Category Archives: impunity

The Photojournalist who Disappeared: Manuel Gabriel Fonseca Hernández, ´Cuco´(Galia García Palafox, 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).

The Photojournalist who Disappeared: Manuel Gabriel Fonseca Hernández, ‘Cuco’
By Galia García Palafox (Nuestra Aparente Rendición)

Missing Since September 2011: Mexican Photojournalist Manuel Gabriel Fonseca

Missing Since September 2011: Mexican Photojournalist Manuel Gabriel Fonseca

Cuco is the story about a boy who wanted to be a journalist.

He hadn’t finished secondary school but Manuel Gabriel needed to work to take money home. He got a job cleaning the house of Araceli Shimabuko, a journalist in his town.

Araceli stopped him from cleaning and set him to hand out the magazine she edited, Paisajes. He took a taxi every day from his neighborhood to the center of town. While she reported he distributed the magazine to government offices. It was the closest he had been to these two worlds: inside and behind the scenes at the town hall, a view from afar of its mayor, some press conference or other when he went with Araceli. Her secretary, that’s what some officials and journalists called him.

After work they ate something or met with other reporters. Manuel Gabriel was fascinated. He became friends with journalists in Acayucan, a town of 83,000 residents in the south of the state of Veracruz. He didn’t skip the opportunity of going with somebody covering an accident, a fire or a fight. Manuel Gabriel knew immediately what the news world wanted, especially when it came to the police blotter.

He started helping journalist friends collect information, making visits to the public prosecutor, taking photos. One day he came home with a newspaper in his hands. His parents and his brother, Ricardo, could hardly believe it: at home Manuel Gabriel was known as José and in the news world somebody nicknamed him ‘Cuco,’ and he had published a story. He was a sixteen-year old reporter.

From that moment on his parents asked him to take care with what he published. He mustn’t get himself in trouble.

Somehow he got hold of an old, roll camera. He took photos and he took the roll to be developed. From a cybercafé he sent photos and news to magazines where he had begun to work.

One day he went to El Diario of Acayucan. He asked to speak with its owner. He didn’t want to talk with anybody else. Marcos Fonrouge, chief editor, dealt with him. He had heard talk about him. He had read him. Cuco wanted work and there was a position open for a reporter covering the crime beat. The job was his.

Fights between drunkards, men who beat people, car crashes. Cuco covered those stories. “They all made him proud,” Fonrouge says. Night and day he looked for an exclusive. He took it for granted he would get it. “Hey, I have the exclusive,” that’s what he said to reporter colleagues when he met them. He spent nights in police stations or in the public prosecutor’s office to get the scoop. He got home early in the morning.

Don Juan, his father, remembers that some days he only used to come home to change clothes after a visit to the morgue, to get rid of the smell of a body. Other times they didn’t used to see him at home until dawn. “He used to get home when we were all asleep, at one a.m., two in the morning. He used to bring us memelas [akin to a tostada (hard tortilla) with savory toppings] and empanadas and he got us all up to eat,” says Ricardo, his little brother. “He used to tell us that he had seen dead people or accidents.” He used to tell, he tells. He used to arrive, he arrives. He was, he is. Everybody who talks about Cuco changes verb tenses. Not Cuco used to be, no: Cuco is.

Cuco liked the dead. On one occasion his boss sent him to cover a social meeting of lawyers. Cuco returned with photos so bad that Fonrouge knew that it was his way of telling him that he did not want to be sent to cover events that weren’t part of the crime beat.

After a spell at El Diario of Acayucan, Cuco went to El Mañanero, a new daily with five reporters and a circulation of three thousand issues. He graduated from film to a digital camera. He used to show it off to people who wanted to see. And he showed it off to those who did not want to see it, too.

Saturday 17 September 2011 was his day off. In the morning he played cards with his brother. Five peso hands. He didn’t have any luck at the cards. He lost.

Ricardo went to play football. Cuco went to El Mañanero’s offices to collect his pay. He spoke with his boss for a few minutes. He told him he was going to eat some tamales nearby. Cuco was always ready to party.

That night he didn’t return home to sleep. His father went to look for him. He did not find him. In the newspaper they were waiting for his Sunday stories. They never arrived. His phone went straight to voicemail.

On Monday his father went to ask at the newspaper. The journalists had begun to mobilize. A group went to look for him in a neighboring town where a party was rumored to have taken place. There was no sign of Cuco. Another group met in an ice cream parlor to decide what to do. One of them called a deputy prosecutor and they filed a complaint. They started to investigate: did anybody see him in the park with a friend on Saturday night? Another said that he had been at the morgue. Did a witness see him get into a car with a sandwich seller? It wasn’t a sandwich seller but the hotdog seller. Rumors and rumors. Criminal investigations. More rumors. Nothing convincing.

El Mañanero has a policy of not publishing news about criminal groups who might endanger its workers. Cuco had not published anything compromising. Maybe he saw something he shouldn’t have seen. Maybe they weren’t going for him. Maybe he opened his mouth too much. Maybe he fell in with bad company. More rumors.

 

Journalist Galia García Palafox is editor in chief at Milenio Digital. She has reported for news outlets in the United States and Mexico and graduated with a Master’s from the Columbia School of Journalism. This article was first published under the title, “Manuel Gabriel Fonseca Hernández, ‘Cuco’,” and is available at: http://nuestraaparenterendicion.com/tuyyocoincidimosenlanocheterrible/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=84:manuel-gabriel-fonseca-hernandez#.VANQzWSwLBw.

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. The MxJTP has a Facebook page: like it, here.

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Nameless (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RIODOCE)

This Malayerba column was published on 24 August 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

#RememberingJim: This translation is dedicated to the memory of freelance reporter and photojournalist James Foley who, among other talents, graduated from Marquette University in History in 1996. PT

Nameless
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RIO DOCE)

Raúl felt like his eyes were filling with shattered glass. The tears didn’t beg permission. They began to fall. They ran down his skin. One of his children had been kidnapped. The police said it was an abduction. But he knew instantly that they were going to call to ask for ransom.

His cell phone rang. It rang to the tune of El palo verde. Its macabre sound during this tragedy made him feel ashamed. His sixteen-year old son. The middle child. He saw his wife bowled over, brought low, sat in an armchair with the pain of rushing salty tears drying her out. Fuck me, he muttered.

