Armed Men Seize Mexican Newspaper Offices

By: Traci Carl, Associated Press Writer

(AP) Dozens of armed men stormed the office of a major Mexican newspaper Sunday, beating some workers and telling others they had come to “rescue” them from the paper’s current administration.

Officials at Excelsior, which was once one of Mexico’s most influential newspapers but has recently had financial problems, said the raid appeared to have been staged by angry former workers. The paper is run by an employee cooperative.

A spokeswoman for Mexico City’s attorney general said 42 people were arrested, including at least 18 police officers from the neighboring state of Mexico, and the occupation was ended. Police said the detained officers told them they were hired to help seize the building.

Workers inside said some employees were beaten and others were allowed to go free by the intruders. No serious injuries or damage were reported, although at least one gunshot was fired through a window of the building.

Jaime Contreras, president of the newspaper’s administrative board, said several employees who had been fired in December were seen among the intruders.

“They said they had come to rescue us from the current administration,” said Hernando Rios, who was working at a printing press when the raid started. He said they let him leave the building, but beat his uncle, another employee.

Riot police surrounded the building for several hours, escorting those detained through crowds of employees.

Excelsior reached its peak in the early 1970s, but has been mired in controversy, financial problems and internal struggles for more than a year.

In December, workers voted to fire the leader of the employee cooperative that runs the daily, but agreed to put off discussion of whether to sell the paper. The cooperative also voted to rehire 78 employees who had set up a protest camp outside the paper’s offices after being ousted in July.

Standing outside the paper as workers chanted “Unity,” Contreras announced Sunday that the intruders had all been arrested and that the paper would continue with its work.

He called the seizure a “totally absurd, totally illegal” stunt designed to damage the paper.

Excelsior‘s troubles began in 1976 when the government of then-President Luis Echeverria organized an internal coup within the cooperative to silence its criticism.

Those who left the newspaper founded two other dailies, Unomasuno and La Jornada, as well as the country’s leading news magazine, Proceso.

Excelsior became a faithful supporter of the governing party — an editorial line that continued until July 2000, when Vicente Fox became the first opposition party candidate elected president.

In October 2000, members of Excelsior’s cooperative revolted and ousted director Regino Diaz Redondo over a plan to sell the newspaper.

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