Category Archives: Trauma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

OFFERINGS TO THE SKINNY WOMAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

POSSESSED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

HOPE LIVES ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

JOINED TOGETHER IN PAIN

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Country, You Are Watching Me Leave (Rodrigo Soberanes Santín, En El Camino, Periodistas de a Pie)

This story is part of a series produced by En El Camino by Periodistas de a Pie, and funded by the Open Society Foundations. It has been translated pro bono, and without permission, by the Mexican Journalism Translation Project.

My Country, You Are Watching Me Leave
By Rodrigo Soberanes Santín (En El Camino, Periodistas de a Pie) 

What lies behind the numbers of tens of thousands of migrants who cross the border each year? Statistics suggest that people in their tens of thousands cross into Mexico without migratory documents – mostly from Honduras. But these figures don’t explain the reasons behind the exodus, for the misery and violence that permeate their countries of origin. For those who have left, and for those about to leave, the absence of the future leaves them with few options: stay to die a slow death, or risk their lives in a hellish journey.

Progreso, Honduras.- José Luis places his artificial limb on his leg, puts on his shirt with only one sleeve, and places a bandana around the only finger on the only hand he still has from that day in the Mexican desert.

He opens the door, passes the ongoing construction site that one day, he says, will house his family when he is married, and goes out into the street in search of a family that has a story of migration to tell him. He is president of the Association of Migrant Returnees with a Disability (Asociación de Migrantes Retornados con Discapacidad), and he has a remarkable interest in familiarizing himself with all the cases of forced migration from his country; he offers himself as a guide to know their stories.

For many years, José Luis has been well known in this city. Famous at one time for his talent singing rancheros and religious songs, eight years ago he lost his arm, a leg, and four fingers when he fell from a cargo train. It was his second attempt to reach the United States as an undocumented migrant. That’s who he was when he came back to Progreso and so he became involved in accompanying those who experienced the same thing he had lived through.

José Luis, on a walk around Progreso

José Luis, on a walk around Progreso

Honduras, his country, is the place most Central American migrants leave to go north. The flow of migration from Honduras has the greatest human cost in the world. Progreso, his city, is one of Honduras’s principal manufacturers of manpower ready to undertake the journey.

The journey north seems to be everywhere but above all else in those places where the exodus begins. When the drivers and their helpers have enough passengers, the buses parked in the city’s dilapidated central bus station can leave. The first buses to go are those for San Pedro Sula, a good place to leave the country. Then, when they enter Mexico, they are in the land of murders, fatal accidents, kidnappings and disappearances.

The Mesoamerican Migrant Movement labels the region the place of “migrant genocide.”

Before 1998, when Hurricane Mitch destroyed Honduras, Progreso was a place that attracted workers from the country’s south because of its banana industry and its factories. Today, its streets bear the marks of what forced migration gives and takes: houses constructed from material but with fractured families; small businesses and fast food restaurants that mingle with this place’s customs; places to receive Western Union remittances that spring up like businesses mining migrants’ savings.

A walk around Progreso’s streets and one finds Claro telephone stalls belonging to Mexican business magnate, Carlos Slim, and brimming with clients complaining about the poor service. Further on, in the dusty peripheral neighborhoods, residents leaving work avoid the darkness so they won’t be assaulted. Day laborers from the last of the banana plantations, industrial workers, taxis, office workers, and the unemployed – all of them are somehow linked to migration.

“Most of them were, or will be, migrants,” says Javier, a factory worker.

His eleven year-old grandson Anthony is with him and asks, “Is Honduras beautiful?” He replies that it’s not because “anybody can pull a pistol on you.”

It won’t do anything for Anthony to remember all the beautiful things about his country. Neither the Copán ruins, nor the Caribbean port of Puerto Cortés, nor the marvels of the sea around Atlántido, and not even the impressive mountain ranges of Santa Bárbara. He is growing up in a crumbling country.

Meanwhile, surefooted, and dextrously dominating his prosthetic leg that hangs halfway down his right thigh, José Luis walks under the intense Honduran sun, pointing at the houses built with dollars from migrants’ remittances, the country’s principle source of income.

They are houses that break the mold, built according to their owner’s criteria. They have painted walls, space for a car, for several rooms and they are covered with anti-theft devices. Each house represents a survival story. More light enters their windows.

“There are a ton of houses built thanks to migrants’ remittances, those who risk their lives on the journey. Here in Progreso, and especially in this neighborhood are the roots of migration, where there are orphans because parents left and there’s significant family disintegration because of migration,” says José Luis.

