|all photos by Dominic Bracco, Washington Post|
Did a story by a reporter for the Washington Post cause the massacre of family in Michoacan?
Borderland Beat reported on June 19, (story by ValorxTruth) Former Autodefensa Member and Family Murdered.
A similar story was published Pepe on the same day on the Forum. Both stories had basically the source and content;
“A former autodefensa member who integrated with the Rural State Force from Tepalcatepec was murdered early Thursday morning along with his wife and three children on the border between Michoacán and Jalisco.
According to information from the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), the victims showed signs of torture and injuries that were caused by firearms; so far the reasons for the murder are unknown.
The murder victims were: former autodefensa member Santiago Moreno Valencia, his wife, Blanca Godínez Chávez, and their three children, Santiago, 16, Bernabé 14, and Bianca, 11.
The incident was confirmed by members of the Fuerza Rural de Tepalcatepec (Rural Forces of Tepalcatepec), who also reported that after the incident, they tried to locate those responsible but without any success.
The investigation was initiated by authorities of the neighboring state of Jalisco, since the incident occurred within their jurisdiction.
According to Valor Por Michoacán SDR's Facebook page, the family was ambushed by members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). “
In a “update” on the story, Pepe posted on the Forum on June 30, he gave links to 2 stories that the Washington Post had done on Santiago, one a few days before the massacre of his family, Drug cartel members join Mexican militia in Michoacan, and one about 10 days later, Mexican militiaman and his family killed after speaking out.
Bjeff had previously posted the story from the WP, Drug cartel members join Mexican militia in Michoacan on the Forum on June 17, (2 days before the massacre). Some excerpts from that story in the Washington Post;
"For a man who faked his own death by posing with red paint running down his neck and who has recorded a video tell-all to be sent to the DEA in the event he is murdered, José Santiago Valencia Sandoval seems to lead a remarkably stress-free life.
A jolly, beer-swilling bear of a man, he spends his time teaching his Aztec horse to prance, mounting deer heads on his living room wall and driving around in an armored Suburban pock-marked with bullet holes.
2001, Valencia returned to Tepalcatepec after five years of
applying drywall and painting houses outside Yakima, Wash. As he worked at
fattening cattle and buying and selling land, he witnessed the encroaching drug
Valencia was vague about his own beginnings in cartel life,
although one defining event, he said, took place Oct. 15, 2010, when two
teenagers he held dear were shot by a drug trafficker from Jalisco.
“Their parents had fed me, they gave me work.
I was raised among them. They used to call me uncle,” he said. “So when they
were killed, like all the cabrones who have courage in their veins, I went to
fight against this injustice.”
He allied himself with the La Familia cartel, itself originally a group of
vigilantes intent on restoring order, and received its protection as he pursued
He got to know some of Mexico’s most-wanted men. He chatted with Servando “La Tuta” Gómez, currently the subject of a manhunt in the caves of western Michoacan, while at a cock-fight. He claimed that Nazario Moreno, the Templars’ cultish figurehead who was killed by Mexican marines this year, bragged to him about murdering 3,000 men. He learned about their unbelievable revenue, from stealing fuel and re-selling it by force to gas stations to taxing shipments of iron ore to China.
Valencia admitted to killing men but said it was in combat,
not assassination-style. At one point, being tipped off that a hitman had been
dispatched for him, he staged his own death. In the photo he had sent to his
enemy, he sits in a plastic chair, his head slumped back with red paint all
over his neck. He recorded a video of himself on his living-room couch naming
his various associates with drug and mafia connections and sent it to his
relatives living in the United States so they can get it to authorities if he
Never enamored with Knights Templar life, Valencia
switched quickly to the militia when it first formed in his town."
As can be seen from the links I provided above, BB had fairly extensive coverage of the massacre and the WP stories, but the story of Jose Santiago Valencia and the massacre of his family only received a blip in news coverage in Mexico, and little beyond the WP in the US.
The lack of coverage might be because of obsession of Mexico with the World Cup and the coverage given leading up to the "Cup", or it may have just been considered just another incidence of violence in Michoacan and so was not newsworthy. But it would seem to me that what was on the video tape he left behind as a form of insurance which named names and public officials with ties to the cartels would be very interesting and worhy of investigating.
