Sunday, September 8, 2019

Miroslava Breach: The Journalist Who Would Not Be Silenced

Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: Zeta
Miroslava: The journalist who could not be an accomplice of silence
Thanks Neal !
Readers, Prepare for a long Sunday read !
Before the murder, a gray Malibu car prowled the José María Mata street of the Granjas neighborhood in Ciudad Chihuahua. The security cameras installed on the street captured him six times between 21 and 22 March 2017 when he passed the two-story house marked for crime: it was the number 1609, with brown bars and a small garden in the porch. It was the house where on the 23rd in the morning the journalist Miroslava Breach Velducea was surprised and riddled with bullets on board her car, while she waited for her son to take him to school.

One of the sisters of the journalist remembers that on the afternoon of Monday, March 20, while unloading plants they had just bought out of the trunk of Miroslava's car, her gaze met that of a man walking on the sidewalk. She felt chills. When she learned of the murder, she understood that her younger sister was under surveillance.

The veteran correspondent of the national newspaper La Jornada , and author of the sharp political columns published by El Norte de Ciudad Juárez that she signed with the pseudonym of Don Mirone, had become accustomed to living under harassment for what she published. No one has been able to establish how many intimidating messages she received until the day of her murder.

The most implacable harassment began a year before her death. The threats intensified after she published a report on the strategy of a criminal group, Los Salazares , which was trying to send their power, not only through weapons, but through politics in the states of Chihuahua and Sonora.

Cartel imposes organized crime candidates for mayor in Chihuahua / La Jornada

The Salazares, a large family from Chínipas, the mountain town she came from, and whose members went from being simple ranchers to members of the Sinaloa Cartel and one of the most sought after by the US drug agency, the DEA. Miroslava knew them well, because she was born in the mountain town of Chínipas, Chihuahua.
Since the late 90s, Miroslava Breach reported in the municipalities of the sierra. Photo: Colectivo March 23

Her closest friends and family had noticed that in 2017, Miroslava talked about her death more than usual, but was always downplaying it. Shortly before her murder she insisted on leaving instructions in case she went missing: she mentioned the life insurance with which, as a single mother, she had her twenty-year-old daughter and her teenage son protected, she talked about her will and which of her sisters she was supposed to raise her little one.

In December 2016, as every end of the year, she became obsessed with renewing the expensive insurance policies (in dollar and peso accounts) of her children. But she did abnormal things like asking for a quote in the Texan city of El Paso to find out the cost of armoring her truck, recalls his older sister Rosa María.

Miroslava did not specify that protection measure: shielding the glass alone would cost 60,000 pesos and the end of the year had left her with debts. Rosa María remembers asking Miroslava, whose daring notes no longer surprised the family, but she would no longer tell them of her threats if she was not going to do something to reduce the risk she lived in. She advised her to inform the governor of Chihuahua, Javier Corral, who was an old friend of the journalist.

In the file of the investigation carried out by the Prosecutor's Office of Chihuahua (number 19 / 2017-8019) there are testimonies of family members and colleagues who agree to have noticed Miroslava a little scattered and nervous. She became sensitive when she talked about the risks of journalism or fantasized about retiring from the trade to devote herself to her other passion and delight that was cooking. No one doubted that she would succeed if she became a chef.

However, she herself said that she could not quit journalism because she was angered by impunity ("silence is complicity," was her mantra) and made plans to strengthen her young news agency, called MIR, and open a local edition of La Jornada, the national newspaper where she had been publishing for more than 20 years.
300 Families fleeing from Chihuahua:

Since the end of 2015 Los Salazares had made her feel that they did not like her texts. It was from a note in which she pointed out that they were the cause of murder and the displacement of more than 300 families from Chínipas, where she denounced them and the hitmen that were arriving. She was upset because that group had messed with "the people", among them some very dear elders who also had to flee, displaced by the violent territorial dispute that this group was holding.

On March 4, 2016, Miroslava Breach and her colleague Patricia Mayorga of the magazine Proceso published at the same time a report in which they indicated that in eight municipalities of Chihuahua 
the candidates for mayors of the PRI (the party that then ruled the state and the country), and one of the PAN, had a relationship with drug traffickers.

Among the municipalities that were mentioned in the journalistic work was Chínipas. That complaint caused the cancellation of the candidacy of Juan Miguel Salazar, nephew of Adam Salazar Zamorano, "Don Adam" , the founding patriarch of the Los Salazares group.

Under her identity as Don Mirone, she published a column (on September 10), stating that the mayor of Chínipas, the Pan candidate Hugo Amed Schultz, had as a police chief a relative of Los Salazares , Martín Ramírez Medina, whom he identified as a criminal.

A month before her murder (on February 20) she published in La Jornada and El Norte of Ciudad Juárez a note that perhaps was her death sentence: she wrote that the narco had infiltrated Municipal Public Security (SPM) and the Publics Works area of ten municipalities; among these, Chínipas.
“Other SPM directors, such as Chínipas, Martín Ramírez Medina, were ratified in office with the change of town hall, despite their links with criminal leaders: he is cousin, in the first degree, of Alfredo Salazar Ramírez, prisoner for drug trafficking , and political nephew of Crispín Salazar Zamorano, leader of a group that operates in the municipalities of Urique, Guazapares and Moris ”she wrote.

The narco municipal governments that infiltrate Chihuahua:
No one else in Chihuahua published that information. Most of the local press had learned to remain silent while César Duarte Jáquez ruled, whom Miroslava was investigating for his enrichment and alleged business with organized crime. The latter was announced in December 2017 at the first trial hearing against the main suspect in the murder of the journalist.

Thirty-one days after that note, Miroslava's routine broke down when she took her SUV out of the garage, before seven in the morning, to take her son to high school: a gunman came to the car door and shot eight times.
Journalist Miroslava Breach was shot eight times / El Heraldo de Chihuahua:

At that first hearing of the Moreno Ochoa trial on December 27, 2017, a representative of the Prosecutor's Office presented an audio to the judge. The experts had found him at the house of the young man who drove the gray Malibu car that took the gunman to Miroslava's house, followed by another car by Moreno Ochoa. The driver was a student originally from Chínipas, a relative of the Salazar family, and is a fugitive. The alleged hitman was killed .
Security cameras captured the gray Malibu in which the murderer of Miroslava Breach was traveling near her  home / Attorney General of the state of Chihuahua.