In the same block there are other houses that are concrete blocks with plastic roofs, built by Honduras’s government through its social housing program. These are the homes where nobody sends back remittances.

Karla lives in one of these houses. She’s seventeen years old. She still hasn’t left.

Yet.

If she migrates, Karla is most afraid of being kidnapped.

If she migrates, Karla is most afraid of being kidnapped.

THE COUNTRY THAT WAS

Guido Eguiguren, a sociologist from the Association of Judges for Democracy (Asociación de Jueces por la Democracia), a Honduran human rights defender, explains forced migration in his country taking place after Hurricane Mitch, in October 1998.

“The hurricane didn’t just physically destroy the country, its infrastructure, and thousands of lives. It also showed the world a country it barely knew, with a staggering level of inequality, a country forgotten by the world of development and cooperation. A country known for the nasty role it played in the 1980s acting as the United States’ aircraft carrier.”

While El Salvador and Nicaragua were battered by civil war, Honduras lent its territory to train the armed forces of the governments of those countries.

Honduras is a country of poor people where 66.5 percent of its residents do not have sufficient income to feed themselves. It’s also an unequal country that spits on people like José Luis or Karla as they look for ways to survive: 10 percent of the richest people in the country have an income equal to that of 80 percent of its low-income population.

Honduras shares first place with Guatemala and El Salvador for pushing out migrants to Mexico, and it takes first place in the divide between rich and poor. In terms of inequality in the Latin American region, Honduras take third place, Guatemala is in fourth, and El Salvador comes in at number seven.

Central America, undermined by poverty and violence

Central America, undermined by poverty and violence

Nobody knows for certain how many Hondurans leave their country each year, and it’s a figure that the government does not want to give out. The rough estimate by the Catholic Church’s Pastoral for Human Movement comes from counting the numbers of people deported from Mexico and the United States: in 2013 it was 72,000 Hondurans, including children and babies.

From Monday to Friday, deportees arrive in two airplanes every day at the Center for Returnee Migrants (Centro de Atención al Migrante Retornado, CMAR) at the San Pedro Sula airport, 30 kilometers from Progreso. Men and women get off the planes who left the country free and who come back with their feet bound in tape, their wrists in chains, and with a half-empty sack as their only baggage.

They walk a few steps on leaving the plane, look around from side to side and leave the airport terminal. In a few days, maybe at that very moment, they will undertake the journey back, starting from scratch.

José Luis, who is normally a chatterbox, keeps silent when he sees them arrive, recently unbound and thankful that their country greets them with a “baleada,” a meager flour tortilla covered in beans.

It’s a brutal brush with reality. When they return they are even poorer, more vulnerable, and more exposed to the violence that forced them to flee in the first place.

 

THE COUNTRY THAT IS

José Luis lives in a street in the San Jorge neighborhood, a barrio established by Jesuit missionaries at the beginning of the last decade after Hurricane Mitch “positioned” itself for a day and a half over Honduras, inundating the country with the water and wind of a category five hurricane, the most furious of them all.

Today San Jorge is controlled by two spies (“banderistas”) of the Mara Salvatrucha who report to their bosses who comes and goes. Its four entrances are guarded by the “güirros”, some young men recruited by the Maras and armed with pistols that scare everybody. Instructions from the underworld that extend throughout Progreso come from the hill above, behind an imaginary curtain that marks the barrios’ borders.

Manuel de Jesús Suárez, communications officer of the team of Reflection, Investigation and Communication, an organization that tries to understand the causes of migration from Honduras speaks about the country it is now.

Previously, migration used to occur as an escape from poverty. Today it is a way of saving one’s life, escaping from the daily violence that is permanently in the street, house, and in the Honduran government.

“The causes of migration are not conjunctural but structural, meaning the lack of work and decent salaries, access to health, to education, to housing. Now the other phenomenon is violence, organized crime, and the drug business shaping the country’s structure. The causes are a cyst in the system. They are there. The system makes it so that the majority of the poorest men and women remain excluded and so they leave,” he explains.

Manuel de Jesús, a man of more than 50 years old, knows this history well. He was born in Progreso and he has seen the collapse of the factories and the banana plantations, along with the arrival of the U.S. fast food outlets that spew out their greasy odor in the chaotic streets at the heart of the city. Wendy’s outlets, Burger Kings and Pizza Huts – all have armed guards with shotguns stationed inside their branches.

In 2013, 9,453 people died in Honduras for “external reasons”, meaning they were victims of violence. Of these 71.5 percent were murdered. In this country where an undeclared war rages, 563 people die each month. That’s nineteen deaths every day.

