It was the leading story of the day for news media across the US and Mexico. “Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, or “40,” leader of the brutal Zetas paramilitary drug cartel, has been captured, authorities on both sides of the border confirmed,” reported Alfredo Corchado, Mexico Bureau Chief for the Dallas Morning News.
It was a great scoop. But for Corchado, this is more than just another story: the issue is one he has lived with for a decade, as a journalist and writer, but also as a human being living in the shadow of drug-fuelled violence that is all too often turned against journalists.
“This guy has defined the decade,” Corchado told the Wilson Center yesterday. “He changed the dynamics of trafficking. He was a game changer. Communities have been silenced because of him.”
Corchado has written a much-praised book, “Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter's Journey Through a Country's Descent Into Darkness,” a project that he worked on at the Wilson Center.
“At a crucial moment in 2007, Corchado lies awake at night with the realization that he has gone from reporting on a story to becoming the center of a plot to end his life,” said a review in the San Francisco Chronicle. “The book's title is also a reference to nearly a decade of darkness in which ruthless criminal organizations have engaged in horrendous violence that has killed tens of thousands of people.”
“Corchado's is the tale of one journalist who survived a credible threat. U.S. journalists are typically protected by their passports, because they can leave Mexico easily. Also, few organized crime groups want to draw added scrutiny from the U.S. government by killing a "gringo" who is not involved in the drug trade. But as Corchado is the immigrant son of a "Bracero farm worker from Durango," his immunity lies in question and his story offers a glimpse of Mexico's violence from the cross-hairs.”
“Being at the Wilson Center created enough time and distance for me to put Mexico in perspective,” he said yesterday. “I understand Mexico much better from DC. The sources who are there speak much more openly. It was incredibly useful.”