Julio Scherer Garcia: Fearless and influential journalist who helped expose many of Mexico’s biggest scandals in decades

His tough independence stood out when criticising the government was rare

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The Independent Online

Julio Scherer Garcia was one of Mexico’s most important and influential journalists of the past half-century. He helped expose many of Mexico’s greatest scandals for decades, probing a secret army unit to combat guerrillas, a multi-million-dollar Swiss bank account of a president’s brother and official involvement in the assassination of a journalist.

His tough independence stood out at a time when independent reporting critical of the government was rare in Mexico and he inspired and trained a new generation of the country’s journalists. As editor of Excelsior, then Mexico’s leading newspaper, from 1968 to 1976, he took on the omnipotent ruling party over corruption and human rights abuses, and questioned the government’s version of an army massacre of students. He so angered President Luis Echeverria that the government succeeded in pushing him out of the newspaper in 1976.

Months later, Proceso published its first issue with the help of journalists who left had Excelsior with Scherer. In the decades since, the weekly news magazine has become the country’s most consistent source of investigative journalism.

Scherer wrote nearly two dozen books, often analysing the terms of Mexico’s presidents. In 1971 he won the Maria Moors Cabot award, the oldest international journalism prize.

In 1994, the Zapatista rebels invited him to participate with a Catholic bishop and the Nobel laureate Rigoberto Menchu as intermediaries in a dialogue with the Mexican government. Scherer demurred. “My condition as a journalist obligates me to impartiality, difficult to sustain as both mediator and chronicler of the events we experience. I must then comply exclusively with the rules of my profession.”

Seven years later, when the Zapatistas were on verge of talks with the government, their masked commander sat down for an interview with Scherer – who scored another coup in 2010 when he interviewed Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a leader of the Sinaloa cartel and one of Mexico’s most-wanted drug lords. Zambada said he had always wanted to meet Scherer and he opened up about his life as a fugitive.

Last year, Scherer’s daughter Maria Scherer Ibarra wrote in the magazine Letras Libres that her father had repeatedly refused colleagues’ requests to let them write his biography. “My father has insisted, and with reason, that his work speak for him: his interviews, his reporting.”

Julio Scherer Garcia, journalist and author: born Mexico City 7 April 1926; died Mexico City 7 January 2015.