Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Reporter's Remorse; Did A Story In The Washington Post Cause The Torture and Murder of a Family In Michoacan?

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.

 In 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 war.

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 his revenge.

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 is killed.

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;

Santiago Valencia
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







  1. Feel real bad for the children.But as far as for the dad,not really.The way I see it is there is no such thing as a reformed criminal.Even the ones who claim to become Christians.There is a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind who would want to be a killer like them and not feel about it.Its like being gay and then not being gay.You're born like that.Plain and simple.In my opinion there are 3 kind of people in regards towards killing another human being.There are the ones who kill anybody for no reason and don't feel bad about it,the ones who kill for revenge(like doing harm to ones family,and the people who just wouldn't kill anybody,even for revenge.This guy was the first I mentioned.If he was a cartel member,you bet he killed just for the hell of it.

    1. Where's Antonio banderas when you need him

    2. Life lesson for you at any time your life can end life sucks

  2. It is a self serving assumption to think Washington Post was so feared by cartels speaking to them would cause death.

    The real focus of the story should be the call by santiago and the army preventing his rescue.

    My post

    and In the crosshairs, tells the proper focus .

    BTW Santiago has given countless interviews, as many AD, that has no impact on cartels, it is actions and lack of loyalty that does.

    Santiago was forced into narco work by threat of harm to his children. It is not just his word, but with proof. and I think the commenter here is ill informed to say "criminals" can't be reformed.

    that aside, He was CT-then AD-then Rurales then AD again.

    It was Dr Mireles who he called when under attack. When they were finally able to arrive on the scene dr M described little Blanquita as having a huge hole in her torso. She was only 11. the vehicle engine still on. They had tried to escape.

    I do not believe it was CJNG that was responsible. I believe it was Viagras, the group of former ct and narco AD (smurf and gang H3)

    1. Ok,let me refraze that.Maybe they can be reform,buy they will always have that mentality and can snap at any given time.and that right there is very dangerous.

    2. OK so don't ever start into the criminal world! But this guy clearly got fed up with the life he was living and wanted a better future for his family, maybe his conscious was eating him up! The bigger Story was that the Federal Government, and the Rurales set him and his whole family up to die. Chivi's I think you have a very good point that the ones who killed him were probably those who used to be closest to him!

  3. @11:46 - Ya whatever... sure you're entitled to your "opinion", and that's all it is. So you got your three categories picked out huh? And you consider yourself a good enough judge to basically call this Santiago a completely cold sociopath. Right like so you knew him so well, right? Whatever. No mamen. Wow you really give your opinions on just about every topic too, huh? You don't like the "criminal" type anyway, so you don't extend ANY forgiveness to other imperfect people (who actually are just like yourself). You are bitter at all those "Christians", so you felt the need to declare that people are born gay, that it's not just a lifestyle choice. And you differentiate that familial revenge (even though it creates cycles that never end) is a shade more acceptable to your sensibilities. Wow for one protests against hiding behind the pretense of "religion", you sure sound preachy like a pontiff.

    1. @2:25,and about the gay part,I was just trying to make an example.And yes they are born gay.

  4. @Chivis. I don't think the previous interview with the WP led to the massacre, though the mention in that story of the video tape naming names and dates that would show the depth of corruption in Mich. probably got the attention of some people in Mich.

    He was probably watched (and listened to on cell calls) by those in power, whether is be cartels or politicians. When he called the Mexican office of the WP and asked that Partlow and Barrick visit him because he had something to show them "that showed all the trash and corruption of the government", he may have sealed his death warrant.

    Though he may have been a loudmouth and much of what he had to say would not be a secret in Mich., releasing verifiable facts in a video to the WP or NYT (probably the most powerful written news media in US) is not the same as giving info to Proceso or La Jornado or RioDoce.

    1. Where's the outrage in WP or NYT and theirs demands of accountability from the Mexican Government? And what about running the big story and naming names! Not that that family paid the ultimate price, don't let them die in vain!!! Somebody else knows the truth!! Let the truth be told!!!

  5. A very similar incident happened Wednesday night, July 2, on the road leading from Tacátzcuaro to Santa Inés, a few miles from both Tingüindín and Tocumbo.

