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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Borderland Beat Joins Other Journalist in Mourning and Remembering the Man, Javier Valdez

Posted by DD
This is a long story but as Javier said once about publishing  "the problem is not deciding what to publish, but what not to publish".  He was talking about corruption and violence stories.  In this story the problem is there is so much material about Javier and his murder that it is difficult to decide what not to publish (simply for lack of space.)  One example is a true story about police corruption that he wrote for his column "Malayerba"(bad weed)  in RIODOCE titled The Enemy" that you can read here.  It is a great example of how he humanizes stories.

In Memory of The Brave Journalist Murdered So Far This Year in Mexico  For Telling The Truth

A few hours after his murder on Monday, May 15 Borderland Beat published a story about the killing of Javier Valdez, reporter, columnist, co-founder of the newspaper and website RIODOCE. 

 We knew him as a good reporter whose stories tended to humanize the drug war, violence, and corruption taking place in Mexico. 

You could almost feel the pain of the people who suffered through this hell that was happening in Sinaloa.  His stories focused on the people and how the corruption and violence affected their lives rather than just numbers and statistics.  Javier Valdez's style of writing reminded me of the renowned author, reporter and essayist Charles Bowden.

RIODOCE became one of our most reliable sources for news stories over the past few years.  It did not accept advertising money from the government (probably the only one in the state that didn't) and that independence along with a few intrepid reporters dedicated to printing the Truth made it unique.  

In the story we posted on the day of death there was not a lot of facts about the murder.  Not much has changed in that regard, but this story is not so much about the crime as it is about the man, Javier Valdez.  Hopefully we can give you other memories of the man other than a body laying in the middle of the street with his trademark straw hat still on his head, his body riddled with 12 bullet holes, including one bullet hole in the palm of each hand and one in the forehead.  
            (Some colleagues think the shots in the palms and
            forehead was symbolic and was  showing "these hands 
            and head will never do another story") 

 Javier Valdez continued his fight to bring the truth and educate the public up almost up until the time of his death.  You could say he died fighting - with the weapon he had, journalism.  

Before he pulled out in the street leaving his office that Monday morning (Offices of RIODOCE are in a quiet residential neighborhood.)  he had just filed what turned out to be his last story.
It was about a teacher protest and the states lack of protection for the teachers.  Six teachers have been murdered in the state this year.  

He had also just done a TV interview via Skype with a morning show called 
“El Almohadazo,”.  In the interview his conversation with the  presenter, Fernanda Tapia,  dealt  dealt with issues pertaining to Mexico’s decade-old drug war, in which at least a hundred and seventy-five thousand people have died and another twenty-eight thousand have disappeared.  

On the show, Valdez, wearing his trademark Panama hat and thick-framed glasses, told Tapia that he believed Mexico’s narco gangland had become an inextricable part of Mexico’s political and economic life. “Politicians no longer have to go to the narcos to seek their backing,” he said. “Nowadays the narcos are the ones who create the politicians from the start, and then nurture and promote them; we can speak of a narcopolitics present in almost all the political parties.” The government boasted of its success in arresting the drug capos, he went on, and while it was true that there were powerful and dangerous capos, there were also “other capos, who were untouched and untouchable, operating within the banking system and in the top rungs of the business world.” He concluded, “The money is key. Until we ‘follow the money,’ as the gringos say, we’ll never fully understand, from a serious and more complete perspective, what’s going on with the drug problem in this country.”


His brother Rafael said  "I asked him several times whether he was afraid. He said yes, he was a human being. So I asked him why he risked his life, and he replied: 'It is something I like doing, and someone has to do it. You have to fight to change things"
He had tried not to expose loved ones to the hazards of his profession.  Javier never went out in public with his wife and kids, not to dinner nor church, nor to the park to play with his 2 children because he knew he had a target on his back and was afraid that if he was attacked his family might be hurt or killed too.


 "He was very reserved when it came to his work," Rafael said. "He never talked about it so as not to drag people into it.

For Valdez, Mexico had become accustomed to death, evil and abuses - a nation resigned to serial murder, because acceptance is easier than fighting.

But as recently as two months ago he was determined to persevere, telling an interviewer:<

"Inside me there is a pessimistic bastard, distressed and sometimes sullen, who feels like a somewhat bitter old man with watery eyes, who is bothered by having his solitude spoiled. But he dreams. I have an idea of another country, for my family and other Mexicans, that does not continue to fall into an abyss from which there may be no return."


Javier Valdez receiving the International Press Freedom Award granted by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).  Introduction and presentation of award at 5:14.

