Mexican journalists forced to flee the country due to death threats from the cartels

434

“How do you want to have Los Zetas, as friends or as enemies?”

That was the question that a man, who identified himself as Commander Ramón Rocas Suárez, asked Mexican journalist Juan de Dios García Davish, from Tapachula, Chiapas, over the phone on May 28, 2016.

The man had identified himself as a high-ranking member of the Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas, at the time considered one of the most powerful and dangerous criminal organizations in Mexico.

The threat was clear: Either he abided by the man’s requests or dealt with the consequences. The man on the other side of the line had García Davish’s home, work, and family members located.


That was the first of several threats made between 2016 and 2022.

Due to the increased violence in Mexico against journalists and the lack of protection provided by the government, García Davish and his wife, María de Jesús Peters, also a journalist in Chiapas, made the difficult decision to leave their lifelong home. Since June, they’ve been trying to rebuild their life in Phoenix, figuring out how to navigate a new country and calling for international governments to intervene and better protect Mexican journalists.

“The man wanted money, and although he scared me and made me nervous, I didn’t fall for his game. I told him to do what he had to do,” García Davish said in an interview with La Voz/The Arizona Republic. “The first thing I did was see how my daughter was and then I went to file a complaint with the general attorney’s office.”

After investigating, the Specialized General Attorney’s Office for the Attention of Journalists and Freedom of Expression of Chiapas told García Davish that the call came from a prison in Mexico City, and classified the crime as extortion.

Years of threats followed, but it was the most recent threat, received on May 13, 2022, that made them seek other alternatives outside of the promises made by Mexican law enforcement. A man who identified himself as Arturo Valencia Díaz threatened to kill Peters, García Davish, and their daughter if they did not come to an agreement.

He filed a complaint once more and this time the authorities promised to provide them with protection measures, including police patrols outside their home, but he said that such protection never came.

María de Jesús Peters (left) and Juan de Dios García Davish, Mexican journalists, look through documents for the first threat they reported to the Chiapas attorney's office, while being interviewed at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix.
María de Jesús Peters (left) and Juan de Dios García Davish, Mexican journalists, look through documents for the first threat they reported to the Chiapas attorney’s office while being interviewed at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix.

Considering the increased violence against journalists in Mexico, inaction from local authorities, and with their 16-year-old daughter in mind, García Davish and Peters looked into international options. At the suggestion of colleagues, they applied to the Temporary Reception Program for Latin American Journalists hosted by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which would allow them to take refuge in Spain for a period of time. However, immediate approval wasn’t guaranteed.

They then sought to obtain a visa that would allow them to enter the United States. Thanks to a letter of support drafted by several national and international colleagues, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City almost immediately scheduled an interview for them on June 10, and were approved for tourist visas.

With little clothing, a computer, and a few hard drives — their most “prized treasures” that safeguard their life’s work — the two journalists and their daughter made their way to the United States. Since late June, they’ve been living in Phoenix.

According to the couple, help from the local specialized general attorney’s office never came, a situation shared by many journalists in Mexico. The Specialized General Attorney’s Office for the Attention of Journalists and Freedom of Expression of Chiapas did not respond to a request for comment.

Sources: Quadratin / La Lista

Mexico Daily Post