Ortiz Franco, co-editor of the Tijuana-based weekly Zeta,
was gunned down by unidentified assailants in the border city of Tijuana,
in Baja California State.
The journalist had just left a physical therapy clinic with his two
children when masked gunmen in a vehicle pulled up to his car and
shot him four times in the head and neck. Ortiz Franco died at the
scene. His children were unharmed.
Later that day, Mexican President Vicente Fox telephoned J.
Jesús Blancornelas, Zeta‘s publisher and editor, to
promise federal support for the investigation. The week after the
murder, Zeta published an investigative article naming several
possible suspects, including gunmen linked to the powerful Arellano
Félix drug cartel.
One of the founders of Zeta in 1980, Ortiz Franco wrote editorials
and worked on many investigative reports. He also served on a panel
created by the Mexican government and the Inter American Press Association
to review official investigations into the murders of Héctor
Félix Miranda, Zeta’s co-founder, and Víctor
Manuel Oropeza, a columnist with the Diario de Juárez
The Baja California State Attorney’s office initially headed the investigation,
but federal authorities assumed control in August. Federal prosecutor
José Luis Vasconcelos said several men under arrest for separate
crimes had identified the killers and connected the murder to the
Tijuana drug cartel controlled by the Arellano Félix family.
The connection to drug trafficking, a federal offense in Mexico, opened
the door for federal investigators to take over.
Ortiz Franco seldom wrote about drug trafficking during his long tenure
at Zeta, but he began to develop new sources in the months
before he was killed. Investigators believe that Ortiz Franco was
killed because of his work as a journalist and are considering stories
he wrote about the Arellano Félix cartel as the probable motive.
Zeta has covered corruption and drug trafficking in Tijuana
for many years, with its award-winning reports prompting threats and
attacks against its journalists.
In November 1997, members of the Arellano Félix drug cartel
wounded Blancornelas, and killed his friend and bodyguard, Luis Valero
Elizalde. In April 1988, Miranda was fatally shot by two men working
as security guards at a racetrack owned by Jorge Hank Rhon, an influential
businessman who was elected mayor of Tijuana in August.