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The Abducted Journalist and the Mayor of Medellín, Veracruz By Ignacio Carvajal (SinEmbargo)

This article was first published on 9 January 2015. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project.

The Abducted Journalist and the Mayor of Medellín, Veracruz
By Ignacio Carvajal (SinEmbargo)

(The first journalist abducted this year Moisés Sánchez of Veracruz, Mexico, was taken by armed men from his home in Medellín de Bravo on 2 January 2015. He has not yet been found. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a press release summarizing the facts of Sánchez’s disappearance, demanding his return and the prosecution of his abductors. Veracruz is one of the most dangerous places in the Americas to practice journalism: CPJ reports that since 2011 three journalists have disappeared and the organization has documented the murders of nine other journalists.

Prior to Moisés Sanchez’s disappearance the mayor of Medellín had threatened the journalist. Days after Sánchez’s disappearance, the Associated Press reported that the entire municipal police force of Medellín de Bravo had been brought in for questioning by the Veracruz State Prosecutor with three of those officers detained.

Journalist Ignacio Carvajal reports from Veracruz on the story of the friendship and the fight between the journalist and the mayor of Medellín. – PT)

As a candidate he kissed children. He said hello to farmers and housewives. He walked the muddy streets of Medellín’s villages. He wore out his shoes and got thorns in his clothes in the rural areas. He promised that if he won he would jail his predecessors: Rubén Darío Lagunes and his putative political offspring Marcos Isleño Andrade, both of the Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI). And he promised one more thing. Omar Cruz Reyes offered all the directorships and executive appointments to those born in the township: “Medellín for people from Medellín,” he used to say. But he did not fulfill that promise. Most of his cabinet was filled with people who lived in the Port of Veracruz and its bordering neighbor Boca del Río.

Omar Cruz is not a dyed-in-the wool PAN-ista. He became a candidate for the PAN thanks to efforts by his sister-in-law Hilda Nava Seseña and her uncle and aunt, Salustia Nava Seseña and Maurilio Fernández Ovando. The aunt is former president of the DIF [Mexico’s Children and Families Department] and the uncle is the former PANista Mayor of Medellín. Hilda was Maurilio Fernández’s personal assistant when he served as mayor.

At the same time, Omar Cruz Reyes created an organization bearing his initials (Organizando Contigo el Rumbo – literally translated as Organizing the Future With You) to work with the residents of the new subdivisions, like Arboleda San Ramón Puente Moreno and Casa Blanca. Both places bring together thousands of voters, mostly from Veracruz and Boca del Río).

Before the 2010 local elections, and to keep himself on the lips of voters, Cruz began a media campaign demonstrating against mayors Marco Isleño Andrade (2010 – 2013) and Rubén Darío Lagunes (2007 – 2010); primary school students made fun of Lagunes at school events because he dallied when he gave speeches.

There were at least three protests where Omar Cruz attacked Marcos Isleño Andrade for absent public works, missing support and neglect by the municipality. Invariably the journalist Moisés Sánchez attended these protests. He saw Omar Cruz – when he entered politics he was just 27 – as without bad political habits, without “a tail to be tugged”, well spoken, educated, from the working middle class and a rousing speaker against Marcos Isleño and in favor of citizens. The men clicked. And Moisés Sánchez began following him through the streets and writing stories about his promises and his projects. At last a young person from El Tejar – Medellín’s most important area – was willing to fight back against the corrupt politicians.

In the spirit of “Medellín for people from Medellín,” Omar Cruz offered Moisés Sánchez the position of press officer if he made it into the mayor’s office. That’s what Sanchez’s colleagues said; it was his big dream back in those days: to be his town’s press officer at city hall.

CRUZ TURNED HIS BACK ON THE PAN

He had just won office as mayor when Omar Cruz turned his back on the PAN and his campaign promises, remembers a city employee who preferred to remain anonymous. Photo: Special

He had just won office as mayor when Omar Cruz turned his back on the PAN and his campaign promises, remembers a city employee who preferred to remain anonymous. Photo: Special

He’d barely won but he started reneging on his promises. He gave the post promised to the journalist to a person from the port of Veracruz. The salaries weren’t what he had promised. Neither were the responsibilities, nor the secretaries and support staff. The important posts stayed in the hands of citizens from the conurbation of Veracruz-Boca del Río and did not go to the professional activists in Medellín’s Partido de Acción Nacional (National Action Party, or, PAN). This young businessman’s promises were soon spent and many sunk. “Many people support him but it’s out of necessity, because their salaries aren’t enough,” said one city employee who commented on condition of anonymity.

