Mar 26, 2017

Mexican journalist was shot eight times

Special Report Part I/: The murder of Miroslava Breach: A voice of the voiceless is gunned down in Mexico

Mexican journalist was shot eight times

Diana Washington Valdez/Correspondent


Investigators search for evidence following the
shooting death of journalist Miroslava Breach in 
Chihuahua City. (Photo by Manuel Aguirre)
Miroslava Breach Velducea was getting ready to drive her son to school on the morning of March 23 when a stranger wielding a handgun approached and fired eight rounds at her vehicle.

The shooter also left a calling card and an ominous warning at the scene of the crime.

Breach died shortly after the attack. The brazen murder of the highly regarded NorteƱa journalist with auburn hair also sent shock waves across Mexico.

Things had started out like another morning that day. Family wakes up, goes through the regular grooming rituals, take in a quick breakfast and head out to meet the demands of school and work. But this day would not turn out that way.

It was shortly after 7 a.m. in Chihuahua City, the state capital. The sun was out, and it was a cloudless day. Breach lived with her children in the Las Granjas middle-class neighborhood.

Breach kept prodding her son, 14-year-old Jorge Luis, to hurry, as she walked out of the house and got into the red Renault Duster SUV which was in the driveway. This was a daily routine for the mother and for the son who had yet to come out of the house.

Breach settled into the driver’s seat and started to back out of the driveway when out of nowhere an armed man wearing a hooded jacket walked up to the SUV and fired a quick succession of rounds.

Authorities said the man with the handgun shot eight times, aiming at different points of the vehicle. He fired at the driver’s window where Breach was seated and at the front and back of the vehicle.

From the house, Breach’s horrified young son, who was unharmed in the attack, witnessed his mother’s savage murder.

The 54-year-old journalist was cornered in every way by a determined assailant. When a killer like this comes for you, there is no way to outrun his bullets.

In a March 25 column for La Jornada newspaper, Olga Alicia Aragon, another Chihuahua journalist wrote about her colleague’s death. “The bullets were many, (there was) a clear intention of sending a message written in blood and smoke.”

Typical of a hired gun, the killer who carried out the bold attack in broad daylight, appeared unconcerned that he might be seen and identified by witnesses. Authorities also deduced that Breach’s killer or killers had studied her routine before picking the day to carry out the hit.

Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral, who knew Breach for many years, vowed that the journalist’s death will be thoroughly investigated. He said he was convinced that the primary line of investigation would focus on her work as journalist and discounted the idea that a single assailant was behind the slaying.

“This was a well-planned murder, which is why I do not believe that the killer acted alone. A professional hit man was involved in this,” Corral told reporters.

It was a miracle that Breach did not die instantly that morning. It’s not hard to imagine that a mother concerned about her son’s safety would try until her last breaths to hang on to life.

Despite efforts to save her, the 54-year-old Breach died in the ambulance on the way to a hospital. Authorities said she suffered multiple head wounds from the close-range fusillade.

Aroused by the commotion, neighbors had stepped out onto the street, and became alarmed at what they saw. In interviews, some of them told police that heard noises that sounded to them like fireworks.

Breach’s relatives called the police. Soon, patrol cars soon swarmed the street, and investigators sealed off the area with red tape to begin the painstaking work of reconstructing the crime.

In matter of minutes, the gusty journalist who had spent a lifetime exposing and writing about government corruption, drug cartels, human rights abuses was silenced forever.

Breach, a native of Chinipas, Chihuahua, worked as a correspondent for La Jornada, a major Mexican daily newspaper, for Diario de Chihuahua and Norte de Ciudad Juarez.

Over the weekend, additional details emerged about the suspected shooter which authorities obtained from closed-circuit video systems and other security cameras in the area.

Officials said the man suspected of killing Breach stood about 5-feet, 7-inches tall and wore a green hooded jacket and a blue baseball cap. In camera images, the suspect appears to be carrying under his left arm a piece of rolled up cardboard, which officials said may be the same one that was used to leave a warning at the scene of the crime.

The message allegedly was signed by “El 80,” which Mexican officials said is an alias for Carlos Arturo Quintana, a regional strongman affiliated with the Carrillo Fuentes drug-trafficking organization. The handwritten message stated that Breach was targeted for being a “tattler” and warned that Governor Corral would be next.

