<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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Por Esto! Receives School of Authentic Journalism Students in Cancun

The Newspaper Argued that “The Drug Trafficking Problem Won’t End Unless the Fellowship Between Police and Drug Traffickers Ends”

By Ter García
Class of 2010, School of Authentic Journalism

February 24, 2010

Upon arriving at the Cancun offices of the newspaper Por Esto!—the most-read newspaper in the Yucatan peninsula—the first thing that comes to one’s attention is one of its windows, which has been bricked up since the newspaper suffered a grenade attack. It is the price paid for being an “uncomfortable newspaper.” This past February 14, the School of Authentic Journalism visited this publication’s offices to learn about its work and history.

Por Esto! Managing Editor Renán Castro Madera greets the students and faculty of the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism during a visit tothe Cancún offices of the newspaper on February 4.
Photo: D.R. 2010 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky
Every day, a total of five photographers and up to twenty reporters in every municipality and city in the state of Quintana Roo fill the 128 pages that make up the newspaper Por Esto! in Cancun and Merida.

After a morning of investigation, reporters turn in an advance about the information they are covering to their section editors at 3 or 4pm. It is then that the design of the latest edition of the newspaper Por Esto! begins.

With about 75,000 copies sold every day in the states of Quintana Roo, Yucatan, and Campeche, the newspaper has established itself as the most widely circulated with about twenty years of presence in the streets.

“This is a newspaper made by journalists, not by businessmen,” says Renán Castro, the publication’s managing editor. To Castro, this isn’t just demonstrated by the information it covers with the goal of explaining oppressed people’s issues, but also by the fact that the people are the source, instead of depending on official statements. In this way the newspaper manages to cover issues that “up until a few years ago few newspapers dared to touch.”

Narcoterrorism in the Spotlight

One piece of work that positioned the newspaper as the peninsula’s main print media was an investigation about the relationship Roberto Hernández Rarmírez—at that time the director of Banamex’s board of directors—had with drug trafficking. It all began in 1995 when Renán Castro (managing editor of Por Esto!) and a fellow reporter were covering the aftermath of Hurricane Roxanne, which affected the Rancho Santa Elena zone on the Yucatan’s east coast. A group of fishermen were trapped there. They claimed they had seen some boats undertaking “strange movements in the night.” The journalists immediately began to follow them and saw that they were heading toward a property owned by Hernandez Ramirez. Once there, they found containers that had traces of a substance that, after being analyzed by specialists, turned out to be cocaine. This sparked an investigation that, after one year of work, uncovered multiple evidence that linked the ex-banker to drug trafficking.

However, according to Castro, the government’s response to such proof was to bring charges against the newspaper and begin a defamation campaign through various local and national media outlets. This, combined with an attempt to bribe Castro, who was offered up to $300,000 dollars in exchange for dropping the story and saying that the newspaper’s director, Mario Menéndez, had forced him to falsify all of the information. Castro, of course, indignantly rejected the offer.

After a trial that began in 1997 and ended in the New York Supreme Court, in 2001 all of the charges against the newspaper Por Esto! were dropped. But, as Castro points out, Roberto Hernández Rarmírez was not an isolated case. In fact, he said that now he has to always be accompanied by multiple security guards due to recent death threats he received for having published information that referred to Juan Carlos Tarabay, better known as “El Zeta 20,” a Gulf cartel boss in southeast Mexico and, according to Por Esto!, murderer of, amongst other people, Cancun police chief Miguel Angel Puch.

Other Revelations

The 2010 School of Authentic Journalism takes a tour of the newsroom at the daily Por Esto! offices in Cancún.
Photo: D.R. 2010 Noah Friedman-Rudovsky
The newspaper has made public other dark scandals that have occurred in Mexico, such as the presence of Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles in Mexico in March 2005. Posada Carriles had a relationship with the CIA and was imprisoned in Panama in November 2000 for possessing 200 pounds of explosives that were going to be used in an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro. It was journalist Yolanda Gutiérrez, Por Esto!’s correspondent in Isla Mujeres, who found the international terrorist in one of the photographs that she took of the ship’s crew while she was covering the environmental impact of the Santrina boat accident on the El Farito reef.

But history repeated itself. Once again, when Por Esto! brought the facts to the federal government, led at that time by Vicente Fox, instead of opening an investigation, the terrorist’s presence in the country was denied. “Luis Posada Carriles went to Mexico and Vicente Fox allowed it because his political campaign had been funded with money from the Miami-based Cuban American [National] Foundation,” Castro asserted.

According to Por Esto! journalists’ investigation, Posada Carriles arrived in Mexico through Belize with the help of a CIA asset. Years after Fox took advantage of a visit to Quintana Roo to label the professionals at Menéndez Rodriguez’s paper as liars, the facts were confirmed by the same CIA agent who had accompanied the terrorist on his trip to Mexico during a judicial hearing in the United States.

The network of traffickers of undocumented Cubans was another of the important stories uncovered by the newspaper Por Esto!. “Dozens of Cubans were arriving in the United States through Quintana Roo,” explained Castro, who mentioned that, as in previous cases, governmental institutions denied the facts, despite the fact that the newspaper provided the names of the organization’s leaders and the drug cartel leaders that operated the network and shared the route. “Today everyone says and recognizes the presence and the strong relationship and closeness between drug traffickers and human traffickers,” underscored the newspaper’s general coordinator.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America