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January 21, 2023 – rdspinvestments

January 21, 2023

Elon Musk says Twitter has a headcount of about 2,300

Stock Markets 6 hours ago (Jan 21, 2023 03:30AM ET)

Elon Musk says Twitter has a headcount of about 2,300© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An image of Elon Musk is seen on a smartphone placed on printed Twitter logos in this picture illustration taken April 28, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

(Reuters) – Twitter Inc (NYSE:) has about 2,300 active employees, Elon Musk said in a Tweet on Saturday.

CNBC on Friday reported that Twitter’s full-time headcount has reduced to about 1,300 active, working employees, including fewer than 550 full-time engineers by title.

About 75 of the company’s 1,300 employees are on leave including about 40 engineers, CNBC said, citing internal records.

“The note is incorrect. There are about 2300 active, working employees at Twitter,” billionaire Musk tweeted in a response to a tweet quoting CNBC.

“There are still hundreds of employees working on trust & safety, along with several thousand contractors,” Musk added.

Musk took over Twitter in October and swiftly moved through a number of product and organizational changes. The company rolled out Twitter-verified Blue check-mark as a paid service and also laid off about 50% staff.

India’s Adani Group plans to demerge more business; dismisses debt concerns

India's Adani Group plans to demerge more business; dismisses debt concerns© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Adani Group is seen on the facade of one of its buildings on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, April 13, 2021. REUTERS/Amit Dave

By Sriram Mani

MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s Adani Group, which is controlled by billionaire Gautam Adani, said it plans to spin off more businesses by 2028 and dismisses any debt concerns.

The corporate house plans to spin off, or demerge, its metals, mining, data centre, airports, roads and logistics businesses, said Chief Financial Officer Jugeshinder Singh said.

“The criteria is for these businesses to achieve a basic investment profile and experienced management by 2025-28, which is when we plan to demerge them,” he told a media briefing on Saturday.

The company is betting big on its airport business and is aiming for it to become the largest services base in the country in the coming years, outside of government services, Singh said.

The Adani group has spun off its power, coal, transmission and green energy business in recent years.

Adani, the world’s third-richest man, according to Forbes, has been diversifying his empire from ports to energy and now owns a media company.

The flagship firm Adani Enterprises is set to raise up to $2.5 billion in a follow-on share sale, Reuters previously reported, following a surge in the share price in recent years. Its stock increased by nearly 130% in 2022, but has dipped about 7% so far this year.

Other Adani group companies also rose over 100% last year, causing some investors to worry about the companies being overvalued.

However, some traditional valuation metrics are not relevant for the businesses, Singh said.

“We don’t look at P/E multiples for any of our businesses. For infrastructure businesses, the rate of return on assets deployed is relevant. Adani Enterprises works on a sum-of-parts model,” he said

The company is offering a discount of 8.5%-13% to woo retail investors, according to its prospectus

“We don’t go to market if we are not sure of raising the full amount ($2.5 billion),” Singh said, adding that the company wants to increase the participation of retail investors and is aiming for a primary issue instead of a rights issue.

It has said it plans to use the money to fund green hydrogen projects, airport facilities and Greenfield expressways, besides paring its debt.

The group has typically incubated businesses within its flagship company, to demerge and list them later. Its listed arms currently operate in sectors including ports, power transmission, green energy and food production.

NO DEBT CONCERNS

Analysts’ concerns over its debt accumulation have been dismissed by Singh.

Adani Group’s total gross debt in the financial year ending March 31, 2022, rose 40% to 2.2 trillion rupees. CreditSights, part of the Fitch Group, described the Adani Group last September as “overleveraged” and said it had “concerns” over its debt.

While the report later corrected some calculation errors, CreditSights said it maintained concerns over leverage.

“Nobody has raised debt concerns to us. No single investor has. I am in touch with thousands of high net worth individuals and 160 institutions and no one has said this,” Singh said.

