A bomb threat made against the newspaper Reforma for publishing negative news about President López Obrador has been met with widespread condemnation.
Reforma reported on Thursday that a man who identified himself as a member of the Sinaloa Cartel called the newspaper on Wednesday morning and threatened to blow up its offices if it didn’t correct criticisms it has made of the president.
The threat came the same day as Reforma published a video showing clips of López Obrador – over a period of two and a half months – playing down the danger posed by coronavirus, urging people to continue going out a day before the commencement of the national social distancing initiative, predicting that the worst of the pandemic will be over by mid-April, asserting that Covid-19 had arrived to “consolidate” the transformation being carried out by his administration and declaring that the disease has been controlled.
The clips were accompanied by a graph indicating a steady rise in coronavirus cases and deaths as the president repeatedly offered positive perspectives on the Covid-19 outbreak.
Speaking in what Reforma described as a Baja California accent, the man who made the bomb threat said that “the entire Sinaloa Cartel is with Andrés Manuel López Obrador” and that the newspaper has gone too far in its criticism of him.
“This is serious: you’re now overstepping the line,” the man told a Reforma employee.
“Your company posted a video denigrating, … almost mocking the president of the republic. That’s why we’re making this call because what you are doing has already overstepped the line,” he said.
The man asked that his message be passed on to the newspaper’s editor, warning that if it wasn’t, the cartel itself would show up to “read him the riot act.”
“Tell him to not defame the president, … not to betray the motherland because if he does – tell him this – we’ll blow up the offices of your fucking newspaper,” the man said. “Tell him … this is the last time that you post something about him.”
Speaking at his regular news conference on Thursday morning, López Obrador condemned the threat made against Reforma, a newspaper he frequently derides as being conservative and the epitome of the prensa fifi, or elitist press.
“We reject any act of violence, we’re against violence, we’re pacifists,” he said.
“We condemn any threat that is made, even in our own name. We already know that we have differences with Reforma and we’ll continue to have them because we think differently. They are the most genuine representatives of conservative thought in Mexico and they’re opposed to the transformation because they want to maintain the regime of corruption and privileges that reigned in Mexico for a long time,” López Obrador said.
The president asserted that his administration will never carry out a “repressive act” against anyone, charging that to do so “would be a betrayal of ourselves.”
“We have nothing to do with [the threat] and there’s nothing to fear. We’re not authoritarian, we’re democrats, all freedoms are guaranteed,” he said.
The bomb threat came seven months after the federal government released a son of imprisoned drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán after the Sinaloa Cartel reacted violently to his arrest in the city of Culiacán, Sinaloa. While it has not been confirmed that the man who made the bomb threat is a member of the criminal organization, it is conceivable that the Sinaloa Cartel could support López Obrador as a result of the decision to set Ovidio Guzmán free.
The president was among several people who condemned the threat against Reforma, whose main office is located in the south of Mexico City.
“I don’t know if it’s a real threat or the words of a madman but I do know that a free press is the base of democracy,” United States Ambassador Christopher Landau wrote on Twitter.
“The press itself is not immune to criticism but criticism cannot cross the line to threats of violence. My solidarity with threatened journalists,” he said.
The chief justice of the Supreme Court also condemned the threat.
“Respect of freedom of expression and the protection of journalists are a fundamental part of democracy. There is no editorial line that justifies threats,” wrote Arturo Zaldívar.
Ricardo Monreal, leader of the ruling Morena party in the upper house of Congress, expressed his solidarity with Reforma, tweeting that there is no justification for the threat and that action must be taken against it.
National Electoral Institute president Lorenzo Córdova said that “in a country where dozens of journalists have unfortunately been murdered, any threat or [act of] intimidation against the press must be investigated …”
The Mexican Employers Federation (Coparmex) called for an investigation to be carried out by the federal Attorney General’s Office.
Coparmex said in a statement that while López Obrador condemned the threat against Reforma, at the same time he “paradoxically attacked and questioned said media outlet and its [news] coverage.”
It said that attacks by the president agains the press have no other objective than to “intimidate those who exercise their right to inform the people of Mexico.”
López Obrador has been criticized in the past for speaking out against journalists and media outlets that have covered his government less than favorably.