Category Archives: press freedom

Why They Kill You In Veracruz (IGNACIO CARVAJAL, Journalist, Veracruz, Mexico)

Why they Kill you in Veracruz

By Ignacio Carvajal (Journalist based in Veracruz, First Published 13 August 2015)

The issue in Veracruz is not whether they kill journalists, lawyers, politicians, teachers, students…
There’s just one issue: they kill you.
You can be murdered in Veracruz for two reasons: insecurity and impunity.
That’s why they kill a child in the north and bury her like an animal.
That’s why there have been more than 65 murders of women in 2015.
That’s why they kill journalists and former journalists.
That’s why they threaten human rights defenders.
That’s why they plunder the rivers for whatever they want.
That’s why there are kidnappings, even though punishment has increased and there are special anti-kidnapping units.
That’s why mayors can send hit men out to kill, then turn and run from law enforcement.
That’s why there are so many dead, floating in the Río Blanco.
That’s why there’s a solemn silence surrounding the violence in Veracruz and Boca del Río.
That’s why the University of Veracruz students are brutally beaten to an inch of their lives.
That’s why there are so many desperate mothers searching for the missing.
That’s why there are graves, the ones that have been found and the ones that haven’t been found.
For all these reasons, and more besides, that’s why Veracruz is drenched in tears and blood.

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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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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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Hypocrisy in Juárez: PAN Councilmember Doubles as Evangelical Minister (Gabriela Minjáres, DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

PANgelical

PANgelical: Ciudad Juárez Councilman José Luis Aguilar Cuéllar at work praising the Lord (Photo Credit, El Diario de Juárez)

This article was first published in El Diario de Juárez on 20 January 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

This translation is dedicated to the memories of Mexican photojournalists Guillermo Luna Varela, Gabriel Hugé Córdova, and former photojournalist Estebán Rodríguez Rodríguez, and media worker Ana Irasema Becerra Jiménez who were brutally murdered together in Boca del Rio-Veracruz on World Press Freedom Day 3 May 2012. The State of Veracruz is possibly the most dangerous place in the Americas to practice journalism.

Hypocrisy in Juárez: PAN Councilmember Doubles as Evangelical Minister
by Gabriela Minjáres (DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

Translator’s Note: For reasons of history and politics stretching back to the nineteenth century civil wars between liberals and conservatives, and beyond the violence of its twentieth century revolution, Mexico has sought to maintain a strict division between Church and State. Mexico’s federal constitution prohibits religious leaders from holding political office (Article 130, subsections D and E). And yet, as Gabriela Minjáres’ article demonstrates, a burgeoning alliance exists between the country’s politicians and its religious institutions — historically this alliance has been with the Catholic Church, but in some places, such as Juárez, it now involves powerful evangelical Christian movements. PT

Although he is registered with the Federal Interior Ministry (SEGOB) as a religious minister, pastor José Luis Aguilar Cuellar is currently one of the PAN’s leaders in Juárez’s city council. The holding of public or political offices by religious leaders is prohibited under Mexico’s Constitution, under the principle of Church-State separation.

Information from the Interior Ministry’s Director General of Religious Groups shows that Aguilar Cuéllar is registered as a religious minister and representative, or as the legal representative of a group called Rescue Mission de Mexico, located in Ciudad Juárez and registered under code SGAR/2285/97.

Those facts appear in the directory of religious ministers and religious groups, and may be found via the Internet at: www.asociacionesreligiosas.gob.mx.

When questioned about these facts, the councilmember asserts that he has neither asked for nor signed any documentation to confirm his status as a religious minister, although he concedes that he comes from a religious background and maintains a religious affiliation. That is why he helped form Rescue Missions, which is also established as a civil society organization.

“Yes, I helped establish this religious group. But I have not signed an application establishing that I am a religious minister. That’s the appropriate question, and that’s the appropriate answer,” he declares.

