A report on how courageous Mexican journalists are threatened and assassinated while reporting on relationship between senior police and political figures and transnational narco gangs.
OSCAR LEON, PRODUCER, TRNN: Since 2006 when Felipe Calderon assumed the presidency of Mexico until the end of his administration, 96 journalists have been murdered or disappeared.
NEWSCAST SOUNDBITE (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Police found four quartered dead bodies with torture marks all over. The bodies belonged to three journalists and the girlfriend of one of them.
LEON: In this violent conflict, those who dare to tell the truth are in grave danger, especially those who expose elected officials working with the cartels. The Mexican state appears unable to control the escalating violence.
Not only there is a war between the federal government and the cartels, but there is also a war between the cartels themselves for control of the enormous profits that the transnational drug traffic generates. The production and distribution of drugs is a transnational business that according to the United Nations is worth up to $400 billion dollars a year, around 8 percent of all international trade.
Annabel Hernandez is an investigative journalist who worked many years uncovering the corruption of the criminal gangs acting in collusion with the police, and elected officials as well. During the last five years she zeroed in the Federal Public Security Ministry. There the top law enforcement officials coordinate the fight against public threats.
Hernandez has published over her findings investigating the Federal Public Security Ministry. The most shocking revelation comes with the fact that the public security czar Genaro Garcia Luna allegedly used his enormous power and influence to collude with criminal "narco" and kidnapping gangs, the very same people he was supposed to fight.
ANNABEL HERNANDEZ, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I was able to document many facts that prove how several top officers from the federal Public Security office and the Federal Police were involved in a number of corruption acts, going from links with kidnapping rings to being actually working for the Mexican drug cartels.
Since I started working on this subject five years ago, I have been stalked and pressured; my sources have been also persecuted in this manner all this time.
Recently, individuals of absolute credibility and important public image revealed to me Genaro Garcia Luna told them that I am his number-one enemy and that he is going to "finish me".
LEON: Genaro Garcia Luna is not an ordinary law enforcement officer. He has vast intelligence and counterterrorism background. He has been trained in U.S., Israel, Colombia, among other countries. Garcia Luna's power and influence has been felt from the beginning of his career. In 1998, he designed a framework for the Mexican intelligence agency, and the Federal Police as well. He has written books and received medals from governments and agencies from all around the globe, including but not limited to the DEA, Homeland Security, CIA, FBI, Department of Justice, and Interpol. Since 2006, Garcia Luna was appointed the Czar of Public Security.
HERNANDEZ: Finally in 2010 I published my book The Lords of Narco, where I documented the links between the top officials in federal Public Security office and the organized crime.
In December 2010, I was informed by a direct source, who was a direct witness, that agents from the Federal Investigation Agency, an agency created by Genaro Garcia Luna, were being recruited by Garcia Luna himself to assassinate me. They are supposed to make it look like a terrorist bombing, a robbery, a car accident, a kidnapping gone wrong. Either way will end up in my death bed.
After learning this worrisome information, I went to the Department of Justice to present a formal complaint against those responsible. Since that day, my children and I must live protected by bodyguards 24/7.
The threats didn't stop. I then went public with this matter. The only way journalist can protect their lives is to go public with the threats and say openly who are the ones persecuting us.
LEON: On November 28, 2011, Edgar Gonzales Valdez, also known as La Barbie, stated in an open letter from inside the jail that he personally had given substantial bribes to Genaro Garcia Luna, then Czar of Public Security. He said that the bribes go back to 2002, when Garcia Luna was the head of the Federal Investigation Agency. In this surprising and voluntary testimony, La Barbie went as far as assuring that it was Felipe Calderon himself, president of Mexico, who unleashed a so-called "political persecution" against him because he refused to join ongoing talks between Mexico's highest public office and the heads of the drug traffic organizations.
He named General Mario Acosta Chaparro, who was murdered in April 2012, as the permanent liaison between the drug cartels and the presidency. He also named a number of top cops high in the hierarchy of the Federal Police, the Public Security ministry, and other law enforcement agencies, notably among them Armando Espinoza de Benito, current chief of the investigations unit of the Federal Police, who allegedly worked as a double agent with DEA, passing information to the narco cartels.
Edgar Gonzales Valdez, also known as La Barbie, in this public letter released through his attorney claimed that he is awaiting extradition to the U.S., where he will confess all he knows about public officials' involvement with the narco to U.S. authorities. While this happened, Gonzales Valdez was in a hunger strike, that he recently ended.
These accusations confirm the information presented in the books by Anabela Hernandez.
HERNANDEZ: I published the book Mexico en llamas on November 2012, where I documented even more details of the way the Public Security Ministry collaborated with the Sinaloa and the Beltran Leyva drug cartels.
So all these facts of corruption and crime I have denounced for the last five years have put my life at great risk. I am in danger today.
I cannot allow this. I cannot take this lightly. So I went to the public attorney office to expand my accusation against this top cops. I then denounced Genaro Garcia Luna, now former Public Security czar, as the one responsible for the threats and attacks on my life.
