Female Mayor of Jamapa is Kidnapped and Murdered

12/02/20 (written by vrice)— Florisel Ríos Delfín, Mayor of Veracruz’s Jamapa municipality, was kidnapped from her home late on November 10, 2020 by ten armed men. The mayor was found dead early the next morning in a rural area of Medellín de Bravo, a neighboring municipality. Police speculate that an organized criminal group was behind the attack. In Mexico, such violence against local mayors, former mayors, mayoral candidates, and alternate mayors has become increasingly frequent. Justice in Mexico’s (JIM) Laura Calderón argues that this violence threatens the democratic process and undermines rule of law.

Mayor Florisel Ríos Delfín. Photo: Expansión Política

A Disarmed Police Force and Accusations of Corruption

Ríos is the second female mayor murdered during the term of Cuitláhuac García Jiménez, current governor of Veracruz. Maricela Vallejo, the mayor of Veracruz’s Mixtla de Altamirano municipality, was murdered in April 2019 alongside her husband and driver. The Saturday before her murder, Mayor Ríos attended a meeting with all the other municipal presidents of Veracruz affiliated with the Revolutionary Democratic Party (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD). At the meeting, the mayor expressed feelings of being in danger and asked for help. In her last interview before the murder, she voiced similar sentiments of fearing for her life, which she attributed to the disarmament of local police and a municipal budget that was insufficient to pay for personal security. Veracruz Government Secretary Éric Cisneros Burgos had ordered for Jamapa police to be disarmed shortly before Ríos was killed because the majority of officers had been using firearms that were not  registered and approved by the Mexican Secretariat of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA). Therefore, the officers had been using the weapons illegally. In the week before her murder, Ríos met with Secretary Cisneros to request that she and her family receive state protection. Cisneros denied the request. 

Since she took office in 2018, Ríos’ term was marred by various scandals. Last July, the Captain of the Jamapa Municipal Police, Miguel de Jesús Castillo, accused the mayor of being involved in the disappearance of citizens. The Captain was later murdered and dismembered by what police suspect to be a criminal organization. Then, in January of this year, the Jamapa municipal palace was occupied for various months by protesters who demanded that dismissed workers be rehired. The occupiers also filed eight complaints with the Veracruz State Attorney General (Fiscalía General del Estado, FGE) against Ríos and other Jamapa government officials for mismanagement. Then, early this November, Ríos’ husband, Fernando Hernández Terán, now ex-president of Jamapa’s National System for Integral Family Development (Sistema Nacional para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia, DIF), was accused of diverting public funds. After the Veracruz FGE ordered for his arrest, Hernández went into hiding, where he remained at the time of Mayor Ríos’ murder.

Responses

In his daily morning press conference on November 12, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) mourned Mayor Ríos’ death and said that his administration has been attentive to the ongoing investigation. Local Jamapa politicians and leaders of the PRD, the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN), and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) also lamented Ríos’death. Veracruz PAN Senator Indira Rosales requested that Governor García clarify the circumstances of the murder and sanction those responsible. Leaders like Citlali Medellín Careaga (PRI mayor of Tamihua) and Viridiana Bretón Feito (PAN mayor of Ixhuatlán del Café) denounced and demanded justice for Rios’ murder. Via Twitter, Jesús Zambrano Grijalva, National President of the PRD, used the anti-femicide #NiUnaMenos hashtag to condemn Ríos’ murder and criticize Governor García’s administration. 

Additionally, Ángel Ávila, the PRD representative in the National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral, INE) took to social media to say that the Governor and Secretary Cisneros should stop threatening the PRD and instead “get to work.” Ávila also denounced Veracruz as a state that “doesn’t have a government.” For his part, the Governor released a video on Twitter sharing that his administration had requested for the FGE to accelerate investigation into Ríos’ death. The Veracruz Secreatariat of Public Security (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP) shared via Twitter that air and ground surveillance operations had been launched in Jamapa and the surrounding area to investigate and find those culpable for the mayor’s murder. From his unknown location, Ríos’ husband published a Facebook message mourning his wife’s death and attributing unsafe conditions in Mexico to rampant organized crime. 

