Monthly Archives: March 2014

Two Deaths Divide the Mexican Self-Defense Movement (Paula Chouza, Verónica Calderón, EL PAÍS)

This article was published in El País on 25 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Two Deaths Divide the Mexican Self-Defense Movement
By Paula Chouza and Verónica Calderón

-Hipólito Mora is the only person under arrest for the double homicide; those who carried out the crime have not been identified.

Hipólito Mora, one of the founding leaders of the self-defense groups in Michoacán (southwest Mexico), is in a Morelia prison. He’s accused of having ordered the assassiantions of two people found dead on 8 March: Rafael Sánchez El Pollo and José Luis Torres Castañeda. Mora is the only person under arrest for the crime, and up until now the investigations have not led to any other suspects, not even the identities of those who committed the crime.

“There’s no evidence to support the judge’s decision,” reassured Eduardo Quintero, the lawyer of the leader of the self-defense forces from La Ruana, last Friday. Judge Juan Salvador Alonso Mejía on Wednesday decided that Mora should await trial from jail. According to Quintero, no clear evidence indicates a link between the self-defense force leader and the deaths. “It’s as if I were to say, right now: I think you are young and beautiful, I have no inkling why but I believe it. And, that’s how they sent him to prison, based on testimony like that.”

According to this version, a witness confirms seeing and hearing Mora and his people hit Rafael Sánchez and José Luis Torres. With this testimony, and accounts by the victims’ families, they said that Hipólito “was the one who gave the order” for the murders, so the judge thought that sufficient proof existed to imprison him.

Strong Disputes Centre Around Some Lime Orchards

Sánchez and Torres, both members of the self-defense movement, used to belong to a group outside Hipólito Mora’s control, instead under the control of Luis Torres, better known as Simón El Americano. The night before their murders, both were patrolling the Buenavista-Tomatlán area, in the township that belongs to the La Ruana community. It seems that they were ambushed in the early morning. They were killed and set alight. They were discovered the following day.

The group led by El Americano had already had differences with the group in La Ruana, and decided to enter the town to “end [Mora’s] leadership.” The two groups had fought over ownership of two lime orchards (the region is one of the country’s principle citrus producers), seized by hitmen belonging to the Knights Templar. The self-defense forces declared war on the drug gang in February 2013. El Americano’s men did not directly accuse Mora of the murders, but they did demand the surrender of Sánchez and Torres’ murderers whom they believe to belong to the ranks of La Ruana’s self-defense forces.

According to sources within the movement, Rafael Sánchez, alias El Pollo, fled the township after civilians rose up against organized crime, and months afterwards returned repentant and with the intention of joining the movement. At that moment he demanded Mora return his lands. In a telephone interview last week, José Manuel Mireles, the leader of Tepacatepec’s self-defense forces, stated that the spokesperson “refused to give ranches to him and his friends, but he also discounted that La Ruana’s leader might be involved in the murders.”

The victims were surprised by an ambush. Then they were set alight

One of the dead men, José Luis Torres Castañeda was the father of an advisor to Senator Iris Vianey Mendoza, who last month asked permission for a thirty-day absence from the Senate. She is being investigated by Mexico’s federal Attorney General after attracting attention for a picture of her dancing with one of the sons of the cartel leaders. The senator returned to her post after a few days even though the investigation’s results have not been disclosed.

Hipólito Mora rejects any relationship to the crime. “It’s not right. I didn’t kill them and the whole world knows it. The decision surprises me. I feel betrayed.” He also said that he worries for the lives and security of the members of his family. “They have treated me excellently. I feel safe inside the penitentiary but I fear for the lives of members of my family,” who, he said, are threat from El Americano. “The Government isn’t doing anything.” He repeated that he does not regret starting the self-defense movement more than a year ago: “The fight has been worth it so even if I die in prison, there are many people who my movement’s affected. They are the ones who put me here, so that I can’t damage them.”

Various sources agree that Mora has a criminal background in the United States for drug possession and distribution. But nobody has specified either the city where the arrests occurred or the substance for which he was detained. His lawyer argues that the information is false and Mora stated to the judge that this is the first time he has been arrested.

Mora rejects involvement in the crime and says that he fears for his family

Hipólito Mora was arrested on 11 March, just a couple of days after El Americano’s men stormed into La Ruana. In the following hours, the 10,000-person community was under siege. After complaining tht the group was trying to kill him, and that El Americano was a criminal serving as El Chayo’s messenger, the Policía Federal transferred Hipólito Mora to Mexico City where he stayed one night. The Interior Ministry has denied that its head, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, or its officials have met with him. After the arrest on Wednesday, the military disarmed 30 men with ties to Mora.

Self-defense groups rose up in arms in several of the region’s townships on 24 February 2013 to free residents from abuses by the Knights Templar cartel. This mafia mostly engages in drug trafficking, kidnapping, and extortion, among other crimes. Violence has overwhelmed the region, and Enrique Peña Nieto’s government announced a pacification strategy for the state, naming trusted associate Alfredo Castillo as commissioner.

Several high-ranking cartel leaders have been detained since then, including the fallen kingpin Nazario Moreno El Chayo, founder of the Knights Templar. Felipe Calderón’s government incorrectly declared dead Moreno in 2010. An operation on 8 March 2014 killed him.

The Interior Ministry Denies Meeting with Mora

This same Friday, Mora’s defense appealed the judge’s decision. The timeframe to resolve the dispute, even though not exact, might be 45 days. “Hipólito is in good condition,” his lawyer says. “They are treating him well in jail.” In spite of a preliminary instruction, the self-defense force leader will remain in Morelia and not be transferred to an Apatzingán jail, where alleged members of the Knights Templar are imprisoned.

Hipólito Mora, born in 1955, is a lime grower, father to 11 children and eight times a grandfather. For some time his people have heard him often complain about his vulnerability. “This is the most important battle I have waged in my life and I know it will take me to my grave,” he commented in February.


Journalists Paula Chouza and Verónica Calderón report from Mexico for El País. Follow Chouza on Twitter @pchouza, and follow Calderón @veronicacalderon. This story first appeared with the title, “Las dos muertes que han dividido a las autodefensas mexicanas,” available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist based in the Americas. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). Follow him on Twitter@patricktimmons.

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Governor of Mexico State says Michoacán Does Not Meet Minimum Criteria to Belong to the Federal Republic (El Deforma)

This satirical news piece – about hiving off Mexico’s troubled western state of Michoacán, making it independent – was published in El Deforma on Monday 24 March 2014. Mexico’s press has a lengthy tradition – stretching back to even before independence from Spain in the early nineteenth century – of employing satire to steer through thorny issues. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). 

Governor of Mexico State says Michoacán Does Not Meet Minimum Criteria to Belong to the Federal Republic
By El Deforma

Mexico.- The Governor of the State of Mexico — the gurantor of safety for all the country’s inhabitants — requested the Senate erase the State of Michoacán. He says the state must not keep operating because it does not meet security standards.

Eruviel Ávila argues that there are not enough police resources to maintain order in that state and the healthiest thing to do is shut it down until there’s certainty that it can operate according to minimum standards to avoid instances of violence.

“We can’t let Michoacán go on. I know that there will be a lot of people affected by this proposal, but the damage will be greater if it continues being part of the country. Besides, they are going to refund money for everybody who bought a house there,” declared an energetic Eruviel, a man who never tires of protecting the nation.

“I know that it’s not my job to worry about Michoacán. But I feel a bit like a father who worries about his children and also about his friends.”

The Senate will analyze the proposal inviting Michoacán to declare itself independent for an indefinite period. Some lawmakers have already shown they are in favor. “Well, if we run some quick numbers, if we separate Mexico from Michoacán, then the violence in this country will go down automatically. The Monarch butterflies present a bit of a problem, because they bring in a ton of tourist money and they normally live in Michoacán, but surely we’ll be able to relocate them here,” stated Senator Eduardo Merénguez.

A vote on the proposal is expected in the following hours when a decision is expected.

Satirical news portal El Deforma pokes fun at all things in Mexico, including the country’s political class. The article first appeared under the title, “Asegura que Michoacán no cuenta con los estándares mínimos para llevarse a cabo,” available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons’ last piece of droll satire appeared on CounterPunch as “Interviewing Myself: A Selfie Portrait,” available at:

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Gregorio: Murdered for Reporting (La Misión de Observación de periodistas y organizaciones a Veracruz por el asesinato del reportero Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz)

The Misión de Observación into Gregorio Jiménez’s kidnaping and murder released an executive summary and its report in Mexico City on 19 March 2014. This executive summary has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Gregorio: Murdered for Reporting

Wednesday 19 March 2014
Mexico City

On 15, 16, and 17 February a group of 16 journalists along with several members of four organizations in defense of freedom of expression, formed an Observation Mission with the aim of investigating the kidnap and murder of reporter Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz.

