El Paso – A television cameraman has been granted political asylum by the U.S. government, becoming the second Mexican journalist to receive such protection in El Paso, Texas, because of the violence in his homeland.
Hernandez Pacheco fled from Mexico a year ago after being kidnapped in July 2010 along with three co-workers while on a special assignment in Gomez Palacios, a city in Durango state.
The journalist had covered protests staged by a group of inmates and their relatives to demand the firing of a prison warden who allowed prisoners to leave the facility so they could commit killings.
Hernandez Pacheco said he was tortured and his kidnappers demanded that broadcasters Televisa and Multimedios air videos favorable to their cause in exchange for the hostages' lives.
Two of the hostages were released by the kidnappers and Hernandez Pacheco and the fourth captive were rescued in a police operation.
Mexican officials said after Hernandez Pacheco's rescue that he would be taken to Mexico City to give a statement to investigators.
"But when we got to the airport in the capital, we were greeted by national and international media invited by the government, which had sneakily claimed all the credit for our successful rescue," Hernandez Pacheco told Efe in an interview in early 2011.
"They exposed us too much, they used my colleague and me to show off and later, when we were no longer of any use to them, they abandoned us," Hernandez Pacheco said.
The journalist said he always planned to live in Mexico, "but it's very hard with that because the government crucified us and wherever we go in our country, there are kidnappings and shootings."
Hernandez Pacheco is the fourth Mexican media professional who has fled across the border and requested political asylum in El Paso since 2008, when a wave of killings of members of the press hit Mexico.
"I fear for my life, I'm afraid of the cartels and the government that protected me for just 20 days," Hernandez Pacheco told reporters in El Paso, located across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's murder capital.
Hernandez Pacheco began the process of requesting political asylum in the United States in September 2010.
The former Televisa cameraman is the second Mexican journalist to receive asylum in recent years.
In September 2010, the United States granted political asylum to Jorge Luis Aguirre, who ran the La Polaka Web site and became the first reporter to receive asylum since attacks against journalists intensified in 2008.
Aguirre left Mexico on Nov. 13, 2008, the day his colleague in Ciudad Juarez, Armando Rodriguez, was murdered.
He made the decision to leave after receiving an anonymous call on his cell phone warning him that "you're next."
The willingness of the United States to grant Mexican reporters asylum is an acknowledgment that Mexico's government cannot guarantee the safety of members of the press and their fears of being murdered in their homeland are well-founded, the two journalists said.
Hernandez Pacheco, who is living in El Paso with his family, said he has been surviving by doing maintenance and landscaping work, benefiting from the assistance of relatives who welcomed him into their homes and provided room and board for himself and his family while his asylum case made its way through the legal system.
The journalist said that with his immigration status now cleared up, he hoped to get a job as a television cameraman and enjoy watching his children grow up without fear.