|NMU||TEXAS||Newsgathering||Oct 13, 2000|
Mexican authorities free Texas journalist after one month in jail
- A newspaper suspects a critical article about Mexican prisons landed a veteran freelance reporter in jail.
Leonardo Andrade, a freelance reporter in McAllen, Texas, spent one month in jail on charges he took $2,000 from a family to get their relative released from a Mexican federal prison. The charges were later dropped.
Editors at the newspaper are concerned the recent arrest may have been a retaliation by government officials in neighboring Reynosa, Mexico.
Editor Armando Durazo said he suspects a series of articles on Americans held in federal prison in Reynosa may have instigated Andrade’s detainment. Durazo said the articles, which Andrade co-wrote, criticized the prison warden and also reported inmates had easy access to drugs and alcohol.
Durazo stressed the newspaper has not been able to prove its allegations of retaliation by Mexican authorities.
“That’s the disturbing part of this,” he said. “We may never know.”
The alleged fraud occurred about two years ago when Nicolas Montelongo Villarreal claimed Andrade promised to get his brother out of prison but failed to deliver. Authorities arrested the reporter in September. Andrade admitted he spoke with Villarreal, but said he did not take any money.
A six-year veteran freelancer for The Monitor, Andrade has primarily written about Reynosa police and courts.
“I’m happy to be out of jail and now I understand what it feels like to be charged with something false,” Andrade told reporters after his release. “I will continue to do my job as a reporter.”
This summer the freelancer also drew the attention of Mexican authorities when he reported on a Reynosa community activist who offered a $10,000 bounty to anyone who killed a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
U.S. and Mexican authorities investigated the allegation. The activist who made the claim, Carlos Ibarra Perez, fled Reynosa to avoid a judicial summons.
Officials in Mexico requested that Andrade testify in the case, but the newspaper refused to cooperate.
© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press