New York, May 1, 2000 — The body of radio reporter José Ramírez Puente, the host of a popular news program in the Mexican town of Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, was found in his car late Saturday evening. Ramírez, a 29-year-old reporter with the private station Radio Net, had been stabbed more than 30 times, according to CPJ sources and local press accounts. The murder is believed to have taken place Friday evening, April 28.
Some time after the body was discovered, local police announced that they had found eight bags of marijuana in the trunk of Ramírez’s car. Local journalists said they believe the drugs had been planted, perhaps by the killer or killers, in order to suggest that Ramírez was involved in the drug trade. The journalist’s colleagues, and even the Ciudad Juárez mayor, Gustavo Elizondo, publicly vouched for the journalist’s integrity and said there was no indication that he was involved in illicit activity.
Ramírez began his career with the radio stations 860 and FM Globo. He then worked as a print reporter with the Ciudad Juárez-based daily El Norte before taking up a job with Radio Net. His daily news show, “Juárez Hoy,” started airing about a month ago. Broadcast from Monday to Friday, the hour-long program featured breaking news and interviews with politicians, business leaders, and others. “We are all dismayed,” said Ricardo Alcantara, the general manager of FM Globo. “We want this case to be resolved.”
Local press reports noted that Ramírez was stabbed 36 times while sitting in the passenger seat of his car.
While no motive has been established as yet, CPJ is actively investigating the case to determine whether Ramírez was killed because of his journalistic work. Even though there is widespread suspicion that the drugs found in his car had been planted, the case was referred to the Federal Attorney’s Office, which handles all drug-related offenses. CPJ sent a letter to Federal Attorney General Jorge Madrazo urgently requesting additional information.
“We are both saddened and alarmed by the murder of José Ramírez Puente,” noted CPJ deputy director Joel Simon. “Mexican authorities have not had a good record of apprehending and prosecuting those responsible for attacks against the press, and we will be following this investigation closely to ensure that it is both thorough and comprehensive.”
On April 9, the body of another Mexican reporter, Pablo Pineda, was dumped on the U.S. side of the border near Matamoros, Mexico. Pineda, who covered crime the daily La Opinión, had been shot in the head. No arrests have been made in that case.