The body of Enrique Villicaña Palomares, a teacher and columnist for the daily La Voz de Michoacán, was found in Morelia, in the southern state of Michoacán, yesterday morning, five days after he was kidnapped. His throat was cut.
His employers told Reporters Without Borders that the Michoacán state justice department failed to take any action after being notified two weeks ago that threats had been made against him.
Villicaña was the fifth journalist to be murdered in Mexico this year. His death came the same week that another Michoacán journalist, Ramón Ángeles Zalpa of the daily Cambio, was reported missing.
The motive for Villicaña’s murder remains to be determined. His employers said they were not sure it was linked to his work as columnist. Regardless of the motive, the state justice department’s inaction was reprehensible if it was indeed aware of the threats against him. Will the federal justice department investigate both the murder and the failure to take action?
His death brings the number of journalists murdered in Mexico since 2000 to 62. Another 10 journalists have gone missing since 2003.
9.04.10 - Newspaper journalist missing after reporting attack on indigenous community
Ramón Ángeles Zalpa, a reporter for the Cambio de Michoacán newspaper in the southern state of Michoacán, has been missing since the afternoon of 6 April, bringing the total number of disappearances of journalists in Mexico since 2003 to ten.
Ángeles has not been seen since leaving his home in the town of Paracho by car to go to the National Pedagogic University, where he is also a teacher. His disappearance comes just five months after fellow newspaper reporter María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe of El Diario de Zamora went missing in Michoacán. She has not been found.
“He did not return home,” a member of his family told Reporters Without Borders. “We began contacting his university colleagues in an attempt to find him. Then we called the newspaper, Cambio. They said we should report his disappearance to the authorities.”
The family reported him missing the next day to the public prosecutor’s office in Paracho, where Ángeles has been the newspaper’s correspondent for the past 10 years. The Michoacán state prosecutor’s officer told Reporters Without Borders an investigation was under way in the Paracho area, so far without result.
A member of the Purépecha indigenous community, Ángeles wrote an unbylined article for the newspaper on 18 March about an armed group’s attack on an indigenous family. “It could be the reason for his disappearance,” a member of the newspaper’s management told Reporters Without Borders. “We don’t know if he had received any threats, but he asked us to run one of his articles without a byline three months ago because of problems within the community.”
One of Mexico’s most dangerous regions for the media, Michoacán is the epicentre of the offensive against drug trafficking launched in December 2006 by President Felipe Calderón, who is himself from the state.
When Reporters Without Borders visited Michoacán in July 2009, it talked to representatives of the Purépecha community who have been harassed by the authorities for launching a community radio station that they tried in vain to legalise (read the report).
Four or possibly five journalists have been murdered in Mexico since the start of this year. A total of 61 have been murdered since 2000. Honduras and Mexico currently rank as the western hemisphere’s two most dangerous countries for the media.