Implications of Lopez Obrador’s Security Agenda

06/30/2018 (written by Lucy Clement La Rosa)-  On July 1, 2018, in one of the most unprecedented elections of its history, Mexico elected a new President. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, commonly known by his initials, AMLO, will be Mexico’s next President. Previously having run for president in 2006 and 2012, his victory, though groundbreaking, is not surprising. AMLO consistently led election polls in comparison to the other major party candidates, Ricardo Anaya and Jose Antonio Meade.

It goes without saying that 2018 will stand out in Mexico’s election history. For the first time ever, independent candidates were able to seek presidential nomination. In addition, aside from electing a new party candidate, Mexican citizens voted for over 18,000 elected positions. With 89 million eligible voters, the highest in Mexican history, election outcomes have the potential to markedly change Mexico’s political landscape. On that note, Lopez Obrador’s victory may significant influence on Mexico’s relationship with its northern neighbor, the United States. Even more so, however, Lopez Obrador’s proposed security agenda could have unique implications on Mexico’s current security.

Lopez Obrador’s Background

Born in Mexico’s state of Tabasco, Lopez Obrador went on to study political science and public administration at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Autónoma de México, UNAM), Mexico’s largest public university. Lopez Obrador’s political experience is rooted in Mexico’s long standing political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI). In 1976, he actively supported and campaigned on behalf of PRI Senate Candidate, Carlos Pellicer.

Lopez Obrador left the party in 1988 to join the National Democratic Front (Frente Democrático Nacional, FDN), a dissident left-wing coalition assembled to challenge the hegemonic rule of the PRI. That same year, Lopez Obrador ran as opposition for Tabasco’s governorship. Although he lost, he ultimately became the president of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, a center-left party founded from the remnants of the FDN. Lopez Obrador served as PRD president from 1996 to 1999.

Throughout his tenure, Lopez Obrador continued to build his political stature, including campaigning for indigenous rights, and organizing protests against Mexico’s behemoth energy company, Mexican Petroleum (Petróleos Mexicanos, PEMEX), and PRI corruption. In 2000, he was elected as Mexico City’s mayor. His time in office was considered to be generally successful as his administration significantly improved Mexico City’s infrastructure, including remodeling the historic metropolitan center, expanding highways and improving public transportation with the introduction of Metrobus, a public transit system.

Lopez Obrador resigned from his mayoral position in order to seek presidential nomination for the PRD for the 2006 Presidential elections. Although he led the majority of the election polls, National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) candidate, Felipe Calderon, edged ahead by less than one percent.  Lopez Obrador protested the election results, demanding a recount and even held a public “inauguration” declaring himself the legitimate president of Mexico. Lopez Obrador ran again for president in 2012, once again falling short and alleging election

Supporters for Andres Manuel López Obrador. (Guillermo Arias, The New York Times)

Supporters for Andres Manuel López Obrador. (Guillermo Arias, The New York Times)

fraud.

Ultimately, Lopez Obrador stepped away from the PRD and founded his own political party in 2014, the National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional, MORENA).  In coalition with a left-wing Labor Party (Partido del Trabajo, PT), and right-wing Social Encounter Party (Partido Encuentro Social, PES), Lopez Obrador once again sought presidential candidacy in the 2018 elections.

A Revised Security Agenda  

Under the slogan, “Together we will make history (Juntos Haremos Historia),” Lopez Obrador successfully led a center-left campaign that captured over 50% of the vote with one of the highest election margins in Mexican political history. His firebrand promises to bring change to Mexico, resonated with many Mexican voters. Lopez Obrador emphasized his determination to uproot corruption across Mexico and address rampant issues of poverty and violence.

In particular, his rule of law and security-specific proposals include: creating a National School of Public Security to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on corruption among law enforcement, establish state-level entities and obligatory trainings to monitor and increase the professionalization of law enforcement officials across Mexico, target the socio-economic roots of organized crime to reduce the incentive of organized crime, reform the 19th Constitutional Article to allow for preemptive imprisonment for corruption crimes, and analyze the efficiency of the Judiciary Council and revise the structure of the federal judiciary, in particular the Supreme Court, accordingly.

