Tag Archives: journalism

Lives in Danger in Veracruz: Mexican Journalist Gil Cruz and His Family (Ignacio Carvajal)

This article was first published on 26 July 2017 by Blog.Expediente.Mx. It has been translated into English with the consent of its author.

 Lives in Danger in Veracruz: Mexican Journalist Gil Cruz and His Family
By Ignacio Carvajal (Blog.Expediente.Mx)

– Reporter Gil Cruz of Álamo, Veracruz raised the alarm and demanded authorities protect him and his family from a possibly fatal attack

– Armed men broke into his parents house on Tuesday night, demanding 100,000 pesos (USD$5,800) in exchange for not killing him or his siblings.

– “They said that if my parents don’t give them the money by the weekend, they will hurt the children and they mentioned me,” said Cruz, a journalist.

– Cruz lives under precautionary measures from the Federal Protective Mechanism for Journalists and Human Rights Defenders but neither it nor the Veracruz State Commission for the Protection of Journalists wants to provide security to his family.

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Veracruz Journalist, Gil Cruz of El PeriodicoMx (courtesy of FB page).

Veracruz journalist Gil Cruz has filed a complaint about armed men breaking into his parents’ home to demand 100,000 pesos (USD$5,800). The men demanded the money in exchange for not killing him or one of his siblings. He sought help immediately from the state Commission to Protect Journalists (CEAPP) and the federal protective mechanism. But he says they have let him down because they are unable to protect the people closest to him.

Cruz reports for the online newspaper, PeriodicoMX. The attack, he said, began at 8.30pm in Citlaltepec in Álamo Temapache, about six hours from the Port of Veracruz. Four armed men burst into the house where “my parents were in the middle of something, and they started being aggressive, demanding 100,000 pesos in exchange for not harming their children.”

His parents told them they did not have that kind of money, forcing the men to leave, but not before they threatened to come back at the weekend for the money. Without the money “they would hurt our children.” They took off in the family car. Hours later it was found abandoned near the federal highway.

Gil Cruz said that he fears for his life. But he fears even more for his parents and his siblings. He is calling on the authorities to give him protection.

Gil Cruz said he been living with precautionary measures from the federal protective mechanism. He was granted federal protection because of threats he has received for publishing news about politics in the Álamo region.

He added that just this week staff from the federal protective mechanism came to his home to supervise the precautionary measures and to update their agreement to provide him protection.

“I can stand a threat against me. I’m kind of used to it. But threaten my family, they don’t know about these sorts of things,” he said in a phone call to Blog.Expediente.

He does not know where this new attack comes from. “I hate to think it is because of my work, but I don’t think I can put aside that explanation.”

It is not the first time he has been threatened for his work in this particularly unsafe region. “I have filed complaints, but they haven’ t worked. They haven’t helped at all. Yet even so my parents are committed to filing a new complaint.

“This morning I spoke with staff from the state and federal protective mechanisms. Each of them said the same thing. They can’t do much because it wasn’t a direct aggression against me but against my family members.”

The reporter, who sometimes works for newspaper Notiver said it was a shame “that I need to be shot in the foot or the stomach so that these protective mechanisms and the authorities can say that the threat was against me.”

He said that with this type of response, the perpetrators of violence against journalists find it very easy to “mess with family members since they aren’t subject to government protection, even though the threat comes from our work.”

Ana Laura Pérez is president of the Veracruz state Commission to Protect Journalists (CEAPP). She acknowledged being aware of Gil Cruz’s case and that “we are coordinating with state security services,” but, “really there is little we can do.”

“It is not because we don’t want to help, it’s that we cannot help: he is the journalist,” she said, when asked about extending the special security measures to Cruz’s family members.

She said that the state mechanism and every other institution face restrictions when “the family does not want to file a complaint. Neither can staff in the attorney general’s office act,” even though she said that they are doing everything they can to help him.

Gil Cruz works as a reporter in one of Veracruz silent zones, in the Huasteca, where the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas are ever present.

For about ten years, this region has been fought over because it is a strategic smuggling corridor to the U.S. border.

It has also been the site of vicious disputes between killers of both groups fighting for control over federal highway 180 running between Matamoros and Puerto Juárez.

Journalist Ignacio Carvajal works in Verazcruz. He reports for Agence France Presse, Blog.Expediente.Mx and other outlets.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a freelance human rights investigator based in Mexico City. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project, a pro-bono translation service that showcases quality journalism from accomplished reporters.

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The Militia and the Community Police: Perspectives on their Differences from Guerrero, Michoacán, and Morelos (Jaime Quintana Guerrero, DESINFORMEMONOS)

This article first appeared in Desinformemonos on 26 January 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Militia and the Community Police: Perspectives on their Differences from Guerrero, Michoacán, and Morelos
By Jaime Quintana Guerrero

  • Three members of community justice systems from three Mexican states explain their mechanism’s birth, and how community justice responds to indigenous communities
  • Community justice differs from the militia, but the three agree that everybody needs to find their own path to freedom

Mexico. “If your struggle is freedom, then welcome. But if the struggle is filled with fear and terror, then we know that the paramilitaries have arrived or are coming.” So warns community justice member, Salvador Campanur, a Purhépecha. With Claudio Carrasco from Guerrero’s Community Police, and Guillermo Hernández from Tepotzlán in Morelos State, Campanur explains that community justice systems are rooted in ancient traditions and respond to popular assemblies. The three add that community justice forms part of the complex construction of popular autonomy, while the militias respond to the interests of specific groups.