These numbers mark Honduras with the highest homicide rate in the world.

Viridiana wants to flee Honduras

Viridiana wants to flee Honduras

 

DISPOSSESSION AND DERELICTION

José Luis walks Progreso’s streets with mastery on his only leg. The sounds of radios drift from the windows of houses. Radio Progreso was established by Jesuits. On a Sunday program serving as catharsis to confront the abandonment, the station covers work problems, neighborhood violence, the educational system, human rights and migration.

The signal that can be heard from these windows accompanies people whose families have been broken. A migrant comes on the air to tell how, when he left Honduras, “another cock feathered his wife” and his wife left him. The calls keep on coming. Mostly on the radio one hears about those who live or lived with some consequence of forced migration.

The presenters on the Sunday program are Rosa Nelly Santos and Marcia Martínez, members of the Committee of Relatives of Disappeared Migrants (Cofamipro), and on this occasion they are talking about family disintegration. Before moving to a break in the program, Rosa Nelly announced the tune Hermano Migrante (Fellow Migrant) by Natividad Herrera who sings, “Return soon and enjoy what’s yours / forget the crying and all that pain.”

Return home; fill the towns with people that migration took north. Progreso, like many communities and barrios in Central America has been slowly emptied in the past year. Houses remain behind, sometimes empty, but most half inhabited.

Behind every door and window lie fractured stories.

Floridalma's House: She hides behind its walls.

Floridalma’s House: She hides behind its walls.

 

Teodora stays behind

Teodora stays behind

 

LIFE, MUTILATED

The year was 2005, and it was José Luis’s second attempt at going to the United States. He and his friend Selvi took nineteen days to reach northern Mexico; those days were uneventful. They traveled from Progreso without stopping. They took the train in Tapachula, Mexico. They arrived in Chihuahua. They were going to cross the border at Ciudad Juárez-El Paso.

For José Luis, the success of the journey consisted in not leaving his friend while he slept on the train. He annoyed him. He spoke to him. He made him angry and he kicked him. He didn’t want him to fall asleep.

José Luis – a good footballer, guitar player, and fan of fishing in the Ulúa River bordering Progreso – sat beside the train wagon’s gears and stretched forward to tie a shoe. Strange thing: sweat covered the whole of his neck to the top of his head. He had never been in the desert. The train entered the city of Delicias and José Luis blinked.

“Suddenly things went dark and I fell. I fainted from the dry, June heat. The train severed my leg. Then I put out my arm because I couldn’t free my leg and it cut that off, too. I put out my other arm and the train wheel squashed it.

Silvi, his friend, did not realize what had happened until kilometers further on when he noticed blood covering the train wheels. He thought he was dead. He now lives in the United States where he has started a family. In the south, his friend remained behind: the man who took care of him on the train and who now moves around the streets on one leg, balancing on the arm left him by La Bestia.

 

Texts in Spanish: Rodrigo Soberanes Santín, for Periodistas de a Píe
I am a reporter who travels all around, mostly in Veracruz, Mexico, a good place for my job. Stories have to be brought out from nooks and crannies, and brought to the surface, like kites. Currently I work with Noticias MVS, Associated Press, Diario 19, and Jornada Veracruz.

Images: Moysés Zuñiga Santiago, for Periodistas de a Píe
A photojournalist from Chiapas interested in the struggle of indigenous communities and migration across Mexico’s southern border. I work with La Jornada, AP, Reuters and AFP. My work has been shown in New York University in 2010 and 2013. I traveled with young people like myself crossing the border in search of opportunity, taking personal stories with me that let me journey beside them. I do this work because of that; I want to make extreme situations of violence visible so that these situations don’t occur and people don’t die.

Images: Prometeo Lucero, for Periodistas de a Píe
Freelance journalist focused on human rights issues, migration, and the environment. I have collaborated with La Jornada, the Expansion group, Proceso, Desacatos, Biodiversidad Sustento y Culturas, Letras Libres, Variopinto, and among other agencies, Latitudes Press, Zuma Press, AP, and Reuters. My photojournalism appears in books such as 72migrantes (Almadía, 2011), Secretaría de Educación Pública (2010); Altares y Ofrendas en México (2010); Cartografías Disidentes (Aecid, 2008) and I have been published in other books: “Dignas: Voces de defensoras de derechos humanos” (2012) and “Acompañando la Esperanza” (2013). I was a finalist in the competition, “Rostros de la Discriminación” (México, 2012), “Los Trabajos y los Días” (Colombia, 2013) and “Hasselblad Masters” (2014).