He hit the green button on the Motorola and let out an imperceptible tremulous hello. Look you son of a bitch we have your kid. He pointed the phone at the boy so that he could let out the terrified cry of dad. He asked for money in exchange for letting him go and he explained where and how to drop it off. When we know you delivered it we will let him go. I’ll fuck my mother if we don’t. He cried again. He begged him not to hurt his boy.

He got the money together and he delivered it. He didn’t tell the police because he was afraid. They are one and the same his wife told him. It’s not worth telling them. He waited and waited and waited. He hadn’t had news of his son for two days. On the third day they found his dumped body. Covered in bruises and holes. Colorless. Wasted. Eyes half shut.

They buried him as if the youth were still alive. The father spoke about him. He asked for remembrances. He demanded they get up. His mother was spent. She collapsed. And his other children absented themselves from the middle of a tearful deluge of blind bitterness. But life doesn’t stop and bad news never travels alone: a few months later they kidnapped his other son. The oldest.

This time he filed a complaint. The police followed his instructions. They focused their operation on his house. They monitored his phones. The police assigned a special investigative unit and installed paraphernalia for their masked men: automatic rifles, gloved hands, bulletproof vests. We are going to give it to them, sir, said the commander. He did not trust in any of it but he had to keep a handle on things. He couldn’t let this happen to his other son.

Again they rang his cellphone. El palo verde rang several times so that they could alert the agents monitoring the phone. The killer asked him for money. He promised to let the boy go when he had the money. The cops asked him to string the call out but the kidnapper didn’t give him a chance. He did everything he asked. The boy still hadn’t turned up.

More wailing. More cracks in the skin. More shards of glass in the eyes. Gloom. Yet more gloom. He shouted: pricks and assholes! A neighbor said that when a parent dies the child becomes an orphan. When a spouse dies, widowed. But when one’s child dies? That doesn’t have a name.

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, “Sin nombre,” and is available at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/sin-nombre.

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. The MxJTP has a Facebook page: like it, here.

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The Ranch of Horror (Ignacio Carvajal, Blog.Expediente.Mx)

This crónica was first published on Blog.Expediente.Mx on 19 June 2014 and has been translated without permission by the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Keys of the Murdered and the Missing of El Diamante, Tres Valles, Veracruz. (Photo Credit: Ignacio Carvajal, Blog.expediente.mx)

The Keys of the Murdered and the Missing of El Diamante, Tres Valles, Veracruz. (Photo Credit: Ignacio Carvajal, Blog.expediente.mx)

The Ranch of Horror
By Ignacio Carvajal (Blog.Expediente.Mx)

Tres Valles, Veracruz.- “Can you take us to the graves at El Diamante, please?” somebody asks an official from Tres Valles township. Until that question, the bureaucrat had been welcoming, good-humored even; but on hearing where they wanted to go, his face reddened. He looked around from place to place. His chin trembled. He did go there, but reluctantly and at the first opportunity he fled – full throttle, ignoring speed bumps, puddles, and potholes.

The entrance to El Diamante is the opening to Eden. At the end of the meadow on this ranch, once the property of the late Fernando Cano Cano, first mayor of Tres Valles, trees are laden with fruit, a fish farm to one side. Pastures spring up at the corners to the property. A river runs through it.

It’s a golden dream for any farmer. But for the thirty-one people who were murdered and buried here, it’s where they went from paradise to hell.

After three months, last Monday night Navy personnel finally acknowledged it as a burial site. Nobody could have imagined that, under leafy trees on one side of a ravine hid horror: death, suffering, and shame half-covered by soil.

A smell hovers over the site. Green flies swarm around rotting flesh, crawling with maggots. There are thirteen holes. From each one they have exhumed two or three people. The investigators left a short time ago. They worked with nothing. Help came from soldiers stationed in Xalapa and Veracruz.

One person who was there, and whose identity is being protected, says that the investigating agents couldn’t cope. After hours of digging and removing rotten flesh, exhaustion overwhelmed them.  Officers from the Veracruz Investigations Division (AVI) had to lend a hand, putting their firearms to one side to pull on rope to extract the dead. “The exhumed bodies were tied up. It was complicated because they didn’t have hands or feet. Sometimes we had to help.”

“We tired from pulling up so many bodies. There was this moment when we had to shovel and blood and rotting stuff came out,” the official said.

 

OFFERINGS TO THE SKINNY WOMAN

Dirty dishes. Leftover food. Smelly mats. Damp towels. Pirated CDs. Dirty clothes scattered all over. Medicine. A shrine to the Santa Muerte. Black candles. The Seven Powers of Santería.  A toilet overflowing with crap.

It’s the inside of the house located on the rise of the El Diamante ranch. In this place, about two kilometers from the police station and town hall of Tres Valles, twenty-four men and seven women were murdered. How was it possible to massacre so many people so near to the police station?

Until a few days ago the inhabitants were a group of hitmen. They got into the ranch through a breach that runs from the city, along railway tracks, through groves of trees and a red clay trail.

Inside the building, what causes most fear is the image of the Santa Muerte.  It’s clearly a copy of Michelangelo’s Pietà, with Christ lying at the feet of the skinny woman.

The thirty-centimeter image is mounted on a box with a twenty-liter capacity. Around it are more than a dozen candles of the Seven Powers of Santería: Obatalá, Elegguá, Oggún, Orunlá, Yemayá, and Ochún.

More candles are placed inside the dwelling. They could be more than forty, or thirty-one. Perhaps the same number of victims buried in the clandestine cemetery.

Still inside, one finds chile, tomatoes, a frying pan filled with potatoes and sausage and on a chair, a saucepan filled with potatoes. They were about to eat. At present, the scant unofficial information provided by military sources doesn’t mention detainees, pointing to a timely escape.

The mats – from the National System for Overall Family Development (DIF) – stand out, strewn all over. It’s a mess left behind by officials who didn’t pay attention to a single detail: dozens of keys left behind beside the well – keys to houses, cars, drawers, and boxes. Keys that once belonged to the people dragged here and murdered.

 

POSSESSED

El Diamante is a watchtower: from its rise there’s a view of Tres Valles, and on the other side a meadow sown with fine, nourishing pasture. A sonorous ravine nearby snakes below the ranch, shaded by fruit trees.

