April 15, 2010

Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376

Lic. Arturo Chávez Chávez
Procurador General de la República
Av. Paseo de Reforma No. 211-213, Piso 16
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Defegacion Cuauhtémoc
México D.F. C.P. 06500
Fax: + 52 55 53 46 0908

Dr Gustavo Salas Chávez
Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas
Email: feadp@pgr.gob.mx

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the murder of journalist Enrique Villicaña Palomares and the disappearance of correspondent Ramón Ángeles Zalpa.

Enrique Villicaña Palomares, teacher and columnist for the daily newspaper La Voz de Michoacán, was kidnapped on April 5, 2010, and found dead in Morelia, Michoacán state, five days later, on April 10. His throat had been slit. The motive for the killing is so far unknown. Villicaña’s employers are reportedly not sure if the murder was linked to his work as a journalist. However, they said that Villicaña, aged 55, had received threats that he had reported to the Michoacán state justice department in late March, but that the authorities had failed to take any action.

Villicaña is the fifth print journalist to be murdered in Mexico this year. His death occurred the same week as the disappearance of another Michoacán journalist, Ramón Ángeles Zalpa, ccorrespondent for the newspaper Cambio de Michoacán, based in Paracho. Ángeles was last seen leaving his home in Paracho to drive to the National University of Pedagogy, where he works as a teacher. No one has heard from him since. His family has reported his disappearance to the Michoacán state prosecutor’s office. The Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists and the local office of the General Attorney’s office in Michoacán have begun an investigation.

Ángeles reported on various topics for Cambio de Michoacán, including organized crime, government policy, public safety and agricultural and environmental issues. The newspaper management does not know if he had received any threats. However, it reportedly believes Ángeles’s disappearance may be connected to an article he wrote on an armed attack on a local indigenous family in late March. His byline was left out on his request due to problems within the Purépecha indigenous community, of which Ángeles is a member. His family said that they had received several anonymous phone calls on April 2, the last of which was answered by Ángeles. They did not know whether or not he had received any message. Local journalists reportedly believe that a local criminal gang is responsible for his disappearance. Ángeles is the second Cambio de Michoacán journalist to go missing in less than six months, following the disappearance of María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe in November 2009.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that the brutal killing of Enrique Villicaña Palomares and the disappearance of Ramón Ángeles Zalpa are a result of a very troubling climate of impunity in Michoacán and elsewhere in Mexico. The reluctance of authorities to protect Villicaña, despite the fact that he reported receiving threats, is deeply disconcerting. We therefore call on the federal and state authorities to investigate these crimes, along with all other unsolved journalist murders and disappearances, as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to bring the culprits to justice. We also continue to call for the implementation of effective journalist protection programs, and urge the government of President Felipe Calderón to fulfill promises to make crimes against journalists a federal offense, specifically by amending the constitution so that federal authorities have the power to investigate, prosecute and punish such crimes.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                                                
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee                                   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Mr. Arturo Sarukhan
Mexican Ambassador to the United States
Embassy of Mexico
1911 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20006
Fax: (202) 728-1698

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