One of Lopez Obrador’s most controversial security proposals includes amnesty legislation for the purpose of reducing cyclical patterns of socio-economic insecurity in Mexico. Following his election, Lopez Obrador held his first security cabinet meeting to further develop the parameters of this proposed legislation. According to Alfonso Durazo- Lopez Obrador’s selection for Secretary of Public Security, a newly reinstated position of state- amnesty would be key to the new administration’s security agenda.

Notwithstanding that amnesty is a politically ionized concept, particularly in Mexico’s current state of insecurity, some see it as a step towards the de-escalation of Mexico’s violence. Raúl Zepeda Gil, a security expert for the Institute Belisario Domínguez of the Senate of the Republic (Instituto Belisario Domínguez del Senado de la República), identifies three ways in which amnesty could introduce effective mechanisms for reducing violence, including: the perspective of post-conflict pacification, alternative sentencing for minor/non-violent acts, and revised drug regulations. Although, he concedes that implementing amnesty comes with another set of issues, such as sustainability and corruption, Zepeda highlights the benefits of amnesty negotiations and transitional justice strategies applied in Colombia, a country which experienced violence and organized crime similar to Mexico. Ultimately, he argues that amnesty legislation for Mexico may in fact be an effective formula to redressing systemic patterns of violence and socio-economic instability.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Olga Sánchez Cordero.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Olga Sánchez Cordero. (Marco Ugarte, Associated Press).

These aforementioned and often controversial mechanisms are already under-consideration and open to public debate, according to Olga Sánchez Cordero, Lopez Obrador’s selection for Secretary of Government. In a recent Seminar on Violence and Peace: Forget, Truth, or Justice? (Seminario sobre Violencia y Paz: ¿Olvido, verdad o Justicia?), she affirmed that the new administration will be open to transitional justice mechanisms in their bid to uphold a human rights-focused agenda. In the words of Sanchez Cordero, Mexico needs new institutions and new systems to amend its reality, including amnesty negotiations, but also alternative and reduced sentencings, the decriminalization of certain drugs, reparation polies, and socio-economic policies targeting the recovery of public spaces.

Lopez Obrador’s intended approach has already elicited a response from the White House, in particular the topic of narcotic policies. In answer to the possibility that Mexico may legalize drugs, Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, asserted that the United States no way supports the legalization of drugs. However, Sanchez Cordero’s proposals have thus far only suggested the decriminalization of marijuana and opium.

Although Lopez Obrador is adamant in his promise to reinvent the security strategies used in Mexico, critics are skeptical, pointing out that his proposed security policies are relatively experimental in Mexico. Regardless, on election day, Mexican voters were willing to take a leap of faith. In the words of Laura Chinchilla, former President of Costa Rica, recent populist elections reflect a regional demand for change. “The results are not endorsements of ideologies, but rather demands for change, a fatigue felt by people waiting for answers that simply have not arrived (New York Times).”

Upon accepting his appointment as President elect, Lopez Obrador stated that under his leadership he will “establish an authentic democracy” in Mexico. Political promises, apprehensive criticisms and hopeful constituents aside, only time will reveal the attainability of Lopez Obrador’s proposed security agenda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

“Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. July 2, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Andres-Manuel-Lopez-Obrador

Palacios, Surya. “Perfil: Quien es Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO)? Alto Nivel. July 2, 2018. https://www.altonivel.com.mx/elecciones-2018/amlo/perfil-amlo-lopez-obrador/

Lafuente, Javier. “La Victoria de López Obrador lleva al poder a la izquierda en México.” El Pais. July 2, 2018. https://elpais.com/internacional/2018/07/02/mexico/1530496335_470433.html

Najar, Alberto. “5 razones que hacen históricas las elecciones presidenciales en México.” BBC Mundo. July 1, 2018. http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-43578377

Ahmed, Azam and Paulina Villegas. “Lopez Obrador, an Atypical Leftist, Wins Mexico Presidency in Landslide.” The New York Times. July 1, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/01/world/americas/mexico-election-andres-manuel-lopez-obrador.html

“Esto fue lo que dijo López Obrador tras su Victoria electoral (discursos completos).” Animal Politico. July 2, 2018. https://www.animalpolitico.com/2018/07/discursos-lopez-obrador/

Zepeda Gil, Raúl. “Pacificación a la mexicana: apuntes sobre la propuesta de amnistía de López Obrador.” Nexos. July 9, 2018. https://seguridad.nexos.com.mx/?p=886

Open Society Justice Initiative report details crimes against humanity in Mexico

cover report

Source: Open Society Justice Initiative.