The councilman argues that if he had been registered as a religious minister he could not have run as a PAN candidate for city council on the ticket headed by María Antonieta Pérez Reyes during last year’s local elections. And the State Electoral Institute (IEE) could not have confirmed him during and after the elections, when he was confirmed as councilmember via proportional representation.

However, the PAN and the IEE assert that the councilman did not report his religious occupation and was unaware that he was officially registered by the Interior Ministry (SEGOB) as a religious minister.

The city’s Mayor, Enrique Serrano Escobar, also says that he was unaware of this matter and even showed his annoyance and surprise. He commented that he had not received any information about this case, nor had he analyzed it.

“This is an odd case. I haven’t thought about it. But it’s something that I did not do. Nor did I propose his candidacy. I did not choose him, but there he is,” he says.

After the Mayor personally checks the information on his own computer, he does not govern alone and that he does not have the power to place the council member on leave. Instead, the councilman and the party that backed him must resolve this situation according to the law.

Article 130 of Mexico’s Constitution establishes that unless a religious minister resigns from their position, they cannot hold public office or hold elected positions.

Article 14 of the Religious Groups and Public Worship Law indicates that while Mexican citizens who are religious ministers do have the right to vote, they cannot stand in elections for public office, nor can they undertake higher public duties, “unless they have formally, materially, and definitively resigned their ministry five years before election.” For higher public duties the time limit is three years, and for other public functions six months is sufficient.

However, up until now José Luis Aguilar Cuéllar has not distanced himself from his ministry, a role that has been fully documented by witnesses and using newspaper archives.

The pastor currently presides over the Rey de Gloria evangelical church, located in the Granjas San Rafael neighborhood, at kilometer 33 on the Casas Grandes highway. At his church he has developed a large social project focused on helping children and families.

Councilman Aguilar Cuéllar in fact participated in last Sunday morning’s religious service at the Rey de Gloria evangelical church. He took to the pulpit and directed the assistants. El Diario documented these activities.

In this marginalized neighborhood, residents identify the pastor with his good works over several years. His wife, Alma Guerrero, leads religious services on Wednesdays and Sundays, as well as holding conferences and Bible study.

The pastor is also identified as the director of this neighborhood’s social center. For the past 14 years he has directed the Centro Familiar Ayuda civil society organization, a shelter for youth and also participates in a children’s center based at the some location.

Newspaper archives show that from 2000 to 2011 Aguilar Cuéllar identified himself as a minister. As President of the Evangelical Pastoral Alliance in Ciudad Juárez, he signed an open letter on 9 June 2009 addressed to then Governor José Reyes Baeza Terrazas.

“Groundless Claims”

Even with a lengthy social and religious trajectory, José Luis Aguilar asserts that he finds strange – and disavows – his formal inscription as a religious minister in the Interior Ministry’s registry. He queries his registration because apparently it is not up to date and he has never been provided with evidence of his registration, such that it is.

“I won’t say how it was. I participated in a civil association with its own constitution and in that religious association the minister is Lupita Varela de Páez, followed by José Ramón. I buried José Ramón about eight years ago because he died. So I think it could be that the Interior Ministry’s registry is not up to date. But I am not also going to say that the Interior Ministry is not doing a good job -although Talamás Camandari also appears on the list and he was the late Catholic bishop,” Aguilar Cuéllar explains.

José Luis Aguilar appears with six other people appear in the Interior Ministry’s registry for Rescue Missions de Mexico: these include Guadalupe Varela de Páez and José Ramón Macías Majalca.

But in a keyword search of the religious groups’ directory, José Luis also appears in the same grouping as a representative or legal agent alongside Aurelio Páez Varela and Guadalupe Varela Uribe.

And, as the councilman indicated for the case of Monsignor Manuel Talamás Camandari, his name still appears in the list of religious ministers under the diocese of Ciudad Juárez. Camandari died in May 2005.

