Carlos Domínguez Rodríguez

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Unknown assailants on January 13 killed veteran journalist Carlos Domínguez Rodríguez while he was driving through the city of Nuevo Laredo in Mexico’s Tamaulipas state near the Texas border, according to news reports.

As Domínguez Rodríguez, 77, stopped at a traffic light around 3 p.m., at least two unidentified men approached his vehicle, opened the driver’s door, and stabbed him 21 times with at least one knife, according to the state’s attorney general, Irving Barrios, who spoke to the Mexico City broadcaster Radio Fórmula on January 15, 2018.

Barrios said that at least four of Domínguez Rodríguez’s family members were in the car at the time of the attack, and were unharmed, leading the attorney general to believe the attack was targeted at Domínguez Rodríguez. 

Domínguez Rodríguez worked as a columnist for publications including news websites Noreste Digital and Horizonte de Matamoros, and delivered pointed critiques oflocal politicians. The journalist also covered national and local politics as a freelancer and was previously a staff reporter for the newspaper El Diario de Nuevo Laredo.

Barrios told CPJ in a January 14, 2018, telephone conversation that his office is following several lines of investigation, including the victim’s work as a journalist. State authorities were unaware, however, of any threats against the journalist’s life, according to Barrios and another person familiar with the matter who CPJ chose not to name for safety reasons.

Ricardo Sánchez Pérez del Pozo, the federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE), told CPJ on January 14, 2018, that special prosecutor employees were in Tamaulipas to assist with the investigation.

In a press conference on March 28, 2018, Tamaulipas state attorney general Irving Barrios said that state authorities had arrested six suspects: David ‘N’ and Adrián ‘N’, who allegedly blocked Domínguez’s vehicle, forced him out of the car and stabbed him; and Gabriel ‘N’, Luis Ignacio ‘N’, Juan Jesús ‘N,’ and Rodolfo Jorge ‘N,’ who were allegedly involved in planning the attack. The letter ‘N’ is commonly used in Mexico to safeguard a suspect’s anonymity.

News reports identified Rolfo Jorge ‘N’ that same day as Rodolfo Jorge Alfredo Cantú García, the nephew of former Nuevo Laredo mayor, Carlos Cantú Rosas Villareal. Domínguez was repeatedly critical of the former mayor, whom he accused in several columns of corruption. In the week before his murder, Domínguez mocked the former mayor’s perceived political isolation.

CPJ was unable to obtain the contact information for Carlos Cantú Rosas Villareal to ask for comment.

Three of the suspects, Gabriel ‘N’, Luis ‘N’ and Juan Jesús ‘N’, were identified by local and national media as the journalists Gabriel Garza Flores, Luis Ignacio Valtierra Hernández and Juan Jesús González Zúñiga.

CPJ was unable to obtain contact details for the lawyers representing those arrested to confirm their identity and whether they deny the charges.

In an interview with the radio show of Mexico City journalist Ciro Gómez Leyva, Carlos Domínguez’s son, also named Carlos Domínguez, accused the three of having “betrayed my father.” The journalist’s son added, “These people tricked him to take him to the place where he was murdered, he was a journalist.”

In the same March 28 press conference, Barrios told the media that investigators concluded that his death was related to his work as a reporter, but that organized crime had not been involved in the murder. As of August 29, 2018 the investigation was ongoing.