Monthly Archives: April 2014

Ciudad Juárez’s Perverse Development: Knowledge City — Between Scholarly Pursuits and Private Interests (Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

From the Center of Ciudad Juárez to UACJ's CIudad Universitaria. (Courtesy Google Maps)

From the Center of Ciudad Juárez to UACJ’s CIudad Universitaria. (Courtesy Google Maps)

This article was first published in El Diario de Juárez on 11 October 2011. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). There is no web accessible version of this article.

Translator’s Note: The translation of this article is dedicated to the memory of Regina Martínez Pérez, fearless Proceso reporter based in Xalapa, Veracruz, and documenter of public malfeasance, murdered on 28 April 2012. Her murder continues unpunished and is an ongoing source of embarrassment for authorities in the State of Veracruz, Mexico. PT

Ciudad Juárez’s Perverse Development: Knowledge City — Between Scholarly Pursuits and Private Interests
By Sandra Rodríguez Nieto (EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

Even though his classes begin at 0800, David Valles, 19, and a resident of Colonia Monumental, has to get up before 0600 so that he can take the Indiobús at 0640 from the Zona Centro. From there it takes him more than an hour to arrive at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez’s (UACJ) new southeast campus, 16kms from the southern limits of the border city.

Cristina Durón, 18, lives in Colonia Toribio Ortega, in the city’s southwest, and she also has to wake up around 0500 so that she can take a bus to the Centro Histórico. From there, she takes a bus that takes her to Avenida Tecnólogico and from there she jumps on another bus that takes an hour to get to the new buildings, located in what’s also known as “the City of Knowledge.”

According to UACJ administrators, the distance these students have to travel to the Ciudad Universitaria is a cost. But it’s also the only way the institution has to increase participation, minimize its educational shortfall, and increase enrolment rates from 28 to 55 percent of applicants.

For urban development experts, however, the UACJ’s location in that zone, bordering on private lands, is more a product of obeying the expansionist whims of politicians and realtors bent on Ciudad Juárez’s urban growth.

“The logic of expansionism and growth towards that zone explain its location in that zone. Its construction fails to consider costs related to infrastructure, equipment, commuting and security. The city cannot satisfy those needs,” said Pedro Cital, architect, private consultant in urban development and former deputy director of the city’s research and planning institution (IMIP).

According to Cital, one example of Knowledge City’s real-estate value is the stretch of highway to the new campus. Instead of building a 5km link to the existing Panamerican Highway, they built a new highway to the southeast, right beside land owned by private real estate developers.

“To build in this area, yes I think other interests were taken into consideration. The closest freeway connection for the University would be the Panamerican Highway, and the most logical route would be to open a street from there to the UACJ’s land. But that’s not what they did. Instead, they built a road from the southeast towards the university. So, it was built to power growth, bringing services and infrastructure that would make that area more viable for development,” Cital explains. For years he has questioned the expansionist model epitomized by Juárez’s development.

The new campus houses 2,500 UACJ students and 550 students from the Technological Institute of Ciudad Juárez (ITCJ).

According to José Antonio Lozoya, general coordinator of the UACJ’s new campus, the students must commute a total of sixteen kilometers to reach the campus.

Desert dominates that region’s landscape, where the opening of the Electrolux plant in 2005 accelerated urbanization. It’s interspersed by industrial parks, separated by deserted lots that, in the majority, remain empty and vandalized.

Around Fundadores Boulevard, almost total desolation exists, save for a few almost entirely vacant housing complexes.

The UACJ and the ITCJ provide free transport to students from various parts of the city. But Abigail García, IMIP’s planning coordinator, said that commuting times must be avoided, and should have been taken into consideration in the urban planning process.

“The students are the ones paying the price – because of the distance. We are trying to generate less commuting, so the people don’t spend so much time traveling. Look, they are young people, so they have to bear it. But it’s a high price to pay, and they have to be there all the day, in a place where there’s only the university,” García said.

Manuel Loera de la Rosa, director of Planning and Institutional Development at the UACJ said that the three hundred hectares owned by the University is just the first phase of the Ciudad Universitaria (CU) and that it was the only option to house an ambitious project to boost the enrollment numbers that Juárez requires.

He added that no other place turned out to be as cheap as that area, donated to the UACJ in 2001 by Chihuahua’s state government.

“Universities always have costs to bear. At the CU the great benefit is being able to offer education spaces in a timely fashion, opportunities that would not have emerged any other way,” Loera insisted in an interview.

‘Pressure, Juárez’s History’

UACJ’s location — as well as that of the ITCJ and other educational institutions in Knowledge City – is part of the San Isidro-Zaragoza development plan, totaling about 4,367 hectares. Promoted by the state government, the plan was approved by the Ciudad Juárez Council in 2007, during the first period in office of Mayor Héctor Murguía.

That year, 2007, also saw approval of the Eastern Development Plan (PPO XXI-II), broadening the city’s population distribution. The PPO XXI-II permitted urbanization and construction of residential areas seventeen kilometers from what were then the city’s limits.

These two development plans added to another three plans that had been approved since 2004: El Barreal and San Jerónimo in Juárez’s northwest, bordering New Mexico; and, the first stage of East XXI, in the southeast.

In total, and in just two years, the five plans added more than 14,600 hectares for possible urbanization, 66 percent more than the 22,123 hectares available in 2003. In every case the local government argued the need to provide housing for an estimated population rise of 100,000 people per year destined to work in the maquiladoras.

With the passing of the years, however, and just as the town planner’s had prophesied, a 2001 recession in the maquiladora lowered the population. The IMIP warned at the time of no evidence for so many homes, many of which now stand vacant.

The politics of Juárez’s expansion has been questioned by officials since 2003, when the Urban Development Master Plan established the need for greater density. The Master Plan says that the spread of the city has made it expensive and unsafe, and based on unsustainable resources for its infrastructure and equipment. This has generated problems for its identity and decayed its social structure.

“The logic behind investment behaviour in our region sees urban space as disposable. When investment moves to new, more prosperous, lucrative business districts, urban areas are left totally abandoned. In this context, the capital that’s left is underutilized or just abandoned. And with its desertion, the city’s image loses vitality and deteriorates,” the Master Plan says.

In terms of security, the same document states, “the accelerated growth of the city impacts the capacity to prevent crime.”

From the period between 2005 and 2007 when the majority of the development plans were approved, various sectors of the population warned that such expansion obeyed the interests of landowners with property ripe for, or close to, urbanization projects. As in San Jerónimo’s case, where the state and municipal governments have granted millions for investment in services, overwhelmingly in road construction.