On the campaign trail Omar Cruz was a different person from the one he became when mayor elect. He stood on the same platform as Julen Rementería and Oscar Lara, respectively the former mayor of Veracruz and a former PAN-ista legislator. This couple are credited with bringing Omar Cruz over to Governor Javier Duarte, to the PRI and to “red PANism” – the term, panismo rojo is a colloquial expression for a bloc of PAN-istas who fight the government of Veracruz with one hand but with the other support every move by Javier Duarte as governor. (Translator’s note: the PAN’s color is blue.)

The gap between Omar and the PAN-istas in Veracruz’s state capital, Xalapa, and with the Yunes [a political family in Veracruz with links to both the PAN and the PRI] soon widened. On one day he was seen close to Raúl Zarrabal, PRI legislator for Boca del Río on Wednesday when visiting his constituents, the next day he was with the PRI-ista side of the Yunes and the following day he was with a representative of the government of Veracruz.

Omar Cruz’s ties to Governor Duarte grew stronger because of the issues surrounding the Metropolitan Water and Sanitation System (SAS), a para-municipal organization that regulates and administers sanitation and water supply in the Veracruz-Boca del Río-Medellín conurbation. Its management of millions of pesos of resources has always been opaque.

In the middle of 2014, the mayor of Boca del Río, Miguel Ángel Yunes Márquez threatened breaking away from the SAS so that his city could administer its own municipal infrastructure. Independently of this threat, Yunes Márquez had provided evidence of the overwhelming corruption in the SAS since Yolanda Carlín’s time as its director. There were dozens of Carlín-friendly journalists on her payroll, leaders of PRI neighborhoods, among others. But the real debacle began when José Ruiz Carmona arrived on the scene. Carmona was a PRI-ista who had held many public posts and had concluded an undergraduate degree in record time. Governor Javier Duarte modified the law so that Ruiz Carmona could manage the SAS.

Ruiz Carmona ended his time at the top of the organization with blackouts for failure to pay bills, protests over uniforms for workers and complaints made to its union by pilots, lovers, wives and family members belonging to both the PRI and the PAN, all of whom were on the payroll or well-connected. Javier Duarte ignored the financial shambles left by Ruiz Carmona and brought him into his cabinet, naming him undersecretary for Human Development in the Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL).

In this context and so as to establish order in the SAS, Yunez Márquez was waiting for support from Omar Cruz against the only PRI-ista on the organization’s board, Ramón Poo, the mayor of the Port of Veracruz. Instead, he deserted Yunes Márquez to support the SAS plan to create another organization, passing over Ruiz Carmona and other former directors.

Omar Cruz attended every event in the Port of Veracruz and Boca del Río at which Duarte appeared, looking for a moment, even if just a hello, with the governor.

Around Medellín, Omar Cruz assumed a friendship with Javier Duarte. “We understand society’s problems because we are both young,” he was heard to say. Now the governor won’t even answer his phone calls.

Back in 1812, in this municipality, army officer and ex-President Nicolás Bravo spared the lives of 300 Spanish combatants who had fallen prisoner in the Wars for Independence. That’s why Medellín is called Medellín de Bravo. It doesn’t look like Omar Cruz is going to have luck similar to that of the Spanish.

In Veracruz the worst state to practice journalism in the Americas, a place toxic for reporters, Moisés Sanchez’s abduction is the first time a high profile culprit has been accused of a crime against freedom of expression. The PRI-ista state government of Veracruz sees an opportunity to strike a blow against the PAN in the conurbation of Veracruz-Boca del Río-Medellín as it prepares for the 2015 federal elections.

