October 29, 2008 – Scott Campbell writes: Pedro Matías, a well-known reporter who writes for Noticias, a local daily paper, as well as the national weekly Proceso, was kidnapped, beaten, tortured and robbed on Saturday night in Oaxaca. Reporters Without Borders states that,
Matías was kidnapped as he left the newspaper to go home on the evening of 25 October. His abductors beat him and terrorised him for hours, simulating an execution, asking him how he preferred to die and variously threatening to drag him along the ground behind their car, cut off his genitals, rape him or behead him. They also threatened his family members, saying they had been “located.”
He was released the next morning some 30km outside Oaxaca in Tlacolula de Matamoros, without his car and without his papers, which his abductors also took from him.
Matías does much reporting on the social movement in Oaxaca, usually giving it fair, if not occasionally favorable, coverage. According to Reporters Without Borders, he also is a contributor to a radio station and on it has criticized the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), the party which has ruled Oaxaca for almost 80 years.
This is not the first attack against Noticias or its reporters, which for several years has been the lone local mainstream media outlet which is critical of the state government. Mexico is also the most deadly country in the Americas for journalists.
On November 19, 2004, masked gunmen took over Noticias‘ warehouses and printing presses, holding it for several days and murdering a 19 year old.
On June 17, 2005, Governor Ulises Ruiz, with the help of a state congressman and a PRI-controlled union called the CROC (Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants), fomented a fake strike against Noticias in an attempt to shut it down. Union members, paramilitaries and local police blockaded the building with 31 Noticias employees inside, cutting off the electricity, phones and water. After a month, the thugs raided the building, dragging out the 31 employees and destroying the offices.
On August 9, 2006, during the rebellion in Oaxaca, two armed, masked men entered the offices of Noticias, shooting equipment and people, wounding two employees.
This year, on January 16, two Noticias reporters received death threats from Rubén Marmolejo Maldonado, aka “El Dragón,” a leader of porros (paid thugs), who has instigated numerous conflicts on the campus of the state university in Oaxaca (UABJO) as well as organizing attacks against the APPO (Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca). He has been denounced by the Chair of the Law and Social Sciences Departments of UABJO of working for the state government.
And now Pedro Matías has been kidnapped and tortured. While this event should be seen as another occurrence of government repression against Noticias, it also has a place in the increasingly tense climate of repression against the social movement which has been escalating these past couple of weeks. Oaxaca has seen the October 16 arrest of three APPO members for the October 27, 2006, murder of Brad Will, the issuing of more that 300 more arrest warrants, and the October 25 warrantless raid and trashing of a house belonging to CODEP, a group aligned with the APPO, by the AFI, Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI.
Things may only get worse as the anniversary-laden month of November approaches. November 2 marks not only the Day of the Dead but also the unsuccessful 2006 Federal Preventive Police (PFP) attack on the barricade of Radio Universidad. And November 25 is the two year anniversary of the massive and brutal PFP, paramilitary, state and local police attacks against the APPO. Clearly, the government of Oaxaca is trying to pre-emptively intimidate and frighten a rebellious populace that it still very much fears.