Mexican reporter murdered for drugs crime stories

A crime reporter in the violent Mexican border city of Juarez has been murdered, adding to dozens of journalist deaths in a country where many newspapers are too afraid to cover drug violence.

Armando Rodriguez had covered crime for 10 years in Ciudad Juarez, working for El Diario newspaper. He was shot several times as he sat in his car outside home yesterday.

A special federal prosecutor in charge of journalist killings will investigate.

Rodriguez had received death threats in recent months, the Attorney General’s Office said.

For his safety, El Diario sent him to work across the border in El Paso, Texas, but he returned after two months. He had declined a state government offer for protection,.

Mexico has become one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, in part because drug gangs target reporters whose stories detail their activities. Many reporters refuse to put their names on articles, and many newspapers have stopped covering the drug gangs altogether.

With Rodriguez’s death, 24 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000 – at least seven of them in direct reprisal for their reports on crime – and seven others have disappeared since 2005, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Rodriguez’s death shows the need for Mexico to do more to protect the media, said the committee’s Carlos Lauria. “Mexico needs to break the cycle of impunity in crimes against journalists,” he said.

Drug-related killings are soaring as cartels battle each other for lucrative routes used to deliver cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs to the US.

President Felipe Calderon is cracking down and the cartels have responded with a vengeance – more than 4,000 people have been killed so far this year, more than 1,000 in Ciudad Juarez alone.

Corruption is widespread, reaching as high as the federal Attorney General’s office, and the drug gangs often control more than the drug trade, extorting money from business leaders and even teachers.

On Wednesday, an anonymous banner appeared at the door of a public Ciudad Juarez kindergarten, threatening to attack the school’s children if the teachers do not hand over their Christmas bonuses.

Classes were immediately suspended as police decided what security measures to take.

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