In the morning of November 9, 2020, in the central Mexican city of Salamanca, gunmen shot and killed Israel Vázquez Rangel, a reporter for the El Salmantino news website, while he was reporting from a crime scene, according to news reports and El Salmantino editor Victor Ortega, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
Vázquez was investigating reports of human remains left in a plastic bag, and arrived at the scene of that incident before any police officers; as he prepared to air a Facebook Live stream for El Salamantino, armed individuals in a vehicle approached the journalist and shot him at least five times, according to Ortega and those reports.
He was driven to a nearby hospital and underwent surgery, but died at approximately 1 p.m., those news reports said. The Guanajuato state prosecutor’s office said in a statement that it had assigned a “special team” to investigate the killing.
Vázquez, 33, had been a reporter at El Salmantino for about three years, Ortega told CPJ. He said that Vázquez mostly covered crime and security in the city but had not reported receiving any threats. Ortega added that the outlet as a whole had not received any threats.
An official with the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of the Interior Secretariat and provides journalists with protection programs, told CPJ that the mechanism had not been aware of any threats to Vázquez or El Salmantino.
“It’s not clear whether the attack was directed against Israel because of his specifically being a journalist,” Ortega said. “It’s more likely that the men who shot him simply saw him approach the body and attacked him because of that.”
Vázquez most recently covered sports and security issues, according to El Salmantino’s website. On November 2 he wrote a piece about bodies in plastic bags found throughout Salamanca, allegedly planted by organized crime groups, and on November 6 he uploaded a video about recent murders in the city.
Verónica Espinosa, a journalist at the local news magazine Proceso who knew Vázquez well told CPJ that he “was very concerned about the situation in the state, very aware of the dangers.”
On November 15, 2020, the Guanajuato state prosecutor’s office released a statement announcing that two suspects had been apprehended in the investigation into Vázquez’s killing.
Two men identified as Martín N. and José N. approached and shot Vázquez in a “premeditated” killing, according to the statement, which said that the men were accused of “planning the murder against a journalist exercising his work.”
On December 14, 2021, Martín N., then identified as Eduardo López, was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a judge in Guanajuato, according to news reports. The reports, citing comments by the Guanajuato state prosecutor’s office, added that the judge had made clear that the killing was in direct relation to Vázquez’s work, as “it was abundantly clear that the homicide was committed with the objective to limit his freedom of expression.”
On September 13, 2023, a federal judge in Guanajuato sentenced José ‘N’ to 27-and-a-half years in prison for his role in the murder, according to news reports. According to the reports, the judge said that Vázquez’s journalistic work was not considered to be a motive for the killing. The office of the Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE), an agency of the federal attorney general’s office (FGR), had requested a 35-year sentence on the grounds that Vázquez was killed in connection with his work. The prosecutor’s office said it would appeal against the shorter sentence.
CPJ repeatedly called the state prosecutor’s office and the Guanajuato police for comment but did not receive any responses.