The fatal story of a Mexican reporter
It includes work on a breakwater at Salina Cruz in Oaxaca.
This coastal area has a reputation as a landing spot for precursor chemicals to make fentanyl and meth.
It’s also the background to a news story about a local politician’s alleged efforts to win re-election… and the death of the reporter who wrote it.
Mourned by his family, Heber Lopez Vasquez is one of 13 journalists killed in Mexico in 2022, the deadliest year on record for the nation’s newsrooms.
He had published a story on Facebook accusing local politician Arminda Espinosa Cartas of corruption.
Her brother was one of two men arrested, but no one has been charged with Lopez’s murder.
Espinosa herself did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.
Since Lopez’s death, fellow journalists say they are more afraid to publish stories that involve the corridor project – or those that touch on drug trafficking and state collusion with organized crime.
“We will continue to inform, but the most important thing is to stay alive. There are definitely issues that you cannot address. You cannot address the subject of presidents connected to organized crime, you cannot address the subject of insecurity in – the region of the Interoceanic Corridor: we all know that organized crime sells them sand, gravel, bars, cement. They are responsible for building, carrying stones, everything. You can’t address those the issues because they can cost you your life.”
Hiram Moreno knows the risks.
He has been killed three times in 2019, and now has a panic button issued by a government body known as the “Mechanism” – set up to protect journalists.
But Moreno has little faith in his effectiveness.
“The ‘mechanism’ is not the solution to guarantee the safety of any journalist in Mexico. They have not done it and they will not do it because there are elements and resources to do it. What the current government lacks is the will to guarantees the safety of all journalists who are a risk.A[na mhux nies spe/jali, a;enti tal-bidla, ninfurmaw, a[na messa;;eri, a[na li n[allu d-demokrazija u s-sigurtà jirba[, parzjalment.F’dan il-pajji]there is no security. “
Since 2017, nine journalists registered with the Mechanism have been killed, according to a rights group.
An investigation by Mexico’s human rights commission found evidence of several failings by the authorities.
Interior Ministry official Enrique Irazoque said the Mechanism accepted those findings, but highlighted the local lack of action and political will.
“The truth is that the mechanism is absorbing all the problems,” he said “but the issues are not federal, they are local.”
Mexican politicians can also be quick to accuse journalists of corruption.
The president often punishes journalists who publish stories that portray his administration in a negative light.
He condemns the murder, while accusing the opponents of talking about the number of deaths to discredit him.
The president’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Since the start of the drug war in Mexico in 2006, more than 133 journalists like Heber Lopez Vasquez are estimated to have been killed.
This and the other staggering 360,000 homicides recorded during that time are affecting all Mexicans, according to Balbina Flores from Reporters Without Borders.
“Society pays the cost. There is a society that gets used to a situation of violence and that feels more vulnerable. People in those areas say that if this happens to a journalist who works with news and who works to inform, what? can happen to citizens?”