(This story has been refiled to fix the typo in paragraph six)

Dead cat bounce? Bitcoin price nears $23,000 in fresh 5-month high

Cryptocurrency 21 hours ago (Jan 21, 2023 06:00AM ET)

Dead cat bounce? Bitcoin price nears $23,000 in fresh 5-month high© Mundo Crypto PR

(BTC) took a swing at $23,000 into Jan. 21 as Asia buyers drove fresh market strength.

1-hour candle chart (Bitstamp). Source: TradingView

Data from Cointelegraph Markets Pro and TradingView showed BTC/USD battling bears to reach $22,790 on Bitstamp overnight — its highest since August.

BTC/USD annotated charts. Source: Skew/ Twitter
BTC/USD order book data (Binance). Source: Material Indicators/ Twitter
BTC/USD 1-day candle chart (Bitstamp). Source: TradingView
BTC/USD 1-week candle chart (Bitstamp) with 50, 200WMA. Source: TradingView

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Yellen, at former slave port, sees path of renewal for Africa and U.S

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Commodities 11 hours ago (Jan 21, 2023 01:46PM ET)

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Yellen, at former slave port, sees path of renewal for Africa and U.S© Reuters. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen attends a meeting at the General Delegation for Rapid Entrepreneurship of Women and Youth (DER) In Dakar, Senegal January 20, 2023. REUTERS/Ngouda Dione

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By Andrea Shalal

GOREE ISLAND, Senegal (Reuters) -U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Saturday spoke of the “unspeakable cruelty” and enduring consequences of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, but said she was heartened by signs of progress and renewal in both the United States and Africa.

Yellen visited the House of Slaves, a fort built in the late 18th century on Goree Island off the coast of Senegal as a transit point for human beings before they were forcibly transported across the Atlantic, as she continued a three-country visit to Africa.

“I take from this place the importance of redoubling our commitment to fight for our shared principles and the values of freedom and human rights where ever they are threatened – in Africa, in the United States and around the world,” she wrote in the visitor’s log.

The site, now a museum and UNESCO World Heritage site, often draws high-level American visitors, including former President Barack Obama, the first U.S. president of African ancestry, who visited with his family in 2013.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called the island “a place of reconciliation and hope” when he visited in December 2021, noting in the log that it was the place where the talks to end apartheid in his own country began.

Yellen, at times visibly moved, underscored the enduring ties that bind Africa and the United States.

“Ultimately, Gorée Island reminds us that the histories of Africa and America are intimately connected. We know that the tragedy did not stop with the generation of humans taken from here,” she said after touring the museum with its curator Eloi Coly.

Goree’s mayor Augustin Senghor presented Yellen with a certificate appointing her as a lifetime ambassador of the island’s history.

Goree Island was a symbol of great importance to Americans of African descent, drawing thousands of visitors every year, said Joyce Hope Scott, a professor of African American Studies at Boston University.

“Secretary Yellen and others have made a wise choice in visiting this important site and should embrace the truthful representation of Goree Island and what it stands for in the historical experience of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora,” she told Reuters.

Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, has focused her work in economics on ending historic disparities that continued to plague Black Americans long after slavery was abolished in 1865. On Saturday, she said both Africa and the United States had made tremendous strides, but more work was needed to counter the brutal consequences of the slave trade.

At Treasury, Yellen has now set up a racial equity task force that has drawn the ire of Republicans, and she and her deputy, Nigerian-born Wally Adeyemo have worked hard to boost the economic conditions of communities of color.

It was critical to tell the story of enslaved people, which “while full of suffering, is also full of perseverance and hope,” Yellen said, citing the important contributions of African Americans to the U.S. economy and democracy.

“With remembrance, I believe, can come progress and renewal,” she said, highlighting what she called “signs of vibrant life around Gorée — a prominent art scene, a place of education, and thousands who call this place home.”

