Mexico drops charges in Blancornelas murder attempt

New York, September 6, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged by the decision of a Mexican judge to dismiss charges against Marco Arturo Quiñones Sánchez, one of the gunmen implicated in the 1997 assassination attempt against J. Jesús Blancornelas, founder and former editor of the Tijuana-based weekly magazine Zeta. The editors of Zeta told CPJ they were informed of the ruling on Thursday.

“It is deeply troubling that after years of investigation, authorities have dismissed charges against Quiñones,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s Americas senior program coordinator. “Zeta has been constantly targeted by criminal groups for its unrelenting reporting on drug trafficking. This ruling sends a chilling message to the Mexican press and highlights the country’s dismal record of impunity in journalists’ killings.”

A team of gunmen ambushed Blancornelas while he was on his way to work after the magazine published an investigative report on drug trafficking.  Blancornelas barely survived the shooting attack that killed his bodyguard, Luis Valero Elizalde, CPJ research shows. One of the gunmen was also killed in the attack.

Authorities later identified the gunmen as members of a cartel and Quiñones as one of the assailants who attempted to kill Blancornelas. Subsequent Zeta coverage of the attack, based on an ensuing attorney-general’s investigation, also concluded that Quiñones was one of the gunmen.

It is unclear why the judge dismissed the charges. Quiñones, who was arrested and charged with participating in the crime in 2003, will remain imprisoned as he had been sentenced in 2012 to 12 years in jail on charges of organized crime.

Blancornelas died of natural causes in November 2006.

Violence tied to drug trafficking has made Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world for the press, according to CPJ research. More than 50 journalists have been killed or have disappeared since 2007. In at least 14 cases, CPJ has confirmed a direct relation to their work.

  • For more data and analysis, visit CPJ’s Mexico page.