A Singer’s Murder Uncovers Police Corruption in Veracruz

Original version published in Spanish by El País on Wednesday 22 January 2014. Translated without permission.

A singer’s murder uncovers police corruption in Veracruz
by Juan Diego Quesada
translated by Patrick Timmons

–        The state government tried to close the case by blaming hit men, but the family alleges police involvement

The recent murder of Gibrán Martiz, a young singer who had just started his musical career, has highlighted the corruption of Veracruz police authorities, a state located just east of Mexico State. The singer was kidnapped in his house and reappeared, five days later, in the inside of a car with a bullet shot to the head. The police said they had found Gibrán’s body in a confrontation with the hit men who had taken him. It was a perfect crime scene. The guilty were dead and the disappeared had appeared, so the police tried to close the case.

Only at the insistence of the singer’s parents — who visited hospitals, police stations, and questioned the neighbors who saw their son kidnapped — are we beginning to know little by little what really happened. After a few days of official blandishments, the Veracruz state government has admitted that the case implicates seven police officers. “The people who took Gibrán and his roommate — also killed — were state officials. We only want to know what really happened, we don’t want a false explanation,” says Erick, by telephone, the brother of the singer who became famous thanks to a popular television reality show, La Voz de México.

Gibrán Martiz, 22 years old, was an unknown local singer until last summer when he won a Televisa competition to promote talented upcoming groups. When the show finished, he decided to go it alone. He had only been in his newly rented apartment in the state’s capital of Xalapa for one day when somebody kidnapped him and his roommate, a seventeen-year old youth. They had just started working together as models. It was 7 January. The family tried to contact them without success for a few days. Relatives became alarmed when they heard Gibrán did not turn up to a nightclub engagement. His brother denounced Gibrán’s disappearance on 12 January via Twitter.

Gibrán’s father, Efraín, went to Xalapa to try to find him. Social media picked up on Gibrán’s disappearance. Celebrities from the entertainment world got involved. His body appeared on 20 January in a remote place called La Ternera after an alleged shootout between police and criminals. The officers conducting the operation said that hit men were in the car, and along with the two bodies of Gibrán and his roommate they also found police uniforms, guns, and bulletproof vests. The officers suggested that the murderers had been passing themselves off as police officers. Veracruz’s attorney general, Felipe Amadeo Flores, accepted this version of events, and publicly broadcast its details.

The singer’s father is convinced they are trying to trick him. His son’s murderers are police officers, he alleges. Or, at the very least that officers played an active part in his death. Neighbors gave him the color and license plates of the car in which Gibrán was kidnapped and when he went to Internal Affairs to file a complaint, he caught sight of the vehicle in the parking structure. “I am not going to run away. I am one of those people who believe that in a war like this you have to put family, cousins, brothers and sons first. For things to change and for the country to improve. And if it’s up to me to find out what happened to my son, then I don’t care,” said the father in the past few days.

Bit by bit the story seems to be unraveling. As a result of the family’s investigations, relatives believe that for one reason or another they abducted two of Gibrán’s young friends. The boys had a history of stealing cars. At one moment, the police took the two boys to the apartment where Gibrán was with his friend. They kidnapped all four youths. The rest of the story is murky. State authorities have neither explained the role played by the police nor the motive for their murders. The only charges are extortion and abusing their official positions.

The Veracruz state government, and specifically Governor Javier Duarte have received harsh criticism for their security policy and the way they administer justice. Regina Martínez, a journalist for the magazine Proceso, who was investigating prickly subjects, was murdered in April 2012. The investigation into her death was accompanied by a campaign to discredit the reporter by covering up any sort of political connection to her murder. A possible culprit was identified later, a drug addict plagued by bad health. In prison he said he was tortured and the reality was that the only proof of his involvement was his own confession. He had to be released. In Gibrán’s case photos have already been circulating on social media showing him brandishing guns and drugs. Nobody seems to know where the photos have come from. In Veracruz, even the victims don’t rest in peace.

Reporter Juan Diego Quesada writes for El País. His original story in Spanish was published as “El asesinato de un cantante destapa la corrupción policial de Veracruz,” available at http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/01/21/actualidad/1390336606_155354.html.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist, and founding editor of https://mexicanjournalismtranslationproject.wordpress.com. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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