll from the gangland war totalling 8,300 between December 2006 and July 2010.

IANS



First Published: Thursday, September 23, 2010 - 13:44

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