Using Documents to Connect the Dots: The Pachuca Investigation

Jun 272008

Knight International Journalism Fellow Ana Arana describes how her colleagues at Mexico's El Universal followed the trail of a land grab to produce a major investigative series.

The story into the Pachuca Soccer Team Land Grab started as a simple look at irregular financial schemes involving one of the two top soccer teams in Mexico. A detailed investigation, however, led us from reporting on cronyism in the sale of state-owned soccer teams to a major land grab that involved powerful politicians, their relatives and poor peasants who were wooed to sell government-issued land parcels, called ejidos, a low prices because of lack of irrigation water. The lands had become non productive because a local politician issued a law that stopped the flow of sewage water for irrigation of the lands. Upon the sale the land was quickly transformed into prime real estate.

Pachuca is turning into one of Mexico City's top bedroom communities. Besides the soccer team, the government will be building a new international airport a few miles south of the city, and a suburban passenger train that will cut commuting times.

In the story we used original documents and found the connections between the soccer team and the land development, which nobody had linked in previous stories. It was a lesson to use original documentation and not depend on leaked documents.