By Anabel Hernández
A year and nine months ago I’d never have believed that I’d be here today. Every morning I’m surprised by life and open my eyes on a burnt out country where in six years more than 60,000 people have been executed by the government or organised crime. Their eyes will never open again. I’m surprised by being able to embrace my children, my mother and my siblings in a country where more than 18,000 children, teenagers and parents have disappeared in a phoney war against drug trafficking. Their families will never embrace them again.
In December 2010 when the book ‘The Drug Lords’, a product of five years of journalistic investigation, was published, I was sentenced to death by high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Public Security of president Felipe Calderón’s government for having exposed his relationship with kidnappers and the Sinaloa Cartel, the most powerful cartel in the world according to the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration. Since the 1st December 2010 a price has been put on my head and on that day I decided to fight for my life. Since then I have been on the verge of losing the things that I love the most. My family was attacked, my sisters have been harassed in their homes by armed thugs, my information sources now feature on the list of missing persons, have been killed or unjustly imprisoned. Every day I live with this weight in my heart, never knowing when my time will be up.
The world looks to a burnt out Mexico but never quite understands what goes on here and consequently does not realise that this could happen anywhere on earth. I have had the chance to talk with journalists from all over the world who have come to Mexico over the course of recent years to experience the adrenaline of the safari of terror and death. They come in search of shootings, corpses and pieces of bodies; they count the hangings and interview hit men, but never get to the bottom of the problem.
The Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Mario Vargas Llosa once said that there existed in Mexico a ‘perfect dictatorship’. In Mexico today there is a ‘perfect criminal dictatorship’. The most repressive regime of all time is that of the power of organised crime that has blended with Mexico’s political and economic power thanks to a corrupt and unpunished national system. This combination of a drowsy society divided by indifference or terror makes for the perfect milieu for this perverse regime to maintain itself and grow. To think this, say this or write this is more dangerous in Mexico than being a drug-trafficker or working for them.
This is the power that has murdered thousands of innocent children, youths, women and men. This is the power that has seized areas of Mexican territory and subjected the population to a regime of terror, extortion, kidnapping and impunity. This is the power that obstructs freedom of expression, the power that has executed 82 journalists over the course of a decade, has caused more than 16 to disappear and threatened hundreds, such as myself. 80% of these cases have taken place under the government of the current outgoing president, Felipe Calderón.
This is the power that ensures that crimes against journalists go unpunished. So as to wash their hands before public opinion and the international community, the government of Mexico, which is currently considered the most dangerous place on earth to work as a journalist, claims to have created a prosecution office to protect journalists and resolve cases of their murder. This office has done nothing but conceal the consent of federal and local government in the murder of journalists. Its budget has been reduced by up to 74%, an indication of governmental interest, and 90% of cases remain unpunished. In only one of every ten cases has the alleged perpetrator been jailed.
The crisis within Mexico with regard to freedom of expression has been devastating. The media are afraid and preserve their economic interests with the government, and barely fight back when their journalists are killed, are threatened or disappear. There is inaction in part due to a lack of solidarity in the union and among the dynamic media egotists that well you know, but also because the government has criminalised murdered journalists in general, as well as anyone who tries to defend them. Family members have no way out; they collect pieces of tortured and dismembered journalists who have been dumped in rubbish sacks. They must be quiet and keep their heads down when the infamous government, with no evidence whatsoever, claims that the journalist was involved in trafficking.
A year and nine months ago, I understood that it was not enough to survive this barbarity. To feel the breeze blowing on my face, to breathe clean air and see the smiles of my beloved children is not enough. A life in silence is not life anywhere on earth. To live in silence with regard to how corruption, crime and impunity continue to empower themselves in my country is also to die. I continue to denounce the decay of Mexico and the collusion of politicians, public servants and high-level businessmen with Mexican drug cartels. Today Mexican society is in need of brave and honest journalists who are ready to fight and I believe that the international community and world media share this responsibility to deeply consider the reality of the situation in Mexico and assist us in achieving our goals. Without freedom of expression, there is no possibility of justice or democracy.
Today, you award me with the Golden Pen of Freedom. I never expected any prize in exchange for my work. I dedicate and symbolically award this prize to all the Mexican journalists whose voices have been silenced by death, forced disappearance or censorship. I also dedicate it to all those Mexican journalists who daily continue to set an example in their duty to inform and denounce at whatever cost.
I will fight until my last breath, even if it is a small example, so that as journalists we are not brought to our knees before the drug state. I don’t know how many days, weeks, months or years I have left. I know that I am on the blacklist of very powerful men who will go unpunished with their pockets full of money from drug bribes and a guilty conscience for their unmentionable acts. I know that they are awaiting their moment to carry out their threats at little political cost. I know that I have nothing but the truth, my voice and my work as a journalist to defend myself with.
If one day it happens, remember me like this, upright. I do not want to be another number on the list of dead journalists. I want to be among the statistics of journalists who fought to live.
It’s true, as Mexicans we are responsible for our own disgrace, but I hope that the international community will not continue to be indolent before the empire of the Mexican drug state, which will not be resolved by the end of the administration of Felipe Calderón. I hope they will protect their borders and economies against this expanding power and give neither shelter nor protection to those responsible, be they ex-presidents, presidents, businessmen or drug-traffickers.
I want to live, but to live in silence is just another way to die.