Today, up to press deadline, not one PAN-ista heavyweight has spoken out in support of Omar Cruz. Not at the state level and there’s not a peep from Julen Rementería or Oscar Lara. Medellín’s PAN-istas have withdrawn into themselves, mute, watching everything and letting the guillotine fall into the hands of the prosecutor, Luis Ángel Bravo, who is aiming for Omar Cruz’s neck.

THE ABARCA OF MEDELLÍN’S MANGO ORCHARDS

Since the disappearance of Moisés Sáncez, people in Veracruz have compared Mayor Omar Cruz and his wife, Maricela Nava to the Mayor of Iguala, Guerrero and his wife. Photo: Twitter @HaytodeMedellin

Since the disappearance of Moisés Sáncez, people in Veracruz have compared Mayor Omar Cruz and his wife, Maricela Nava to the Mayor of Iguala, Guerrero and his wife. Photo: Twitter @HaytodeMedellin

Since the disappearance of Moisés Sáncez, people in Veracruz have compared Mayor Omar Cruz and his wife, Maricela Nava to the Mayor of Iguala, Guerrero and his wife. Photo: Twitter @HaytodeMedellin

Another person passed over by Omar Cruz says, “The best jobs and salaries went to his friends. He sidelined the current PAN-istas and he gave them lesser jobs with low salaries. That was the constant complaint. In my case I left because of the pay. He promised me 12,000 pesos a month as a director (US$820) but I got half that. When I complained about the shortfall to Omar Cruz he wouldn’t talk to me. He sent me to his wife, Maricela Nava Seseña, the DIF president.”

Since what happened to Moisés Sánchez, both Maricela Nava and Omar Cruz have been compared to the Abarca, the mayor and his wife from the state of Guerrero [alleged to have masterminded the disappearances of the 43 student teachers of Ayotzinapa]. In this Veracruz municipality of major mango cultivation, Cruz and Nava ruled during the day and night, and people from the state have labeled them “the Abarca of the Mango Orchards.”

Inside the municipal building, in fact, they say that Omar Cruz does not decide anything without first going through Maricela Nava and her sister, Hilda Nava Seseña. Omar Cruz made his sister in law the municipal secretary.

The three live under the same roof in the Residencial Marino in Boca del Río where the cheapest houses sell for 1.5 million pesos (US$100,000) — and that’s the price of some of the more austere properties. The upscale residential neighborhood is five minutes from Plaza El Dorado, currently one of Veracruz’s most exclusive malls, frequented by those Veracruz magnates who arrive in their yachts – it has a marina – to buy cinema tickets for a matinée or to lunch in one of its restaurants.

The neighborhood is lined with beautiful trees. It is connected to the highway with panoramic views of the beaches in Vacas-Boca del Río. There are mansions, large salons for special events, estates with country houses and staff on hand for a relaxing weekend, all lining the backwater of the River Jamapa.

Omar, Maricela and Hilda ride around in this year’s trucks. The three use bodyguards and together they attend sessions with spiritualists.

“In the first few days after taking office, several spiritualist consultants – witches – arrived to cleanse the place,” the source says.

They focused their efforts on expelling the bad vibes from the mayor’s office, occupied for six years by PRI-istas. They placed quartz, burned incense, copal and every sort of mélange making it smell like a market.

Once the bad spirits had left, the mayor ordered a giant portrait hanged: underneath the image in large letters appears the name, “Javier Duarte de Ochoa, constitutional governor of Veracruz.”

In that office, on another wall, another black and white image bearing large letters: OMAR CRUZ, PRESIDENTE MUNICIPAL.

And decorating the surrounds in his office are numerous photos of Cruz along with his wife and sister in law.

In the mayor’s office, they say, Maricela Nava Seseña – known as the Queen of Medellín – became accustomed to issuing instructions and telling off campaign workers.

“Why are you asking for so much money from my husband? Are you really so great or are you his lover?” That’s what the first lady of Medellín said to staffers who complained about the low level of their salaries to Omar Cruz.

When dealing with labor issues, the mayor did not personally deal with them. He hung up the phone, referring them to his wife or his sister-in-law.

That’s what the former DIF director, Paula Aguilar Tlaseca experienced. She was one of the first to jump ship because of the poor treatment, low salary and little professional recognition from the Abarca of Medellín de Bravo.