Translation into English: Patrick Timmons, for the MxJTP
Is a human rights investigator, historian, and journalist. Follow his activities on Twitter @patricktimmons. Timmons has publications — translations, articles, or reviews — in the Tico Times (Costa Rica), El País in English (Spain), CounterPunch (USA), The Texas Observer (USA), The Latin American Research Review (USA & Canada), and the Radical History Review (USA). A graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science (1996), Timmons holds three advanced university degrees: a Master’s in Latin American Studies from the University of Cambridge, UK (1998); a Ph.D. in Latin American History from the University of Texas at Austin, USA (2004); and, a Master’s in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex, UK (2013).

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Mother’s Pride (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RíoDoce)

This article was first published in RíoDoce on 27 April 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Mother’s Pride
by Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RíoDoce)

His mother followed him everywhere. At secondary school, she pulled him from the lure of the smokers, the ones who had already started to swig from bottles, downing beer. She pushed him to study, goading him to improve his grades. She made him do chores so he wouldn’t hang out in the street.

The years passed. The ones who once smoked Raleighs now hit on weed and listened to AC/DC. The pungent smell of pot traveled in the air, permeated patios, bedrooms, the primary school, and basketball courts. His mother still followed him around, pulling him away from them. She did it for him and when she did it she never said a word. She took him by the arm and tugged at him, dragging him home to the living room, sitting him down on the couch. She told him off. Curtly.

Study. Work. Get a hold of yourself, Betito. That’s what his thirty-year old mother told him. She still looked like she was twenty-five. Selfless. Undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. A housewife and university professor. At work she acted like a professional but at home she was a mother.

Betito hit back, dug his heels into the floor. Kicking the sofa and the little wooden table, punching the door. You’re always moaning at me. Get out your homework and do better at school. Bring yourself down a peg, he warned. But she didn’t calm down: he came out with a handgun that she saw immediately. She took the gun and in minutes she had disarmed it, put it in the trash. Then she threw it out.

Betito was dumbstruck, mouth ajar. His mother knew about guns. A few days later he came home. She found him with a bag with white powder. She hid it. He didn’t know where. The next day, Betito desperately hunted for it. He threw himself on the ground and began to wail. Mom, if I don’t hand it over, they’re going to kill me. It was worth a lot of money. She warned him what would happen. When she finished, he promised her that he would leave it all behind.

One day his boss called him. The big cheese needs to see us. We’re owed a bonus and so we’re going to see the old guy. The gang got into the truck and the boss looked them all over. We’re going unarmed, he said. Surprisingly, he told Betito to get out. Why? Kid, your mother always looks for you. We’ll catch you later. He cursed his mother. He kicked and screamed.

He didn’t go home for two days and then some. He disappeared with his friends, drowning himself in bottles: downing one after another, then another. When he finally went home, his mother kissed him, rapidly smothering his cheeks and his forehead. Back in the living room they learned that everybody from the truck had turned up that morning, beheaded. He left the gang. And went back to school. But she still followed him around.

Journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas is the founding editor of RíoDoce, an online news outlet based in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is the author of various books, including Con la Granada en la Boca (Aguilar, 2014). This column was first published under the title, “A toda madre,” and is available at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/toda-madre.

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

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Human Rights Abuse in Mexico: Widespread Torture in Mexico Confirmed by UN Special Rapporteur (Verónica Calderón, EL PAÍS)

This article was first published in El Pais on 2 May 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Human Rights Abuse in Mexico: Widespread Torture in Mexico Confirmed by UN Special Rapporteur
by Verónica Calderón (EL PAÍS)

– The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment spent 12 days in Mexico, and confirms that almost “every Mexican police force” abuses detainees

Torture in Mexico is a widespread practice throughout almost all of the country’s police forces. Cases exist where a Mexican man or woman has been arrested by a plainclothes officer. Without a warrant. Officers have entered homes without a judge’s order, and relatives have been threatened. Then, they have been carried away. They have been blindfolded and insulted. They have been beaten. With fists, with feet. Kicked. They have bee prodded with a cowpoke, an instrument used to administer electric shocks on the genitals. It’s also possible they have suffered some type of sexual violence. In some cases they have been paraded before the media as criminals, even without judicial proceedings. And sometimes they have not even been allowed to speak with their defense attorney. That’s the substance of complaints gathered by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, preliminary conclusions delivered in Mexico City this Friday as he finishes an almost two-week visit to the country.