Since 2007, an El Diario investigation has documented that along with land from state government and from the UACJ, there are more than 1,000 hectares owned by families of two former mayors: Manuel Quevedo and Jaime Bermúdez. In 1977 Quevedo was mayor and Bermúdez the city’s treasurer and they acquired thousands of hectares in the city’s southeast. In the last thirty years, Juárez’s urbanization has been directed towards that region.

According to César Mario Fuentes, a PhD in regional development and director of the Colegio de la Frontera (COLEF), the model used by the government to pay for public services like water, drainage, light and roads on far removed roads that result in “big business” for those types of landowners.

“I am unaware if there’s that intention, but unfortunately it has always been this way. It’s obvious that it has been a strategy traditionally employed by Ciudad Juárez’s large landowners who take advantage of public authority,” Fuentes said in 2007. The COLEF director is also the author of numerous academic studies about the region’s land market.

According to Loera, the first stage of the new UACJ campus required an inversion of 498 million pesos for the “basic infranstructure work” – drainage, light, water, roads – in addition to the construction and equipping of three buildings.

The director of the city’s land registry, Antonio Artalejo, estimated this week that the investment would spark a real estate “boom” and the construction of housing, services, and industries.

“If the 2008 economic crash had not happened, housing construction would be at its apogee about now,” Artalejo said.

In spite of the economic downturn, about five residential communities have been constructed in the area – all completely distant from each other – and in the public property registry land transfers have already occurred.

That is what entry 15 of book 5363 registers. In July 2011, the families of Quevedo and Bermúdez sold 37 hectares, located in the environs of Knowledge City – to a real estate company called HOH.

“Opening different areas of the city has definitely had much to do with pressure from landowners,” Cital said.

“It’s an obvious fact about the history of the city’s growth: one can identify the pressures that lead to growth,” the expert added.

Yesterday, the former mayors mentioned in this article could not be reached for comment.

‘Human Cost’

The Ciudad Universitaria coordinator said that 70 percent of the students come from southeastern neighborhoods, and that only 750 students come from father afield, like the west of the city.

But the distance is of such importance, Lozoya said, that upon it depends almost all the planning decisions, like class timetables and possible extra-curricular activities.

To support the students, the UACJ has contracted three transport companies that will carry 90 percent of the students in 27 old vehicles from nine points around the city. The most distant point is the one located by the Juárez Monument.

The ITCJ, on its behalf, will transfer the majority of students in four vehicles (of a more recent vintage). This service will only leave from Campus Uno, located on Avenida Tecnológico.

Even though they are free services, the UACJ students who live in the west of the city must occasionally wait for more than an hour because the only bus that goes to the city center quickly fills. If they have to leave campus early they have to wait for hours because the buses from the CU leave at two times: at 1400 and 2000.

The jokes arising from the distance have motivated a campaign by the CU coordinators who have taken phrases they can print on posters as a way of “fostering identity.”

So, students write: “When my mother told me I would go far, I didn’t know that she was referring to the CU.” Or, among other witticisms, “Typical: you are new in CU and when they ask you where you are from, you say: from Ciudad Juárez.” But the time spent in commuting, Abigail García says, is a human problem that, rather than being funny, diminishes the quality of personal and collective life.

“Principally, it undermines rest, the time you need to recuperate and that as far as we know, it damages health. The other thing that gets shunted aside is family life. Commuting takes up much of the day… We complain to ourselves that there’s a need for social cohesion, that there’s no neighborly integration, and that certain factors rupture this spirit of living together, and commuting is one part of that subject,” García said.

The need to find a place in Juárez at an institution of higher education is so great that not one of the students, even the most critical, expressed a desire to withdraw because of the distance.

Daniel Valles, for example, said that he hopes to change campus since his degree program is offered in the Institute of Social Sciences and Administration, about ten minutes from his home.

Cristina Durón added that one day she hopes to own a car. But Armando Salas, 19, also a Psychology student and a resident from the Avenida Las Torres neighborhood – near to CU – warned against owning a car: “I spend fifty pesos a day on gas, and because of the economic crisis that sucks.”

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. This article was first published under the title, “Ciudad del Conocimiento: Entre el interés escolar y el privado.”

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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Human Rights Abuse in Mexico: A Decade Without a Single Public Official Guilty of the Crime of Torture (Tania L. Montalvo, ANIMALPOLÍTCO)

This article was published on 24 April 2014 in AnimalPolítico. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Human Rights Abuse in Mexico: A Decade Without a Single Public Official Guilty of the Crime of Torture
By Tania L. Montalvo (ANIMALPOLÍTCO)

– Investigations Exist but no Punishment for Public Officials in either Military or Civilian Jurisdictions

Over the past decade — and in response to public information requests — figures provided by the Federal Attorney General (PGR) and the Ministry of Defense (SEDENA) show that not a single official has been published for the crime of torture, neither in civil nor military jurisdictions.

The PGR’s General Inspector confirmed that from 2002 to 2012 there have only been 39 preliminary investigations into torture and that there have been no criminal proceedings or warrants issued.

According to the Military Prosecutor, since 2002 – and until the 2012 Supreme Court decision to impose limits on military jurisdiction – there were 142 preliminary investigations for “violence causing torture” and another 821 similar proceedings for “violence causing wounds” which might include torture. But of these 963 investigations, only six went to trial, and resulted in no criminal punishment.

The Ministry of Defense responded to a request for public information presented by the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, Guerrero.

Notwithstanding these figures, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) confirmed last October that between 2006 and 2012 there have been at least 7,253 cases of torture. SEDENA and the PGR are the federal agencies with most complaints against them for torture.

According to information from the CNDH, between 2000 and 2012 the Army was responsible for 75 cases of torture and 3,580 cases of cruel treatment. Meanwhile, the PGR is responsible for 34 cases of torture and 2,025 cases of cruel treatment.

No Protocols, No Effective Investigations

When Tlachinollan met with Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture – who is visiting Mexico from 21 April until 2 May to evaluate the crime of torture in Mexico – the human rights organization explained that Mexico does not have protocols to avoid torture during detention. Nor does Mexico hold investigations as a way to protect victims.

SEDENA responded to another of Tlachinollan’s public information requests by saying that either protocols or mechanisms to help safeguard the physical integrity of the detained “do not exist.”

The PGR, for its part, confirmed that in torture investigations it applies a specialized Medical/Psychological Checklist, an adaptation of the Istanbul Protocol, an internationally validated test to determine if a person was the victim of torture and cruel treatment.

From 2002 to 2012, the PGR applied the Checklist on 302 occasions and in 42.3% of those cases it could determine “the existence of wounds possible derived from torture and/or mistreatment.” No penal sentences resulted against those responsible.

