U.S. sanctions Mexican newspaper for alleged links to drug cartel

A Mexico City newspaper and its executive were sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday for alleged links to drug trafficking.

The Treasury Department said in a statement that the publication Unomasuno and its vice president, Naim Libien Tella, support the activities of Los Cuinis drug-trafficking organization and its leader, Abigael González Valencia.

Other companies listed include the newspaper Diario Amanecer, based in Mexico state, and Aerolineas Amanecer, an air taxi company. Both are owned or controlled by Libien, the Treasury Department statement said.

"Through its relationship with Naim Libien Tella, the Los Cuinis Drug Trafficking Organization has used the Mexican newspaper Unomasuno to further its drug trafficking activities," said John E. Smith, acting director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The designation puts Libien and his companies on the U.S. government's "kingpin" list, which freezes any assets they may have in the U.S. and generally prohibits people and companies in the United States from doing business with them.

In a statement posted on Unomasuno's website, Libien categorically denied any cartel ties and vowed to make available to U.S. and Mexican authorities any information about his commercial and private activities. He said the newspapers have been critical of drug gangs including Los Cuinis, and suggested that "dark interests" in Mexico fed the U.S. false information in an attempt to silence their editorial line.

"I take this as a vile attack against my person. ... I reserve my right to present at the right time what the law confers upon me, since this slander harms me, morally and of course commercially, in my country," the statement read.

Unomasuno has a storied past in Mexican journalism, being established in 1977 as an opposition paper after a group of independent editors were driven out of the newspaper Excelsior and went on to start many of the country's premier publications, including the investigative magazine Proceso.

In its heyday, Unomasuno published the works of such top Mexican writers as Miguel Angel Granados Chapa, Elena Poniatowska, Carlos Monsivais and Enrique Krauze. But its influence faded and it is now a small newspaper.

The Associated Press was told that no one from Unomasuno would immediately comment on the U.S. Treasury Department's action.

Los Cuinis is aligned with the Cartel Jalisco New Generation, Mexico's fastest-growing international crime group, which has waged an all-out war on Mexican authorities in its home state of Jalisco. Both organizations were added to the U.S. kingpin list in April as was González, who was detained in February. The leader of the New Generation cartel, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, is also on the kingpin list and is wanted by the Mexican and U.S. governments.

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