Police reports call it an “abandoned ranch.” But its infrastructure looks in good shape.

In the town they confirm that it belonged to the late Fernando Cano Cano, a member of the Party of Institutional Revolution (PRI) and the first mayor of Tres Valles. Nobody can say how a group of murderers and death fanatics took over the ranch.

The difference between the last tenants and the owners is clear: they were very religious. In a corner, there’s a chapel to the Virgin of Juquila.

The Chapel to the Virgin of Juquila at El Diamante (Photo Credit: Ignacio Carvajal, Blog.expediente.mx)

The Chapel to the Virgin of Juquila at El Diamante (Photo Credit: Ignacio Carvajal, Blog.expediente.mx)

Inside the three-by-three chapel, with an altar in the middle, and cubbyholes in its walls, are mats, used condoms, excrement. There are signs of frantic sex, wild nights, alcohol, torture, and decapitation.

The thugs used this place for everything but praying to Christ’s mother. Her images are no longer in the cubbyholes: they have been destroyed.

In the chapel, they didn’t leave flowers or candles to the Virgin. But they left bottles of whisky and a bag of bread rolls to Death. An offering.

 

HOPE LIVES ON

The smell of death rattles the nerves of all of Cosamaloapan and its neighboring villages. “I had to wash my clothes again because I’d hung them out to dry the day the bodies arrived. But the smell penetrated everything and it stinks,” relates one of the people who lives by the morgue here in Cosamaloapan.

The smell lingers in the air and pervades all of Cosamaloapan, penetrates the poorest neighborhoods, the low-income areas where there are the most cases of missing people.

“We came here from Xalapa [the state capital, 300 kilometers away], because we knew there were a bunch of dead people here and in our neighborhood four boys are missing. A truck blocked their path and took them,” says a woman, who along with the others, seems not to be made sick by the smell or the heat.

They are wives, mothers, aunts, grandparents or partners of disappeared people. For them, Cosamaloapan and the neighboring towns amount to a badly healed wound bursting with pus. They are desperate.

“Sometimes I just want to find her and be done with it. Tell me if she’s dead or whatever,” says one woman, whose daughter, Wendy Cruz, has been missing since May.

Her granddaughter, Wendy’s daughter, holds a photo of her mother: dressed in a red blouse and tight white pants. Just beside the Papaloapan River. The last time they saw her she was going to Alvarado to eat with a friend.

Wendy Cruz. Last Seen went she went to Alvarado for a meal with a friend. (Photo Credit: Ignacio Carvajal, Blog.expediente.mx)

Wendy Cruz. Last Seen when she went to Alvarado for a meal with a friend. (Photo Credit: Ignacio Carvajal, Blog.expediente.mx)

Another family of women and children seeks shade under a fig tree. The oldest carries a photo of her sixteen-year old grandson who went to a party in Tuxtepec two weeks ago and never returned.

“They treated us very badly inside. We aren’t from here. We came from Oaxaca. Inside the morgue they told us we should deal with things in Oaxaca. They say there aren’t any bodies here. That they took them all to Xalapa,” says one of the women.

At some moment in the afternoon they could not wait any longer. They were huddled around the entryway where at least two stood waiting. They approached the slabs. They raised the sheet from one corpse and confirmed that it wasn’t their relative. They entered with fortitude. They left alone.

 

JOINED TOGETHER IN PAIN

On the Cosamaloapan-Acayucan highway, two hundred kilometers from the graves, a man enjoys some pineapple juice, happily looking at the cargo on his truck: twenty coffins.

The man has been informed about the region’s toughest news. “Clandestine Graves at El Diamante in Tres Valles.” Rather than being afraid, the funeral director in Cuenca del Papaloapan seems energized. He begins making calls to all his contacts, mostly those at the morgue, whom he rewards if they pass on the news to him first. He knows that the cargo he’s bringing from the Federal District won’t be of any use if he doesn’t hurry up and do the paperwork at Cosamaloapan’s deputy prosecutor’s office. “I don’t think they are going to be enough. We are going to have to ask for more,” said the driver.

Journalist Ignacio Carvajal reports from Veracruz. Follow him @nachopallaypaca on Twitter. This article was first published under the title, “El rancho del horror,” at blog.expediente.mx available at: http://blog.expediente.mx/nota.php?nId=6974#.U7NQUI1dVjY.

 

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. The MxJTP has a FaceBook page: like it, here.

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Urban Muralists Treat City as Canvas (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RíoDoce)

This article was first published in RíoDoce on 22 June 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Urban Muralists Treat City as Canvas
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RíoDoce)

Yeye

Yeye, Murdered First Aid Worker

The walls speak. They shout.

The strokes, the colors, the silhouettes on the outsides of the old houses, low joists, on the fences of abandoned properties: they catch eyes, trap stares, and when the observer stops a moment, stays in front of the graffiti, the stencil, the aerosol, the acrylic, there are reflections and conversations, dreams and feelings.

Fingerprints of the new and old asphalt artists touch Andrade or Obregón avenues, the walls of the new promenade, historic downtown’s old buildings, the city’s police boxes, and Buelna or Rosales streets. They mark space, express their own resistance or that of those they represent, criticize, protest, and leave their mark.

Doctor Feis is one of these rebels. He seems to antagonize the untouched walls and the plain whites of some façades. On one wall he painted the face of Genoveva Rogers, nicknamed Yeye, the paramedic killed by gunshots when armed men ran after a man – he fled into the Red Cross – and a bullet killed the young woman.

Her face was painted on the wall of an abandoned police box, rescued by youth movement Recuperarte in the 10 de Mayo neighborhood. They are spray can murals and Doctor Feis has exhibited his work in states like Oaxaca, Baja California, Mexico City, Puebla, Querétaro, and Baja California Sur.

“To paint walls was mere fancy, custom. But then it became a hobby, and now it’s become a way for me to express myself,” says the 26-year old youth, originally from the capital city of Culiacán, a graduate of the Autonomous University of Sinaloa’s art school.

On Andrade Avenue, between Ángel Flores and Rosales Streets, on the so-called Paseo del Ángel he painted the face of Sandra Luz Hernández, the activist shot to death in May while looking for her son Edgar Guadalupe, missing since February 2012.

