Unknown assailants shot dead Leobardo Vázquez Atzin on the evening of March 21, 2018, in a restaurant that he owned in Gutiérrez Zamora, a town approximately 200 miles east of Mexico City, according to news reports and Veracruz state authorities.
In February of that year, the reporter had started to write about regional crime, corruption, and general news exclusively on his Facebook page, “Enlace Informativo Regional,” according to the page and news reports.
Though Vázquez did not sign his name to his articles, it was widely known that he ran the page, according to journalists in Veracruz whom CPJ has not named for safety reasons.
Several of Vázquez's posts on Enlace Informativo Regional in the months before his death were critical of Juan Ángel Espejo, the mayor of Tecolutla, a town neighboring Gutiérrez Zamora.
In a Facebook post on March 9, Vázquez said he received threats and bribe offers to stop writing about the mayor, but did not specify whom he believed was behind the threats.
CPJ's repeated phone calls to the Tecolutla mayor's office for comment in March 2018 went unanswered.
Prior to starting Enlace Informativo Regional, Vázquez worked as a reporter for the local newspapers Vanguardia and La Opinión de Poza Rica and primarily covered social events and occasionally crime, according to news reports and information provided to CPJ by the Veracruz State Commission for Attention and Protection to Journalists (CEAPP).
On March 22, Jaime Cisneros, the Veracruz state special prosecutor handling attacks against journalists, confirmed to CPJ in a WhatsApp message that prosecutors were investigating Vázquez's murder and considering his work as a journalist as a possible motive.
CEAPP’s president, Ana Laura Pérez, told CPJ on March 21, 2018 that the commission learned of threats made against Vázquez shortly after his murder. Pérez said that CEAPP was still investigating the journalist's death and therefore could not provide more information about the alleged threats.
A Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists spokesperson, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons, told CPJ on March 21 that Vázquez had not contacted the mechanism to report being threatened.
On September 20, 2018, local media in Veracruz reported that four male suspects had been arrested in Gutiérrez Zamora. According to the news reports, the suspects had been linked to a series of violent crimes in the region and are also implicated in the murder of Leobardo Vázquez, although the reports provided no further information. Repeated attempts by CPJ to reach Veracruz state attorney general Jorge Winckler for comment by telephone between September and December 2018 were unsuccessful. CEAPP president Ana Laura Pérez told CPJ on December 5, 2018, in a text message that no new information on the arrests had been released by the authorities.