In the recording found on a black VAIO laptop , a voice asks Miroslava who handed her the information in the note about the Chínipas candidate; she, angry, ill-spoken and with the strong resolve that characterized her, replied that she was the only source, because she was a native of that municipality. She also revealed that her relatives had already warned her that they, Los Salazares, ie could do something to her.

AUDIO 8: Alfredo Piñera, then a PAN spokesman, recorded a call with Miroslava Breach in which she was asked to report who was the informant who told her a relative of Los Salazar was a PRI candidate for municipal president in the Sierra de Chihuahua. From: Attorney General of the State of Chihuahua

The judge and the audience attendees heard the following in the transcript of the call:
Miroslava Breach (MB): Well?
Man: Hi, Miroslava, how are you?
MB: What's up?
H: Hey, you know, I'm going to tell you what happens to see how you can help us. There are people in the party over there (inaudible)
MB: Yes.
H: The word from beyond the mountains tells me that they are accusing us that we were the ones who dropped the whistle, which was not the case. And we don't have a way to prove it.
MB: But give me places from where.
H: Wait for me so much, uh (you hear the one in the voice asking someone who was right away: where from?)
MB: What communities?
H: From Chínipas.
MB: Aha.
H: And then (yes) is that we, then, (yes) manage to prove that it wasn't us, nothing will happen. So, if the reporters who got that information affirm or tell me that the source is them, not that they tell me who it was, but they just ratify that it wasn't us, with that. For us to take off the anger of those other guys. Get it ?
MB: Well, tell them, very easy and very simple. Tell them, then, why assholes are made: 'Miroslava Breach is from Chínipas'.  Tell them that.
H: Aha, but they need these guys ...
MB: No, no, no, no, they don't screw up either. I tell you why they play dumb: 'Miroslava Breach Velducea is born in Chínipas and will not reveal sources of information.' So, please, (you) say who it is and have it thrown at me (the responsibility). That's why I signed the note because I do have ovaries and because I knew how things are. My uncles have spoken to me and they tell me that they are praying the novena for me, so that is, doplay honestly ...
H: But, let's see, let me clarify, Miros : they don't ask me to reveal your sources. I would not ask you.
MB: No, no, no, no, no. But it is not that there are no sources, it is that there are no sources. That is, I got it when I gave the name of who it was in Chínipas.
H: Aha.
MB: I just took things out.
H: You didn't go.
MB: This is what happened. As simple as that. Well, what do you think I'm dumb, manca, asshole or what is it about? That's right, tell them: 'I am a source: Miroslava Breach knows Chínipas and every body that is from there, and I know who the character was' (she was referring to Juan Salazar, the candidate).
H: I understand. Then it is not that there is a source that someone went and told you.
MB: Of course not. Of course not. When I saw the list of candidates and started to report, that's why I reported Chínipas, Buenaventura, and a number of things. That's how it was and tell them: 'It was Miroslava Breach'. And throw your ticket away if you want.
H: So, you never met there with the people or with the municipal president?
MB: With nobody, absolutely with nobody! I am from Chínipas and I know who it was the candidate.
H: Ah, I understand. So I will comment to them.
MB: So tell them. They know what happens, it is that everyone is left handed. I tell you that my uncles have spoken to me.
H: Yes, they have been warned that they are going to fuck them.
MB: Well, yes, they have been warned, but to be told: 'Do you want to fuck someone? Screw the reporter, you know who it is. ' And they get into it with me. You know perfectly well, that's why I signed the note.
H: No, Miroslava, because there is everything, with that it is more than enough.
MB: I mean, that's why I signed the note, because I knew. I have cousins, I have uncles in Chínipas, and they know directly that it was me and that nobody else told me. I've known them all my life.
H: Well, it's fine.
MB: It's that simple, that direct.
H: What happens is that they are worried. Yes they are very worried because there they have the perception that it was someone there; The municipal president.
MB: No, no, well set them straight, I insist. My uncles have spoken to me, some of them spoke to me crying because the pressure is no  joke. But that's why I said 'Tio, that's why I signed the note because I know what it is and they know I'm from Chínipas'.
H: Aha.
MB:  I was born there, my family is from there.
H: No, it's good, Miros . So thank you very much. I tell them.
MB: So just tell them.
H: So I will tell you.
MB: So tell them.
H: Hahaha.
MB: That's because silence is complicity and that is what has generated all this riot.

In this initial hearing of the process against Moreno Ochoa it was learned that the man with the voice was Alfredo Piñera, spokesman for the PAN in the state, the party of the current governor. In his statement, Piñera confessed that he recorded Miroslava - and also a second call that he made to the Proceso correspondent asking her the same thing - because he has an application that records all the calls, and that he delivered the audios to the Panista mayor of Chínipas, Hugo Amed Schultz Alcaraz, who had asked for his help to shake off the pressure of Los Salazares .

In turn, in his statement, the former Mayor Schultz said he delivered the audios to the people of "El Larry"  because he considered it the only way to convince them that he had not leaked the information that had frustrated Juan Salazar's candidacy, because the PRI, the opposition party.

The press releases that came up those days soon mentioned that Miroslava herself had accused Schultz in her November 25, 2016 column of being “an emissary of the narco” and of “intimidating journalists”.

In the Don Mirone Column of which Miroslava Breach was in charge, the former mayor of Chínipas, Hugo Schultz, was mentioned at least twice to be related to drug trafficking. El Norte, Column Don Mirone, 11/25/2017:
The audio revelation was a national scandal. So it was that both Schultz and Piñera were considered by the Prosecutor's Office of Chihuahua as witnesses with reserved identity and not as suspects.

It was not the only warning. The priest of Chínipas, Father Gilberto Velducea, asked Miroslava and Patricia to stop covering that news when they met him at a diocesan meeting in the tourist town of Creel, Chihuahua. The priest no longer lives in Chínipas and it was not possible to find him.