10/03/16 (written by kheinle) — A report released by the Open Society Justice Initiative in June 2016 provides a scathing overview of crimes against humanity being committed in Mexico. The report, Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes Against Humanity in Mexico, finds that not only have crimes against humanity occurred, but also that those responsible, namely the Mexican government and the Zetas criminal organization, have not been held accountable. This argument is largely built on the legal standards outlined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to which Mexico has been privy to since 2005. As Robert Varenik, Acting Executive Director of Open Society Justice Initiative, synthesized in a communication,

“Based on three years of research and over 100 interviews, the [Undeniable Atrocities] report examines the devastating toll of drug-related violence in Mexico and finds a reasonable basis to believe that federal security forces and members of criminal cartels have, since 2006, perpetrated killings, enforced disappearances, and torture on a widespread and systematic scale such that they constitute crimes against humanity.”

To arrive at the conclusion, the report begins with homicides. Only 10% of homicide cases that occurred between 2007 and 2012 resulted in convictions, the report reads, and only 16% of homicide investigations opened by federal prosecutors from 2009 through July 2015 led to indictments. The data proves worse for disappearances, whether criminal or enforced (perpetrated by state actors/law enforcement). As of February 2015, only 13 convictions resulted from 313 federal investigations into enforced disappearances, and not until August 2015 was a single soldier ever convicted for his or her involvement in cases of disappearances despite evidence proving otherwise. Meanwhile, 12 indictments and eight judgments were issued in 1,884 federal investigations into torture between 2006 and 2014, and cases of torture resulted in only six convictions between 2007 and April 2015.

Taking these findings into consideration vis-à-vis Mexico’s obligation to the standards set forth in the Rome Statute, the “analysis finds that the situation in Mexico meets the legal definition of crimes against humanity.” The report also considers Mexico’s responsibility as a state to protect its people, arguing that the government’s ability to do so has been undermined by its own legitimate strategy launched in 2007 by then President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) against organized crime. Undeniable Atrocities writes that the strategy “deployed the military and federal police [to the streets] to use overwhelming extrajudicial force against civilian populations perceived to be associated with criminal cartels, without adequate regulations on the use of force, and with almost no accountability for any of the abuses that followed.” Not only has this strategy led to an increase in human rights violations without proper oversight of the deployed military and police, but it also has hindered the Mexican government’s ability to protect its people. This can be considered ironic given the strategy’s ultimate goal was to increase the country’s safety and security by eliminating organized crime.

The government’s role in human rights violations discussed in Undeniable Atrocities (homicide, enforced disappearance, and torture) has long been a focus of national and international concern. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) is a reputable, independent source that documents these violations by state actors, as found in their public Recommendations (Recomendaciones) that detail credible accusations of violations and recommendations for how to mitigate and rectify the situation.

enforced disappearances and indictments

Source: “Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes against Humanity in Mexico.” Open Society Justice Initiative.

In 2016 alone, five such CNDH recommendations have been issued to the Secretary of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) and an additional five to the Secretary of the Navy (Secretaría de Marina). The rate of recommendations issued against SEDENA (five recommendations over nine months for a .56 rate of recommendations/month) is significantly less than what Justice in Mexico documented in its 2012 report, “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico.” Data used in that report shows that over a 62-month span under President Calderón dating May 2007 through July 2012, 101 recommendations were issued against SEDENA at a rate of 1.62 per month, thus nearly tripling SEDENA’s current rate. On the other hand, SEMAR’s rate of recommendations in 2016 (.56) is significantly higher than its rate under Calderón, when only 17 recommendations were issued during the same 62-month span (.27 recommendations/month).