The deputy director of Attention to Religious Groups for the Interior Ministry, Arturo Aguilar Aguilar reported by telephone that the registry “takes time to update.” In José Luis’s specific case he said that they would undertake a special review since the minister asserts that he has never registered himself.

Article 12 of the Religious Groups and Public Worship Law stipulates that religious ministers are “all those people over the age of majority whose religious group confers such status,” and that they should notify the Interior Ministry.

If religious associations, such as churches or religious groups fail to notify, “then it will be understood that religious ministers are those whose principal occupation is directing, representing, and organizing the group.”

The regulations associated with this law mention that to recognize a person as a religious minister requires specification of their nationality and age, as well as attaching an official copy of a document specifying their position within the group.

It adds that only the interested party can certify the ministers of the religious institution.

According to Jesús Antonio Camarillo, doctor in Law and political analyst, the Interior Ministry’s registry clearly demonstrates a conflict of interest and that José Luis Aguilar should not discharge his functions as an elected member of the council.

“The law is very clear: if there is convincing evidence that he is a religious ministers in his own association, he cannot hold elected office,” Camarillo says.

When Questioned…

Since his registration as a PAN candidate for city council in March 2013, José Luis Aguilar Cuéllar was questioned about his role as a religious minister. Since then he has asserted that his wife was the minister and he was only a social worker, a fact that does not legally prevent him competing for public office.

María Antonieta Pérez Reyes, a contender for mayor of Ciudad Juárez during last year’s election, said the same thing: she asserts that nothing impeded Aguilar from being on her ticket. He was not registered as a religious minister and he was chosen fro his community work.

Hiram Contreras Herrera, the PAN’s local leader, conceded that they did not check if he was or was not registered as a religious minister because it is not a procedure regularly undertaken in the selection of candidates. In José Luis’s case, they favored him for his lengthy trajectory of social work.

“José Luis is a man well known for his social work, so we never focused on that. We did not know that he was a practitioner, actively working as a pastor,” he comments. So after winning the party’s primary, José Luis registered with the electoral authorities but he also overlooked his religious affiliation.

The State Electoral Institute’s spokesperson, Enrique Rodríguez Vázquez also mentions that they did not check the background or religious occupation of any of the candidates, including Aguilar Cuéllar.

“We only check their age, that their voter registration is current, and their place of residence. The rest remains to be investigated by petition, not as a matter of course. In this example, nobody challenged his candidacy,” he adds.

However, he mentions if there is evidence of this situation, the councilman must withdraw from his post and a stand in must take over which, in this case, is Daniel Ajuech Chihuahua.

The councilman dismisses whether he will request leave from his post. But he asserts that he will ask his legal counsel to investigate his situation with the Interior Ministry to confirm his legal status. He repeats that he has never requested registrations as a religious minister.

— When he is asked: Are you, or are you not, a religious minister?

— I am not registered as a religious minister because I have never personally requested that I should be identified as such.

— In practice, have you ever been a religious minister?

— Sometimes I give classes. Like every religious person who wants to practice their religion, I give conferences and talks. If that constitutes an illegal act then the Constitution has to define if I am a religious minister. But legally, registered legally then I should have made a personal application, and I have never done that.”

Journalist Gabriela Minjáres is a staff reporter for El Diario de Juárez. This article first appeared under the title, “Regidor panista aquí es ministro de culto,” available at: http://diario.mx/Local/2014-01-20_634668a3/regidor-panista-aqui-es-ministro-de-culto/.

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: 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)

SIDEBAR — MAIN STORY FOLLOWS…

– 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 indicates 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 (www.procutamps.gob.mx/portales/estadistica.asp) 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: http://www.pgjdf.gob.mx/violencia.asp.

