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Another journalist missing; police may be implicated in his disappearance

(CEPET/IFEX) - Mexico, 22 April 2010 - Evaristo Ortega Zárate, the editor of the weekly paper "Espacio" in the town of Colipa, Veracruz, has been missing since 20 April 2010, shortly after he sent several text messages to his family saying that he had been detained and loaded into a police car.

Ortega, who is also trying to qualify for the National Action Party (PAN) ticket to run for mayor of Colipa, was in Xalapa on 20 April. Around 1:00 p.m., the journalist's sister, Irene Ortega, received three text messages in which her brother wrote: "Tell everybody," "We are being taken by police car to Veracruz" and "They detained us."

Irene Ortega dialed her brother's cellphone. Before their communication was cut off, Ortega asked his sister to advise the authorities and the media to "do what they have to do." Ortega's sisters immediately requested help from local journalists. They went to Veracruz and looked for Ortega in the municipal, state and federal police stations, but they did not find him.

The sisters also went to the state offices of the PAN, where Ortega had been seen ten minutes before he sent his first message; the only responses they received were closed doors, "not even moral support," they said. The women were told that "he must have done something for them to have taken him." However, Francisco Mota Uribe, another qualifying candidate for the mayoralty of Colipa, has also gone missing.

Gerardo Perdomo Cueto, the director of the Committee for the Defense of Journalists in Veracruz, accompanied the family to an interview with the state attorney general on 21 April. Perdomo said that 24 hours after the journalist went missing, the authorities had still not formally opened a case into Ortega's disappearance, even though the governor had been made aware of the case and the police were looking for the journalist.

In a conversation with CEPET, Irene Ortega said that the family filed a report about her brother's appearance ate in the evening on 21 April. His whereabouts are still unknown.

On 22 April, the public security secretary of Veracruz, Sergio López Esquer, dismissed the possibility that police officers under his jurisdiction might have participated in the abduction. "The public security department never transfers suspects to other municipalities or sites. We always turn suspects over to the authorities in the town where they are detained. Nonetheless, to cooperate with the investigation, we checked to see if we have him, if he's in a holding cell, but we don't have him," he said.

The president of the State Commission for Human Rights, Nohemí Quirasco Hernández, did not think the journalist's disappearance was significant. She also dismissed the idea that his kidnapping was related to his professional activities because, as she told several reporters, Ortega was not a media heavyweight. "I don't recognize his name, and I don't think you know him either. I didn't know he was a journalist or that he had any connection to journalism. For his disappearance to be related to professional activities he would have to be an important person, and I don't think that's the case. He's just an ordinary person, and other than someone who wants to run for office in a tiny town, we don't know who he is. That's how I see it," she said.

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