Silence or Death in Mexico’s Press

Appendix II: Journalists Missing

CPJ research shows the following journalists have gone missing in relation to their work during the tenure of President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, who took office on December 1, 2006.

Gamaliel López Candanosa
Gerardo Paredes Pérez
TV Azteca Noreste
May 10, 2007, in Monterrey

Reporter López and camera operator Paredes vanished after covering the birth of conjoined twins at a hospital in the northern city of Monterrey. They were last heard from about 4 p.m., when they checked in with their station, a regional affiliate of the national TV Azteca, according to Mexican press reports.

Their Chevrolet compact, bearing the TV Azteca logo, also disappeared, according to press reports and CPJ interviews. Neither journalist had reported any prior threats, according to the state prosecutor’s office in Nuevo León.

Soon after the disappearance, then-state prosecutor Luis Carlos Treviño Berchelman told local reporters that López had ties to the Zetas criminal group, an assertion that TV Azteca denied. At the time of the disappearances, cartel-related violence was escalating in Monterrey, with groups such as the Zetas engaging in public violence.

María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe
El Diario de Zamora and Cambio de Michoacán
November 11, 2009, in Zamora

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.

Miguel Angel Domínguez Zamora
El Mañana
Pedro Argüello
El Mañana and La Tarde
David Silva
El Mañana and La Tarde
March 2010, in Reynosa

Domínguez, Argüello, and Silva, three reporters with El Mañana newspaper group in the Mexican city of Reynosa, near the Texas border, went missing during a wave of drug violence in the border city that endangered the local media, according to press reports and CPJ interviews.

Only one of the reported disappearances was confirmed by authorities. On March 9, the Tamaulipas state prosecutor’s office said Miguel Angel Domínguez Zamora, a reporter for the daily El Mañana, had been missing since March 1. A Domínguez family member had filed a formal complaint with the Tamaulipas prosecutor’s office. Silva and Argüello, who worked for El Mañana and the evening newspaper La Tarde, also went missing in early March, according to two CPJ sources.

Coming amid a series of violent confrontations between the Zetas and the Gulf cartel, the abductions sowed even greater fear in the local press corps, which was already practicing widespread self-censorship. Colleagues said the missing journalists could have done something to anger either the Gulf cartel or the Zetas or somehow gotten caught in the warfare between the groups. Authorities provided very little information on the seizures.

Ramón Ángeles Zalpa
Cambio de Michoacán
April 6, 2010, in Paracho

Ángeles, a part-time correspondent for the newspaper Cambio de Michoacán, was last seen leaving home to go to the National University of Pedagogy, where he worked as a professor, his son, Rommell David Ángeles Méndez, told CPJ.

Juan Ignacio Salazar, chief of correspondents for the Morelia-based Cambio de Michoacán, told CPJ that Ángeles was a general assignment reporter who did not routinely cover sensitive stories. In March 2010, however, Ángeles covered an armed attack on a local indigenous family, Salazar said. The journalist did not report receiving any threats, he said.

Ángeles’ son told CPJ that the journalist received an anonymous phone call two days before he vanished, but he said that his father did not disclose details of the call. “We don’t know what happened,” Ángeles’ son said. “My father never mentioned having any enemies or fear. He just vanished.” Federal and state investigators said a missing-person investigation was ongoing. No leads have been disclosed.

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