TIME Mexico

Advocates Fear Further Impunity After Death of Mexican Photojournalist

Some 90% of journalist murders in Mexico since 1992 have gone unpunished

(MEXICO CITY) — With an investigation barely underway, Mexican journalist protection groups are already expressing fears that authorities won’t consider the brutal killing of a photojournalist as being related to his work — even though he fled the state he covered fearing for his safety.

Mexico City officials said Sunday they are pursuing all lines of investigation in the death of Ruben Espinosa, whose tortured body was found along with four slain women in an apartment in Mexico’s capital. Prosecutor Rodolfo Rios Garza said authorities were following protocols for crimes against journalists and crimes against women, as well as looking at robbery as a possible motive in the case.

But when dealing with journalists’ killings, authorities in Mexico historically have been quick to discard their work as a motive, even though the country is the most dangerous in Latin America for reporters. Some 90 percent of journalist murders in Mexico since 1992 have gone unpunished, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“What’s particularly pernicious is that violence against the press is violence against society,” said Dario Ramirez, director of the Article 19 free press advocacy group. “There are many places in the country where silence paves the road so that organized crime, corruption, everything that destroys a society can continue in a manner without … setbacks or obstacles.”

Espinosa fled Xalapa, the capital of the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, for Mexico City in June after he said that unknown people were following him, taking his photograph and harassing him outside his home. Veracruz has been a dangerous state for reporters, with 11 journalists killed just in current administration of Gov. Javier Duarte that started in 2010. Two more, including Espinosa, have been killed outside of the state and three have gone missing.

Fears that Espinosa’s death could end in impunity were fueled by Sunday’s news conference by Rios, when Mexico City’s prosecutor never acknowledged that Espinosa was seeking refuge in Mexico’s capital, saying he came to the city for “professional opportunities.” The comment led to shouts and protests from reporters, who asked if the events that drove Espinosa into self-exile in June were being investigated. He had been working for investigative newsmagazine Proceso and other media outlets.

Rios only repeated that all lines of investigation were being pursued, including his work as a journalist.

Espinosa had said in interviews that he was harassed over several years while covering events in Veracruz, including once being told to stop taking photos of students detained during a protest in 2012, the same year another Proceso journalist, Regina Martinez, was killed. Her role reporting on government corruption was never considered as a motive for her killing. Instead, officials in Veracruz said it was robbery.

“Stop taking photos if you don’t want to end up like Regina,” Espinosa said he was told by a government representative controlling the crowd.

A few days before fleeing, he had placed a plaque at a Xalapa plaza renaming it “Regina Martinez Plaza” as a protest to the government’s handling of her case.

“We’re saying loud and clear that we want Duarte in jail, that no more journalists, not a single one, can be assassinated in Veracruz,” said Neftali Granados, a Veracruz student speaking at a protest rally in Mexico City that drew about 200 people.

Duarte issued a statement Sunday saying he lamented the “aberrant” killings in Mexico City and is confident that prosecutors will solve the case as soon as possible.

In June, he accused some reporters of being involved in organized crime.

“We all know who is involved in the underworld,” Duarte said. “There’s no reason to confuse freedom of expression with representing the expression of criminals via the media.”

The five bodies were found late Friday in a middle-class Mexico City neighborhood. The building was in range of several security cameras on the street and Rios said they have video evidence in the crime, though he did not elaborate. The attackers would have had to go through two doors to get inside, and neither had signs of damage or break in.

Rios also said the apartment was ransacked and robbed. Three of the women lived there and a fourth was the housekeeper.

Rios did not identify the other victims, only giving their ages as 18, 29, 32 and 40. All were shot in the head with a 9 mm weapon. Espinosa sustained severe injuries to his face before he was killed, Ramirez said.

Ramirez said Espinosa knew one of the women from working in Veracruz.

It was the first time a journalist was killed in Mexico City since 2006, when Jose Manuel Nava Sanchez, a columnist for El Sol de Mexico, was found stabbed to death in his apartment with valuables missing, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Article 19 said Espinosa’s death marks a new milestone in violence against the press because he was the first journalist to be killed in exile in the capital. The agency said in the last five years it has helped about 70 journalists under threat find refuge in the capital.

“The level of impunity is what allowed this to happen,” said a journalist in Mexico City who also had to flee Veracruz. “Displaced journalists used to come to Mexico City as an island of protection. Now there is no place to go, no place to run.”

The journalist did not want to be named for security reasons.

TIME Infectious Disease

There Might Be Poop on Your Cilantro

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Education Images—UIG/Getty Images

The FDA has banned some Mexican imports

Guacamole fans, beware: the FDA has banned the import of some fresh cilantro from Mexico after evidence showed the crop could be tainted with human feces.