When dealing with complaints in citizen-related issues, the protests did not mean much to them. “Protest all you like. I am the mayor,” Cruz replied when his staff advised him that social problems such as the new annual charge for public cleaning were turning into flash points of unrest.

Omar Cruz offered Moisés Sánchez the position of press officer if he won election as mayor. However, a little after the election the conflicts between began until, according to one witness, the mayor threatened the journalist. Photo: Special.

Omar Cruz offered Moisés Sánchez the position of press officer if he won election as mayor. However, a little after the election the conflicts between the men began until, according to one witness, the mayor threatened the journalist. Photo: Special.

In Moisés’ last protest outside the Medellín municipal building in the middle of last December he complained about this new municipal tax and the increase in common crime. It was a bitter encounter with Omar Cruz. A strange thing, too, since the mayor never confronted his critics.

“Why are you protecting criminals?” Moisés dared to ask Omar. It has been forty-eight hours since the owner of a convenience store had been murdered, his truck taken.

“I am not protecting them. I am fighting them. I asked for help from the Mando Único [the unified state command of public safety agencies] and the Marines,” Omar Cruz replied. But Moisés was not satisfied and continued in a loud voice with his criticism until one of Cruz’s staff, Juanita León slapped Moisés Sanchez several times on the cheeks.

Omar Cruz did not do anything else. But he left without offering Moisés an apology and failing to scold his employee who had hit him. Instead, a friend of Moisés told his family that the mayor threatened the journalist…

“Take care. Omar says that he wants to frighten you.”

Ignacio Carvajal is a prize-winning journalist working in Veracruz. Follow him @nachopallaypaca on Twitter. In Latin America Carvajal is recognized as a skilled practitioner of the crónica, a form of reporting news by telling a story. Check out hisRanch of Horror” in translation for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project. This article was first published under the title, “Aliado de Duarte, cliente de “brujos”, el Alcalde del PAN puso la mira en periodista,” available at: http://www.sinembargo.mx/09-01-2015/1212468.

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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Unprecedented response to Mexican journalist’s murder (Patrick Timmons, CPJ Guest Blogger)

Unprecedented response to Mexican journalist’s murder (Patrick Timmons, CPJ Guest Blogger)

The disappearance and murder in Veracruz from February 5 through 11 of local journalist Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz remains mired in controversy.

In mid February, after Jiménez’s murder, a group of journalists traveled to Veracruz and investigated the authorities’ response to the journalist’s killing. On March 19, the group, called Misión de Observación, published the findings of its unprecedented investigation in a report called “Gregorio: Asesinado por informar” (Gregorio: Murdered for Reporting). Their report documented Jiménez’s disappearance and murder, the state’s ineffective response, and the less-than-supportive working conditions of his newspapers in southern Veracruz.

CLICK ON THE LINK ABOVE TO KEEP READING

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Veracruz authorities find body of abducted journalist (Diego Cruz, Centro Knight UT Austin)

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Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz

Authorities in the violent state of Veracruz found on Tuesday the body of reporter Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz, who was missing since last week. Four people allegedly linked to his murder are in custody, reported Mexican daily El Universal.

The news saddened colleagues around the world who in the last six days had taken to the streets and the internet to protest his disappearance. The mobilization was one of the largest and most important by the world’s Spanish-speaking journalists in recent years.

Official sources from Veracruz confirmed that Jiménez’s body was found in a grave with two other bodies in the township of Las Choapas. Armed men abducted Jiménez on Feb. 5 near the city of Coatzacoalcos.

According to newspaper Reforma, authorities reported that the mastermind behind the crime was Teresa de Jesús Hernández Cruz, Jiménez’s neighbor. Authorities said she paid several alleged hitmen – four of whom have been captured – to carry out the crime. After being detained, the suspects took state authorities to the grave where they found the bodies.

The investigation is still ongoing and a search is underway to find an additional four suspects, El Universal reported.

Over the course of the day, before Veracruz authorities confirmed Jiménez de la Cruz’s death, the rumor that he had been rescued spread through social media. On Twitter, a reporter from Coatazacoalcos, Gabriela Rasgado, said that journalists from Las Choapas had confirmed that Jiménez had been found alive. Then on Facebook, journalist Sayda Chiñas Córdoba – Jiménez’s colleague at Notisur – said that she had been informed that he had been found alive but possibly wasn’t yet free.

