International PEN is saddened and angered by the murder of journalist Enrique Villicaña Palomares and the disappearance of correspondent Ramón Ángeles Zalpa in Michoacán state in early April 2010. Villicaña was abducted on April 5, and found dead five days later, while Ángeles has not been seen since April 6. PEN is particularly disturbed by accounts that Villicaña had reported receiving threats to the Michoacán state justice department in late March, but that the authorities had failed to take any action to protect him. PEN calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate Villicaña’s death and Ángeles’s disappearance as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to bring the culprits to justice.

Background Information

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, correspondent 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. He asked for article to be printed without a byline, 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.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. Since January 2004, a total of 32 writers—31 print journalists and one author—have been murdered, while eight other print journalists have disappeared. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. PEN believes it is likely that these journalists were targeted in retaliation for their critical reporting, particularly on drug trafficking. While organized crime groups are responsible for many attacks, state agents, especially government officials and the police, are reportedly the main perpetrators of violence against journalists, and complicit in its continuance.
 
Michoacán is one of the states worst affected by violence against journalists. Two rival drug cartels have been fighting to control the area for more than a year and threatening local journalists to force them to provide favorable coverage of their activities.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the murder of journalist Enrique Villicaña Palomares and the disappearance of correspondent Ramón Ángeles Zalpa in Michoacán state in early April 2010;
  • Expressing serious concern that Villicaña had apparently reported receiving threats to Michoacán state justice department in late March, but that the authorities had failed to take any action to protect him;
  • Calling for a full, prompt and impartial investigation into Villicaña’s murder and Ángeles’ disappearance and other such unsolved crimes against journalists in Mexico;
  • Calling on 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;
  • Calling on the federal authorities to set up protection programs for journalist to ensure their safety.

Send Your Letter To

Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
President
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
Email: felipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mx

Lic. Arturo Chávez Chávez
Attorney General
Procurador General de la República
Av. Paseo de Reforma No. 211-213, Piso 16
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Defegacion Cuauhtémoc
México D.F. C.P. 06500
Tel: + 52 55 5346 0108
Fax: + 52 55 53 46 0908
E-mail: ofproc@pgr.gob.mx
Salutation: Señor Presidente/ Dear Mr President

Dr Gustavo Salas Chávez
Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas (FEADP)
Email: feadp@pgr.gob.mx
Salutation: Señor Procurador General/Dear Attorney General

Please also send copies of your appeals to the diplomatic representative for Mexico in your country if possible.
 
Please contact PEN if sending appeals after June 13, 2010: ftw [at] pen.org