Ricardo Monlui Cabrera was shot to death on the morning of March 19, 2017, in the municipality of Yanga, in the eastern state of Veracruz, as he left a restaurant where he had eaten with his wife and son. He was 57.
Monlui, a resident of the city of Córdoba, was the editorial director of El Político newspaper and the author of "Crisol," a column that regularly appeared in the newspapers El Sol de Córdoba and Diario de Xalapa. He was also the president of Córdoba’s local journalists’ association and a spokesperson for the National Union of Sugar Cane Producers. He had been a journalist for more than 30 years.
According to news reports, Monlui left a restaurant in Yanga with his wife and son at approximately 10 a.m. on March 19 when unknown assailants riding a motorcycle fired at him three times, killing him on the spot. Jorge Morales, executive director of the Veracruz State Commission for the Care and Protection of Journalists (CEAPP), told CPJ that the victim was instantly killed by a bullet wound to the head. He also said that Monlui’s wife and son were unharmed and that they were returned to their home in Córdoba under police protection.
The office of the Veracruz state attorney general released a short statement on Facebook on the day of the killing, in which it confirmed that police were investigating the murder and that no motive, including Monlui’s work as a journalist, had been discarded.
CPJ was unable to reach Veracruz state attorney general Jorge Winckler for further information. Jaime Cisneros, the state special prosecutor in charge of handling crimes against journalists, told CPJ in a telephone conversation that he was unable to give further details, citing the ongoing investigation. He did, however, confirm that Monlui’s wife and son have been provided with police protection at their home.
On September 20, 2017, Veracruz state authorities announced that they had arrested a male suspect in the murder case. The individual, identified as Ángel alias “La Paloma” (The Pigeon), may have been active as a hitman for local criminal groups, and was the main suspect in several other murder cases as well, according to the statement. Authorities did not provide further information on the suspects’ identities or motive.
On September 28, 2017, the CEAPP confirmed to CPJ that Ángel will face trial for the murder of Monlui Cabrera and will remain in pre-trial detention. A trial date has not been set, according to CEAPP.
In his most recent columns and other articles, Monlui mostly wrote about regional politics and the sugar cane industry, one of the largest economic engines of the region surrounding Córdoba. Violence related to the sugar cane industry is common in the Córdoba region. According to Vicente Osorio, a journalist for El Sol de Córdoba and a friend of the victim, the economic interests in the industry sometimes lead to violent clashes between farmers and trade unions. On February 24, the leader of a local sugar cane farmers group was killed in a riot in Córdoba, according to news reports.
Monliu’s work as a spokesman for the National Union of Sugar Cane Producers and his journalism deeply embedded him in the industry, journalists in the region told CPJ.