Valdez was a nationally and internationally recognized journalist who authored several books on the drug trade, including "Narcoperiodismo" and "Los Morros del Narco." The former is a look at the relationship between journalism and organized crime, and the latter chronicles the lives of young people swept up in Mexico's criminal underworld.  In January, an English-language collection of his stories was published, titled The Taken: True Stories of the Sinaloa Drug War.

For years, many journalists heading to report in Sinaloa considered it a must to meet with Valdez — for a beer, for guidance on reporting on organized crime, for "strategies to stay alive,"

The day after his death reporters across Mexico expressed outrage at the murder of yet another colleague. Vigils were held in the state of Veracruz, where several journalists have been murdered in just the past year.

 One of those journalist said "The feeling is if someone like him can get killed, even after 20 years of reporting crime, then what's the hope for all of the other unknown and starting-up journalists around the country?"

But another journalist when asked how he thought Valdez would like to be remembered said;

I think he'd like to be remembered as a good man and as a great journalist. I do think that the best way to honor him is to keep on this struggle, not just seek out justice for his murder but for everyone's.

Several media outlets in Mexico ceased publication for a day, including Animal Político, a popular news site based in Mexico City.   In Miami, Univision staff worked under a large projection of a photo of Valdez.

President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned what he called an "outrageous crime."
"I reiterate our commitment to freedom of expression and the press, fundamental for our democracy," he tweeted.

 "Tears in my eyes, hearing of the murder of Javier Valdez Cardenas in Culiacan, one of the best writers and journalists of Mexico," British author Ioan Grillo said on Twitter.

“Today in Sinaloa they killed the most brave and most admired journalist in Mexico,” Marcela Turati, a Mexican journalist, wrote in a Twitter message. “From the land of el Chapo he showed us how to cover el narco.”  

Collusion between local authorities and criminal groups is common and investigative journalist Marcela Turati also called for criminal investigations to examine ties between murdered journalists and politicians and to "not just blame the cartels".  

Valdez specialized in reporting on issues related to the government’s “war” against drug cartels, as well as political corruption usually involving Mexican governors. His relentless focus was on the relatives, the displaced, the orphans, the widows. He cared about names, not numbers.

Valdez made one of his biggest marks in 2003. That's when he co-founded RIODOCE, a regional newsweekly, for which he also wrote a column called “Malayerba” (slang for “bad weed”). It was known for chronicling how poverty and organized crime play out in everyday life.

At times, RIODOCE angered the powerful and dangerous. It is one of the few remaining news outlets in Sinaloa not dependent on government advertising, and it is respected for its coverage of crime and corruption in Mexico’s north. In 2009, a grenade was set off at the newsweekly’s office and, in 2011, the publication was forced offline for several days after a denial of service (DOS) attack.

This year, Valdez alerted Article 19, a press freedom group, that an armed group had purchased massive amounts of a late February edition of Ríodoce. 

ABC news has reported that "it occurred twice during one week in February, first with RIODOCE, a paper known for its investigations into the dark corners of Sinaloa state's criminal underworld, and two days later with the upstart La Pared (The Wall). Both papers carried cover story interviews with a drug lord. The men politely scooping up the papers after paying for them allegedly worked for the drug lord's rivals.

"La Pared has since closed shop. RIODOCE's editors continue fighting, though more carefully in the belief that the incident foretold the May 15 murder of the paper's co-founder Javier Valdez.  

The person who found Valdez dead from 13 gunshots in the street with his signature Panama hat still on was his friend and RIODOCE co-founder Ismael Bojorquez.

"We had never interviewed a drug lord, we did it now and it cost us big," Bojorquez said.

The subject was Damaso Lopez — nicknamed "el Licenciado," a title for college graduates — who was once Joaquin "el Chapo" Guzman's right-hand man. After Guzman was recaptured in January 2016 — he's now awaiting trial in New York — Lopez moved to take control of the Sinaloa cartel's territory in a fight with Guzman's sons. Culiacan's press was caught in the middle.

"Chapo's sons found out that we had interviewed Damaso and they pressured Javier (Valdez) to not publish the story," Bojorquez wrote in his column Monday. "But we refused the request." Then they offered to buy the entire print run, a proposal Riodoce also rejected, hence the operation following the delivery truck."

 After La Pared's papers were bought up, its editors were contacted on behalf of Guzman's sons and told to run a new edition of 15,000 copies with a story criticizing Lopez, said a former staff member, who insisted on speaking anonymously for safety reasons. It was the paper's last edition.

