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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Mexican authorities carry out arrest warrant for second person in journalist Javier Valdez's murder case



The Special Prosecutor’s Office for the Attention of Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (Feadle) of Mexico, with the help of Federal Police, carried out an arrest warrant against Juan Francisco “N,” known as “Quillo,” “for his probable participation in the murder of journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas, on May 15, 2017,” according to the Attorney General’s Office (PGR, for its acronym in Spanish).

Journalist Javier Valdez was killed in Sinaloa, Mexico on May 15, 2017.

The PGR said in a statement that "Quillo" is in jail in the state of Baja California, and is facing criminal proceedings for the crime of possession of a weapon exclusively for the armed forces. Therefore, the PGR asked the appropriate judge in the State of Sinaloa, where Valdez was killed, to establish the initial hearing so that the body can present its evidence and the indictment against "Quillo" for the murder.

Weekly magazine Ríodoce said “Quillo” was detained by Federal Police and the Navy in Mexicali on Aug. 24, 2017 who found firearms and cartridges exclusively for the use of the Mexican Armed Forces in the car.

According to the PGR, the arrest warrant for "Quillo," derived from a joint investigation between the agency, the National Security Commission (CNS) and the State Attorney General of Sinaloa, adds to the arrest of Heriberto "N," carried out at the end of April. Known as "Koala," he is linked to a group of drug traffickers operating in Baja California, Ríodoce reported on the occasion, and was arrested for involvement in the murder of Valdez nearly a year after the crime.

Ríodoce, a publication co-founded by Valdez, reported in April that Feadle maintains that those responsible for the death of the journalist are "Koala," "Quillo" and Luis Idelfonso Sánchez Romero, known as "Diablo," murdered in Sonora in September 2017. Ríodoce reported that the order to kill Valdez came from the Dámaso clan. According to what El Universal published in April, the Dámasos lead a cell of the Sinaloa cartel.

According to Feadle’s investigations reported by Ríodoce, Valdez was killed for his work as a journalist, for publications that displeased “the people of Eldorado,” according to a witness in the case. Dámaso López Núñez, known as “El Licenciado,” and his son Dámaso López Serrano, known as “Mini Lic,” are from the town of Eldorado, part of the municipality of Culiacán, where Valdez was killed. Ríodoce made a compilation of Valdez’s investigative texts that may have bothered the Dámaso family, with reports on the actions of the criminal group led by father and son.

Months before Valdez's death, a wave of violence swept through Sinaloa due to factions of the Sinaloa Cartel that were fighting for power. The children of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as "El Chapo," head of the cartel who was recaptured in January 2016, and the children of Dámaso López Núñez were at war, according to Ríodoce.

In this context, Ríodoce recalled, Valdez interviewed Dámaso López Nuñez via telephone messages about the situation and published the interview in the magazine in February 2017. El Chapo's sons unsuccessfully pressed Valdez not to publish the interview, according to Ríodoce.

On May 15, 2017, at 12 noon, Valdez was killed near his office by a group of hooded individuals who took him out of his car and shot him 12 times at point-blank range in Culiacan, Sinaloa.

The journalist was internationally recognized and rewarded for his work. He was a reporter and columnist for Ríodoce, a weekly magazine known for its outstanding and courageous coverage of drug trafficking in Sinaloa. The state is famous for being the home of one of Mexico's largest and most violent drug cartels.

The country is one of the most dangerous in the Western Hemisphere to practice journalism, according to CPJ's Global Impunity Index, in which Mexico ranks sixth.



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