Ex-police chief detained in photographer’s murder

New York, July 7, 2005—An ex-police chief in Mexico is being held for alleged involvement in the November 2004 gangland-style slaying of Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández, a photographer with the Mazatlán edition of the newspaper El Debate, in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, according to press reports.

Abel Enríquez Zavala was detained on Sunday after investigators linked him to a hit man working for the Sinaloa drug cartel, the Mexican press reported. He has not been formally charged nor has the precise nature of his alleged involvement been described. Enríquez was suspended in December 2004 from his job heading the police force in the town of Escuinapa.

Armed men gunned down Rodríguez in an Escuinapa cafeteria, shooting him at least five times in front of his family. The night of the murder, Escuinapa police agents had been assigned duties out of town and the police station’s telephone number was mysteriously out of service, the Mexico City-based El Universal said.

In December 2004, local police detained two farmers as suspects. But El Universal reported that the witness who accused the two farmers has changed his testimony and said that Enríquez offered money to incriminate them.

Prosecutors said they are looking into motives connected to Rodríguez’s journalism, but they have not ruled out motives related to his personal life.

The 35-year-old photographer worked for El Debate, a newspaper with editions in the Sinaloa capital of Ciuliacán as well as the coastal city of Mazatlán. He also accepted private assignments covering social events in the community.

Mexican journalists who work in the country’s northern areas and cover sensitive issues such as drug trafficking, organized crime, and political corruption are often targeted for attack because of their coverage. CPJ research shows that Mexico’s northern states have become some of the most hazardous places in Latin America for journalists.