El Diario’s Hipocrisy on Press Freedom and the Drug War
The Juárez Daily Persecuted Journalist Isabel Arvide in 2002 for Her Reports on Narco-Media in the Border City
By Carlos Ramírez
September 27, 2010
Although the media goes in search of heroes, it is nonsense to, as some press reports have done, compare El Diario of Ciudad Juárez with the weekly Zeta de Tijuana. The former has a stormy past of accusations of involvement with narcotrafficking, while the late Zeta publisher Jesús Blancornelas was a strong adversary against the mafias, even at the cost of his life and without negotiating his editorial policy.
The comparison shows a lack of respect for Blancornelas, who suffered a very grave assassination attempt that left him near the brink of death, and with two of his colleagues murdered. Zeta magazine was dedicated to revealing the inner workings of organized crime.
On the other hand, the owner of El Diario, Osvaldo Rodríguez Borunda, on two occasions sued and forced the arrest of journalist Isabel Arvide in 2002, for two columns published in the Milenio newspaper where she examined the infiltration of narcotraffickers into the print media in Ciudad Juárez, with El Diario being among them. Arvide lost in the legal proceedings due to procedural errors, not because of the journalistic content, but her case led to the decriminalization of personal injury suits against journalists. The owner of El Diario sought a compensation of $8.5 million dollars.
The interesting thing about the case was that Crispín Borunda Cárdenas, who was a key figure in one of Arvide’s columns and a report she wrote called “A new drug cartel in Chihuahua,” was later arrested by the federal Attorney General on charges of ties to narcotrafficking in February 2004. The report was severe. Although Arvide protected the identity of her sources at that time, June 2, 2001, it is suspected that information came from the military. The text begins:
“Commanded by the head of the state government’s Public Safety bureau, Jesús `Chito´ Solís, a new drug cartel is replacing the Amado Carrillo organization.
“According to documents obtained by this reporter, it was a known secret found out a few days ago after a shipment of cocaine was discovered by federal authorities, who, minutes later, received a call from a brother of the agency head demanding that those involved be released.
“Prominent members include businessmen, advisers, and friends of Patricio Martínez (Governor of Chihuahua from 1998-2004). Names that standout are Crispín Borunda Cárdenas, whose ranch neighbors the Governor’s property; the Solís brothers; Raúl Muñoz Talavera; Chuy Sotelo, a well-known businessman in the transportation industry; Dante Poggio, an ex-policeman who would later become an armed executioner; and Osvaldo Rodríguez Borunda, the owner of El Diario de Chihuahua.
“The last name, suspected of laundering drug trafficking money for many years now, will receive the National Journalism Award from the federal government’s Secretary of the Interior next July 7. His power allowed him oust Fifth Military Base general Juan Morales Fuentes in November 1999 after his plane was searched and inspected by military forces.
“Total complicity from the local authorities with drug traffickers, with the local Attorney General being a lame duck.”
The history of the Arvide case, which deserved a freedom of expression defense against the personal injury accusations that seek to punish the dissemination of true or false facts, can be found here. In the end, the Chihuahua government gave up on the case, which lead Attorney General of Mexico Rafael Macedo de la Concha to issue a landmark agreement to stop the subpenas of journalists and to protect their sources. Then Congressman Manlio Fabio Beltrones brought forward the federal decriminalization of personal injury lawsuits in cases relating to journalism.
The investigations done by Arvide were significant at the time because they revealed the infiltration of drug trafficking into the social, political, and media sectors of Chihuahua, and especially Ciudad Juárez. The actual crisis in those places, therefore, was not born out of a spontaneous generation, but has been woven there for years. The original sources of drug trafficking were the police commanders who set everything up in Ciudad Juárez and Nuevo Laredo, all of them with powerful friends in the media.
The media situation in Juárez has a secret history. For example, there is the case of another important daily publication that grew out of drug money. The financier was arrested, but later released, and then wanted to collect his debt from the daily. After he was told no, the drug trafficker ordered the kidnapping of the publisher of the media outlet, whose mother had to pay the debt to save her son.
Right now the publisher of El Diario, Rodríguez Borunda, resides in El Paso, Texas. Some sources point out differences that have arisen between him and the drug trafficker Gilberto Ontiveros Lucero, a DEA fugitive who has returned to Juárez to collect debts.
In this context, the comparison of Rodríguez Borunda to Jesús Blancornelas should be considered an insult to the memory of the director of the Zeta weekly, because Blancornelas was a journalist through and through, without the slightest suspicion of alleged irregularities. Unless, of course, there are certain critics who wish to exaggerate anything that smacks of an attack against the government, when the arguments are over.
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