Category Archives: El País

Mexican Fishermen Remove 54 Tons of Dead Fish from Lagoon (Verónica Calderón, EL PAÍS)

This article was published on 1 September 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Mexican Fishermen Remove 54 Tons of Dead Fish from Lagoon
By Verónica Calderón (EL PAÍS)

– Authorities have not given clear reasons for the ecological emergency in the Cajititlán Lagoon, located in western Mexico

Fishermen collect dead fish in Cajititlán, Mexico. (Héctor Guerrero, AFP)

Fishermen collect dead fish in Cajititlán, Mexico. (Héctor Guerrero, AFP)

The fishermen of the small community encircling Cajititlán Lagoon in Tlajomulco Township (within Guadalajara´s metropolitan area, in western Mexico) rely on it for their livelihood. Last week they found it covered with a silver carpeting of dead fish. Just this Sunday it spewed out 33.7 tons, say the townspeople. Since the emergency began that makes 54 tons. The town’s authorities agree humans caused it. The State of Jalisco’s Ministry of the Environment (SEMADET) issued an alert about the poor state of water treatment by nearby businesses. The thorough cleanup can hardly cope. And the popochas – the twenty-centimeter freshwater fish don’t stop floating to the surface. Dead.

The contradictions started on day one. Town officials said that they had picked up 4.5 tons of popochas from Tuesday to Thursday, but the president of the fishermen’s cooperative in the town, Octavio Cortés, said to the EFE news service that on Tuesday alone they had removed eleven tons.

Residents of towns close to the lagoon accuse three treatment plants of dumping organic waste and another fifteen factories on the banks of the lagoon as guilty for what’s happened to the river. The lagoon is forty-one kilometers from Guadalajra, one of the country’s major urban centers.

This is the fourth time this year that there has been a mass of dead fish on the banks of the lagoon


The minister for the environment in the state of Jalisco (SEMADET), Magdalena Ruiz Mejía says that it’s a “serious event.” Tlajomulco Township has said from the outset that the deaths resulted from a drop in oxygen because of a change in the temperature of the water. But the minister confirmed that the “poor management” of water treatment is the probable cause of pollution suffered by the lagoon.

As if that weren’t enough already, there’s one more ingredient. The labyrinth of Mexican bureaucracy has worsened the performance before, during, and after the emergency. The mayor of Tlajomulco comes from the Citizens’ Movement (Movimiento Ciudadano, MC), a rarity in Mexican politics, a party that has emerged as stronger than any of Mexico’s main parties: the ruling party of the PRI, the conservative PAN and the leftwing PRD. The lagoon belongs to this township. The MC president Hugo Luna had announced last 12 August an “institutional separation” from Jalisco’s governor, Aristóteles Sandoval of the PRI.

The day the MC leader announced the split with the state Government, Tlajomulco’s mayor, Ismael del Toro confirmed that one of the pieces of “evidence” that Aristóteles Sandoval’s administration was trying to damage MC governments was the way Cajititlán had been abandoned. He emphasized that state authorities have systematically broken work agreements between the two governments to clean the lagoon despite warnings from SEMADET.

Journalist Verónica Calderón reports from Mexico for El País. Follow Calderón on Twitter @veronicacalderon. This story first appeared with the title, “Unos pescadores mexicanos recogen 54 toneladas de peces muertos en una laguna,” available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons. The MxJTP has a Facebook page: like it, here.

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The Story of Papa Mayito: Journalist and Kidnapping Victim (Verónica Calderón, EL PAÍS)

Mario Segura, Mexican Journalist (Photo Credit: Artículo 19)

Mario Segura, Mexican Journalist (Photo Credit: Artículo 19)

This article first appeared in El País on 11 April 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Story of Papa Mayito: Journalist and Kidnapping Victim
by Verónica Calderón (EL PAÍS)

– The first reporter registered under Mexico’s protective mechanism for journalists and human rights defenders denounces its malfunctioning

Mario Segura is a short man with brown hair. He smiles a lot. He is 52 years old. From the very first moment of meeting him he seems pleasant. He is a journalist but he also performs with his family as a clown. On stage they call him Papa Mayito. He is the editor of the magazine El Sol del Sur, and the muckraking blog, Alerta Oportuna, based in Tampico, Tamaulipas (in Northeast Mexico). That’s why he was kidnapped. They let him go eight days later. He is the first journalist registered under the government’s Protective Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. He is blowing the whistle on the mechanism: it didn’t help him at all. When he’s asked if he wants his photograph taken for this newspaper, he responds forcefully, “Of course. I have never been a journalist who wants to hide. I am not one to publish and then hide. I am also a person. I have a face. I exist.” Mario Segura is alive and he is a survivor of the war in Tamaulipas.