By then, Miroslava and Patricia had agreed to publish some untouchable issues, such as narcopolitics, at the same time and in national media as a protection measure; Chihuahua was not safe for journalism. The balance until 2017 was 21 journalists killed in the state; At least four had been exiled to save their lives, among them Alejandro Gutiérrez, Miroslava's friend and former Proceso correspondent . The government of César Duarte (now a fugitive from justice) had a tight grip on the media and pressured to publish only what was to his liking.
Miroslava Breach making  brick with red earth, in the Tarahumara mountain range, the region where she reported the most / Photo: Alejandra Ogaz

From the recording of the call - which according to Mayorga was on June 22 and according to Piñera on May 6 - months went by until - according to the official version - “appeared” on a computer on the scene where the crime was allegedly planned. 

On May 26, Mayor Schultz, of Chínipas, sent a statement to the media denying links to organized crime with officials, and explaining that the municipality had been at peace during Holy Week. He did so in response to a report published by Mayorga in Proceso in which she denounced that hitmen forced people to sow drugs, so that forced displacement continued.

A video filmed in Chínipas during those days, during Holy Week, shows the popular singer in the region, Alfredo Rosas, giving a concert and dedicating a run in honor of Alfredo Salazar Ramírez, aka El Muñeco , a prisoner since 2012 and who is protected against a request for extradition from the US authorities.

This Colectivo looked for Piñera and Schultz. The first said he would not testify; the second did not respond to the interview requests that were sent to him.

"I couldn't shut up":
"In all of her school notebooks you saw the word Freedom," her older sister, Rosa María, said on the first anniversary of the murder. "It was marked by that word ... in all her investigations, she saw that defense for freedom, for people's rights."
Breach began her journalistic career in Chihuahua / De La Jornada:

She has an anecdote: She said she first studied Marine Biology, at UNAM and moved to La Paz, Baja California Sur, and there she met the career of Political Science. When she explained to her mother that she wanted to change her career, she said: “Mom, from here I can help more people. Here I can fight corruption, I can report all the abuses that are made and thus have a better society. ”

She started writing in the university newspaper.

Miroslava was recognized for her rigor. “By the time Miros published something, it was because she  had it very well documented and she always said: ''No one will be able to deny what I say.'' When we asked her ''why so much, Miroslava? .... ... go to the mountains and devote so much energy to that, for what? If you can have the second or third hand information, it is still good information.  "No, she said, nobody is going to tell me anything that is better than what I can see, nobody is going to give me better information than I can get and corroborate," Rosa María recalled. She remembers opening spaces at family gatherings for her to work at writing her notes and meeting deadlines.

Miroslava was almost a legend among Chihuahua's journalists. She was a humble diva, described by a colleague. She was strong, angry and foul-minded. She selected her friends well, something that did not make her popular among the guild: she did not talk to journalists she considered lacking in ethics, she despised flattering politicians (she always returned the gifts they gave her), she published notes that few were encouraged to write, she was a very good political analyst and had a sharp and feared pen among the political class.

In 2015, she inherited the Don Mirone column that for four years she had done with her friend and colleague Manuel Aguirre. For her there was no untouchable subject. She had studied Political Science in La Paz, Baja California Sur, far from her family, but made her professional career in Chihuahua, where she returned in 1995 with her young daughter. There she covered allegations of human rights violations, especially cases of violence against women or land dispossession of the indigenous peoples of the Sierra Tarahumara.

She liked to drive her truck through the mountains, although in recent years the region was a battleground for criminal groups in their dispute over drug routes. Two photographers remembered her fondness for speed; when she saw that this frightened passengers, she mocked them and told them that it was better to die in small pieces. Sometimes no one wanted to accompany her and she left alone in her SUV.
In the photos of their coverage, indigenous communities are seen carrying children, kneading tortillas, making mud bricks on the floor, riding a tractor or taking testimonies in community assemblies.

Miroslava Breach was known for her rigorous research. She herself said that she had to go to report to see with her own eyes the situations she was writing about. Photo by Colectivo March 23.
The journalist had a very close relationship with Rarámuris communities. Photo Colectivo March 23

In addition to investigating narcopolitics, Breach also published work on the effects of megaprojects on the Tarahumara in the Sierra mountain range.

According to La Jornada, just before her murder Miroslava Breach was investigating the drilling of illegal water wells with drug money for laundering. From: Alejandra Ogaz.
The journalist Olga Aragón, one of her best friends, with whom she worked at El Diario de Chihuahua , and in the independent magazine Aserto , remembers her in 1996 in the newsroom writing her chronicles “while lulling her legs at the same time her little daughter Andrea, who slept in her lap while she finished another strenuous day. ” In a note published in La Jornada after the murder she described her as a very good mother, woman and journalist. "Her studies in political science undoubtedly enriched her analytical ability, especially as a columnist, where she developed a very personal style of elegant sobriety and subtle mordacity."

She investigated for two years the enrichment of the outgoing PRI governor César Duarte, and was the first to announce the triangulation of funds through Banco Unión Progreso, a bank created by him where public money was deposited. 

In 2010 Miroslava turned in the case of the murder of the defense lawyer of the Rarámuri ejido of Baqueachi. He had been killed in retaliation for a lawsuit he had won, and that forced landowners to return their lands to the dispossessed Indigenous Rarámuri. Hence, the journalist forged an intimate friendship with the lawyer's widow. She also became an advocate and friend of the community, whom she helped form a library. She planned to take goats for them to have other sources of income. "I was looked upon, as they said, a “chabochi” (mestiza in rarámuri) as an ally and friend who was as a special guest at their parties".

Since 2004 Miroslava followed the trail of electoral infiltration of criminal groups. At the time of her murder - as La Jornada revealed - she was investigating the illegal drilling of water wells and the purchase of high-tech irrigation equipment in at least nine municipalities of the entity, all as part of a money laundering operation of drug trafficking.

Reporting narcopolitics was dangerous in a state that topped the lists by number of murders, and impunity, since the declaration in 2006, by the government of Felipe Calderón, of the security strategy of the so-called "war on drugs."