Several farms in Puebla were linked to outbreaks of stomach illness in 2013 and 2014 in the U.S., the Associated Press reports. The FDA believes they may also have caused more recent outbreaks due to the presence of the cyclospora parasite.

Investigators found that some farms had no toilets for employees, and discovered feces and toilet paper in the fields. The resulting ban will impact shipments from April through August in the coming years unless farms in the region can show that conditions have improved.

TIME Donald Trump

You Can Now Buy Your Very Own Donald Trump Baseball Hat

Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Tours U.S. Border In Texas
Matthew Busch—Getty Images Donald Trump in his baseball hat.

They’re available in red, white, and blue

Donald Trump is making waves again. This time, it’s because of a baseball hat he’s selling.

The Republican presidential contender, who currently sits atop the polls, made a speech in Texas recently, and hiding his signature, wispy hair (which has been lampooned by The Simpsons) was a white baseball cap emblazoned with his campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again.” Naturally, the Internet went crazy and social media lit up with memes of presidential proportions.

Business Insider reported that, yes, the cap will be sold to the public. They’re on sale currently at Trump Tower in Manhattan and a person from his camp confirmed the items are “coming soon to DonaldJTrump.com,” according to the site. The aide also told Business Insider that the caps are “made in the USA.”

The hats cost $20 and are reportedly available in red, white, and blue.

For more about Trump, here’s what winners of his reality television show The Apprentice said about his leadership qualities.

Earlier this month, Trump announced that he enjoys a net worth of over $10 billion.

And if the hats don’t sell well? They can join the Donald’s list of failed ventures.

TIME Mexico

Mexican Prison Chief, 6 Others Arrested For El Chapo Prison Break

"El Chapo" has still not been found.

Mexican authorities arrested seven people on Wednesday in connection with the escape of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Among the arrested is Librado Carmona Garcia, the head of the maximum security prison Guzman had been housed in, according to RT.

Guzman, who was deemed “the most powerful drug lord in the world,” made headlines for his daring escape on July 13 through a one-mile long lit and ventilated tunnel that some have estimated to cost millions.

The cooperation of prison authorities was long suspected, with Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, Mexico’s interior minister, saying, “Guzman must have counted on the complicity of prison personnel, which … would constitute an act of treason.”

The Mexican government has announced it is offering a 60 million peso ($3.8 million) reward for Guzman’s recapture. Guzman had previously escaped in 2001 using a laundry cart from a maximum-security prison in Jalisco.

TIME 2016 Election

Donald Trump to Visit Mexico Border

Trump will meet with members of the union that represents border control agents

(NEWARK, N.J.) — Donald Trump has announced plans to visit the Mexico-Texas border this week, a trip that comes as he continues to condemn illegal immigration and lashes out at critics who have become increasingly critical of the Republican businessman’s presidential bid.

Trump will travel to Laredo, Texas on Thursday, where he will hold a press conference at the border and meet with members of the union that represents border control agents, his campaign said Wednesday. The billionaire reality television star plans to address the law enforcement community at a local reception hall.

Trump has dominated the Republican presidential primary election in recent weeks, beginning when he described Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals in his announcement speech last month.

On Tuesday, he pulled a classic adolescent prank on a rival who dared to criticize him, a bit of payback reminiscent of writing the phone number of a nemesis on a wall with the message “Call me.”

After Sen. Lindsey Graham called Trump “the world’s biggest jackass” during a television interview, the billionaire developer read Graham’s personal cellphone number and showed it to TV cameras at a campaign event.

In the Capitol on Wednesday, Graham was chatting on his flip phone as he rode the elevator. Asked if he would be getting a new one, he laughed and said yes. He later said he would be changing his number.

Later, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., came up behind him, clapped a hand on his back and said, “I’ve been trying to call you, but I haven’t been able to get through!”

The back-and-forth is the latest chapter in an ongoing feud between Trump and those who criticize him. He is now at odds with much of the Republican establishment after a series of incendiary comments, topped by his weekend mocking of Arizona Sen. John McCain’s experience as a tortured prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Since then Trump has intensified his criticism of McCain and his record on veterans issues in the Senate, even as politicians from both parties and veterans groups have rushed to McCain’s defense.

In a speech Tuesday to hundreds of supporters in Bluffton, South Carolina, Trump kept on McCain, accusing him of being soft on illegal immigration.

“He’s totally about open borders and all this stuff,” Trump said.

The real estate developer also went after others who have criticized him in recent weeks, implying that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was unintelligent and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush weak.

McCain sparked Trump’s temper last week when the senator said the businessman’s inflammatory remarks about Mexican immigrants had brought out the “crazies.” McCain said Tuesday he would no longer respond to Trump’s comments.

