Anabel Hernández (born 1971) is a Mexican journalist and author, best known for her investigative journalism of Mexican drug trafficking and alleged collusion of government officials and drug lords. She has also written about slave labor, sexual exploitation, and abuse of power. She won the Golden Pen of Freedom Award 2012, which is presented annually by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.
She currently lives in Berkeley, California with her two children and has a fellowship on Investigative Reporting at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
Hernández, who was born in 1971, is a mother of two children.
As a young child Anabel Hernández wanted to be a lawyer. Then, in 1989, Hernández happened to be in San Francisco when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit. Anabel was so impressed by the work that journalists were doing that she realized there was nothing in the world she wanted to do more than be a journalist.
When Anabel Hernández shared with her father her desires to be a journalist he said that journalism wasn't a profession, that it was an occupation for bums and that women who dedicated themselves to it were prostitutes. He was furious with Hernández at first as the journalistic profession at that time in Mexico had a reputation of being in the pockets of corrupt government officials.
In 1993, at 21, Hernández started at the newspaper Reforma (1993-1996) while still in school. The paper was newly created, and they wanted to start only with students so they could really shape them. The students were given very strict rules meant to break the vices of other papers. Hernández and her colleagues were told that they couldn't accept a single peso from anyone or they would be fired immediately. The only thing they could accept from a government office was a glass of water (not even coffee or soda). Hernández has stated that she is convinced that those rigorous standards formed her as a journalist.
Hernández first front-page story at Reforma was about electoral fraud in the city of Mexico. Three years later, Hernández got pregnant with her first child that put on hold her journalistic career. After which time she resumed her work with newspaper Milenio (1999-2002). Hernández eventually left Milenio because she was frozen under orders from the president's office; the paper wouldn't publish anything she wrote. And later, Hernandez had to quit at another paper, El Universal, after one of the managers told her if she wanted to stay at the paper she had to stop writing about President Fox and his administration.
On Dec. 5, 2000, Hernández received a call from her mother telling her that her father hadn't come home the night before. Hernández and family members began the search for the family patriarch by calling local hospitals. That afternoon, the family called a radio station to report Mr. Hernández's missing car and see if people could help them find it. Someone called and said they found it, so Anabel's older brother went to the location where the car had been found. Inside the car was one of Mr. Hernández shoes and the car trunk was stained with blood. By that night the Hernández family knew Mr. Hernández was dead. Mr. Hernández's body was found lying on a highway on Tultitlan, a municipality outside of México.
The police in Mexico City said they would investigate only if they were paid; the family refused. She has now assigned at least two bodyguards to her protection.
Hernández is a contributing journalist for the online publication Reporte Indigo and Proceso magazine, but earlier reported for the national newspapers Milenio, Reforma, El Universal and its supplemental magazine La Revista. She started her career as a journalist at Reforma in 1993.
Her editorial on the importance of a Free Press in Mexico, called "The Perverse Power of Silence", was included in the WAN-IFRA 2012 World Press Freedom Day publication. In her editorial, she wrote, "If we remain silent we kill freedom, justice and the possibility that a society armed with information may have the power to change the situation that has brought us to this point."
Hernández, while working at Milenio, broke the news story about the extravagance with which the winning presidential candidate, Vicente Fox, had decorated his personal accommodation using public funds – while campaigning on a ticket of economic austerity. The newspaper published expense reports of President Vicente Fox's government for the redecoration of presidential cabins. The reports became a symbol of excess and also suggested wrongdoing. Investigation of the expenses led to evidence of overcharges, purchases for which there were no orders, and names and phone numbers of companies who had made charges that no longer existed. In Mexico, the scandal represented the opposite of the image the Fox administration had been conveying and became known as Toallagate. For her reporting, Hernández won the 2002 Mexican National Journalism Award.
Los Señores del Narco (2010)
Anabel Hernandez spent five years investigating and writing her 2010 book Los Señores del Narco (Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers), which was later translated into English. The book has sold over 100,000 copies but Hernández says its popularity is an indication of the absence of information about the drug trade in Mexico. Journalists have been killed every year since the drug war began.
According to Hernandez, the complicity of the government, police, military, and business and finance sectors makes the power of the drug cartels and their business possible. She said that under President Fox, the relationship between the cartels and government changed as Fox sided with the Sinaloa cartel by letting Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán escape prison in 2001. Her book details how the Mexican authorities sided with the competition among the drug cartels. She also writes about the relationship between the Mexican government and United States agents, and the impact it has had on the Mexican Drug War, including the beginning of the methamphetamine trade by the Sinaloa.
Hernández has received numerous death threats since writing about the drug cartels and is under protection. She told Narco News Bulletin, "A journalist who has to walk with bodyguards is an embarrassment for any nation. I constantly fear for my health and the health of my family, but the fear only drives me and lets me know that I’m on the right path." She also wrote in a WAN-IFRA publication for World Press Freedom Day in 2012: "Silence is killing men, women and children ... and it is killing journalists. But breaking the silence can also be deadly."
Mexico en Llamas (2013)
México en llamas: el legado de Calderon (2013) is an indispensable critical review and a vigorous denunciation of the most scandalous cases of corruption and political complicity of the so-called "six years of death" of the President Calderon administration, which include names as diverse as Garcia Luna, Cardenas Palomino, Acosta Chaparro, Miranda de Wallace or Salinas de Gortari.
- Named a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour, 2017
- Golden Pen of Freedom Award, 2012
- Recognition by UNICEF in 2003
- Mexican National Journalism Award 2002
List of publications
- La familia presidencial: el gobierno del cambio bajo sospecha de corrupción (in Spanish) English translation of title: The Presidential Family. (2005)
- Fin de fiesta en los pinos (Spanish) English translation of title: The End of the Party in Los Pinos. (2006)
- Los Cómplices del Presidente (Spanish) English translation of title: The Presidents Accomplices. (2010)
- Los Señores del Narco (Spanish) English translation of title: Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers. (2010)
- México en Llamas: El legado de Calderón (Spanish) English translation of title: Mexico in Flames: Calderon's legacy. (2013)