Mexico City, June 18, 2021 – The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed yesterday’s sentencing of Juan Francisco Picos Barrueta, known as “El Quillo,” one of the murderers of Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas, and called on Mexican federal authorities to redouble their efforts to have the alleged mastermind of the killing extradited to and tried in Mexico.
A federal judge in Culiacán, the capital of the northern Mexican state of Sinaloa, sentenced Picos Barrueta to 32 years and three months in prison as one of the triggermen in the murder of Valdez, according to a statement on Twitter by Propuesta Cívica, a nonprofit legal organization that represented Valdez’s family during the trial. The sentencing followed Picos Barrueta’s conviction of murder on June 8.
Valdez, co-founder of news magazine Ríodoce and a correspondent in Sinaloa for La Jornada newspaper, was murdered in Culiacán on May 15, 2017.
According to evidence presented during the trial by the office of the Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed Against Freedom of Expression, Picos Barrueta carried out the murder by orders of Dámaso López Serrano, known as “El Mini Lic,” the former leader of a drug trafficking gang, news reports said. López Serrano has been held in U.S. custody on drug trafficking charges since 2017 and a Mexican federal judge issued an order for his arrest in January 2020, according to news reports.
“The sentencing of Juan Francisco Picos Barrueta is an important and welcome step forward to end impunity in a murder that shocked Mexico and the world,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “We now call on the Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed Against Freedom of Expression to continue pushing for justice in the case and pursue the extradition of Dámaso López Serrano so he can be tried in Mexico and be held accountable.”
This is the second sentencing in the case. On February 27, 2020, Heriberto Picos Barraza, known as “El Koala,” was sentenced to 14 years and eight months in prison for his participation in the murder of Valdez, as CPJ documented at the time. A third suspect, Luis Idelfonso Sánchez Romero, known as “El Diablo,” was killed in Sinaloa’s neighboring state of Sonora in 2017, according to news reports.
In 2011, Valdez received CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in recognition of his work.