Both military entities were recently issued recommendations from CNDH documenting human rights abuses, thus falling in line with the Undeniable Atrocities report. In August 2016, for example, CNDH’s “Recomendación No. 42/2016” detailed SEDENA’s role in a case in Tecpan de Galeana, Guerrero in 2012 that involved illegal search, arbitrary detention, and arbitrary execution of two minors and four adults. Two weeks later, CNDH issued a recommendation against SEMAR (Recomendación No. 43/2016) about a 2013 case in San Luis Potosí that involved violations of seven victims’ rights to liberty, personal security, personal integrity, and access to justice, as well as the torture of one of the victims.

The role of authorities in violating human rights and committing crimes against humanity, as Undeniable Atrocities argues, thus continues to be a pressing and present issue in Mexico. According to Jorge Castañeda, Mexico’s former foreign minister (2000-2003), the Open Society Justice Initiative’s report is “the most crushing critique to date of the war against drugs waged by [Presidents] Calderón and Peña Nieto since the end of 2007.” Respected and well-known Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui also weighed in after reading the report, declaring that a “big debate” should be initiated in Mexico to address the crimes against humanity and hold those responsible accountable. The Undeniable Atrocities report builds on that comment with its recommendation. “The government must act without delay,” it reads, “to acknowledge the gravity of the situation: it must initiate urgent, extraordinary measures, including the invitation of international assistance to ensure independent, genuine investigations and prosecutions.” It will be interesting to see how the Peña Nieto administration addresses such calls for action during its final two years in office.

Sources:

Daly, Catherine et al. “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. July 2012.

Full Report. “Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes Against Humanity in Mexico.” Open Society Justice Initiatives. June 2016.

Press Release. “Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes Against Humanity in Mexico.” Open Society Justice Initiatives. June 2016.

“Undeniable Atrocities: Reactions.” Open Society Foundations. June 2016.

Recomendación No. 42/2016. Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. August 31, 2016.

Recomendación No. 43/2016. Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. September 14, 2016.

Email communication. Varenik, Robert O. via Jillian Winkler. Open Society Justice Initiatives and Open Society Foundations. September 21, 2016.

“La CNDH emite recomendación al Ejército por el asesinato de 6 personas, entre ellas 2 menores, ocurrido en Guerrero.” Sin Embargo. September 27, 2016.

Web. “Recomendaciones.” Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. Last accessed October 1, 2016.

U.S. Congress reacts to human rights concerns in Mexico

logo of Merida Initiative

Source: The Yucatán Times.

08/16/16 (written by kheinle) — Human rights concerns in Mexico have prompted the U.S. Congress to urge the State Department to take action. A letter sent August 9 sponsored by Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs called on Secretary of State John Kerry and the State Department to withhold 15% of funds allocated for distribution to Mexico under the Merida Initiative for the coming year. From 2008 through 2015, Congress required that at least a portion (15%) of U.S. support through the Merida Initiative be contingent on specific human rights conditions. Such conditions are currently up for review.

With the support of 68 fellow members of Congress, the letter highlighted the grave human rights situation in Mexico as cause for withholding the next round of Merida funding. The letter specifically pointed to the 27,000 unresolved cases of disappeared persons in Mexico, a number that has amassed in just under ten years. It also focused on the disappearance and presumed murder of 43 students who went missing while detained by Mexican security forces in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero in September 2014. That case remains unresolved despite several reputable investigations by international organizations and experts, including the most recent study concluded in April 2016 by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (Grupo Interdisciplinario de Expertos Independientes, GIEI) that found demonstrable “control and monitoring, if not active involvement, from all levels of [Mexican] security—ministerial, municipal, state, federal and military—in the incident,” among other grave concerns. The Congressional letter additionally pointed to the massacre in Tlatlaya, State of Mexico (Estado de México, Edomex) in June 2014 during which Mexican soldiers killed 22 civilians in a warehouse, 15 of whom were killed extrajudicially. Lastly, the legislators cited “Mexico’s persistent use of torture in criminal investigations,” as well as “the slow pace of reform in the military, law enforcement, and justice sectors” as reasons for U.S. action. Indeed, the State Department even acknowledged such violations in the Mexico section of its most recent Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015. “The most significant human rights-related problems included law enforcement and military involvement in serious abuses, such as unlawful killings, torture, and disappearances,” the report read. “Impunity and corruption in the law enforcement and justice system remained serious problems.”