Officials had no evidence yet that Quintana was responsible for the death or the written warning.

In a separate video image, what police said appears to be the suspect's getaway car is an abandoned silver or light grey Malibu sedan.

On Twitter, La Jornada stated that Breach most recently had received various anonymous threats after the daily published a news report titled “Narco displaces hundreds of families from the Chihuahua sierra.”

The La Jornada report alleged that drug-traffickers were violently expropriating the properties of residents in the sierra region, where competing drug groups were engaged in a brutal turf battle.

Breach was a respected journalist


Miroslava Breach/La Jornada


Chris Lopez, former El Paso Times executive editor, was publisher of Norte de Ciudad Juarez when he helped bring Breach on board as the border daily’s editorial director. Lopez, who since returned to Colorado, was shocked to learn the news about Breach’s violent end.

“We brought her in from Chihuahua City to help settle the newsroom after death of the previous editorial director (Alfredo Quijano),” Lopez said.

“It was a temporary arrangement for Miro because she had her family in Chihuahua City and so she commuted. Plus, her heart was in reporting and not as much in running a newsroom. This relationship began in early 2015. I began helping out at Norte in fall of 2014. We spent about 10 months side by side.”

Lopez also said that he and Breach spoke frequently throughout 2015 about politics, the system of Mexico's politics. “She had access to government officials and knew the power they wielded,” he said.

“I found her to be a highly ethical journalist who believed in holding power accountable. That said, she knew the system and its corruption,” Lopez said. “She wanted something better for Mexicans. Her death is a big loss for journalism in Mexico.”

Breach’s coverage included reporting on environmental abuses, the marginalization and mistreatment of the Tarahumara indigenous population, drug corruption and violence, as well as political corruption: a recipe that attracts powerful enemies for most any journalist in Mexico.

Marisela Ortega Lozano, formerly a reporter and translator for the El Paso Times, got to know Breach over the years while covering stories for Norte de Chihuahua, Agence France-Presse and other news outlets.

“She, as the “gabachos” say, took no prisoners when it came to her reporting,” Ortega said. “As editor at Norte de Ciudad Juarez, she was demanding. She was very professional and courageous.”

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta S. Jacobson stated on Twitter “May this and other crimes against journalists not remain in impunity to the detriment of freedom of the press.”
In a land where drug corruption is a fact of life, that may be easier said than done.

Police obtained video of man suspected in fatal shooting
of Mexican journalist Miroslava Breach Velducea.


(End)

Journalist-author Diana Washington Valdez is president of The Digie Zone Network.





Murder of Miroslava Breach: A voice of the voiceless is gunned down

Special Report/Part II: The murder of Miroslava Breach: A voice of the voiceless is gunned down in Mexico

Journalists demand justice

Kent Paterson/Correspondent

Miroslava Breach Velducea became the third journalist murdered in Mexico in March. 

Miroslava Breach Velducea/Facebook
News conference by Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral
regarding the slaying of Mexican journalist Miroslava

 Breach. (Courtesy photo)

Miroslava Breach Velducea became the third journalist murdered in Mexico in March. According to Mexican press accounts, the 54-year-old Chihuahua City mother was gunned down in front of her home Thursday morning, March 23, as she prepared to drive her son to school. Captured by security cameras, a photo of the suspected gunman is circulating in Mexican media.

The Chihuahua correspondent for the national daily La Jornada since 1997 and a contributor to the Ciudad Juarez daily Norte, Breach was a widely respected journalist in Mexico and abroad.

Decrying the killing of a friend, Mexican journalist and author Lydia Cacho, who's suffered grave attacks and threats of her own, posted a video on Aristeguinoticias.com, a popular news site founded by prominent Mexican journalist and CNN host Carmen Aristegui.

"The murder has certainly left us devastated, but it's not going to stop us..," vowed Cacho, fighting back tears. "We are millions and millions of women and men in this country defending the truth, defending what is right and good..."

Mexican news sources report that Breach was threatened before her murder. Bearing the modus operandi of an early morning killing at a family home when the kids were getting ready to leave for school, Breach's murder recalled the 2008 homicide of Diario de Juarez crime beat reporter Armando Rodriguez in Ciudad Juarez.

