CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico A Mexican journalist threatened by drug gangs said on Tuesday he had been granted political asylum in the United States to escape the cartels' increasingly violent campaign to silence the media.
Jorge Luis Aguirre, editor of Ciudad Juarez-based online newspaper La Polaka, fled across the border to El Paso, Texas, after receiving telephone threats minutes after the murder of a fellow journalist by hitmen in November 2008.
Aguirre is one of the first Mexican reporters to be granted political asylum in the United States.
"I can breathe again ... this asylum opens the door to journalists caught in the middle in Mexico, where there is no justice and where the (local) governments are part of drug trafficking," Aguirre told Reuters.
U.S. officials were not immediately available for comment.
Media groups say Mexico is one of the world's most dangerous places for reporters. A TV cameraman who was abducted in northern Mexico this year requested asylum in El Paso last week.
More than 30 media workers have disappeared or been killed since President Felipe Calderon launched his war on drug cartels in 2006, the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in a report this month.
Mounting attacks on the media are part of the rising drug violence that has claimed more than 29,000 lives since Calderon took office in 2006, undermining Mexico's global image and threatening a recovery in Latin America's second-largest economy.
Thousands of Mexican troops and elite federal police have been unable to quell a brutal offensive in Ciudad Juarez by Mexico's most wanted narcotics trafficker, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, for control of the city.
Some 6,500 people have been killed in drug violence in Ciudad Juarez, one of the world's most violent cities, since January 2008.
Guzman wants to wrest control of the city from Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, long-time head of the Juarez drug cartel, who drug experts say handles about a fifth of a drug business believed to earn up to $40 billion a year for the cartels.
(Reporting by Julian Cardona; editing by Mohammad Zargham)