We traveled to Coatzacoalcos and Xalapa and we interviewed more than 60 communicators: reporters, editors, directors of media outlets; Gregorio’s family and friends, as well as state and federal officials. We had access to the file that the Veracruz State Attorney General’s office has built and we reviewed the stories published by Gregorio in the six months before his murder. We visited the residence where the kidnap occurred and the place where, a week later, the journalist’s body was found.

Today we present this report as the result of a team effort. We analyze the possible causes behind the crimes against Gregorio, the context in which he worked, and the responses of authorities.

The kidnap and murder of journalist Gregorio Jiménez cannot be understood without taking into consideration the alarming, violent context of Veracruz, especially in the state’s south. The government’s inaction concerning security and justice has clear and direct repercussions in the daily work of communicators. These factors explain the list of murdered journalists, disappearances, displacement, and the constant violations of freedom of expression in the state.

For those reasons the present report includes a detailed analysis of the practice of journalism in Veracruz: testimonies and facts that detail precarious and risky working conditions for communicators.

The official investigation demonstrates that there is sufficient proof in Gregorio Jiménez’s case file that he was kidnaped and murdered because of his journalism. However, public prosecutors have avoided recognizing the crimes as a direct attack on freedom of expression by an organized crime group that operates in the southern part of Veracruz.

The State Attorney General has focussed only on one line of inquiry, even though clear proof exists for at least two lines of inquiry that could reveal a criminal structure.

Neither the Public Prosecutor nor the Federal Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) have investigated and nor have they deepened the inquiry into Gregorio’s journalism. Neither one of the journalist’s tools he used for work – not his computer, nor his camera – and which his kidnappers tried to take with them were submitted to review.

The statements, evidence, and procedures running throughout Gregorio’s case file show the deficiencies and inconsistencies on the part of officials who participated in the emergency response to the kidnaping. For example: the case file does not record the deployment of police officers to locate the reporter. There is no official communication if that action occurred or how it was executed: when it began, how many officers participated, how they were organized, where they looked and how they looked, which techniques they used, and how long the search operation lasted. One of the essential questions is whether or not the security forces’ response was actually timely and effective.

We also found faults in favour of the six people who currently stand accused of the crimes against the journalists. For example, investigators lacked warrants, did not provide evidence and investigative orders, including corroboration of the facts.

The case file does not explain how authorities found out who was responsible, how they located them, or how they discovered the safe house where Gregorio was detained and the location of his clandestine grave.

The statements of all of those currently detained only provide basic information about the facts, and officials did not question, deepen, verify, or provide further records about the events.

The accusations against those detained find their principal support in the confession of José Luis Márquez Hernández, who took responsibility for executing the crimes, and led the cell that kidnapped and murdered Gregorio. The State Prosecutor is responsible for strengthening this evidence but as occurred in the case of the murder of journalist Regina Martínez has acted to the contrary and so those detained could be freed.

Several of those detained state that they were tortured to incriminate themselves. In the case file, medical certificates do not exist that document their physical and mental state before and after making a statement. Similarly, it is noteworthy that days after the formal order for their imprisonment, people from Las Choapas complained that officers from the Agencia Veracruzana de Investigaciones (AVI) “detained” nine residents from the township as they looked for those responsible for the journalist’s kidnaping. After 24 days, seven people reappeared who had been illegally taken. A 14-year old minor and youth Natividad Cacho Gómez are still missing. It is absolutely necessary that the State Prosecutor clarify these facts and indicate who is responsible.

The State Prosecutor, at least in official speeches, maintains that the investigations into Gregorio’s murder will continue, but there has been no progress. Given that it is evident that the investigation still remains to be deepened, the case cannot and must not be considered closed.

Also responsible for investigating the case are the Subprocuraduría Especializada en Investigación de Delincuencia Organizada (SIEDO – the Organized Crime Prosecutor) and the Fiscalía Especial de Atención a Delitos cometidos Contra la Libertad de Expresión (FEADLE – the Federal Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression). Yet, in spite of their specialized foci, neither have registered advances in the case.


From the analysis carried out by the Observation Mission in the five chapters of this report, can be drawn the following recommendations to federal and local authorities, and to owners and editors of media outlets:

1. The Veracruz State Prosecutor must recognize that the murder of Gregorio Jiménez can be strongly linked to his work as a journalist.

2. The State Prosecutor must correct the deficiencies identified in this report. It must clarify, state, and thoroughly develop an investigative inquiry into Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz’s journalism.

3. We repeat our request that the Veracruz Prosecutor permit us access to other case files about murders and disappearances of other journalists in the state.

4. We demand that the Fiscalía Especial de Atención a Delitos cometidos Contra la Libertad de Expresión (FEADLE), use all of its juridical capacities to take over the investigation, bringing it to conclusion and presenting the case to a federal judge, so that it might process and punish those responsible.

5. The FEADLE must immediately publish a detailed report explaining why it did not take the case of reporter Gregorio Jiménez.

6. We demand that under national laws and international treaties, Gregorio Jiménez’s family must be provided with all security measures given that they are both witnesses to and victims of a crime.

7. We request the state government establishes a permanent fund for murdered and disappeared journalists from the state and that it execute this under the supervision of civil society and journalist organizations.

8. The Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Powers in the state of Veracruz must publicly acknowledge the negative situation that confronts journalists and communications outlets in the state.

9. A law to protect the right to practice journalism must be urgently passed. It must restructure the Veracruz State Comisión de Atención y Protección a Periodistas (CEAPP) in such a way that this agency has the capacity to be a protective mechanism.

10. The State Comisión de Atención y Protección a Periodistas (CEAPP) must, furthermore, provide a detailed report about how it has used its budget resources and, concretely in Gregorio’s case, it must present a report about how it acted.

11. The State Penal Code must define as serious crimes actions that obstruct, impede, or try to stop journalists, media outlets’ offices, and other people from exercising their free speech and information rights.

12. There must be a public policy to allow the State Comptroller to review in an autonomous way the tasks discharged by the State Prosecutor in the investigations committed against journalists, and sanction for omission or negligence those who have not fulfilled their functions.

13. The Veracruz State Fiscalía de Atención a Periodistas y Delitos Electorales must deliver a wide-ranging and detailed report into the progress of the investigations in its charge.

14. Given the elevated figures of threats against journalists in Veracruz, the creation of an autonomous prosecutor’s offices is necessary.

15. A law must be passed that regulates official publicity in the State of Veracruz.

16. To news businesses in the State of Veracruz: we consider it urgent that you comply with the terms of the Ley Federal de Trabajo (The Federal Work Law). We are convinced that the security of journalists begins when they receive fair treatment as professionals and thus guarantee their full labour rights. We recommend creating and promoting security protocols; as well providing training to newspaper sellers so that they distribute the news professionally and do not increase the risk for working journalists.

17. To the businesses Notisur and Liberal del Sur, the Missions asks for the creation of a support fund for the family of its worker, Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz.

This Mission’s members are convinced that collaborative initiatives such as this one may provide a mechanism to help curb censorship and impunity for the lack of results in the investigations that must be carried out by the authorities.

This must be an invitation to go further in the defense of freedom of expression and against impunity that surround the majority of the cases of threats, disappearances and murders of journalists in Mexico.

The unprecedented, 87-page report of the Misión de Observación may be found here: The report was supported by Reporteros sin Fronteras, Periodistas de a Pie, the Casa de Derechos de Periodistas, and the Inter-American Press Association (SIP-IAPA).

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.


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“It was a massacre.” (Octavio Vélez Ascencio, NOTICIASNET.MX)

This article was first published on Noticias, Voz y Imagen de Oaxaca on 18 May 2013, and was republished via that newspaper’s portal NoticiasNet.Mx on 21 March 2014 in recognition of its author winning the 2013 Premio Nacional de Periodismo (National Journalism Award). Vélez Ascencio has worked as a reporter for 30 years, with the last two decades at the same newspaper. He has been covering agrarian and social conflict in Oaxaca for the past ten years.  This article has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). 

“It was a massacre.”
By Octavio Vélez Ascencio (NOTICIASNET.MX)

CERRO METATE, San Juan Mixtepec, Oaxaca.- “There was no confrontation. What happened was a massacre,” confirmed the President of Communal Property in this Mixtecan village, Paulino Hernández Paz. He was talking about the latest incursion from Santo Domingo Yosoñama into his community’s land, leaving three elderly villagers dead.

“They entered the village and the old people couldn’t run. That’s why they killed them. It was murder,” he said.

Agrarian officials say that the inhabitants of Santo Domingo Yosoñama belong to the municipality of San Juan Ñumi – who are in conflict with San Juan Mixtepec for a dispute about ownership rights to 1,740 hectares – there’s been shooting on the Cerro Metate for the past two weeks, and they have penetrated around 100 of the community’s hamlets.

“They came in to burn several houses and rob livestock, but the saddest things was that they killed the elderly just because they could not run.”

