02/11/14 — Just two months after the disappearance of Zacatecas journalist Zoila Márquez Chiu, who returned home unharmed three weeks later, another journalist was kidnapped in Mexico. Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz, a crime beat reporter for media outlets Notisur and Liberal del Sur, was abducted the morning of February 5 in his hometown of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Reports indicate that a van with armed assailants picked up Jiménez as he arrived home after taking his children to school. Despite mixed reports initially emerging on February 11 that Jiménez was alive, reports now confirm that the journalist was found dead in a grave with two other corpses in the town of Las Choapas, Veracruz.
Nevertheless, the government’s response to the kidnapping was almost immediate, with the Veracruz State Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, PGJE) launching an investigation headed by the PGJE’s director of Government Investigations, Enoc Maldonado. Meanwhile federal forces, including members of the state’s Secretary of Public Security (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP), the Army, the Navy, and Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF), were sent to Veracruz to help locate Jiménez. At least four individuals have been arrested in connection with the kidnapping, including the owner of local bar-restaurant El Mamey, Teresa de Jesús Hernández Cruz. According to his coworkers, Hernández allegedly had had a disagreement with Jiménez over the publication of one of his articles, threatening him that “You don’t know who you’re messing with” (“No sabes con quien te metes”) and that she would send people “to settle the score” (“para ajustar cuentas”).
For its part, Mexico’s National Commission of Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) opened its own investigation into Jiménez’s case, sending investigators to the scene to gather evidence and witness testimonies, and document the government’s response to the disappearance. As Mexico’s autonomous human rights monitoring agency, CNDH works on such cases to ensure the government acts accordingly and diligently to investigate and bring justice to cases of human rights abuses. In response to Jiménez’s disappearance, CNDH issued a preliminary statement arguing, “It is the State’s obligation to prevent any act of violence against the freedom of expression, so that every democratic society should have as one of its principle components the participation of a free and independent press.” This echoes CNDH’s General Recommendation No. 20 issued in August 2013 to the federal and state governments, attorney general’s offices, public prosecutors, and public security ministers, in which the organization addressed abuses against journalists in Mexico and the impunity that often follows.
Nevertheless, as investigations continued, so too did the outpouring of public support demanding Jiménez’s safe return. The organization Periodistas de a pie released a video on social media calling out the government for failing to protect journalists, specifically in Veracruz where nine reporters or media workers have been killed since 2011, at least three more have been reported missing, and a dozen more have fled the state fearing for their safety. Using the Twitter hash-tag #LoQueremosVivo (#WeWantHimAlive), Periodistas de a pie expressed, “We don’t want Gregorio Jiménez to be another statistic.” Meanwhile hundreds of social media users put pressure on the government, using social media networks like Facebook and Twitter to rally support, and Twitter hash-tags including #QueremosVivoaGoyo (#WeWantGoyoAlive) and #HastaQueAparezcaGoya (#UntilGoyaAppears). The day before Jiménez’s death was confirmed, a public protest formed in Plaza Lerdo in Xalapa, Veracruz with journalists demanding their colleague’s release. Read more about the risks journalists in Mexico continue to face.