Rare interview with top Mexican drug boss divides readers

By Dean Graber

Proceso magazine’s publication of an interview with a leading member of the Sinaloa cartel has raised questions about the media’s role in covering drug trafficking.

The magazine’s founder, Julio Scherer García, accepted an invitation to interview Ismael “el Mayo” Zambada García, an associate of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. The magazine published the interview Saturday and has featured excerpts on its web site, along with a photo of Zambada with his arm around the journalist.

Foreign media have reported on the interview, stressing angles such as Zambada’s insistence that cartels can’t be defeated, and that he lives in fear of being caught.

“The interview did not reveal new or surprising information but was remarkable for simply having taken place,” adds Tracy Wilkinson of the Los Angeles Times.

Among the Mexican media, etcetera’s Marco Levario Turcott says Scherer and his magazine “did what they had to do.” Meanwhile, Milenio’s Héctor Aguilar Camín notes the recent attacks and killings of journalists, asking, How many journalists have been killed by Zambada and Guzmán? “How many have been sentenced, threatened, or under watch? How many have been silenced or bought?”

The interview was a leading discussion topic on Twitter and Facebook. According to this Proceso story, Scherer has been described, on the one hand, as a “major league journalist” who was simply doing a reporter’s job, but others have said the veteran journalist was “reduced to a simple public relations person for the mobster/financier.”

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.