Newspaper owner killed in Gulf Coast ambush

New York, April 11, 2005—The owner of a Mexican Gulf Coast daily that covered organized crime and drug dealing was killed in weekend ambush just hours after he oversaw the launch of a new edition of his newspaper. The Committee to Protect Journalists today expressed alarm at the brazen attack and called on Mexican authorities to ensure a prompt and thorough investigation.

Raúl Gibb Guerrero, 53, owner and director of La Opinión, in the eastern state of Veracruz, was killed in a hail of bullets near the city of Poza Rica at about 10 p.m. Friday, according to local and international press reports. Four unidentified gunmen fired at least 15 shots at Gibb Guerrero as he was driving home to Papantla, according to those reports.

Struck by eight shots, three to his head, Gibb Guerrero lost control of his vehicle and crashed. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The assailants fled in two cars, according to the local press.

Earlier that night, Gibb Guerrero was in the city of Martínez de la Torre, where a new edition of La Opinión was being launched, the Mexican press reported. Gibb Guerrero had received anonymous death threats days before the attack, but he didn’t express great concern over them, a La Opinión editor told CPJ on condition of anonymity.

José Luis Vasconcelos, a deputy prosecutor for the organized crime division of the attorney general’s office, was quoted by Reuters as saying that Gibb Guerrero “had written directly about the Gulf Cartel and the whole corruption network they have. It clearly appears to be drug traffickers that have been plaguing us.”

State authorities are investigating the murder with the help of more than 30 federal agents, state prosecutor Jorge Yunis Manzanares told CPJ. No motive has been determined; authorities said they have not ruled out personal or professional possibilities. CPJ will continue to monitor the case.

Gibb Guerrero’s murder was the second violent attack on a journalist in Mexico in a week. On April 5, crime reporter Dolores Guadalupe García Escamilla, was shot repeatedly in front of her radio station in Nuevo Laredo, a city on the Texas border beset by a wave of drug-related violence. García Escamilla survived, but she suffered serious wounds in the attack.