New York, June 20, 2011—A prominent Mexican newspaper columnist, his wife, and a son were shot to death in their home in Veracruz, according to state investigators, a shocking assault that underscores the country’s ongoing crisis. The administration of President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa must take decisive action to end to the cycle of violence undermining Mexico’s democracy, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Miguel Ángel López Velasco, 55, a columnist with the Veracruz daily Notiver, his wife, Agustina Solano de López, and their son Misael, 21, were killed by unidentified assailants who broke into their home around 5:30 a.m., the newspaper reported. The couple’s two other children, both grown, do not live at home.
“We are shocked by the vicious killing of journalist Miguel Ángel López Velasco, his wife, and son, and call on Mexican authorities to fully investigate and effectively prosecute all those responsible for this crime,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “The Mexican government must put an end to this endless wave of violence that is eroding the democratic system.”
López, a former deputy editor with Notiver, wrote a column called “Va de Nuez” under the pseudonym Milo Vela that addressed politics, security issues, and general interest topics, Mexican press reports said. López had been one of the best known columnists in the state of Veracruz for many years, according to Gerardo Perdomo, president of a state commission charged with defending journalists.
Journalists who spoke with CPJ said the murders could be retaliation for a recent column about drug trafficking in the region. López also wrote about politics and police.
Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte visited the offices of Notiver and gave a statement to reporters. “Today in a cowardly act, an act that harms all society–because it is not an attack against a medium of communication, it is not even an attack against a professional group, it is an attack against society as a whole, against Veracruz society–they killed our friend Miguel Ángel López Velasco,” Duarte said. He promised a full investigation, the Mexico City-based daily Milenio said.
Drug-related violence has made Mexico one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press, according to CPJ research. Thirteen Mexican journalists, including López, have been killed since the beginning of 2010, at least three in direct reprisal for their work. CPJ is investigating to determine whether the other deaths were related to the journalists’ work. The corrupting influence of criminal groups on all aspects of Mexican society, including government, law enforcement, and news media, make it difficult to clearly establish motives in many cases.
In September 2010, in a meeting with a delegation from CPJ and the Inter American Press Association, Calderón pledged to protect the rights of journalists and called the right to free expression a priority of his government.
CPJ called on Calderón to make good on his promises. “Eight months have passed, and the Mexican media continue to be the target of organized crime syndicates,” CPJ’s Lauría said. “It is now time for the Calderón administration to adopt energetic and timely measures to protect the rights of Mexicans to express themselves freely without fear of reprisal. The future of Mexican democracy is at stake.”