In this, the latest article the Washington Post published on the Valencia family massacre, the reporter, Joshua Partlow, felt it was “tragic and disorienting”, and raised the question whether his stories had put Valencia in greater danger or caused his death. This story gives some inside news and insight into problems reporters face in covering a story.
Keep Quiet Or Pay The Price
By Joshua Partlow
We saw his kids first and broke out laughing. You couldn’t look at their angelic chubby giggling faces without smiling. They could barely see over the dashboard of the red truck they were driving.
And yet these two boys, Jose Santiago Perez, 16, and Bernabe Perez, 14, were the emissaries the ex-drug cartel henchman had sent to fetch us.
Dominic Bracco, a photographer, and I met the kids last month in a dirt lot outside a corral in the Mexican state of Michoacan. We were there to write about a citizen militia that formed to drive out a drug gang but was turning into something more sinister.
Their father, Jose Santiago Valencia Sandoval, had experienced both sides of this conflict. He had worked for the Knights Templar cartel, then defected to join the militia when it started in the little hillside town of Tepalcatepec more than a year ago. He agreed to meet.
Like his kids, Valencia was not what I was expecting. He was training a prancing horse and listening to ranchero music when we pulled into his yard. In his living room, decorated with his hunting trophies, he cracked open beers and told amazing tales in his breezy way: how he faked his own death by pouring red paint down his neck to elude an assassin. How he recorded himself in a video tell-all he planned to have sent to the DEA in the event of his murder
In late June, that day arrived. Valencia and his wife, Blanca, the two boys and his 11-year-old daughter, Bianca — who had all fed us tacos and hosted us generously at their home — were stopped while they were driving in their red truck in the neighboring state of Jalisco. The YouTube videos taken later show the vehicle littered with bullet holes. The attorney general’s office reported that there were signs of torture on the corpses. Nobody survived.
Graphic Photos on next page;
|Valencia's wife Blanca|
|Valiencia's sons Santiago and Bernabe|
|Valencia's daughter Bianca|
When we met him, Valencia had seemed unfazed by the dangers he faced, but he was serious about the problems in his home town. He felt the militia movement that has spread across Michoacan — supported by the Mexican government — was being corrupted by the New Generation drug cartel out of Jalisco. The group he had joined, he said, was becoming a front for criminals and could end up as rotten and abusive as the cartel he had left.
“I do not tolerate injustice, and I am not going to represent something that I am fighting,” he told us. “I want to send that message through the media.”
He knew he was a target.
“We feel threatened by certain people within the movement,” he told us.
About three weeks after we published our story about him, Valencia called our office in Mexico City. By then, I had become Facebook friends with his sons. I noticed their hobbies and photos reflected the environment that had raised them: Jose’s profile picture was a black SUV with tinted windows, his younger brother’s a high-powered rifle.
Both Dominic and I were traveling, and Valencia left messages that he had something “good” to show us. When pressed for details over the next few days, he mentioned he had a recording of the mayor of his home town, Tepalcatepec, that showed all the “trash and corruption of the government.” The next time we came to Michoacan, he told our office manager, we needed to visit him.
We called him back when we returned to Mexico City. He didn’t answer his phone. And then we noticed his name.
The killing of Valencia and his family merited barely a blip in the news of Mexico. But for us it felt tragic and disorienting. Had the article put him in greater danger? Had he been killed because of the recording he was trying to release? He had betrayed a drug cartel (one he told us he served against his will) and presumably had many enemies. Had his luck simply run out?
And why kill the children?
Dominic emailed me after this that “the real tragedy is that it had seemed he was finally escaping this life through the self-defense groups, but it turned out that they were becoming their own mafia — or well on their way. Later he set out trying to let people know, as a way to fix this place.”
Most murders in Mexico don’t get solved. Relatives must live with their questions. On his couch at home, with his sons tumbling all over him, Valencia told us that he hoped speaking out would make people “correct their ways.” If they didn’t, he said, “I’m going to call you and give you first and last names, to send into the light of the world.”
Now his name is in the sunlight. And theirs live on in darkness.
|Valencia and children|