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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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: http://nuestraaparenterendicion.com/tuyyocoincidimosenlanocheterrible/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=77:juan-francisco-rodriguez-rios#.U1CRN-ZdVmA

 

 

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Diego Fonseca: “I don’t think that justice should come from retaliation or revenge” (By Paula Chouza, El País)

This article was first published in El País on 7 December 2013. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Diego Fonseca: “I don’t think that justice should come from retaliation or revenge”
By Paula Chouza (
El País)

– At Guadalajara’s International Book Festival Diego Fonseca introduces a work of memoirs and essays about the 40 years since Pinochet’s coup

On that “first September 11,” while Pinochet’s dictatorship took La Moneda, Diego Fonseca (Argentina, 1970) was grabbing records from his father’s collection so he could trample them with his orthopedic shoes. Fonseca was three years old at the time. He uses that image from 1973 in his latest book, but it took three months to spring to mind, and came to him when he was looking at his four-year-old son. Little Matteo, of course, doesn’t scratch records – “because there are none in the house” – but with unconscious energy he will break an iPad’s screen.

The conversation with the journalist and writer takes place around a table on the third floor of Guadalajara’s Hilton Hotel, between events at the Feria Internacional del Libro (International Book Fair). Crecer a golpes. Crónicas y ensayos de América Latina a cuarenta años de Allende y Pinochet brings together the vision of 13 important storytellers and journalists to review the last four decades of the region’s ongoing conflicts. During the interview the author speaks about Latin America’s past and present, a story that belongs to a generation that grew up among the dictatorships. Diego Fonseca was 13 years old when Argentina recovered its democracy. Son of a teacher and a provincial lawmaker, at 14 he became politically active. “At the time I thought that being young could change things. Now I believe more in transformation as a progressive process. If you clear away everything at once the problem is that tomorrow people expect that public services will continue to function. Processes take time. Changes require force, dedication. Deep transformations don’t occur from one day to the next,” he says.

Question. Some say that Latin America has turned its back on its past. Do you think that there can be justice without damaging the economic and social well being that some of the region’s countries have achieved in spite of not judging their dictators?

Answer. I think that there’s an attempt at recuperation, of a re-reading of the past. At certain moments some countries did turn their backs because the necessary conditions did not exist. Argentina was the only country that didn’t turn its back. Scarcely two or three years after democracy’s return to Argentina, Alfonsín had put more than 300 soldiers in prison, between 40 or 45 years old, and who were fully a part of the armed forces. To me Guatemala’s attempt also seems consummately dignified. El Salvador is trying, a little, to look at that past. Chile still has a way to go. Argentina was complicated because while it tried to deliver justice, the economy tanked and the government couldn’t manage both fronts. Chile’s process, however, is distinct. Its economy has remained pretty stable but the political sphere needs some redefining. I hope it won’t take too long. But I don’t believe either retaliation or revenge make justice. The past needs to be reviewed in its entirety. Across the political spectrum they have made errors and I prefer that justice come later [rather than never].

Q: After the first round of elections in Chile, there are predictions of the Left’s return to power. Do you welcome that?

A: Yes I welcome the coalition’s return to government. I have always liked Bachelet. She’s a solid woman, a statesperson. The experience of the unreconstructed right, still stuck to the Chilean military’s old praetorian guard really wasn’t practical. It seems to me that there’s a huge social movement trying to argue about Chile’s values and I think that Bachelet must place before her some attention to those values that arose during her first period in office. Looked at another way, her style of managing social issues is different. Under Piñera, society’s demands exploded and I think that these can’t be ignored. Questions about educational policy need to be looked at again and that’s going to be central.

Q: How do you view the recent results of the Honduran elections: the victory of the official party’s candidate and the claims of fraud from the Left?

A: What’s certain is that I haven’t followed the elections deeply enough to judge the results. But on first blush it seems there is not sufficient proof to speak of fraud.

Q: You write that Latin America still hasn’t come of age. How old is it then?

