One Year On, Supporters of Dead Journalist Oppose U.S Drugs Cash Proposal

The one-year anniversary of the death of Brad Will will be marked today in New York, Oaxaca and no doubt other places around the world.Groups demanding justice for the murder of U.S journalist Brad Will, who was shot dead in Oaxaca, Mexico on this day last year, are opposing the $1.4 billion security proposal put forward by President George Bush this week as part of an initiative to help the country fight its illegal drugs trafficking problem.

Supporters demanding answers for the killing of the dead journalist argue that the money will go towards funding more human rights violations perpetrated by a corrupt state security system, which they claim were involved in the shooting.

“One year after the murder of Brad Will, no one has been arrested,” said Harry Bubbins, a media representative for Friends of Brad Will.

Although two suspects were arrested late last year following the shooting, they were soon released without charge. A number of NGO’s, including Reporters Without Borders, expressed concern at the release of Abel Santiago Zárate, the official in charge of public security in Santa Lucia del Camino (in Oaxaca state), and his bodyguard, Orlando Manuel Aguilar Coello, both of whom were arrested on suspicion of firing the shots that killed Will.

The Mexican judicial system’s investigation has come under heavy criticism -Reporters Without Borders called “an insult to the victim and a spur to impunity.” Luís Mendoza Canseco, who as Oaxaca’s chief medical examiner performed Will’s autopsy, said that the investigation has been ‘sloppy from the start’.

The failure of the Mexican judicial system to prosecute any individual for the murder points to the level of impunity in the country.

Will was covering the teachers’ strike in Oaxaca for Indymedia when he was shot dead by plain-clothed armed men. The killing brought the death-toll of journalists in Mexico last year to nine – the county is experiencing an all-time-high level of violence against journalists. It is purported to be the second most dangerous place to work in the world as a journalist after Iraq.

Those campaigning for justice are worried that the proposed funding from the United States will put more weapons, helicopters and other resources in the hands of an already corrupt police force and army.

“Under the guise of stopping drug trafficking, US taxpayers could be funding human rights violations, corrupt local officials and Blackwater-style mercenaries in Oaxaca and elsewhere. This is exactly the wrong message to send at this time,” said Bubbins.

The proposed $1.4 billion initiative, which will run over two years and is already being compared to the controversial Plan Columbia, has also been criticized by experts.

Ernesto Mendieta, a security advisor and former-anti-drugs prosecutor, told Reuters on Wednesday that the plan is superficial and said that more helicopters and weapons wouldn’t make a difference.

“You’ve got to go after their finances and find out where their bank accounts are,” said Mendieta, talking about the drug cartels.

An unnamed Mexican official quoted in the story added that catching traffickers will have a limited impact without cleaning up the corrupt police force and alleviating the poverty that drives so many people to getting involved.

Meanwhile, the one-year anniversary of the death of Brad Will will be marked today in New York, Oaxaca and no doubt other places around the world.

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