Mexican whistleblower Karla Lottini fights corruption, death threats and deportation
'Echar raíces' – to put down roots. That's exactly what a threatened Mexican journalist did since fleeing to Surrey with her family. In this VO exclusive, Karla Berenice García Ramírez -- pen name Lottini --tells the story of her fight to stay.
When she first received a death threat for exposing Mexico's government corruption, award-winning journalist Karla Lottini's first thought was to protect her family.
“'How are are you, my queen?'” she recounts her assailant saying in 2003. “'If you don't stop writing about this, your body could end up being in an empty lot – or even worse, someone in your family.'
“I think it's worse if you have daughters in your family... I got a call in 2008, saying I would have my arms cut off. But my daughters...”
The 38-year-old journalist and Vancouver radio broadcaster – who lives in Surrey with her husband César Casso and two small children – invited the Vancouver Observer into her home for an exclusive interview.
Lottini is a pen name -- her real name is Karla Berenice García Ramírez. She recounted a harrowing tale of whistle-blowing, escape to safety – and now, the Canadian government's push to deport her family. With the helpf of some activists, she is fighting to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds – but will Canada listen?
Mexico's worsening violence and corruption
“They say that Mexico is safe – democratic and safe,” she told VO, explaining that Canada's justification for twice rejecting her refugee claim was that she was not in danger from organized crime. “The Mexican government and the Canadian government have arrangements.
“I'm offended, actually – if you talked with anyone on the streets of Mexico, that would be an insult. It's not true... When the First World goes to Mexico, they go to our beautiful beaches and have all-inclusive packages. But things are so bad now – a lot of innocent people are being killed. We are so afraid.”
As García Ramírez recounted how, in 2002, she uncovered a vast web of graft and corruption in the Mexican government's massive cultural ministry – photocopying and leaking thousands of documents showing irregular kick-backs and bribes – her 17-month old daughter, Ámbar, climbed onto the couch to play with my camera, giggling, before Casso picked her up.
“In the beginning, when she told me she was taking documents out of her office, I knew it would be problematic,” Casso said, recalling the whistle-blowing that landed his wife in hot water. “Of course, I supported my wife – but I told her to be careful.
“Sometimes I ask, 'Why are we in this position?' But I feel proud of her – not too many people are brave enough to do these kinds of things. But I worry about what could continue to happen. With this whole deportation, I feel scared. I can't think of any place that we can go.”