He states that the dead were identified as Bonifacio Vicente Hernández and Porfiria Salazar Gómez, both 70 years old, and also Margarito Santiago Ramírez, 75 years old, all of whom were shot at close range and not from afar.

“They grabbed them up close, one of the grandparents – Margarito Santiago Ramírez – couldn’t see; and he couldn’t run or walk,” he said.

He mentioned that the woman among them survived for three hours after the violence that took place at 15:40. She could not be transported to the county seat for medical attention because of her wounds.

“It was something terrible,” he said.

He emphasized that the Cerro Metate community normally places guards on the border with Santo Domingo Yosoñama, but only three or four villagers were there at the time of the attack.

“Since we don’t want everybody to kill ourselves over them, we don’t place guards every day. That’s how they got in. We don’t want a war with them because we are as fucked as they are,” he said.

Cerro Metate’s other inhabitants saved themselves because they were working the fields while others fled to the mountain when they heard gunfire.

“Several families live in the village. Fortunately, most managed to escape,” he said.

He underlined that the whole of San Juan Mixtepec is upset about the violence, especially for the murder of three elderly villagers. They are ready to take revenge.

“People are really angry and want to do something. We’re larger than Santo Domingo Yosoñana and we can do a lot. But that’s not what we want. We are calling for calm because they’ve also got old people and children. Some families have relatives in each town,” he pointed out.

He thinks that it’s not only Santo Domingo Yosoñama’s residents who are responsible for this and other previous violent events but also gunmen from Antorcha Campesina, a community assistance organization.

“We want them to apply the law and punish them, which is just as it should be,” he observed.

Even so, he called on the federal and state governments to apply the law and carry out an operation in the disputed area to arrest those responsible for the events, bringing the violence to an end.

Hernández Paz said that the lands demanded by Santo Domingo Yosoñama legally belong to San Juan Mixtepec. Its ownership must be respected according to the ruling by the Tribunal Unitario Agrario (TUA) of district number 46, dated 15 May 2000.

“That land belongs to us. They’re demanding it knowing it’s ours. They just want to bribe the government,” he noted.

Armed Men Arbitrarily Detain NOTICIAS’ correspondents

The team of reporters from NOTICIAS, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca sent to San Juan Mixtepec to provide journalistic coverage of Santa Domingo Yosoñama’s violence against the Cerro Metate community were illegally detained by a group of its officials and villagers, as well as by people from Rancho Viejo.

Reporters Octavio Vélez Ascencio, Mario Jiménez Leyva and Uriel López Salazar identified themselves to officials and villagers, informing them of their presence in the region to record the events.

But when they were returning at around 2:30, they came across a vehicle blocking their way.

Tens of villagers had gathered, some of them were armed and obviously drunk. They harassed the reporters, even taking their IDs, cell phones and reporting kit.

Four hours later, the reporters were taken to the Municipal Building, to be presented in front of the assistant receiver.

Residents drawn from San Juan Mixtepec recognized the reporters and intervened on their behalf, recognizing the reporters professional work conducted in 10 previous visits to the township, through the conflict with Santo Domingo Yosoñama.

Some officials and villagers groundlessly accused the reporters of having broken and entered into a home, suggesting they had trespassed in a victim’s house to ask questions. But even the son of one of the victims remembered that his wife had given the reporters permission to enter.

The assistant receiver even said that he knew of the journalism published by the reporters and agreed that they were not in the wrong, had committed no crime, and so could leave.

Journalist Octavio Vélez Ascencio has spent the best part of a thirty-year career reporting for NOTICIAS, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca. This article was first published under the title, “Fue una masacre,” available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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Drunk (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RioDoce)

This Malayerba column was first published in RíoDoce on 16 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RioDoce)

They were getting shitfaced. He from the white aluminium can, sweating and iced, right by the cooler. The cans were putting up a fight: the transparent cylinders were playing in the water, swimming, fighting, shouting for help, screaming pick me, poking each other, bobbing under then surfacing for air.

His good-for-nothing friends looked tired and relaxed. It looked like they were competing to pile crushed cans wrinkled up like funnel cakes by their sides — a sign of their thirst, and that it was time to open another, then another, and another. The white plastic table in front of them trembled any time its occupants moved.

The sun was no longer high in the sky but its rays still seeped into everything. Like a ghost: you could feel it was there but couldn’t see it. Seven in the afternoon. Scorching the ground. Night was coming but didn’t shield anything. The ground was still hot. So were the leaves on the trees, the chairs, the walls. Summer in the city and its forty degree heat lasted through night.

One of the scoundrels took out a wooden box. They shuffled the black and white domino pieces on the tabletop. A woman, one of their wives, put some snacks out. Crispy corn sticks, potato chips, pork scratchings with salt and lime, jocoque (translator’s note: strained yogurt), bits of sausage and pitted olives, crispy tortillas.

The pieces danced noisily as they shuffled against each other. The four pairs of hands came out to select their seven. And then he felt the need to piss. He leaned over without getting up, trying to get the attention of the woman sat in front of the TV who had brought the snacks. A boy, barely two years old, sat on her lap. He could hear distant crying. He did not want to move. It seemed rude of him to go to the bathroom in the house. He felt awkward.

He crossed his legs. Then he opened them again, desperate. Crossed. Open. Like a strange folding fan. Damn desperation. He was always needing to piss, a cheeky bladder that filled with hardly anything. Hold on. Hold on. He looked at the dominoes.

He papered over his anxiety with a couple of jokes and a slow movement of the tiles. Bad play. He let out a “motherfucker” and retreated into quickly crossing and opening his legs. He took some sausage then cheese and olives and he spread jocoque over a crispy tortilla chip. When the game ended he told them he was going to his car. They took no notice.

Five steps and he was outside. On his right, four cars in a line. He passed them and heard some wailing. One of the cars moved but he thought it was his imagination. He went past the last car: he unzipped his fly and relieved himself. Ah, he said. Then he heard another ah, and another. As he went back he peered into one of the cars: on the floor, four men were tied up, bloodied, one on top of the other, stacked like tiles. He couldn’t take any more in, and he didn’t want to know. Shivers went up his spine and he went into the house. He asked for a cold one and started over again.

Journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas is the founding editor of RíoDoce, an online news outlet based in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is the author of various books, including Con la Granada en la Boca (Aguilar, 2014). This column was first published under the title, “Borracho,” and is available at

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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“I didn’t know that a human could take so much pain” (Daniela Rea, EL UNIVERSAL)

This article was published in El Universal on 15 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project.

“I didn’t know that a human could take so much pain”
by Daniela Rea (EL UNIVERSAL)

The first thing that springs to mind for Gustavo Martínez Rentería about the torture he and his friends suffered at the hands of the Federal Police, whose officers forced them to admit to being criminals, is the moment when the uniformed agents opened the door to the room where they had been hitting them for several days. At that moment, the officers asked if they wanted to say anything, as it was going to get worse.

The door opened. They were in a giant warehouse, bound hand and foot, in front of TV cameras that were pointing at them. To one side was Luis Cárdenas Palomino, then spokesperson for the Federal Police, saying that they were narcos, responsible for planting the car bomb in Ciudad Juárez on 15 July 2010.

“When I saw myself in front of the cameras, the world stopped turning and the only thing I thought was: ‘Holy shit, we are done for’” says Gustavo, now free, after spending three years and seven months in prison accused of a crime he confessed to under torture, along with four childhood friends: Rogelio Amaya Martínez, Noé Fuentes Chavira, and brothers Víctor Manuel and Ricardo Fernández Lomelí.

“I didn’t understand what was going on, they had beaten us so much… you don’t know what’s truth and what’s a lie. They even make you doubt yourself,” he says during a conversation with EL UNIVERSAL.

Gustavo was 24 years old when he was arrested. He was working in a bar in Ciudad Juárez. Like his friends, he looks like he just came from another world. He walks gingerly, like he’s trying to recognize the ground.

“The only thing I can ask for is patience from my people,” he says.

To prove the youths’ innocence, their defense – headed by the Paso del Norte Human Rights Centre (Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte) and the Collective Against Torture and Impunity – implemented the Istanbul Protocol, an international test that comprises assessing bodily and emotional damage done to victims of torture. The test demonstrated that they suffered beatings to both body and face, electric shocks, simulated murder and suffocation with plastic bags and water, threats of being raped, or their families being raped, and that they were made to watch their friends being abused or hearing their torture. Subsequently, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) confirmed these results in recommendation 75/2011.

— Gustavo is asked, “How do you see yourself now that you are out of prison?” He closes his eyes, and tries to imagine.

— I see a skinny guy, hobbled, spent, who walks slowly, nervously… on the ground are the bits that they broke off: dignity, self-esteem, strength, patience, confidence, a whole life.

