Men claiming to speak for Mexico’s most powerful drug cartel have released a video threatening to murder a prominent female news anchor over what they deem to be unfair coverage.
The warning was made by a man who said it was on behalf of the leader of the Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG). He complained that Milenio Television was favouring so-called self-defence groups organized to resist the CJNG.
In the video, journalist Azucena Uresti is threatened directly. “I will make you eat your words even if they accuse me of femicide,” the masked speaker, who is surrounded by six heavily armed men, warns.
He accuses Ms Uresti and the Milenio network of being biased in their coverage of the battle between the cartel and vigilante groups. Ms Uresti is one of the best-known TV anchors in Mexico and presents Milenio TV’s nightly news programme. She gained further visibility when she anchored some of the presidential debates ahead of the 2018 election and was widely praised for her questions to the candidates.
Groups representing journalists have come out in her support and demanded that the government offer her protection. Speaking during his daily morning news conference, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that Ms Uresti “was not alone”.
The president said the threatened journalist “could count on us” without providing further details of what the government would do to protect her.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. But while attacks on local reporters are common, such public warnings are rare. In the past weeks, there have been fierce battles between members of the CJGN and vigilante groups in the state of Michoacán for control of the region west of the capital, Mexico City.
The vigilantes say they have taken up arms to defend themselves against the cartel whose leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, is one of the country’s most-wanted men. The US is offering a $10m (£7.2m) reward for information leading to his capture. But the groups are controversial. Some analysts say they often turn criminal themselves or act as a cover for rival criminal groups.
The area has been the scene of clashes between vigilantes and gangs for years but in recent weeks the gun battles have been particularly fierce and sometimes lasted for days. Ms Uresti interviewed one of the vigilantes involved in the fight for control of the town of Ecatepec earlier this month.
The vigilante alleged that the CJNG would “kill everyone” in the town if they managed to defeat those defending it. But in the video, the masked man alleges that the vigilante groups are in fact drug traffickers themselves and extort money from the local population.