Civil society organizations have demanded that the Attorney General allow independent, expert application of the Istanbul Protocol, something the PGR rejects. Civil society organizations say that the Attorney General is not an impartial judge of whether its agents have committed torture.

Using the CNDH’s figures, Tlachinollan has pointed out that during Felipe Calderón’s period in office (2006 to 2012) complaints for human rights violations rose 453 percent, with a 235 percent increase specifically for the crime of torture.

Mexico is party to various international instruments to combat and abolish torture, such as the Convention Against Torture and Other Inhuman, Degrading, or Cruel Treatment. Mexico’s Constitution also prohibits these practices under Articles 19, 20, and 22.

Journalist Tania L. Montalvo reports for AnimalPolítico. This article first appeared in Spanish under the title, “Diez años sin un solo culpable por el delito de tortura,” 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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Human Rights and the Denial of Justice in Mexico: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Returns to the Case of Digna Ochoa, “Rights Violations” to be Revealed (Norma Trujillo Báez, La Jornada de Veracruz en Linea)

This article was first published in La Jornada de Veracruz en Linea on 24 April 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Human Rights and the Denial of Justice in Mexico: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Returns to the Case of Digna Ochoa, “Rights Violations” to be Revealed by Norma Trujillo Báez (LA JORNADA DE VERACRUZ EN LINEA)

This article was first published in La Jornada de Veracruz en Linea on 24 April 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Human Rights and the Denial of Justice in Mexico: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Returns to the Case of Digna Ochoa, “Rights Violations” to be Revealed
by Norma Trujillo Báez (La Jornada de Veracruz)

When the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) returns to the case of the murder of Digna Ochoa y Plácido (born Veracruz, 1964; died Mexico City, 2001), her brother Ignacio says that irregularities in the State’s preliminary investigation will appear: Digna’s behavior and image were put in doubt. The Mexican State can be sanctioned, showing that all the country’s human rights defenders are at risk.

In an interview, Ignacio Ochoa says that there is still no justice in the case. Mexico City’s District Attorney tarnished her image and manipulated the case because it worked it only as a suicide, rather than a murder. But “the Washington-based IACHR will analyze all the irregularities that we have always presented, such as the failures in the initial investigation, and hiding the intellectual mastermind and material executors of Digna’s murder. The collusion behind denying justice in our country is evident, even today, even though it portrays itself as democratic.”

– Even after so much time has passed, do you still maintain that the murder was a result of Digna’s activism?

– “In the initial investigation, there’s expert evidence showing that at the crime scene Digna was subjected to physical aggression. Digna was never suicidal.”

The IACHR’s 16 July 2013 admissibility report [number 57/13] for the case shows that since 2 November 1999 the Commission has known of possible human rights violations.

Digna Ochoa was born on 15 May 1964 in Misantla, Veracruz. As a lawyer she litigated cases of alleged Zapatistas from Yanga, Veracruz and from the State of Mexico (1995). She  also litigated the cases of Aguas Blancas and El Charco (1995) from Guerrero; of Acteal in Chiapas (1997), and of Guerrero’s imprisoned ecologists, Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera.

On 19 October 2001, Digna Ochoa y Plácido was murdered in her office in 31-A Zacatecas Street, in Mexico City’s Colonia Roma, an act that immediately provoked indignation from different human rights organizations.

The real reason behind the human rights defender’s murder may only come to light this year. But the IACHR’s admissibility of the case also puts her family at risk: a general sense of insecurity exists; the government is unhappy with the decision and tried to block the case’s admissibility before the IACHR, Digna’s brother said.

“It will be demonstrated that Digna was murdered. The lack of access to justice shows that Mexico violates human rights, that it is not a democratic country. In order to advance human rights we have confronted the President and the state governor, both of whom are obvious human rights violators.”

For human rights defenders, “the vindication of Digna Ochoa y Placido’s image will validate the work of those who defend human rights in Mexico,” given that to “justify” the argument of her suicide, Mexico City’s prosecutor attacked Digna Ochoa’s image, history, life, and work. Thus her brother argued that her vindication will be fundamental.

Journalist Norma Trujillo Báez reports for La Jornada from Veracruz. This story was first published bearing the title, “Retoma CIDH caso Digna Ochoa; revelará “violación de derechos,” 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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A Voice from the Grave: Juárez, the Border’s Second Murder City (Armando Rodríguez, EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

This article was first published in El Diario de Juárez on 14 February 2005. It has been translated without permission by the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). There is no web-accessible version of the Spanish-language original.

This translation is dedicated to the work of journalist Sandra Rodríguez Nieto.


Translator’s Note: Armando Rodríguez Carreón, “El Choco,” was a veteran crime reporter for El Diario de Juárez until his violent murder in November 2008. You can read a portrait of El Choco by his colleague Martín Orquiz for Nuestra Aparente Rendición, here (unofficially translated into English for the MxJTP).

Rodríguez’s murder continues in impunity, with multiple failures in the investigation. El Choco’s unsolved case is one that marks Mexico as infamous for its inability, or unwillingness, to get to the bottom of journalists’ murders, meaning that it ranks number 7 on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Impunity Index for 2014. In the Inter-American System of Human Rights, and pursuant to Mexico’s 1998 ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), the state has the international responsibility to investigate, prosecute, and punish human rights abuses, and provide reparations: among other human rights violations, Armando Rodríguez and his family have been denied access to justice for his murder, implying the state’s violation of a human rights treaty, the ACHR.

The MxJTP has translated this 2005 story by Rodríguez because the stories that place Mexico’s hard-hitting journalists at risk are themselves in danger of being forgotten. So, the act of translation can also be an act of recuperating the memory of the work of a slain journalist.

But on its own terms, Rodríguez’s February 2005 article is distinctive because it discusses different ways to count the violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, excavates the history of the city’s violence — a historical issue that he identifies as ever present but has changed over time — and because Rodríguez used sociological analysis to identify with a great degree of prescience Juárez’s oncoming descent into violence. This murderousness would, ultimately, consume him, too.

Even today, the Mexican government still disputes murder statistics and is still unable to reduce the country’s impunity rating. And, even though Rodríguez identified structural issues common to modernity that contributed to the rise in violence, less astute and overly descriptive commentators and analysts have sought only to explain violence in Mexico and specifically in Juárez through the lens of drug trafficking.

Specifically in regards Rodríguez’s murder, we still don’t know why he died or who killed him. But that shouldn’t mean that we ignore what he bequeathed us, his willingness to inform society of important events by writing journalism. PT.

A Voice from the Grave: Juárez, the Border’s Second Murder City
by Armando Rodríguez (EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)


– An investigation by El Diario, based on data from the Attorney General of the State of Baja California Norte, shows that of northern Mexico’s fourteen most important border cities, murders are most numerous in Tijuana: 705 cases from January 2003 to December 2004.

