Bilingual Coverage in The New York Times


April 29, 2013


For the first time, The New York Times has published an investigative and multimedia piece in English and Spanish. The piece highlights an untold chapter of the drug war in Mexico that inspired the 2000 Hollywood film, Traffic.

“A Drug War Informant in No Man’s Land” by Ginger Thompson describes the dramatic decline of Luís Octavio López, a former police chief in Mexico whose role as an informant to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) precipitated his life’s devastating spiral from a successful officer to an impoverished fugitive.

Throughout the 1990s, López worked secretly with both the Mexican military and the DEA as a senior adviser to Mexico’s drug czar and an informant for the U.S. agency. During that time, López offered extensive testimony about the Mexican military’s cooperation with drug cartels. His cooperation led to the capture of Héctor Luis Palma Salazar—a brutal and infamous drug trafficker and kingpin of the Sinaloa Cartel—known as “el Guerro.”

But when the Mexican military learned of López’ betrayal, it set out to capture him. Meanwhile, after shepherding López and his family to relative safety in the U.S., the DEA severed ties with him, denied knowledge of his whereabouts to Mexican authorities and abandoned him to the insolvent and solitary life of a fugitive. He has spent the last decade in hiding in the United States.

Thompson’s coverage of Lopez’ experience, including a slideshow, audio recordings and film footage of various players in the story, marks a first foray into bilingual reporting for The New York Times.

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