Russia’s war on Ukraine latest: Ukraine replacing defence chief

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Russia's war on Ukraine latest: Ukraine replacing defence chief© Reuters. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, meet to discuss how to help Ukraine defend itself

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(Reuters) – Ukraine is replacing Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov, an ally of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday, a move that could have far-reaching consequences for the nearly year-long war against invading Russian forces.

FIGHTING IN THE EAST

* Reznikov will be replaced by Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the GUR military intelligence agency, the head of Zelenskiy’s parliament bloc said.

* Zelenskiy has fired a series of high level officials this year in a purge aimed at clamping down on corruption. Reznikov had been under pressure over a corruption scandal in the ministry.

* Zelenskiy revoked the citizenship of several former influential politicians on Saturday in the latest step to “cleanse” Ukraine of pro-Russian influences.

* Fierce battles being fought in Ukraine’s Donetsk region “are very difficult,” Zelenskiy said, as Kyiv braced for a possible Russian offensive this month before the first anniversary of its invasion of Ukraine.

* “Things are very difficult in Donetsk region – fierce battles,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address. “But however difficult it is and however much pressure there is, we must endure … We have no alternative to defending ourselves and winning.”

* “Not all of the Western weaponry will arrive in time. But we are ready. We have created our resources and reserves, which we are able to deploy and with which we are able to hold back the attack,” Reznikov said before the news about his transfer.

* Reznikov also said Ukraine will not use longer-range weapons pledged by the United States to hit Russian territory and will only target Russian units in occupied Ukrainian territory.

* The head of Russia’s private Wagner militia said on Sunday that fierce fighting was ongoing in the northern parts of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the focus of Russian forces’ attention for weeks.

*Ukrainian forces remained in control of the village of Bilohorivka, the Luhansk region governor Serhiy Haidai said on Sunday, adding that the situation there is tense, but under control. Some Moscow-installed officials and pro-Russian military bloggers have recently claimed Russian advances in the direction of Bilohorivka, the last part of Luhansk held by Ukrainian forces.

Reuters could not immediately verify the battlefield accounts.

OIL, DIPLOMACY

* Price caps on Russian oil likely hit Moscow’s revenues from oil and gas exports by nearly 30% in January, or about $8 billion, from a year ago period, International Energy Agency (IEA) chief Fatih Birol said on Sunday.

* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will arrive in Baghdad on Sunday to discuss boosting bilateral relations and energy cooperation, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement.

High egg prices should be investigated, U.S. farm group says

Stock Markets 7 hours ago (Jan 21, 2023 11:00AM ET)

High egg prices should be investigated, U.S. farm group says© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An egg display case is seen nearly empty at a Giant Food grocery store as the U.S. continues to experience supply chain disruptions in Washington, U.S., January 9, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger/File Photo

By Leah Douglas

(Reuters) -The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should examine high egg prices for signs of price gouging from top egg companies, a farm group said, as Americans continue to pay more than ever for the household staple.

U.S. regulators, farmers, and industry have often argued in recent years about the power of top agriculture firms to set prices and drive up what consumers pay for groceries, such as when the price of beef skyrocketed in 2021.

The latest concern is eggs, the price of which was up 138% in December from a year prior, to $4.25 a dozen, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has pointed to a record outbreak of avian flu as a reason for the high prices. But the nation’s antitrust regulator should also examine record-high profits at the top egg company, said Farm Action on Thursday in a letter to FTC chair Lina Khan.

Cal-Maine Foods (NASDAQ:), which controls 20% of the retail egg market, reported quarterly sales up 110% and gross profits up more than 600% over the same quarter in the prior fiscal year, according to a late December filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company pointed to decreased egg supply nationwide due to avian flu driving up prices as a reason for its record sales. The company has had no positive avian flu tests on any of its farms.

U.S. egg production was about 5% lower in October compared to last year, and egg inventories were down 29% in December compared to the beginning of the year, the latest USDA data shows – a significant drop, but one that may not explain record-high prices, said Basel Musharbash, an attorney with Farm Action.