Confirmation of Jiménez’s death sent colleagues into mourning.

“I grieve for you, Goyo. For a minute we thought that we would find you alive, that for the first time we had managed to save a journalist from death. The Federal Attorney must investigate,” wrote renowned Mexican journalist Marcela Turati on Twitter.

This blog post was written by Diego Cruz for the blog, Periodismo en las Américas at the Knight Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

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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An At-risk Mexican Journalist in Exile Speaks Out About Veracruz

MxJTP Editorial Note
This open letter — written during the recent disappearance and murder of Veracruz crime journalist Gregorio Jiménez — is from Miguel Ángel López Solana who lives in exile outside Mexico after his brother, mother, and father were killed in 2011. López Solana is the surviving journalist of a family of Veracruz journalists. His father was MILO, Miguel Ángel Lopez Velasco, a well-known journalist for Notiver. His brother, Misael López Solana also worked for Notiver as a photojournalist. The following month, in July 2011, Notiver reporter Yolanda Ordaz was also murdered.
 As the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) Mike O’Connor (who died in December 2013) reported in 2011, the deaths prompted many journalists working in Veracruz to flee the state. The letter was made available to Frontera-List and was translated by Molly Molloy of New Mexico State University and editor of Frontera-List. It is being published with the permission of López Solana and Molly Molloy. PT  

To my colleagues in south Veracruz: 

This letter comes to you from Miguel Ángel López Solana, writing somewhere in the Americas where he lives in exile from the dangerous conditions that swept his family away in 2011—a crime that to this day has not been solved by Veracruz authorities.

From exile——

The intense and constant attacks on freedom of expression in the State of Veracruz continue to cause irreparable losses and suffering while the authorities act as accomplices in the crimes committed against our fellow journalists and publishers. We have seen how they fabricate witnesses through torture and violence and how easy it is for them to find any dead citizen guilty of any crime they wish and then shamelessly spread false information to smear the victims’ entire family. Seeing the harrowing crime scenes is never enough for them; they use whatever they can to defame the victims and their families.

In the next few hours we will watch as they concoct another lie to supposedly clarify the case of the missing reporter of Liberal del Sur and Noti Sur, Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz, who was abducted by a group of armed men. It looks as if the Attorney General of the State of Veracruz has everything planned and prepared, we could say they are just following the usual pattern. They certainly know everything about the victim and nothing about the perpetrator(s) of the crime. But the strangest thing is that the members of these special law enforcement groups set up to investigate cases of attacks on the press are always the same. Only the victims change.

And it is not the first time that Enoc Maldonado is named as the special prosecutor in an investigation of attacks against reporters and media outlets. He also was part of a special group investigating the case of the murder of Regina Martinez, our colleague from Proceso, and there is no doubt in that case that they fabricated witnesses through torture. Maldonado was also part of a special group in charge of the investigation of the shootout in the streets of Villarin, Veracruz, where a lieutenant of the Zetas Cartel was killed. We have no reason to doubt his experience in these sinister, but effective methods for obtaining justice. How can we believe a person with such a resume? Hasn’t he gotten this job through his skill at inventing lies? We can believe anything except that Enoc Maldonado is really good at his job.

In the case of Gregorio, I know from reports from colleagues that the police delayed more than a half hour in getting to the scene and that the only thing they did when they got there was to ask the name of the kidnapped journalist. Then they left. They did not want to spend too much time at the scene and they did not even ask the neighbors any questions. And this is the so-called trustworthy police heralded by the government of Javier Duarte de Ochoa? “Tell me what you brag about and I’ll tell you what you don’t have,” says the popular saying. Why are so many millions of pesos invested in security in the state of Veracruz, anyway?