Mexico’s Congress approved the Law to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in June 2012. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico welcomed the law’s passage. But Segura complains that even though the letter of that law includes the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, it’s not effective. “It’s meant to protect me in three different ways: psychologically, legally, and take care of my safety.” He asserts that it has not fulfilled its obligations in those three areas.

Since 2012 the Mechanism’s budget has amounted to 300 million pesos (almost USD$23 million), and it has failed to process 57.8% of its cases. Of the 152 applications it has received, NGOs complain that it has not even reviewed 88 of those. People who have been threatened are meant to receive some sort of response from the government in less than ten days. Some cases have not been reviewed in more than eighteen months. These cases concern people whose life has been threatened or who have been kidnapped.

The Interior Minister, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, recognizes that the initiative is “a failure.” He has promised to restructure it, but has not provided a date when that will occur. Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Since 2010, 31 journalists have been murdered.

Mario Segura – the first journalist registered by the Mechanism – explains that he quit the government’s provision of psychological assistance because the appointments were disorganized, forcing him to move through the vastness of Mexico City. The legal aid was more like “having a chat.” He says he attended talks where a lawyer explained what he had to do, but the state would never pay for legal representation. Lastly, in regards security, he comments that he was provided with a phone number that, in theory, was meant to be a “panic button” but Segura was never sure if it would function. He has not received any type of special protection, even though after the kidnapping, he has been explicitly threatened. He was also offered medical coverage, but when he went to check his sugar levels (he suffers from diabetes) he discovered that the center he was sent to did not have the means to measure glucose levels.

Segura’s via crucis began two years ago, in August 2012. The journalist had performed at a children’s birthday party with his wife and children. They called their troupe the “Family Clowns’ Show.” He was on his way to this engagement when a colleague called to tell him that he had to take down an article published on his website because “it had angered” a criminal group. They kidnapped him the next day. They pointed a gun at him and they beat him, locking him up for eight days in a room smelling of “dirt and marijuana.”  They beat him with a board. They told him they were going to kill him and that “they were going to cut up [his wife and children] into little pieces.”

His kidnapping was a culminating event, but he explains that the threats began in 2010. Alerta Oportuna was a site with thousands of visits per day, consulted by users like a web of warnings and denunciations. Segura is convinced that they kidnapped him because he accused politicians of corruption and the government’s ties to drug traffickers that, he asserts, are common in Tamaulipas. Former governor Tomás Yarrington stands accused in the United States of accepting bribes from warring cartels in Tamaulipas, and of money laundering. Yarrington, who was active in the PRI – Mexico’s ruling party – before his suspension in 2012, asserts that the accusations are “political persecution.” The U.S. Justice Department and Interpol consider him a “fugitive.”

The journalist regrets “the pain that he has caused” his family and explains that he has felt guilty for a long time. But at the same time he recognizes that the spiral of violence afflicting Tamaulipas, a place that has suffered disputes between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, and also their own internal disputes, is “impossible to ignore.” He assuages whatever guilt he feels by telling himself that “being a journalist is not an excuse” and that those responsible for his loved one’s pain are those who ordered his kidnapping – a crime that remains unpunished, along with 98% of crimes committed in Mexico, according to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH)l

Segural left Tamaulipas with the help of the NGO, Artículo 19. They paid for his flight and his hotel for three months. He rues the “lack of solidarity” among Mexico’s journalists. “Officials think its better to buy off the media and use them to undermine our complaints,” he says. “What happened with Goyo was something exceptional. I hope it can happen again. There are so many of us…” He’s referring to Gregorio Jiménez, a humble journalist kidnapped and murdered in Coatzacoalcos (Veracruz) this February. The crimes against Gregorio provoked a wave of unexpected indignation among Mexico’s journalists. A group of independent journalists a few weeks ago presented a report that identified multiple problems in the investigation.

Does he regret publishing? Again, he replies with conviction: “No.” He explains that he is tired of having to stay quiet and that the severity of the situation in Tamaulipas demands speaking out. “I miss Tampico very much. My parents, my pals, my friends. But I can’t stay quiet. We can’t shut up.” Since he left Tamaulipas, Mario Seguro has not been able to find work as a journalist.

JournalistVerónica Calderón reports from Mexico for El País. Follow Calderón on Twitter @veronicacalderon. This story first appeared with the title, “La historia de Papa Mayito: periodista y secuestrado,” available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist based in the Americas. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). Follow him on Twitter@patricktimmons.


