Second Mexican journalist wins U.S. asylum bid

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 30, 2011 7:38 PM
Second Mexican journalist wins U.S. asylum bid

EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) - A Mexican television cameraman who was kidnapped by a drug cartel in northern Mexico last year has been granted political asylum in the United States, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Alejandro Hernandez Pacheco, 45, who worked as a cameraman for a Televisa affiliate in the city of Torreon, in northern Coahuila state, was granted asylum in El Paso, Texas, the office of his attorney Carlos Spector said.

Hernandez was among four journalists abducted by drug traffickers in northern Durango state in July 2010, after they had covered a riot at jail in Gomez Palacio.

Their captors said they would not be released unless videos were aired by a local television station, owned by Televisa and a local affiliate for Milenio, that showed the confessions of people in captivity accusing rival gangsters of corrupting local police and officials, the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, said.

Two captives were released. The Mexican government said federal police rescued the two other hostages, but one captive said the traffickers simply allowed them to go free, sparking speculation that the rescue was staged.

The case was the first documented in Mexico in which journalists were taken hostage to force news organizations to broadcast a criminal group's propaganda, according to CPJ research.

Hernandez said Mexican authorities told him he would be flown to Mexico City to meet with President Felipe Calderon. Instead he said he was taken before national and international media at the airport, which he felt put his life at risk.

He is among a growing number of Mexicans seeking asylum in the United States amid surging cartel-related violence. Since Calderon took office in late 2006 and sent the military to break the cartels, more than 42,000 people have died.

Last year, a record 5,551 Mexicans sought U.S. asylum, a rise of more than a third on 2006.

In September, a judge in El Paso granted political asylum to Mexican journalist Jorge Luis Aguirre, editor of the news website La Polaka.

Aguirre had fled Ciudad Juarez in November 2008 after receiving a death threat.

(Reporting by Patricia Giovine; Writing by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Peter Bohan)