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MEXICO: Anti-Drug Journalists and 8th Drug Prosecutor Murdered


January 1997

On December 5 in Mexico City, police discovered the bodies of two journalists and their three children, aged 8, 13 and 18. The couple, Yolanda Figueroa and her husband, Fernando Balderas, had written extensively about drug smuggling in Mexico. Figueroa was the author of a recent book about Gulf drug cartel boss Juan Garcia Abrego (See "Suspected Mexican Cartel Leader Arrested, Extradited to the U.S.," NewsBriefs, February 1996). Balderas, formerly a special advisor to Mexico City prosecutors, helped research his wife's book and published a magazine specializing in exposing Mexican drug-related corruption. Local newspapers have cited unnamed law enforcement sources saying that Balderas himself was under investigation for drug trafficking ties and reportedly had two arrest warrants pending against him for extortion and rape (Molly Moore, "Mexican Anti-Drug Crusaders Slain," Washington Post, December 7, 1996, p. A17; Associated Press, "Mexican Journalist, Family Slain," Chicago Tribune, December 7, 1996, s. 1, p. 17).

The escalation in violence against journalists is likely to have a serious negative affect on further investigations into drug-related crime and corruption. "They are afraid," said prominent Mexican author Homero Aridjis regarding many journalists. "They don't want to write about it, they don't want to talk about it."

On January 3, senior Mexican drug prosecutor Odín Guitiérrez Rico, 32, was gunned down outside his home in Tijuana. According to officials, Guitiérrez was parking his car at 10:30 P.M.. when at least four assailants fired more than 100 bullets at him with assault rifles, and then ran over his body several times with their van (John Ward Anderson, "Prosecutor Shot Dead in Tijuana's 8th Such Killing in a Year," Washington Post, January 6, 1997, p. A11; Sam Dillon, "Senior Mexican Drug Prosecutor Is Killed by Gunmen in Tijuana," New York Times, January 6, 1997, p. A3).

Guitiérrez's murder is the eighth slaying of a top drug law enforcement official in Tijuana in a year. Guitiérrez was the director of criminal trials in the state of Baja California Norte and previously a street-level drug agent. He had received death threats in late 1995 after investigating drug crimes and corruption linked to the Tijuana Cartel, run by the Arellano Félix family. (See "MEXICO: 700 Federal Agents Fired, Seven Senior Anti-Drug Officials Murdered," NewsBriefs, November 1996).