The Vigilante

Mexican reporters who rake the muck to expose corrupt local
officials and business leaders linked to drug cartels sometimes get
caught in dangerous quagmires. In the past decade alone, nine
reporters have been killed in northern Mexico, and, according to
the country’s Committee to Protect Journalists, those responsible
for the deaths have enjoyed a ‘nearly perfect record of impunity.’
In the Columbia Journalism Review, Eric Umansky reports
that Tijuana newspaper publisher, editor, and reporter,
J. Jes?s
Blancornelas, has been fighting back tooth and nail
.

The trademark of Blancornelas’ weekly paper, Zeta, is
its unrelenting coverage of the rampant crime and corruption in
drug-addled Tijuana. When the Arellano Brothers, a ruthless crime
syndicate, set up shop in the 1980s, Zeta reporters didn’t
keep their distance, rather they investigated in-depth. One
blistering expos? divulged particulars of their illegal operations,
such as the names and addresses of public officials who were taking
bribes. In backlashes, potshots were fired at the office and there
was also a break-in.

Since then, the situation has only escalated. A Zeta
columnist was killed in 1988, possibly in retribution for
lampooning a local businessman. In 1997, Blancornelas wrote a story
connecting an Arellano thug to the murder of two Mexican soldiers.
Days later, his car was riddled with bullets, his driver was
killed, and he was shot four times. Adding to the carnage, a
Zeta editor was assassinated last year. These days,
Blancornelas leaves his home only when necessary, always traveling
the city with a unit of well-armed Mexican soldiers.

Why would anyone continue to work under such conditions? ‘If my
colleagues hadn’t been killed, I would have retired a long time
ago,’ Blancornelas says. ‘But I can’t now. I need to fight and to
clarify what’s happened. That’s my purpose.’
Archie Ingersoll

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