In Yeye’s case, he did it out of friendship. He knew her family. It was a way to keep her memory alive and celebrate the arc of her life. But Sandra Luz’s murder pained him: the impunity, the violence that has smothered and stuck to Sinaloa’s society, where silence, surrender, and indifference rule in the empire of bad things, where people order killings and put their fingers on the trigger, ready to shoot.

Doctor Feis explains that he first painted commonplaces, but now he wants to express social concerns, nourishing collective memory: the deaths of three musician friends in Lomas del Bulevar, the disappearance and murder of one more friend in La Primavera – these are facts that mark his outlines, the colors, the blood, and the anger – of his street murals.

“There, on the walls, it’s transcendent. It stays. In newspapers, it’s a momentary thing. Like what happened to Genoveva, then with Sandra Luz. Things happen and everybody forgets. You can play protest songs in the Cathedral every day, but the song sticks with you after it is played. The mural remains. That’s why I put one on the Paseo del Ángel, a place of entertainment, so that it disrupts things, generates something,” he says.

Sandra Luz

Sandra Luz, murdered activist

Wrong Steps

Early in the morning, while the city sleeps and the patrol cars howl and luxury trucks whine, the wall warriors take to the shadows to write the city’s history – its disasters and dreams – on a canvas of brick, limestone, and cement. The Watchavato, maybe the most famous artist of Culiacán’s tarmac, paints with a stencil technique, signing like a dog pissing on posts and corners.

One of those giant dollars was placed on Obregón and Madero a few weeks ago: “Infinite thanks” read the sign, and in its center, an effigy of Jesús Malverde. A few days later, in a spunky show of censorship, city police destroyed the paper sculpture. Now you can just see its disfigured remains.

There, on walls shrouded in darkness, brushes shout, spray cans swear, ink cries, dripping down walls that are overcome by time, limestone and dust. Hooded they come brandishing their hardware, then the officers in their patrol cars, some more than others up early, drunk, drifters. Nothing’s going on, we are working, they respond and don’t want to be provoked or challenged. Occasionally they work in groups, bring cameras and lights to see or to improve the looks of the blows and paint strokes. Like cats in heat, some work alone: caterwauling over the fence, a wall, a cement canvas, making the city shout what its citizens have shut up about and what the government covers up.

Shouts. A cement canvas so the city can shout what the government covers up.

Shouts. A cement canvas so the city can shout what the government covers up.

To Resist
He calls himself Diske One. That’s his name. From Culiacán, 24 years old, time spent living with the mountain folk of Sinaloa and Durango. Down and out, nothing more, among the Huicholes and Tepehuanes, Mayos and Yoremes, documenting them, learning from them, understanding them, embracing that life, why they do things, their long-term marginalization.

One of his works, maybe his most imposing and unsettling, is on Rafael Buelna Street in front of the Sinaloan Art Museum (Masin): it’s of a red Huichol, decked out, deer head, spilled paint, playing a violin on his left shoulder, on a scarred canvas, bare bricks, half-eaten walls, hands up in surrender.

He says that as a child the panhandlers frightened him. That fear stayed with him through his teenage years and as a challenge his father used to hand him coins to give to the indigenous people and beggars. When they saw he had money, they danced for him. Now he doesn’t fear them, he admires them. He paints them, follows their struggle and their marches, and does the same with the Huicholes and other indigenous communities.

“Each time I finish painting them, I’m still busy. There’s so much about them to paint: like the fight of the Huicholes in Wirikuta, where they want to build a mine that the indigenous people oppose. They won’t be able to do that to them. They are very unified, not like us. They have power, beliefs. They resist and say, ‘go fuck yourselves.’ That’s what I am telling people with my work: they resist, they exist, they are here,” he says.

This type of expressions on the city’s walls, he adds, represents a cry of criticism, or protest, of social and collective reflection, about what’s happening in Sinaloa and the rest of the country.

“Artists have a social commitment to the people’s problems, their hopes and dreams, their needs and worries. We have to renew ourselves, too. To look for new ways forms of expression, to find new techniques and themes, to keep on creating,” he emphasized.

In Culiacán’s different corners are at least five of his works, all some sort of mural, using a spray can and acrylic paint. They express the destruction of the environment, indigenous people that fight against marginalization and injustice, to keep on going and resist.

And maybe with these lines, colors, and silhouettes they will stop the fences from being quiet, the city from staying silent, and crumbling.

Huichol

Huichol

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 article was first published under the title, “Toman muralistas urbano ciudad como lienzo,” and is available at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/toman-muralistas-urbanos-la-ciudad-como-lienzo.

 

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. The MxJTP has a FaceBook page: like it, here.

 

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Torture in Mexico: Human Rights Organization Takes On Another Four Torture Cases from Ciudad Juárez (Martín Orquiz, El Diario de Ciudad Juárez)

This article was first published in El Diario de Ciudad Juárez on 10 June 2014. It has been published without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Translator´s Note: The MxJTP is committed to translating articles about torture in Mexico. Along with the four new cases the subject of this article, the El Diario de Juárez also makes reference to the torture of the five people once accused of the 2010 car bomb in Ciudad Juárez. After more than three years in prison, those five torture victims were released in March 2014 – after they were released they interviewed about their experience by journalist Daniela Rea for newspaper El Universal. On a recent visit to Mexico, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture – who did not visit Ciudad Juárez – confirmed that torture is “widespread” in the country. And, for over the past decade, AnimalPolítico confirmed that not a single public official has been punished for this serious crime. PT

 

Torture in Mexico: Human Rights Organization Takes On Another Four Torture Cases from Ciudad Juárez
By Martín Orquiz (El Diario de Ciudad Juárez)

Defense attorneys from the Center for Human Rights Paso del Norte (Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte, CDHPN) have four other cases similar to those accused of extortion and freed after a court agreed Monday that their confessions were obtained under torture.

And, according to the organization’s spokesperon, Carlos Murillo González, another eight case files are under evaluation to determine if they share characteristics required to take on their defense.

Until now, three cases exist where it has been proved that police officers tortured people to “confess” their participation in various criminal acts. Among these are the cases of five border residents who were accused of detonating a car bomb in 2012 but who were later accused of carrying arms, drug possession and of links to organized crime.