Both crimes implied prior surveillance of an intended victim and the goal of eliminating not only the targeted individual but traumatizing and terrorizing an entire family-and society-as well. Rodriguez and later Breach were shot multiple times by an assailant wielding a handgun, a favored weapon of professional assassins in Mexico.

Fed up by growing attacks on Mexican journalists, reporters demanding justice occupied the Chihuahua State Congress only hours after Breach's killing. "Ya Basta!", or "Enough is Enough!" proclaimed La Jornada's website. In an unprecedented action, Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral, who once worked as a journalist, declared a three day period of official mourning.

Saying he first met Breach back in the 1990s and considered her a friend, Corral called Breach a "brave woman" who was a must-read in the public sphere. He pledged that the material and intellectual authors of Breach's murder would be apprehended, and invited journalists and others to form a "plural commission" established with the goal of monitoring the police investigations.

"The media is very important because, as the name indicates, it forms, shapes and orients public opinion. But journalists are its most important workers," Corral said in a statement.

Condemnation of Breach's murder swept the globe, with the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, international journalist associations and representatives of the European Union, United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights all deploring the crime. Swiftly, the Mexican federal attorney general's office announced it was probing the Chihuahua City homicide, as did the National Human Rights Commission.

Minutes of silence for La Jornada’s beloved “Miros” were held by both chambers of the Mexican Congress and at a Mexico City meeting which was attended by well-known lawmakers, activists and actors and hosted by former mayor and three-time presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas


At a March 24 memorial for Breach in the state capital of Chihuahua City, where her name was ironically added to a longstanding cross of nails honoring female murder victims, attorney Lucha Castro, founder of the Women's Human Rights Center of Chihuahua City and advisor to Governor Corral, described the veteran reporter as a dedicated professional who gave voice to the voiceless snared in shadowy dramas of land and water conflicts, femicides, forced disappearances, and displacements of entire communities by organized crime.

"She was an emblematic journalist in a profession like Chihuahua's that is regrettably corroded by corruption. She always stood for high ethical values," Castro told La Jornada.

Breach's hard-hitting stories had international impact, and were frequently a source of information for the now suspended New Mexico State University news service Frontera NorteSur (this reporter served as editor of Frontera NorteSur from 2005 to 2016).

Angered by Breach’s murder, hundreds of journalists and supporters held demonstrations March 24-26 in Ciudad Juarez, Acapulco, Zihuatanejo and numerous other Mexican cities, protesting the killing of not only of the Chihuahua journalist but scores of others over the years as well.

“You kill journalists, fascist state!” chanted demonstrators in Mexico City. “It was the state!” rang out another slogan, in echo of the words that guided the mass protests which shook Mexico after the forced disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa college students in 2014.

Press and human rights associations maintain varying numbers of Mexican journalists murdered during the past two decades, with the highest toll in the wake of the Breach killing-123 since 2000-credited to Mexico's official National Human Rights Commission; press reports indicate 20 additional journalists remain disappeared.

In response to the gunning down of Miroslava Breach, dozens of Ciudad Juarez print, radio, television and digital journalists have posted a video on YouTube demanding justice for a colleague and security in their profession.

A Sierra Tarahumara connection?
Miroslava Breach's stories often gave a raw, first-hand look at the troubled Sierra Tarahumara region of Chihuahua, where overlapping dimensions of dope growing, ecological devastation, political corruption, rampant human rights violations and criminal impunity make for a dangerous and deadly place. The region is violently disputed by underworld organizations seeking to control the production of opium poppies for the U.S. heroin market.

Recently, Breach reported extensively on last January's murders of indigenous activists Isidro Baldenegro and Juan Ontiveros in the Sierra Tarahumara.

In 2003 Baldenegro and a colleague, Hermenegildo Rivas, were arrested by Chihuahua state police and accused of illegal possession of drugs and weapons, charges supporters claimed amounted to a frame up concocted for the purpose of undermining environmental activism. The two men were freed in 2004 after an international campaign organized by the Sierra Club and Mexican and international environmental and human rights exposed their case to the world.

