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: http://nuestraaparenterendicion.com/tuyyocoincidimosenlanocheterrible/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=61:jose-armando-rodriguez-carreon&tmpl=component&print=1#.U1ALOeZdVmA.
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.