The fourth case was not publicised to the same extent, according to the spokesperson, but it did share the same characteristics as the others: those accused were young men living in neighborhoods on the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez, tortured to admit their participation in criminal activities.

Murillo González added that these cases all share various features: the alleged perpetrators were taken from their homes by police officers from different forces but their reports state the arrest took place elsewhere and under different conditions.

In the cases currently under discussion, Carlos Murillo expects them to be successful because each undergoes a rigorous selection process before the CDHPN takes on their defense.

The CDHPN spokesperson referred to brothers Juan Antonio and Jesús Iván Figueroa Gómez who, along with Misael Sánchez Frausto, have been imprisoned on charges of extortion for two years and five months. However, a court has annulled the evidence presented by the Public Prosecutor, determining that it was obtained through torture.

Another person accusd in the same case, the underage brother of the Figueroa Gómez was declared innocent for lack of proof in August 2013. All of these accused were arrested on 18 January 2012.

As recently as last March, the Federal Attorney General (PGR) withdrew the charges against the five men arrested and accused of involvement in detonating the 2010 car bomb.

Noé Fuentes Chavira, Rogelio Amaya Martínez, Víctor Manuel Martínez Rentería, Gustavo Martínez Rentería and Ricardo Fernández Lomelí were freed after more than three and a half years in prison.

These five men tested positive for torture under the Istanbul Protocol, a diagnostic tool used to assess if a person was subjected to torture or degrading treatment.

Newspaper sources establish that on their arrest they were accused of organized criminal membership, crimes against the health code for possession of marijuana, and having firearms reserved exclusively for the Armed Forces.

Murillo González mentioned that these cases have a documented modus operandi by police: officers arrive at homes and detain men whom they consider belong to gangs.

“Those arrested are young and poor, that’s the way the police works,” he added.

In regards accusations of torture used for self-incrimination, Murillo González said that another four cases are still pending and another eight are in a CDHPN review process: each case is submitted to a selection process that can take several months to see if the human rights organization can take on their defense or not.

Among the people that the CDHPN is currently defending are those accused of extortion, robbery and belonging to organized crime.

Yet there are still many others who come to the CDHPN to request information, looking for help, Murillo González says. These people often decide not to continue with their cases because they are subject to police violence, receive threats, and refuse to go further. The CDHPN only acts when those affected want to file a formal complaint.

“They come for help but they don’t want to follow any further steps. But we’ve been able to put together a systematic view of the way the police work, they way they attack certain social groups, mostly against youth from poor neighborhoods,” he said.

The police officers, he added, arrest somebody and force them through illegal means to say who their accomplices were, then forcing them to identify them.

“At any hour of the day or night they invade their homes and remove the youth who are implicated. Then they use torture to make them confess, and this practice is something we frequently see,” he specified.

Murillo González, who is a sociologist, mentioned that on average each week about two or three people seek out psychological assistance because they have been experiencing threats or torture by the police. They tend to ask for help but then they don’t go any further.

There is no set protocol for the cases that the CDHPN accepts, but they do share the following features: the affected come from a vulnerable group and, if torture occurred, the CDHPN reviews the testimony to see if they coincide with the facts and they even investigate the person’s trustworthiness.

“We are accused of defending criminals, but we defend human dignity,” Murillo González emphasized during the interview. “It falls to the authorities to prove what the accused did; to us they are innocent.”

Journalist Martín Orquiz reports for El Diario de Ciudad Juárez. This article was first published with the title, “Defiende organización otros 4 casos de tortura,” and is available at: http://diario.mx/Local/2014-06-10_b9a41638/defiende-organizacion-otros-4-casos-de-tortura/.

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. The MxJTP has a FaceBook page: like it, here.

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Missing in Mexico: The Disappeared During Peña Nieto’s Presidency (Paris Martínez and Daniela Rea, AnimalPolítico)

This is the second of six articles published by AnimalPolítico about disappeared people during Peña Nieto’s Presidency. It has been translated without permission by the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Disappeared during Peña Nieto’s Presidency
By París Martínez and Daniela Rea (AnimalPolítico)

 

Marisol Hidalgo Juárez, almost 15 years old. Victim of a disappearance in March 2014.

Marisol Hidalgo Juárez, almost 15 years old. Victim of a disappearance in March 2014.

 

The information provided by the National Register of Missing People does not provide a clear profile of the victims: it fails to include socio-economic data, educational attainment, work and health status. But it is possible to pull out some demographic features that characterize those who have disappeared in Mexico during the first ten months of the Peña Nieto presidency.

For example, women twelve to fifteen years old are the population most affected during this period and number 519 disappearances. According to the National Register, one of every five disappearance cases is that of an adolescent woman. Marisol Hidalgo Juárez, a girl of fourteen, belongs to this group. A resident of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, two months ago on the 13 March 2014 an unknown person abducted her. “What the neighbors who saw everything say is that a man entered the house and took her by force,” said her father, “my girl had barely just started secondary school…”

When she was abducted, Marisol was a month from her fifteenth birthday. In fact, in the photo used to advertise the search for her, she wears the dress she was going to use for her party.

“She has brown hair, two big eyes,” murmurs her father, his voice shaking with anxiety, “the Public Prosecutor, the Army, the Navy, and the State Police are all looking for her now, and all of them have her photo but still they have not found anything… and I want to ask people who see her, or the person who has her, that they return her to us. We aren’t going to do anything against that person, we just want her brought back to us. We want to know that my girl is alright…”

Journalist Paris Martínez reports for AnimalPolítico and may be followed on Twitter @paris_martinez. Journalist Daniela Rea reports for AnimalPolítico and newspaper El Universal. Follow her on Twitter @danielarea. This article, the second of six in a series, first appeared in Spanish with the title, “Los desaparecidos de Peña Nieto.” The full series, in Spanish, is available, here: https://readymag.com/animalpolitico/31859/2/.

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. The MxJTP has a FaceBook page: like it, here.

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Missing in Mexico: 2,618 Disappearances In Peña Nieto’s First Year as President (Paris Martínez and Daniela Rea, AnimalPolítico)

This first of six articles was published by AnimalPolítico on 3 June 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Missing in Mexico: 2,618 Disappearances In Peña Nieto’s First Year as President
By Paris Martínez and Daniela Rea (AnimalPolítico)

A group of armed men abducted six workers from outside the Bolívar Mine in Piedras Verdes, Chihuahua on 9 February 2013. They also took their tools. Five welders and the camp cook disappeared; their whereabouts are still unknown.

