PEN International is deeply alarmed by anonymous death threats received by author and journalist Lydia Cacho on June 14, 2011, and by the Mexican authorities’ apparent lack of response. Cacho believes that the threats, which made direct reference to her journalism, stem from her naming of alleged sex traffickers in her writings. The threats come in the same month as the murder of two Mexican columnists and the abduction of one other journalist. In all, a total of 40 print journalists and writers have been killed in Mexico since 2004, while 10 more have gone missing. PEN calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate the threats against Cacho and to provide her with protection as a matter of the utmost urgency. It also calls on the authorities to implement the journalist protection mechanisms it promised in November 2010 immediately.

Background Information

On June 14, 2011, the award-winning author, journalist, and social activist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro reportedly received anonymous death threats by telephone and email following her return from an event in Chihuahua state in northern Mexico. The threats made direct reference to her journalism and she believes that they were made in retaliation for her revelation of the names of alleged traffickers of women and girls. In 2010, she published a book entitled Esclavas del poder: un viaje al corazón de la trata de mujeres y niñas en el mundo (Servants of Power: a Journey into the Heart of the Trafficking of Women and Girls in the World). She has also written extensively on people trafficking, organized crime, drug trafficking, gender violence, and official corruption in her columns and other articles.

Cacho reported the death threats to the authorities but no investigation or other action had been initiated as of June 29, when she decided to make the threats public. She commented that Notiver columnist Miguel Ángel López Velasco Milo (pen name Milo Vela) received similar threats which the authorities also ignored; he was shot dead along with his wife and son in Veraruz state on June 20, 2011. However, Cacho said she had no intention of giving up her journalism or human rights work.

In 2009 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted Cacho precautionary protective measures and asked the Mexican government to take action to protect her as a result of harassment and monitoring by armed men. However, to date only half of the measures have been implemented, according to the press freedom group Article 19, and she clearly remains at risk.

Following the publication of her first book in 2005 on child pornography in Mexico, Los Demonios del Edén: el poder detrás de la pornografía (The Demons of Eden: the Power Behind Pornography), Cacho was illegally arrested, detained and ill treated before being subjected to a year-long criminal defamation lawsuit. She was cleared of all charges in 2007, but her attempts to gain legal redress for her treatment have been thwarted and she continues to be the target of harassment and threats due to her investigative journalism. Cacho was awarded the 2009 One Humanity Award from Canadian PEN, the 2008 Tucholsky prize from Swedish PEN and the 2007 Oxfam/Novib PEN Award for Free Expression, among numerous others. She was one of the subjects of PEN’s International Women’s Day action in March 2009 and International PEN’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer action in November 2006. She is an Honorary Member of Scottish PEN. For more information on Cacho, click here.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. Since January 2004, 38 print journalists and two writers have been murdered, while 10 print journalists have gone missing in the same period. Nine of the killings and three of the disappearances occurred in 2010 alone. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. PEN believes it is likely that many of these writers 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.

On June 3, 2011, PEN Canada, in collaboration with the International Human Rights Program at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, published a timely and provocative report on the situation in Mexico: "Corruption, Impunity, Silence: The War on Mexico's Journalists" (also available in Spanish). The same day Canada's national newspaper The Globe and Mail published an op-ed by John Ralston Saul, president of PEN International, on the report (also available in Spanish and French).

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the death threats received by author and journalist Lydia Cacho on June 14, 2011, the Mexican authorities’ lack of response to these threats, and its failure to fully implement precautionary protective measures granted to Cacho by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2009;
  • Asking for assurances that the tax evasion charges against him have not been applied in retaliation for his criticism of the government, concerns that are widely held within China and abroad;
  • Calling on the Mexican authorities to investigate these latest death threats against Cacho, focusing on her journalistic work as the likely motive, with the involvement of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression, and to provide her with protection as a matter of the utmost urgency;
  • Calling on the government of President Felipe Calderón to implement the journalist protection mechanisms it promised in November 2010 immediately, and also to fulfill its promises to make crimes against journalists a federal offense, by amending the constitution so that federal authorities have the power to investigate, prosecute and punish such crimes.

Send Your Letter To

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, DISTRITO FEDERAL, México
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Señor Presidente/ Dear Mr President 

Attorney General
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
Tel: + 52 55 5346 0108
Fax: + 52 55 53 46 0908 (if a voice answers, ask "tono de fax, por favor")
E-mail: [email protected]
Salutation: Señor Procurador General/Dear Attorney General

Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression
Dr. Gustavo Salas Chávez
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas (FEADP)
Email: [email protected]

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Mexico in your country if possible.

Please send appeals immediately. Contact PEN if sending appeals after August 30, 2011: ftw [at]