Miroslava had covered the murders of a nearby lawyer and his source of information (Miguel Etzel Maldonado), of indigenous leaders, environmentalists and human rights defenders such as the lawyer of the Raramuri ejido of Baquéachi, a town where she accompanied him documenting his struggle for land recovery. She covered the case of a mother asking for justice for the murder of her daughter (Marisela Escobedo) who was killed at the gates of the Government Palace. Right there the social organizations placed a monument called the Cross of Nails, asking for justice for all the murders of women, even - later - that of Miroslava.

"Miroslava said she had to write about crimes when the political note became a red note," recalls a journalist who worked with her, whom Miroslava trained, and with whom she lived in Juarez when she was editor in chief of El Norte .

The general perception in their environment is that they did not talk about the threats they made to avoid frightening their children or their family. She handled them as if it were something normal in her life. "Only occasionally she stayed at home for a few days," recalls the same journalist.

Chihuahua already stood out in the red note: a border state with Texas, since the 80s it became famous for the discovery of the first industrial marijuana plantation (the Buffalo Ranch); a decade later by the unstoppable disappearances and murders of young women of maquiladoras, the findings of the first graves in homes and for being a territory controlled by the drug trafficker Amado Carrillo, aka El Señor de los Cielos , founder of the Juarez Cartel. In 2010 and 2011 Ciudad Juárez was the most dangerous city in the world.

A sung death:
When it was learned of her murder, there were so many and varied assumptions about who would have ordered her death,  since Miroslava had won many enemies by her notes.

In the file of her murder it was recorded: To protect them, the Prosecutor granted pseudonyms to each declarant/ witness who testified.

“[Miroslava] was a person aware that the environment in which she moved, because of the various issues she was touching, she knew that could be uncomfortable or affect the interests of certain people, that this could generate reprisals. But she was also clear about her responsibility as a journalist ”: said Witness Mila , a relative.

“She was a very firm person in her decisions and in her character. She defended her ideals a lot, whoever the character was, ” said Silver , a relative, who revealed: “ She was collecting and documenting information related to the illegal activities carried out in the past administration, as well as the relationship with the links to drug trafficking and  as well as the illegal properties that the governor (César Duarte) and all his relatives had bought ” .

“She had documented all the illicit enrichment of Governor César Duarte and the relationship with the narco that several politicians had, that she was going to gradually take out reports, she told me that she had information about the mining relationship that the narcos had with the rulers and government people, ” said a witness without a pseudonym. The person who gave that testimony recalls that, as a security measure, Miroslava bought different broad bands in other states of the country to search online without their data being recorded in the portals she visited.

“She commented that the municipal president of Chínipas was related to organized crime in that mountain region, the ones she mentioned related to these activities, the members were from the Salazar family, and also made publications of a subject of organized crime in the mountain area that they nicknamed "El 80 ”: said witness Monge, a colleague .

Witness Jaguar said: “She wrote about the links between politics and drug trafficking, corruption, displacement in the mountains, abuses against women, clandestine logging (…) In personal talks she talked about the situation in Chínipas, about Los Salazares , a group of drug traffickers who were directly dominated by the villagers, where they said they were tired of the way these people conducted themselves in the town, because of threats, extortion, homicides and drug trafficking. ”

Everyone was struck by the note on narco-candidates, and on municipal police officers imposed by drug traffickers.

"The villagers from Chínipas told her that the town was taken by organized crime groups": Aries , a journalist who added: "She always added the information at the last moment, just before publication, to avoid information leakage."

“She pointed out that members of the organized crime were pressuring party leaders in the region to nominate candidates imposed by them. They even warned citizens that there would only be those candidates they supported ”: said Casio, an official.

In the testimonies the pressure to which she was subjected began to float.

The Salazars, old acquaintances:

As Miroslava herself said in the call with Piñera: she knew who Los Salazares were . They were born in the same town and there they set up their base of operations. According to the judicial file against Adam and Alfredo Salazar, from there they controlled drug trafficking to the United States.

After the death of Miroslava's father, the Breach family moved to Navojoa, Sonora, a city near the town. There also were Los Salazares (as she named them, also known as Los Salazares or Gente Nueva Salazar ) who expanded their illegal businesses and settled their families.

On August 27, 1999, Breach published her first note on drug abuse by Sierra Tarahumara and mentioned Chínipas. Based on a complaint from human rights organizations and Rarámuris in this, she pointed out “to narco-cultivators who terrorize (…) committing homicides, torturing and burning houses of indigenous communities to force them to work in the planting of marijuana and poppy”.
“They arrive at the most intricate remote areas of the Sierra Tarahumara, drug traffickers from other states and forcefully take over the plots owned by the indigenous people to establish in them the plantings of drug crops, primarily poppies and marijuana, forcing them to work on the farms until the harvest,” she wrote. They do it before the passivity of elements of the State Judicial Police and the municipal authorities ”.

Chínipas is a Chihuahuan municipality nestled in the Sierra Tarahumara, whose economic, educational and health system activity depends more on the jurisdictions of Sonora than on Chihuahua. It is a strategic place for the planting and transfer of drugs because it is on the border of two border states with the United States.

In 2000, between the column Don Mirone , whose authorship she still shared with her friend the journalist Manuel Aguirre, and in her notes of La Jornada , Miroslava mentioned six times Adam Salazar Zamorano, whom she described thus: “another alleged drug dealer whose public fame transcends by allegedly becoming the main producer and buyer of drugs in the mountain area of ​​Chihuahua. ”

On October 10, she questioned that the man who said he was an entrepreneur who was arrested in the city of Chihuahua and released despite the fact that he was found to use weapons reserved for the Army and had received a letter of no criminal record.

On September 19, 2004, she published information about an attack that "Don Adam" suffered in a luxury subdivision of the city, in one of his many properties, and who was saved by his escorts of armed men. Then she mentioned that he financed political campaigns.

“That drug trafficker is nothing more and nothing less than 'Don Adam Salazar', as the municipal presidents of Chínipas told her. Where he is from, and where he is known for the strong funding he gives to the political campaigns of presidential candidates municipal and deputies of that region. The alleged hitmen arrested with an arsenal, are mostly from Guazapares and Urique, where Adam Salazar has an important power reserve, as in Chihuahua, where it is increasingly evident that he enjoys police protection, ” she wrote.