According to the miners’ relatives, nobody tried to find them: neither the state nor federal authorities, and not even their employer Dia Bras de México, an affiliate of the Canadian mining company, Sierra Metals, Inc. So led by supervisor engineer Abraham Mendoza, nine days later fifteen fellow welders went after them. They left the state capital and headed towards Urique township in search of their missing colleagues.

This second group, however, was ambushed when they arrived at the Piedra Verdes mining camp: a group of armed men set upon the welders, gagging, beating, and hitting them for being in the region. The attackers freed eleven welders, but continued to hold three others captive including their supervisor, warning: “If you are still here when dawn breaks, we will kill them.”

These survivors were forced to flee from the Bolívar mine knowing that ten of their colleagues remained captives of the criminal group that controlled the region. Since then, each of them may be considered a victim of forced disappearance. (Translator’s note: the facts, as described, do not seem to conform to the international legal definition of a forced disappearance. According to international law, state agents must have participated in, or have authorized, supported, or acquiesced to, the acts which led to the disappearance. See, Article 2, the International Convention for the Protection of All People from Enforced Disappearance. PT) “It wasn’t a common kidnapping. They never called to ask for ransom,” says María del Carmen de Jesús Ventura, the mother of Arturo Chacón, a disappeared welder. “They took them with their team, and with their tools, with their machines, with their computers, and with Abraham Mendoza’s truck, the welders’ boss.”

The names of the abducted workers from the Bolívar mine are: Arturo Chacón de Jesús, Gustavo Ornelas, Abraham Mendoza, Sergio Ávila Jiménes, José Guadalupe Terrazas Urbina, David Fuentes González, Mauro Orduño Muela, Benjamín Reyes Palomares, along with the camp cook, Guadalupe, whose surnames have been ignored.

The ten miners belong to the 2,618 “missing” people since Enrique Peña Nieto became president of Mexico. To be exact, these are the victims reported during the government’s first ten months, in the period from December 2012 to September 2013, when officials last updated those figures.

According to the National Register of Missing People (a publicly-accessible tool that was available online until 25 May – it was then deactivated by federal authorities), during Peña Nieto’s presidency these victims can be broken down into 1,115 women (42.6 percent) and 1,502 men (57.4 percent), and were abducted from 29 jurisdictions. The only states that did not officially register any disappearances from the beginning of the presidential term were: Campeche, Nayarit, and Hidalgo.

Journalist Paris Martínez reports for AnimalPolítico and may be followed on Twitter @paris_martinez. Journalist Daniela Rea reports for AnimalPolítico and newspaper El Universal. Follow her on Twitter @danielarea. This article, one of six in a series, first appeared in Spanish with the title, “Se acumulan 2mil 618 casos de desaparición en 1er año de EPN.” The full series, in Spanish, is available, here: https://readymag.com/animalpolitico/31859/2/.

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. The MxJTP has a FaceBook page: like it, here.

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Social Activist and His Wife Bludgeoned to Death in Mexico (Pablo de Llano, El País)

This article was published in El País on 6 May 2014. It has been translated without permission by the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

 

Professor Alejandro Chao at a community event. / Photo: BLOG LA HORMEGA

Professor Alejandro Chao at a community event. / Photo: BLOG LA HORMEGA

 

Social Activist and His Wife Bludgeoned to Death in Mexico
by Pablo de Llano (El País)

– The murder of a married couple respected for their social activism shocks the State of Morelos, the birthplace of Mexico’s Peace Movement

“It’s an atypical event,” Morelos’s governor, Graco Ramírez, said. The press release from the State University of Morelos defines it somewhat differently; as a high-impact crime characterized by a situation of structural insecurity: “These brutal and unspeakable murders (…) once again prick the country’s conscience about the absence of the right to life and security for citizens.” For a hurried politician what happened is an “event” but for the professor’s colleagues and friends the murders were a crime. The politician says it was “atypical” but to the friends and colleagues it was appalling evidence of a problem with shared public responsibility.

The lifeless bodies of the renowned psychology professor and social activist Alejandro Chao (77) and his wife, Sara Rebolledo (71), were found Monday morning in their home in Cuernavaca, the capital of the State of Morelos. On their heads they had marks of being bludgeoned by a stone. A window to their house was broken. Morelos’s Prosecutor, headquartered two blocks from the crime scene, has suggested an assault when the couple returned home at night and came upon the intruders. Morelos’s security chief, Alberto Capella, has said that the people who carried out the crime reacted violently because they knew the couple, and were surprised to see them arrive, “outside their routine.”

Bordering the south of Mexico City, the small state of Morelos has two million residents. It’s not one of Mexico’s regions overwhelmed by organized crime but it is an area preoccupied with small-scale criminal activity: mostly, kidnappings and extortions. In 2013, it was the Mexican state with the highest proportion of abductions: 8.5 per 100,000 people. If the states of Michoacán and Tamualipas provide the actual paradigms for the authorities for trying to combat the power of the large drug trafficking mafiosi, Morelos epitomizes the problems of structural deficiencies to protect citizens from crimes committed by smaller criminal groups. In the wake of the violent dynamics within Mexico stemming from the fight against drug trafficking and fed by the fatal combination of socioeconomic marginalization and criminal impunity, these lesser groups look on everyday citizens as a way to make money.

Professor Chao’s university has called for a march this Wednesday in Cuernavaca. Three years ago, the city’s displeased society symbolically turned itself against crime; in March 2011, poet Javier Sicilia’s 24-year old son was assassinated. A famous Mexican intellectual, Sicilia headed a march from Cuernavaca to Mexico City, sparking the Movement for Peace, Justice, and Dignity, the country’s most relevant social phenomenon of recent years. Three years later, with Sicilia retired to a supporting role after two years of unceasing activism, and because of the victims’ stature, Cuernavaca’s society finds itself with a new high impact case: a respected academic who after a life dedicated to social progress ends up murdered in his house beside his wife in an alleged assault by common criminals.