Last week, out of the blue, the PGR, the journalists' public security office, informed me that the federal general attorney declined authority over Luna because he is no longer in public service. So my case was transferred to a Public Security office. They offer me to have us guarded by either the Federal Police or the Public Security police, the two agencies that want to kill me.
LEON: Armando Rodriguez was a family man. He used to love sports. He was knew known by his friends as "El Choco." He was a reporter for El Diario de Juarez. One morning after breakfast, Armando was about to drive his daughter to school when he was gunned down by hired killers outside his house door, right in front of his family.
PEDRO TORRES, JOURNALIST, ARMANDO'S FRIEND: Armando was very scared. He knew the threats were real and also the violence in the city was getting too hot.
I was rushing trough heavy traffic when Blanca (Armando's wife) calls me saying: "They killed him, they killed him."
Minutes later I got to his house and saw him dead. There in his car he was very pale. It was a horrible sight.
LEON: Just like Anabella Hernandez, Armando Rodriguez, "El Choco", had reported about state officials' corruption, more specifically about the strange life and death of Andres Sanchez Pineda, the nephew of who was then Juarez's general attorney, Patricia Gonzalez Rodriguez. Many in Juarez are convinced that this is the reason why "El Choco" was murdered. Five years after his death, the suspicions might have been proven right--however, not in a court of justice.
On April 19, 2013, one day after being kidnapped, Mario Gonzalez, brother of Patricia Gonzalez, handcuffed and pointed by guns of at least five armed paramilitary man, confessed that his sister, now former Juarez's state general attorney, was in fact working for "La Linea" narco cartel, giving them protection and information.
Under mortal threat, he also declares that his sister, the former general attorney, gave the order to kill Armando Rodriguez "El Choco", along with at least four other individuals, one of which, Enrique Perea, was also a journalist.
There have been attacks to newspapers with bombs, drive-by shootings, and even the kidnapping of the entire staff that was present when the criminals broke in El Siglo de Torreon, a newspaper in the La Laguna region.
According to Article 19, a media watchdog, on the first three months of 2013 there have been 50 attacks to media workers and organizations.
OMAR RABAGO, ARTICLE 19 (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): There are no authorities willing to respond to the aggressions, murder, and forced disappearing of Journalists in Mexico, due to the fact that the special offices created, like the Office for Special Prosecution of Crimes Against the Liberty of Expression, a federal attorney office created on 2006, is not equipped with a proper legal framework or manpower to investigate. This has lead to impunity.
This is a situation where journalists are trapped in a crossfire between violence and impunity. There are cases of journalist calling the authorities for help and the call is never responded. So the journalist then call the employers for help and there are no security protocols implemented.
So we see that the media companies are not responding to the calls for help from Mexican journalists, who face and suffer from this situation of violence when doing their job.
LEON: It is believed that this illegal trade work in a system where international crime rings partner up with local drug traffickers, merging in the local economies and creating a complex chain where each cell does its part and gets a profitable reward, even authorities, law enforcement officers, and banks.
How high does official and private banking involvement with narco economy goes?
Even too-big-to-fail banking institutions like HSBC that laundered $881 million from drug cartels and Wachovia, now part of Wells Fargo, laundering $378.4 billion have cooperated with the drug cartel gangs. This was all recently demonstrated in U.S. courts.
What is more worrisome is that both banks were only fined for a very small percentage of their earnings--no arrests, nobody was banned from the banks, not even a hearing considering closing the banks. Case closed, and back to business as usual.
RABAGO: Yes, many times the big economic interest are the ones trying to control the free flow of information. They achieve this trough threats, intimidation, bribes, coercion of Mexican journalist and media staff. Often big companies partially own the media corporations, or are clients of the media networks. So they can ask for some information to be silenced or not spoken about.
Authorities' actions are notoriously absent. They create new offices that lack any authority or legal frame, offices that are powerless. The government response is a true simulation.
LEON: Shockingly, on April 19, 2013, two days after this interview was made, a threatening letter was sent to the offices of Article 19, promising to hurt them or kill them for their braveness to speak out.
TEXT ON SCREEN: Stupid little boss.
You are a whore you don't know who you're messing with; we have had enough of you. You are being very brave ah? Let's see if after a good beat down your heart doesn't stop. Too much fucking truth liberty for you! Let's see how big are your balls after you and all of your whores end up raped and hurt, we are already tired of you.
We are watching you and very closely, so don't believe you are the big shot, you are just idiots that we want to fuck.
You know who we are, so you know we can do this.
LEON: Mexico is a country in a rare state between apparent peace and a surging violent conflict, where the state tries to defeat an enemy that pretty much resembles "a ghost", a killer that is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, the transnational drug cartels.
The Mexican government put the number of total casualties around 34,000 since 2006, but others differ radically, like Department of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who on a security meeting in Canada recently put that number around 150,000. And while this violent conflict has no military battlefield, the last couple years the body count puts Mexico among the most violent places on earth, right next to Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
In a context of enormous profits for transnational interest, and individuals as well, all those involved in this conflict are no more than disposable pawns. Men and women die every day to continue this very profitable "War on Drugs", and among them many Mexican journalist.
Reporting for The Real News this is Oscar Leon.