The winner of the esteemed Goldman Environmental Prize in 2005 for his struggle against illegal logging, Baldenegro told this reporter at the time that he was optimistic about saving Chihuahua's forests.

A second Sierra Tarahumara connection could be behind the Breach murder. The Chihuahua journalist was killed only five days after a fierce gun battle between rival drug gangs claimed eight or more lives near Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, the gateway to the Sierra Tarahumara.

According to Mexican media reports, a narco-style message purportedly signed by "El 80," one of the alleged protagonists in the Cuauhtemoc violence, was left at the scene of Breach's murder.

Reportedly labeling Breach a "gossip," the note warned that Governor Corral, who took office last October, would be the next victim.

A predecessor of Corral's, current Senator Patricio Martinez, was nearly killed during his term as governor when a woman state police agent shot and seriously wounded him in 2000.

A big question is whether “El 80” is the true signatory of the note, or if its authorship belongs to another party out to create confusion and sow chaos. For La Jornada, other leads in the murder of their prized reporter include Breach’s stories about and investigations of money laundering in the acquisition of high-tech irrigation systems and/or organized crime’s control of municipal governments in the Sierra.

Political ramifications of a journalist’s murder

Expanding on the organized crime angle in the Breach murder, Chihuahua State Prosecutor Cesar Peniche said another line of investigation would examine a possible intent at destabilizing the state government in order to detour pending corruption charges against ex-governor Cesar Duarte (2010-2016), who was elected on the ticket of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s PRI party. Governor Corral is a member of the National Action Party (PAN).

Elected on a reform platform, Corral's administration has been hamstrung during its first months in office by spiraling violence, debts incurred by the Duarte government, and hostility by some quarters of the press. Citizen groups which backed Corral's campaign are growing impatient over dwindling prospects for change and becoming increasingly critical of administration responses to worsening bouts of violence.

The political scene is heating up in the aftermath of the Breach murder. Speaking to business leaders in Toluca last Friday, federal Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, who is considered a possible PRI presidential candidate in 2018, said the Pena Nieto administration would not permit the further “deterioration” of Chihuahua, and had been in conversations with Corral to “enter” Chihuahua for public safety purposes.

Interpreting Osorio Chong’s comments as a slap at the new state government, the Chihuahua state leadership of the PAN took issue in a response published on the Ciudad Juarez web site Lapolaka.com.

Signed by Fernando Alvarez Monje, the statement blamed rising insecurity on “an inheritance from corrupt PRI governments, and this burden of violence and criminality that has been aggravated by the absence of the federal government and its wager on destabilizing the government of Javier Corral…” What’s more, Alvarez accused the federal government of stalling legal investigations into the alleged ring of corruption surrounding former governor Duarte and associates.
An already tense and volatile atmosphere was further heightened Friday afternoon, March 24, when Georgina Tapia, psychologist for the Chihuahua state judicial system, was shot by assailants outside her Chihuahua City home, possibly with the same caliber of pistol used to assassinate Miroslava Breach, according to El Diario de Chihuahua.

In many respects, the current landscape in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua City and other parts of the state resembles the transition from a PRI state government to a PAN administration in the 1990s, when Francisco Barrio (now a backer of Corral) became the first PAN governor in the border entity. Barrio’s administration (1992-98) was marked by narco wars, a wave of feminicides, deepening police corruption, rampant delinquency and, significantly, the repositioning of shadowy personalities in positions of political and economic power.

Open season on the Mexican press?

Besides Miroslava Breach, two other Mexican journalists were murdered this month. On March 2, Cecilio Pineda was slain in a Guerrero murder the state's attorney general pinned on organized crime. On March 19, in a slaying similar to Breach's, Ricardo Monlui Cabrera was gunned down in front of his family in the southern state of Veracruz.

Like Chihuahua and Guerrero, Veracruz is submerged in narco-tainted hyper-violence and gross human rights violations. For instance, the March 19 edition of Proceso magazine featured a story on the narco-graves of Veracruz, where relatives have uncovered the remains of hundreds of previously missing people.

