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Publisher of local daily in Veracruz receives death threats, police officer suspected

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is worried about death threats made on 18 March 2008 against Auricela Castro García, the director of "El Mundo de Orizaba", a daily based in Orizaba, in the southeastern state of Veracruz. The aim of the threats appears to have been to deter the newspaper from reporting that a local police inspector helped the town's former police chief evade arrest.

"We express our solidarity with Auricela Castro and the staff of 'El Mundo de Orizaba'," RSF said. "These threats are disturbing, especially if they came from police officers, as circumstances suggest. The Veracruz judicial authorities will have to investigate the complaint that has been made. But the police should also investigate within their own ranks."

RSF added: "It is unfortunately not unusual for police officers to think that they can attack the press with impunity and that the police force will cover up their crimes."

Castro told RSF that the threats were made in two phone calls. The first was received by the newspaper's switchboard at about 10:00 pm (local time) on 18 March. Identifying himself as José Sánchez, the caller asked to speak to the publisher "for personal reasons." The call was transferred to the editor, who said Castro was in a meeting and unavailable. The caller replied: "Tell her she has information - she knows what I am talking about - and if she publishes it, she will be killed." He then repeated the threat.

A few moments late, the editor took a call from another person identifying himself as Gumercindo Hernández, who said that he had been "nice until now" but "the situation could soon change" if his demands were not heeded.

In an editorial in its 19 March issue, "El Mundo de Orizaba" linked these threats to the help that local police inspector Pedro Angel Márquez allegedly gave to the town's former police chief, Alvaro Mendoza Morales, to evade arrest. Mendoza is wanted for the 16 March shooting of a traffic policeman, Héctor Rafael Sorcia Reyes, who tried to take him to the police station when he was caught driving while drunk.

Castro said that a complaint has been filed with the Veracruz state prosecutor's office naming Márquez as the main suspect in these threats. Castro also promised in the 19 March edition of the newspaper that it would not let itself be intimidated. "We will not be silenced, not now nor in the future."

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