On November 16, Jamapa municipal employees along with dozens of citizens protested in the streets to demand justice for the mayor’s murder. Ríos’ children were also in attendance, including her daughter Yzayana Hernández Ríos, who has since taken over presidency of Jamapa’s DIF since her father’s removal. Yzayana said that she feared for the lives of herself and her siblings and reproached statements by Governor García, which she said blamed the Mayor for her own murder. Ríos’ daughter Yzayana also stated, “My mother was a very hardworking and honest woman, who day to day fought to improve this municipality” and accused Governor García of “re-victimizing” her mother.

The Assassination: An Exception or Endemic?

Thus far in 2020, four municipal public servants have been murdered. This violence is part of a larger pattern, exemplified in data from the National Association of Mayors (La Asociación Nacional de Alcaldes, ANAC), which found that 158 Mexican mayors were murdered from 2006-2019. Justice in Mexico’s research has documented the intentional homicide of at least 264 local politicians from 2002-2019, 98 of whom were murdered just from 2015-2019. While JIM’s analysis revealed a 26% decrease in the number of victims from 2018 to 2019, this past year of 2019 was the most violent for ex mayors, who accounted for 15 of the 25 total murders. 

Cases of intentional homicide against mayors, former mayors, and alternate mayors. 
Photo: Justice in Mexico

The killing of Mayor Ríos is consistent with other data Justice in Mexico has collected regarding violent conditions in Veracruz and the political affiliation of murdered mayors, former mayors, mayoral candidates, and alternate mayors. While significantly behind the PRI with 89 victims, those affiliated with the PRD—Mayor Ríos’ party—were murdered at the second highest rates of any party, with 40 victims from 2002-2019. Moreover, Justice in Mexico found that during this period, Veracruz reported the fourth highest murder rate of for the aformentioned local politicians. In 2019, Veracruz also recorded the second most murders of mayors, former mayors, mayoral candidates, and alternate mayors (3) nationwide, the highest number of femicides (157) and of officially reported kidnappings (298), and the fourth most cases of extortion (560). 

Justice in Mexico’s research has revealed the unique vulnerability of local politicians in Mexico. In 2019, it was revealed that Mexican mayors were 13 times more likely to be assassinated than the general public. The murder rate for mayors was 3.25 per 1,000 mayors, versus 0.24 per every 1,000 citizens amongst the general public. In a working paper by JIM’s Calderón, “An Analysis of Mayoral Assassinations in Mexico, 2000-17”, three potential hypotheses to explain mayoral murders are explored: a mayor’s perceived level of corruptibility (which influences how much organized crime groups view them as a threat), rates of drug production/trafficking in a state (violence is more concentrated in states with of such higher rates), greater vulnerability in more rural territories with less population density. To combat this violence, Calderón emphasizes: the responsibility of the federal government to provide sufficient budgets and adequately enforce federal protections; the fundamentality of strengthening state institutions with transnational justice processes to allow for democratic consolidation; and the necessity of implementing policies and social incentives to dissuade public participation in organized criminal activities as a means of survival.

Violence Against Women in Mexican Politics

The phenomenon of “political violence and political harassment against women,” seen across Latin America and the world, can be characterized by “behaviors that specifically target women as women to leave politics by pressuring them to step down as candidates or resign a particular political office” (Krook and Restrepo Sanín 2015, 127). Such behaviors may include, but are not limited to, acts of physical, symbolic, psychological, economic, and sexual violence—from kidnapping, rape, and murder to the spreading of false rumors, release of private photographs, and refusal of parties to fund female candidates’ campaigns (ibid, 138). 

