Mexican Paper Shut Down Over Drug Gang Fears — And Grenade Attacks

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

A Mexican newspaper published by one of the biggest chains in the nation was closed Thursday night following two grenade attacks in the last month by drug traffickers.

Cambio Sonora — a paper started 13 years ago ago with the motto “The Truth Every Day” — is going silent for now, its owner said.

Mario Vazquez Rana, president of the Mexican Editorial Organization (OEM), said he was temporarily closing Cambio Sonora in the northwestern Mexican city of Hermosilla.

In an angry letter to readers posted on the newspaper’s Web site, Vazquez Rana accused Sonora authorities of doing nothing to protect the paper’s personnel and property.

“As a society, we cannot accept this way of acting, this manifest ineptitude and total indolence on the part of the Sonora authorities,” he wrote.

Vazquez Rana — whose company owns 70 newspapers in Mexico, as well as two dozen radio outlets and a TV station — said the paper would reopen when authorities restored security in the nearly lawless state. In one day alone last week, some 22 people, including gang members and law enforcement officers, were killed in gunfights.

In April, someone threw a fragmentation grenade at Cambio Sonora’s office building, injuring no one but damaging the exterior. And again last week, the paper came under grenade attack, this time aimed at the employee parking lot. No one was injured in that blast either.

Vazquez Rana revealed in the letter that the paper has received numerous anonymous death threats.

Repeated pleas to authorities for protection have been ignored, Vazquez Rana said.

And while he appreciated the protests lodged by free press groups in the U.S. and internationally, he added: “While its always very important to have the moral help and solidarity in difficult moments, no force will have any validity nor restore the security of our newspaper if we cannot count on the political will, the necessary help, the interest, and the active participation of the entity principally responsible for the safety and security of its citizens — the state of Sonora, and in particular its governor, who from negligence, disinterest or omission, at this moment must take the responsibility of closing this newspaper, something that has never happened in the history of the Mexican Editorial Organization.”

Vazquez Rana said none of the 250 employees will be laid off, or lose their salary or benefits during the time the paper is not published.

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