– Juárez took second place with 402 murders for the same period, approximately 17 murders per month.

– The study contrasts these figures with the number of murders during the same period in San Diego, California (127), while in El Paso there were just 33.

– The report notes that murders in Tamaulipas’s cities are less numerous than those of Juárez or Tijuana.

– Ciudad Juárez ranks second in northern Mexico’s border region in terms of violent homicides in the last two years.

– The cities with a low murder rate are: Nogales, Arizona, with just one murder in two years; Calexico, California, with two cases; and Hidalgo, Texas without a single murder over the same period.

– The Tamaulipas Government’s website ( indicates that from January 2003 to October 2004, Nuevo Laredo registers 120 murders, 74 in Reynosa, and 65 in Matamoros.

– The president of the Center for Border Studies and the Promotion of Human Rights (CEFPRODHAC), Arturo Solís Gómez counts 189 homicides during 2004 in Tamaulipas’s border cities. And 70 of these can be tied to drug trafficking, according to data published by internet-based sources.

– The figures for Tamaulipas are still below those of Juárez and of Tijuana.

– The data clearly indicates that the Mexican side of the border is more violent than the U.S. side in every single case.

Crime and Society

Juárez is considered Mexico’s twelfth most unsafe city, according to the Fund for Public Security in Mexico’s States (FASP).

This ranking can be compared with the assessment made by the Federal Government’s Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL). The Ministry says that the border is the most violent area of the Republic.

The three cities in the country most overtaken by insecurity in proportion to their population size are: Juárez, San Luis Potosí and Acapulco. The report is currently [for 2005] being distributed on the webpage of Mexico City’s Attorney General:

The SEDESOL report indicates that these three cities rank high in terms of murders, rapes, violent events, and suicides. When these violent events are added together, it means that cities can be compared against one another in terms of violence.

But the international business magazine, América Economia, suggests that the homicide index in Ciudad Juárez has registered a fall of 41.5 per cent over the last four years.

The magazine’s study, which was undertaken for business interests, declares that in 2001 there were 26 homicides per 100,000 residents, while in 2004 there were 15.2 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Ciudad Juárez’s murder statistics, compiled from the state district attorney’s autopsy records and compared with El Diario’s review of that data, demonstrate that in thirteen years there have been 2,957 violent homicides.

The crime figures have become more significant after the U.S. alerted its citizens to the wave of violence in Mexico’s border cities.

In Juárez, U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza said that insecurity in Mexico’s border region is a result of drug trafficking.

“We know very well that in certain cities there are growing tendencies for criminal activities, in some more than others, but the alert was for the length of the border and not just for one city,” he noted.

“I believe that Juárez is not one of the most violent cities in the Mexican Republic. The thing is that it has a bad reputation because of the deaths of women. Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Tijuana have more murders,” said Assistant District Attorney Flor Mireya Aguilar Casas.

She indicated that in spite of border cities’ problems with a floating population, statistically there’s evidence that they aren’t more dangerous nor are more bloody acts committed here.

“I don’t think it’s risky for a foreigner to come visit this city and I don’t think that there should be an imminent danger alert for these cities,” she added.

The Most Violent Year

Paso del Norte was established in 1659 and even before it was called Ciudad Juárez, in 1888 it had been struck by violence, a result of social movements leaving death in their wake and that have marked the city for life.

Historian and journalist Davíd Pérez López says in just a few days, in December 1846, there were 80 deaths on the Mexican side of the border, a consequence of the war against the United States, whose army had invaded Mexican territory.

When Ciudad Juárez was “seized” in 1911, he notes that 75 federal soldiers were murdered and 102 wounded, while among Madero’s supporters there were 160 deaths and 210 injured.

“There were other low points in wartime actions in Ciudad Juárez, like when Orozco’s supporters arrived in the city. Orozco had rebelled against Madero, and Villa fought against him: forty people died. That was in 1912,” Pérez López said.

Also in 1921, there was another social uprising in this region, known as Escobar’s Rebellion, totaling twenty violent deaths.

But in Ciudad Juárez’s recent history, and without there being a war, 1995 was the city’s year of violent deaths.

Coroner Enrique Silva Pérez said that during the ’80s, ten to twelve homicides started to happen each month.

But the medical specialist repeated that 1995 was Juárez’s most violent year. “I remember that in February ’94 we had eight murders. In February ’93 there were 6, but in February ’95 we had 34 murders,” he said. When the year ended, he noted that 294 people had been violently murdered.

In the country’s south, people get killed with machetes. It’s an overwhelming feature. But on the northern border, especially in Ciudad Juárez, murders happen with firearms, he said.

Ways to Die

When Dr. Silva Pérez began working in the ‘80s at the Coroner’s Office of Chihuahua’s Assistant District Attorney, violent murders numbered fewer than in recent years.

“Usually the cause of death was from a knife, from punches, or from firearm wounds,” the professional confirmed.

At the end of the ‘80s and the beginning of the ‘90s, gunshot murders increased and took first place as cause of death, responsible for about 60 or 70 percent of the total number of homicides.

At the same time, knife murders decreased, but in 1993 a new way to kill emerged: strangling murders or death by asphyxiation, principally crimes against women and executions related to organized crime, Dr. Silva Pérez added.

“The extreme violence began precisely with drug-related murders. Strangling is the cruelest way of dying because the victim suffers more.”

Silva Pérez indicated that gunshots have caused death but there are also postmortem lesions, like stab wounds, indicating extreme violence.

One of the most brutal cases the coroner remembers from his 24 years of work in the forensic service is of a couple and their baby who where murdered and then dismembered.

“There have been other similar cases, but the way they dismembered this woman showed that the person who did it was her lover,” he said.

In other cases, the victimizers tried to make their victims disappear, so they burned them. But careful, scientific work can show that the person did not die from being incinerated, he explained.

High-powered arms also destroy bodies.

“I’ve had to deal with cases of former police officers who were murdered by assault rifles. When we did the autopsy we could determine more than 70 wounds from high caliber bullets destroying the body, turning it into shreds,” he said.

The Causes of Crime

“Why did you do it?” the reporter asked a man who a day before had shot a sixty-year old car tire repairman from Salvárcar.

“Craziness,” Nicolás Frías Salas said, with a still uneasy look produced by alcohol and drugs.

For the Assistant District Attorney in the Northern Zone, Flor Mireya Aguilar Casas, the consumption of drugs and alcohol predominate as causal factors in violent homicides.

Another factor influencing murders in Ciudad Juárez is familial disintegration, decay, or the decline of values – social, religious, cultural — inherent in human beings, she said.