WOLA logo

Source: WOLA.

Washington Office on Latin America’s (WOLA) Senior Associate Maureen Meyer, an expert in U.S.-Mexico relations, commented on the Congressional letter to Secretary Kerry, noting that human rights must remain a priority. “Maintaining a strong bilateral relationship with the United States’ neighbor and partner should not be at the expense of an honest dialogue about the human rights crisis in Mexico and the lack of accountability for the authorities responsible for these crimes,” she writes. Meyer’s comments draws on the fact that the Merida Initiative is exemplary of the strong ties between the United States and Mexico, but that it should not supersede the protection of fundamental human rights in Mexico.

It is important to contextualize the Merida Initiative. From FY2008 to FY2015, U.S. Congress allocated $2.5 billion in Merida funding to Mexico to support four pillars: (1) Disrupting organized crime groups, (2) institutionalizing the rule of law, (3) creating a 21st-century border, and (4) building strong and resilient communities. Thus, Merida funding supports a number of other key rule-of-law pillars in addition to the protection of human rights. As such, funding will continue through 2016, as the work to strengthen and maintain a strong rule of law in Mexico is far from complete. This notion was argued in Justice in Mexico’s July 2016 publication, “Policy Brief: The State of Judicial Sector Reform in Mexico,” in which the authors commend Mexico’s clear strides made in recent years to overhaul its criminal justice system, moving from an outdated, inquisitorial model to a new, transparent, and efficient adversarial system. However, the authors note that while “Mexico is one step closer to reaching a more just society … its path will no doubt remain long, steep, and sometimes rocky.” The 69 signatories to the recent Congressional letter to Secretary Kerry echoed that idea, acknowledging Mexico for its advances towards a more just society on the one hand while advocating for more work to be done on the other. “We commend the Government of Mexico for taking important legislative steps to advance human rights protections and to reform its criminal justice system,” the letter reads. “However, having good laws on the books does not ensure justice; Mexican authorities must enforce the law and respect human rights.”

To read the letter in full, click here.

 

Sources:

“CNDH issues recommendations for Tlatlaya massacre as case moves to federal civil court.” Justice in Mexico. November 30, 2014.

Ribando Seelke, Clare and Kristin Finklea. “U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mérida Initiative and Beyond.” Congressional Research Service. February 22, 2016.

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. “Country Reports on Human Rights Practice for 2015: Mexico.” U.S. Department of State. April 2016.

Heinle, Kimberly et al. “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2015.” Justice in Mexico. April 2016.

“Ayotzinapa Disappeared 43 Students Case Remains Unsolved.” Justice in Mexico. May 2, 2016.

Cortés, Nancy et al. “Policy Brief: The State of Judicial Sector Reform in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. July 25, 2016.

Government Communication. United States Congress of the United States. August 9, 2016.

Press Release. “Congressman Lowenthal Calls on State Dept. To Prioritize Human Rights and Justice Reform in Bilateral Talks With Mexico.” Office of U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal. August 10, 2016.

Press Release. “U.S. Congress Expresses Concern for Mexico’s Human Rights Crisis and Sends Letter to Secretary Kerry.” Washington Office on Latin America. August 11, 2016.

Four journalists killed in Mexico during first third of 2016

Journalist killed in Mexico

Journalist Francisco Pacheco Beltrán was murdered April 25, 2016. Photo: Diario de México.

05/07/16 (written by kheinle) – Journalists continue to face grave danger in Mexico, as evidenced by the recent homicide of journalist Francisco Pacheco Beltrán (55) in Guerrero. HIs death marks at least the fourth journalist killed in Mexico in 2016, putting the country on pace to more than double the number of journalists killed in 2015, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Pacheco was murdered by assailants in the early morning outside his home in Taxco, Guerrero on Monday, April 25 with two shots to the back of the head.

