Police officers disperse a protest against the murder of a woman in Cancun, Quintana Roo state, Mexico, on November 9, 2020. At least two reporters received gunshot wounds and at least two others were beaten in the incident. (AFP/Elizabeth Ruiz)

Mexican journalists shot, beaten as police disperse protest in Cancún

In the evening of November 9, 2020, at least two reporters received gunshot wounds and at least two others were beaten, as state police dispersed a protest the reporters were covering in the city of Cancún, in Quintana Roo state in southern Mexico. The police used live ammunition to shoot in the air, according to news reports and journalists who spoke to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The clashes occurred during a demonstration to protest the murder of a young woman, whose mutilated body was found earlier that day, according to news reports. According to the journalists who spoke to CPJ, police began to shoot in the air with live ammunition when protesters spray painted the building of the state prosecutor’s office and attempted to set fire to the building.

“They didn’t shoot just a few times, there must have been one hundred or two hundred gun shots,” journalist Alejandro Castro of newspaper Novedades de Quintana Roo, who witnessed the protest and the police’s actions, told CPJ telephone call on November 9.

Castro sent CPJ several videos of the protests via messaging app on November 9, shortly after the protests. On the videos, dozens of gunshots are heard as the crowd fled the scene in panic. On several other videos, police are seen beating people.

A number of other people were also injured, according to the journalists CPJ spoke with, although they were unable to provide an exact number. At least nine people were arrested during the protests, according to a report by Mexico City newspaper La Jornada.

During the confrontation, newspaper reporter Cecilia Solís of Diario de Quintana Roo was shot in her right leg and reporter Roberto Becerril, of La Verdad daily, was shot in his left shoulder, according to Castro. Both were rushed to a hospital shortly afterward to be treated for their injuries. Their situation was not critical, and they were released from hospital care in the days after the incident, Castro told CPJ.

At least three other reporters told CPJ that they were beaten by the police as the officers were dispersing the crowd. Selene Huidrobo of Grupo Sipse, a private television broadcaster, told CPJ via phone on November 9 that a police officer beat her hands with a baton and broke her cell phone. She said she suffered minor injuries to her hands.

“I was broadcasting the protests when the police started hitting me,” she said.

Santiado Rodas of Quadratín, a news website, was beaten by the police near the building of the state prosecutor. His editor, Gabriela Martínez, told CPJ via telephone on the evening of November 9 that he was kicked in the head while lying on the ground and that police took his cell phone. Rodas told CPJ via phone on November 11, 2020, that his health was improving and that he suffered relatively minor injuries.

In the wake of the protests, both Quintana Roo Governor Carlos Joaquín and Mayor Mara Lezama condemned the use of live ammunition during civil protests and announced investigations. Quintana Roo’s secretary of public security, Alberto Capella, resigned on November 9, while Cancún’s police chief Eduardo Santa María was fired that same day. Mexico’s federal Interior Secretariat condemned the actions of the police and demanded an investigation in two tweets posted on November 9.

CPJ reached out for comment via telephone to the Quintana Roo state police on November 10 and 11, 2020, but the calls were not answered.