A National Guard officer is seen in Tamaulipas, Mexico, on August 23, 2021. Journalist Antonio de la Cruz was recently shot and killed in Tamaulipas. (AFP/Alfredo Estrella)

Mexican journalist Antonio de la Cruz shot dead in Ciudad Victoria

Mexico City, June 30, 2022 – Mexican authorities must immediately and credibly investigate the killing of journalist Antonio de la Cruz and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

At about 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday, June 29, unidentified attackers shot and killed de la Cruz near his home in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, according to news reports and a statement and press conference by the Tamaulipas state prosecutor’s office.

In that press conference, prosecutor Irving Barrios said that de la Cruz, a reporter for the newspaper Expreso, was shot multiple times while in a car with his daughter. De la Cruz died at the scene and his daughter, who was hit with at least one bullet, underwent emergency surgery, Barrios said.

The attackers fled the scene leaving behind at least four .40 caliber bullet casings, Barrios said; he did not provide any information about the suspected identities of the attackers.

“Mexico’s wave of attacks against the press continues with the shocking killing of Antonio de la Cruz, the latest victim of the cycle of violence and impunity in the deadliest country for the press in the Western Hemisphere,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Mexican authorities must do everything in their power to determine the motive of the killing and arrest the perpetrators and any mastermind.”

The office of the Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed Against Freedom of Expression said in a statement that it had opened an investigation into the killing.

De la Cruz worked as a reporter for Expreso for over two decades, the newspaper said in an obituary.

A friend and colleague at the newspaper, who spoke to CPJ on the condition that their name not be disclosed due to safety concerns, said that de la Cruz covered the environment and agriculture for Expreso and did not report on crime, security, or politics. A number of posts on Expreso’s Facebook page carry de la Cruz’s byline, and mainly focus on climate, agriculture, and food prices.

The colleague told CPJ that the staff of Expreso were unaware of any threats against the reporter’s life or any recent threats against the newspaper.

“It took us all by surprise,” the colleague said, adding that de la Cruz was “good-natured, very reserved, and private.”

The colleague noted that de la Cruz was active on Twitter, where he had about 10,000 followers and often critical of the administration of Tamaulipas governor Francisco Cabeza de Vaca, as well as municipal politicians in the state.

An official with the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which provides protection programs for journalists, told CPJ that de la Cruz had not been incorporated into a federal protection program. The official asked not to be named, as he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

On December 20, 2018, a human head was left in an icebox outside Expreso’s offices, accompanied by a message threatening local journalists. In 2012, a car bomb exploded near the offices of the newspaper.

Tamaulipas is one of Mexico’s most violent states, according to CPJ research and news reports, due to the heavy presence of criminal gangs in the state and its strategic region for the drug trafficking. Last year, at least 526 people were murdered in state, according to news reports.

Mexico is the deadliest country for reporters in the Western Hemisphere. At least three journalists have been killed in the country in 2022 in direct relation to their work. CPJ is investigating another seven killings to determine the motive.