Motive unclear, but murders become rallying point

The brutal, September 1 murders of two women from the world of mass communications drew international headlines as the latest attack against the Mexican news media. But the sensational case–the two were found strangled in a park in the heart of Mexico City–illustrates the complexities of determining motives amid the pervasive violence afflicting Mexico. Since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa took office in December 2006 and deployed thousands of troops to fight criminal organizations, more than 40,000 people have been killed in violence between organized crime gangs or between the gangs and authorities, according to the attorney general’s office.

CPJ’s own inquiry in the case found little evidence that the women were currently involved in journalistic work, or that their murders were related to news reporting. Marcela Yarce Viveros had been one of the original reporters for the tough, investigative, antigovernment newsweekly Contralínea. She was working as chief of public relations for the magazine at the time of her death, having left reporting years ago, according to staff members. Rocío González Trápaga had worked for several years as a reporter for Mexico’s main television broadcaster, Televisa. But according to sources there, she left the outlet 14 years ago.  Since then, according to news accounts and friends, González had worked sporadically as a freelance reporter. Her most recent work was published about a year ago in Contralínea, local sources told CPJ. She occasionally worked in recent years as a freelance public relations consultant for a federal government housing program, according to press reports.

Both women had recently been advisers to the Mexican Association of Real Estate Professionals. The group started a magazine for its members and asked the two women to help sell ads, to occasionally correct copy, and to give advice on how to improve layout for some of the magazine’s pages. They performed that work for two editions, Adam Larracilla, the association president, told CPJ.

Although the victims’ current ties to journalism are tenuous, their deaths have become a rallying point in the profession and illustrate a growing solidarity among Mexican journalists. Members of the Mexican press corps have traditionally been kept apart by the country’s vast size, class differences, and disputes among union and association leaders. The emerging solidarity has come from the recognition that journalists have become recurring targets of organized crime and corrupt political forces. In that way, the case has become a touchstone.