In a separate piece, Proceso detailed other recent attacks on the press, including physical attacks on reporters covering protests in Puebla and Oaxaca; death and rape threats against a woman columnist for the Mexico City-based daily El Universal; the running down of a reporter by a government official in Guanajuato; the police detention and search of a reporter in Coahuila; and the offering of monetary rewards for the killing of any reporter covering the lucrative activities of huachicoleros, or gasoline thieves.

Early March 24, Israel Hernandez, a 26-year-old Veracruz reporter and correspondent for Aristegui Noticias, was wounded by a bullet during a live transmission covering a violent internal union conflict that claimed the lives two people and injured as many as 20 others. The same morning, Guadalajara reporters complained of aggressive behavior and threats by federal police upset by the presence of video cameras during a battle between cops and market vendors.

La Jornada cited a survey of 377 Mexican journalists done between 2013 and 2015 by Mireya Marquez of Mexico City’s Universidad Iberoamericano and the University of Miami’s Sallie Hughes. The study found that 40.4 percent of respondents reported being threatened. Of that number of respondents, three-quarters stated receiving threats more than twice.

According to a list compiled by the International Federation of Journalists, Mexico was the third most deadly country for media workers in 2016, suffering 11 journalists murdered. Only Afghanistan (13) and Iraq (15) topped the Mexican Republic in the grim category.

Outraged by Miroslava Breach's murder, journalists and students from the Autonomous University of Chihuahua have plastered posters across Chihuahua City that quote Mexican writer Francisco Zarco. "The press is not only the strongest arm against tyranny; it's also the most efficient and most active instrument of progress and civilization," the posters read.

(End)

Journalist-author Kent Paterson is an expert on U.S.-Mexico border issues and Mexican politics. He served as editor of Frontera NorteSur from 2005 to 2016.







Mar 20, 2017

The Drug War: Supporters Say Mexico Couple Wrongly Accused


Supporters protest alleged unlawful detentions of 
Luis Quintana and Ilse Elizabeth Ramirez