“Gangs are another social problem that cause crimes, along with economic questions, extreme poverty and lack of work.”

The Assistant District Attorney confirmed that Ciudad Juárez has a high index of gang-related intentional murders.

“In criminal cases, gang members committed the majority of homicides currently in judicial proceedings,” she said.

She does not believe that impunity encourages crime: “whoever commits violent murder does not believe that their behavior will go unpunished, although that might be the case in a minority of cases.” [Translator’s Note: former El Diario reporter Sandra Rodríguez Nieto’s study of an interfamilial killing in Ciudad Juárez, La fábrica del crimen (Planeta, 2012) contradicts and disproves the Assistant District Attorney’s general contention. PT]

A Sick Society

For the sociologist from the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez (UACJ), chaired professor Alonso Herrera Robles, homicides can be seen as part of a social pathology (sickness or abnormality) and affect industrial society’s like Ciudad Juárez.

This type of collective group, one that is entering modernity, may be labeled an at-risk-society, he added.

He mentioned that Juárez, thanks to the arrival of the maquiladora industry in the mid-1960s, experienced a series of structural changes. And the massive incorporation of female labor in the production process was one of those overwhelming characteristics.

“It changed all the structures and the social organization of production and impacted society,” Herrera said.

The director of public safety for the city, Juan Salgado Vázquez, agreed: “Juárez has grown at a giant’s pace, and this growth has had an important bearing on criminal activity.”

“The city has grown faster than the capacity to plan, to build, to construct a safe environment for its inhabitants. The problem is not just with security but with its infrastructure and all of its services,” he stated.

“The city’s growth has overtaken out capacity to respond,” he said.

Added to growth issues, the city has a large number of families, whose men and women have been working for thirty years. We haven’t found a way to raise their children. This means that there are more people disposed to commit crimes, he suggested.

He said that one of the solutions to the problem is that there needs to be greater participation from civil society. Other solutions might be found in reforms or legal mechanisms to protect vulnerable groups, like children, the elderly, women, and indigenous people.

“The problem is now that violent murders aren’t dealt with either by the authorities or by civil society. So what’s happening is that these acts of violence are becoming part of our daily life and making the culture one of violence,” he expressed.

“This is going to become cultural, it’s going to become part of daily life, just like what has happened in other cities with protracted wars, like in some Colombian cities.”

For the professor, the presence of more police officers in the city is just palliative. There can be more police but this does not mean they are better organized.

“The social costs of this progress, or of technical advances and development, are reflected in pathologies like homicide, and it appears as a by-product,” he warned.

Some writers have called this phenomenon, “modernity’s perverse consequences,” he said.

Journalist Armando Rodríguez reported for El Diario until his murder on 13 November 2008. This article first appeared bearing the title, “Es Juárez la segunda frontera en homicidios.” It is not available on the Internet.

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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Celebration (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RÍODOCE)

This article was published on RíoDoce on 20 April 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). In English translation, its length is 436 words.

by Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RÍODOCE)

He’d pissed them off and he owed them. The thing is that when push came to shove in the end they charged everybody. And since then they hadn’t stopped charging. It all began with his end: his multiplied, extended, interminable death, all beginning with no epilogue: an annual party held among the graves.

They tricked him into coming. He arrived in jeans, Stetson, and gun bulging at his front, Chalino Sánchez style. He said a half hello to some guys along the way, steering himself towards the people he had come to see. But before he arrived they peppered his body with bullets and left it, lying there, smoldering, reddened.

His corpse slumped on the steering wheel. A mix of blood and glass, bits of organic matter strewn around. His killers still got down from their vehicle, checking the corpse. Nothing inside the vehicle was intact. To make sure, they blasted him once with a forty-five to the head, then three more times.

The police showed up a day later, when agents confirmed nobody else was around. They did some investigating, took notes and ordered the corpse carried to the funeral parlor. Then in his relatives’ house, flanked by thick, burning candles, cries punctuated the prayers and people threw themselves to the ground: armed, hooden men got to the coffin, readied their chambers, and blasted him again.

Kids wailed. So did relatives and neighbors. They asked why shoot him again if he was already dead. Hysteria and fear. Those already at the funeral home didn’t return and those who were thinking of going thought better of it. Next day, they went to the cemetery. Few cars in a cavalcade led by a white hearse.

They were lowering the body. Pulleys, rope, the undertakers four forearms and the ritual lowering. The ropes and pulleys whined. From a distance the dust cloud warned of another approaching cortege but this time of black trucks at high-speed. They got to the graveyard and parked close. Again people scattered, shouting, loose muscles straining and skin trembling.

Two men got out of the back of one of the trucks. They aimed and fired at the half-lowered coffin. Bullets embedded in the casket and the graveside. The rite of squaring off accounts repeated each and every year: armed men went to the cemetery to shoot the grave up, upholding the grisly celebration of multiplying the murder, burnishing the flame of the first execution.

Curious visitors to the dead man’s tomb asked why they kept killing him on every anniversary of his death: they just didn’t want the guy to rest in peace.

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, “Celebración,” 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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144 Fuego Street: The House where García Márquez Drew His Last Breath (Juan Diego Quesada, EL PAÍS)

This article first appeared in El País on 18 April 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

144 Fuego Street: The House where García Márquez Drew His Last Breath
by Juan Diego Quesada (EL PAÍS)

–        The writer died in his Mexico City home. The private cremation will be followed a memorial on Monday in Bellas Artes.

–        A legion of fans traveled to the Colombian’s house for a final farewell.

At 144 Fuego Street, in the south of Mexico City, at 1530 a black-sweatered girl in jeans left a bunch of daisies. Mónica Hernández had reluctantly read Cien años de soledad on her schoolteacher’s instruction. Years later a reprint by the Real Academia de la Lengua Española fell into her hands and she read it with a convert’s fanaticism. By being the first reader to arrive at the house where 87-year old Colombian Gabriel García Márquez had just died, she was seeking forgiveness for childish petulance and honoring one of the greatest writers of the Spanish language.

Three days ago, reporters began to keep guard outside García Márquez’s house as word began to spread that he had started to receive palliative care in his home, a quaint colonial residence framed by bougainvillea. Occasionally, a reader would ask about their idol’s health, returning with a gesture denying bad news. At 1456 on a sunny afternoon, the Thursday before Easter, with half the city gone on vacation, Mexican journalist Fernanda Familiar, a close friend of the writer and his wife, Mercedes Barcha, appeared at the door. She was crying. Without saying a word she went back inside. She had given the world the first indication that the Nobel prize-winning author had died.

