Questions remain as governor names Regina Martinez “killer”

On 30 October, the state government of Veracruz announced it had solved the murder of Proceso magazine reporter Regina Martinez, who was killed in April this year. In her 10 years as a Proseco journalist, Martinez had frequently reported on drug trafficking in the region.

A vigil calling for justice for Regina Martinez, May 2012 – Demotix

Veracruz officials named Jorge Antonio Hernadez Silva as one of two alleged murderers. Silva is reported to have confessed to the murder and named a second suspect, Jose Adrian Hernandez, who is still at large.

According to state Governor Javier Duarte, the killer told investigators that the motive for the murder was robbery . He apparently said that Martinez let both suspected killers into her home at around 11pm; an argument erupted and she was strangled and killed.

But the government version of events has been rejected by the Martinez’s former employers at Proceso magazine, and  Mexico’s federal Attorney General’s office has also questioned the state investigation.

The controversy over Martinez’s killing is just the latest event to pit Veracruz’s press and Javier Duarte’s government against each other. Proceso claims that in the 23 months since Duarte took office, he has had a tense relationship with the local press. Nine reporters have been killed during that time, three more have disappeared and 30 have fled the state because of threats against them.

The governor’s press office has aggressively campaigned against “negative” news. Its press officers often call local media to ask that reporters write stories more “positively”. Proceso staffers believe that Duarte, in naming Martinez’s killer, is trying to close a  high-profile case that has become a problem for his office and the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), just weeks before the PRI President Elect Enrique Peña Nieto takes office.

Michael O’Connor of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has said the state investigation made no sense.  The CPJ report says the state “is fabricating a murder case against the wrong people” and according to O’Connor who has interviewed Martinez’s friends and reviewed the crime scene investigation, the government’s story has some major holes.

First is the claim that Martinez willingly let the men who killed her into her home at 11pm for a late night chat. Friends of the late journalist interviewed by O’Connor said she cherished her privacy and never invited people into her house — even close friends.

Secondly, O’Connor said the crime scene investigation report states that Regina was surprised by her assailants while she was in the bathroom — this doesn’t fit with the defendants version of events.

Writing in Proceso MagazineAlberto J Olvera, a journalist and researcher at the Universidad Veracruzana, has said: “Authorities will have to convince the Mexican people, and specially the journalism community, that the investigation is seriously backed by scientific evidence.  Their case is weak”.


Actor del Castillo makes online request to drugs lord

Making the wrong commentary about the drug war in Mexico could create problems for public figures. Take the case of Kate del Castillo, a Mexican actor who incurred the wrath of many in the country after she tweeted that she preferred drug gang leader Chapo Guzman to the government.

Her mistake was to post a long statement on social media site Twextra. “Today, I believe more in El Chapo Guzman than in the governments that hide truths from me,” she wrote, adding later:

“Mr Chapo, wouldn’t it be great if you started trafficking with positive things? With cures for diseases, with food for street children, with alcohol (drinks) for old people in retirement homes, where they are not allowed to spend their final days doing whatever they like. You can traffic with corrupt politicians and not with women and children who end up as slaves?”

She ended the statement urging Guzman, one of Mexico’s most powerful drug bosses, to become “The Hero of Heroes,”  a play on a Mexican corrido song describing a top drug baron as the “Jefe de Jefes” or Boss of Bosses.

El Chapo, which translates to “Shorty”, is one of Mexico’s most powerful drug traffickers. He was named the most influential drug trafficker in the world by the US Treasury Department, and has been ranked as one of the richest Mexicans by Forbes for the last three consecutive years.

The only entertainers who flocked to support Kate were Ranchera singer Chavela Vargas and Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin, plus her ex-husband Demian Bichir.

Most Mexican entertainers stay away from appearing too chummy with known drug traffickers. Several singers of traditional grupero music have been killed in the last few years. None of the cases have been solved and the killings are said to be linked to songs the singers were paid to compose and make famous.  Many of the songs describing and praising drug traffickers are called “narco-corridos”, a spin on the traditional corrido ballad music of Mexico.

Del Castillo, a top name in Mexico,  recently moved into the US market, playing a role in Showtime’s Weeds. She also starred in the Spanish-language TV series La Reina del Sur, in which she played a female drug trafficker.  The series is based on a real life drug trafficker, Sandra Avila, known as La Reina del Pacifico, who is in a Mexican jail today, fighting extradition to the United States for cocaine smuggling.  Avila laundered money for the Chapo Guzman’s drug syndicate.

Mexican journalist receives death threats

Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho told Mexican authorities on Thursday (30 June) that she has received anonymous death threats via phone and e-mail for revealing the names of sex traffickers. Authorities claim they have leads on the source of the threats. Cacho is one of many journalists who have been intimidated or even killed by crime rings for their reporting in Mexico.

Drug wars threatening Mexican crime reporting

The back to back murders of two prominent crime journalists have cast a dark shadow over Mexican press freedom.

Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, 55, a former deputy director and well established crime columnist for the newspaper Notiver of Veracuz was the second journalist killed in Mexico in a week.

Pablo Ruelas Barraza, a freelance crime reporter, received death threats before he was killed on 13 June  in the northeastern state of Sonora.

It is not clear who killed Velasco, but it is rumoured that he is the latest victim of drug gangs, supporting the view that cartels are silencing Mexican media. Velasco, his wife and 21 year old son, Misael, were killed by intruders who broke into his home early Wednesday morning, 21 June. Velasco wrote the column Va de Nuez, or “In a nutgraph”.

Notiver is a very important local newspaper that was well known for its crime reporting. According to a Veracruz based reporter, the daily newspaper has tamed its reporting style since last year, supposedly after threats from drug lords.

A review of crime reporting,  conducted by the Mexico City-based Fundacion MEPI de Periodismo de Investigacion, found that  Notiver had reduced the number of organized crime stories it covered in the first six months of 2010. In 2007, drug traffickers allegedly left a human head in front of the newspaper’s office with left a note that mentioned Lopez Velasco’s nickname.