 Maybe the best way to understand  what made his death so special is to hear and read in his own words what kind of a man he was.   

His words illustrate both the cost of printing the truth, and the bravery of those who continue to do so.

This is how he explained why he did what he did in a speech at the book fair in Los Angeles, California in 2015:

*We continue to lack genitals in this country. There is a lack of genitals, there is a lack of citizenship. We need to recover the streets, dignity, and I think that’s up to journalists. We need to leave behind the kind of journalism that counts deaths, the ‘execution-meter’, and [instead] tell stories of life in the midst of death, stories of stoicism, of struggle."

 "Many of us can die, and many have died, who were not in the business (of drug trafficking)… [they] were not collateral victims, nor numbers, they were people."

 "We can think that it’s only the messengers of the cartels that give the execution order.  But no. It’s not just the cartels that kill journalists.

 Politicians also do their extermination homework. Police. Colluding agents.

State prosecutors. Government officials. Soldiers.

They kill them for the sin of denouncing their mismanagement.

They are killed for having made the grave mistake of living in Mexico, and being journalists.”

In his column, Malayerba, (Badweed) for RIODOCE, he once wrote the following lines under the title “They are going to kill you”:

"But he had a bulletproof vest on. The moon in his gaze resembled a lantern that lit up even during the day. The pen and notebook were routes of escape, therapy, crucifixion and exorcism. He wrote and wrote on the blank sheet and on the screen, and foam came out from his fingers, his mouth, touching everything. Weeping and rage and pain and sadness and anger and dismay and fury in those texts in which he spoke of the governor stepping on shit, of the mayor of bills overflowing, of the representative who smiled and looked like a cash register receiving wads of cash and making a “chi-ching” sound with every millionaire's deposit."

Valdez, like other Mexican journalists reporting on the sensitive nexus between organized crime and government in Mexico, was well aware of the dangers he faced.

In March, when a gunman killed Miroslava Breach, a journalist in the northern state of Chihuahua, Valdez sent out a defiant message on Twitter.

“Let them kill us all, if that is the death penalty for reporting this hell,” Valdez wrote in response to the slaying of Breach, who was also regional correspondent for La Jornada. “No to silence.”

"Drug trafficking there is a way of life," Valdez said in an October interview with Rompeviento TV. "You have to assume the task that falls to you as a journalist — either that or you play dumb. I don't want to be asked, 'What were you doing in the face of so much death ... why didn't you say what was going on?'"

Valdez refused to be silenced when it came to reporting on violence and corruption, joining other Mexican reporters determined to investigate and publish on the subject despite the dangers. "He said he had to talk and write about it because if nobody does it will be worse," said Turati. "He felt it was his duty." 

Javier's style of reporting specialized in chronicling the human toll, not just the numbers and statistics of the violence in Mexico.  A story from 2014 published in La Jornada, he described the pain of realizing that your child has been kidnapped:

Raúl felt like his eyes were filling with shattered glass. The tears didn’t beg permission. They began to fall. They ran down his skin. One of his children had been kidnapped. The police said it was an abduction. But he knew instantly that they were going to call to ask for ransom.
His mobile phone rang. It rang to the tune of El Palo Verde. Its macabre sound during this tragedy made him feel ashamed. His sixteen-year old son. The middle child. He saw his wife bowled over, brought low, sat in an armchair with the pain of rushing salty tears drying her out...
He hit the green button on the Motorola and let out an imperceptible tremulous hello. Look you son of a bitch we have your kid. He pointed the phone at the boy so that he could let out the terrified cry of dad. He asked for money in exchange for letting him go and he explained where and how to drop it off... he cried again. He begged him not to hurt his boy.
He got the money together and he delivered it. He didn’t tell the police because he was afraid. They are one and the same, his wife told him. It’s not worth telling them. He waited and waited and waited. He hadn’t had news of his son for two days. On the third day they found his dumped body. Covered in bruises and holes. Colourless. Wasted. Eyes half-shut.

 He also documented the extraordinary violence rocking his home town, with children routinely killed. The violence, he reported, had become “banal,” so common that young people would gather at crime scenes to take pictures and post them to social media.

“This is cheap, easy death, crouching at two paces, near at hand, behind the corner, death not for having or not having a connection to narcotrafficking, but for living in a region wracked with violence and impunity, where crime is a routine and fear is no longer a novelty,” he wrote in 2015. “Culiacán, where it is dangerous to be alive, where everything is the same, except that on the skin of this northern region, a few steps from the Pacific and at the edge of the abyss, there are more bloodstains, scars and crosses on the side of the road.”