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Human Rights Abuse in Mexico: Widespread Torture in Mexico Confirmed by UN Special Rapporteur (Verónica Calderón, EL PAÍS)

This article was first published in El Pais on 2 May 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Human Rights Abuse in Mexico: Widespread Torture in Mexico Confirmed by UN Special Rapporteur
by Verónica Calderón (EL PAÍS)

– The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment spent 12 days in Mexico, and confirms that almost “every Mexican police force” abuses detainees

Torture in Mexico is a widespread practice throughout almost all of the country’s police forces. Cases exist where a Mexican man or woman has been arrested by a plainclothes officer. Without a warrant. Officers have entered homes without a judge’s order, and relatives have been threatened. Then, they have been carried away. They have been blindfolded and insulted. They have been beaten. With fists, with feet. Kicked. They have bee prodded with a cowpoke, an instrument used to administer electric shocks on the genitals. It’s also possible they have suffered some type of sexual violence. In some cases they have been paraded before the media as criminals, even without judicial proceedings. And sometimes they have not even been allowed to speak with their defense attorney. That’s the substance of complaints gathered by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, preliminary conclusions delivered in Mexico City this Friday as he finishes an almost two-week visit to the country.

“I have the obligation to tell the Mexican Government, and also Mexican society, that there is an endemic type of torture here that must be corrected,” the Special Rapporteur announced. This devastating diagnosis is the product of a 12-day visit that he called “intense, but productive.” He interviewed officials, civil society, and victims. He visited prisons, a psychiatric institution, a juvenile detention facility and a migrant detention center. He visited the Federal District and the State of Mexico, in the center of the country; Nayarit, on the Pacific Coast; Nuevo León, in the northeast; Chiapas, on the border with Central America and Baja California Norte, his last stop, in the far northwest, on the border with the United States.

He acknowledged the Government’s cooperation as he set about his work, but he lamented that, in a single incident, he was denied access to the Nuevo León’s State Prosecutor’s Office, “especially since I received several complaints of torture committed right there.” The accusations he received during his visit, he clarified, are against almost “all the forces that make arrests in this country.” This comment includes municipal, state, and federal police forces, the Army, and the Navy.

Mexico is one of the few countries in the world where a detainee is guilty until he can prove otherwise. Responding to a reporter’s question, the Special Rapporteur emphasized that he had criticized the Mexican security forces’ practice of parading detainees, presumed guilty, in front of the media without any type of criminal proceedings against them or granting them access to their defense attorney. Méndez called the practice “a humiliation.” The World Justice Project, an NGO dedicated to studying respect for the rule of law, ranks Mexico 79th out of 99 countries. Above Mexico, for example, are China, Kazakhstan, Albania, Burkina Faso and Ecuador.

Even though the Special Rapporteur insisted on the “complexity” of determining whether torture affected a social group in particular, he did clarify that the worst affected were the country’s most vulnerable: the poor, indigenous people, women, and adolescents. He insisted about the seriousness of the problem: “In Mexico there still exists a widespread use of torture and mistreatment.”

The UN Special Rapporteur said that he felt “alarmed” by the “ongoing militarization” of some regions of the country and he lamented that his visit did not include other states where he had received complaints of torture, like Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Oaxaca, and Michoacán.

The UN official also announced that the majority of cases of torture remain “completely unpunished”, and many of these crimes or complaints are stranded in judicial proceedings. “There are dozens, scores of delayed processes.” He also said he was preoccupied by the creation of a new crime such as “abuse by authorities,” a crime punished in Mexico of up to eight years in prison; he confirmed that in reality this crime hides those who are responsible for torture and who actually warrant more severe punishment.

His final report will be delivered to the federal government in three or four weeks and will come accompanied with a series of private recommendations to the executive branch headed by President Enrique Peña Nieto (Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI).

The Special Rapporteur thanked the Mexican Government for its invitation, and for the “excellent support” that it had provided him throughout his work. “I would have liked to say that torture is isolated in Mexico […] that it’s an aberration that can be corrected quickly… but it is in the process of being corrected,” he concluded.

JournalistVerónica Calderón reports from Mexico for El País. Follow Calderón on Twitter @veronicacalderon. This story first appeared with the title, ““Naciones Unidas afirma que la tortura en México es ‘generalizada’” available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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144 Fuego Street: The House where García Márquez Drew His Last Breath (Juan Diego Quesada, EL PAÍS)

This article first appeared in El País on 18 April 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

144 Fuego Street: The House where García Márquez Drew His Last Breath
by Juan Diego Quesada (EL PAÍS)

–        The writer died in his Mexico City home. The private cremation will be followed a memorial on Monday in Bellas Artes.

–        A legion of fans traveled to the Colombian’s house for a final farewell.

