Rodolfo Rincón Taracena

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Rincón, 54, was last seen leaving the newsroom around 8 p.m. He had just finished an investigative article on a criminal gang targeting cash-machine customers in Villahermosa, capital of the southern Gulf coast state of Tabasco.

Rincón was considered a dogged and seasoned crime reporter. The day before he vanished, the newspaper ran a two-page spread in which he described illicit “drugstores,” or narcotiendas, run by traffickers. The story, which named several suspects, was accompanied by a map pinpointing the distribution centers and a photograph showing a family allegedly selling drugs. In his cash-machine story, Rincón specified where the criminals’ safe houses were. “It was his typical exclusive,” Roberto Cuitláhuac, the paper’s crime editor, told CPJ.

Rincón was used to getting threats, according to his longtime partner, Olivia Alaniz Cornelio, but a threat he received a month before his disappearance seemed to unnerve him. At the time, rival crime groups eager to control the state’s strategic drug smuggling routes had begun resorting to beheadings and other forms of horrific violence. 

On March 1, 2010, Silvia Cuéllar, the spokesperson for the Tabasco state attorney general’s office, told a press conference that Rincón had been kidnapped and killed by the Zetas criminal group. Five low-level members allegedly confessed to the crime, with the killer identified as a man who had died in a June 2007 gunfight with Tabasco police. The authorities said the burned remains of a body found in 2007 belonged to Rincón, although DNA tests were inconclusive.

The suspects were charged with homicide and participation in organized criminal activity. They were being detained as of June 2010 pending trial.

Tabasco Hoy journalists told CPJ that they were very skeptical of the investigation, in part because of the inconclusive DNA tests. Members of the Tabasco Hoy staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity for safety reasons, told CPJ that they had received threats in response to their criticism of the probe.

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