In the course of investigating the December
22 murder of newspaper owner José Alberto Velázquez López, CPJ discovered allegations
of corruption that often hover over crimes against journalists in
In the case of Velázquez, the owner of the daily newspaper Expresiones de Tulum, the local mayor is rumored to have been responsible for his murder. Shortly after Velázquez was shot by one of two men on a motorcycle, four reporters were able to interview him as a group. Two of them spoke to me. They said people sent by the mayor of Tulum shot him.
In deep fear for their lives, they asked not to be identified. I was unable to locate the other two reporters. Colleagues say they are too afraid to speak. One explained that one of the other reporters told him, “I can see what the mayor did to Velázquez. He’ll do the same to me.”
The mayor, Marciano Dzul Caamal, did not respond to repeated efforts by CPJ to reach him for a response. The day after the murder, his office issued a statement repudiating the killing and committing the mayor to helping solve it.
The reporters who I spoke with I interviewed
individually by telephone. They told the same story: Velázquez received medical
treatment after the shooting but was alert and seemed lucid. He took off his
oxygen mask and identified himself as a journalist. Then, one of the reporters
in the group asked him if he had recognized the men on the motorcycle and he
said, “It was Marciano’s people.” The reporters said Velázquez left no doubt
that he meant the mayor, Marciano Dzul, because in the small town of
According to Velázquez’s coworkers, the
newspaper has an editorial line that is very critical of the mayor’s
administration. And, they say, there was a long-running personal feud between
the two men over the paper’s coverage of the city, which is a tourist resort in
All that might make it seem a like pretty tight
case. But in
The problem with the rumors about Velázquez’ corrupt business deals was to find proof, find someone he had extorted. After making an lot of phone calls to businesses in Tulum, I found one local company, Hidden Worlds, a tourist attraction, which the manager said Velázquez tried to sign up for what was called an advertizing contract for the equivalent of about $1,500 a month for 18 months. The manager, Luis Argaez, said Velázquez had threatened to publish a series of negative articles unless the contract was signed. Argaez said he refused and the negative articles appeared, including one that falsely claimed the business’s owner, who is an American, was hiding from the FBI in Tulum.
Luis Gamboa, the editorial director of the newspaper, said he does not doubt that Velázquez did that sort of thing when the paper was just starting last April. But Gamboa characterized it as a desperate time, when the paper was being distributed for free and being supported almost entirely by Velázquez and a couple of others on staff. Gamboa said extortion is no longer the paper’s policy.
That’s a remarkable admission by the top editor of the newspaper. As in the other cases of murdered Mexican journalists, it clouds the investigation. Because of what may have been his dirty dealings in the past, we can’t be sure of the motives behind Velázquez’ slaying.
Mike O'Connor is CPJ's representative in