Chao continued to serve as director of the School of Social Work, after 36 years spent training psychologists, facts recognized in the University’s press release, which also mentions that Chao served as Mexico’s representative on UNESCO’s Council of Higher Education. According to the University, Chao “throughout his long and fertile life, gave voice to historically excluded communities and groups.” The press release ends by announcing this Wednesday’s march, and with a slogan: “Towards a humanity based on culture.”

Professor Chao was also a promoter of culture and edited a published collection of poetry called Voices Against the Wind (Voces al viento), bringing together young poets. He published one of his books of poetry in this collection: he called it Canticles of the Kabbalah (Cántigas de la cábala). The academic collaborated on a literary and political blog called La Hormega. After learning of his murder this Monday his fellow bloggers published one of his poems. By telephone this morning, Juan Pablo Picazo, who is responsible for La Hormega said the professor was involved in a process of re-writing his canticles. “He used to say that the more you grow, the more you learn, in the vain of Walt Whitman.” The last paragraph of the canticle published yesterday on the blog says:

The poet revives to the tune of pipes and flutes made of hemp;

I leave the garden where the fireflies excite the quantum world,

the lively rainbow color of the hummingbird sucking bottlebrush flowers

Three years after the tragedy of Javier Sicilia’s son, Mexico proves it still has problems with poetry and life.

Journalist Pablo de Llano reports for El País from Mexico. You can follow him on Twitter @pablodellano. This story first appeared under the title, “Asesinados a golpes en México un luchador social y su esposa,” available at: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/05/06/actualidad/1399400912_102565.html.

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. The MxJTP has a FaceBook page: like it, here.

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“With a heavy heart, but…”: A Murdered Criminal Defense Lawyer Speaks From the Grave (Salvador Urbina Quiroz, EL DIARIO)

This article was first published in EL DIARIO DE CIUDAD JUÁREZ on 14 April 2005. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project.

The late Salvador Urbina Quiroz – affectionately known as Chava Urbina – worked as a celebrated and widely respected criminal defense lawyer in Ciudad Juárez. The city’s prosecutor says that his life had been threatened on at least two occasions. Two gunmen murdered him and Cesar Cordero, a lawyer and juez de barandilla (magistrate of the peace) in his office on 26 May 2014 at 1720 on that Monday afternoon. A sometime contributor to various news outlets, especially to the city’s foremost newspaper El Diario de Juárez, Urbina Quiroz wrote the following, prescient column – posthumously translated into English by the MxJTP – on the occasion of the murder of his colleague, Victor Villar Chavarría, in April 2005.

It is estimated that around 20 lawyers have been murdered in Juárez in the last decade or so, a tragic statistic that now includes Cordero and Urbina. The day of their murder, seven other people were murdered in Juárez, marking it as 2014’s bloodiest day. PT

“With a heavy heart, but…”: A Murdered Criminal Defense Lawyer Speaks From the Grave
by Salvador Urbina Quiroz (EL DIARIO)

To my dear Ciudad Juárez, and to officials in the three levels of government charged with the difficult task of guarding our security, that of our family, friends, and our community, this current occasion proves difficult. So, with tears in my eyes, yours truly tells you this story from my home, inflamed by the tragedy of the craven murder of my colleague and friend, Lic. Victor Villar Chavarría. Víctor was fulfilling his duty when he was executed for gain in a premeditated and treacherous manner. The cowardly murderer shot him to death outside his office, a place where he had worked as a litigating lawyer and a harbinger of the law in this border town for several years until he had the audacity to take on public service work in the State Government as Chief Liquor Inspector. Together with Araceli Mercado, he promised to put the screws on the nightclubs, many of whose owners had turned our city into a huge cantina, operating them as pimping holes, brothels, and dens for drug dealing.

This administration tried to put a stop to such excesses: the long opening hours, and the protection of powerful, dark interests of the tsars monopolising these businesses. As proof, in the last four months the administration closed and shuttered more nightclubs than in previous years. Now there is no tolerance for violating alcohol laws and legal procedures that regulate those controversial and disorderly businesses.

But, as always, even in our mourning, while Villar’s family grieves, some gutter journalist has dared to suggest that Víctor was involved in “something.” So, without informing themselves, or even with due regard to professional ethics, reporters raise groundless questions that cause irreparable harm, worsen the tragedy for the man’s family, permit public officials to discredit the victim, and which justify those officials’ inability to identify those responsible for this cowardly crime.

One thing is certain: while they continue to create more police bodies, more super-prosecutors and super-police forces, these multiplications just add to the rivalry between agencies. Such competition only increases the value of seeking acclaim through photo opportunities: prosecuting and imparting justice continue to fail.

The worst thing is that, while unable to discharge the functions each body or agency has, they try to amass more powers, and under the pretext that they can’t act in such and such a circumstance. That’s what has happened with municipal police forces: they are looking for powers to investigate drug smuggling even though we all know that, instead of discharging their official duty of prevention, many protect those places where drugs are sold by the dose.

The community bears enormous mistrust against these police, meaning that there’s an apathy and lack of respect for legality. It’s worse when that apathy and disrespect begin with those same authorities. Juridically this is untenable. As the saying goes, it’s as if “God didn’t give scorpions a tail.”

Now that people are asking for the Mexican Army to add guard duties to its tasks in this city and in the state of Chihuahua, what the local authorities are revealing is their inability to confront wrongdoers. Local authorities have failed in their duty to provide public safety to our community – preventing crimes and, prosecuting them when they occur and delivering justice.

Local authorities have not been able to complete investigations. The monopoly of the power to punish that falls to these institutions – lacking, deficient, and corrupt – adds to the ineffective work of judges and magistrates, and amounts to just one thing: IMPUNITY. While our authorities fail to fight impunity by coordinating themselves, organized crime knows that its members won´t be punished or prosecuted. So, members of either common or specialized organized crime find ongoing motivation for continuing to commit crime. Meanwhile, as citizens we fail to do what we should: request results from our officials or demand their immediate resignation.

Police chiefs, prosecutors, directors, secretaries, delegates – whatever they want to call themselves – all of them are public servants. And if they don’t serve, they should give way to people who have that vocation, preparation and, above everything else, the disposition to bring our beloved Ciudad Juárez out of its public insecurity. Anything contrary to reducing insecurity means that we will have to resort to vigilantism, bringing us to the extreme of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

As I said at the outset, my heart is heavy. But I have the insides, the courage, and the feelings of somebody from Juárez. I share in the grief of the family of Victor Villar Chavarría, including that of the daughter of my beloved friend.

