International PEN protests the murder of José Alberto Velázquez López, editor of Expresiones de Tulum, who was shot dead in Cancún, Quintana Roo state, on December 22, 2009. The newspaper had been subjected to attacks that included death threats in the previous few months, and it is thought that Velázquez’s murder may have been connected to his criticism of local authorities. He was the seventh print journalist to be killed in Mexico in 2009 and the 27th since 2004. PEN calls on the federal and state authorities to investigate this latest killing, along with all other unsolved journalist murders, as a matter of the utmost urgency, and to bring the culprits to justice. It also calls for the implementation of effective journalist protection programs.

Background Information

José Alberto Velázquez López, editor and owner of the daily newspaper Expresiones de Tulum, based in Tulum, Quintana Roo state, and a contributor to a local television station, was shot dead in Cancún on December 22, 2009. Velázquez was driving home after a Christmas party for the newspaper staff when he was followed by two men on a motorbike who shot him in the chest, leaving him with serious wounds. He was taken to a hospital but died late that night.

The newspaper staff had reportedly received several anonymous telephone death threats in the previous few months and its printing press was also firebombed in November 2009. Velázquez, who was also a lawyer, had reportedly written a number of articles accusing the mayor of Tulum of corruption, poor administration and a lack of regard for the public, but had stopped reporting on local politics after receiving the death threats, which allegedly included a threatening phone call from the mayor. The mayor and Velázquez had reportedly been enemies since April 2009, the month the newspaper was set up and the mayor came into office.

State prosecutors in Quintana Roo have opened an inquiry into the murder. They are reportedly looking at two possible motives: Velázquez’s work as a lawyer or that it was a crime of passion. However, his colleagues at Expresiones de Tulum have reportedly dismissed these leads, suggesting that the murder is instead likely to have been related to the editor’s criticism of the mayor. Police investigations into the November 2009 firebombing of the newspaper premises have yet to yield any results.

Velázquez reportedly leaves behind a heavily pregnant wife and a five-year-old son.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. From January 2004 to December 2009, a total of 27 writers—26 print journalists and one author—were murdered, seven of them in 2009 alone. Five more print journalists have disappeared in the same period. Few if any of these crimes have been properly investigated or punished. International PEN believes that it is likely that these journalists were targeted in retaliation for their critical reporting, particularly on drug trafficking. While organized crime groups are responsible for many attacks, state agents, especially government officials and the police, are reportedly the main perpetrators of violence against journalists, and complicit in its continuance.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the murder of newspaper editor and lawyer José Alberto Velázquez López, in Cancun, Quintana Roo state, on December 22, 2009;
  • Calling for a full, prompt and impartial investigation into Velázquez’s death and all other unsolved murders of journalists in Mexico; 
  • Making it clear that given Velázquez’s critical reporting on local authorities, it is essential that federal authorities cooperate with their counterparts in Quintana Roo state to ensure that the investigation into his murder is properly carried out;
  • Calling on the government of President Felipe Calderón to fulfill promises to make crimes against journalists a federal offense, specifically by amending the constitution so that federal authorities have the power to investigate, prosecute and punish such crimes;
  • Calling on the federal authorities to set up protection programs for journalist to ensure their safety.

Send Your Letter To

Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850, DISTRITO FEDERAL, México
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376
Email: felipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mx

Lic. Arturo Chávez Chávez
Procurador General de la República
Av. Paseo de Reforma No. 211-213, Piso 16
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Defegacion Cuauhtémoc
México D.F. C.P. 06500
Tel: + 52 55 5346 0108
Fax: + 52 55 53 46 0908
E-mail: ofproc@pgr.gob.mx

Please also send copies of your appeals to the diplomatic representative for Mexico in your country if possible.
 
Please send appeals immediately. Contact PEN if sending appeals after March 5, 2010: ftw [at] pen.org