We need more men like this in Society, we also need to keep the ones we now have alive.
By Eric Umansky
At a glance, the office of Tijuana’s weekly newspaper, Zeta, gives just a hint of the kind of publication that is produced inside. It sits on a residential street in a middle-class neighborhood, and only a small plaque seems to distinguish it from the rest of the block’s modest family homes.
Look closer and a theme emerges: the building is set back from the street, with much of it obscured by a concrete wall; no first-floor windows are visible; and the front door has heavy grating.
Watching the paper’s editor and publisher, J. Jesus Blancornelas, arrive for work dispels any doubts. A caravan of three vehicles pulls up, two Suburbans and a blacked-out Chevrolet Caprice. Out pile fourteen serious-looking men — soldiers in the Mexican Army — bristling with M-16 assault rifles, shotguns, copious clips of ammunition, and body armor. That level of protection would be surprising for a journalist in Baghdad, let alone for one in a quiet neighborhood thirty minutes from downtown San Diego.
The precautions are for good reason, though. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, a significant majority of illegal drugs destined for the U.S. — marijuana, cocaine, and heroin — transit through Mexico. Tijuana, host to one of the world’s most heavily traveled border crossings, is a strategic chokepoint. In the first four months of this year, there were 163 homicides in Tijuana, many drug-related.
Local journalists know how dangerous it is to shine a spotlight on the trade and the corruption it fuels among Mexican officials. Nine reporters have been killed in northern Mexico in the past decade, with the perpetrators enjoying what the Committee to Protect Journalists calls a “nearly perfect record of impunity.” In such an environment, Zeta stands out, both for the work it has produced and the costs it has incurred.
Since Blancornelas started Zeta twenty-five years ago, it has been challenging the nexus between drug lords, local officials, and business leaders. As a result, Blancornelas has been wounded in an assassination attempt, and two top Zeta editors have been killed, the most recent one in June of last year.
The deaths have had a curious effect on Blancornelas. He evinces a determination to continue, but a regret for ever having started. It’s a mix of emotions that can’t be made any simpler by the fact that many journalists in Tijuana see Blancornelas not as a hero, but as obsessed and vainglorious. Meanwhile, the man Blancornelas believes is behind at least the first murder at Zeta is not only still free, he’s Tijuana’s new mayor.
There is a LOT more to read about the War on our Southern Borders.
And most of us thought the problem was just masses of illegal alien migrant workers crossing over.
We should be so lucky.