Rogelio Amaya, one of the arrested youths, looks at himself and is surprised to have discovered personal strength. “I didn’t know that I could bear so much, so much pain. How is it possible that a living being can tolerate so much pain? I see somebody who thinks he’s now stronger than he was [before the torture].

We Come Back Damaged

On 13 August 2010 the Federal Police brought the five youths accused of the Ciudad Juárez car bombing in which four people died before the media. The defense alleged that they were tortured to admit their guilt, and even the Federal Attorney General withdrew its criminal complaint, and freed them on Friday 7 March.

“During Felipe Calderón’s presidency, we witnessed the fabrication of criminals through torture. The government needed to find the guilty and so it fingered these young men. The Federal Police tortured them in Ciudad Juárez, then when they were transferred by plane and in the hangar, and later at their Iztapalapa base. They had them for five days so that they could do unthinkable things to them,” says Javier Enríquez of the Collective Against Torture and Impunity at a press conference on 11 March in Mexico City as he announced these youth’s release. The young men were present at the press conference.

The defense has begun a judicial process against the police officers who arrested the youths. They hope for sanctions against federal agents Manuel Calleja Marín, Víctor Aquileo Lozano Vera, Manuel Granero Rugerio, Federico López Pérez, Adán Serafín Cárdenas Cruz and Luis Alberto González Gutiérrez and for reparations agains the damaged caused to the youths and their families.

The first night that Mayra and Rogelio spent together, after his freedom, they talked without stopping, trying to bring each other up to date. “We didn’t come back from a holiday, Mayra, we returned damaged, bitter,” Rogelio said to her at one point, when the certainties of the “return to life” began bit by bit to fall into place.

Days later, in Mexico City, he would remember and reflect upon that scene: “We went three years and seven months inside and suddenly realized… Starting over again is going to be difficult, and I spoke to her a lot so that she can be patient with me.”

Mayra sits by his side. The wife who has been with him over the past eight years has to get used to the idea that her husband is now different from who he used to be.

“I see that he has changed. He has a different look. A lot of courage and insecurity, of sadness. In his eyes he is always on alert. Before, he used to look normal. I don’t know how to explain it… it’s also in the way he walk, as if he’s being watched, always turning back, surprised that a guard isn’t following him.”

The results from the Istanbul Protocol reflect how the torture has marked them: insomnia, nightmares, frightened of going out, of being alone, of closing their eyes, unexpectedly reliving the torture, of wanting to be dead, lack of appetite, migraines.

Mayra knows what the psychologists have told him: these are normal feelings coming from an abnormal situation. “We need to talk a lot. He was a prisoner there, but out here a lot of things have happened. I want to understand, to know how to get close to him again,” Mayra says.

“What do you want to know? How they tortured me? What it’s like to be lock…” he replies.

Rogelio worked in a Soriana warehouse before his arrest. He leaves sentences unfinished. That’s how he came out: he doesn’t speak very much, or he interrupts himself. For the press conference the youths agreed that he would speak for his friends. Once again, TV cameras were pointed at him, but now they want to hear the truth. He couldn’t talk.

One aim of torture is to extract words. The youths had words taken from them when they were fored to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. And they had words taken from them again when, in front of the cameras, they couldn’t talk about the torture. Now free, words seem to be beyond them. Words stuck in their stomachs, in their throats, in their mouths. It’s like the words want to come out but they drown in teary eyes that, it seems, don’t belong to them.

Back to Life

It was 1430 on the afternoon of Friday 7 March when Rogelio and Noé left prison in Tepic, Nayarit State. Meanwhile, in the south of the country, Gustavo, Víctor and Ricardo left the prison in Perote, Veracruz. Hours later, for the first time since their arrest, the five would reunite in Mexico City. They were never allowed to communicate.

“We didn’t recognize each other. Noé and Gustavo were really skinny,” Víctor jokes, the youngest. When they put him in prison he was 19 years old and he was about to become a father. His son was born two weeks after he went to prison and he only met him last year when his lawyers managed to obtain permission to visit the maximum-security prison. That time they saw him through glass. They couldn’t touch.

“The first time that he said “daddy”…” he says, and his face lights up.

Rogelio also became a father again when he was a prisoner. Prior to that he had a four year-old son and his wife Mayra was about to give birth to a girl. When he regained his freedom on Friday, the first thing that he did was to run to embrace her. The girl was unsettled and began to cry. She didn’t know who he was. As the days went by, she has been getting used to his arms, to his smiles.

“What’s it like to be free again? It’s like being born. There’s no way to describe it,” and a smile appears on Rogelio’s face.

To be re-born, that’s what freedom is for them. Rogelio, Gustavo, Víctor, Noé and Ricardo know they have been broken, but the torture made them discover something about themselves they did not know.

“I always thought I was a strong person but this has told me that ‘I’m great’.” It’s let me know that I can pick myself up,” Gustavo exclaims.

“I have matured a lot. I realize that I am a person who can behave like a father, like a man,” Víctor adds.

Family is their bulwark, what sustains them. They want to regain lost time, to find a job, to build a business, to show themselves and others that they can keep on going.

“The greatest payback for what they did to me is to take the life they stole from me and show them that I can go on. I want to move on and leave everything behind,” says Rogelio, summing up how he and his friends feel.

They are hungry to get back each of the 1,305 days they spent in prison. Their families know that’s a tall order, to carry all that on their shoulders. To pick up the pieces and to get back to full strength is going to be a slow, painful process.

Mayra, Rogelio’s wife, can feel it already.

“I tell him that the most important thing is that he believes it, and that he is back with us and that we are going to move forward.”

Journalist Daniela Rea reports for newspaper El Universal. Follow her on Twitter @danielarea. This article first appeared in Spanish with the title, “No sabía que un ser humano podía aguantar tanto dolor,” available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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“If the Government Wants War, then War it Shall Have”: Mireles (Francisco Castellanos J., PROCESO)

This article was first published in Proceso on 15 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

“If the government wants war, then war it shall have”: Mireles
by Francisco Castellanos J. (PROCESO)

TEPALCATEPEC, Mich., (apro). – José Manuel Mireles Valverde, member of the Michoacán Self-Defense Council (known in Spanish by its acronym, CAM) accused Enrique Peña Nieto’s government of betraying them and censoring the media that is telling the truth about a social movement that has now lasted for longer than one year.

Interviewed in Tepalcatepec, the community leader confirmed that the Council is troubled by the arrest of Hipólito Mora Chávez, a founder of the movement against organized crime. Mora Chávez was arrested after a meeting with Michoacán’s security chief, Commissioner Alfredo Castillo who was trying to calm the quarrel between Mora and Simón, “El Americano.”

According to Mireles, the arrest resulted from a trap because Mora was delivered to the Attorney General for his alleged responsibility in the murders of Rafael Sánchez Moreno, “El Pollo,” and José Luis Torres Castañeda, “El Niño,” both executed and incinerated on 8 March.

The CAM met this past weekend in La Ganadera, where the self-defense forces expressed their annoyance with the federal government. In a press release, Mireles Valverde accused Enrique Peña Nieto’s government of “betrayal.”

“If the government wants a war, then a war it will have. It betrayed us. They met with us saying that we were allies: three days before [his arrest] Hipólito sat down with Commissioner Alfredo Castillo as “friends” and Mora Chávez demanded agreements. And how did the damned government respond?”

“The government jailed Hipólito and wants to arrest the other leaders. And it’s destroying the image of our self-defense forces by paying the media for unfounded stories, saying we are criminals. That’s a lie. Nobody messes with Michoacán, not even the damned government,” he maintained.

Mireles said that Carmen Aristegui’s program is proof of the government’s censorship because she frequently interviews CAM leaders but that the show is not broadcase in Michoacán.

“When I was recovering in Mexico [Mireles was injured in a plane crash in January] they did not let me speak to Paco Castellanos or any other reporter from Proceso. Mexico’s national security agency, CISEN, confiscated my telephones and they were very bothered by Proceso’s ongoing coverage of the self-defense movement, enemy number one of Peña Nieto’s government.”

Mireles revealed that he was told, “It’s strictly forbidden for you to speak with those bastards. So, they took my cell phones from me. That’s why I never answered the phone when people were asking me to give my usual interviews.”

He also emphatically maintains that the government, “with the national press’s support sold themselves out, and began to undermine the self-defense forces by low blows: alleging its leaders had criminal histories, never providing proof, only hearsay.”

He added that the government “manipulates” things, beginning a series of telephone surveys “designed to damage” the self-defense forces’ prestige.

“They are a bunch of narco politicians and they rule us. Can nobody really say anything about them?”

“The great heroes who gave us this country really weren’t the best people. So the government fears that Mexico will wake up. But with social networks it’s impossible for the government to take us for a ride,” Mireles said.

“The surveys put the safety of Michoacanos at risk since they ask people for opinions about the self-defense forces. The questions always look to damage the movement. It would be better for people to hang up the phone. Nobody should take this sort of call. They are ringing from telephone numbers in Mexico City that begin with 55,” Mireles said.