Five minutes later, Colombian writer Guillermo Angulo arrived in a taxi. He carried a suitcase, a white bag, and a hunting hat. He entered the home without saying a word. García Márquez’s personal assistant, Genovevo Quiroz, came out to give instructions to the first police officers that began their watch over the street. A neighbor, María del Carmen Estrada, poked her head out of her door, remembering the day she gave him a hug when they crossed paths. “I hadn’t read any of his books, but the people loved him, and I treated him warmly. He was a model neighbor.”

The writer will be cremated privately – according to the director of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, María García Cepeda, who spoke on the family’s behalf from their threshold. Joining her to make the announcement was Jaime Abello Banfi, García Márquez’s friend, someone with the right to call him Gabo, and director of the Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (New Foundation for Iberoamerican Journalism).

Earlier, around 1635, as clouds descended on Mexico’s capital city, a grey hearse arrived to take García Márquez’s remains to the funeral home. On the hearse, the undertakers had attempted to cover up their company’s name but the see through paper revealed the logo, García López. But the company does not perform funerals. As with other great Mexicans, like comedian Mario Moreno Cantinflas [or — translator’s note — writer Carlos Fuentes], García Márquez will be honored on Monday afternoon in the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the country’s greatest honor for one of its dead.

Little by little the crowd in the street began to grow. A youth with an open red shirt, showing some chest hair, white trousers and pointed shoes. He seemed to have just left one of those vallenatos the novelist liked so much. Colombians Juan Pablo Castro and Rosana Vergara, a married couple with a child, were visiting Mexico City when they heard the news so they knew at once that the coincidence meant they had to pay homage at the home. They left a bocadillo on the doorstep, a typically Colombian candy made from the fruit of the guayaba. A friend, Valeria Hurtada, had plucked a veranera flower from a neighbor’s house and threw it over the hearse as it carried the writer’s body away. The flower stuck on the vehicle until it accelerated, falling off at the first curve as it picked up speed down the cobbled street.

Police Commander Cantellano presided over the deployment of a contingent of officers in Fuego Street. Cantellano placed barriers to cut off the flow of traffic and in warlike tones outside the writer’s stoop he ordered his agents to line up. He put up a security perimeter around the main door and the garage. “We’re here on an important mission,” the official said under his breath. His men, trying to support him, stood to attention for hours at 144 Fuego Street. Sometimes they took a breather, allowing Gabo fans to leave flowers, books, and candles at the entrance. Police Officer García did not know who the writer was (“he doesn’t ring a bell to me”) but given the deployment, and the severity of Cantellano’s orders he begun to understand the moment’s significance. “I didn’t know the gent, but now I am going to read him.”

Bruno Uribe turned up with a candle and a long lighter, one of those used to light the stoves of industrial kitchens. Officer García, whose name shone out from a badge on the right pocket of his uniform, let him pass to light the candle. Uribe left it a meter from the door, beside a copy of Memorias de mis putas tristes. “It’s a little homage from me and my family,” was all he would say, and left. A rosary hung from his neck.

Mónica Hernández, after leaving the small bunch of daisies near the wooden door, walked around a little, confused by the neighborhood. She approached a crying neighbor and they seemed to find consolation in a mutual embrace. Five o’clock in the afternoon was fast approaching. It had begun to drizzle. And the rain was just about to fall.

Journalist Juan Diego Quesada reports for El País. His original story in Spanish was published as “En el 144 de la calle Fuego, el último suspiro de García Márquez,” available at Follow JDQ on Twitter @jdquesada.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist, and founding editor of the Mexican Journalism Translation Project. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.


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Dead in Juárez: Noemí tried to migrate twice and her last attempt left her dead (Lineida Castillo, EL COMERCIO, Quito, Ecuador)

This article was first published in El Comercio of Quito, Ecuador. It has been translated by Debbie Nathan. The article has been translated without El Comercio’s permission, but has been published with Debbie Nathan’s permission. The MxJTP gratefully acknowledges Debbie Nathan’s work.

Dead in Juárez: Noemí tried to migrate twice and her last attempt left her dead
by Lineida Castillo (EL COMERCIO, Quito, Ecuador)

In Cañar province, immigration pulls in children and teenagers. Parents who live outside the country make deals on the phone with human traffickers operating in Central America and Ecuador.

Noemí A., one little girl who tried to get to the United States illegally and who died before crossing the border with Mexico, was buried yesterday.

The child’s grandparents carried her body to the church in the village of Tambo in an act of farewell before her burial.  During the ceremony, the priest issued a call to the faithful to protect their children by not sending them out of the country. After the mass, her body was taken to the District Attorney’s office for another investigation.

According to the provincial district attorney of Cañar, Romeo Gárate, another autopsy was carried out to determine the causes of death. The official has requested Mexico’s Attorney General for papers related to the case and for her smuggler to be investigated.

After the judicial investigation, her body will be buried in the village cemetery.

Noemí was on her way to meet her parents, who had left her ten years earlier to look for the “American dream.” Last 11 March, two months before her twelfth birthday, Noemí was found dead in a room in a house in Mexico. A District Attorney in Mexico determined that the child had committed suicide, hanging herself with a shower curtain in a shelter where she had been taken after being caught with a smuggler who was trying to take her to the US.

The trip was her second attempt. In August, Noemí had left her native Molino Huayco, El Tambo for the first time. She lived in Tambo with her grandparents Cipriano Quillay and María Guamán. On her mother’s instruction, the little girl was put on a regional bus to Tulcán.

There, on the same bus, and for the same reason, was another minor from Cañar. Noemí’s parents made a deal over the phone for a $15,000 trip with an undocumented migrant smuggler from Mexico who also works with a network of smugglers in Ecuador.

In Tulcán, a man waited for them. The girls went with him overland to Colombia, and then left on a Panama-bound plane. That is the route most used by smugglers who take minors from Cañar – a growing phenomenon that worries authorities.

Although there are no official statistics about child migration, since 2013 to the present the non-governmental organization 1800-Migrantes has dealt with nine cases of minors from Azuay and Cañar who have been caught during their crossing to the United States. According to William Murillo, the NGO’s director, on average they receive about three inquiries per week, mainly from grandparents seeking advice about trips for minors.

In the past few months, almost every community in Cañar has children who have left to migrate. In the village of Molino ten minors have left this year.

According to District Attorney Gárate, migration from this province is a process. First the father leaves, then he brings his wife, and eventually the couple decides to send for their children. Those in this type of process who opt for reunion are typically parents who have spent more than six years separated from their children.

The DA questions the parents: “They’ve experienced first hand the abuses of crossing borders, yet they still hand their children over to criminals whose only interest is money and not people’s lives.”

He has noted a tendency among migrant women, including adolescents, to take a morning after pill with them on the trip, so that if they are sexually assaulted they will not get pregnant.

