Cabrera, the founder and editorial director of the weekly news magazine, El Gráfico de la Sierra, was attacked by assailants at about 11 p.m. on September 14, while driving near Huauchinango, a city in Puebla approximately 170 kilometers northeast of Mexico City, according to reports. In statements the prosecutor’s office made to media, authorities said the attackers shot multiple rounds at the journalist’s car. Emergency services arrived after the attack was reported in an anonymous phone call, but Cabrera died several hours later, on September 15, in a hospital in Huauchinango, reports said.
Cabrera founded El Gráfico de la Sierra, a news magazine based in the city of Xicotepec, in late 2015 after he left La Voz de la Sierra, another weekly based in the same city. Cabrera reported on crime, accidents, and local politics for both magazines, according to two of his colleagues, who spoke with CPJ on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.
On September 20, 2016 the state prosecutor’s office in Puebla released a statement saying that a suspect had been identified and an arrest warrant issued. The statement did not provide a name but it identified the suspect as a former coworker with whom Cabrera had disagreements. According to the statement, before Cabrera died he named his attacker and gave information about the vehicle.
In late October 2016, a spokesperson for the Puebla state prosecutor told CPJ the suspect could not be named because the investigation is ongoing.
Several local media outlets reported that the suspect was Pedro Garrido, the editorial director of Cabrera’s former paper, La Voz de la Sierra. On September 19, police questioned Garrido in relation to the attack, and searched his residence, according to reports. According to media reports that cited a statement made by the state prosecutor’s office in October 2016, Garrido and his son are sought by the police in relation to the murder, but are at large. Their family told local and national media the men are innocent.
According to the two reporters with whom CPJ spoke, Cabrera and Pedro Garrido were allegedly involved in a dispute that started after Cabrera founded his own newspaper that competed with La Voz de la Sierra. Both sources said that the dispute had become bitter and that it could have led to violence.
CPJ tried to reach Pedro Garrido and La Voz de la Sierra via telephone on September 15, 2016, but its calls went unanswered. In an article published on the magazine’s Facebook page on September 18, Garrido denied any involvement in Cabrera’s death, and said he had no rivalry or conflict with Cabrera. He offered his condolences to the journalist’s family, and called on authorities to thoroughly investigate the murder.
Cabrera’s two colleagues told CPJ said they were unaware of him having received threats in the lead up to the attack. In March 2015, he reported having been beaten and threatened by family members of a man accused of kidnapping. The incident was confirmed to CPJ by one of Cabrera’s colleagues.
In the most recent editions of El Gráfico de la Sierra before Cabrera’s death, the journalist reported on several murders in the region, which is located near the city of Poza Rica, in the neighboring state of Veracruz. Reporters in Puebla state interviewed by CPJ said there has been a surge in violent crime in the area, similar to Poza Rica, which they say is due to a turf war between organized crime groups.
“He was a conscientious reporter, whom I never knew to have had any problems with local politics or public officials,” Carlos Barragán, a member of Mexico’s federal Chamber of Deputies for the Huauchinango district and two-time former mayor of Xicotepec, told CPJ. “I always had a good relationship with him, and I can’t say I have ever heard of that being any different with other officials.”
The special federal prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression is collaborating on the case along with the state prosecutor’s office, according to news reports.