Violence Against Journalists

Pacheco played a number of roles in media, working as a reporter for Sol de Acapulco, editor for Foro de Taxco, and contributor to Capial Máxima, while covering several different areas, namely tourism and social media. According to CPJ, he also had a personal website that he used to report on regional crime and violence, and some said to also criticize local authorities. Reports could not confirm, however, if Pacheco’s murder was tied to his work as a journalist and, if so, to his alleged criticism of local authorities. Pacheco’s family said he did not feel threatened or in danger, but his work did cover Taxco, which is nearby to Iguala, Guerrero, both locations that have been hot spots in Mexico since the 2014 disappearance and presumed murder of 43 students from Ayotzinapa.

Journalists map 2000-2015, Justice in Mexico

Source: Justice in Mexico.

National and international voices immediately condemned Pacheco’s murder and called on authorities to investigate and hold accountable those responsible. “The endless cycle of violence against Mexican journalists is devastating the press,” wrote CPJ’s Carlos Lauría. “Federal authorities must thoroughly investigate the execution-style murder of [Pacheco] and exhaust all possible motives, including links to his work as a journalist.” The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, echoed Lauría, saying, “I condemn the murder… I call on the authorities to investigate this killing, which undermines the media’s ability to do their work and limits people’s access to information.” Mexico’s Executive Commission with Attention to Victims (Comisión Ejecutiva de Atención a Víctimas, CEAV) and the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos cometidos contra la Libertad de Expresión, FEADLE), which operates under the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), have since launched an investigation into Pacheco’s death, beginning to interview the victim’s family in early May.

Pacheco’s death reflects Mexico’s continued status as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. Mexico was the sixth deadliest country in the world in 2015 for journalists, with four media workers murdered in the year out of 49 worldwide, according to CPJ. Only France (8 journalists), Brazil (6), South Sudan (5) Bangladesh (5), and Iraq (5) had more. Of the four journalists killed in Mexico in 2016, according to CPJ only one, Marco Hernández Bautista (January 21 in Oaxaca), was killed with a confirmed motive. The murders of the other two, Anabel Flores Salazar (February 8 or 9 in Veracruz) and Moisés Dagdug Lutzow (February 20 in Tabasco), were unconfirmed. Pacheco’s case is still being investigated.

Justice in Mexico’s recently released annual report, “Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2015,” further explores the numbers behind the dangers for journalists in Mexico. Using its Memoria dataset, which is less conservative than CPJ’s because it takes into account cases of both media workers and journalists who may have been victims of intentional homicide for a variety of motives not limited to their reporting, Justice in Mexico has identified at least 132 journalists and media-support workers murdered in Mexico from 2000 to 2015. The vast majority of these deaths (123) occurred in or after 2006. In 2015, Justice in Mexico entered 15 media workers into the Memoria dataset, the same number recorded in 2014.

 

Sources:

“Journalist Anabel Flores Salazar death in Veracruz highlights danger members of the media face in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. February 17, 2016.

“Mexican reporter shot to death in Guerrero state.” Committee to Protect Journalists. April 25, 2016.

Press Release. “Director-General urges investigation into murder of journalist Francisco Pacheco Beltrán in Mexico.” UNESCO. April 27, 2016.

“Drug Violence in Mexico: Data and Analysis Through 2015.” Justice in Mexico. April 29, 2016.

“PGR atrae investigación del asesinato del periodista Francisco Pacheco.” Noticieros Televisa. May 4, 2016.

“10 Journalists Killed in 2016/Motive Confirmed.” Committee to Protect Journalists. Last accessed May 7, 2016.

“36 Journalists Killed in Mexico since 1992/Motive Confirmed.” Committee to Protect Journalists. Last accessed May 7, 2016.

“Memoria.” Justice in Mexico. Last accessed May 7, 2016.

Journalist Anabel Flores Salazar death in Veracruz highlights danger members of the media face in Mexico

Anabel Flores Salazar

Journalist Anabel Flores Salazar was kidnapped on February 8. Her body was found one day later in neighboring Puebla. Photo: EFE.

02/17/16 (written by kheinle) – The death of journalist Anabel Flores Salazar in Veracruz has kept the spotlight on Mexico and the Peña Nieto administration, particularly regarding the government’s failure to protect journalists. Flores was abducted from her home in Veracruz in the early morning hours of Monday, February 8 by assailants dressed in military uniforms who claimed to have a warrant for Flores’ arrest, reports Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Her body was discovered in Puebla the day after.

