Monday, August 2, 2010

Violence silences Mexican media

News of attacks scarce out of fear of gang retaliation

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico — Heavily armed troops patrol the city, combat erupts in the streets and mutilated bodies are dumped in parking lots, ditches and curbs.
After years of relative calm, the gangland nightmare is back — and yet, barely a single mention of the clashes here has been made by local radio and television stations or newspapers. The city's journalists, having lost some of their own and seen their colleagues across the country killed or kidnapped, have been silenced for fear for their lives.

"Nowhere is the media controlled more than it is here," said one reporter, who stressed he would face serious danger if identified. "There is total control."

The extreme criminal violence flailing much of Mexico has returned to this rattled city on the Rio Grande where it started six years ago.

On Sunday, the slaughtered bodies of four men - along with those of a dog and a cat - were left in front of Nuevo Laredo's bullring. Placards left with the bodies blamed one of the men for a grenade attack a few days earlier that killed one and injured more than a dozen at a sports complex.

Several journalists and residents say the media here have been cowed into silence by attacks and a barrage of death threats from the Zetas, the gangsters many consider the real lords of Nuevo Laredo.

Photographs and a brief story about the bodies at the bullring did appear Monday in local newspapers, but journalists from competing local media - all of whom fear being publicly identified - said the Zetas ordered the publication as a warning to their enemies.