 The government's promises of protection are next to worthless if the cartels decide they want you dead.

As Valdez put it: "Even though you may have bullet-proofing and bodyguards, [the gangs] will decide what day they are going to kill you."


A not so final goodbye from Javier's son posted on Face Book:
"Father, where are you? I look for you everywhere, in every space, every object you felt, I look for you in my dreams, but I don't see you. I don't see your face, your big body already worn, already with half a century. Half a century you fought for many, gave what you had, gave the most human of you to us, your children and to my beautiful mother. 

"Now, who will enlighten me, who will give me books in abundance, who will embrace  me like you did, who will applaud me for my achievements, who will give me love so warm ? You have left me without your love, without half of my heart. You stole my heart, you won my love, and I gave you the best of me: my love. I can feel you, with every step, in every verse I read, in every poem you wrote and that I wrote.

"I keep your music, your movies, your books, your glasses, your inkless pens, your hugs, your kisses, your smiles, I know you in the deepest way. Now, I hold you in my arms, and hug and snuggle with you in the same way you did with me when I was a baby. 

"Now its my turn, now I walk with you, we have a beer, we sing together. I'm going to watch the sunrise more often, I'm going to watch the ducks in their season, I will go to the places we frequented, I will embrace every person that reminds me of you, for that will be like embracing your love in others, it will be like embracing and feeling you again. You are the person who motivated me, we may be very different, but you're the best example I have in my life; because you always did what you wanted to, you achieved what many wanted; you unveiled yourself, you cried, sang, danced and smiled in so many murky moments of your life. 

"Now you are at peace and that is what I want for you. And do not doubt that I will talk with my kids about you, tell them how brave and awesome you were, I will emulate all your love as my love in them, and for me, that will be the way to keep you alive, to keep you with me and everyone. Already dead, I said in your ear that we will never forget you and now that I am going to be a dad I will raise your arm every step of the way, I will greet them the way you did me because I am now you. 

"Every time Justice is done it is going to be in your name too.

This is just a little of what I want to tell you, and when you come back, here you will have your house, your chair, your coffee, and all our love from all of us who love you.

"Let's not leave my father alone, the work will need the help of all, that is all I ask for".

Maybe Javier's most profound and prophetic words he left us are:

“Where I work, Culiacán, in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, it is dangerous to be alive.”


  1. Dr. Mireles is claiming Chapo offered him (autodefensas) assistance with armored helicopters to help get rid of the templarios out of michoacan. Im guessing he might if meant thru military raids he can make happen?? I find it intriguing considering Chapos interest in getting the templarios out of his way in michoacan. Maybe CDS has more business interests in michoacan than people thought.

  2. The same would be happening in any country if the media chose to single out individuals and invade there privacy. The reporters should report to the government and let them take care of it.

  3. Wow! Heck of a classy man!

  4. Unrelated to this article one of damasos so called "special forces" operators got busted.

  5. Thank you so very much for this tribute to Javier and all the work and time that you have put into it.
    May his death not be forgotten and may others pick up the torch.
    Prayers and best wishes to his family, friends and brave fellow journalists.
    May fear not silence them.
    Speak truth to Power.

  6. Mexico president condemns the kill. But does nothing
    Nacopoltics in Mexico, now new mayor and San Antonio was member of the PRI. Lol happens in the U S

    1. epn bitching like only he knows: Ñiau!
      But sinaloa's new narco-priista governor is in charge of the takeover, yesterday it was los Beltran Leyva, and La Chapa, now with the super drug lords out of the way, it is time for the journalists, blame anybody else.

    2. Who the fuck is this La Chapa ?

  7. Does anyone have a copy of the damaso interview

    1. @6:26PM One has not surfaced yet. Remember a truck (presumably driven by cartel guys) followed the newspaper distribution trucks from the time they left the paper and bought every copy.