The Drug War: Supporters say Zihuatanejo couple wrongly accused

Special to the Digie Zone Express
Photos courtesy of Hercilia Castro
By Kent Paterson/Correspondent
ZIHUATANEJO, MEXICO - Imagine being informed by a Facebook news site that your loved one has been arrested as a gangster. 
That's what happened to the families of Luis Angel Quintana and Ilse Elizabeth Ramirez. 
The residents of the Mexican tourist town of Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, were stunned to learn second hand that their relatives had been picked up in a Feb. 12 police-military operation and accused of serious charges related to organized crime. 
Michell Quintana said she first found out about the arrests of her brother Luis Angel, 26, and his girlfriend Ilse Elizabeth, 27, from a cousin who read the news on Facebook the night of Feb. 12 and immediately contacted her.  
"We are still in shock. We can't believe he's been detained. He doesn't know (the other suspects). He's focused on his music, his group," the sister said.
First meeting in high school, Ilse and Luis are respected members of Zihuatanejo society. Luis is the bass player for Expresion Immune, a local rock group popular among both locals and the many foreigners who visit or live in the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo area.
Gaviana described his sister as the first in his family to successfully pursue a professional career and land a job with a bank. For two years, Ilse lived in Playa del Carmen on the Maya Riviera south of Cancun but recently returned to Zihuatanejo, where she moved in with Luis.
"She's worked and studied since she was very young," the older brother said. She's the only one who's achieved a career in our family. She had to leave Zihuatanejo because it was difficult here. She comes back and everything is taken away."
Luis and Ilse were considering marriage when their lives were turned upside down on Feb 12, according to Quintana.
In interviews, Quintana and Ramirez said relatives headed to the local headquarters of the Office of the Federal Attorney General (PGR) the same evening of the arrests but were informed that the detainees had been moved to a prison near Acapulco. Neither Luis Quintana nor Ilse Ramirez had been allowed to make a phone call home prior to the transfer, according to their sister and brother.
Luis and Ilse were living together in a modest apartment in Zihuatanejo when their building was raided the morning of Sunday, February 12, after a patrol of Guerrero state police reportedly spotted a taxi with armed men and pursued the vehicle to the living complex.   In an official statement, the PGR said AR-15, AK-47 and Uzi automatic weapons in addition to bullets and clips were discovered inside the complex. 
According to the federal agency, nine people, six men and three women were detained on illegal weapons charges and jailed in Acapulco. Two of the detainees were former municipal cops, the PGR said. 
Some press accounts linked the detainees to the Guerrero Guard, one of several organized crime groups battling for control of Zihuatanejo and the Costa Grande of Guerrero state.
But Quintana and Ramirez insist that their siblings, who had recently moved into the apartment, lived separately from the other suspects, did not know the rest of the detainees and were not involved in delinquent activities.
"I don't think it's just about the PGR involving innocent people, even though proof of of innocence has been shown," Quintana said, detailing that work documents, personal testimonies and even a fingerprint test of the confiscated weapons all attested to the innocence of Luis and Ilse. 
The apartment building where Quintana and Ramirez were arrested was identified as belonging to Francisco Guido, a nephew of the current mayor of Zihuatanejo, Gustavo Bello. Guido was not charged with any crime and his property not seized, an action Mexican authorities sometimes take following drug raids.
Pressed on the issue, Mayor Bello told reporters in Zihuatanejo last month that he would help provide legal support to Quintana and Ramirez.
"I am going to support them as a lawyer, as a human being, but the mayor as such has nothing to do with this," Bello was quoted in the Acapulco-based Internet news site Laplazadiario.com
More than one month after they were arrested, Quintana and Ramirez remain detained in Acapulco without bail under a Mexican law, el arraigo, that allows the government to hold suspected individuals for up to 90 days before a decision is made whether or not to proceed with criminal prosecution.
If there is any bright light in an obscure spot, the couple has been treated relatively well by custodians and inmates and not suffered torture, as is frequently the case with detainees in Mexico, Ramirez said.
The Movement for Luis and Ilse
Luis and Ilses' arrests have inspired a support movement that's gone international. Since February, public protests, petitions and benefit concerts have demanded the couple's release. Posters for a February 26 march that called for justice are still visible on the streets.
Zihuatanejo's world-renowned musical couple, Gabriela and Rodrigo, whose gigs include a performance at Barack Obama's White House, are among the musicians who are pitching in their creative energy see Luis and Ilse free. 
A link to a change.org petition on Zihuatanejo.net, an Internet site and message board popular with expats, snowbirds and tourists, has garnered more than 700 signatures.  
Publicity about the case of Isle and Luis sparked debate on the message board about Article 33, the prickly section of the Mexican Constitution that prohibits the involvement of foreigners in the country's politics. Article 33 was invoked during the 1990s in the deportations of foreigners immersed in solidarity movements with Chiapas' Zapatistas.
Writing on the message board, site administrator Rob Whitehead took issue with a view that Article 33 applied to Ilse and Luis' case. Although Whitehead cautioned against foreigners participating in marches, he said other actions were appropriate. 
"We can sign the petition for their release. We can continue to donate to their funds. We can make others aware of their plight. I and others feel the more light that is shone upon this, the more the Gov't will need to take action to rectify the situation," Whitehead wrote.
