February 10, 2006
assault on Mexican newspaper at US/Mexican border
(Nuevo Laredo) Heavily armed gunmen with assault rifles and grenades blasted their way into the offices of the newspaper El Maòana, Nuevo Laredo's largest daily newspaper on Feb. 6. Night shift reporter Jaime Orozco Tey was gravely wounded. The 28-year-old reporter was shot five times, two bullets in the chest, two in the upper abdomen, one of which had hit his spine. He may never walk again.
El Maòana has a reputation for honest reporting, the courage to cover narcotics and the maquiladoras, and for giving a voice to workers and the poor in Nuevo Laredo. Its owner, Ninfa Deander, serves on Board of Directors of the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras.
The newspaper has been a frequent target of narco traffickers, corporate interests and government repression. The Monday evening assault reportedly began at 7:45 p.m. when at least two men wearing hoods entered the newspaper’s offices carrying high caliber weapons and opened fire on reporters and staff who were at work on the morning edition. Carrying AR-15 and AK-47 rifles and grenades, the intruders shot up the reception area and proceeded to the editorial office where they continued firing.
A reporter later wrote, “We were working as normal at our computers. Suddenly, I heard the sound of breaking glass. I felt something sting my face. I heard blasts and my immediate reaction was to throw myself to the floor. I hid under my computer table and listened to more shots. All the reporters were trying to hide. Our fear grew when we heard the explosion of a fragmentation grenade. Someone yelled, ‘They’re going to kill all of us.’”
The grenade exploded in front of the offices of the editorial directors only a couple of feet from Orozco. Though others were injured from flying glass and debris, Orozco was the only one shot. He appears to have been targeted by the gunmen.
Orozco reported on the narco wars. Recently, El Maòana co-hosted and reported on a national conference on Drug Trafficking and the Role of the Media. Charges have been made that the Mexican government is not doing enough in investigating narco-trafficking.
The newspaper’s editor Daniel Rosas told Reuters by telephone that the gunmen’s methods and weapons left little doubt they were involved in the drug trade.
Orozco had also been covering the struggles of maquiladora workers who are challenging the decades-long legacy of corrupt unionism. The newspaper recently denounced the mayor for his crooked management of the city’s water system and for the eviction of the residents of colonia Blanca Navidad, where maquila workers lived. Early one recent morning, police burned down many houses. A few days later city bulldozers destroyed the rest. Orozco was covering the repression of the families who were sitting in the city’s central plaza demanding justice.
In one article, he quoted Martha Rubio Quirino, an eleven-year-old who lived in Blanca Navidad Colonia: “The police arrived and took everything. The machines uprooted the houses. My mother yelled at me and I got out. Later, I saw her crying. I saw everyone running. It scared me because the machines didn’t wait, and they killed some people.”
El Maòana was also attacked. In March 2004. The newspaper’s editor, Roberto Mora GarcÌa, was murdered under mysterious circumstances. The crime has yet to be solved.
An editorial in El Maòana stated, “This war is insane. It’s not Nuevo Laredo’s war, nor the media’s, nor El Maòana’s, nor society’s but all of us suffer the consequences of the violence … who was responsible? We don’t know. It could have been anyone. They are phantoms. Often they use the media attacking us to blame an opposing gang and justify some supposed authority’s reaction against a rival group. It’s a form of terrorism.”
Nuevo Laredo is the largest port of entry into the United States .It connects to I-35, which goes north into America’s heartland. Six thousand trailers cross the border each day, and, according to reports, US customs only inspects fifty to sixty. For at least the last year, the State of Tamaulipas and especially Nuevo Laredo have experienced a marked increase in drug-related violence spurred by Mexican President Vicente Fox’s declaration of war on drug cartels and wars between rival cartels fighting over turf and political patronage. The attack on El Maòana, however, represents a new, more blatant level of violence.
In the midst of the tragedy, El Maòana reiterated its proposal for a solution and called for redirection of the enormous drug war budget toward “free, accessible drug rehabilitation programs for addicts” and the decriminalization and control of less addictive and dangerous drugs.
El Maòana’s crusade for peace and justice has won substantial support from the people of Nuevo Laredo. When they heard that Jaime Orozco needed a blood transfusion, dozens of citizens went to the hospital to donate. As news of the attack on the paper spread, thousands called to express their support.
Judy Ancel with the Institute for Labor Studies at the University of Missouri/Kansas City and KGNS/NBC News Laredo, TX contributed to this story along with Reuters.
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