Francisco Arratia Saldierna

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Arratia, 55, a columnist with four regional newspapers throughout the state of Tamaulipas, died of a heart attack after being brutally beaten in the city of Matamoros, near the U.S. border.

Arratia wrote a column called “Portavoz” (Spokesman) that appeared in El Imparcial and El Regional in Matamoros, and Mercurio and El Cinco in Ciudad Victoria, the state capital. It also appeared in the Internet publication “En Línea Directa.” In his column, Arratia wrote frequently about political corruption, organized crime, and education. He was also a high school teacher and ran a used car business in this border region near Texas.

According to Mexican news reports, Arratia had an argument with a group of individuals who came to his business in a red vehicle around 1:30 p.m. On his way home, a half hour later, Arratia was intercepted and kidnapped by the group, the Mexico City-based daily El Universal reported.

Around 3 p.m. Matamoros police received an anonymous call saying a severely beaten man was outside the offices of the Red Cross. According to local reports, Arratia had been tortured before being dumped from a moving vehicle. The columnist had his fingers broken, his skull fractured, his palms burned, and his chest injured. Arratia was taken to a nearby hospital and died moments later of a heart attack.

On September 24, Tamaulipas police arrested Raúl Castelán Cruz in Matamoros. At the time of his arrest, police said, Castelán was armed with an AR-15 automatic weapon with a telescopic sight, a 9mm pistol, handcuffs, more than 90 cartridges, and three cellular phones, according to state prosecutors. Investigators said that Castelán was caught through the use of Arratia’s cellular phone.

In his statement to state authorities, Castelán confessed to participating in the killing of Arratia, according to Roberto Maldonado Siller, the regional delegate of the Tamaulipas state attorney’s office. Castelán also said the murder was motivated by Arratia’s journalistic work, according to Maldonado Siller.

On September 30, federal authorities office began investigating other aspects of the crime, including drug trafficking and weapons possession. A federal court in the state of Mexico formally charged Castelán with weapons possession on October 12. The suspect, who is being held at Mexico’s top-security La Palma prison west of Mexico City, was formally accused of Arratia’s murder on December 27. An accomplice was at large.