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Morelia: All the crooks that fit in print

27 September 2008

I realize that “all the news that’s fit to print” in the New York Times doesn’t go into details about exotic, distant locales … like the United States’ second largest oil supplier, trading parter and next door neighbor… but Elisabeth Malkin’s short article missed a minor detail.  Malkin’s short article says only

Mexican authorities said Friday that they had arrested three men who were accused of throwing grenades into a crowd that was celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day in the western city of Morelia. Eight people died and more than 100 were wounded. The men, Julio César Mondragón Mendoza, Juan Carlos Castro Galeana and Alfredo Rosas Elicea, confessed to throwing the grenades during the celebration on Sept. 15, the authorities said. They were members of the Zetas, a paramilitary group linked to the drug trafficking Gulf Cartel, according to investigators. The men were arrested in the western town of Apatzingán after the police received an anonymous tip.

That makes it sound as if the police really, really had the right guys this time. Jornada mentions that at least one of these guys at least had a shaved head and a mustache (as the Morelio grenade tosser was said to have), but when taken out for their “perp-walk” before the Mexican press and cameras, the Jornada reporter noticed that one guy was still in his hospital robe with visible bruises on his face.

Seeing the previous “suspects” have filed human rights abuse complaints, I’d be a little dubious about accepting this latest arrest as definitive. Geeze, these guys didn’t even have the usual cache of weapons with them.

Elisabeth Malkin is not a bad reporter, and she probably filed what information she had. At least, unlike Marc Lacey of the Times, she’s not prone to fill in the gaps with things that aren’t there:

Mexico’s drug violence seems to be spiraling out of control, with each mass killing followed by an even gorier one and innocents increasingly falling victim to traffickers’ ruthlessness. Yet there is often a sinister order to the chaos, as killers in Mexico’s drug war frequently leave a calling card with the bodies that spells out a motive for the massacre, or at least their version of it.

That is what has the authorities here puzzling over the two grenades that were hurled into a crowd of innocent revelers in Michoacán State on Independence Day last week…

The fact that no one has determined that the attacks had anything to do with the narcotics trade doesn’t enter Marc’s pretty little head. As a matter of fact, Lacey takes one line of investigation — that the crimes might be related to a dispute between narcotics dealers — as the one and only possible explanation for the event.

After the Sept. 15 grenade attack, La Familia sent text messages to reporters disavowing involvement in the killings. The group pledged in pamphlets to strike back at those responsible for harming women and children. And in banners hung around Morelia, Michoacán’s capital, La Familia pointed a finger at the Zetas, a paramilitary group linked to a rival gang.

“Coward is the word for those who attack the country’s peace and tranquillity,” said one message put up by La Familia.

But with no note by the killers to go on, the authorities consider the brazen attack to be a sign that all bets in the drug war may be off. The authorities detained three suspects last week in connection with the explosions but later released them. Mexico has a poor track record when it comes to catching and prosecuting killers, even in high-profile cases.

Uh… Marc… they released the guys because they didn’t have anything to do with the crime.  A minor detail you might bring in.

Narcotics crimes are not the only things that happen in Mexico, and — if you’re going to speculate — you might at least mention that there are other, equally strong “lines of investigation” pointing to political involvement.  And that the Zetas — if it is the Zetas — have lately been subcontracting themselves to Cuban right-wing exiles (and were arrested rather quickly for it in another high-profile murder case).

Oh, and as to a poor track record when it comes to catching and prosecuting killers, what ever happened to Osama bin Ladin?

Memo to Carlos Slim:  as a major shareholder in the New York Times Corporation could you please suggest to the editorial board that they tell their Latin American reporters to pull their heads out of their collective asses and look around the country and report what’s going on, and not make stuff up?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. MaryOGrady permalink
    28 September 2008 12:33 pm

    The New York Times’s coverage of Mexico normally strikes me as extremely superficial. For the supposed newspaper of record in this country, it’s a disgrace.

  2. 28 September 2008 3:09 pm

    Maybe stockholder Carlos Slim can do something about that.

  3. Mr. Rushing permalink
    30 September 2008 3:31 pm

    The New York Times’s coverage of ANYTHING normally strikes me as extremely superficial. For the supposed newspaper of record in this country, it’s a disgrace.

    Had to agree and change the subject to anything. The NYT is a one sided populist cover newspaper that will frequently contradict itself.

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