Mexican daily Notiver published an editorial Wednesday adamantly denying the possibility that slain journalist Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz had links to a criminal gang and demanding that the attorney general of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz resign.
“We energetically reject the accusation as unjust, irresponsible and foolish, and we demand a public apology and Reynaldo Escobar’s resignation,” the editorial read.
Notiver, the largest-circulation newspaper in the port city of Veracruz, responded to comments made Tuesday by Escobar, who said the crime was regrettable but had nothing to do with Ordaz’s work as a journalist.
Escobar said investigators were looking at the possibility that Ordaz – who was found with her throat slit in the port town of Boca del Rio, just south of Veracruz, and apparently had been tortured – may have had links to a criminal organization and been killed by a rival gang for that reason.
Ordaz, who had written about the war on drugs and the police beat, had been kidnapped Saturday by gunmen.
A message was left with the reporter’s body that referred to a possible betrayal by Ordaz of a cartel, the state AG said.
Notiver said in the editorial that “it respectfully but forcefully” calls on Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte “not only to dismiss Reynaldo Escobar but to bring charges against him for his irresponsible and criminal actions.”
“Pointing out that this man is good for nothing is unnecessary. You just have to go out in the street to see the insecurity and anxiety and the impact it’s having not only on journalism but all of society – on trade, tourism, industry and the golf club. Criminals move about with impunity on our streets,” the editorial said.
It added that Notiver, which specializes in covering drug and security issues, has been “under pressure and threats” for six years yet has continued to report the news despite “all the risks and the total lack of support from authorities.”
Law enforcement “doesn’t exist, doesn’t function, is invisible and in the worst-case scenario, or really almost always, is in cahoots with the criminals; if not, what explains how they can ... operate with impunity in broad daylight?”
“The old slogan ‘plata o plomo’ (lead or silver: accept a bribe for looking the other way or get killed for refusing) doesn’t apply. It’s only lead and if you don’t like it you risk not only being killed but also having the attorney general throw a garbage truck on top of you,” the editorial said.
Reporters Without Borders also blasted Veracruz authorities for their handling of Ordaz’s murder.
“In this case, as in most of the previous ones, which are still unpunished, we are outraged by the way the local authorities rule out any link with the victim’s work as a journalist and encourage nasty rumors about the victim even before they start investigating the case,” said a statement issued Wednesday by the Paris-based group, known as RSF.
As someone who covered the police beat, Ordaz “was one of those journalists who were exposed to danger because of their reporting specialty,” RSF said.
“At the same time, a link to organized crime obviously cannot be excluded in a state where three feared gangs, the Zetas, the Gulf Cartel and Michoacán’s La Familia, operate,” the press-freedom watchdog said,.
Those cartels and several others are blamed for Mexico’s alarming rate of drug-related violence, which has claimed more than 40,000 lives since late 2006.
RSF also said there may be a connection between Ordaz’s murder and that of Notiver colleague Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, whose columns “may have upset certain officials.”
About a month before Ordaz went missing, Lopez Velazco and his wife and 21-year-old son were shot dead inside their home in the city of Veracruz.
A total of 77 Mexican journalists have been killed since 2000 and 23 others have gone missing since 2003, according to RSF, which said seven reporters have been murdered and another has disappeared in the country since the start of this year.
In two of the 2011 slayings, there was a direct link with the victims’ work, RSF said.
Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists in the past few years, and the most perilous country for members of the media in Latin America, non-governmental organizations say.
Authorities have not solved any of the cases of the journalists listed as missing since 2005 in Mexico, the Inter American Press Association, or IAPA, said in a report released last November.