05/17/12 – Adding to what seems to be a quickly growing number of journalists killed in Mexico, journalist René Orta Salgado was found dead inside his car in Morelos on Sunday, May 13. The body showed signs of having been beaten, most notably with blows to the abdomen, core, and head, and with markings of asphyxiation, reported El Universal. Authorities noted that no firearms appeared to be used in the killing, nor was blood drawn, thus distinguishing this murder from most others. “How this homicide was conducted is not common,” said the Attorney General’s Office of Morelos (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, PGJE). “It’s the only case that we have with these characteristics.”
Family and friends alerted police on Saturday that Orta Salgado was missing; he was last seen early Saturday morning at a bar in Cuernavaca, the capital of Morelos. Authorities believe he had been dead for up to 24 to 36 hours when they discovered the body on Sunday afternoon. The PGJE has been in communication with the federal Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) to ensure collaboration with the PGR’s Office on Attention to Crimes against Freedom of Expression (Fiscalía Especializada en la Atención de Delitos contra la Libertad de Expresión) throughout the investigation. State officials also offered support in the aftermath of Sunday’s discovery. Said Morelos Governor Marco Adame through a public communication, “The State Government laments the death of reporter René Orta Salgado, and reiterates its promise to legality and justice,” a sentiment that Morelos Secretary of Government Sergio Hernández Benítez echoed.
Orta Salgado had been a reporter for news agency El Sol de Cuernavaca for 20 years. However, he had not been actively writing since December, at which point he joined a political campaign organization to support presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) in the upcoming July elections. Reports have referenced various names of the organization Orta Salgado joined, including Entrepreneurs for the Nation (Emprendedores por la Nación, EPN) and Young Entrepreneurs for Morelos (Jóvenes Emprendedores por Morelos). Regardless, officials found campaign material for Peña Nieto in the car along with the journalist’s body, though the motive for the murder–whether political, professional, or other–remains unclear at this point.
Orta Salgado’s death is the most recent in a string of violence against journalists that has erupted over the past three weeks in Mexico. On April 28, Proceso journalist Regina Martínez was killed inside her house in Xalapa, Veracruz. Five days later, on May 3, the mutilated bodies of three photojournalists–Guillermo Luna Varela, Gabriel Huge, and Esteban Rodríguez–were found inside plastic bags in a canal in Boca del Rio, Veracruz. On May 10, the editor of an on-line news website in Hermasillo, Sonora, Gerardo Ponce de León, was beaten by two men, though he survived the attack. The following day, the offices of the Nuevo Laredo-based newspaper El Mañana was hit with a grenade and open fired upon, although no one was injured in the act. Orta Salgado’s murder in Morelos took place the day after on Saturday, May 12.