María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Aguilar, 32, a veteran reporter and mother of two, was last seen leaving her home in Zamora, in the central state of Michoacán, after receiving a cell phone call, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. State and federal authorities have not disclosed any leads or suspects in the case.

Aguilar reported for regional news outlets, including the Zamora-based daily El Diario de Zamora and the regional daily Cambio de Michoacán. While her coverage varied, she tended to focus on organized crime and local corruption. In the weeks before she vanished, Aguilar’s reporting highlighted police abuse allegations, the military’s anti-cartel efforts, and the arrest in Zamora of at least three individuals, including a politician’s son, on suspicion of collusion with organized crime groups. On October 27, her story on local police abuse was followed by the resignation of a high-ranking official. Soon after that piece ran, she reported on the arrest of a reputed local leader of the cartel La Familia Michoacana.

Aware of possible reprisals, Aguilar did not include her byline on many risky stories, colleagues told CPJ. She did not mention receiving threats before her disappearance, they said.

Her husband, David Silva, told CPJ that the influence of the cartels in Zamora was so strong he did not have faith in police to determine what happened. “With most of the police here you don’t know who you’re talking to—a detective or a representative of organized crime,” he said.