Then she denounced in a note the participation of drug trafficking groups in the elections: she mentioned mayors, including Chínipas, "with dangerous relations"; that armed groups mobilized voters to vote for their candidates; that the municipal authorities provide protection to drug traffickers and the breakdown of the traditional party system influenced by the money injected by illicit drug trafficking.

In 2005, 2007 and 2008, Miroslava insisted in different ways with what was happening in the region, mentioning the political protection received by Los Salazar , or the links of the mayor, or the disagreement over the inauguration of the Palmarejo mine in the municipality, framed in what she called "the gold rush" in the mountains.
She also recorded in a note the appearance of a narcomanta of the Juarez Cartel where he accused Adam Salazar Zamorano and his son Alfredo Salazar Ramírez, of being the founders of the Sinaloa Cartel in Chihuahua and of having operated with impunity for 10 years in the capital. She mentioned in her notes how they prospered in the six-year term of two PRI governors.

In 2005 , the clan of Los Salazar had already been investigated on suspicion of having committed the first disappearance of a journalist in Mexico: José Alfredo Jiménez Mota, the Sonoran newspaper El Imparcial, who had written about the capos who controlled drug trafficking in Sonora , and the support they received from officials. Even today, 14 years later he is still missing.

In the search of homes related to Los Salazar in Sonora, in the search for the young reporter, graves were found - according to the journalistic investigation called Proyecto Fénix -, and a zoo in a Navojoa ranch. Three people consulted for this series said that family still has lions, and - according to the popular saying - and uses them to disappear people.

The Creel Massacre:
In 2010, Miroslava continued with the issue of the infiltration of drug trafficking groups into politics. She published a piece in which she wrote: "candidates ask for permission from the narco in Chihuahua to campaign," and said that Sierra Tarahumara is a "land without law" that criminal groups seized, including Alfredo Salazar, whom he said was responsible for the the country's first massacre in the period of the so-called “war on drugs”: the Creel massacre, which occurred in 2008, when 12 young people and a baby were killed.
For 2011, her notes became more pointed. She denounced the arrival “aboard airplanes”, of criminal groups “apparently coming from Sonora”, to open a new drug route. "Only in murmurs is the name of Alfredo Salazar Ramírez, linked to the Sinaloa cartel, responsible for the logistics operation to remove hundreds of tons of marijuana that were stored at ranches and in communities," Miroslava wrote on September 18. That year the Federal Police captured  "Don Adam", the patriarch of the organization in the city of Queretaro, in central Mexico.

In 2012 Miroslava reported that due to threats from people dedicated to drug trafficking, polling stations could not be installed in points of the mountains and that in towns of the municipality of Chínipas, people had been forced to vote for candidates from the PRI. In addition, the group of Los Salazares , and other groups, had seals on the mountain roads.

In all these years of exposés, Miroslava had not heard threats. But in 2015 something changed.

The first intimidating call that has been recorded came after she published a story about 300 families who had been forced to flee in Chínipas. She said that hitmen arrived by land and in planes looking for Los Salazares who had terrified people. She also realized what the townspeople had been saying so far: that their calls were being intercepted. Under the pseudonym of Don Mirone, Breach accused Alfredo Salazar's group of acting "with the complacency of state police and military detachments in those parts."

The next note was about narco-candidates. They did not forgive her: that same week she received a warning call.

"After that, the municipal president of Chínipas, contacted Miroslava to tell her that "El 80" wanted to talk to her, so that she would back off on her notes," said the witness with protected identity "Mila", to the Prosecutor's Office. “This was told  directly to me about a year ago. Then they threatened her again, telling her not to stop in the mountains because they were going to kill her, but she kept writing about the narco mantas in the mountains, giving names, notes which  can be consulted in the news. ”

This statement caused controversy in the oral hearing of the trial of "El Larry" in December 2017, since Schultz lives in the area of ​​influence of Los Salazar; "El 80" controlled another different and remote region.

In the statements before justices, the interviewees hardly could identify dates. This Collective conducted interviews to corroborate with four close relatives and a dozen friends and close collaborators, but it is difficult to establish the chronology.

At the hearing it was learned that the witness Venancio (relative of Miroslava) stated that “on one occasion he heard that the victim had spoken by phone to a person, telling her that on behalf of a group of people who wanted her to cancel a journalistic note… and she told no and they hung up. ”

Miroslava told Patricia Mayorga - who spoke from exile for this report - that relatives began asking her to stop writing about the violence. “We realized (those calls) were a natural discomfort for families who care when we publish a delicate note. The calls were from  people well known to Miroslava and therefore, it was a normal reaction for us, ” she explained to this Collective. What she noticed that most mortified her was that they used messengers to her mountain family, and she feared they were going through.

On June 5, 2016, Javier Corral won the election to governor of Chihuahua. Miroslava craved the change of government. Javier Corral - who had been a journalist before being a politician - was a friend of Miroslava and a group of critical reporters recognized in those years for their journalistic investigations, but little by little they had been leaving the State; A couple became officials with the new government that promised a change.

As people kept looking for her to tell her what was happening, on August 6, Miroslava returned to combat and published that drug traffickers banished people from their homes: “The murder of complete families and the forced displacement that occurs in Chínipas, located in the Lower part of the Tarahumara mountain range –in the limits with Sonora and Sinaloa–, is a button showing the general situation that prevails in the mountain range. Since the end of 2012, the criminal band of Los Salazares , currently commanded by Crispín Salazar Zamorano, undertook a clean-up of alleged enemies in the region under his control. ”

The threats that nobody attended to:
The day Miroslava was murdered, Governor Corral admitted at a conference that she had told him about her threats, but said it was two years earlier; he did not want to mention who was the source of the threat, nor was he summoned to testify about it.

“Two years ago I was very concerned about messages of threats that were being sent to her because of the publication of reports that we all know that she published together with another fellow journalist from Chihuahua and who frontally touched on organized crime structures (…) Now as governor (…) she never told me, Miros, ie that she had a threat, a warning, ” said the Govenor.

He confirmed that the main line of research and investigation into her murder would be her accumulated journalistic work. "Miroslava denounced frontally  organized crime gangs, as acts of corruption in the state of Chihuahua, and that work is for now our main line of investigation." Two days later he declares to the magazine Proceso the line of investigation into her murder would lead to the world of narcopolitics.

