On Sunday September 19th El Diaro de Juárez published an editorial entitled “Qué quieren de nosotros?”, an open letter of sorts to warring drug cartels and government officials alike. To Juárez’s “de facto authorities”, those that have terrorized the city with assassinations and disappearances, the paper asked: “what do you want from us? What should we or should we not publish?” And to the government that has failed to protect press freedom, the lives of reporters or life in general in Juárez (a city where 6,605 people have been murdered in the last two years alone), the message was a sound denouncement. “This is a rare, honest act, of realism,” the editorial said, “confronting governmental incompetence.”
The editorial comes after the murder of one of the paper’s photographers on September 16th. Luís Carlos Santiago Orozco, 21, was reportedly gunned down in a car outside La Plaza de Armas. His 18-year old intern, Carlos Sánchez Colunga, was critically injured but is expected to survive. When I asked Martín Orquiz, a journalist at El Diario de Juárez, to comment on the killings today he said: “Here we find ourselves on the verge of giving up. But we must always go on.”
In response to El Diario’s sarcastic appeal for a truce, government authorities exhibitedevasion and denial. “In no way,” said Alejandro Poire, security spokesman for President Felipe Calderon, “should anyone promote a truce or negotiate with criminals who are precisely the ones causing anxiety for the public, kidnapping, extorting and killing.” Officials continued to insist throughout the day that the murder of Orozco was personally motivated.
Assassinations, disappearance and rape have become commonplace in much of Mexico’s northern state of Chihuahua, especially since President Calderón's crackdown on the cartels beginning in 2006. And people are fed up. On September 21st, a mob in Ascension beat two men to death; the two were allegedly members of a gang called El Cubano that attempted to kidnap a 17-year-old girl. According to Associated Press reports, onlookers held up signs that read: “we are tired, fed up with kidnappings, no more kidnappings in Ascencion.” El Diarioreported on the incident, noting that in recent years the town of seven thousand people has suffered up to three kidnappings a week.
On the same day that the Ascension citizens killed the two kidnappers, five people were murdered in Juárez. One of the yet-to-be identified was a pregnant woman.
Later that day the United States granted asylum for the first time in history to a Mexican journalist. The event may give some hope to the many other Mexican reporters in exile, though as Molly Molloy, the writer and researcher who maintains Frontera-List reports, for them, getting asylum protection will continue to be a Herculean task.