Today once more, we demand justice and an honest clarification of the aggression committed against Gregorio Jimenez. We are fed up with the lies and tired of ineptitude and stupidity. Isn’t it enough that they call us “the fucking media” (“Pinches Medios”) as the Secretary of Public Security, Arturo Bermudez did recently. We know for sure that he has no respect for the press. But, what the government of Javier Duarte doesn’t know is that the journalists of Veracruz and of all Mexico “would rather die standing tall than live on our knees.” There are many of us now who have experienced and suffered these violent attacks. We as citizens do not deserve this evil and corrupt government with impunity its greatest ally, the government of Javier Duarte de Ochoa buying off our conscience.

From my exile in the United States, I offer my solidarity and support to the family of my fellow reporter, Gregorio Jimenez, and to each and every reporter in the south of Veracruz who are now suffering the same pain that we went through in our own port city (Puerto de Veracruz). It is a wound that has not healed and that keeps me far away from my loved ones. But my heart and my thoughts are with you.

Miguel Ángel López Solana.

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The Fausto Effect: Sidelining Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte

This article first appeared in La Razón. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Fausto Effect: Sidelining Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte
by Salvador Camarena
(Translated by Patrick Timmons)

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto has a special technique to sideline a state governor. The uselessness of Michoacán’s governor Fausto Vallejo was obvious and unsupportable (translator’s note: the President sent federal troops to Michoacán last week to try to calm an acute dispute between organized crime and the popular militia). To capitalise on the time the president has left in office, the tactic is to swap the issue of violence for the theme of progress.

Other state governors in Mexico – like Veracruz – should take note of what just happened in Michoacán. A new scandal is brewing in Veracruz that will likely hobble the state: the official version of events has cracked under pressure from the victim’s story.

The weekend discovery of two bodies in Veracruz has become immediately notorious because one of those found dead participated in a popular television show. That fact crucially explains why this crime, instead of getting lost in the sea of infinite crimes, has drawn national attention. The fleeting fame enjoyed by one of the victims isn’t the only thing that makes this case different. The father of singer Gibrán David Martiz Díaz made a timely and brave complaint that showed up the so-called state government of Javier Duarte: before the two youths turned up dead, Veracruz state police kidnapped them.

What defies logic is that exactly when these crimes were occurring – the kidnappings happened on Tuesday 7 January – one of the country’s best-informed officials went to Veracruz as the representative of Mexico’s federal government. In a fawning speech, Mexico’s Interior Minister eulogised Veracruz’s security.

At a police graduation on the night of 14 January, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong emphasized, “today we already have results in Veracruz. There’s a show of force and of promise here. It’s always possible to make speeches but the important thing is the result. What’s said in a speech has to be backed up by facts.” Osorio went even further: “Today I want publicly to recognize the governor for his work. The people of Veracruz long for better security forces, and the governor is making good on his promise. Governor Javier Duarte, you have the federal government’s recognition. I want to end by saying that Veracruz’s accredited state police force provides a benchmark for the transformation of policing in the country. It has turned itself into a secure, trustworthy, efficient force.”

The police force once praised by the Interior Minister as a “benchmark” now finds itself mired in major scandal. And we mustn’t assume that this case in an isolated one. Not in Duarte´s Veracruz.

“Results are the most important thing,” said the man from Bucareli one night in Veracruz. (Translator’s note: Bucareli is the Mexico City street where the Interior Ministry is located.) If Javier Duarte re-reads the words of the country’s security chief, he would know that he’s in trouble. The news of the singer murdered in confusing circumstances hasn’t just shown Duarte up – his government had dismissed the complaints by the singer’s father but now the governor has to investigate his own police officers. The case has also attracted international attention, something President Enrique Peña Nieto did not want just as he arrives in Europe. The sidelining of Michoacán’s governor Fausto Vallejo offers a lesson to all. So let’s see who learns and who doesn’t.

Journalist Salvador Camarena contributes to Spanish newspaper El País and is a columnist for Mexican newspaper, La Razón. You can follow him on Twitter @salcamarena or email him at salvador.camarena@razon.mx. This column appeared in Spanish in La Razón on 22 January 2014 with the title, El Faustazo y Javier Duarte at http://www.razon.com.mx/spip.php?page=columnista&id_article=203219.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits mexicanjournalismtranslationproject.wordpress.com. You can follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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A Singer’s Murder Uncovers Police Corruption in Veracruz

Original version published in Spanish by El País on Wednesday 22 January 2014. Translated without permission.

