Lydia Cacho | Mexican journalist leaves country after death threats

August 22, 2012 — After leaving Mexico in a haste following a particularly chilling death threat on August 3, Lydia Cacho, winner of the 2007 IWMF Courage Award, spoke about the circumstances of her departure for the first time yesterday in a phone interview with the Spanish newspaper El País.

“There are people who think that the story of threats against me is getting old. I, too, am tired, very tired, of having to make public that I have been threatened again. But I also believe that precisely the fact that I have not remained silent, that I investigated the threats’ sources and published the names, the fact that I have provided evidence, are the reasons why I am still alive,” Cacho told El País.

In 2004, Cacho who for years has worked to highlight violence against women and children, had published Los Demonios del Edén (The Demons of Eden), a book based on her research on child pornography among Mexican politicians and businessmen. A year later, she was arrested on libel charges and driven to a jail 20 hours from her home in Cancún, with officers verbally abusing her. Cacho paid a fine and was freed; she later filed a counter-suit for corruption and violation of human rights, becoming the first woman in history to testify in Mexico’s Supreme Court.

In May 2007, Cacho alleged that her car was tampered with in an attempt to cause an accident. Her bodyguards discovered that the nuts had been loosened on one of the wheels, nearly causing the car to crash. The attack came just days after Cacho testified at the trial of accused pedophile Jean Succar Kuri, one of men she wrote about in her book.

When an unfamiliar voice came over the security system’s speaker in her house and threatened to “send her home in pieces” on July 29, Cacho knew not to take the threat lightly. “As soon as it happened, I became worried. One always feels horrible hearing something so grotesque,” Cacho said. She rememered speaking about death threats with Regina Martinez, a colleague who, like Cacho, had frequently investigated drug cartells and reported on drug and sex trafficking. Not long after the two spoke, in April 2012, Martinez was found murdered in her apartment.

After consulting with her security advisors, who were able to determine that the threating call had probably come from within a radius of 3 miles around her house, Cacho immediately grabbed her passport and left the country, knowing from personal experience that the Mexican state had neither the will nor the resources to protect her.

She is determined to return to Mexico. “Times aren’t good for Mexico, they are good for the scavengers, but not for the society. And I think that is when the country needs us most – journalists who are willing to continue covering local issues, journalists that can make a difference for the strengthening of society”, she explained in her interview with El País.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, almost 70 journalists and media workers have been killed in Mexico since 1994.

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