    A former CT member "perdonado," now a member of of the "AD" in Los Reyes, was driving with his wife and son when they were attacked by a commando that fired between 70 and 80 bullets at the vehicle.

    The father, Armando Vázquez Muñoz, received 20 bullets and died instantly. The wife and child were also seriously injured.

    This was another attack on a former CT, now member of some defense corps in Michoacán, who was ambushed along with his family in a vehicle.

    This last FB link mentions that a small of amount of drugs were found in the Muñoz vehicle, and that the surviving wife reported that Armando's brother, Ángel Cortez Muñoz was killed in similar attack while driving back from a party in Santa Clara de Valladares with his wife on June 27. This FB link contains EXTREMELY GRAPHIC photos of the July 2nd attack.

    These additional attacks with the same MO lead me to believe that the massacre of the Valencia family in mid-June was probably not related to his talking to the Washington Post reporter. Videos of the former Mayor denouncing CT's in the area are widespread. This all looks like some kind of "cleansing" that is taking place in a systematic fashion.

  6. Where do I sign up?

  7. 11:46 I would much rather hear an ex-convict talk about crime than someone like you with little insight making assumptions with no substance to them.

  8. Just saw the second link. The leader Chris Davis seems like he has stability issues. Thats a lethal combo. I hope the militia can stay safe and not hurt any innocent people.

  9. Cjng van a mamar! Puro michis y guanas y dejen d matar a mujeres y ninos putos jaliscos gaytorade..

  10. las viagras putos mataron a estos niños

  11. Unfortunately Jose Santiago brought this upon himself and his Family who may R.I.P now. The fundamental truths to being a member of Los Cabarellos Templarios is for Life theres no renege from it or else its your Life and your Familys Life they will take if you collaborate against them or defy your engagement; Its one of their main ground rules to accept this sanction if you want to become a member, so its a compromise he chose to make. That's why he faked his death, moved towns and made a videotape naming important names and public officials with ties to the cartels as a form of Insurance, when he got killed. The Washington post got that right but for the two reporters who feel like they could have had some falt to this Family's massacre murder are misconstrued it was just a matter of time. My Family is from Michoacan, Apatzingan and I know first hand brutal murders like this occur everyday because of all the cartel affiliations and corruptions happening as we speak.

  12. He died due to his own actions, I feel sorry for his kids but the moment he became a criminal, his fate was sealed. And I don't care whether he was forced, begged into joining them, his actions resulted in his death.

  13. 12:30, the moment he went away from the juersaz rurales, his fate was sealed, that is all, like el pollo rostizado, he got killed because he was one of the first to go against the ct, after betraying los zetas, la familia michoacana, el chango mendez, la tuta, el tio, el kiki plancarte, el chayo... the only one more traitor was not going to give a break to any other candidate for more traitor, namely la puta tuta, betrayal is his whole game, after a while, we will see who survives of la puta tuta and miguel angel gallegos godoy, who according to: ruana libre's anonymous is and has been really the bad guy with CIA ties and all the necessary millions of dollars to do as he pleases, in mexico, michoacan, and the US, and nobody was aware of any of this until Dr Mireles started making waves with the other AD!!!

  14. I dont think an article in Washington Post caused the massacre of a family in Michoacan. It was the actions of the dad in the family that caused it. After reading just a little bit of this story it became clear that this guy would get killed. And why let the family survive? So they can come back for revenge? Of course you kill them all, its the logical thing to do. And it was dads fault.

    1. Why let the family survive? Are you kidding us? The family had nothing to do with it! Let's face it those killers are coward with guns! Just like my father once told me " The brave will get killed at the hands of a coward! "

  15. you wanna be a revolutionary, don't have your family around, don't fight wars you can't win, don't leave enemies alive behind, make sure to stay with all of your comrades, have DOGS, take no prisoners, make sure the people living there are loyal...mister valencia failed all the tests, and the number one, taking care of traitors before they take care of you, something z40, la puta tuta and el tio del "americano" simon godoy, miguel angel gallegos godoy, know very well...


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