A singer’s murder uncovers police corruption in Veracruz
by Juan Diego Quesada
translated by Patrick Timmons

–        The state government tried to close the case by blaming hit men, but the family alleges police involvement

The recent murder of Gibrán Martiz, a young singer who had just started his musical career, has highlighted the corruption of Veracruz police authorities, a state located just east of Mexico State. The singer was kidnapped in his house and reappeared, five days later, in the inside of a car with a bullet shot to the head. The police said they had found Gibrán’s body in a confrontation with the hit men who had taken him. It was a perfect crime scene. The guilty were dead and the disappeared had appeared, so the police tried to close the case.

Only at the insistence of the singer’s parents — who visited hospitals, police stations, and questioned the neighbors who saw their son kidnapped — are we beginning to know little by little what really happened. After a few days of official blandishments, the Veracruz state government has admitted that the case implicates seven police officers. “The people who took Gibrán and his roommate — also killed — were state officials. We only want to know what really happened, we don’t want a false explanation,” says Erick, by telephone, the brother of the singer who became famous thanks to a popular television reality show, La Voz de México.

Gibrán Martiz, 22 years old, was an unknown local singer until last summer when he won a Televisa competition to promote talented upcoming groups. When the show finished, he decided to go it alone. He had only been in his newly rented apartment in the state’s capital of Xalapa for one day when somebody kidnapped him and his roommate, a seventeen-year old youth. They had just started working together as models. It was 7 January. The family tried to contact them without success for a few days. Relatives became alarmed when they heard Gibrán did not turn up to a nightclub engagement. His brother denounced Gibrán’s disappearance on 12 January via Twitter.

Gibrán’s father, Efraín, went to Xalapa to try to find him. Social media picked up on Gibrán’s disappearance. Celebrities from the entertainment world got involved. His body appeared on 20 January in a remote place called La Ternera after an alleged shootout between police and criminals. The officers conducting the operation said that hit men were in the car, and along with the two bodies of Gibrán and his roommate they also found police uniforms, guns, and bulletproof vests. The officers suggested that the murderers had been passing themselves off as police officers. Veracruz’s attorney general, Felipe Amadeo Flores, accepted this version of events, and publicly broadcast its details.

The singer’s father is convinced they are trying to trick him. His son’s murderers are police officers, he alleges. Or, at the very least that officers played an active part in his death. Neighbors gave him the color and license plates of the car in which Gibrán was kidnapped and when he went to Internal Affairs to file a complaint, he caught sight of the vehicle in the parking structure. “I am not going to run away. I am one of those people who believe that in a war like this you have to put family, cousins, brothers and sons first. For things to change and for the country to improve. And if it’s up to me to find out what happened to my son, then I don’t care,” said the father in the past few days.

Bit by bit the story seems to be unraveling. As a result of the family’s investigations, relatives believe that for one reason or another they abducted two of Gibrán’s young friends. The boys had a history of stealing cars. At one moment, the police took the two boys to the apartment where Gibrán was with his friend. They kidnapped all four youths. The rest of the story is murky. State authorities have neither explained the role played by the police nor the motive for their murders. The only charges are extortion and abusing their official positions.

The Veracruz state government, and specifically Governor Javier Duarte have received harsh criticism for their security policy and the way they administer justice. Regina Martínez, a journalist for the magazine Proceso, who was investigating prickly subjects, was murdered in April 2012. The investigation into her death was accompanied by a campaign to discredit the reporter by covering up any sort of political connection to her murder. A possible culprit was identified later, a drug addict plagued by bad health. In prison he said he was tortured and the reality was that the only proof of his involvement was his own confession. He had to be released. In Gibrán’s case photos have already been circulating on social media showing him brandishing guns and drugs. Nobody seems to know where the photos have come from. In Veracruz, even the victims don’t rest in peace.

Reporter Juan Diego Quesada writes for El País. His original story in Spanish was published as “El asesinato de un cantante destapa la corrupción policial de Veracruz,” available at http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/01/21/actualidad/1390336606_155354.html.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist, and founding editor of https://mexicanjournalismtranslationproject.wordpress.com. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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