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Mexico Police Rescue Reporters as Drug Cartel Seeks Media Sway

Mexico’s federal police rescued two journalists yesterday who the government said were kidnapped in an attempt by billionaire Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman’s drug cartel to exert power in the media.

The rescued journalists are cameramen for Grupo Televisa SA, the world’s largest Spanish-language broadcaster, and the Multimedios television station, Public Safety Minister Genaro Garcia Luna told reporters yesterday in Mexico City. The kidnappers took three people in total, including a Televisa reporter who was freed two days earlier, he said.

Gang members allegedly tied to Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel abducted the hostages July 26 in bid to force their employers to transmit cartel propaganda, including three videos that aired on the Multimedios channel, according to the minister. The videos sought to show ties between local police and the Zetas drug gang, a rival of the Sinaloa Cartel.

“They principally used the reporters as a means to transmit their message,” said Garcia Luna, speaking in front of a blue federal police helicopter.

Print reporter Oscar Solis of newspaper El Vespertino also disappeared this week. Garcia Luna said Solis’s case was separate, and police had no information on his whereabouts.

‘Bitter Experience’

The kidnappers fled during the early morning raid in the northern state of Durango, according to the ministry.

After the rescue, police flew the two men to Mexico City by helicopter. One of the men, Alejandro Hernandez Pacheco, had a bandage on his head covering up a bruise from a beating he said he received.

“I just want to thank God for the opportunity to be here now,” said the second victim Javier Canales Fernandez, from Multimedios, speaking at the same news conference. “It was a sad and bitter experience that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.”

An explosive went off earlier today at a Televisa television station in Nuevo Laredo, a city along the U.S. border. No one was hurt in the attack, and the attorney general’s office has no suspects, according to an e-mailed statement.

The government estimates violence shaves one percentage point from gross domestic product each year.

Billionaire Guzman

Mexico has reported almost 25,000 deaths related to organized crime since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006. At least 30 journalists have been killed or disappeared in the period, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Kidnappings in Mexico rose to 1,059 in the first 10 months of 2009 from 323 in 2004, according to the latest report by the group Mexico United Against Crime, which cites data from the Public Security Ministry. The federal government doesn’t regularly release kidnapping data.

“We’ll do everything necessary to reassure Mexican citizens, and in particular the journalists,” Garcia Luna said. “What happened showed the importance of fighting together against organized crime.”

Guzman, the head of the cartel based in the western state of Sinaloa, made Forbes magazine’s annual billionaires list last year for the first time with a net worth of $1 billion.

On July 29, the army shot dead a regional leader for Guzman’s group, Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel.

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