Drug wars push Mexican news CEO to Texas

March 25, 2010 at 11:04 PM
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SAN ANTONIO, March 25 (UPI) -- The chief executive of Latin America's largest newspaper company says he moved himself and his family to Texas from Mexico out of fear of ruthless drug gangs.

Drug-related violence, from Reynosa, Mexico, and elsewhere along a long stretch of border from Nuevo Laredo to Matamoros, is bloody and frightening, but "intimidation is the most frequent form of what takes place in the media," Grupo Reforma President and CEO Alejandro Junco de la Vega said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News.

Traffickers go after the media with a vengeance in strategic border towns where drugs are smuggled by the ton, brazenly shooting up newsrooms and kidnapping and killing staff members, journalists say.

None of Grupo Reforma's 4,000 staffers have been killed, but some have been kidnapped and beaten, said Junco, whose company publishes 10 daily newspapers in five cities.

Grupo Reforma reporters now wear bulletproof vests. Their beats are rotated, and bylines often are dropped off articles related to violence, Junco said.

Junco, who is wealthy enough to have moved his family to Austin, Texas, told the Express-News he wished he could assure the safety of all his employees.

"We are morally obligated to do what is possible. ... I would like to do more," he said.

The Mexican government's 3-year-old drug offensive unleashed terrifying levels of violence as traffickers fight to protect their lucrative smuggling routes.

The violence was so alarming last month that the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City closed its consular agency in Reynosa, across the Rio Grande from McAllen, Texas, from Feb. 24 until March 8.

"You can shoot down gang members, but if there is no hope, there will be more of them," Junco said.

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