Ten years ago, Noemí’s parents left El Tambo and spent almost three months crossing. The journey included: onerous hikes through the desert, being locked up, twice arrested, and attacks by armed groups, a relative said.

The little girl went through the same thing. On her first try she was locked up for three months with her travel companion (a ten-year-old girl) in a room in Panama, until they returned to Cañar. Cipriano dries his tears and remembers his surprise when she came back to the little adobe house where she had been raised since she was six months old.

Noemí told them that she had been locked up the whole time and only given bread or crackers with Coke.” She lost weight. She was depressed, quiet, and crying, Cipriano recalled. To keep her busy, they enrolled her in school, where she was always the best student.

Cipriano thought that would put an end to the parents’ obsession with bringing the child over, but it didn’t happen that way. On February 6 the grandfather again handed over his granddaughter, this time to a woman from Cañar who was going to Quito. Two other little girls, 8 and 10 years old, were going with her.

The man found out about his granddaughter on March 12 when his son-in-law called and said, “Noemí is dead.” Cipriano says he often argued with the parents because he never agreed to the trip. “I told them she was just a little girl and they shouldn’t put her at risk, and that she didn’t lack for food here. On the second attempt the parents made a deal with another smuggler from Cañar.

Cipriano learned that all three children traveling with his granddaughter during both attempts are now with their parents in the US. In Molino Huayco there are children, like another of Cipriano’s grandchildren, who refuse to go even though their parents urge them to; there are still others who have been detained and deported.

Gárate said that the Cañar district attorney is investigating this and other child trafficking cases, but the families do not give out information so those responsible can be located. In spite of scant cooperation, Gárate says, “in this province we have won more cases (60%), involving trafficking of immigrants or scams related to immigration, than any other of the country’s provinces. A conviction used to get six years maximum and now it gets 25.”

Cipriano said he did not know anything about the smugglers who took his granddaughter to Mexico because the contacts and payment were made by the parents from the US.

In Context

Noemí’s young body arrived in Cañar last week. Yesterday there was a mass over her body, attended by the grandparents who had raised her for ten years. Her parents left Noemí in their charge when they immigrated illegally to the United States. [She died on the U.S. Mexico border in Ciudad Juárez.]

Journalist Lineida Castillo reports for El Comercio. This article first appeared under the title, “Noemí intentó migrar dos veces y solo halló la muerte,” available at:

Translator Debbie Nathan is an award-winning journalist and author whose last book, Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personalities Case, was published by the Free Press in 2011. Among other subjects, she is a long-time observer and writer about the U.S.-Mexico border whose highly recommended article about El Paso appeared in N+1 in May 2013. She lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at: @DebbieNathan2.


Missing in Mexico: Families of Disappeared Women Undertake The Viacrucis (Luz del Carmen Sosa, EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

This article was first published by the Diario de Juárez on 19 April 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The translation of this article is dedicated to the work of Dr. Alfredo Limas Hernández, professor at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez (UACJ) and co-director of the Observatorio de Violencia Social, Genero, y Juventud. PT


Families of Missing Women from Ciudad Juárez on the Viacrucis (Photo: Diario de Juárez).

Families of Missing Women from Ciudad Juárez on the Viacrucis (Photo: Diario de Juárez).


Families of Disappeared Women Undertake The Viacrucis
By Luz del Carmen Sosa (EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

On Good Friday the families of missing young women performed a viacrucis beginning in the “Maricela Escobedo” Center for Women’s Justice, ending at the local office of the state prosecutor.

The march brought together families that, months before, had walked to Chihuahua City, as well as representatives of social groups.

“For many years this has been our Viacrucis: asking authorities to pursue the cases of our disappeared daughters, and demanding justice if they turn up dead,” said José Luis Castillo, father to minor Esmeralda Castillo, who has been missing for five years, since the age of thirteen.

The group met at ten o’clock in the morning outside the Women’s Justice Center and walked the streets around Sanders Avenue, given that the train was blocking vehicle traffic. [Translator’s note: the proximity of the train that runs through Juárez to Avenida Sanders can clearly be seen, here.]

“From north to south, from east to west, whatever it takes we will search for our daughters,” shouted men and women whose long campaign has been to find their daughters.

And yesterday they walked down Juan Gabriel Avenue carrying a pink cross bearing words in black letters, “God be with the mothers of missing young women, and with those who have been found lifeless.”

“This march shows the authorities our daily viacrucis, one we have been on for the past five years. The authorities promised to do a job, to look for our daughters, alive. The authorities have gone on holiday but have failed to fulfill the work they promised to undertake. That’s why we have to remind them of the work they must do, to find our daughters alive,” said José Luis Castillo.

Journalist Luz del Carmen Sosa reports for the Diario de Juárez, and is a co-founder of the Red de Periodistas de Juárez. This article first appeared under the title, “Familias de desaparecidas realizan su Viacrucis,” 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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The Mournful Murders of a Married Journalist Couple: Juan Francisco Rodríguez Ríos & María Elvira Hernández Galena (Andrew Kennis, Nuestra Aparente Rendición)

This article appeared first in Spanish in the book, Tú y yo coincídimos en la noche terrible by Lolita Bosch and Alejandro Vélez Salas, published by Nuestra Aparente Rendición in 2012. It is published at the MxJTP for the first time in English and with the permission of the author, who reserves all rights to the English original.

The Mournful Murders of a Married Couple: Juan Francisco Rodríguez Ríos & María Elvira Hernández Galena
by Andrew Kennis

On a typically hot and rainy night in the southwestern part of Guerrero, several gunmen briskly walked inside an Internet cafe owned and operated by a married couple who both practiced journalism. The gunmen proceeded to pull out their revolvers, after having gotten out of a black car with tinted windows, and shot and killed the couple at close range. He was shot three times, while she was shot four times. The date of the double-murder was June 28, 2010.

Juan Francisco Rodríguez Ríos, and María Elvira Hernández Galena, were respectively aged just 49 and 36 years-old when they were murdered. Rodriguez’s child was just 17 years-old when he witnessed all seven bullets end the lives of both of his parents.

In a chilling display of the kind of impact that widespread journalist killings have had in Mexico, colleagues reached for comment at El Sol de Acapulco, where Rodríguez had been working for the last half decade, produced reactions full of trepidation and fear.

“I didn’t have any relationship with him, aside from that of a working relationship,” the editor Carolina Santos whispered into the phone. “But I can say that he was a friendly person and always very respectful of everyone with whom he worked,” Santos added, albeit with hesitation.

Immediately following that comment, however, my call was transferred over to a reporter who made it a point to mention that she never knew Rodríguez and that no one was “authorized” to talk about him except the publisher of the paper.