At 144 Fuego Street, in the south of Mexico City, at 1530 a black-sweatered girl in jeans left a bunch of daisies. Mónica Hernández had reluctantly read Cien años de soledad on her schoolteacher’s instruction. Years later a reprint by the Real Academia de la Lengua Española fell into her hands and she read it with a convert’s fanaticism. By being the first reader to arrive at the house where 87-year old Colombian Gabriel García Márquez had just died, she was seeking forgiveness for childish petulance and honoring one of the greatest writers of the Spanish language.

Three days ago, reporters began to keep guard outside García Márquez’s house as word began to spread that he had started to receive palliative care in his home, a quaint colonial residence framed by bougainvillea. Occasionally, a reader would ask about their idol’s health, returning with a gesture denying bad news. At 1456 on a sunny afternoon, the Thursday before Easter, with half the city gone on vacation, Mexican journalist Fernanda Familiar, a close friend of the writer and his wife, Mercedes Barcha, appeared at the door. She was crying. Without saying a word she went back inside. She had given the world the first indication that the Nobel prize-winning author had died.

Five minutes later, Colombian writer Guillermo Angulo arrived in a taxi. He carried a suitcase, a white bag, and a hunting hat. He entered the home without saying a word. García Márquez’s personal assistant, Genovevo Quiroz, came out to give instructions to the first police officers that began their watch over the street. A neighbor, María del Carmen Estrada, poked her head out of her door, remembering the day she gave him a hug when they crossed paths. “I hadn’t read any of his books, but the people loved him, and I treated him warmly. He was a model neighbor.”

The writer will be cremated privately – according to the director of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, María García Cepeda, who spoke on the family’s behalf from their threshold. Joining her to make the announcement was Jaime Abello Banfi, García Márquez’s friend, someone with the right to call him Gabo, and director of the Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (New Foundation for Iberoamerican Journalism).

Earlier, around 1635, as clouds descended on Mexico’s capital city, a grey hearse arrived to take García Márquez’s remains to the funeral home. On the hearse, the undertakers had attempted to cover up their company’s name but the see through paper revealed the logo, García López. But the company does not perform funerals. As with other great Mexicans, like comedian Mario Moreno Cantinflas [or — translator’s note — writer Carlos Fuentes], García Márquez will be honored on Monday afternoon in the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the country’s greatest honor for one of its dead.

Little by little the crowd in the street began to grow. A youth with an open red shirt, showing some chest hair, white trousers and pointed shoes. He seemed to have just left one of those vallenatos the novelist liked so much. Colombians Juan Pablo Castro and Rosana Vergara, a married couple with a child, were visiting Mexico City when they heard the news so they knew at once that the coincidence meant they had to pay homage at the home. They left a bocadillo on the doorstep, a typically Colombian candy made from the fruit of the guayaba. A friend, Valeria Hurtada, had plucked a veranera flower from a neighbor’s house and threw it over the hearse as it carried the writer’s body away. The flower stuck on the vehicle until it accelerated, falling off at the first curve as it picked up speed down the cobbled street.

Police Commander Cantellano presided over the deployment of a contingent of officers in Fuego Street. Cantellano placed barriers to cut off the flow of traffic and in warlike tones outside the writer’s stoop he ordered his agents to line up. He put up a security perimeter around the main door and the garage. “We’re here on an important mission,” the official said under his breath. His men, trying to support him, stood to attention for hours at 144 Fuego Street. Sometimes they took a breather, allowing Gabo fans to leave flowers, books, and candles at the entrance. Police Officer García did not know who the writer was (“he doesn’t ring a bell to me”) but given the deployment, and the severity of Cantellano’s orders he begun to understand the moment’s significance. “I didn’t know the gent, but now I am going to read him.”

Bruno Uribe turned up with a candle and a long lighter, one of those used to light the stoves of industrial kitchens. Officer García, whose name shone out from a badge on the right pocket of his uniform, let him pass to light the candle. Uribe left it a meter from the door, beside a copy of Memorias de mis putas tristes. “It’s a little homage from me and my family,” was all he would say, and left. A rosary hung from his neck.

Mónica Hernández, after leaving the small bunch of daisies near the wooden door, walked around a little, confused by the neighborhood. She approached a crying neighbor and they seemed to find consolation in a mutual embrace. Five o’clock in the afternoon was fast approaching. It had begun to drizzle. And the rain was just about to fall.

Journalist Juan Diego Quesada reports for El País. His original story in Spanish was published as “En el 144 de la calle Fuego, el último suspiro de García Márquez,” available at Follow JDQ on Twitter @jdquesada.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist, and founding editor of the Mexican Journalism Translation Project. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.


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