For Gaviani Ramirez, the welcome support has not yet reached critical mass.  Many local people are still afraid to stick out their necks, he said. Ramirez suspects his phone was tapped, and finds it curious that he could not post on Ilse's Facebook for a week after her arrest. A quick review of recent events quickly reveals why many might be reluctant to speak out against a situation smacking of injustice.  
Violent backdrop to the Feb. 12 arrests
If Luis and Ilse had lived in another place at another time, it's unlikey they would be sitting in jail. But beautiful Zihuatanejo, graced with breezy palms, spectacular sunsets, tantalizing hummingbirds and some of the warmest souls on the planet, is also a highly coveted piece of geography, a point of convergence where sea lanes funnel cocaine, highways transport the products of clandestine synthetic drug labs and roads winding down from the opium-rich Southern Sierra Madres deliver King Heroin to the world beyond.  
Nearby, the port of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, looms ever more important in the nexus of South America-China-Mexico-U.S. commerce, while deposits of gold and silver are eyed in the same mountains where plantings of opium poppies flourish. The illicit drugs that head from the Costa Grande to the addict veins of the USA also provide the scrapings of the bag for the narco-menudeo, or street level drug market, in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo.
In short, there's money to be made in this burg. Not surprisingly, violence has flared over the golden goodies. In February and March, accounts from the Mexican press and local residents reported running gun battles between different organized crime groups, the kidnapping of Guerrero Governor Hector Astudillo's representative in Zihuatanejo, public executions, and the dumping of a body in front of city hall.
The Guerrero daily El Sur reported at least 25 gangland-style homicides in the municipality from Jan. 1 to March 18. Despite frequent patrols of heavily-armed soldiers, marines, state police and municipal cops, law-breaking continues. Around town, a few banners demanding "Peace with Order" are still on display from a business owners' one day work stoppage last year. 
Violence in Zihuatanejo and Guerrero has undermined the possibility of social movements to freely act as well as the ability of reporters to cover them. After a spate of gunplay the weekend of March 10-12, supporters of Ilse and Luis cancelled a march they were contemplating for that Sunday. According to Michell Quintana, the rising insecurity made it too risky to stage a public demonstration.
Journalist Hercilia Castro, who's reported on the region for La Jornada, Laplazadiario and other publications for many years, says she's noticed a shift in the nature and tone of demonstrations, with less people willing to identify themselves and more having to obtain the prior "permission" of shadowy forces to express themselves in the streets.
"This speaks to the degree of deterioration" Castro said. The Guerrero reporter also cited an instance in which she was openly warned not to take photos in a town up the coast from Zihuatanejo.
"How can I work as a journalist and not take photos?" Castro questioned. "I felt bad."
In an extreme but far from singular example of press suppression, Guerrero journalist Cecilio Pineda was murdered March 2 in Ciudad Altamirano, a town on the other side of the Southern Sierra Madres from Zihuatanejo. 
Based in the narco-saturated Tierra Caliente, Pineda was known for his drug-related stories and postings on Facebook. Almost immediately prior to his murder, Pineda posted a video denouncing the probable collision of police and politicians with a criminal outfit called Los Tequileras.
Pineda had suffered an attack in 2015 and was assigned police protection for a time, but apparently decided to stay in Tierra Caliente. Quoted in El Sur, Guerrero State Prosecutor Javier Olea stated that Pineda was "definitely" murdered by organized crime. The investigation of Pineda's murder has been assumed by the PGR, but no arrests have been made until now. For the umpteenth time, reporters staged protests in Zihuatanejo, Acapulco, Chilpancingo and Iguala.
According to Mexico's official National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH), 122 journalists have been murdered in the country since 2000. The latest victim was Ricardo Monlui Cabrera, gunned down in front of his family March 19 in the southern state of Veracruz.
In a statement following Monlui's murder, the CNDH reminded authorities of the human rights commission's earlier recommendation that the government "create the necessary conditions so journalists can do their work without being subjected to any type of threats."
Impact on families
Both Quintana and Ramirez consider the predicament of their siblings as part of the bigger picture in Mexico. The jailing of Isle and Luis has emotionally, physically and economically devasted two families, the siblings said.
Forced to spend time away from home, the parents have lost work, relatives have suffered sickness and sleeplessness, and costs for legal and living expenses (Ilse and Luis must pay for food and water in jail) have piled up. Quintana said she is now behind in her classes. 
"It is hard for people like us with few resources," the 20-year-old university student said. "(Officials) are not only ruining (Luis and Ilses') lives, but those of the whole family."
Admitting he had been fatalistically resigned about other causes before the detention of his sister and her boyfriend, Ramirez said the incident has "opened my eyes" and forced him to take action.
"If we are in this situation, what awaits the next generation?" he reflected. "Until it happens to you, you don't know where you are at. We've had kidnappings, disappearances and femicides...we supposedly live in a democracy. I have my rights. I demand that the governor, the federal government get involved. We are citizens. Without us, the politicians are nothing and we are nothing without them."
Quintana vowed the campaign to free and clear Luis and Ilse would press forward even in adverse conditions. "We're defending them and defending them and won't stop until it's shown they are innocent and their names aren't smeared. (Officials) are ruining their reputations," she charged.
(end)
Kent Paterson, a journalist-author, is an expert on border issues and Mexico. He is former editor of Frontera NorteSur.