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The case of the 38 missing oil workers

The case of the 38 missing oil workers

It is well known that covering the narco war in Mexico as a journalist is a difficult and in some cases deadly profession. (Look no further than the threats that trailed Jesus Blancornelas throughout his life.) This sobering reality hung over a panel here on Saturday organized by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, featuring some definite heavyweights in Mexican journalism: Andres Oppenheimer, Carmen Aristegui, Lydia Cacho, and others. Covering organized crime in Mexico was the announced topic but the discussion was dominated by somber and very angry testimonies about intimidation and violence against journalists on the part of hitmen and cartels, and about apathy against protecting journalists' rights on the part of the government. It was Aristegui who, in spirited remarks, made mention of a news story that really startled me last week: the 38 oil workers from rural Nuevo Leon who have been missing for more than a year, with zero action on the case from local authorities.

Besides this article in La Jornada, there has been little media chatter about these men. In mentioning them on Saturday, Aristegui was trying to make a point about how apathetic both the country and the news media have become in the face of an almost daily parade of stories about cartel violence or obvious government failure and corruption. But the 38 missing oil men present an especially disgraceful stain on Mexico's poor record of fairly and duly administering justice to its citizens. Relatives of the missing men were finally paid some attention last month -- a year after the workers were snatched up by armed men and never heard from again -- because they arrived at the government palace in Monterrey accompanied by Rosario Ibarra, a prominent political activist.

Read the details in English at this link. The implication of the story -- and it's a strong one -- is that the state government's inaction on the matter points to some level of collusion between authorities and whatever powers were behind the disappearances.

By the way, the CPJ chairman and executive director met with President Felipe Calderon at Los Pinos during their visit to Mexico City. The committee reports that Calderon "expressed concern at ongoing violence against journalists" and that his government was drafting legislation to better protect freedom of expression in Mexico. Read CPJ's special report on three specific cases of unsolved journalists' deaths in Mexico here, in an article prepared by D.F.-based freelance reporter Monica Campbell.

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