The body of Anabel Flores Salazar, a reporter for El Sol de Orizaba who was abducted from her home near the city of Orizaba in Veracruz on February 8, was found the following day in the neighboring state of Puebla, according to a statement from the Veracruz Attorney General’s Office.
At least eight armed assailants dressed in what appeared to be military uniforms forced their way into Flores Salazar’s home at about 2 a.m. on February 8 and went straight to her room, the journalist’s aunt, Sandra Luz Salazar, who was in the house at the time, told CPJ in a telephone interview. The assailants claimed they had a warrant for the reporter’s arrest, pointed weapons at family members, then forced Flores Salazar into one of three gray trucks outside, Luz Salazar said.
“We pleaded with them not to take her. I told them that she had recently had a baby,” she said.
Flores Salazar, who covered local crime and police activities, had a new baby and a four-year-old son, according to news reports.
On the day of the abduction, the attorney general’s office released a statement saying that they were investigating the case. The statement said that in August 2014 Flores Salazar had been in the company of an alleged member of an organized crime group at the time of his arrest, but did not provide further details.
When CPJ asked Luz Salazar about that aspect of the attorney general’s public statement, she said her niece had been having dinner with her family when police arrested the suspected criminal, who was at the same restaurant but not with them.
The day after the statement was released, 43 journalists from central Mexico and the state of Veracruz wrote an open letter in which they urged the state government to “stop criminalizing murdered journalists.” CPJ has documented several cases in which Veracruz authorities have made unfounded accusations linking murdered journalists to criminals.
José Martínez Sánchez, a spokesperson from the Veracruz Attorney General’s office, told CPJ authorities have not discarded any lines of investigation, but could not comment on specific details of the case.
On February 13, the governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte Ochoa, alleged in a tweet that Josele Márquez Balderas, who is imprisoned and has been linked to the Zetas drug cartel, had ordered the killing of Flores Salazar. Duarte also tweeted that Flores Salazar had been using a Facebook account under a pseudonym to denounce a Zetas cartel leader. Duarte did not provide any evidence to back up this claim. Police have not charged Márquez Balderas with murdering Flores Salazar.
Hugo Morales Alejo, the director of Lanigua.com and a fellow journalist from central Veracruz, told CPJ that he was skeptical of Duarte’s allegation. “Márquez Balderas was in a federal prison at the time of the killing, so it would have been hard for him to order it,” Morales said.
Flores Salazar had recently reported on the case of a murdered store owner, according to press reports. She had also reported on murders and car accidents for El Sol de Orizaba. A representative of El Sol de Orizaba told CPJ that the paper’s directors were unavailable to comment on the case. News reports also described Flores Salazar as a former contributor to the daily newspapers El Buen Tono and El Mundo de Orizaba.
Flores Salazar’s former employer, El Buen Tono, has distanced itself from the case. In a radio interviewed cited in local media, the owner of El Buen Tono, José Abella, alleged that Flores Salazar had been fired from the magazine eight months earlier because she owned a car that did not correspond with her income. Abella claimed that this was a sign of her involvement with organized crime.
Other journalists from the area have called Abella’s claim into question, casting doubts about his knowledge of the case and raising concerns about his alleged links to the Veracruz government, according to press reports. Morales told CPJ that El Buen Tono generally took a pro-government editorial line.
“She was not a criminal,” said Morales, who knew Flores Salazar but did not work closely with her. He told CPJ that local journalists know which of their colleagues are involved in organized crime. Morales said that he and his colleagues had never heard of Flores Salazar’s being linked to criminal groups.
But Morales also raised doubts about Flores Salazar’s journalism being the motive for her murder. Morales said that Flores Salazar did not write the type of stories that were likely to cause retribution. “She mostly covered accidents and crashes,” he told CPJ.
On May 4, the Veracruz attorney general’s office released a statement announcing the arrest of an individual it identified only as “G.P.V.”, who, the office alleged, was involved in the murder. According to the statement, prosecutors determined that the motive for the killing was related Flores Salazar’s journalism, which affected the interests of a criminal group.
On August 10, police arrested another individual accused of planning and executing the crime on charges of abduction and homicide, according to news reports. The individual, identified only as “Manuel N” is a leader of the criminal group Las Zetas, according to a statement by the Veracruz Attorney General’s Office.
Morales Alejo told CPJ that a new protocol prevented the attorney general’s office from publishing the full names of those accused of crimes. Journalists who spoke with CPJ said that without more details about who had been arrested, the case remained opaque.