For many years, Mexico’s General Law on Electoral Crimes failed to collect gender disaggregated data on acts of political violence. This meant that specific statistics for violence against female politicians, like Mayor Ríos, or against women trying to exercise their political rights were unavailable. The Mexican government has slowly taken strides to better protect women’s ability to participate in politics, but these have often not lived up to expectations. A 2008 reform aimed to increase female political participation by “requiring parties to earmark 2% of their public funding to activities supporting women’s leadership development” (ibid, 142). When parties’ accounts were reviewed in 2011, it was revealed that these funds had been used for alternative purposes, like “cleaning supplies, stationery, and fumigation services” (ibid). Even in 2013, when the INE introduced a set of guidelines on implementing the earmark, party leaders openly asked auditors how they could avoid adhering to the requirement (ibid). More recently, in October 2020, the INE unanimously endorsed guidelines for political parties to help combat gender-based political violence. Amongst other requirements, these stipulated that, beginning in 2021, no aspiring candidate can be convicted or accused of domestic violence, sexual misconduct, or have defaulted on alimony payments. 

In Mexico, gender-based political violence occurs in a greater context where women’s fundamental rights to life and security are routinely transgressed. In 2019, Mexico recorded the second highest absolute number of femicides in all of Latin America and the Caribbean at 983, a rate of 1.5 per 100,000 women. 

2019 femicide rates in Latin America, the Caribbean and Spain. Photo: Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean

This data is reflective of the increasing prevalence of femicide in the country, which from 2015 to 2019 saw a 139% increase, per Mexico’s Secretary General of National Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP). These high rates are even more troubling given how in 2019 the impunity rate for femicide in Mexico was 51.4%. This impunity is not just restricted to cases of femicide, but rather is endemic in Mexico, seen by the country’s 89.6%  impunity rate for intentional homicides. The Mexican government has played a significant role in allowing rampant violence against women to continue. Of the 3,522 Public Ministry (Ministerio Público, MP) agencies in the country, only 177—less than 5%—are focused on addressing crimes against women. These few agencies are expected to handle an immense caseload, as 482 women report cases of familial violence each day—equivalent to about 20 cases each hour. Moreover, only 3.3% of these agencies focus on sexual crimes, and are expected to manage the more than 40,281 cases of such crimes that were registered from January to September 2020. The lack of resources and government employees to handle cases of violence against women in these few MP agencies contribute to high rates of femicide and impunity for these crimes. 

These dangerous conditions for Mexican women have only been exacerbated by the outbreak of COVID-19. El Sol Mexico estimated that two-thirds of women over 15 years of age in the country would be forced to quarantine with a violent partner. Moreover, during the eight months of lockdown thus far, the National Network of Shelters (Red Nacional de Refugios), which aids female victims of violence and their children, has provided services to over 34,716 women. These requests for help represent a 51% increase from the same period during 2019. The Network registered that 9%  of male aggressors (about 3,123 individuals) from whom women sought assistance had military or political ties. This data is particularly troubling given the role of male politicians in perpetrating violence against women in politics. In 2004, a female candidate running for municipal president of San José Estancia Grande (in the state of Oaxaca), Guadalupe Ávila Salinas, was shot dead by the sitting municipal president at that time (Krook and Restrepo Sanín 2015, 140). Other female municipal candidates have been kidnapped by their political opponents, in some instances, by opponents in collaboration with the female candidate’s own party and/or spouse (ibid). All of these rampant forms of violence against women in Mexican politics renders near gender parity in Congress more symbolic than actually indicative of equal rights and respect for women. If it is not telling enough that political gender quotas took 15 years to be implemented, female politicians continue to be discriminated against, prevented from presenting proposals, and denied essential campaign funds. Moreover, men continue to serve as the heads of important legislative bodies including the “Executive Board, Political Coordination Board, and 15 out of 16 party caucuses”.

Guadalupe Ávila Salinas. Photo: Crónica

Failing to address attacks against women in politics allows this kind of violence to continuously be construed as the “cost of doing politics” for women (Krook and Restrepo Sanín 2015, 145). Such an understanding normalizes endemic mistreatment of women both inside and outside the political sphere. As a result, violent acts against women in politics threaten the level and quality of democracy in Mexico and question to what degree women have truly been incorporated as full political actors in Mexico (Krook 2017, 74).

Sources

Jarquín Edgar, Soledad. “Asesinan a candidata perredista en Oaxaca.” Cimac Noticias. September 27, 2004. 

