Tuesday, September 05, 2006

All posts were moved (11/2006) to http://mexfiles.wordpress.com

The pen is mightier than the grenade...

You read about drug POLICY in publications like New York Times or Jornada . If you want to read about the "war on drugs," you won't find it on the front lines either. The McAllen Monitor or the Laredo Morning Times might give you some combat reports, and the body count, but there's only so much they can do... or will. Anyone who writes on the border -- on either side -- is going to think twice about covering the narco wars. Too much money -- coming from the U.S. appitite for this shit -- is involved. And the Mexican narcos, having no way to settle their territorial disputes, aren't prone to legal nicities. If you think writing on some crooked land deal or corporate chincanery is risky, you really don't want to deal with these businessmen. Some of my colleagues in places like Del Rio and McAllen -- and Nuevo Laredo and Ciudad Acuña mkae the common-sense decision that no story is worth getting tortured and killed over. They're crime reporters ... not war correspondents. Down in the Yucatan, far from the border, Por Esto! is one of the more popular newspapers in Mexico. It's not a "great" paper in the sense that its reporters are talking heads on the news shows, or that the editorials are discussed in Congress. It's a good, old fashioned sports, scandal and crime paper. The kind of thing taxi drivers and hair dressers have around to pass the time. But, the Yucatan is a hotbed of corrpution and dubious money. There's a lot of cash floating around -- thanks to the tourist trade -- which makes it a perfect place for the narcos to set up business. Reporters for papers like Por Esto! are poorly paid, or free-lancers. They're enterprising. They're fearless. Or, maybe, they're crazy. But they've given Por Esto! de Merida an international reputation. To my knowledge, it's the only regional Mexican daily ever sued for libel in a New York State courts. The banker suing the paper (they'd claimed he was involved in money laundering), I'm happy to say, lost. Lately, the paper -- or rather a moonlighting anthopology professor -- has been writing about environmental damage related to the tourist hotels, and the problems dealing with toxins around Cancun. So, when a couple of guys jumped out of a truck last week, lobbed a couple of grenades in the paper's front office and hightailed it to the bus station... the state police arrested -- the professor! If something doesn't seem right about that... you're not alone. Those taxi drivers and housewives and shoe-shine men didn't buy it either. While the professor is out of jail, the paper is surrounded -- by the people -- and the taxi drivers have set up round the clock surveillence to protect THEIR paper. I hadn't heard about this (like most commentators, I've been preoccupied with the Presidential election), but Por Esto!'s sometime partner-in-crime, Narco News (which was co-defendant in the New York lawsuit) -- with their usual spin and flair for yellow journalism -- has been on top of this. That's a shame. Taxi drivers, housewives... and now the local Bishop... standing up for the free press. Casualties of the drug war fight back ... demand free press... power to the people: and, we'll be lucky to see a small AP article by the same reporter who has to put out "Spring-breakers run beserk in Cancun." Someone suggests bombing the New York Times, and the most you get are some worried editorials and sad comments from the talking heads. And people wonder why I say Mexico is under-reported.


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