“I have the obligation to tell the Mexican Government, and also Mexican society, that there is an endemic type of torture here that must be corrected,” the Special Rapporteur announced. This devastating diagnosis is the product of a 12-day visit that he called “intense, but productive.” He interviewed officials, civil society, and victims. He visited prisons, a psychiatric institution, a juvenile detention facility and a migrant detention center. He visited the Federal District and the State of Mexico, in the center of the country; Nayarit, on the Pacific Coast; Nuevo León, in the northeast; Chiapas, on the border with Central America and Baja California Norte, his last stop, in the far northwest, on the border with the United States.

He acknowledged the Government’s cooperation as he set about his work, but he lamented that, in a single incident, he was denied access to the Nuevo León’s State Prosecutor’s Office, “especially since I received several complaints of torture committed right there.” The accusations he received during his visit, he clarified, are against almost “all the forces that make arrests in this country.” This comment includes municipal, state, and federal police forces, the Army, and the Navy.

Mexico is one of the few countries in the world where a detainee is guilty until he can prove otherwise. Responding to a reporter’s question, the Special Rapporteur emphasized that he had criticized the Mexican security forces’ practice of parading detainees, presumed guilty, in front of the media without any type of criminal proceedings against them or granting them access to their defense attorney. Méndez called the practice “a humiliation.” The World Justice Project, an NGO dedicated to studying respect for the rule of law, ranks Mexico 79th out of 99 countries. Above Mexico, for example, are China, Kazakhstan, Albania, Burkina Faso and Ecuador.

Even though the Special Rapporteur insisted on the “complexity” of determining whether torture affected a social group in particular, he did clarify that the worst affected were the country’s most vulnerable: the poor, indigenous people, women, and adolescents. He insisted about the seriousness of the problem: “In Mexico there still exists a widespread use of torture and mistreatment.”

The UN Special Rapporteur said that he felt “alarmed” by the “ongoing militarization” of some regions of the country and he lamented that his visit did not include other states where he had received complaints of torture, like Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Oaxaca, and Michoacán.

The UN official also announced that the majority of cases of torture remain “completely unpunished”, and many of these crimes or complaints are stranded in judicial proceedings. “There are dozens, scores of delayed processes.” He also said he was preoccupied by the creation of a new crime such as “abuse by authorities,” a crime punished in Mexico of up to eight years in prison; he confirmed that in reality this crime hides those who are responsible for torture and who actually warrant more severe punishment.

His final report will be delivered to the federal government in three or four weeks and will come accompanied with a series of private recommendations to the executive branch headed by President Enrique Peña Nieto (Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI).

The Special Rapporteur thanked the Mexican Government for its invitation, and for the “excellent support” that it had provided him throughout his work. “I would have liked to say that torture is isolated in Mexico […] that it’s an aberration that can be corrected quickly… but it is in the process of being corrected,” he concluded.

JournalistVerónica Calderón reports from Mexico for El País. Follow Calderón on Twitter @veronicacalderon. This story first appeared with the title, ““Naciones Unidas afirma que la tortura en México es ‘generalizada’” available at: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/05/03/actualidad/1399075278_040694.html.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Protocols, No Effective Investigations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journalist Tania L. Montalvo reports for AnimalPolítico. This article first appeared in Spanish under the title, “Diez años sin un solo culpable por el delito de tortura,” available at: http://www.animalpolitico.com/2014/04/diez-anos-sin-un-solo-culpable-por-el-delito-de-tortura/#ixzz2ztSYK3aH.

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

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Celebration (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RÍODOCE)

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

Celebration
by Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RÍODOCE)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas is the founding editor of RíoDoce, an online news outlet based in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is the author of various books, including Con la Granada en la Boca (Aguilar, 2014). This column was first published under the title, “Celebración,” and is available at http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/celebracion.

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journalist Luz del Carmen Sosa reports for the Diario de Juárez, and is a co-founder of the Red de Periodistas de Juárez. This article first appeared under the title, “Familias de desaparecidas realizan su Viacrucis,” available at: http://diario.mx/Local/2014-04-18_9f10549c/familias-de-desaparecidas-realizan-su-viacrucis/.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journalist Martín Orquiz reports on crime for El Diario de Juárez. This article first appeared bearing the title, “José Armando Rodríguez Carreón, El Choco,” available at: http://nuestraaparenterendicion.com/tuyyocoincidimosenlanocheterrible/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=61:jose-armando-rodriguez-carreon&tmpl=component&print=1#.U1ALOeZdVmA.

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

 

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