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Mexico drug baron interview prompts intimidation claim

By Julian Miglierini
BBC News, Mexico City

Julio Scherer Garcia (left) with Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada on the cover of Proceso
The interview with Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada has stoked controversy

A Mexican magazine that published an interview with a Sinaloa drug cartel leader says its distribution in the area has been hampered by intimidation.

A spokeswoman said almost all the copies of Proceso aimed for Sinaloa were bought up by two unidentified men.

The interview with Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada has sparked major controversy.

Proceso, one of Mexico's top news magazines, said the mass buy-up may have been to prevent the people of Sinaloa from getting hold of copies.

It said the action may have been linked to an accompanying article linking the drugs baron with a local politician in the north-western region.

'Political links'

Margarita Carreon, head of sales for Proceso, said the magazine's local distributor was on Sunday approached by two men who bought more than 1,700 copies that had yet to be passed on to retailers.

Police stand guard outside the drug treatment centre in Juarez
Mexico is in the middle of a bitter battle against drug gangs

She told the BBC that she believed the main reason for the intimidation was not the interview with Mr Zambada itself, but an accompanying article that linked the drugs baron with a local politician.

The interview with Mr Zambada came as a surprise in Mexico, since drug barons on the run have rarely offered such access to the media.

In the interview, Mr Zambada spoke of his fear of being caught by the authorities and criticized the government's strategy for dealing with drug violence, which has killed more than 18,000 people since 2006.

Mr Zambada also said he often speaks on the phone with the top leader of his cartel and Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Scoop or scandal?

The interview was conducted by veteran Mexican journalist Julio Scherer Garcia.

It was carried out at an undisclosed location and Mr Scherer Garcia has been criticised by some for offering Mr Zambada a free platform to speak.

Others consider the scoop one of Mexico's top journalistic achievements of recent times.

In any case, many think that the apparent intimidation in Sinaloa is a stark reminder of the pressure on journalists in areas most affected by drugs violence.

What the debate about the interview seems to confirm above all is that Mexico, including the media, is still learning how to come to terms with its major problem with drug cartels.

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