February 11, 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, DISTRITO FEDERAL, México
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 shock regarding the murder of journalist Valentín Valdés Espinosa.

According to our information,Valentín Valdés Espinosa, co-founder of and journalist for the local daily newspaper Zócalo de Saltillo, reportedly left the newspaper offices with two colleagues late on the night of January 7, 2010. In downtown Saltillo, a group of men intercepted them and forced Valdés and a reporter, whose name has not been released, into an SUV and driven away.

According to the Coahuila state attorney general’s office, Valdés was found dead in front of a hotel in Saltillo early on the morning of January 8. He had reportedly been tortured and shot several times. On his corpse a message was found that read: “This is going to happen to those who don’t understand. The message is for everyone.”

The attorney general’s office has confirmed that the Valdés’s murder was carried out by organized crime. Valdés covered local news, including crime, for Zócalo de Saltillo. In July 2006, another journalist from the same newspaper chain, Rafael Ortiz Martínez, reportedly disappeared in Monclova, Coahuila, and has not been seen since. The national news magazine Proceso has reported that the other reporter who was abducted along with Valdés was later released, but this has not been confirmed by either the newspaper or the attorney general’s office. According to the newspaper, the third reporter who was with Valdés was not abducted.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that the murder of Valentín Valdés Espinosa is a result of a very troubling climate of impunity in Coahuila state and elsewhere in Mexico. We therefore call on federal and state authorities to initiate a full, prompt and impartial investigation into Valdés’s murder, as well as all other unsolved murders of journalists, as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to bring the culprits to justice. We continue to call for the implementation of effective programs to ensure the safety of all journalists, and we 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
Ambassador of Mexico to the United States
Embassy of Mexico
1911 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20006

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