A: It’s surely more than 13 years old and it’s probably closer to being a 17 year old. At that age rebellion sets in, responsibilities are looming, and one has to think about doing something in life. Latin America has thickened its understanding of strengthening institutions. The main goal is to try to bring stability, in society, as well as in the economy.  Through politics it’s possible to create those much-needed transformations. If any one of those three factors falters in a process of transformation, problems are going to arise. For example, in Chile’s specific case, if your economy is good and your institutions are good but you don’t manage social conflict, you are going to have little fare ups that, in Piñera’s case cost him keeping the Right in power. Improvement in equilibrium is much needed and Latin America is learning. But there are countries that still have to resolve many things, like freedom of the press or the rights of individuals.

Q: And what’s left for Mexico to resolve?

A: Mexico has many things left to do: the war against drug traffickers, the problems in managing public information… I think that there is an enormous question mark in respect to the PRI’s capacity and desire to show that it’s had a deep internal discussion about bringing democracy to the Party and at the same time that it has the capacity to manage the state through democratic government. This is a huge doubt that’s going to follow Peña Nieto throughout his term in office.

Q: Since drug trafficking is one of this country’s outstanding problems, does the growth of the self-defense movement warrant an opinion?

A: It’s a complex phenomenon. I don’t think it’s reasonable that civilian or social groups should take justice into their own hands. Having said that, one has to think about how to build the Mexican state. The idea of the nation hasn’t taken hold throughout the country. When one travels into the country’s deep south, like Chiapas, one finds that ethnicity exists before the idea of Mexico. It’s as if politics was a game of occupying spaces, and where the state doesn’t have any presence other political actors occupy that vacuum. In this way, the narco has created its own proto-state micro-relationships in places where it’s dominant. The self-defense groups finish with the state by saying it doesn’t have the capacity to provide the required security and that because they’ve been deserted the only thing that families can do is defend themselves. It’s an ugly message. I don’t like them. I understand why they’ve sprung up but I don’t like them.

Q: By way of conclusion, would you ever return to politics?

A: No [it’s resounding no]. I want to write. I believe that my role is trying to understand processes. My father’s a politician, but I’m not motivated in the same way. I dedicated the book to those who believed, to my father who still believes, and to my son who will believe, but I don’t put myself in any of those three places. I have believed and I stopped believing. I want to believe again but I am not stubborn like my father. I ought to be a bit more stubborn to return to politics and I think that just doesn’t grab me.

Journalist Paula Chouza reports from Mexico for El País. Follow her on Twitter @pchouza. This interview first appeared bearing the title “Diego Fonseca :“No creo que se deba hacer justicia por revancha ni venganza”,” available at: http://cultura.elpais.com/cultura/2013/12/07/actualidad/1386376286_662915.html.

Writer, journalist, and editor Diego Fonseca is the author of numerous articles and several books. His latest edited volume is Crecer a golpes (Penguin Random House, available on Kindle and in paper). You can follow him on Twitter @DiegoFonsecaDF.

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

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

Gregorio: Murdered for Reporting

Wednesday 19 March 2014
Mexico City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The unprecedented, 87-page report of the Misión de Observación may be found here: http://www.clasesdeperiodismo.com/2014/03/19/mexico-asesinato-de-periodista-gregorio-jimenez-no-puede-ser-un-caso-cerrado/. The report was supported by Reporteros sin Fronteras, Periodistas de a Pie, the Casa de Derechos de Periodistas, and the Inter-American Press Association (SIP-IAPA).

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was something terrible,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armed Men Arbitrarily Detain NOTICIAS’ correspondents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journalist Octavio Vélez Ascencio has spent the best part of a thirty-year career reporting for NOTICIAS, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca. This article was first published under the title, “Fue una masacre,” available at: http://www.noticiasnet.mx/portal/general/agropecuarias/152005-fue-una-masacre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

This article was reported in Spanish by Reporting Staff at the newspaper El Diario de Juárez, in Chihuahua, Mexico. El Diario is a daily newspaper known for hard-hitting coverage, and its journalists are always at risk. The article appeared under the title, “Libres, implicados en bombazo aquí,” available at: http://diario.mx/Local/2014-03-11_b971ab2c/libres-implicados-en-bombazo-aqui/.

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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