“We want the FTC to dig in and see if consumers are being price gouged,” Musharbash said.

The FTC declined to comment.

In a statement, Cal-Maine said that higher production costs, along with avian flu, were contributing to higher prices.

The American Egg Board, an egg marketing group, said in a statement that egg prices reflect a variety of factors and that wholesale egg prices are beginning to fall.

Nearly 58 million chickens and turkeys have been killed by avian flu or to control the spread of the virus since the beginning of 2022, mostly in March and April, according to USDA. The previous largest outbreak, in 2015, killed 50.5 million birds.

Cal-Maine shares have fallen in recent weeks after climbing almost 50% last year.

Iranian currency falls to record low amid isolation and sanctions

Iranian currency falls to record low amid isolation and sanctions© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A currency dealer poses for a photo with a U.S one dollar bill and the amount being given when converting it into Iranian rials in an exchange shop in Tehran, Iran December 25, 2022. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s troubled currency fell to a record low against the U.S. dollar on Saturday amid the country’s increasing isolation and possible Europe Union sanctions against Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards or some of its members.

Ties between the EU and Tehran have deteriorated in recent months as efforts to revive nuclear talks have stalled. Iran has detained several European nationals and the bloc has become increasingly critical of the violent treatment of protesters and the use of executions.

The EU is discussing a fourth round of sanctions against Iran and diplomatic sources have said members of the Revolutionary Guards will be added to the bloc’s sanctions list next week. But some EU member states want to go further and classify the Guards as a whole as a terrorist organisation.

The dollar was selling for as much as 447,000 rials on Iran’s unofficial market on Saturday, compared with 430,500 the previous day, according to the foreign exchange site Bonbast.com.

The rial has lost 29% of its value since nationwide protests following the death in police custody of a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, on Sept. 16.

The unrest has posed one of the biggest challenges to theocratic rule in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The economic Ecoiran website blamed the continued fall of the rial on an apparent “global consensus” against Iran.

“Increasing political pressures, such as placing the Revolutionary Guards on a list of terrorist organisations, and imposing restrictions on Iran-linked ships and oil tankers… are factors pointing to a global consensus against Iran, (which may affect) the dollar’s rate in Tehran,” Ecoiran said.

The European Parliament called on Wednesday for the EU to list Iran’s Guards as a terrorist group, blaming the powerful force for the repression of protesters and the supply of drones to Russia. The assembly cannot compel the EU to add the force to its list, but the text was a clear political message to Tehran.

Panama’s vessel registry, the world’s largest, has withdrawn its flag from 136 ships linked to Iran’s state oil company in the last four years, the country’s maritime authority said this week.

Iran’s central bank governor Mohammad Reza Farzin on Saturday blamed the fall of the rial on “psychological operations” which Tehran says its enemies are organising to destabilise the Islamic Republic.

“Today, the central bank faces no restrictions in terms of foreign currency and gold resources and reserves, and media deceit and psychological operations are the main factors behind the fluctuation in the free exchange rate,” state broadcaster IRIB cited Farzin as saying.

Facing an inflation rate of about 50%, Iranians seeking safe havens for their savings have been trying to buy dollars, other hard currencies or gold.

Protests in Stockholm, including Koran-burning, draw strong condemnation from Turkey

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Protests in Stockholm, including Koran-burning, draw strong condemnation from Turkey© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Swedish Defence Minister Pal Jonson looks on, as he visits soldiers from the Armed Forces of Ukraine who are taking part in the UK-led basic training programme, on a military training camp, in an unspecified location in the North East of Engla

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -Protests in Stockholm on Saturday against Turkey and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, including the burning of a copy of the Koran, sharply heightened tensions with Turkey at a time when the Nordic country needs Ankara’s backing to gain entry to the military alliance.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the vile attack on our holy book … Permitting this anti-Islam act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of freedom of expression is completely unacceptable,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

Its statement was issued after an anti-immigrant politician from the far-right fringe burned a copy of the Koran near the Turkish Embassy. The Turkish ministry urged Sweden to take necessary actions against the perpetrators and invited all countries to take concrete steps against Islamophobia.