Graham, a McCain friend and one of the 16 notable Republicans running for the presidential nomination, betrayed the growing exasperation and anger of many in the party when he appeared earlier on “CBS This Morning.”

“Don’t be a jackass,” Graham said. “Run for president. But don’t be the world’s biggest jackass.”

He said Trump had “crossed the line with the American people” and predicted this would be “the beginning of the end with Donald Trump.”

Trump responded during his speech by calling Graham an “idiot” and a “total lightweight,” then held up a piece of paper and read out the senator’s cellphone number to the capacity crowd of 540 people and the TV audience. He said Graham had given him the number several years ago when he’d asked him to put in a good word with a morning news show.

“Give it a shot,” Trump encouraged. “He won’t fix anything, but at least he’ll talk to you.”

Graham’s voice mailbox was full Tuesday afternoon. Spokeswoman Brittany Brammell confirmed the number was his. Graham tweeted later: “Probably getting a new phone. iPhone or Android?”

Trump also ordered the American flags on his U.S. properties to be lowered, an act he said was to honor the five service members killed in last week’s shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The symbolism served, too, to underscore his claim that he has been a stronger supporter of veterans than McCain, despite the senator’s central work in passing laws that overhauled the Department of Veterans Affairs and strengthened programs against suicide by service members.

Elsewhere in South Carolina on Tuesday, one of Trump’s rivals, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, walked a fine line, criticizing his fellow candidate’s rhetoric on immigration and McCain but saying Trump’s supporters are “good people” with “legitimate concerns.”

“I respect the sentiments people feel when they hear Trump talk. The problem with Mr. Trump’s language is that it’s divisive, it’s ugly, it’s mean-spirited,” Bush told a gathering of Republican women in Spartanburg. “We have to separate him from the people that have legitimate concerns about the country.”

Another GOP rival, Rand Paul, was more dismissive. “People have to decide what’s more important in trying to fix the country — real solutions or bombast,” said the Kentucky senator. He predicted the GOP campaign will “get beyond the novelty of a reality TV star.”

___

Colvin reported from Newark, New Jersey. Associated Press writers Bill Barrow in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.

TIME Mexico

See the Path El Chapo Used to Get Out of Prison

The Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped a high-security prison on July 11 via a mile-long tunnel from his shower to a nearby field. Here's the route he took

TIME Mexico

El Chapo May Have Made His Escape With the Help of a Sparrow

He may have used it to test for toxic underground gases

The Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman may have had the help of a little birdie when he escaped a high-security prison on July 11 via a mile-long tunnel that connected Guzman’s shower area to a construction site in a nearby farm field. According to Mexican newspaper Reforma, government officials searching Guzman’s cell in the high-security Altiplano prison discovered a dead sparrow in his trash can. El Pais also reported that there was a small, dirty nest in a little window of the cell.

Reportedly nicknamed “Chapito” by the officials, the bird may have been used to test for toxic substances in the tunnel – much in the same way that coal miners once carried canaries with them to detect dangerous gases underground. Other investigators said it could have been Guzman sending a subliminal message symbolizing his own flight.

Reforma also reported that the Sinaloa cartel boss also left a small LCD television turned on at high-volume inside his cell to distract guards from suspecting his absence.

Mexican authorities have 10,000 agents on high-alert as they try to recapture Guzman, but have not yet responded to U.S. offers of assistance.

[Reforma]

 

TIME Mexico

Newly Released Footage Shows Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Moments Before His Escape

Video also shows the escape tunnel complete with lighting, ventilation and a motorbike

CCTV footage showing fugitive drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán moments before he escaped from his prison cell was released by the Mexican government on Tuesday.

The video shows Guzmán pacing around the cell and sitting on his bed before walking over to the shower area, bending down behind a partition wall and disappearing from view.

According to Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, Guzmán’s cell was under surveillance 24 hours a day. But there were two blind spots from the cameras that protected the inmate’s privacy in the bathroom, reports CNN.

The 58-year-old, who heads the Sinaloa cartel and a multibillion-dollar narco-trafficking empire, was able to escape through a hole in the shower area roughly 50 by 50 cm (20 by 20 in.) wide to a 1.5-km (1-mile) tunnel.

National security commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said Guzmán’s behavior before his escape on Saturday was normal for an inmate in a maximum-security prison.

The Mexican government has also released footage of the tunnel, which was even furnished with sophisticated lighting and ventilation. Video shows a motorcycle with a modified metal cart on tracks that Rubido said was “likely used to remove dirt during excavation and transport the tools for the dig.”

Forty-nine people have so far been questioned in connection with Guzmán’s escape from the Altiplano maximum-security prison. Chong told reporters it was likely Guzman had help from prison officials.