The sisters contradict the governor's version that he was not aware:
In her statement one of them said: “There is a conversation between her and the governor-elect Javier Corral, in which she warned him that he was also being a victim of consistent threats: they told him 'to stop getting into matters that he didn't care about , that he did not comment on the narco-politicians because they were going to kill his children, his family and ultimately her so that he could see what he was doing with his comments.'

When one year of the murder was completed, in the commemoration that took place in the Cross of Nails, her sister Brisa Guadalupe told the press that in the cell phone that was taken from the crime scene the Prosecutor's Office, the evidence had been lost. "There was also a text message telling her (to Corral), but that was lost when they picked up their phones on the day of the event."
More than two years after the crime, Miroslava Breach's family and colleagues maintain the demand for clarification of his murder. Photo by Colectivo March 23.

That same time at the anniversary commemorative events, Rosa María said: “(Miroslava) told me that if something happened to her,  I would know it was because of that, here it will be on my phone (…) There were more threats and she recorded them, those recordings must have been on her phone. When she was there in her truck (dead) they asked us for the phones, computers and we had no adverse thoughts, at that time you are in a state of shock and do not think about making a backup before and we gave them everything we had. As far as I know, those recordings never appeared. ”

These messages are not included in the file, or the information she had on his computer and the hard drives that the Prosecutor's Office collected. The head of the FEADLE did not answer the question about those files; the State Prosecutor did not answer the insistent request to interview him for this investigation.
“Governor Corral was informed, in some cases in detail, of the threats against her and another journalist; first in September 2015, then in March 2016, then in August when he was already elected governor and finally in October when he was already the chief executive, ” wrote journalist Olga Aragón who met with friends and family during the funeral.


The Colectivo 23 got the screenshot of a conversation Miroslava had with a colleague, via Whatsapp , on August 12, 2016, in which she tells him that she informed Corral of his threats.

Governor Javier Corral acknowledged that Miroslava Breach informed him directly of threats she received two years before her murder, however, family and colleagues say she had notified him directly of new threats at least a year earlier. Collected by Collective March 23.

“Corral called me last Friday, in a very good position on the issue we talked about. He said not to worry, that he would take action on the matter with the mayor of Chínipas, ” Miroslava wrote about the conversation.

Her interlocutor replied: “How good. Calm the issue politically'
"I don't know if I will," Miroslava replied, "but at least he was sensitive, it makes a difference."

On September 10, a month after Miroslava spoke with Corral, in her much-read column Don Mirone published a hard comment on Schultz: “The inhabitants of the mountain villages have learned that political acronyms come and go, interspersing PAN mayors and of the PRI without changing the conditions of insecurity, violence and without touching the territorial control, the economic and political influence that the regional narquitos have. There are mayors who even serve as leaders, for a sample button there is the municipal president of Chínipas, Hugo Schultz Alcaraz, who has been very active lately acting as an intermediary. ” As soon as he finished his term as mayor, he was invited to join the Corral government.

Then came the report on violence in Chínipas. The repercussions reached Sonora, from where an acquaintance warned her that old Crispin was looking for her. “As in October or November of last year, they sent us, without specifically remembering the media, a message in which it is said that Mr. Crispin, or Chief Salazar, brother of Adam Salazar, was very upset with the journalist Miroslava Breach, for the reports and publications that she recently made on the activities that were done in Chínipas ”, indicates an anonymous testimony.

When one of her family members who learned about the old boss's message asked her what she was going to do to which Miroslava replied: "What am I going to do, someone has to say things."

Miroslava was alerted in different areas of the risks she was running, but did not make a formal complaint. Her closest colleagues - some of the MIR agency - knew that she did not believe that journalists should have special treatment or victimization.

Once she spoke publicly of her threats, it was on October 12, 2016, at a meeting of the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in the city of Chihuahua, attended by journalists, defenders and envoys of the Secretariat of Governorate.

She told about the difficulties of practicing journalism in the State, and the reprisals suffered by the note on the electoral infiltration of drug trafficking groups. Her views were reflected in the final document. At that meeting, there was talk of the need to activate an alert plan that, as promised, would be presented to the Governor of the State. Other states had alert plans by then.

In the draft text, the rapporteurship reads in section number 6: “Threats. By notes on: narco candidates, they, the narcos, ie, replaced two candidates ”.

Among the risks faced, they recorded the following: “Receive direct threats, by third parties, orally and by telephone, for what is written about it. Organized crime reacts to a note immediately. It is presented in the middle of the journalist and threatens the medium automatically (…) (…) Correspondents who handle it as a coverage issue assume the risks ”.
Two award winning journalists who  would not be silenced.............Javier Valdez and Miroslava Breach.........but by death.........

Journalist Breach had not only warned of the threats she had received to Governor Javier Corral, he also mentioned it at a meeting of the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.  Colectivo March 23.

At the meeting, in addition to the officials, human rights defenders were present who were already participating in the Corral transition team and who would become civil servants. The final diagnosis was presented in the State one month before the murder of Miroslava: those in charge of the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists gave a copy to Governor Corral, to members of his cabinet, to the undersecretary of federal Government Roberto Campa and journalists and land defenders. The threats received were implicit in this document.

Another of the origins of threats to defenders and journalists was the coverage of mega projects and extractive projects, mining, logging, dams, ie.
The effect that Corral's efforts could have had on the threats that Miroslava revealed to him is unknown, but in Don Mirone on November 25, 2016 she mentioned Schultz, who at that time was premiering as coordinator of indigenous education in the area Serrana, as "emissary" of the narco and intimidating journalists. A close relative recalled in an interview with this Collective that Miroslava had run into Schultz in the hallways of the Government Palace. She was very angry.

In December, Miroslava began telling her family and friends that the situation in the state was going to get worse, and she warned that they would kill a journalist, and that it could be her. In January, she requested a quote to shield her truck for extra protection.

"She commented that 2017 was very difficult, in terms of money, politics, everything related to the state," a witness told the authorities. “She explained that now that Corral had won it would be very difficult, because in his government there were many people from the previous one, and that Duarte was shielding himself so that they would not question him; that Corral was going to be tied by hands; that the thing was going to get really bad about drug trafficking and violence ”; Then the witness said that Breach told him about “ the intention to destabilize the Corral government ”and about new threats against her.