A separate protest took place in the city supporting Kurds and against Sweden’s bid to join NATO. A group of pro-Turkish demonstrators also held a rally outside the embassy. All three events had police permits.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said that Islamophobic provocations were appalling.

“Sweden has a far-reaching freedom of expression, but it does not imply that the Swedish Government, or myself, support the opinions expressed,” Billstrom said on Twitter.

The Koran-burning was carried out by Rasmus Paludan, leader of Danish far-right political party Hard Line. Paludan, who also has Swedish citizenship, has held a number of demonstrations in the past where he has burned the Koran.

Paludan could not immediately be reached by email for a comment. In the permit he obtained from police, it says his protest was held against Islam and what it called Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s attempt to influence freedom of expression in Sweden.

Several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait denounced the Koran-burning. “Saudi Arabia calls for spreading the values of dialogue, tolerance, and coexistence, and rejects hatred and extremism,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but all 30 member states must approve their bids. Turkey has said Sweden in particular must first take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.

At the demonstration to protest Sweden’s NATO bid and to show support for Kurds, speakers stood in front of a large red banner reading “We are all PKK”, referring to the Kurdistan Workers Party that is outlawed in Turkey, Sweden, and the United States among other countries, and addressed several hundred pro-Kurdish and left-wing supporters.

“We will continue our opposition to the Swedish NATO application,” Thomas Pettersson, spokesperson for Alliance Against NATO and one of organizers of the demonstration, told Reuters.

Police said the situation was calm at all three demonstrations.

In Istanbul, people in a group of around 200 protesters set fire to a Swedish flag in front of the Swedish consulate in response to the burning of the Koran.

SWEDISH MINISTER’S VISIT CANCELLED

Earlier on Saturday, Turkey said that due to lack of measures to restrict protests, it had cancelled a planned visit to Ankara by the Swedish defence minister.

Jonson said separately that he and Akar had met on Friday during a gathering of Western allies in Germany and had decided to postpone the planned meeting.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said he had discussed with Erdogan the lack of measures to restrict protests in Sweden against Turkey and had conveyed Ankara’s reaction to Jonson on the sidelines of a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group.

“It is unacceptable not to make a move or react to these (protests). The necessary things needed to be done, measures should have been taken,” Akar said, according to a statement by Turkish Defence Ministry.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry had already summoned Sweden’s ambassador on Friday over the planned protests.

Finland and Sweden signed a three-way agreement with Turkey in 2022 aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to their membership of NATO. Sweden says it has fulfilled its part of the memorandum but Turkey is demanding more, including the extradition of 130 people it deems to be terrorists.

Russia’s Wagner chief writes to White House over new U.S. sanctions

Russia's Wagner chief writes to White House over new U.S. sanctions© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An interior view shows PMC Wagner Centre, which is a project implemented by the businessman and founder of the Wagner private military group Yevgeny Prigozhin, during the official opening of the office block in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Novemb

(Reuters) – The head of the Russian private military contractor Wagner published on Saturday a short letter to the White House asking what crime his company was accused of, after Washington announced new sanctions on the group.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby (NYSE:) said on Friday that Wagner, which has been supporting Russian forces in their invasion of Ukraine and claiming credit for battlefield advances, would be designated a significant Transnational Criminal Organization.

A letter in English addressed to Kirby and posted on the Telegram channel of Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin’s press service read: “Dear Mr Kirby, Could you please clarify what crime was committed by PMC Wagner?”

Kirby called Wagner “a criminal organization that is committing widespread atrocities and human rights abuses”.

Last month, the White House said Wagner had taken delivery of an arms shipment from North Korea to help bolster Russian forces in Ukraine.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called the report groundless and Prigozhin at the time denied taking such a delivery, calling the report “gossip and speculation”.