Guzmán’s escape on Saturday was his second from a maximum-security prison. He was first arrested in Guatemala in 1993 but made a legendary escape from a facility in Jalisco, Mexico, in 2001. After 13 years on the run, he was rearrested in February 2014.

Mexico has offered a $3.8 million reward for information leading to Guzmán’s capture.

[CNN]

Read next: There Are Already Dozens of Ballads Celebrating the Escape of Chapo Guzman

Listen to the most important stories of the day

TIME Mexico

There Are Already Dozens of Ballads Celebrating the Escape of Chapo Guzman

“It seems there are no bars, that he cannot open, the power of Chapo, and Sinaloa his roots, the most powerful cartel, nobody can combat it”

As news broke that drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman had escaped a top security prison, TV crews, reporters and photo journalists sprung into action to bring the story to the world. At the same time, another type of storyteller jumped to work – the composers of narco corridos, or drug ballads. Within hours of the news media describing the escape that happened late Saturday, the drug balladeers had written and recorded the first songs and uploaded them onto websites such as Youtube. By Monday, there were dozens of tracks, with names such as “The ballad of the escape of Chapo 2015” moving on the Internet and playing on people’s phones, computers and TV’s.

“Chapo Guzman escaped,” sings a group called Los Alegres del Barranco (The Happy Ones of the Ravine) in one video. “The general of the Altiplano (prison). He used a lot green money. To be able to get away…Where is Chapo Guzman? Only he and God know.” Drug ballads are sung over instruments including ten stringed guitars, accordions and trombones over mutated polka beats. Some groups record videos of themselves performing their freshly written verses.

Others sing acapella. In one video, a youth boasts that he has taken ten minutes to compose the song and reads the lyrics from his cell phone. “It seems there are no bars, that he cannot open, the power of Chapo, and Sinaloa his roots, the most powerful cartel, nobody can combat it,” he croons in the nasal melancholy style of many drug balladeers. “July 11th 2015. He had noted it on his calendar. A day to celebrate. The second escape of Chapo.”

Such ballads reflect the support for Guzman and other gangsters among many in Mexico’s drug trafficking heartlands. In states such as Sinaloa, where Guzman is from, some see smugglers as heroes who have the balls to beat the Mexican federal government and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. They often refer to them as valientes or brave ones. The traffickers make billions of dollars taking cocaine, marijuana, heroin and crystal meth to American users so they provide employment and buy gifts for some in poor mountain villages or urban ghettos.

The escape of Guzman, who left prison in a mile long tunnel with lights and air vents, was seen as the ultimate outwitting of authorities. He had also escaped prison in 2001 and spent 13 years on the run before he was recaptured. After the latest escape, soldiers and police spread across Mexico searching for him but had found no trace by Tuesday morning. “Many young people here see Chapo as kicking the government in the ass,” says Rodrigo Mendez, a music producer in Sinaloa state capital Culiacan who has recorded drug ballads. “They hear about him in so many songs, he has become like a mythical figure.”

On the other side, some of Mexico’s politicians have long complained of drug ballads glorifying the exploits of violent criminals. The gunmen of Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel carry out execution-style killings, ambushes and massacres. Since 2007, more than 83,000 people here have been murdered by cartels or the security forces fighting them, according to a Mexican government count. Politicians say the music drives this bloodshed. The mayor of the city of Chihuahua City Javier Garfio recently passed an initiative banning groups from playing drug ballads in the city.

Most Mexican radio stations will hold back from playing drug ballads. However, they are popular on the Internet, which more than half of Mexico’s 120 million people now have access to, according to a recent survey. Some drug ballads can get millions of views; one of the most famous drug ballads, El Jefe de Jefes, or Boss of Bosses has over 14 million. Many in the United States, home to 11 million Mexicans, also follow the ballads. Drug balladeers can play to huge crowds from Los Angeles to Chicago.

Elijah Wald, who spent months traveling northern Mexico talking musicians for his book Narcocorrido, says the composers see themselves in the tradition of the balladeers who brought news to Mexican villages in the days before the modern media. “They say they are just describing what is happening. Not inventing it,” he says. “They pride themselves on how quickly they can write their songs after news events. Two of the biggest composers were illiterate and they said it was an advantage as they didn’t have to spend time writing things down. They kept it all in their heads.”

Drug balladeers often make money playing at the parties of the same traffickers they sing about. Drug kingpins will also actually pay musicians to pen verses about them. “The traffickers commission the songs to make themselves more famous,” says the producer Mendez. However, the latest songs about Guzman’s jailbreak, were likely done spontaneously without authorization from the kingpin, he says. “These are lesser known artists who are trying to make a name for themselves,” Mendez says. “Some of them may have written their songs about an escape already, just in case it happened.”

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