A newspaper editor from a Mexican border city considered his future Thursday, a day after three armed men dragged him from his office, beat him and threatened his life before letting him go.
Enrique Juarez Torres, editor of El Manana in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, said his kidnapping was a warning from the Gulf Cartel over publishing reports in Wednesday’s newspaper about gunfights in the area that killed nine people.
A total of 15 people have reportedly been killed since the weekend as rival factions of the cartel battle between the border cities of Matamoros and Reynosa.
Thursday’s edition of El Manana in Matamoros carried no mention of Juarez’s kidnapping nor the dummy grenade tossed at the door of city hall. Both stories appeared in its sister paper, El Manana in Reynosa.
Around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Juarez was in his office on the second floor the newspaper’s downtown building. Three armed men entered, asked for him and found their way to his office. They dragged him outside and pushed him into a van. He was driven around the city, punched repeatedly and told he would be killed if he continued publishing stories about the drug violence plaguing the area. They dropped him off later outside the newspaper.
This week, Matamoros and the towns along the Rio Grande north to Reynosa have been put on edge by rolling gunbattles between the rival cartel factions. The U.S. Consulate in Matamoros issued a warning to U.S. citizens on Wednesday of a “likelihood of increased violence in the Matamoros vicinity, reportedly between the Matamoros and Reynosa factions of the Gulf cartel.”
Unlike its sister paper in Reynosa, which published stories Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday about the violence, El Manana in Matamoros had published nothing until Wednesday.
“Because it was a situation of ‘Enough already,’ there is a lot happening,” Juarez said of the decision to publish. But he said the decision to break with the usual policy of not reporting on cartel violence was made by the newspaper’s owners. Asked if he agreed, he said, “Truthfully, no, because I suspected that something was going to happen, and it did.”
“What they did to me was a warning,” Juarez said of his kidnappers. “It is a warning to all of us who work there, those who are physically in Matamoros and those who are not in Matamoros.”
Juarez, who has been editor of the newspaper for five years, said the cartel had gotten his attention previously over stories related to drug activities. He said he now considered himself a “marked” man and left Matamoros Wednesday night.
The Matamoros paper will once again avoid publishing stories that could upset the cartel, he said.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 76 news media workers have been slain in Mexico since 1992.