Jorge Celestino Ruiz Vázquez, a reporter for the newspaper El Gráfico, was shot dead on August 2, 2019, in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz. Attackers shot the reporter in a convenience store that he owned in La Bocanita, a small town in Actopán, at approximately 9:15 p.m, according to police statements given to the Mexico City paper El Universal and other news reports.
In an August 3 statement published on Facebook, the Veracruz state attorney general’s office said it was investigating the shooting. “The necessary actions will be taken to guarantee that there will not be impunity,” the state attorney general, Jorge Winckler, said.
Ruiz was a correspondent for El Gráfico, one of the state’s oldest newspapers, based in the state capital Xalapa. According to Proceso, a Mexico City-based newsmagazine, the reporter covered general news, including local politics, crime, and violence.
News reports and the statement by the state attorney general’s office said that Ruiz had received threats on several occasions over his reporting, although none of the reports specified the nature of the threats or to which stories they related.
News website La Silla Rota, citing the case file that Veracruz state authorities opened into the killing, reported that Actopán Mayor Paulino Domínguez and several other municipal officials had allegedly threatened Ruiz. Domínguez allegedly tried to bribe the journalist to prevent him from publishing critical articles about the municipal government.
La Silla Rota reported that Ruiz was attacked on two occasions in 2018. On October 14, assailants used clubs to damage the reporter’s vehicle and on November 17, attackers shot at Ruiz’s car and residence. According to the article, Ruiz had reported both crimes to local authorities.
The Veracruz state attorney general’s office said in its Facebook statement that its office had provided the reporter with protective measures and that authorities are investigating why the measures were not fully implemented.
CPJ repeatedly called the attorney general’s office for comment but no one answered.
On November 8, 2019, state authorities in Veracruz arrested a man in Actopán identified as Facundo N. The suspect was later identified as the father of Florencio Barradas, the personal bodyguard of Domínguez, then the mayor of Actopán.
Law enforcement sources cited in local news reports alleged that Facundo N. carried out the killing at the order of Domínguez, who allegedly threatened Ruiz and attempted to “buy his silence” with 10,000 pesos (US$500). The reports did not specify the exact reasons behind the threats and attempted bribery. Florencio Barradas was also implicated in the killing, according to that report.
Facundo N. was sentenced to 32 years in prison for his role in the killing on May 5, 2022.
Domínguez and Barradas fled while under investigation and their whereabouts were unknown as of August 2023.