In 2010, after another staff journalist had been killed by the drug cartels, the Ciudad Juarez newspaper El Diario published a front page editorial – it’s title was ‘What Do You Want From Us?” Brooke spoke with El Diario editor Gerardo Rodriguez about his plaintive, angry and very public question for the cartels.
Just before, you heard me mention Gerardo Rodriguez, the editor of El Diario, a newspaper published in Ciudad Juarez, one of the front lines in Mexico’s drug wars. In September 2010, after the murder of a staff photographer, Rodriguez wrote an editorial addressed directly to the cartels. It was titled, “What Do You Want From Us,” and it was a cry from the heart. We spoke with Rodriguez in 2010, and he explained why he’d so publicly addressed the cartels.
[2010 ON THE MEDIA CLIP]:
GERARDO RODRIGUEZ (2010): …In this war between them and the government we are in the middle, under fire, and we're not getting a clear message why are they killing our journalists. Armando Rodriguez was a police reporter who got killed less than two years ago in front of his house, killed in front of his daughter. His crime has not been solved, even though we have promises from the presidency. And then Luis, last week. BROOKE GLADSTONE: The photographer. GERARDO RODRIGUEZ: Yes. He was shot in the middle of the day in a mall. And then the killer ran and, and chased his companion, which he’s also a graphic reporter for our newspaper. Both were wearing their IDs for the newspaper. The other photographer is, is alive, but he’s in a secret location. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Is it true that in Juarez only about 2 percent of these drug-related murders are actually solved? GERARDO RODRIGUEZ: Yes, it is. Only 3 percent get ever to courts, and less than those are solved. BROOKE GLADSTONE: So the paper’s editorial read, quote, “It is impossible for us to do our job under these conditions. Tell us, then, what do you expect from us as a newspaper?” You didn't really expect the cartels to respond with a bill of particulars, did you? GERARDO RODRIGUEZ: Well, of course, we are not expecting a direct message. This is written in an ironic manner. It used to be that they would call the TV stations and the newsrooms, and they would threaten. But now, without any notice or without us knowing why, they are killing our reporters. And we just don't think a story is worth life.
We recognize that they are the authority in town, because the authorities are nonexistent. The cartels are not just criminal. You know, sometimes they're politicians. We're recognizing this fact, which everybody talks about in Mexico but is not published very often.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You said that you hope that this story will get a lot of play in the American media. What do you think they can do to help? GERARDO RODRIGUEZ: Well, not just in American media. We've received calls from everywhere, and London, Canada, Latin America, from people who tell us that we are very courageous to publish the feeling of the people of Juarez. We're very angry, very sad. We don't know who to go to.
Also, let me tell you, yesterday a lot of people just got fed up with the authorities, that they're not doing anything, so they killed two criminals with their own hands, you know, just caught them in a vigilante style. They just took their law into their own hands. BROOKE GLADSTONE: What would be the ideal response to your editorial?
GERARDO RODRIGUEZ: This war is being fought over our city… The use of drugs are increasing in the United States. We're all responsible for what’s going in Juarez. The criminal cartels are worldwide, and there is not a unilateral solution to this. It’s not a Mexican problem. It’s an international problem. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Do you see a future for reporters in Mexico reporting on the drug trade, or do you think that there’s simply nowhere to go from here? GERARDO RODRIGUEZ: Our reporters are very courageous. They're using bulletproof vests now, and we just bought life insurance for some of the reporters. And they – they’re very courageous. The people in Mexico are very courageous. Mexican society is getting fed up with this violence, and even though right now I'm hopeless, I think that things are changing. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Gerardo, thank you very much. GERARDO RODRIGUEZ: You’re welcome. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Gerardo Rodriguez is an editor for El Diario in Ciudad Juarez.