Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Jiménez was abducted on February 5 and his body was found buried along with two other people in the municipality of Las Choapas in Veracruz state on February 11, according to news reports.

Armed men had intercepted Jiménez at his home in the town of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, after the journalist had dropped his children off at school, news reports said. Jiménez covered crime and security for the newspapers Notisur and Liberal del Sur and had reported on local abductions and violence toward migrants, according to local journalists. The journalist sometimes used the pseudonym “The Panther” for security reasons, according to news reports.

Days after finding Jiménez’s body, authorities said one of the bodies found buried with him belonged to an abducted union leader whose disappearance the journalist had covered, according to news reports.

Veracruz authorities announced they had five suspects in custody and were searching for others. One of the detainees, José Luis Márquez Hernández, who went by the name “El Pony,” allegedly confessed to being the leader of the group that tortured and killed the journalist, according to reports. Authorities also identified one of the detainees as Teresa de Jesús Hernández Cruz, the owner of a local bar and a neighbor of Jiménez, who they said had ordered the crime for 20,000 pesos (US$1,500) because of a personal dispute, according to news reports.

The Veracruz state chief of staff, Erick Lagos, initially told the daily Milenio that the murder was a matter of personal revenge and had no link to Jiménez’s journalism. Local journalists told CPJ that they were disturbed by how quickly local authorities had moved to rule out any journalism-related motive in the case. State spokeswoman Gina Domínguez then backtracked and told reporters that authorities had not ruled out any motive and that they were investigating, but that they were principally looking into the theory of a personal dispute.

Sandra Segura, a journalist with the local daily Notiver, along with another journalist who asked to remain anonymous, cast doubt on the official version of the crime. Segura told CPJ that as part of his recent investigation into violence against migrants, Jiménez had written an article about the kidnapping of two migrants at a local bar. News reports conflicted as to whether the bar mentioned in the story was the same one owned by Hernández Cruz.

Cristina Hernández, the journalist’s wife, told Milenio that she believed the bar owner had ordered the murder in retaliation for an article Jiménez had published about a stabbing that occurred near her bar and because of a personal dispute between their daughters. The journalist’s daughters later testified that the bar owner had threatened their father because of the article about the stabbing, according to news reports.

The journalist’s daughters said Hernández and her bar had ties to the larger activities of the feared organized crime group Los Zetas, according to reports citing family statements. Segura also questioned the plausibility of Hernández having hired so many people to participate in the crime and the relatively small amount of money allegedly involved.

On February 13, several of the detainees, who were denied bail, said in a hearing that they had previously confessed to the crime under torture by law enforcement officials, according to news reports.

Two days later, the state Attorney General Felipe Amadeo Flores Espinosa said that several international and local human rights and journalist groups, including CPJ, would be granted access to the files in the investigation, which he emphasized was ongoing and would include the journalist’s work as a possible motive.

On the weekend of February 15, a group of journalists and representatives from local and international free press organizations, calling itself the “Observation Mission,” traveled to Veracruz, spoke with local authorities, and requested that the federal special prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression take jurisdiction for the case.

Days after the mission, in the face of sustained criticism, both Flores and Domínguez resigned from their positions, although officials denied it was related to Jiménez’s murder. CPJ was told by the incoming Attorney General’s office that it would still have access to the files on the murder.

Veracruz is one of the most dangerous states in Mexico for the press, according to CPJ research. Since 2011, at least two journalists have been killed in Veracruz in relation to their work, according to CPJ research. CPJ is investigating the deaths of at least six others in unclear circumstances. At least three journalists have disappeared in the state in the same time period. In 2013, CPJ documented serious irregularities in the case against a man convicted in the 2012 murder of Proceso magazine’s Veracruz correspondent, Regina Martínez Pérez.