Cruz, Alfonso. “Alcalde del PRI mata a balazos a candidata del PRD en Oaxaca.” Crónica. September 28, 2004.

Krook, Mona Lena and Juliana Restrepo Sanín. “Gender and political violence

in Latin America Concepts, debates and solutions.” Politica y gobierno, vol. 13 no. 1, 2016, p.125-157. www.scielo.org.mx/pdf/pyg/v23n1/1665-2037-pyg-23-01-00127-en.pdf.

Krook, Mona Lena. “Violence Against Women in Politics.” Journal of Democracy, vol. 28 no. 1, 2017, p. 74-88. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/jod.2017.0007.

“Violencia política contra las mujeres en razón de género.” CNDH México. 2018. 

Calderón, Laura. “An Analysis of Mayoral Assassinations in Mexico, 2000-17.” Justice in Mexico, Working Paper Series vol. 15 no. 1. January 2018.

“Mexico’s Female Legislators Are No Silver Bullet for Gender Inequality.” Council on Foreign Relations. September 4, 2018. 

“Femicide or feminicide.” Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean. 2019. 

De la Peña, Angélica. “El Covid-19 y la perspectiva de género.” El Sol de México. March 23, 2020. 

“Información sobre violencia contra las mujeres; Incidencia delictiva y llamadas de emergencia 9-1-1.” Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública. April 30, 2020.

Calderón, Laura et al. “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: 2020 Special Report.” Justice in Mexico. July 31, 2020.

Arteta, Itxaro. “Solo 4.2% de los MP se especializan en violencia contra mujeres; 100 municipios concentran 60% de feminicidios.” Animal Político. October 27, 2020. 

Arteta, Itxaro. “El 50% de las investigaciones de feminicidio en México no se resuelven, dice reporte.” Animal Político. November 10, 2020

“Asesinan a alcaldesa de Jamapa, Veracruz; la habían culpado por desapariciones.” Forbes México. November 11, 2020.

“Asesinan a Florisel Ríos, alcaldesa de Jamapa, Veracruz.” Animal Político. November 11, 2020.  

Hernández, Kenia and Isabel Zamudio. “Asesinan a alcaldesa de Jamapa, Veracruz.” Milenio. November 11, 2020.

“La alcaldesa de Jamapa, en Veracruz, es asesinada.” Expansión Política. November 11, 2020.

Zavaleta, Noé. “Plagian y asesinan a la alcaldesa de Jamapa, en Veracruz.” Proceso. November 11, 2020.  

Flores, Danytza. “En Jamapa, donde mataron a la alcaldesa, la policía está desarmada.” Diario de Xalapa. November 12, 2020. 

Gómez, Eirinet and Georgina Saldierna. “Secuestran y asesinan en Veracruz a la edil de Jamapa.” La Jornada. November 12, 2020.

“Policía de Jamapa fue desarmada por irregularidades en uso de la licencia de armas.” Aristegui Noticias. November 12, 2020. 

Rice, Veronica. “The INE Takes Strides Against Gender Based Violence.” Justice in Mexico. November 12, 2020. 

Rodríguez García, Arturo. “El presidente lamenta asesinatos de periodista y alcaldesa.” Proceso. November 12, 2020. 

“Slain mayor had appealed for help before her murder.” Mexico News Daily. November 12, 2020. 

Zavaleta, Noé. “Alcaldesas de Veracruz repudian asesinato de la edil de Jamapa.” Proceso. November 12, 2020. 

Calderón, Laura. “Violencia criminal contra ediles en México.” Animal Político. November 16, 2020.

Zavaleta, Noé. “Protestan en Jamapa por asesinato de alcaldesa; su hija reprocha criminalización.” Proceso. November 16, 2020. 

Arteta, Itxaro. “En 8 meses de pandemia, refugios para mujeres violentadas han atendido 51% más solicitudes de ayuda.” Animal Político. November 20, 2020.

