Elidio Ramos Zárate, a reporter for regional daily newspaper El Sur, was shot in the head by two unknown assailants driving a motorcycle on June 19, 2016, according to media reports. Authorities found Ramos Zárate’s body at a street crossing near a local restaurant at approximately 4:00 p.m. with a fatal gunshot wound in the neck.
A 9-millimeter bullet case was found on the scene, which was located about a quarter of a mile (500 meters) from where local teachers unions were protesting, according to the editor of El Sur, Luciano Pacheco. Ramos Zárate was found with Raúl Cano López, the brother of the owner of Punto Crítico, another regional newspaper. Cano López was also killed in the attack, though it remains unclear whether he was targeted.
The attack happened shortly after Ramos Zárate had finished reporting on several blockades and buses set on fire by protesters in the city of Juchitán. The teachers’ union at the time had set up a series of blockades and protest marches across Oaxaca and other states to oppose changes to educational policy. In some places police forcibly dispersed the protesters.
The day before the killing, masked men at the protest had threatened Ramos Zárate and other reporters, Pacheco told CPJ. A spokesperson for El Sur told the Mexican news website Animal Politico that the men threatened the reporters not to document acts of violence.
Ramos Zárate, 45, was a crime reporter for El Sur and, according to Pacheco, had not previously been threatened for his work. “He had not received death threats in the normal line of duty. This was something, we believe, that happened in the moment,” Pacheco told CPJ.
Pacheco said reporters of El Sur and other media regularly suffer harassment and violence during protest marches and other kinds of demonstrations.
“During these marches they’re regularly being pushed and shoved around, harassed, cursed at, threatened… their equipment is taken,” he told CPJ. “As a journalist, in this area and in these situations, you are extra exposed. We’re not safe from anyone. Sometimes it’s the protesters, other times the police, other times criminals, like now.”
Confrontations between protesters and security forces are a common occurrence in Oaxaca, an ethnically and culturally diverse state with a large indigenous population, widespread poverty, and myriad social conflicts, according to press reports. The Tehuantepec Isthmus, a region of tropical lowlands in the Oaxacan southeast where Juchitán is located, is often the stage for such clashes.