    2. Wth interesting so I wonder what damaso had too say

  8. I started reading riodoce a few years ago the first read was called, El Cuerno y el chanate which translates to the ak 47 and the ar 15 what a awesome read. If bb could get their hands on it it will be a good story to share with their readers I can't do it cause my English is very limited. Long live JAVIER A MAN with MUCHAS BOLAS

    1. Your English seems very good to me. No spelling mistakes and made sense. Hmmmmm

  9. I'm just waiting to see your article about mini lic being apprehended. I've always been a fan of BB. I will now be a commentator and not just a silent witness..... Atte: el comandante Sanweech

    1. 8:30 Why would El Mini-Lic be aprehended?
      --Riodoce interviewed him,
      --Riodoce got its edition bought out,
      --refused to reprint a "more critical report" that would have offended al mini-lic.
      --others are accused, without proof
      --since when "los Chapitos" get informed "what" journalists are going to print?
      --Interviewing the enemies of el mini-Lic would have made much more sense and more sales and make more sense.
      --instead you have one more murder in the style of javier duarte de ochoa, the murdering robber marrana de veracruz.

  10. I don't think anyone in Mexico or the world, knows how bad it really is. His words describe an imperfect hell. But a hell that is perfecting itself every day. Soon it may be complete.

  11. Shit hitting the fan in GTO. Public security director of Apaseo el Grande killed yesterday. Then six different cab driver's in San Miguel de Allende were called to pick up clients and when the clients (who were actualy sicarios) got in the car, they put bullets in them. 4 out of the 6 died with tiro de gracia to the head last night!!!

  12. Thanks DD for sharing some of his stories and him with us.For those of us who weren't familiar with his work it was an eyeopener into his raw honesty.I like that word he said:narcopolitics and that the narcos decide what day you die regardless of precautions.

  13. But why killing him when they "solved" the problem with buying all the copies. They arent short on Money and dont need that much attention.
    Maybe they publish the interview on their website.
    Good Story and Keep up The great Work You all do

    1. When you get murdered while your compas just went to the bathroom is suspicious, and when your compas find you murdered and he did not even hear the balazos, is suspicious too, if I was police i'd have the partner interrogated too.

    2. @5:23PM The staff had finished their regular Monday morning editorial meeting. Some probably went to get a cup of coffee, Bojorquez went to the bathroom, Valdez left the building and was a block and a half away on another street when he was killed. I don't remember reading anything about Bojorquez not hearing the shots. Maybe he heard them and went outside to see what was happening, walked to the corner to see what people were looking at discovered the body in the street. What do you find suspicious about that?

    3. I tought there was only the two of them,
      one guy I knew went to pick a load with cash in his pockets, then he appeared dead, shot on the head, no money anywhere,
      Luckily someone knew who he had gone to meet his gym partner.
      I also never turn my back on my friends anymore.
      For the impatient revolutionaries that want revolution now, well, you know, we all wanna change the world, let us see the plan, because it is suspiciously too easy to demand of others to have some bolas, I seen that trap before,any "revolutionaries did not see, it cost them their lives and "their revolution"

  14. The holes in his hands were probably from putting them up as guns were pointed at him...

  15. Mexico is a country that doesn't value truth. The people believe in virgins, saints, milagros, la llorona, el chupacabra, los aluxes, mal viento, Chac's, Kaliman, chismes, etc. If they would spend more time working on their country and less time praying to the virgen of guadalupe they'd all be better off.

    1. Don't forget narconovelas and narcocorridos

  16. Thanks dd. Great tribute and incite of the kind of man he was.

  17. Anabel Hernández in her interview has said that Javier Valdez met up with Damaso at Riodoce office before the arrest to get his side of the story of the infighting within the Sinaloa cartel. Names of federal government officials on cartel payrolls was given.

    Anabel has stated in her interview that she will be going to Mexico to talk with Javier's wife and investigate the reason for his death.
    She has blamed the corrupt government officials for Javier Valdez's death.

    1. 4:49 I hope anabel can create a wonderful narrative as usual,
      --And I hope she does not eat any government propaganda to do it, as in the case of Dr Mireles, where she was at her lowes worst.

    2. That interview has to be kicking around somewhere (waiting to be rereleased) even though the copies were bought up there has to be a master copy.Hey and if the wife blames the gov for her husband's death there must be some truth to it as she must have been quite in the know being what hubby wrote about.

  18. Hey BB, why you don't publish the article from Zeta that indicates that Chapitos and Damasos are the main suspects from his death? You aren't a CDS fanboy aren't you?

    It's mentioned that Chapitos lie about the supposed ambush that el Licenciado set up.


  19. How can Damaso be responsible for Javier Valdez's death as he had given the interview regarding his side of the story of the cartel infighting which I think Damaso wanted to be out in media print. The cartel or government hench men bought or snatched all the newspapers containing that interview. What is Damaso's side of the real story that we may never know. The way things are progressing, it looks like the government wants to finish the Damaso family and gang.It wouldn't surprise me that in the days to come Mini Lic is either captured or killed.


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