Salvador Campanur begins to refer to events in Michoacán, where militias battle to expel the Knights Templar criminal group. Campanur comes from Cherán – one of the hotspots where the autonomy movement began in 2011 – and from where the community police expelled the talamontes. He explains that the situation for indigenous townships differs to those of cities or ejidos [communal landholdings]. But he emphasizes that each community needs to find its own path to freedom, “and that we can’t order anybody to do what we have done.”

“The community police,” explains Guillermo Hernández Chapa, from the township of Tepotzlán in Morelos, “respond to the need for autonomy — where the people consider security fundamental for every aspect of their development.”

The Militia and Community Based Policing

Salvador Campanur says that indigenous communities are not just fighting to defend themselves, but against all forms of outside interference. Take extractive industries, for example, “these divide communities, families, and inhabitants.”

Claudio Carrasco from Guerrero’s community police describes how his organization differs from his state’s militias: “those groups don’t apply justice. They don’t respond to popular assemblies. They hand detainees over to government officials.”

A member of the Mepháa community, Carrasco explains that the militia want to operate like the community police but that they don’t have the people or the experience to investigate the detainees for their alleged crimes. He states emphatically this means that, “one hears of the militia torturing people, or letting criminals walk free.”

The state of Morelos has not seen a militia movement emerge like those in Michoacán and Guerrero, explains Guillermo Hernández. “We recognize that the militia responds to specific groups and not to community assemblies.” In Metepec, for example, the owners of avocado orchards created groups to guard their production process. But no community assembly recognizes them.

One other difference exists between the militia and the community police, says the Tepoztlán community member: “the militia enter into agreements with government bodies. But community groups don’t enter agreements because we aren’t waiting for the government’s recognition. Instead, the community police operate under agreements between the general assemblies and the communities.”

The Birth of the Community Police

Community members and indigenous people agree that even before the Mexcian Revolution, local people organized security and justice. “Before armies arrived in the Americas, traditional mechanisms already existed,” explains Campanur.

On 15 April 2011, Cherán Township in Michoacán became tired of the extortions, murders, and clandestine logging of their forests, so its people started an armed uprising using sticks, stones, and machetes. To start the process of organizing security in the Purhépecha township “we had to weather several experiences: the way the government and political parties treated us, divisions within the community, and the presence of organized crime,” remembers Campanur. “In a community, when one wants to organize, confront, and make good on one’s promises, that’s when we turn to the knowledge and wisdom of our ancestors, the things we base ourselves on.”

Cherán’s residents identified that the land “is our house and we have to defend it. That’s the way we understand how to defend the land our ancestors bequeathed us,” reminds the Purhépecha community member. Later, they organized security using torchlight patrols to confront “the bad guys” who, they complained, were supported by armed groups and the military. They took back their land using those methods. Afterwards they organized elections according to their community traditions, processes recognized by official electoral institutes.

Cherán’s community guards provide security to around 20,000 inhabitants over an area of 27 thousand hectares of communal land.

Salvador Campanur explains the community patrol’s membership: “there’s no way to say who can or can’t join a patrol. It’s a duty for children, youth, adults, and old alike,” and nobody receives pay.

In Guerrero’s Costa Chica and on the Mountain, the Regional Coordinator of Community Policing Authorities (CRAC-PC) has 18 years experience providing a system of security, justice, and re-education. Claudio Carrasco, a Mepháa, indicates that, “police selection is based on an open competition run by the community’s general assembly. The village has to choose 14 officers, including first and second commanders.” To nominate commanders and coordinators, the townships convene a regional general assembly where all the communities meet.

The CRAC brings together ethnic communities of Mepháa, Ñu, Savi, Ñancu, Ñomdaa, afro-mestizos, and mestizos. “We have our own rules, and nobody is above them. Not even our regional assembly can change them,” explains Carrasco.

On the Costa Chica and in the mountains – in areas of drug cultivation and transshipment – there are active organized crime groups like Los Pelones and the Independent Cartel. In 2012 the community police confiscated weapons, trucks and drugs from one of these cartels.

Claudio Carrasco was once a coordinator but now is a CRAC council member. He remembers that in the justice system “we came to do a good job and grow. But all of a sudden mining interests appeared and generated a conflict which provoked the formation of a militia.” The former coordinator explains that his community stopped the businesses from coming in, so the government tried to find a way to divide the CRAC. “Divisions erupted, and then the militia arrived.” They tried to take away the community justice system.

“The militias arose spontaneously, so to speak. There’s no project. And from what we know, the government creates them and supports them. But we don’t know to what end,” says the CRAC coordinator.

