Second investigator on murder case killed in Mexico

For the second time in less than a month, the lead federal investigator in the case of a journalist murdered in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, has been shot and killed in the streets of that city, according to news accounts. The second investigator, Pablo Pasillas Fong, was shot 13 times on August 26, according to the reports.

In addition, today, the head of the office in charge of investigating the journalist’s murder resigned his position and left the city “for security reasons,” according the Ciudad Juarez newspaper El Diario, which cited unnamed federal sources.

Pasillas had replaced investigator Jose Ibarra Limón, who was murdered on a street corner near his home on July 27, according to federal authorities. Local press reports said that Pasillas had been an aide to Ibarra but took over the murder case of well-known police reporter Armando Rodríguez after Ibarra was killed.

Rodríguez, who worked for El Diario, was killed in front of his daughter in November 2008 as he was about to take her to school.

The case has been emblematic of the dangers for journalists in Ciudad Juárez, where journalists say organized crime groups routinely threaten reporters who write stories that might expose their operations–including drug dealing, extortion, and bribery. In reaction to the threats, especially after Rodríguez’s murder, most journalists in Ciudad Juárez say they write only the most superficial stories about organized crime.

Further increasing the aura of danger is the near-total impunity in murder cases. According to news reports, only a tiny percentage of cases are solved, even when the victim is a police officer.           

As a matter of security, Ibarra, the investigator killed in July, worked in a compound surrounded by thick walls approximately 10 feet high and guarded by many men with assault rifles. Ibarra also was responsible for several sensitive cases involving organized crime in addition the Rodríguez case, according to federal officials

Senior federal officials insisted they gave Ibarra their fullest support, however they admitted to CPJ that the Rodríguez case has gone cold and that in the last six months or more they have run out of leads.