The late Salvador Urbina Quiroz (52), a widely celebrated criminal lawyer with three decades of experience, practiced in Juárez up until his violent murder on Monday 26 May 2014. The original article – published on 14 April 2005 as “Con el corazón en la mano… pero,”  is not available publicly on the web.

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The Story of Papa Mayito: Journalist and Kidnapping Victim (Verónica Calderón, EL PAÍS)

Mario Segura, Mexican Journalist (Photo Credit: Artículo 19)

Mario Segura, Mexican Journalist (Photo Credit: Artículo 19)

This article first appeared in El País on 11 April 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Story of Papa Mayito: Journalist and Kidnapping Victim
by Verónica Calderón (EL PAÍS)

– The first reporter registered under Mexico’s protective mechanism for journalists and human rights defenders denounces its malfunctioning

Mario Segura is a short man with brown hair. He smiles a lot. He is 52 years old. From the very first moment of meeting him he seems pleasant. He is a journalist but he also performs with his family as a clown. On stage they call him Papa Mayito. He is the editor of the magazine El Sol del Sur, and the muckraking blog, Alerta Oportuna, based in Tampico, Tamaulipas (in Northeast Mexico). That’s why he was kidnapped. They let him go eight days later. He is the first journalist registered under the government’s Protective Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. He is blowing the whistle on the mechanism: it didn’t help him at all. When he’s asked if he wants his photograph taken for this newspaper, he responds forcefully, “Of course. I have never been a journalist who wants to hide. I am not one to publish and then hide. I am also a person. I have a face. I exist.” Mario Segura is alive and he is a survivor of the war in Tamaulipas.

Mexico’s Congress approved the Law to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in June 2012. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico welcomed the law’s passage. But Segura complains that even though the letter of that law includes the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, it’s not effective. “It’s meant to protect me in three different ways: psychologically, legally, and take care of my safety.” He asserts that it has not fulfilled its obligations in those three areas.

Since 2012 the Mechanism’s budget has amounted to 300 million pesos (almost USD$23 million), and it has failed to process 57.8% of its cases. Of the 152 applications it has received, NGOs complain that it has not even reviewed 88 of those. People who have been threatened are meant to receive some sort of response from the government in less than ten days. Some cases have not been reviewed in more than eighteen months. These cases concern people whose life has been threatened or who have been kidnapped.

The Interior Minister, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, recognizes that the initiative is “a failure.” He has promised to restructure it, but has not provided a date when that will occur. Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Since 2010, 31 journalists have been murdered.

Mario Segura – the first journalist registered by the Mechanism – explains that he quit the government’s provision of psychological assistance because the appointments were disorganized, forcing him to move through the vastness of Mexico City. The legal aid was more like “having a chat.” He says he attended talks where a lawyer explained what he had to do, but the state would never pay for legal representation. Lastly, in regards security, he comments that he was provided with a phone number that, in theory, was meant to be a “panic button” but Segura was never sure if it would function. He has not received any type of special protection, even though after the kidnapping, he has been explicitly threatened. He was also offered medical coverage, but when he went to check his sugar levels (he suffers from diabetes) he discovered that the center he was sent to did not have the means to measure glucose levels.

Segura’s via crucis began two years ago, in August 2012. The journalist had performed at a children’s birthday party with his wife and children. They called their troupe the “Family Clowns’ Show.” He was on his way to this engagement when a colleague called to tell him that he had to take down an article published on his website because “it had angered” a criminal group. They kidnapped him the next day. They pointed a gun at him and they beat him, locking him up for eight days in a room smelling of “dirt and marijuana.”  They beat him with a board. They told him they were going to kill him and that “they were going to cut up [his wife and children] into little pieces.”

His kidnapping was a culminating event, but he explains that the threats began in 2010. Alerta Oportuna was a site with thousands of visits per day, consulted by users like a web of warnings and denunciations. Segura is convinced that they kidnapped him because he accused politicians of corruption and the government’s ties to drug traffickers that, he asserts, are common in Tamaulipas. Former governor Tomás Yarrington stands accused in the United States of accepting bribes from warring cartels in Tamaulipas, and of money laundering. Yarrington, who was active in the PRI – Mexico’s ruling party – before his suspension in 2012, asserts that the accusations are “political persecution.” The U.S. Justice Department and Interpol consider him a “fugitive.”

The journalist regrets “the pain that he has caused” his family and explains that he has felt guilty for a long time. But at the same time he recognizes that the spiral of violence afflicting Tamaulipas, a place that has suffered disputes between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, and also their own internal disputes, is “impossible to ignore.” He assuages whatever guilt he feels by telling himself that “being a journalist is not an excuse” and that those responsible for his loved one’s pain are those who ordered his kidnapping – a crime that remains unpunished, along with 98% of crimes committed in Mexico, according to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH)l

Segural left Tamaulipas with the help of the NGO, Artículo 19. They paid for his flight and his hotel for three months. He rues the “lack of solidarity” among Mexico’s journalists. “Officials think its better to buy off the media and use them to undermine our complaints,” he says. “What happened with Goyo was something exceptional. I hope it can happen again. There are so many of us…” He’s referring to Gregorio Jiménez, a humble journalist kidnapped and murdered in Coatzacoalcos (Veracruz) this February. The crimes against Gregorio provoked a wave of unexpected indignation among Mexico’s journalists. A group of independent journalists a few weeks ago presented a report that identified multiple problems in the investigation.

Does he regret publishing? Again, he replies with conviction: “No.” He explains that he is tired of having to stay quiet and that the severity of the situation in Tamaulipas demands speaking out. “I miss Tampico very much. My parents, my pals, my friends. But I can’t stay quiet. We can’t shut up.” Since he left Tamaulipas, Mario Seguro has not been able to find work as a journalist.

JournalistVerónica Calderón reports from Mexico for El País. Follow Calderón on Twitter @veronicacalderon. This story first appeared with the title, “La historia de Papa Mayito: periodista y secuestrado,” available at: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/04/11/actualidad/1397250509_404092.html.

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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