La prensa

Mexican Editor Detained, Interrogated

Created: 08 January, 2010
Updated: 26 July, 2022
5 min read

Frontera NorteSur 

December 31, 2009 – As Mexico prepared to mark the twin anniversary of its 1810 War of Independence and 1910 Revolution -events ushered in with cries of freedom and justice- a prominent newsman was detained and interrogated because of an article he wrote.

Juan Angulo Osorio, general director and co-founder of the Guerrero daily El Sur, was forcibly detained December 29 by six agents of the Guerrero Ministerial Police (PIM) at El Sur’s office in the state capital of Chilpancingo and hustled off to the state attorney general’s office for a round of questioning. Before he was let go several hours later, Angulo was questioned by state prosecutors Jesus Miranda and Fernando Monreal about bloody episodes that rocked Guerrero in 2009.

The PIM is headed by Valentin Diaz Reyes, a former military man who commanded the embattled Delicias division of the Ciudad Juarez municipal police before he was appointed the director of the state police force by the administration of Governor Zeferino Torreblanca last October. Diaz’s superior is Albertico Guinto Sierra, the temporary state attorney general.

Angulo’s detention arose from a September 3 editorial he authored about the previous month’s assassination of Armando Chavarria, the coordinator of the Guerrero State Legislature who was widely considered a gubernatorial hopeful in upcoming elections. Chavarria had also once served as state secretary for the Torreblanca administration, a sensitive post in which he was privy to matters of internal security.

Earlier instructed by the state attorney general’s office to render testimony about the editorial, Angulo legally challenged the order on the grounds of press freedom. Angulo also received protective orders from the Guerrero State Human Rights Commission and the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), both of which were ignored when the veteran journalist was detained this week during Mexico’s long holiday season, a time when government activities are largely suspended and the public’s attention focused on family and festivities.

Arguing he was protected by Articles Six and Seven of the Mexican Constitution, Angulo said after his release he cannot be “bothered by any authority due to my writings or what is published in the newspaper for which I am director general.”

Angulo said he told prosecutors his only relationship with Armando Chavarria was the latter’s status as a source of information.

According to El Sur, Angulo also was asked about Raul Lucas Lucas and Manuel Ponce Rosas, two indigenous Mixtec leaders kidnapped and murdered nearly one year ago, and Omar Guerrero Solis, a purported field commander of the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI) who was reported slain in murky circumstances last November.

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“I believe the state attorney general’s office is not obligated to follow orders that violate the Constitution of the Republic,” Angulo said, “even though these orders come from the state’s governor, who has been the main one interested in seeing me render legal testimony in a case in which the only knowledge I have is from my journalistic work.”

Pressed by an El Sur reporter, interim State Attorney General Guinto denied Angulo was detained because of his writings or due to political pressure from Governor Torreblanca.

“I reiterate that at no moment was he detained because of his journalistic work or for his articles,” Guinto insisted, stressing that Angulo was not forced to testify or treated badly by officers. Without elaborating, Guerrero’s top law enforcement official added that authorities were pursuing four lines of investigation in the Chavarria murder.

Alerted to Angulo’s detention, reporters from different media outlets and human rights advocates quickly mobilized outside the state attorney general’s headquarters. Leaders of the PRD, PRI, PT and Convergencia political parties, environmentalists and social activists, joined by the international organization Reporters without Borders, all were among numerous voices condemning the detention.

Ironically, Angulo was detained by an administration headed by a political figure, Zeferino Torreblanca, whose career as a federal congressman, Acapulco mayor and then state governor was greatly boosted by El Sur. In the 1980s and 1990s, Torreblanca was widely considered a champion of good government, human rights and political tolerance.

El Sur was in the vanguard of the new critical Mexican press which emerged after the 1980s, and played a vital regional role in the movement to democratize Mexico and move it away from a one-party state. Over the years, the news-paper’s journalists have been the target of telephoned and direct verbal threats, lawsuits and other forms of intimidation.

Members of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), a grouping which ran Torreblanca as their successful gubernatorial candidate in 2005, were among the early supporters of El Sur’s journalistic initiative. However, El Sur’s editorial line has been highly critical of many of Torreblanca’s policies since he assumed the governorship.

Nearing the end of his term, Torreblanca’s tenure in office has been characterized by extreme bouts of narco-violence, which have reached a crescendo in recent months. Of 1,136 murders registered in Guerrero from January to mid-October 2009, at least 706 were linked by authorities to organized crime. Among this year’s victims were three journalists from different media: Juan Raul Ibarra Ramirez, Juan Carlos Hernandez and Juan Daniel Martinez Gil.

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Angulo’s detention capped a grim year for the Mexican press. Thirteen journalists were reported murdered in 2009, and Ciudad Juarez journalist Ricardo Chavez Aldana of Radio Canon sought political asylum in the United States this month after receiving death threats. Chavez was the fourth journalist to flee Ciudad Juarez  within the past 18 months.

A recent CNDH report documented steadily rising attacks against journalists since 2000, the year of Mexico’s much-heralded democratic transition. In a separate report, the non-governmental Freedom of Expression Foundation slammed conditions confronted by Mexican journalists. Without freedom of expression, warned the foundation’s president Armando Prida Huerta, journalists have “absolutely nothing.”

In the case of El Sur’s Juan Angulo, the CNDH has initiated a complaint against the Guerrero state attorney general’s office for violating the right of free expression.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico.

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