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 Norteña 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.


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