Washington had already imposed curbs on trade with Wagner in 2017 and again in December in an attempt to restrict its access to weaponry.

The European Union imposed its own sanctions in December 2021 on Wagner, which has been active in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Mozambique and Mali, as well as Ukraine.

Prigozhin has described Wagner as a fully independent force with its own aircraft, tanks, rockets and artillery.

He is wanted in the United States for interference in U.S. elections, something that he said in November he had done and would continue to do.

In Mexico, a reporter published a story. The next day he was dead

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In Mexico, a reporter published a story. The next day he was dead© Reuters. Marilu Sanchez holds a framed picture of her late husband Gustavo Sanchez, a journalist killed by assailants while riding his motorcycle with his son, at her home in Morro de Mazatan, in Oaxaca state, Mexico, October 18, 2022. REUTERS/Jorge Luis Plata

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By Sarah Kinosian

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Just after sunset on Thursday, February 10th, two men in a white Dodge Ram pickup pulled up in front of Heber Lopez Vasquez’s small radio studio in southern Mexico. One man got out, walked inside and shot the 42-year-old journalist dead. Lopez’s 12-year-old son Oscar, the only person with him, hid, Lopez’s brother told Reuters. 

Lopez was one of 13 Mexican journalists killed in 2022, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based rights group. It was the deadliest year on record for journalists in Mexico, now the most dangerous country for reporters in the world outside the war in Ukraine, where CPJ says 15 reporters were killed last year. 

A day earlier, Lopez–who ran two online news sites in the southern Oaxaca state–had published a story on Facebook (NASDAQ:) accusing local politician Arminda Espinosa Cartas of corruption related to her re-election efforts. 

As he lay dead, a nearby patrol car responded to an emergency call, intercepted the pickup and arrested the two men. One of them, it later emerged, was the brother of Espinosa, the politician in Lopez’s story. 

Espinosa has not been charged in connection with Lopez’s killing. She did not respond to multiple requests for comment and Reuters could not find any previous comment she made about her role in corruption or on Lopez’s story.

Her brother and the other man remain detained but have yet to be tried. Their lawyer did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

“I already stopped covering drug trafficking and corruption and Heber’s death still scares me,” said Hiram Moreno, a veteran Oaxacan journalist who was shot three times in 2019, sustaining injuries in the leg and back, after writing about drug deals by local crime groups. His assailant was never identified. “You cannot count on the government. Self-censorship is the only thing that will keep you safe.” 

It is a pattern of fear and intimidation playing out across Mexico, as years of violence and impunity have created what academics call “silence zones” where killing and corruption go unchecked and undocumented. 

“In silence zones people don’t get access to basic information to conduct their lives,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “They don’t know who to vote for because there are no corruption investigations. They don’t know which areas are violent, what they can say and not say, so they stay silent.”

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about attacks on the media. 

Since the start of Mexico’s drug war in 2006, 133 reporters have been killed for motives related to their work, CPJ determined, and another 13 for undetermined reasons. In that time Mexico has registered over 360,000 homicides. 

Aggression against journalists has spread in recent years to previously less hostile areas–such as Oaxaca and Chiapas–threatening to turn more parts of Mexico into information dead zones, say rights groups like Reporters Without Borders and 10 local journalists. 

Lopez was the second journalist since mid-2021 to be murdered in Salina Cruz, a Pacific port in Oaxaca. It nestles in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a skinny stretch of land connecting the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific that has become a landing spot for precursor chemicals to make fentanyl and meth, according to three security analysts and a DEA source. 

Lopez’s last story, one of several he wrote about Espinosa, covered the politician’s alleged efforts to get a company constructing a breakwater in Salina Cruz’s port to threaten workers to cast their vote for her re-election or else be fired.

The infrastructure was a part of the Interoceanic Corridor–one of Lopez Obrador’s flagship development projects in southern Mexico. 