A sister gave a similar testimony. "Things are going to get bad," said Miroslava. "And noted that there was a list in which they were going to kill 3 or 4 journalists, and that her name was among them."

Another person close to her also stated that Miroslava told her “that she was upset since she had given information to Corral of the previous government during his campaign, had provided information about her investigation and that she had not used it, and was more upset, as disappointed, because it was valuable information. ” It was, as could be confirmed with the witness, the investigation into Duarte's properties.

A well-known person to Miroslava was told that a government official (did not know who) sent him a warning and suggested something about his children. A relative asked him to report the situation to FEADLE, which caused Miroslava's annoyance.

Journalist Patricia Mayorga wrote in a note for Proceso , published on the first mournful anniversary, that they had breakfast together on February 1. She told this Collective that in that meeting Miroslava informed her that "the calls continued, her family in Chínipas was worried because the publications continued." On that occasion she saw her as sad, she wondered if it was worth taking a risk or if she should leave journalism, she mentioned the case of a federal deputy who had just died and that at least he had left money to his family, she fantasized about devoting himself to cooking , but she answered herself that she could not do it, because if she left she could not see her children getting ahead.

On February 18, she commented ironically in her column about "the orgasmogram in the Palace," referring to the scandal over a complaint about the governor's infidelity. Although her subordinates say that she was asked at El Norte not to cover the subject because it was private and could be dangerous.

On February 20, she published a front page note against the armed groups: "The narco municipal governments in Chihuahua infiltrate," based on an intelligence and prosecutor's report. Although she had agreed to publish it together with Proceso, for some reason she moved forward. In this one she mentioned among the directors of Public Security with criminal ties to that of Chínipas: Martín Ramírez Medina, nephew of Los Salazares. At that time I was investigating disappearances that were related to that man.

Still on the 20th, the sister who was staying in her house remembers her that "in jokes she reminded me that she wanted her children to be protected."

In March 2017, Miroslava and other reporters approached the State Prosecutor of Chihuahua, César Augusto Peniche, after he gave a press conference on details of the violence in the Sierra Tarahumara and on the killing of the Raramuri leader Isidro Baldenegro, an environmentalist/ land defender recognized worldwide with the famous Goldman Prize.
"We asked him why there are several recognized capos in different municipalities and all the inhabitants know who they are and where they live, but they do not stop them although some are in the list of the most wanted of the PGR", Mayorga recalled from exile.

The official explained that when they received the administration there was no investigation folder on these cases. There is a photograph of that moment.

By the beginning of March, Breach had already distanced herself from Governor Corral. She wryly claimed that he was not quicker against his predecessor. The column on the public denunciation of the alleged extramarital relationship of the governor had distanced them.

According to relatives of Breach, her investigations into organized crime had been handed over to Javier Corral, when he was the contending candidate for the governorship of Chihuahua but nothing happened. Colectivo March 23.
She felt isolated. She was also upset with the social fighters, her former friends and allies, who had agreed to work in the government of the so-called New Dawn. In her last press conference she questioned them harshly for omitting the names of water hoarders (stealing and money laundering operations ) in the State.

Cantú , her colleague at El Diario shared with the Prosecutor's Office two photos: in one you see a young man with a wounded, sweaty hand, cornered. He did not ask Miroslava why she had sent it. It was speculated that she surprised that stranger who was following her and portrayed him. She sent another photo of a police operation somewhere unknown, nor explained why.

When a relative asked her why she did not report the situation to the authorities, she replied angrily "they were assholes if they did not know" that Corral was going to have a riot on his hands if a journalist was killed.

In March, according to the Silver witness , a note was left at her home threatening her. On the 21st, she mentioned to her twenty-year-old daughter her inheritance, and one of her younger sisters commissioned him, again, the tutoring of her son.

The sisters remembered the last premonitory days of Miroslava. "On March 21, she mentioned to her daughter that when she died, that she buy a lot in that sector of the cemetary with half the money that she had, since the other part would go to her brother," she said. "I'm sure my sister, Miroslava,  had more threats than she confessed," said another.

On March 21, 2017, at 7:43 p.m. and at 7:45 p.m., the gray Malibu with duck tail and tinted windows and stylized wheels was caught outside the house of the icing truck. On the 22nd, in her column Don Mirone , Miroslava pointed out that Prosecutor Peniche was directly responsible for the empowerment of organized crime groups when he had been a PGR delegate in Duarte's time. That day he discussed at a conference on the occasion of the International Water Day with the activists who had been his former allies, whom he criticized - as one of them remembers - for having lost his critical spirit with the arrival of Corral to power. That night, between eight and ten at night, the gray car passed four times in front of her house.

The next day, they killed her.

The blame sharing:
On the Cross of Nails, the monument to impunity installed outside the governor's office, the Breach sisters denounced on the first anniversary of Miroslava's murder that Corral told them that she looked for what happened to her “by stepping on the devil's calluses ”, When investigating dangerous issues:
"That phrase said by the Governor is a slap for the family, for the journalistic union and for any Mexican, because it comes from an authority responsible for enforcing the elementary rights of protection to life, freedom and security," said one of them. Corral, meanwhile, has denied saying that to the family.

The investigation of the Attorney General of the State of Chihuahua did not investigate the relationship between politicians and members of organized crime that Miroslava Breach revealed in her reports. For its part, the head of the Prosecutor's Office Specialized in Crimes against Freedom of Expression, who now have the investigation in their hands, did not want to give information about it. Collected by Collective March 23.
The Breach Velducea sisters asked FEADLE that the federal prosecutor's office investigate the murder because, as documented by the Civic Proposal organization that gave them legal support, for 10 months they were not allowed to retain a copy of the investigation file. So far the only one arrested has been Juan Carlos Moreno Ochoa, aka "El Larry" , who denies his guilt in the crime.

Five people have been killed and related to the Miroslava crime. The homicides have not been sufficiently investigated . See my previous POST on that.

In September, six months after the murder, strangers entered the house where the journalist lived, they did not steal, they just stirred her files. This happened again in the middle of this year.

