This article was first published on 26 July 2017 by Blog.Expediente.Mx. It has been translated into English with the consent of its author.
Lives in Danger in Veracruz: Mexican Journalist Gil Cruz and His Family
By Ignacio Carvajal (Blog.Expediente.Mx)
– Reporter Gil Cruz of Álamo, Veracruz raised the alarm and demanded authorities protect him and his family from a possibly fatal attack
– Armed men broke into his parents house on Tuesday night, demanding 100,000 pesos (USD$5,800) in exchange for not killing him or his siblings.
– “They said that if my parents don’t give them the money by the weekend, they will hurt the children and they mentioned me,” said Cruz, a journalist.
– Cruz lives under precautionary measures from the Federal Protective Mechanism for Journalists and Human Rights Defenders but neither it nor the Veracruz State Commission for the Protection of Journalists wants to provide security to his family.
Veracruz journalist Gil Cruz has filed a complaint about armed men breaking into his parents’ home to demand 100,000 pesos (USD$5,800). The men demanded the money in exchange for not killing him or one of his siblings. He sought help immediately from the state Commission to Protect Journalists (CEAPP) and the federal protective mechanism. But he says they have let him down because they are unable to protect the people closest to him.
Cruz reports for the online newspaper, PeriodicoMX. The attack, he said, began at 8.30pm in Citlaltepec in Álamo Temapache, about six hours from the Port of Veracruz. Four armed men burst into the house where “my parents were in the middle of something, and they started being aggressive, demanding 100,000 pesos in exchange for not harming their children.”
His parents told them they did not have that kind of money, forcing the men to leave, but not before they threatened to come back at the weekend for the money. Without the money “they would hurt our children.” They took off in the family car. Hours later it was found abandoned near the federal highway.
Gil Cruz said that he fears for his life. But he fears even more for his parents and his siblings. He is calling on the authorities to give him protection.
Gil Cruz said he been living with precautionary measures from the federal protective mechanism. He was granted federal protection because of threats he has received for publishing news about politics in the Álamo region.
He added that just this week staff from the federal protective mechanism came to his home to supervise the precautionary measures and to update their agreement to provide him protection.
“I can stand a threat against me. I’m kind of used to it. But threaten my family, they don’t know about these sorts of things,” he said in a phone call to Blog.Expediente.
He does not know where this new attack comes from. “I hate to think it is because of my work, but I don’t think I can put aside that explanation.”
It is not the first time he has been threatened for his work in this particularly unsafe region. “I have filed complaints, but they haven’ t worked. They haven’t helped at all. Yet even so my parents are committed to filing a new complaint.
“This morning I spoke with staff from the state and federal protective mechanisms. Each of them said the same thing. They can’t do much because it wasn’t a direct aggression against me but against my family members.”
The reporter, who sometimes works for newspaper Notiver said it was a shame “that I need to be shot in the foot or the stomach so that these protective mechanisms and the authorities can say that the threat was against me.”
He said that with this type of response, the perpetrators of violence against journalists find it very easy to “mess with family members since they aren’t subject to government protection, even though the threat comes from our work.”
Ana Laura Pérez is president of the Veracruz state Commission to Protect Journalists (CEAPP). She acknowledged being aware of Gil Cruz’s case and that “we are coordinating with state security services,” but, “really there is little we can do.”
“It is not because we don’t want to help, it’s that we cannot help: he is the journalist,” she said, when asked about extending the special security measures to Cruz’s family members.
She said that the state mechanism and every other institution face restrictions when “the family does not want to file a complaint. Neither can staff in the attorney general’s office act,” even though she said that they are doing everything they can to help him.
Gil Cruz works as a reporter in one of Veracruz silent zones, in the Huasteca, where the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas are ever present.
For about ten years, this region has been fought over because it is a strategic smuggling corridor to the U.S. border.
It has also been the site of vicious disputes between killers of both groups fighting for control over federal highway 180 running between Matamoros and Puerto Juárez.
Journalist Ignacio Carvajal works in Verazcruz. He reports for Agence France Presse, Blog.Expediente.Mx and other outlets.
Translator Patrick Timmons is a freelance human rights investigator based in Mexico City. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project, a pro-bono translation service that showcases quality journalism from accomplished reporters.