According to the leader of the self-defense forces, they are conducting surveys with “rigged data” in cities such as Uruapan, Morelia, Los Reyes, Zamora, Zacápu, Zitácuaro, Pátzcuaro, Lázaro Cárdenas, Los Reyes [sic.] Múgica and others.

This Monday, during an interview on Carmen Aristegui’s show Mesa de Análisis with Lorenzo Meyer and Sergio Aguayo, the self-defense force leader from Tepalcatepec also accused the government of trying to eliminate them in spite of the fact that the self-defense forces are “carrying out their job of cleaning the state.”

Mireles also insisted that the self-defence forces have not broken with the government. He emphasized that the authorities have not lived up to the original agreements with the self-defense forces’ general council and it does not trust them because whenever they talk with the press, there are repercussions.

By way of an example of these repercussions, Mireles labeled the agreements signed between the government and the self-defense fores as “pure theater.” After Mireles gave an interview to newspaper El País and to Carmen Aristegui, authorities withdrew federal bodyguards who had been protecting his son.

Journalist Francisco Castellanos J. reports from Michoacán for Proceso, Mexico’s weekly news magazine. This article first appeared under the title, “‘Si el gobierno quiere guerra, guerra tendrá’: Mireles,” available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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“I never imagined that they would kill them this way…” (Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, El Diario de Juárez)

First published on 1 August 2009 by Diario de Juárez, Chihuahua, this article was translated by Molly Molloy and published on Frontera-List. It is no longer available in Spanish on the Diario website but the Spanish original follows the English translation.

This article by Sandra Rodriguez from August 2009 is melodramatic, but in some ways it is more real than others because no one asks why or implies any reason for the killings… they just sort of happened one after another and now the lady sees and talks to ghosts, her house is collapsing around her and she has no desire to go on living.  A microcosm of the death in the city. Molly Molloy.

“I never imagined that they would kill them this way…”
by Sandra Rodríguez Nieto (El Diario de Juárez)

Maria de Jesus Bilbao says that each night she talks with her son Israel, assassinated in March 2008 at age 18. She says that when she lies down at night, she feels his presence there at the foot of the bed, dressed in white. She asks him who it was then who hurt him so bad and Israel puts his index finger to his mouth and says he cannot tell her.

It is not the only ghost who walks around her house. She says that she also speaks with her other son, Pedro, dead at 27 after a policeman shot him, and with her grandson Arturo, 17, executed with 11 gunshots.

The woman lost five loved ones in all last year, still considered one of the worst in the history of Ciudad Juarez. Her grandson Ivan, 22 died shortly after the deaths of Pedro and Israel. He had a heart condition that became much worse since the time he had run out of the house to find that his uncle Pedro had been shot to death. He and Pedro had been raised together like brothers.  After that, her daughter-in-law, Marisela Perez Castillo, a policewoman, was also shot to death inside her patrol car while she was on the job.

“I don’t know what to think. Never could I have imagined that all of this would happen, that they would have killed all so many of my children. I ask my God what could I have done that so many terrible things have happened to me,” said Maria, 64.

Maria had 11 children. All of them grew up in Salvarcar, a colonia located in the southeast of Ciudad Juarez and settled on ground that only 20 years ago was an ejido.

Her house was the second one built in the zone and from there she could see the fileds of cotton and chile planted along the banks of the Rio Bravo. To the south, she says there were only hills of sand.

Among her most cherished memories are the summer nights when she would sleep outside on the patio with her children. These were other times she recalls. Today, as soon as it gets late in the afternoon everyone goes inside and locks the doors. In this area there are a lot of shootings. On the night of this interview, last July 21, the woman was waiting for the funeral of a young man of 31, shot to death that afternoon, who had lived only one block from her house.

She says that as soon as she heard the pistol shots, she went over to the victim’s house because she knew that her older son had just been walking over there and that he is still very affected because his son Arturo had been executed.

“Last year everything fell apart,” she said. But she adds that among all of the deaths, the one that hurts the most is Israel, her youngest child. “They left his face all disfigured, he had been beaten so bad. They had tied him around the neck and the blood had caused his head to burst. They tortured him so very much, he was beaten all over,” said Maria, sobbing.

Israel was killed on Good Friday. His mother had seen him for the last time two days before when he left the house with another friend who invited him to drink a few beers. As the hours passed and he didn’t come back, Maria sat by the door each night, waiting. She would hear him calling out to her, screaming. “Perhaps that was when they were torturing him,” she said.

“I could ‘hear’ him, and I was sitting there waiting for him, because I could not sleep until he had come back.”

Two days later she went to look for him in the hospitals and police stations and through the newspaper, she found out that in the Colonia Ampliacion Aeropuerto, they had found  an unidentified body. She went to the Medical Forensic Service (morgue) and found a body with the face completely destroyed. She identified him by the clothes and the tattoo that Israel had just gotten on his arm. As best she could, she managed to bury him in a little town in the Valle de Juarez where it is easier to get to than to any other cemetery in Ciudad Juarez.

Violent death returned only four months later when her oldest son lost his son, an adolescent of 17 who was assassinated while he worked on a vehicle in his father’s auto mechanics shop.

His name was Arturo. Maria remembers that she had found out that someone had called for her grandson to go outside and that is when they began to shoot. First he was hit in the leg and he managed to run out of the shop toward his house when they hit him again in the back and then in the shoulder and then in the head—11 shots in all.

Another son Pedro had been living with his wife and young son in Cananea, Sonora where he ran a rehabilitation center that he had attended when he was a drug addict. He had only returned to Ciudad Juarez for his nephew Arturo’s wake when he had a quarrel with his wife at her parents’ house, also here in the Salvarcar neighborhood. Maria says that the fight happened when Pedro went to look for his wife so that she could feed their baby and his wife decided to report him to the police.

What happened later was well-documented in the media. Because Pedro resisted arrest, the two agents tried to put him into the car by force. One of them grabbed him from behind and the other tried to grab his feet, but Pedro kicked him and the officer in front raised his shotgun and right there, in front of several family members and neighbors, shot him in the stomach.

Pedro died at the scene. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon. Someone ran to Maria’s house to tell her and found Ivan, 22 and sick with a heart condition. Maria said that Ivan was so disturbed that in that moment he began to complain of severe chest pains. During the long process over Pedro’s killing by the municipal police, Maria had to spend several days in the General Hospital, where Ivan was taken until his death, 15 days after the killing of his uncle Pedro.

Then came the killing of her daughter-in-law Marisela Perez, wife of her son Manuel who had died in an auto accident 20 years ago.

Marisela’s body was found inside of the police car in which she was patrolling in Colonia Morelos II in the southern part of the city. The newspaper report only indicated that she and her partner were attacked from a red car whose occupants had shot them with automatic rifle fire. The article added that on this day, October 2, 2008 two other police had been killed and that in counting up all of the dead for that day, the victims for the year now numbered 1,048.

Maria de Jesus has lost her will to live. The pain of so much loss aggravated her diabetes that he has had for 18 years and she now has a wound on her leg that will not heal. Her life and her house are literally crumbling. One of the walls in Israel’s room has a hole forming between some of the adobe bricks. When it rains she says, water comes in there, but she no longer cares. The whole house could wash away and she would not care.

Maria uses the little energy that she has left to burn candles on the altar that she made in Israel’s room, with photographs of all of her dead.

And often, she says, she takes the time to arrange all the clothes of her youngest son. “Just yesterday I took the clothes out to iron them a little and I washed and folded his underwear…I have all of his things in there. His pants had gotten wrinkled so I took them out and ironed them, his shirts, all of his things,” she said through her tears.

“God, what could I have done that these things have happened to me?”

Prize-winning Journalist Sandra Rodríguez Nieto is currently a Neiman Fellow at Harvard. Her first book, La fábrica del crímen, relates the story of impunity in Ciudad Juárez during the height of the city’s recent violence.

Translator Molly Molloy is the author, with Charles Bowden, of El Sicario: The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin. Follow Molloy’s Frontera-List on Twitter @Fronteralist.

‘Nunca imaginé que me los iban a matar así…’
Sandra Rodríguez Nieto (Diario de Juárez)

María de Jesús Bilbao dice que cada noche habla con su hijo Israel, asesinado en marzo de 2008 a los 18 años. Cuenta que cuando ella se acuesta, él se sienta a los pies de su cama, vestido de blanco. Ella le pregunta entonces quién le hizo tanto daño. Israel se lleva el dedo índice a la boca y le responde que no puede decírselo.

No es el único fantasma que deambula por su casa. Dice que también habla con su otro hijo, Pedro, muerto a los 27 años después de que un policía le dio un balazo, y con su nieto Arturo, de 17 años, ejecutado de once tiros.