"It didn't look like a robbery, they didn't take anything of value, it seemed as if they had been looking for something, what with all the scrambled papers, armchairs, beds," said her cousin Alcira Velducea, who took care of taking care of the abandoned house.

This year in Sonora, were at least six blankets/ narco mantas in different cities accusing Los Salazares (Adam, Alfredo and Crispin) of the authorship of the crime, also circulated an anonymous video on social networks published by means in Chihuahua.
Miroslava's files that the sisters say they did not recover again served to nourish files of the entity's criminal groups, Prosecutor Peniche told local press. They served for other cases, not yet to clarify hers. The murder of Miroslava Breach Velducea, the journalist who did not want to shut up, is still unclear because, as she repeated, "silence is complicity."

21 comments:

  1. Fascinating---infuriating thank you Yaqui for posting this i hope it pulls in many views it is an important story

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  2. This woman had balls bigger than those of any man I've ever known. Even her killers had to have respected her. She absolutely knew this was going to end in her death and yet she continued full throttle.

    It's interesting that women often seem to have much stronger resolve than men are capable of. Often more incorruptible and virtue-driven.

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    1. I’ve always said women are tougher than men, which is why we aren’t the ones who have kids.

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    2. I don't know all about that but she definitely wanted to make a difference..
      unfortunately in Mexico this will not work because cartels and government work together. You go against cartels means going against government and vice versa.. just look at michoacan, that's a perfect example.. there's a war zone in tierra caliente region and soldiers and government don't want to help. When bv the autodefenza group wanted the cartels out of michoacan and were making great progress, the government stepped in and arested Mireles and other leaders.. it's a lost cause, even if ALL Mexico went up against government, guess what?
      The government would call the soldiers and they would all get killed
      Mexican government is something else

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    4. Miros DID make a difference and not just with her journalistic work. She made a difference every day she got up if only to make bricks w her amigos. She set an example for us all, We are still talking about her and her accomplishments, aye ? There is a reason we are publishing this, She is a beautiful example of tenacity and bravery in the face of a monstrous tidal wave . Paz y Gracias

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    5. 153 I agree, autodefensas is the way to go, it's a shame the government put Mireles in prison, whatever brainwashing they did to him in prison worked. Now he doesn't get involved, and somehow reading an article in here, that ALMO appointed him, to be part of hospital help.
      Mexico-Observer

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  3. This just in, Menchito is getting ready for extradition in the U.S. the question now is, will he sing like a bird for a pretty deal or go out like El Mochomo?

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    1. Like Mochomo. He and his father are a much different breed than the Zambadas. He would have have to literally give his father's addresses and bank accounts to get a deal like Vencintillo got

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  4. Excellent and very important read.

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  5. RIP Miroslava and colleagues you would not be forgotten, thank you for publishing this. The fight for justice and morals would always be remembered as something honorable

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  6. 9:18 told you about Peniche, even his relative who escaped to Australia after robbing and defrauding his bank returned to Mexico to do more business with the government while other Peniches took jobs in movies and televisa, protected by their accomplices.
    As a PGR in Chihuahua from EPN's PRI left to Corral of PAN, he keeps doing the dirty work for criminals protecting them with his "there were no folders on the cases" you could accept except for HE WAS THE PGR IN CHARGE UNDER "EL CAPULINA" DUARTE ADMINISTRATION.
    When the Chihuahua PRIISTA machine saw their power eroding, they made deals with Javier Corral, and somebody turned his ass up on the "Orgasmogram Case" to sow division with Breach and it worked, let's remember Peniche is from the Yucatan Peninsula where the Cancun Mafias RULE, there is a presidential run in the works for Corral too, he has presumed of his clean face and hands, but ambition is the devil's toes, do not step on their calluses while Corral kisses AMLO ASS to get more and more money for his "poor state" in the hands of Corrupt Fiscalias like Veracruz, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Tamaulipas, The Bajas, Campeche, Quintana Roo, all of Mexico imprisoned by corrupt state Fiscalias and Narco-Governors while Proceso gets corrupted by its new director owner editor Maria Scherer Ibarra, married to Ignacio Zavala, brother of Margarita Zavala de FECAL, pushing hard for the new FECAL FAMILY.

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  7. One fiscal gets put out of business, not for his corruption but for not presenting his accreditation for trustworthiness examinations in Veracruz...
    Jorge Winckler is out, Morena Legislators name a new Fiscal... And I wish her all the best.

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  8. Thanks for the awesome article Yaqui!Priceless!I love her.She really stood up for righteousness even in the face of adversity.She refused to blend in with the good old boy's club.Very independent thinking and definitely a woman of her own making.She was much ahead of her time and culture and man did she have balls of steal!What a leader!I just wonder if anyone will pick up her torch where she left off.Sure sounds like she had the highest integrity that few could match.What a hero she was!

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  9. Heard amlo sending 80 000 troops to the border?????

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  10. She wrote the truth of the curuption and killings going on in her native state. Interesting article.
    Mexico-Observer

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  11. The 1st amendment is dead and gone. Almo not going to help

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  12. Great read. Makes you wonder how much more she actually knew about the issue.
    Unfortunately, a lot of translation errors:
    “the Breach sisters denounced on the first anniversary of Miroslava's murder that Corral told them that she looked for what happened to her” ...makes no sense, but I know you meant to translate “ella se lo buscò”. She got what she deserved, was looking for... would've been better. Also, there's no translation for Don Adan, it's ADÁN...not “Adam ” 🤦🏽‍♂️.
    El Cabo/E4

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  13. https://opinionsonora.com/2019/09/09/hijo-de-senor-de-los-cielos-implicado-en-el-homicidio-de-ambar-dolores/

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  14. Awesome read despite the sad circumstances. I wish more Mexicans would be like her. But most of the guys I know are just to scared to fight, even if they live outside Mexico. Just say no and stand your ground-I know it’s easier said than done but a important piece in the Mexican struggle for peace.
    D.E.P. You are not forgotten!

    Yaqui, thank you for this masterpiece. Is there more about the 5 killed connected to her dead, could not find a reason why those 2 girls got killed by the plane.

    Thank you and keep on fighting.

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