What the silence amongst Rodríguez’s colleagues left in the wake of his death does not prevent us from finding out about, however, includes the following: Juan Rodríguez had been practicing journalism in Coyuca de Benítez, located within the Costa Grande region north of Acapulco, during the previous two decades. When he was killed, Rodríguez was the local stringer writing for El Sol de Acapulco, as well as El Diario Objetivo of Chilpancingo.

Just hours before his death, Rodríguez had been on-the-scene reporting on a march commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Aguas Blancas massacre, which occurred after police had attacked a march of peasants in Coyuca de Benitez, murdering 17 of them in 1995.

Apart from his stringing and Internet cafe duties, Rodríguez was also a trade union representative for the National Union of Press Editors. Just days before his death, Rodríguez and several dozen of his journalistic colleagues had roundly condemned the persistent violence against journalists, which in 2010 was reaching a fever pitch. Eight journalists had been killed in Mexico and one had been missing at the point that Rodríguez and Hernández were killed in 2010, putting it as a year to out pace 2009 in terms of total journalists murdered, which saw 13 journalists slain. Further, the deaths marked the third and fourth murders of journalists during 2010 in Guerrero alone.

While a spokesperson for the state prosecutors told media and human rights investigators at the time of the murder, that suspected robbery was the cause, local journalists anonymously quoted by the press, spoke disparagingly about this explanation holding much weight. Internet cafes typically have no more than 600 pesos on hand and are not prime targets for robberies.

The double-murder attracted international condemnation and disdain. Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said that these kind of crimes must not go “unpunished.” Carlos Lauría, the Committee to Protect Journalist’s senior program coordinator, said that the wave of murders was causing “widespread self-censorship.”

In a curious footnote to the killings,.38 caliber bullets were found at the scene of the murder, which occurred during a year that the controversial and since revealed U.S.-based Fast and Furious gun-walking program was at its height. .38 caliber revolvers were among the leading weapons that were walked under the program that resulted in thousands of high-powered weaponry winding up in the hands of the leading drug cartels in Mexico. However, since less than 5% of murders ever result in any significant investigation or prosecution, no suspects for the murder have ever been revealed, much less whether Fast and Furious weapons were used in the scene of a heinous murder and an apparent attack on journalistic freedom and autonomy.

International investigative journalist Andrew Kennis teaches in the journalism department at the University of Texas at El Paso. Follow him on Twitter: @Andrew_Kennis. This article first appeared in translation in Spanish by Nuestra Aparente Rendición under the title, “El triste asesinato de un matrimonio,” available at:



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José Armando Rodríguez Carreón, “El Choco” (Martín Orquiz of El Diario for Nuestra Aparente Rendición)

This article appeared originally in the book, Tú y yo coincídimos en la noche terrible, a collection of essays about murdered or disappeared Mexican journalists, by Lolita Bosch and Alejandro Vélez Salas, published by Nuestra Aparente Rendición in 2012. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Translator’s Note: This translation is dedicated to the work of past, present, and future journalists at El Diario de Juárez. PT

José Armando Rodríguez Carreón, “El Choco”
by Martín Orquiz (El Diario) 

On the morning of 13 November 2008, the best crime journalist in Ciudad Juárez, forty-year old José Armando Rodríguez Carreón, became headline news.

A little before 8am, El Choco, as the El Diario reporter was known, got ready to climb into a Nissan car owned by his employer. One of his daughters, 8 years old at the time, accompanied her father.

When he put the vehicle in reverse, an individual whose identity remains unknown walked up to him firing a 9mm pistol, emptying its chamber. The bullets broke the car’s windshield, hitting Armando in his body.

His body, lifeless from rapid blood loss, slumped forward, head resting on the steering wheel. His daughter was not physically injured.

In an instant began another story of impunity where justice, until today, has failed to shine.

Armando got the nickname of El Choco – because of the shade of his skin – while he at secondary school in his hometown of Camargo, Chihuahua. The day he died, he became embroiled in a story that grabbed headlines in El Diario: a fatal attack on two Chihuahua State Police commanders.

Nonetheless, from January 2008 and until his assassination Armando had already covered the news of more than 1,000 murders, an unprecedented escalating wave of violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. He had also covered other subjects like drug trafficking, corruption, and the infiltration of criminal organizations in government and police forces.

As with the majority of killings before and after that 13 November, the crimes against Armando languish unpunished, even though the Federal Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists (subsequently called the FEADLE) announced immediately that it would take over the case from state authorities.

More than three years and three different federal prosecutors later, Armando’s murder still hasn’t been investigated at the federal level, and it hasn’t been clarified.

In May 2012 the Attorney General for the northern part of Chihuahua took a similar position. Staff at the Attorney General’s office reported that the murder investigation file should remain in state jurisdiction and that Mexico’s federal government should not take over the case, even though there an open, parallel federal investigation existed.

Around that time, the FEADLE – the federal prosecutor’s office for crimes against freedom of expression – petitioned the public to come forward with information that could solve the Juárez journalist’s murder.

“Different justice department officials have traveled to Ciudad Juárez to investigate. Unfortunately, some members of the public – whether out of fear or ignorance about the process – refuse to approach us to clarify the facts.” So said Laura Angelina Borbolla, the new federal prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression.

In September 2010, the federal Attorney General and President Felipe Calderón announced the arrest of a person connected to the murder. But later it came out that the person under arrest had been detained for other crimes, that he had been tortured, and that even a year later no outstanding warrant had been issued in the journalist’s murder.

Armando was born on 18 June 1968 in Camargo, Chihuahua where he studied primary, secondary and high school. In 1986 he decided to move to Ciudad Juárez to continue with his professional training. In Juárez he studied for a degree in Communication Sciences in the Social and Political Science Department of the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua. He graduated in 1991. Even before graduating he had begun his career as a journalist. In 1987 he began work as a technician and then as a cameraman for Canal 44, where he specialized in remote broadcasts. In 1992 he worked as a technician for Canal 56 in Juárez, but then he became a cameraman for broadcast journalists, where he met his wife, journalist Blanca Alicia Martínez de la Rocha. In 1992 he began writing for print media and started working for newspaper El Norte, and that’s where he began reporting about crime. The next year, on 10 June 1993, he joined El Diario de Ciudad Juárez where he worked for two years, until 1995, until he resigned from the paper.

Two years later, on 21 August 1997, he returned to El Diario where he worked until his murder.

Journalist Martín Orquiz reports on crime for El Diario de Juárez. This article first appeared bearing the title, “José Armando Rodríguez Carreón, El Choco,” 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. He thanks Andrew Kennis for inspiring this translation.


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