Did Coverage Of El Chapo’s Rival Lead To The Death Of A Mexican Journalist? [Opinion]

The capture and extradition of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman to the United States has led many to complications within the Mexican society, with the drug trafficking landscape changing dramatically. At the height of his career, El Chapo Guzman was revered as the most powerful drug trafficker in the world, leading a multi-billion dollar drug trafficking organization that spanned the Europe, American, and Asian continents.

However, his capture led to the weakening of his drug trafficking organization, the Sinaloa Cartel, which is presently believed to have split into two factions – one is led by his partner, Ismael Zambada García aka El Mayo and El Chapo’s sons, and the other by Dámaso López Nuñez. However, Damaso was arrested at the beginning of this month.

But days after, a renowned Mexican journalist was gunned down in Sinaloa. On the day of his death, the reporter was said to have had an interview on the subject of drug trafficking as on a regular day, but was shot 12 times, just a few hours later and about a block away from his office. The following is what happened after the interview, according to the New Yorker.

“Valdez drove his red Toyota Corolla out of Río Doce’s office, located on a residential street in Culiacán, the Sinaloa state capital. After pulling into the street a short distance, he was stopped by two hooded gunmen, who made him get out of his car. They then pumped him full of bullets, killing him on the spot. In a photograph of the crime scene, Valdez—a burly, good-looking man of fifty—could be seen lying face down exactly in the center of the street, his straw hat beside him, blocking his face. Yellow plastic markers were placed around his body, marking where twelve bullet casings were found.

The fact that Valdez was reportedly shot in the forehead and in both of his hands is believed by his colleagues to be symbolic, as well as the number of bullets used: Río Doce, the name of his newspaper, means River Twelve. Valdez’s car, in which his killers drove away, was found where they crashed it, a few blocks away.”

On the perpetrators of the attack, which led to his death, there are numerous speculations, with a faction of the Sinaloa Cartel being suspected to be behind the attack. According to Ismael Bohórquez, director of Ríodoce, the publication which Valdez co-founded, a line might have been crossed, prompting the murder. This is as reported by the Guardian. The following was his statement in regard to this.

“We always knew this could occur. We were conscious of it, and never denied that we were scared. We crossed a line. I don’t know what happened. These aren’t lines in the street; you don’t know when you’ve crossed them.”

Working conditions are said to have become particularly hazardous for journalists in Sinaloa, following El Chapo’s arrest last year. It caused a split within the Sinaloa cartel and made things more unpredictable, with the different factions becoming even more violent.

Apparently, when Ríodoce recently ran a cover story on the captured Sinaloa cartel operative López, the magazine’s trucks were reportedly followed by gangs who bought up all the copies. The strategy is used to suppress news stories. According to a Ríodoce staffer, the new generation of cartels is much more violent than the previous one.

It is still not clear who killed Valdez, but the Mexican government has pledged to offer more protection to journalists. Just a day before the shooting, seven journalists were attacked by about a hundred gunmen in Guerrero. The journalists had gone to the region to cover a security operation.

[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

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