La mujer perdió en total a cinco seres queridos el año pasado, considerado todavía como el más violento en la historia de Ciudad Juárez. A la muerte de Israel y de Pedro le siguió la de su nieto Iván, de 22 años, enfermo del corazón y agravado desde que tuvo que salir corriendo al saber que le habían disparado a su tío Pedro, con quien había crecido como hermano. Después murió su nuera, Marisela Pérez Castillo, una mujer policía asesinada también a tiros mientras se encontraba en el interior de su patrulla.

“Yo no sé ni qué pensar. Nunca me imaginé que fuera a pasar todo esto, que me fueran a matar a mis hijos. Le pregunto yo a mi Padre Dios qué habría hecho que me han pasado tantas cosas”, comenta María, de 64 años.

María tuvo once hijos. Todos crecieron en Salvárcar, una colonia ubicada al suroriente de Ciudad Juárez y asentada en lo que hace apenas 20 años era un ejido.

Su casa fue la segunda construida en la zona, y desde ahí se observaban las labores de algodón y de chile plantadas en la rivera del Río Bravo, mientras que al sur, dice, todo era loma y montones de arena.

Entre sus recuerdos más preciados están las noches de verano en las que se salía al patio a dormir con todos sus niños. Eran otros tiempos, recuerda. Ahora apenas cae la tarde y todos deben encerrarse. En el sector abundan las balaceras. La noche de la entrevista, el pasado jueves 21 de julio, la mujer esperaba el funeral de un joven de 31 años asesinado a balazos ese mediodía a una cuadra de su vivienda.

Dice que, en cuanto escuchó las detonaciones de un arma corta, se acercó a la casa de la víctima porque sabía que hacia allá acababa de caminar su hijo mayor, que también está muy afectado desde que ejecutaron a su hijo Arturo.

“El año pasado se descompuso todo”, comenta la mujer. Pero de entre todos sus muertos, agrega, el que más le puede es Israel, el más chico. “Me lo dejaron todo desfigurado de la cara; lo picotearon, lo amarraron del cuello y eso mismo lo reventó y le explotó por dentro la cabeza. Me lo martirizaron mucho, lo mataron a puros golpes”, dice la mujer llorando.

Israel fue asesinado un Viernes Santo. Su madre lo vio por última vez dos días antes, cuando el joven salió de su casa con otro amigo que lo invitó a tomar unas cervezas.

Al pasar las horas sin que él regresara, María pasó las dos noches sentada a la puerta de su casa, esperando. En eso, dice, escuchó que la llamaba a gritos. “Era tal vez cuando lo estaban torturando”, exclama.

“Yo lo ‘oyía’; aquí sentada estaba esperándolo, porque no me podía dormir hasta que regresara”.

Dos días después de que lo buscó en hospitales y en las estaciones de Policía, por el periódico supo que en la colonia Ampliación Aeropuerto habían encontrado tirado un cuerpo no identificado.

Fue al Servicio Médico Forense y encontró un cadáver con el rostro completamente destrozado. Lo identificó por la ropa y el tatuaje que Israel acaba de hacerse en un brazo.

Como pudo consiguió para enterrarlo en un poblado del Valle, a donde le es más fácil llegar que a cualquier otro de Ciudad Juárez.

La muerte violenta regresó apenas cuatro meses después, cuando su hijo mayor perdió a su vez un hijo, un adolescente de 17 años que fue asesinado mientras trabajaba en un vehículo en el taller mecánico de su padre.

Se llamaba Arturo. María recuerda haberse enterado de que alguien le habló a su nieto para que saliera y en eso le empezaron a tirar. Le dieron primero en una pierna, con la que el joven alcanzó a correr del taller a su casa hasta que le dieron en la espalda, luego en un hombro, después en la cabeza. Once disparos en total.

Pedro vivía con su esposa y su pequeño hijo en Cananea, Sonora, donde dirigía un centro de rehabilitación al que había llegado como adicto. Volvió a Ciudad Juárez sólo para el al velorio de su sobrino Arturo cuando tuvo un problema con su esposa en la casa de los padres de ésta, también en Salvárcar. María dice que la riña fue porque Pedro fue a buscar a su esposa para que alimentara al bebé de ambos, cuando la mujer decidió hablarle a la Policía.

Lo que ocurrió después fue ampliamente documentado por los medios: debido a que Pedro se resistió al arresto, los dos agentes trataron de subirlo a la unidad por la fuerza. Uno de ellos lo tomó por la espalda y otro trató de sujetarlo por los pies, pero Pedro pataleó y el oficial que tenía enfrente levantó la escopeta y ahí, delante de varios miembros de la familia y otros vecinos, le disparó en el estómago.

Pedro murió ahí mismo. Eran alrededor de las cuatro de la tarde. Alguien corrió a casa de María para avisarle y encontraron a Iván, de 22 años y enfermo del corazón. La impresión fue tanta, dice María, que desde ese momento el joven empezó a quejarse de un fuerte dolor en el pecho.

En medio de los trámites por la ejecución de Pedro a manos de un policía municipal, María tuvo que pasar además varios días en el Hospital General, donde Iván estuvo internado hasta que murió, unos 15 días después que su tío Pedro.

Luego mataron a su nuera Marisela Pérez, esposa de su hijo Manuel –fallecido en un accidente automovilístico hace 20 años.

El cuerpo de la mujer quedó dentro de una unidad en la que patrullaban la colonia Morelos II, al sur de la ciudad. El reporte periodístico sólo indicó que ella y su compañero fueron atacados desde un vehículo color rojo cuyos tripulantes les dispararon con ráfagas de metralleta. La nota agregó que ese día, dos de octubre, habían matado a otros dos policías y que entre todos los muertos cerraban la cuenta con las víctimas de ejecución número mil 48 del año.

A María de Jesús ya no le quedan ganas de vivir. El dolor de tanta pérdida agravó también su diabetes de 18 años. Supura por una herida en la pierna. La vida y literalmente la casa se le están viniendo abajo.

Por una de las paredes de la recámara de Israel empezó a ser visible el hueco formado entre los ladrillos de adobe. Cuando llueve, dice, por ahí entra el agua, pero ya no le importa. Puede ser incluso que le quiten la casa.

Las pocas energías que le quedan las utiliza en colocar veladoras para el altar que hizo en la recámara de Israel con las fotografías de todos sus muertos.

Y muy seguido, dice, se pone a arreglar la ropa de su hijo menor. “Nada menos que ayer la saqué para darle una planchadita, y así, le lavo y le doblo sus garritas, ahí tengo todo lo de él. Sus pantalones, se me hicieron arrugados, los saqué y me puse a plancharlos, sus camisetas, todo lo de él”, dice la mujer entre llanto.

“Dios qué habría hecho que me han pasado estas cosas”

Imagine the Coast from Spain (Anon, MISSION STREET ARTS)

Mission Street Arts, in collaboration with the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), presents a long-form poem of Spanish New Mexico by Anon.

Sometimes translations do not only work from language to language, but from one time to another time. The historian is a translator, so, too, the poet. Translations convey movement, of turning experience into lively text. In Anon’s long form poem, the poet transliterates the Spanish people and the language of colonial southwest North America, enabling the reader to embrace long passed visions, now made accessible, now rendered translatable. PT

by Anon

Imagine the coast from Spain
walking across gods know what
to get to El Morro in the territories,
imagine the diet,
coming from the Mediterranean
where everyone wakes wondering
what they can put into their mouths
that day.
And now the wind blows sand into your teeth,
the weather will get in
the sunlight turns off
and the blue stays,
trickle of water and slime on rocks,
off shining teeth, off bright eyes. Hands and feet.
What heart? Come out from Spain,
without knowing what you are in for.
Who could? who knows of the others who they were
hard handed, and among the three of us,
lettered. an artist.
Ortega might have done anything,
but he wouldn’t turn himself to it.
Tomás? He was a servant
and meant to be.
Arrellano? the artist,
sculpt something to last
through time,
of course I knew
about the edge of time and prayer.
why else would I have been off here
where these sights were?
my father was one before me
without the moisture of the mid-earth sea,
light reflects off rocks, What come to read but sculpted rock,
wind scribbed grass drawing on sand, eclipse of day and night and man.

Scoured the wind
shaped rock,
arms on it,
delving through the body,
stone-shapes writing,
What then men
worn, abraded
weathered into
twisted shapes inside,
through the middle.
Long it was nights
sure as wind’s turn
this substutio
last long.

Water dripped and the rock had the feel of personage
not lost in the not time
of these savages,
hoped here where passersby
had carved their names,
hoping, if someone were to come
they’d come here
him? his name would be
here. Such script
(what would you be remembered
by?) Felipe by his script.