Around the States: Oral Trials

06/02/19 (written by kheinle) — Oral trials (juicios orales) were one of the landmark features of Mexico’s New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NJSP). The introduction, incorporation, and institutionalization of such a critical component in the judicial system has required a significant amount of resources, including human capital, training, infrastructure, and financial investment. Three years since the NSJP was formally launched in June 2016, Mexican states and Mexico City (Ciudad de México, CdMx) continue to invest in developing the efficiency and effectiveness of oral trials. The successes of such efforts in several entities are described below.

Mexico City (CdMx)

Source: Justice in Mexico.

According to the Superior Court of Justice of Mexico City (Tribunal Superior de Justicia de la Ciudad de México, TSJCDMX), more than 7,600 hearings are held each month in the nation’s capital. This is in large part thanks to the 160 judges who oversee the proceedings and the 122 oral trial courtrooms in operation that are equipped with videotaping functionality.

The Executive Director of TSJCDMX’s Judicial Administration (Gestión Judicial), José Eligio Rodríguez Alba, commented on the positive impact that technology has had on the courts’ operations. “We utilize three technology systems,” he said. “The first is the system of judicial administration, which coordinates the various hearings throughout the different zones. There is also the central notification system, which helps to keep those involved in the proceedings informed of matters [pertaining to their case]. And lastly, we have video recording capabilities that capture all of the testimony, which impacts judicial expediency.”

Rodríguez Alba emphasized the impact that this system of shared work has had on oral trials. Allowing judges to focus solely on the courtroom proceedings by removing the administrative duties from their plates, he said, have made the courts and oral proceedings more efficient.

San Luis Potosí (SLP)

Source: Justice in Mexico.

Judges and magistrates from the State Judiciaries of San Luis Potosí and Quintana Roo (Poderes Judiciales de los Estados, PJE) attended a training the week of May 20, 2019, titled “Competency-based Oral Resolutions and the Test of the Accusatory Penal System” (“Resoluciones orales basado en competencias y la prueba en el Sistema penal acusatorio”). The course, which was held in San Luis Potosí, was facilitated by representatives from Canada’s National Judicial Institute and the University of Ottawa.

The training focused on strengthening the oral trial system by making the proceedings more accessible to and better understood by the people of Mexico. It worked with judges and magistrates to use less technical language when overseeing courtroom proceedings and more common language instead. “To be able to communicate in simple language when speaking with community is what this new system of justice and oral trials are seeking to do,” said Magistrate Lucero Quiroz Carbajal of Mexico State’s Supreme Court of Justice (Supremo Tribunal del Estado de México, STEM) at the event. “The people will be able to understand the motives and reasoning for why a verdict was given towards a person, based on the legal determination.”

San Luis Potosí is recognized for its advances in implementing the oral trial system. Magistrate Quiroz noted that was part of the decision-making behind hosting the training there in May.

Veracruz

Source: Justice in Mexico

Eliseo Juan Hernández Villaverde, consultant to the president of the Superior Court of Justice of Mexico City (TSJCDMX), facilitated a training in Veracruz in mid-May titled “Civil Orality” (“Oralidad Civil”). Attendees included judges, magistrates, and public servants who work in civil and family law in Xalapa and Coatepec. Members of the State’s Superior Court of Justice (Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Veracruz, TSJV) also attended.

As part of the training, Hernández Villaverde referenced the success the courts have had in Mexico City with oral trials. This includes, he said, the 26 civil law judges and ten family law judges active in oral trials. He also shared the court’s plans to prepare 50 civil and 50 family law judges within the next year. At the end of the training, Hernández Villaverde encouraged participants in their own states to “be open to breaking the procedural [traditional] paradigm. We need more judges that have the courage to disrupt such paradigm and…that have the confidence in developing the judicial operators with the skills, ability, and technicalities of the oral trial system.” This, he concluded, would in turn expedite judicial proceedings.

Sources:

“Imparten conferencia sobre oralidad civil a servidores públicos del Poder Judicial.El Democrata. May 18, 2019.

Escalante González, Bertha. “Poder Judicial rumbo a la consolidación del NSJP.” El Sol de San Luis. May 20, 2019.

Redacción. “Poder Judicial y el Instituto Nacional de la Judicatura de Canadá inician curso.” El Exprés. May 20, 2019.

