Unknown assailants shot and killed crime reporter Rodríguez on April 14, 2017, in the northern Mexican city of La Paz, according to his employer.
Rodríguez, 73, reported on crime and the police on Colectivo Pericú, a blog that covers current events in the northern Mexican state of Baja California Sur and that allows readers to denounce crime, corruption, and other grievances. He wrote a regular column for the website Es Mi Opinión (It’s My Opinion), in which he commented on crime, politics, corruption, and other topics.
An initial report from Colectivo Pericú said that Rodríguez was attacked at around noon just after he and his wife entered their vehicle in a parking lot. An unknown number of attackers opened fire at the victim at close range from within a white SUV, the website reported, adding that the weapons used were "apparently high-powered," a term commonly used in Mexico for assault rifles. Rodríguez was killed instantly. His wife was not harmed.
In a statement published on its website on April 16, 2017, the Baja California Sur state prosecutor’s office (PGJ) said it had identified one of the weapons in the Rodríguez murder as having been used in an April 5, 2017 shooting of a police officer in La Paz. Several attempts by CPJ to reach the PGJ by telephone for further comment in mid-April 2017 were unsuccessful.
On June 1, 2017, Baja California Sur state authorities told Mexican media that three suspects, identified only as Juan, José, and Sergio had been arrested in connection to the Rodríguez case. According to the statement, the suspects had possible links to other violent crimes in the region. Authorities did not provide further information on the suspects’ identities, their alleged possible links to organized crime or motive.
According to the same statement, state authorities are collaborating with the federal Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE), which investigates attacks on journalists, by request of Governor Carlos Mendoza Davis. Nahum Pedro Zárate, the deputy general director of FEADLE, confirmed to CPJ on April 17, 2017, that federal authorities are considering the victim’s work as a journalist as a possible motive.
In his April 11 column, Rodríguez commented on police officers’ operations against a local criminal gang in La Paz. In the article, he was dismissive of the gang and its alleged leader, whom he accused of using violence to spread panic among the city’s population.
The article provoked an angry reaction from a commenter using a pseudonym, in which the commenter threatened to kill Rodríguez and accused the journalist of being on the payroll of a rival gang.
Rodríguez had received other threats in the past, he said in a December 6, 2016, interview with the news website Culco, adding that he was not afraid to continue his work.
Rodríguez was a veteran journalist, and fellow journalists from the area spoke highly of him to CPJ. He had worked as a reporter for a number of national and regional media outlets, including as a correspondent covering the civil wars in Honduras and El Salvador in the 1980s, before completing his career of full-time work as a spokesperson for the Baja California Sur state prosecutor’s office and the state Supreme Court. He began working on the crime beat for Colectivo Pericú in November 2014 after his retirement from full-time work.
"I spoke with him almost every day," the website’s co-founder, Cuauthémoc Morgan, told CPJ. "Max covered high-impact crimes in La Paz, and because the state is suffering a wave of violence since the summer of 2014, he published his stories very regularly."
Morgan also said that in November 2016, unknown individuals left a banner with a threat against the website at its office in Los Cabos, south of La Paz. He added that he and others involved with Colectivo Pericú are currently considering requesting safety measures with the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.
On June 1, 2017, Baja California Sur state authorities told Mexican media that three suspects–identified only as Juan, José, and Sergio–had been arrested in connection to the Rodríguez case. According to the statement, the suspects had possible links to other violent crimes in the region and Rodríguez’s critical reporting of organized crime in Baja California was the principal motive for the murder.
A fourth suspect, identified only as Luis, was arrested on June 7, 2017, according to a statement provided to Mexican media by the federal Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE), which investigates attacks on journalists. State authorities announced the arrest of a fifth suspect, identified only as Daniel, on September 26, 2018.
On June 11, 2019, the four suspects Juan, Sergio, Luis, and Jesús were convicted of homicide and sentenced to 18 years in prison for their participation in the murder, according to news reports. They were identified by the Baja California state prosecutor’s office as the triggermen, while suspect Daniel was identified as allegedly having ordered the murder. Daniel, who is also a prime suspect in several other violent crimes, was still awaiting trial for his role in Rodríguez’s murder as of August 2020.