Rough as he was,
what he had seen out here,
trickle of water, you could
stay alive then
They squatted right on the top of it
Built walls among the trickles
and that settled it
And the water was none
the worse for it
so we settled too
taking over with their metal
those swords, such shining
there were just the three of them

Steady as you could go,
three of them, a triangle
Ortega topping the girl
what wasn’t the same story
and then there was no place for…
But with the three corners,
someone had to sleep,
stand up anything if you
leant it upon triangles
someone had to sleep,
Ortega thought he could trust
that maiden (maiden)
may the virgin take me
under her wing

Nestle me against her bird feathered
side, conmfort me with pinions,
with smell of burning feathers,
with the three of them
someone could be at your back
this way, drawn up,
hoisting the ladder up,
taking one of the women up too
what had they to use
against them
with the three?
Mary. Father, Son.
Virgen de Guadalupe
comfort me with your cloak
scoop me in your skirt of roses

That too was the way of suffering
And there wasn’t in it
for Chuy, the one hung up,
Virgin, hear me when I speak; your voice
against the wind
which sculpts these strange shapes.
The boy and I, the two of us,
there is no where for us to go
and no chance of getting there
he would let me make the decisions
Decisions? What does the stone say
to the wind from the hollows.

Belly ache
astringent roots, smoke under the skins
where the child roared like a bad wind
twist of blue in the corner of your eye
where was the red of roses
velvets of the internal crown
so soft you could taste it,
round as the curve of the earth
final as the movement of a knife
once the powder was fouled
which woman, was it spilled?
had it been contaminated?
At the ladder pulled up
that close to the sounds
Ortega below on the woman
voice her women’s voice angry.

I saved the eye of a boy
and he was mine, crippled but sighted
moon faced like flower petals
he it was who knew the roots,
he was but a child
sleeping there in the skins,
during the day he helped his sister
Virgin where is the blood of your roses?
where is the trickle
from the cleft which feeds
which lead the track
across the sand to turn
against these rocks
where the water pools
Nino afloat in the sea of velvet
Virgin mother, fold coat
with your petaled eyes.

The boys eyes are not the same
after the cleaning with sulfur
but he sees now
and is mine
He is not of these people
the Manahoj. traded to them
crippled for their crops
good-luck these bulging lumps
those ball joints
that cough
when wind silts us in.
But we dig out the spring
from the sand screen skins
against it
for what will it do but run away
and even now we cannot remain here
these people only against the water
this season
and now at a distance
strong parties seen far off
camping at a distance
but untrustworthy after dark.

Better to rest far off
and not contest
but who might pass?
word would come long before
it is months of travel terror
not one would live
through travel in the country
of these people

Harder than Cataluña
where water rode the wind
where light had promise in it
and wind brought seasons and weather.
Food and the sun, the days passed,
one desperation to another
for some smoke
from one of them
what is in that plant?
Is this the same root
when the fever raged
and the feathers
and the sweat took the demons away
the moon waves blue
and her roses tumble
petals and lips, birth blessing,
hard dark, sudden in choke-throat?
Virgin draw to this water
word of some other
chance one can stop looking back
the way toward home
Tomás wouldn’t mind
he keeps his warm,
Ortega exposed out side to it,
those berries look slightly different,
perhaps it is the season,
the long storage,
the leather bag is no longer
in the rafters
someone knows
Virgin may I die without sin,
forgive me mother my sins,
and praise my god I could
be in at the crushing of these demons,
I could be in at, I, the night was long
and other than bones broken
life was fear, three of them
might have made it,
too simple, two, no one sleeping,
no one gets the rest,
turn your back to the wind, put your back against it,
lean safely only against thick brick,
fire could start below you
Virgin keep these dreams

Leave you here,
order you to stay,
will not allow you to come home,
outpost, deserted, forgotten,
assigned to a foreign post,
adventurer, administrator,
may as well make the worst of it out here,
After the thing that night
life at home, no such thing,
a hell. he’d cut that possibility.
Left then. how we are to make it.
Three against the Demons,
some of them are beautiful, the girl of Tomás is smooth, Ortega didn’t wait
for one of them to come to him.

I was in command. Three of us,
back against the world
the ones who knew they would would
Virgin of my prayers
envelope me in your radiance,
Entrenched among the people
encamped, in command.
Four thousand demons,
white faces lost in the numbers,
not so white anymore.
Weight. Iron, steel,
three so one can sleep,
so one can walk and one can stray,
Naweisuna had me,
son of my great king, great chief
beyond the waters,
beyond the waters, indeed,
where were these far off peoples,
some left-over hell,
some other place, some other time.
Naweisuna had me in his brother’s house,
the other two slept below,
I sat in the sun window,
my room a prince’s view,
the sun warm and the food plentiful.

Ortega’s eyes went on their own
restlessly, not sly, searching,
as if he smelled something,
he couldn’t get off his intensity,
his heart led him where demons rule,
Virgin hear my voice as one of yours
Ortega couldn’t keep his eyes,
the daughter had a chosen,
these people have old ways
the window of the sun,
they watched the sun of the scene
like a calendar,
his carved on a stick,
a totem to him now
Virgin please forgive me,

Ortega hadn’t made it to three hundred,
winter and we being inside,
something maybe got his brain,
it may have been the root
in the tea,
the boy will make up a fire
and get water.

It was winter before three-hundred
And Ortega pressed on the daughter,
squashed her and ploughed her,
as he said, exulting, winded.
You could hear the voices.
The boy and I came away
at the demand of Neiwansuma,
we had seen them with the knives,
cleaning the flesh from the bones,
protein wasn’t for throwing away,
rattled her. slammed her. wasted her by the well,
Ortega wouldn’t have one of the others
who come in the dark, who climb the ladder
the breath close beside you,
who climb the ladder silently,
who know about the rafters,
too late now even after Ortega.

Child of me and all Christians
come to me in your help,
lift me into your heavens,
Suspend me above this scene
and make me see.
Virgen, mother of the Niño,
born both of you into miracle
you with your blanket of sorrows
the child rising from the light,
rotten these screaming urchins,
thieving, rock-throwing, noisy.
Ortega cornered into the rocks
in the first notches, not a month into it,
he could throw rocks too, he said,
once he got started you could hear their noises,
Many were listening,
and their eyes filled with hate
but none of them threw stones.

Ortega worked a flute
of one of the reeds
his call curled among the rock faces,
sometimes he found the tune in it
and all the sounds and feels and smells
of home come rushing,
and I could hate Ortega those times,
no sense looking across the sea,
what family doesn’t have its troubles?
how could he oppose his brother Carlos?
the new world! but what stretch?
this world was old as greed
and lust and anger and hate and envy.
the people knew them
as well as we Christians,
but still they didn’t mean anything
in the eye of God,
Virgin thanks you for the blessing
of the life which you have given me,
I can do nothing,
Niño and mother hear from this waste
your voice rise in prayer.

He sang the evening before the girl,
played the flute all day before sucked a stem
the women had given him,
stared off with them
from the stone towers,
led in underground,
showed the chamber of initiates,
traced with this finger
the mark on the wall,
the chamber ran N/S,
the smoke had a particular scent,
it weighed heavy in the limbs,
drew the shoulders down,
the face they could see he saw,
they let him.
Ortega would flute over it,
make it a song,
and they wouldn’t.

These people perform a sort of chant,
old voices, women’s voices, men’s offices
off the rocks
wall faces and rock faces, faces of the sun,
faces of the wind,
blast any rose that wind,
waste any flower that sun,
wither any blossom that breath,
Ortega lost… I left, Tomás with me,
the boy pointed us to another point on the compass,
along the angle toward the valleys far to the south,
we are come that way now.
That day as the two of us
climbed the rock face opposite
Ortega shouted for a time,
his voice changed later and the voices
changed, and we couldn’t climb fast enough
to get out of the sound
Women’s voice made your flesh crawl.
Tomás and I shivered under the stars,
it was the wrong time for it,
they could use his hide,
Ortega knew about the knife on the bone.

So we came here, to an outpost,
smoky with the villages
over the broad valley where the river
exhausts itself into this neverland,
trickle of water, mosses and coolness,
birds among the ferns
laughter, bathing,
talk of the day
of the new child, husband,
Rabbit skin was superior, supple but soft,
easier to work with.

My day stick was somewhere before 300
When we left the cave villages and brick towns
for this time in the waste,
scant light shining on this lost land,
carvings of the Virgin
occupy my hands,
Juan Agostini grinds with stone
and scrapes with flint,
would that he would come among these people
(Can you know this? In spirit, but you need to check the fact.
The second day one we knew from the village
overtook us by the fourth old of mountains on the low trail,
he could keep us from being killed.
He carried of Ortega, a book. IbnArabi.
Tomás couldn’t read
though god knows he would have saved it,
it’s among the things the boy
I see him sometimes opening the leaves
as he has seen me do,
and as he must have seen Ortega do,
though I knew nothing of it,
or what his name might really be.

Mission Street Arts is an open arts collective in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.

The Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP) supports new voices that break borders.

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Tales of Torture and Impunity in Ciudad Juárez: Judge Orders Five Accused in 2010 Car Bombing Must Be Freed (Reporting Staff, El Diario de Juárez)

This article was first published in El Diario de Juárez on Tuesday 11 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Tales of Torture and Impunity in Ciudad Juárez: Judge Orders Five Accused in 2010 Car Bombing Must Be Freed
By Staff (El Diario de Juárez)

– Their Torture Documented, Human Rights Attorney Demands Reparation for Five Victims of Official Abuse; Spent more than 3 years in jail, charges now dropped

Mexico’s Federal Attorney General has withdrawn charges against five men who were detained for involvement in the detonation of a car bomb in 2010 in Ciudad Juárez.

Noé Fuentes Chavira, Rogelio Amaya Martínez, Víctor Manuel Martínez Rentería, Gustavo Martínez Rentería and Ricardo Fernández Lomelí were released last Friday after three and a half years in prison, according to attorney Diana Morales of the Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte.

Morales added that the five proved positive under the Istanbul Protocol, a manual designed to determine if a person was subjected to torture or degrading treatment.

Journalist reports establish that on being detained, they were accused of organized crime, crimes against health for marijuana possession, and of carrying arms for exclusive use by the Armed Forces. At the time, the Federal Ministry of Public Security (SSPF), headed by Genaro García Luna reported that Fuentes Chavira revealed that he had participated in the attack against the Federal Police on 15 July 2010 as an informer of La Línea. He was placed in preventive detention in the Federal Investigation Center while they investigated the evidence against him.

Morales explained that the people detained on 11 August 2010 were accused of federal crimes but not terrorism. That is to say, not for detonating the car bomb on Avenida 16 de Septiembre that caused the death of Doctor José Guillermo Ortiz Collazo, Federal Agent Ismael Valverde Solares and civilian César Gabiño Aviña, along with injuring 11 other people, among them six Federal Police agents and a camera operator for television station Canal 5. A judge in Guadalajara ordered the five be restored to freedom after receiving indication that they no longer stood accused of criminal charges.

“The Attorney General withdrew charges because we sat down to dialogue with them, letting them know that there were only two pieces of evidence against the accused: the confessions taken under torture and the words of the federal agents. When we applied the Protocol of Istanbul to these youths, one could see that their testimony was extracted under torture and yielded a document that demonstrated the officers were lying. They said the youths were detained on 12 August, but really the arrests occurred on 11 August. A document exists that proves this fact,” said the attorney.

That proof is a notice issued by the Federal Police to the agency’s juridical arm in Mexico City, stating that five people were detained on 11 August. That date was changed in the record to an arrest date of 12 August, Morales explained. During that 24 hour period the five were subjected to torture.

The attorney for the accused said that the Attorney General only had proof from the same agents that detained them, and the five youth’s confession “extracted under torture.”

“They accused them of organize crime, guns, and drugs, but they couldn’t prove any relation to the car bomb,” confirmed Morales.

The defense requested application of the Istanbul Protocol to prove torture, thereafter corroborated by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), which prompted the Attorney General to issue is recommendation number 75/2011.

After that point, the attorney said that in a meeting Mexico’s current Attorney General, Jesús Murillo Karam promised to apply other tests under the Istanbul Protocol, and if at least one test came back positive then they would all go free. All five tested positive.

“The Attorney General kept his word. He is saying that these people had nothing to do with organized crime, or with drugs, and the accusations were baseless. This means that there were no charges to pursue against them,” Morales confirmed.

She added that the Attorney General arrived at these conclusions last Thursday, and the judge freed them on Friday. The same day the five left their respective prisons.

The CDHPN spokesperson, Carlos Murillo, said that after being freed, the five met in Mexico City where they gave a press conference. Tomorrow, Wednesday, they will arrive in Juárez accompanied by their families.

The human rights attorney added that the Federal Police also abused their right to due process because it took two and a half days to deliver them to the Federal Public Prosecutor.

More than one year ago, the now-freed prisoners filed a complaint with the Federal Public Prosecutor documenting their torture. The CDHPN hopes that the federal agents who committed these crimes will be punished.

“We expect them to punish those agents. The Attorney General seems to be acting in good faith. Not only did he recognize the abuse suffered by the youths for something they did not do, but he also has the will and the obligation. Torture is a crime and the Attorney General must continue his investigation,” he added.

The people who are still under investigation for crimes of terrorism, homicide, attempted homicide, and the use of a stolen vehicle in connection with the car bombing occurring on the border in 2010 are listed in penal process 218/2012 at the Mesa I of the Sixth District Court: José Iván Contreras Lumbreras, “El Keiko”; Jaime Arturo Chávez González, “El Jimmy”; Mauro Adrián Villegas, “El Blaky” or “El Negro”; Fernando Contreras Meras, “El Barbas”; Martín Pérez Marrufo, “El Popeye” or “El Gordo”; Lorenzo Tadeo Palacios, “El Shorty” or “Shorty Dog”; Jorge Antonio Hernández, “El Chapo” or “El Chapito.”

José Antonio Acosta Hernández, alias Carlos Martínez Pérez, “El Diego” or “El Uno” or “El 10” is also listed in the criminal complaint but he will not go to trial as he is imprisoned in the United States.

Leticia Chavarría, member of the Security Committee, and friend of one of the victims who died in the explosion, said that it is important that five of the accused in this case have been freed.

“There was insufficient proof to declare them guilty, and that is very serious,” she said.

She added that if these people are innocent, and they were wrongly imprisoned, then the justice system is failing.

“For us, the most important thing is to see justice served. If they are innocent, where are the people who are really responsible,” she asked.

The CDHPN requested the Justice Department (PGR) continue its investigations so that those responsible for the crime of torture against the five wrongly accused can be punished.

Also, the Federal Police should continue to comply with the CNDH’s recommendation 75/2012 and provide integral reparation to the victims.

To guarantee non-repetition, the Mexican state must instruct its police forces and investigative units not to torture and mistreat detainees, as established by Mexico’s Constitution and the relevant international treaties.

It must also eliminate preventive detention. At the instant that somebody alleges being victim to torture, they must immediately see the Public Prosecutor, with any confession then voided. The independent experts that apply the Protocol of Istanbul must be accepted and recognised.

After the car bomb attack on 15 July 2010 – unprecedented for the border – the Federal Public Security Ministry released a communique indicating the attack was in reprisal for the arrest of Jesús Armando Acosta Guerrero, “El 35,” the leader of La Línea, a local criminal gang. “El 35” was a subordinate of Jose Antonio Acosta Hernández, “El Diego” who was second in command in La Línea and under the direct control of Juan Pablo Ledezma, “El JL,” a lieutenant of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.

The attack occurred when Federal Police agents arrived at the intersection of 16 de Septiembre and Bolivia in response to an attack on a municipal officer. First-aid responders also arrived on the scene, as did different media outlets.

A doctor from a nearby surgery, José Guillermo Ortiz Collazo, was already on the scene attending to the supposedly injured municipal police officer. As they arrived at the location, federal officers reported that a vehicle had been tailing them for blocks, so they requested backup.

At the scene, the three squad cars slewed as did a recent model green Ford Focus with license plate 853 SHF6. Two men suddenly stepped from the car, prompting the police officers to open fire.

After the shots, there was an explosion. According to the report provided by sources within Chihuahua’s Coordinated Operation, a fragmentation grenade was activated intentionally to end the lives of the police officers.

The explosion could be heard from kilometers away. Flames from the car bomb and the squad cars could be seen across the city.

Windows of houses, car windshields, sidewalk concrete, and asphalt, as well as metal from the car bomb were strewn for meters around the blast site.

The case attracted U.S. investigators with expertise in terrorist acts collaborated with Mexican authorities in the investigation of the car bomb. (Staff/El Diario)

Case Highlights

•A car bomb exploded on 15 July 2010, at the intersection of 16 de Septiembre and Bolivia, Ciudad Juárez. The bombers used terrorist tactics.

• Dead in the blast: Doctor José Guillermo Ortiz Collazo, Federal Agent Ismael Valverde Solares and civilian César Gabiño Aviña.

• Six federal police officers and a television camera operator were injured in the blast.

• U.S. anti-terrorist experts collaborated with Mexican authorities in the investigation.

• According to the Federal Public Security Ministry, the attack was in reprisal for the arrest of the commander of La Línea, Jesús Armando Acosta Guerrero, a subordinate of “El Diego,” second in command of the group under the direct control of Juan Pablo Ledezma, “El JL”, lieutenant of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.

This article was reported in Spanish by Reporting Staff at the newspaper El Diario de Juárez, in Chihuahua, Mexico. El Diario is a daily newspaper known for hard-hitting coverage, and its journalists are always at risk. The article appeared under the title, “Libres, implicados en bombazo aquí,” available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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