The body of Julio Valdivia, a reporter for the Córdoba-based El Mundo newspaper, was found in the afternoon of September 9, 2020, in the municipality of Tezonapa, in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz, according to news reports.
Valdivia’s body, which had been beheaded, was found near train tracks in the town of Motzorongo at about 2:30 p.m., according to one of the journalist’s colleagues who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized by the newspaper to speak on the matter.
On September 9, Valdivia told the colleague who spoke with CPJ that he was leaving his residence on a motorcycle provided to him by the newspaper to report on a story in Tezonapa, but did not specify the subject of the story.
Valdivia, 41, joined El Mundo in 2014 and was the regional correspondent for the newspaper in Tezonapa, covering a broad range of issues, his colleague said, adding that Valdivia’s most recent reporting was heavily focused on crime and security.
“The border region between Veracruz and Oaxaca is a very complicated place to report on,” the colleague told CPJ. “There are gangs involved in drug trafficking and oil theft and a lot of people have been killed there recently.”
Tezonapa has seen a significant spike in deadly violence in 2020, mostly related to clashes between criminal gangs, which have resulted in the deaths of several local sugar cane farmers, according to news reports.
El Mundo does not include bylines for stories that could risk the correspondent’s safety, Valdivia’s colleague said. The colleague referred CPJ to recent stories about Tezonapa, including articles about police raids in bars and the disappearance of a young man, which he said were likely written by Valdivia.
On September 8, El Mundo’s Facebook page posted a report with video images credited to Valdivia about a shootout in Cosolapa, a town near Tezonapa in Veracruz’s neighboring state of Oaxaca.
Investigators of the state prosecutor’s office told Animal Político, a Mexico City news website, that they had ruled out an accident. CPJ called the prosecutor’s office several times, but no one answered. During a September 10 press conference in Mexico City, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador urged authorities to thoroughly investigate the case and find those responsible, according to news reports.
The news reports on Valdivia’s killing said the reporter had received death threats recently but did not provide more details. Valdivia’s colleague told CPJ that other staffers at the paper told him that Valdivia had received threats, but said he was unaware of the details.
Several telephone calls by CPJ to reach the editors of El Mundo for comment went unanswered.
In a statement sent to CPJ via WhatsApp message on September 9, 2020, the State Commission for Attention to and Protection of Journalists (CEAPP), an autonomous Veracruz government agency, said that it had not been made aware of any threats against Valdivia’s life. The Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of the federal Interior Secretariat in Mexico City, condemned the killing in a statement released on September 9, adding that Valdivia was not enrolled in a federal protection program for reporters.