One was killed while resting in a hammock at a carwash. A second was dragged from his car and shot dead near the newspaper he had co-founded. When another was killed in front of her son, the criminals left a note: “For your long tongue”.
Journalists are being murdered in Mexico and this is nothing new. This is one of the most dangerous countries for reporters, rights groups say, and more die here than in any other nation at peace.
But even for a place so used to drugs-related violence and organised crime, the recent bloodshed has been shocking.
Seven journalists have been killed in the country so far this year, most shot by gunmen in broad daylight. Yet virtually all cases of attacks on the press end up unsolved and, in many, corrupt officials are suspected of partnering with criminals.
As the killings mount, is there anything that Mexico can do to save its journalists?
NPR – There’s been a surge of murders in Mexico. Forty-five people were killed over the weekend in violence largely attributed to fighting among narco-traffickers. Among the victims, authorities found a suitcase filled with human remains in Los Cabos.
AP – Nine people were killed in central Mexico in a series of shootings involving disputes between suspected fuel thieves. It was the latest round of violence in an area east of Mexico City where theives who siphon fuel out of state-run pipelines have fought police, the army and each other.
AP – A charred body found in western Mexico has been identified as the owner and director of a local television station abducted in May, the seventh journalist killed so far this year in the country. Salvador Adame was director of local cable Channel 6 TV in Michoacan.
ESPN –Visibly upset over the killing of his brother Rafael, boxing legend Julio Cesar Chavez called on authorities in western Mexico to take action to stop the violence in the Culican area and across Mexico.
Science – More than 30,000 people have disappeared without a trace in Mexico. Police investigations rarely solve such crimes, so many families are left to search on their own for the hidden graves that might hold their relatives. Last week, a team of data scientists and human rights researchers released a new tool for the searchers: a map predicting which municipalities in Mexico are most likely to house hidden graves.
Mexico marked another murderous milestone in its conflict with organised crime as the monthly homicide rate hit its highest level in 20 years.
Government statistics showed that 2,186 murders were committed in May, surpassing the previous monthly high of 2,131 in May 2011, according to a review of records that date back to 1997.
Mexico recorded 9,916 murders in the first five months of 2017, roughly a 30% increase over the same period last year.
The situation has hit such calamitous levels in states such as Guerrero, to south of Mexico City – where armed groups are fighting for control of the heroin industry – that morgues there have been unable to handle the dead bodies.
Analysts say the surging violence stems from various factors, including the increased cultivation of heroin to meet US demand and the legalisation of marijuana in some US states, which has caused cartel profits to plummet and prompted criminal groups to diversify into crimes such as kidnap and extortion.
NYT – The Mexican government said Wednesday that it was opening a criminal investigation to determine whether the nation’s most prominent journalists, human rights defenders and anticorruption activists were subjected to illegal government surveillance.
KPBS – Tijuana’s police chief said the U.S. should take responsibility for its role in Mexico’s rising violence, which he links to U.S. gun smuggling and lax gun laws. U.S. statistics show 70 percent of weapons seized at crime scenes in Mexico were traced to the U.S., particularly to the border states of California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
Reuters – A former state governor for President Enrique Pena Nieto’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had been arrested in Panama. Roberto Borge, 37, who was governor of the state of Quintana Roo until last year, was detained in Panama City airport as he was preparing to board a flight to Paris.
AP – Mexico closed seven service stations for allegedly selling gasoline and diesel stolen from state-run pipelines, the first confirmation that large amounts of fuel siphoned from illegal pipeline taps are being sold through officially sanctioned gas stations.
San Diego Union-Tribune – U.S. and California state law enforcement authorities said they have broken up a sophisticated auto-theft ring run by a Tijuana-based motorcycle club that swiped 150 Jeep Wranglers in San Diego County over the past several years.
AP – Five police officers were killed early Tuesday in a huge Mexico City suburb when they came under attack responding to a call, the city said in a statement. The officers were killed after arriving in two patrol vehicles around 4 a.m. to the Ecatepec neighbourhood of Ejidos de San Cristobal, the city said.
DW – The head Mexico’s national emergency services, Luis Felipe Puente, warned on Monday that an unknown amount of nuclear material used in medical equipment had been stolen from the back of a truck in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state. The theft prompted an alert and search for material across nine states: Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacan San Luis Potosi, Durango and Zacatecas.
The Sun – Mexican football legend Cuauhtemoc Blanco “fears for his life” after being accused of ordering a hit on a man who organised a local fair. Blanco – famous for the “bunny hop” trick he performed in the 1998 World Cup – is the current mayor of Cuernavaca.
AP – A U.S. border rights activist has been found on the outskirts of Mexico City, after he sent a chilling Facebook live message saying he was stranded and people were trying to kill him. A Mexican federal official said the person found beaten was Hugo Castro. He is a member of the migrant defense group Border Angels.
President Enrique Peña Nieto hailed the arrests of two fugitive former governors from Mexico’s ruling party within a week as a “convincing message” about the state’s commitment to fight corruption, which is often seen as a bigger problem for the country than Donald Trump’s threatened renegotiation of Nafta.
The detention of Javier Duarte, who is accused of bankrupting the southern state of Veracruz before absconding last year, and of Tomás Yarrington of the northern state of Nuevo León, who enjoyed state-assigned bodyguards for part of his five years on the run from money-laundering and drugs charges, are undeniable advances, analysts say.
But the number of other former senior officials still wanted, and the slow progress in arming a new anti-corruption system with a prosecutor to lead the fight against the country’s endemic graft, suggest a lack of political will to match the rhetoric, critics say.
The timing of Mexico’s arrests — ahead of a key gubernatorial election in the State of Mexico in June that the ruling Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) must win to remain afloat in the July 2018 presidential polls — looks expedient in a country where a corruption scandal over the president’s wife’s house decimated his popularity.
“The evidence that they are really moving forward and determined to attack the problems at the root is just not there,” says Juan Francisco Torres Landa, who heads Mexico United Against Crime, a non-governmental organisation.