Mexico City, June 9, 2021 – In response to yesterday’s conviction of Juan Francisco Picos Barrueta, known as “El Quillo,” for his role in the murder of Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“The conviction of Juan Francisco Picos Barrueta is an important step toward ending impunity in the case of Javier Valdez, whose murder shocked Mexico,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “The conviction shows that the Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed Against Freedom of Expression is capable of pursuing and successfully prosecuting such cases; that office must now do everything in its power to bring the mastermind to justice.”
A federal judge in Culiacán, the capital of the northern Mexican state of Sinaloa, ruled that Picos Barrueta, a member of a local criminal gang, was among the three men directly involved in the May 15, 2017, killing of Valdez, the co-founder and editor of weekly news magazine Ríodoce and correspondent in Sinaloa for the Mexico City newspaper La Jornada, according to a statement by Propuesta Cívica, a legal group that represented Valdez’s family. The court will announce his sentence in the coming days, according to reports.
The Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed Against Freedom of Expression presented evidence at the trial showing that Picos Barrueta and two other men killed Valdez on the orders of Dámaso López Serrano, known as “El Mini Lic,” the former leader of a drug trafficking gang, according to that statement and news reports.
López Serrano has been held in U.S. custody on drug trafficking charges since 2017, according to news reports, which said that a Mexican federal judge issued an order for his arrest in January 2020.
Last year, authorities sentenced Heriberto Picos Barraza, also among the three killers, to 14 years and 8 months in prison for his role in the attack, as CPJ documented at the time. The third suspect, Juan Ildefonso Sánchez, was never arrested and was found dead in Sonora in 2017, according to reports.
In 2011, Valdez received CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in recognition of his work.