Notimex. “Tribunal de Justicia local realiza más de siete mil audiencias al mes.” 20 Minutos. May 26, 2019.

“TSJCDMX, crea 122 salas de oralidad con sistema de videograbación.” Contra Réplica. May 26, 2019.

Fifth journalist killed in Mexico in 2019

Journalist killed in Quintana Roo.

Francisco Romero Díaz was killed on May 16, 2019 in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo. Source: Notimundo.

05/21/19 (written by kheinle) — Mexico is on pace to be the world’s most dangerous country for journalists in 2019, according to Reporters Without Borders. Five media workers have been killed in Mexico in just the first five months of the year, the most recent coming in the early morning of May 16. Authorities found the body of Francisco Romero Díaz in the popular Playa del Carmen beach town in Quintana Roo. Romero was a reporter with Quintana Roo Hoy and oversaw an online Facebook page called Ocurrió Aquí through which he posted on local stories, politics, and harassment against journalists. He was the fourth journalist killed in Quintana Roo in the past 12 months, reports El Universal, and the sixth nationwide since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office in December 2018, according to advocacy organization Article 19.

The 28-year-old reporter and his family faced ongoing threats in response to his coverage of crime and violence. The threats were serious enough that Romero had enrolled in a federal protection program for at-risk journalists, which gave him access to body guards and to a “panic button,” among other tactics, to ensure his safety. The night of his death, however, Romero had reportedly dismissed his guards for the evening, but then received an early morning phone call about a tip on a story at the local club, to which he responded. Authorities found his body soon thereafter with at least two gunshot wounds.

Committee to Protect Journalists’ Mexico Representative Jan-Albert Hootsen responded to Romero’s death. “This brutal murder of Francisco Romero Díaz is a direct consequence of the unabating violence in Quintana Roo and Playa del Carmen, a state and city popular with tourists, but lethal for journalists,” he said. “Mexican authorities must do everything in their power to bring the culprits to justice…”

Violence Against Journalists in Mexico

Mexico has long been one of the most dangerous countries for members of the media to work. In 2018, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), four journalists were killed in Mexico, tying it with the United States in fourth place on their list of most journalists killed. Only Afghanistan (13 journalists killed), Syria (9), and India (5) had more. Justice in Mexico’s Memoria dataset, however, adopts a less conservative measure than CJP, considering 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. According to that dataset, 16 such individuals were killed in 2018 — four times higher than CPJ’s tally.

The New Criminal Justice System

Despite the danger that Mexican journalists face, the government recently took a step forward in its efforts to protect this vulnerable population. On May 15, a Special District Judge (Juez de Distrito Especializado) in the Center for Federal Criminal Justice (Centro de Justicia Penal Federal) in Xalapa, Veracruz sentenced an individual for threatening a journalist. According to local sources, the defendant, Joaquín R. P., threatened reporter Edgar Juárez Gómez via social media, telephone calls, and text messages in response to a story that Juárez Gómez had published about the defendant’s brother being held in detention. The six-month sentence handed down was the first of its kind for such crimes to be given in Veracruz under the New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP).

To read more about the dangers that journalists face in Mexico, check out Justice in Mexico’s annual report released in April 2019, “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico.”

Sources:

“54 Journalists Killed.” Committee to Protect Journalists. Last accessed March 24, 2019.

Calderón, Laura et al. “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. April 2019.

Barranco Déctor, Rodrigo. “Por primera vez en Veracruz, sentencian a sujeto por atentar contra periodista.” La Silla Rota. May 15, 2019.

“Por amenazar a periodista veracruzano, lo sentencian a 6 meses de prisión.” Noreste. May 15, 2019.

J.M.C. “Asesinado un periodista en Playa del Carmen, el sexto en México en 2019.” El País. May 16, 2019.

“Reportan al quinto periodista asesinado durante el 2019 en México.” El Universal. May 16, 2019.

“Reporter shot and killed in Mexican tourist resort.” Reuters. May 16, 2019.

“Mexican reporter Francisco Romero Díaz shot dead in Playa del Carmen.” Committee to Protect Journalists. May 17, 2019.

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.