Anabel Flores Salazar was a crime reporter for El Sol de Orizaba newspaper. Crime reporters are often the media workers that cartels and gangs target out of retaliation for information or a story being published. In addition, there was speculation that Flores may have had an alleged connection with a member of an organized crime group. According to the Veracruz State Government, in August 2014, Flores was investigated for having ties to Víctor Osorio Santacruz, “El Pantera,” an alleged member of Los Zetas. Flores’ family denies it, writes CPJ, saying she was simply having dinner at the same restaurant El Pantera was dining when he was arrested.

Regardless, Anabel Flores Salazar’s alleged murderer, Josele Márquez Balderas, “El Chichi,” of Los Zetas, has been identified and detained. El Chichi controlled Orizaba and Córdoba in Veracruz, the territories Flores covered as a reporter. The suspect was actually detained along with six other gang members one week before Flores was kidnapped, though he is thought to have orchestrated Flores’ murder from behind bars. Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte took to Twitter to show the alleged connection between Flores and El Chichi, re-circulating a message Flores had posted under a pseudo name to report on El Chichi’s arrest and fallout. El Chichi was initially arrested for his lead role in the 2011 attack on the offices of a daily newspaper in Córdoba, El Buen Tono. Following the connection to Flores, El Chichi was transferred from the medium security prison, La Toma, in Veracruz to the maximum-security prison, Ceferso, in Jalisco.

Governor Duarte continued on Twitter after El Chichi’s transfer, highlighting the risk journalists face in Veracruz at the hands of organized crime groups. “The enemy in #Veracruz for journalism and freedom of speech is organized crime,” he posted. “Except for the case of [slain journalist] Regina Martínez,” he continued, “the other cases where there have been journalists killed in #Veracruz have been done by organized crime.”

Governor Duarte’s posts drive home the reality that Veracruz, let alone Mexico as a whole, is one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work in the world. According to Committee to Protect Journalists, including Flores’ death, “at least 12 journalists have been murdered in Veracruz since Javier Duarte de Ochoa became governor in 2010. Three more have disappeared, their whereabouts unknown.” The growing numbers coupled with the impunity the majority of the perpetrators have faced have led to calls for Governor Duarte’s resignation, including from CPJ’s Senior America’s Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. In an article published after Flores’ death, Lauría exclaims, “Gov. Duarte has a deplorable record when it comes to investigating crimes against journalists. The majority of [such] cases have never been resolved.” He continues, “The government of Veracruz [has a] tendency to minimize any relationship between the murders and the journalistic work of the victims.” Flores’ death thus brings to the surface the dangers journalists face in Mexico, particularly in Veracruz, and the impunity that often follows.

Mexico is the sixth deadliest country in the world in 2015 for journalists, with four media workers murdered in the year out of 49 worldwide, according to CPJ. Only France (8 journalists), Brazil (6), South Sudan (5) Bangladesh (5), and Iraq (5) had more. Meanwhile, Justice in Mexico’s ongoing project, Memoria, recorded at least 12 journalists killed in Mexico in 2015. Unlike CPJ’s data, not all were necessarily killed because of their occupation working in news and media.

Sources:

“Investiga FGE desaparición de reportera policiaca, en Mariano Escobedo.” Veracruz State Government. February 8, 2016.

“Body of missing Veracruz crime reporter Anabel Flores Salazar found in neighboring state.” Committee to Protect Journalists. February 9, 2016. 

Lauría, Carlos. “El gobierno de Veracruz debe renunciar.” Univisión. February 11, 2016.

Lauría, Carlos. “Why the governor of Veracruz should resign.” Committee to Protect Journalists. February 12, 2016.

“Vinculan a líder Zeta con muerte de reportera.” El Universal. February 13, 2016.

Zamudio, Isabel. “’El Chichi’ ordenó el asesinato de la reportera: Duarte.” Milenio. February 14, 2016.

“49 Journalists Murdered in 2015.” Committee to Protect Journalists. Last accessed February 16, 2016.

“Memoria.” Justice in Mexico. Last accessed February 16, 2016.