In the state of Morelos, birthplace of historic leaders like Emiliano Zapata, Rubén Jaramillo, “El Güero” Medrano, and Félix Serdán, some of its regions continue with community security procedures, or “farmers’ patrols.”

Community policing practices have been reinforced in the wake of Rubén Jaramillo’s experiences,” explains Hernández Chapa. “In the ‘sixties, we had community justices of the peace, a post that existed to resolve internal disputes. But the post got lost at the national level of state justice. In the eighties, we still resolved things at the community level,” tells Hernández Chapa.

The patrols were called the “twenties” because indigenous people took turns every twenty days. But things began to change when authorities started to pay for the community’s security, meaning that the communities supported the municipal president. Hernández Chapa explains that in this way in some places, communal practices weakened.

Ocotepec, was the first community in Morelos to put the traditional practices of community safety above municipal law. In 2013 Temoac Township decided to re-establish community patrols in response to violence and home robberies. The communities selected a commander and twelve people to take charge of security. In some cases the patrols have arrested officials so that they answer to the communities.

Patrols are part clandestine, says Tepoztlán’s patrol member, Guillermo Hernández Chapa. Community policing has brought him into conflict with municipal authorities. “In order to be in a position of authority, including policing, you ought to have fulfilled other requirements,” added the patrol member.

Campanur specifies that Cherán did not invent this fight or the way of defending itself. It can’t tell any other community how to do it. “In the first place we are respectful of every group’s autonomy,” he indicates. “We can’t tell anybody to walk the same path as ours. We respect each other’s autonomy and ways of thinking. If they are pursuing freedom on their own terms then we must respect them.” But the Purhépecha community member underlined that “we want them to respect the steps we have taken in our own communities.”

Author Jaime Quintana Guerrero sits on the editorial board of Desinformemonos. This article first appeared under the title, “Autodefensas y policías comunitarias, diferencias vistas desde los pueblos,” at http://desinformemonos.org/2014/01/diferencias-entre-autodefensas-y-policias-comunitarias-vistas-desde-los-pueblos/.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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For a Tweet, Federal Prosecutors Investigate a Journalist for “Organised Crime”

Mexico's Federal Attorney General is investigating a journalist for tweeting about the reappearance of a criminal gang.

Mexico’s Federal Attorney General is investigating a journalist for tweeting about the reappearance of a criminal gang.

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

For a Tweet, Federal Prosecutors Investigate a Journalist for “Organised Crime”
By Paola Morales
(Translated by Patrick Timmons)

– Investigation opened into journalist from Oaxaca who tweeted the alleged reappearance of a criminal gang

 Sofía Valdivia, a journalist from Oaxaca and the presenter of Radiorama is under investigation for “organized crime” by Mexico’s Federal Attorney General (PGR). On 14 January 2014 the anchor of news show “Metropoli” tweeted from @sofyvaldivia that a criminal gang had reappeared.

In a tweet (pictured above), Sofía reported on the possible reappearance of a criminal group, who were distributing blankets among the homeless.

“I tweeted this information because, just like any other journalist or reporter, the important thing is to inform, right?” the journalist said in an interview with Animal Político. But during her live broadcast on Wednesday 22 January at about 13:15, the journalist received a visit from a person who identified himself as an Investigating Officer. He notified her that she was under investigation for “organized crime.”

“At first I thought he’d come because he wanted help broadcasting news of a criminal investigation. Sometimes we provide that type of service on the program. But instead he wanted to know what I do, the activities I pursue, where I live. I asked him why he was interested. It was then that he told me I was under investigation by the Attorney General for what I had tweeted,” Sofía said.

The investigator handed the reporter a document from the head of the Fifth Investigative Unit Specialising in Crimes against Freedom of Expression in the Federal Attorney General’s Office in Oaxaca. The director, Alfonso Jarquín Díaz “urgently” ordered a “detailed and exhaustive” investigation into Valdivia for organized crime or whatever else comes out.” Sofía could not obtain a copy of that document because it dealt with “something internal.”

The investigator told her she should be alert to the fact that in a few days she would receive a subpoena to testify about the information she had published. Likewise, the investigator questioned her about who had given her the information, how it had been sent, and, among other things, from which telephone. “I wasn’t the only person who spread this news, so are they going to investigate the whole world for one tweet?” asked the presenter.

“I’m trying to defend freedom of expression, not just myself,” said the journalist.

Until the afternoon of 23 January, Sofía still had not received a subpoena to testify.

“It worries me that I am being investigated for something I published on Twitter. I am going to keep on working, because that’s what I do. I am a journalist,” she said.

Freedom of expression NGO Artículo 19 said that the investigation against Sofía “equates informing about organized crime with the commission of a crime.”

Journalist Paola Morales reports for Mexican online news site AnimalPolítico. This story was first published on 23 January 2014 with the title, ‘Por un tuit, PGR investiga a periodista por “delincuencia organizada.’ Follow her on Twitter @paolamoralesm. The original story may be found here: http://www.animalpolitico.com/2014/01/art-19/#ixzz2rK4JIpoD

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). 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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