February 4, 2010

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

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

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 over the disappearance of journalist María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe.

According to our information, Aguilar, a reporter for the Zamora-based daily El Diario de Zamora and local correspondent for the regional daily El Cambio de Michoacán, was last seen leaving her home in Zamora on November 11, 2009, after receiving a call on her cell phone. She has not been heard from since. There are fears that she has been abducted for her work. She became the eighth print journalist to go missing in Mexico since 2005.

Ms. Aguilar had broken a series of stories on local corruption and organized crime for El Cambio de Michoacán in the weeks prior to her disappearance. On October 22, she reported on a military operation near Zamora in which at least three individuals, including the son of a local politician, were arrested on suspicion of participating with organized crime groups. On October 27, she published a story on local police abuse, after which a high-ranking official was forced to resign. Three days later, she reported on the arrest of an alleged boss of the Michoacán-based dug cartel La Familia Michoacana. According to a colleague at the El Diario de Zamora, Aguilar did not use her byline on any of the stories for fear of reprisal.

PEN American Center is deeply concerned for Aguilar’s safety and well-being and believes that she has been targeted for her reporting on local corruption and organized crime. We therefore call upon the federal and state authorities to investigate Aguilar’s disappearance as a matter of utmost urgency, and continue investigating all unsolved disappearances and murders of journalists to ensure their safety. We reiterate our call to the government of President Felipe Calderón to fulfill its 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: Attorney General of Michoacán state
Miguel García Hurtado
Periférico Independencia # 5000
Col. Sentimientos de la Nación, Morelia, Mich.,
C.P. 58170, MEXICO
Fax: +52 443 299 6460

Mr. Arturo Sarukhan
Mexican Ambassador to the United States
Embassy of Mexico
1911 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington DC 20006

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