Jose Ignacio Martinez, a crime reporter in the isthmus, and nine of Lopez’s fellow journalists say since his murder they are more afraid to publish stories delving into the corridor project, drug trafficking and state collusion with organized crime. 

One outlet Reuters spoke to, which asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said it had done an investigation on the corridor, but did not feel safe to publish after Lopez’s death.

Lopez Obrador’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about corruption accusations related to the corridor. 

THE MECHANISM

In 2012 the government established the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.

Known simply as the Mechanism, the body provides journalists with protections such as panic buttons, surveillance equipment, home police watch, armed guards and relocation. Since 2017, nine Mechanism-protected reporters have been murdered, CPJ found.

Journalists and activists may request protection from the Mechanism, which evaluates their case along with a group of human rights defenders, journalists and representatives of nonprofits, as well as officials from various government agencies that make up a governing board. Not all those who request protection receive it, based on the analysis.

At present there are 1,600 people enrolled in the Mechanism, including 500 journalists.

One of those killed was Gustavo Sanchez, a journalist shot at close range in June 2021 by two motorcycle-riding hitmen. Sanchez, who had written critical articles about politicians and criminal groups, enrolled in the Mechanism for a third time after surviving an assassination attempt in 2020. Protection never arrived. 

Oaxaca’s prosecutor at the time said Sanchez’s coverage of local elections would be a primary line of investigation into his murder. No one has been charged in the case. 

Sanchez’s killing triggered Mexico’s human rights commission to produce a 100-page investigation into authorities’ failings. Evidence “revealed omissions, delays, negligence and breach of duties by at least 15 public servants,” said the report. 

Enrique Irazoque, head of the Interior Ministry’s department for the Defense of Human Rights, said the Mechanism accepted the findings, but highlighted the role local authorities played in the protection lag. 

Fifteen people within government and civil society told Reuters the Mechanism is under-resourced given the scope of the problem. Irazoque agreed, though he noted its staff of 40 increased last year to a staff of 70. Its 2023 budget increased to around $28.8 million from $20 million in 2022.

In addition to the shortage of funding, Irazoque said that local authorities, state governments and courts need to do more, but there was a lack of political will. 

“The Mechanism is absorbing all the problems, but the issues are not federal, they are local,” he said in an interview with Reuters. 

More convictions are what Irazoque believes are most needed, saying the lack of legal repercussions for public officials encourages corruption. 

Impunity for journalist killings hovers around 89%, a 2021 report from the Interior Ministry, which oversees the Mechanism, showed. Local public servants were the biggest source of violence against journalists, ahead of organized crime, the report found. 

“You would think the biggest enemy would be armed groups and organized crime,” said journalist Patricia Mayorga, who fled Mexico after investigating corruption. “But really it’s the ties between those groups and the state officials that are the problem.” 

Many Mexican journalists killed worked for small, independent, digital outlets that sometimes only published on Facebook, noted Irazoque, saying their stories dug deep into local political issues. 

Mexico’s National Association of Mayors (ANAC) and its National Conference of Governors (CONAGO) did not respond to requests for comment about the role of state and local governments in journalist killings or allegations of corrupt ties to crime groups.

President Lopez Obrador frequently pillories the press, calling out reporters critical of his administration and holding a weekly segment in his daily news conference dedicated to the “lies of the week.” He condemns the murders, while accusing adversaries of talking up the violence to discredit him. 

Irazoque says he has no evidence the president’s verbal attacks have led to violence against journalists. Lopez Obrador’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

“What type of life is this?,” journalist Rodolfo Montes said, eyeing security footage from inside his home where the Mechanism, in which he first enrolled in 2017, had installed cameras with eyes on the garage, street and entryway. 

Years earlier, a cartel rolled a bullet under the door as a threat, and he has been on edge ever since. An entire archive box of threats spread over a decade sat in the corner. Looking down at his phone after a cartel threatened his 24-year-old daughter just a few days before, he said, “I’m living, but I’m dead, you know?”

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